My Heart is Laughing

Lagercrantz, Rose. My Heart is Laughing. Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press, 2014.
Dani is always happy. Except when she is unhappy. But she does not count those times. This cheerful story about the little adventures of life is filled with quiet wisdom: Don’t give up, even when things seem hopeless. Try to think about something fun when you’re upset. Forgive people. Originally published in Sweden in 2012, this short novel with large print and wide margins is perfect for readers 7 to 10 years old. 

Some stories have an intriguing plot line. Some have finely drawn characters. But very few flow beautifully. Lyrically. And that last quality is what turns a novel into a work of art. Rose Lagercrantz’s story – translated into English by Julia Marshall and illustrated by Eva Eriksson – is a true example of writing as art.

What other novels have such rhythm and grace? Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie. Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May. Joy Cowley’s Chicken Feathers. Patricia MacLachlan’s Kindred Souls. Margery Sharp’s The Rescuers. Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree….

More great novels for young readers 

Some challenging reads for young readers

Lagrecrantz, Rose. My Happy Life. Wellington, N.Z.: Gecko Press, 2014, c2013.
Want to teach young readers how to recognize theme in novels? Want to use a novel to start philosophical discussions with 7-year-olds? Read this novel aloud and watch for true-to-life sentences.

Lagercrantz, Rose. See You When I See You. Wellington, N.Z.: Gecko Press, 2017.
This novel continues the Dani series. Although not as full of profound truths about life, it is still greatly entertaining.

The Button War

Avi. The Button War. Somerville, Massachusetts. Candlewick Press, 2018.
Anything written by Avi is worth reading. Anything published by Candlewick is worth considering. And this World War I story is absolutely riveting: the animosities among a group of boys in Russian-occupied Poland during the summer of 1914 are revealed by a competition to collect military buttons. This intense 229-page novel is not for readers looking for a light-hearted read but rather for thoughtful readers – 11-years-old and up – who understand how fierce rivalry can lead to betrayal and violence.

More stories set in Europe

More stories about World War 1

Finding Langston

Dear Reader,

Have you ever felt alone? Have you ever felt misunderstood by those who love you? Have you ever found hope in unexpected places? Then you know how the main character feels in this outstanding novel for readers 9 years old and up. Told in present tense from the first person point of view, the sentences come alive with the cadence of the main character’s Southern speech. If you like stories by Patricia MacLachlan, you will love this 104-page novel. 

Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Finding Langston. New York: Holiday House, 2018.

After the death of his mother in 1946, eleven-year-old Langston moves with his father from Alabama to Chicago. Living in a lonely apartment building and bullied at school, Langston finds refuge in the school library where he discovers the magical poetry of Langston Hughes.

More stories of moving

More stories about bullying

More stories set in the past

More stories about people of African heritage

Poetry by Langston Hughes

A post about the power of poetry

Happy reading!

Ms. R. 

Brave Like My Brother

Dear Reader,

How wonderful to see you looking for more serious novels. Short humorous stories are fine to read once in awhile, but you are now at an age – in grade six – where you are ready to consider more mature topics. You already know that life is not always fun. Not always easy. And you are ready to read stories that depict characters in circumstances that call for courage.

But I know that you cannot yet read quickly enough to enjoy a long book with small print. So what novels can you read that are more than simply entertainment? Here’s one just for you! 

Nobleman, Marc Tyler. Brave Like My Brother. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.

Only 100 pages long, this story is printed in a large font with lots of space between the lines and large margins. And each chapter is only 4 pages long. Actually, each chapter is a letter. Yes, a letter. It is a series of letters. The first and the last one are from Charlie, writing to his older brother, Joe, a soldier sent to England during World War II. All the others in between are from Joe, writing to tell of his experiences during the days leading up to D-Day, the Allied invasion of France.  It will not take you long to read this novel of courage in the face of bullying and fear.

And when you are finished, think about these questions: What did you learn about history from reading this story? How is being a soldier different than you expected? How do Joe and Charlie and their parents and their grandmother all show courage during the war?

pleased that you are growing into a thoughtful reader,
Ms. R.

More stories of World War II 

More stories about bullying

More stories of courage

Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012) is the story of August, a boy born with extreme facial abnormalities who was not expected to survive infancy. Life changes for 11-year-old Auggie when his parents stop homeschooling him and put him into a public school where he endures taunting and bullying. Now he must figure out how to be accepted. Will the bullying ever stop? Will he ever be accepted? Read this inspiring novel to find out! (by Rabia in grade 6)

More stories about bullying

More stories of individuality

Pink Shirt Day

“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th American president

Bottner, Barbara. Miss Brooks’ Story Nook. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
A school librarian humorously teaches her students a lesson about bullying. 

French, Simon. My Cousin’s Keeper. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2014, c2012.
Eleven-year-old Kieran tries to be one of the popular kids at school, one of the powerful kids.  What will he do when his cousin arrives in town? A cousin who isn’t athletic. Isn’t outgoing or confident. Soon Bon is the target of the powerful bullies. What should Kieran do? Life becomes even more confusing when the girl Kieran admires becomes friends with Bon, more complicated when he discovers why Bon has come. This memorable novel from Australia is recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old. 

Javaherbin, Mina. Goal! Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2010. 
A group of soccer playing buddies fend off bullies who try to spoil their game in this picture book set in a South African township.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Each Kindness. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012.
Chloe and her friends realize they should not have been making fun of a classmate after a lesson from their teacher.

Picture books and novels about bullying

Who Are You?

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.”
– Rita Mae Brown, American writer

French, Simon. My Brother’s Keeper. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2014, c2012.
Eleven-year-old Kieran tries to be one of the popular kids at school, one of the powerful kids.  But what will he do when his cousin arrives in town? His cousin Bon isn’t athletic. He definitely isn’t outgoing or confident. Instead, his cousin is soon the target of those powerful boys who like to bully everyone else. Life becomes even more confusing for Kieran when the girl he admires becomes friends with Bon. It becomes more complicated when he discovers the reason Bon has come to live in his home. This well-written memorable novel from Australia is recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old.  [Australia; Bullying; Conduct of life; Cousins; Imagination; Individuality; Jealousy; Moving (Household); Parent and child; Schools]

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”
– A.A. Milne, author of Winnie-the-Pooh

Feathers

Woodson, Jacqueline. Feathers. New York : Puffin Books, 2007.
Sixth-grade Frannie is reading a poem about hope in class. But there’s not much hope in her life. Her friend Samantha is becoming peculiar. The class bully is becoming more trouble. And the new boy, nicknamed ‘Jesus Boy’, says he’s not white but he sure looks like he’s white. What’s going to happen next? A novel for thoughtful readers 10 to 15 years old. [African- Americans; Bullying; Moving, Household; Racism; Schools]