The Cat Who Came in off the Roof

Dear Reader,

Is it time to read something lighthearted? Something fantastical that makes you laugh?  Try this crazy novel about a cat who turns into a woman!

Schmidt, Annie M.G. The Cat Who Came in off the Roof. New York: Delacorte Press, [2016], c2014.

A shy reporter is about to lose his job. He can never come up with a good story for his newspaper. Until he meets Miss Minou, that is. All of a sudden, she is telling him all sorts of things that are going on in the neighbourhood, all sorts of information that he can turn into newsworthy stories.

This 149-page novel by a Dutch author is not difficult to read. But it very easy to enjoy. If you like cats and don’t mind a hint of romance, curl up in a corner and have fun with this story.

Ms. R.

More cat stories 

The Crossroads

Dear Reader,

In the news, you hear about people illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. You hear about people illegally entering Europe to escape from war in Afghanistan and Syria. You hear adults give their opinions about what should be done. You may even have your own opinion about people fleeing their home and escaping to other countries. 

But what is it like to be one of those people on the run? What is it like to be an undocumented teenager trying to survive in a new country?

Diaz, Alexandra. The Crossroads. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018.

Twelve-year-old Jaime and fifteen-year-old Angela are cousins from Guatemala living in a trailer in New Mexico. Jaime’s older brother works on a ranch and the two younger cousins go to school. But how can you feel like you belong when you can’t understand English? How can you feel safe when you don’t want anyone to know that you are in the country illegally? How can you rest when you are worried about your relatives back home?

This skillfully written story is full of plot twists and real life dilemmas will give you a new perspective on the problems of modern migration. The novel is long – 303 pages – but it is not difficult to read. There is lots of conversation, and the sentences are quite simple. I think you are ready to read a story about what it is like to be independent when you are only 12 years old. 

Ms R. 

More stories of migration

More stories about moving to a new home

 

My Father’s Words

Dear Reader,

You said that you are looking for more novels about serious topics written at an easy reading level. You already know that Patricia MacLachlan’s novels are poetry written as prose. You already know that her stories heal invisible wounds. And you know she addresses life’s biggest questions. So, here is another novel for you:

MacLachlan, Patricia. My Father’s Words. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2018.

Fiona and Finn love their father. Declan sang songs as he played basketball with them. He patiently offered words of wisdom when life was difficult. But now he is gone, killed in a car accident. Their mother buries herself in studies for a degree. Finn stops speaking. Fiona, the narrator of the story, struggles to help them all. Luke, a friend, suggests volunteering at an animal shelter. Talking to the dogs, reading to them, singing to them, and taking them on walks slowly eases their grief. Slowly, comfort comes as they remember their father’s words. 

The large font, wide margins, and wide spaces between the lines of print will enable you to read the 134 pages within a few days. When you’re finished, come tell me the words of wisdom you will keep in your memory. 

wishing you a thoughtful day,
Ms. R. 

Links to Youtube performances of Declan’s favourite song: Grant Us Peace and Dona Nobis Pacem

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.”
William Shakespeare

More stories of grief

More easy-to-read novels

 

Defiance

Dear Reader,

What are signs that you are growing up? That you are starting to leave childhood behind and starting to become a young adult? It can’t be that you merely want to make decisions for yourself. Two-year-olds want to make decisions for themselves. It can’t be that you secretly do things your parents forbid. Most children of all ages at least occasionally disobey their parents. So how does thinking for yourself and making your own decisions show maturity rather than mere selfishness?

Hobbs, Valerie. Defiance. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2005. 

Eleven-year-old Toby wants to have fun. His parents want to protect him from any possible danger. Toby has cancer. His mother wants him to stay close to their cabin in the country, out of the sun and away from anything that could cause him to get hurt or even tired. He wants to go exploring. So he does. He wakes up early in the morning, sneaks off on his bicycle, and meets an elderly neighbour, Pearl, and her old cow, Blossom. They become friends and life changes for Toby.This story is about growing up, about learning to think for yourself without thinking only about yourself. 

The reading level of this book is not difficult. There are only 117 pages and the lines on each page are spaced far enough apart to be easy on the eyes. But there is a lot to ponder in this story. So don’t read it when you are in the mood for a quickly-paced humorous story. Read it when you have the time to slow down and consider this question: What is the meaning of life?

Ms. R.

More stories of thinking for yourself

More stories set in rural areas

More stories of summer vacations

Mouse and His Child

Dear Reader,

Have you read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis? Have you read Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White? If so, you know how great truths about life can be hidden in stories about ordinary people and ordinary animals. Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban is another great story to warm your heart. It will make you cry and laugh, worry and rejoice. It is the story of some small little windup toys, besieged by rats, struggling to find a place they can call home. 

Be warned: this novel was published over 50 years ago and so the language is slightly different than what you are used to reading in more recently published books. The vocabulary is more sophisticated. And the story is not short. But the lively writing will carry you through the 244 pages in no time at all. Have fun!

Hoban, Russell. Mouse and His Child. New York : Scholastic Inc., 2017, c2001.

By the way, you might like to notice the illustrations when you read the book. They’re by David Small, who has illustrated many fine picture books. You might like to try some picture books by Russell Hoban, too: A Bargain for Frances and Bread and Jam for Frances. They’re for younger readers but they’ll make you laugh and remember your own younger years. 

Ms. R. 

P.S. If you are 8 years old and already a very good reader, you might like to try more of the stories on THIS PAGE.

Oliver and the Sea Monkeys

Dear Reader,

A bit of wacky humour. Brief loneliness. Lasting friendship, courage, and adventure. An easy-to-read novel that you will finish in no time at all. Only 193 pages, many of them filled with funny illustrations. Read this book when you want a rest from serious novels. Have fun!

Reeve, Philip and Sarah McIntyre. Oliver and the Sea Monkeys. New York : Yearling, 2016, c2013.

Then, when you are ready for a much longer science fiction novel, read Fever Crumb. It’s the first in a challenging series by author Philip Reeve. 

Reeve, Philip. Fever Crumb. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010.
Fourteen-year-old Fever has been trained as an engineer in a futuristic culture which believes women are not capable of rational thought.  When she leaves her home in London, she makes surprising discoveries and faces unexpected dangers.  For 12 – 16 year-olds. [England; Foundlings; Identity; Science fiction; Technology]

Happy reading!

Ms. R. 

More humorous stories

More science fiction novels 

Frankenstein

Dear Reader,

You’ve no doubt heard of Frankenstein, the horrible monster created by a mad scientist. The real story is far more interesting. Fourteen-year-old Mary and her stepmother did not get along together, so her father sent her to live in Scotland. When Mary returned to London, two years later, circumstances had not improved. So Mary and her stepsister and a poet, Percy Shelley, ran away to Switzerland where they lived in a big house on Lake Geneva. One night, eighteen-year-old Mary came up with the idea of a monster brought to life by a Dr. Frankenstein. When her novel was first published in 1818, no one could believe that it had been written by a girl. But it really was her story. And 200 years later, her horror story is still famous! 

Bailey, Linda. Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein. New York: Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, 2018.

This dramatic picture book, suspensefully illustrated by Julia Sarda, tells Mary’s whole story. Read it the first chance you get! 

Ms. R. 

P.S. If you’re interested in finding out more about classic stories, check out this list