Three Rancheros: a series by Kate DiCamillo

Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2019

The third in a trilogy about three friends, Beverly, Right Here tells the story of fourteen-year-old Beverly who runs away from home and gets a job in a neighbouring town.

Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2016

The first in the series was Raymie Nightingale, about a girl who misses her father, who hopes if only she can win a beauty contest, he will come home.

Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2018

The second story was Louisiana’s Way Home in which the main character’s grandmother wakes her in the middle of the night to tell her they’re leaving town right now and never coming back.

Three elegantly written novels, set in Florida, with a consistent theme:
Life is not always the way it should be. Your parents may not have enough energy or interest to properly care for you. The people you depend on may not always be dependable. You probably will have to make important decisions all on your own. But there is hope. Someone will come along – even if only for a moment – to give you words of encouragement and wisdom. Life will never be the way you’d hoped it would be, but it will still be good. And remember: you are loved.

Highly recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old.

More stories of kids who have to take care of themselves

More stories of strong female characters

More stories set in Florida

Ruby in the Sky

Ferruolo, Jeanne Zulick. Ruby in the Sky. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019.
Twelve-year-old Ruby has secrets to keep. No one is supposed to ask any questions about her mother and father. But when she meets a recluse who lives near her new home in Vermont, life starts to change. And when she meets Ahmed – a Syrian refugee – at her new school, friendship develops despite her reluctance. Maybe it is possible to find a new home, after all.  A wonderful story for readers 11 to 14 years old. 

And after you’ve read this novel, be sure to read Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie and Alan Cumyn’s North to Benjamin

More stories about moving to a new home

Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster

Howe, James. Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2018.
Houndsley enthusiastically welcomes his adventurous cousin Wagster. But his feelings start to deflate when his best friend Catina turns her attentions to fun-loving Wagster. What will happen? Will Wagster ruin everything? This heart-warming story illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay is sure to appeal to readers 4 to 8 years old. 

More novels for young readers

Emil and Karl

Glatshteyn, Yankev. Emil and Karl. New Milford, Conn.: Roaring Brook Press, 2006.
Left alone after three men drag his mother away and threaten to return for him, nine-year old Karl runs to the home of his friend Emil. But he finds no safety. Emil’s mother is not well and is taken away, leaving both boys alone.  Aryan Karl and Jewish Emil struggle to survive in the dangerous world of Nazi-occupied Vienna, Austria. 
Many novels have been written about the Holocaust. But this one is unusual in that it was first published in 1940, before the United States even entered the war. Written in Yiddish and translated into English by Jeffrey Shandler, it is highly recommended for all readers 10 years old and up.

More books about World War 2 

More stories set in Europe

Novels of survival in extreme physical environments

Good Rosie!

DiCamillo, Kate. Good Rosie! Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2018.
Rosie is a good dog. But she’s lonely sometimes. George takes her to the dog park, but she feels overwhelmed. How will she find a friend? How can she make a friend? This delightful picture book, illustrated by Harry Bliss, will charm readers 4 to 12 years old.

The difference between popularity and friendship

Tips for making new friends

Famous fictional friends

Albert’s Quiet Quest

Arsenault, Isabelle. Albert’s Quiet Quest. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2019.

Albert wants a place where he can read in quiet. But no matter where he goes, friends arrive and rambunctiously interrupt. Until he explodes. Now what will happen? This mostly wordless summer story will be appreciated by young readers looking for peace and quiet of their own. 

More summer stories

More wordless books

More stories of books and reading

More stories of individuality

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.