Lost Words

Boukarim, Leila. Lost Words: An Armenian Story of Survival and Hope. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2024.
A little boy walks and walks and walks, for days and weeks and months, leaving behind his parents, looking for a new life. Based on the author’s own family history and illustrated by Sona Avedikain, this quiet picture book portrays the experiences of a refugee during the early 20th century. It is appended by photographs and lengthy notes from both the author and illustrator, as well as a brief history of the Armenian Genocide. Recommended for those interested in world history and those ready to explore their own family’s history.

More stories of refugees

More stories based on real history 

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Extraordinary Magic

Crews, Nina. Extraordinary Magic. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2024.

What words would you choose to tell the story of your life?
How could you turn those words into poems about your life?
Nina Crews, author of over a dozen children’s books, uses poems and pictures to tell the story of Virginia Hamilton, author of over forty books and winner of multiple awards including the Newbery Medal in 1975. Most young readers today – at least in Canada – will not be familiar with Hamilton’s folktales and realistic novels about life for African Americans. This picture book is an excellent introduction to an author who excelled at writing complex stories that did not flinch from life’s ugliness while still celebrating its beauty. Recommended for readers up to 15 years of age.

More biographies of writers

Stories of people with African heritage

Novels for young adults

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Go Forth and Tell

McDaniel, Breanna J. Go Forth and Tell. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2024.
This gorgeous picture book – illustrated by April Harrison – tells the story of Augusta Baker, a little girl who loved listening to her grandmother’s stories and who grew up to become a teacher who loved telling her own stories, as well as the first African American librarian to be head of children’s services in the New York Public Library system. Highly recommended for readers of any age who like telling stories and creating works of art.

More books about libraries

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More biographies

“Children of all ages want to hear stories. Select well, prepare well, and then go forth and just tell.” – Augusta Braxton Baker

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Orca Chief

Vickers, Roy Henry and Robert Budd. Orca Chief. Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour Publishing, 2015.
What are the stories that make you feel like you’ve come home? What are the myths of other cultures that remind you of your own spiritual values? Whenever I read a picture book by Roy Henry Vickers, I feel a sense of timelessness, as if a thousand days were but one day and the people of long ago could be the people of today. As if the story I’m reading is the same as the stories I heard as a child, just with a different setting. Orca Chief, the third in a trilogy of legends set in the Pacific Northwest, tells the story of four fishermen who are too exhausted to be respectful of life beneath the waves. Patiently but firmly, the orcas teach the four how to care for the environment and safely provide for their village. The fishermen learn to seek forgiveness, change their ways, and celebrate life with thankfulness. The flow of the writing, the elegance of the illustrations, and the flawless design make this a book for everyone. Buy it. Keep it. Read it aloud and to yourself, regularly. 

More stories from indigenous people of North America

A writing lesson using Gary Paulsen’s account of his encounter with a whale

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The Night War

Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. The Night War. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2024.
Twelve-year-old Miriam’s father has taught her that can choose her actions, even if she can’t choose her feelings.  But her parents are gone now and she has to make a decision by herself: will she risk her life to save others? Will she stay in Nazi-occupied France to help others escape or run away to save herself? Set during World War II and full of historical facts and an extensive afterward, this compelling novel by an award-winning author is highly recommended for readers 11 to 14 years old.

Questions to consider: How do you know whom to trust? Does knowing someone’s story make you feel differently towards them? If you feel guilty, are you? If you had to give up your culture in order to save your life, would you?

More stories of courage

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Angela’s Glacier

Scott, Jordan. Angela’s Glacier. New York: Neal Porter Books / Holiday House, 2024.
On the day of Angela’s birth, her father carefully bundles her up and carries her outside to show her an ancient glacier rising above their town. Even before Angela can walk, her father carries her on his back across lava fields and snowfields to listen to the sound of the glacier. And once Angela is old enough, she starts to hike by herself to listen to the mysterious sounds beneath the ice. But then she gets busy – school, friends, sports, music – and does not go anymore until her heart overflows with longing and she returns to her beloved glacier.
Extraordinarily evocative illustrations by Diana Sudyka help to tell this enchanting story set in Snæfellsnes National Park near Reykjavik. In an afterward, the author explains how he was inspired by a friend who grew up in Canada but moved to Iceland and the friend explains more about glaciers. Highly recommended as a read-aloud for children 5 to 10 years old. Even more highly recommended for readers of any age who appreciate astonishingly beautiful writing and exquisite design.

P.S. Where does your heart feel at home? Why there?

Another story by Jordan Scott

And another story by Jordan Scott 

More stories set in Iceland

More stories about characters with a strong sense of individuality

A way to use picture books with older students

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Coyote Lost and Found

Gemeinhart, Dan. Coyote Lost and Found. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2024.
How do you write a humorous story about grief? Ask Cynthia Rylant. In Missing May, a girl and her uncle go on a road trip to find a medium who can contact a dead aunt. Ask Gary Schmidt. In The Labours of Hercules Beal, a boy has to recreate the labours of the mythical Hercules. Ask Christopher Edge. InThe Many Worlds of Albie Bright, the main character searches for his mother in an alternate universe. Or read this new novel – a sequel toThe Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise – by Dan Gemeinhart. 
Coyote and her father have finally settled in a small Oregon town after years of grief spent wandering the country in their converted bus named Yager. Then Coyote finds a box containing her mother’s ashes hidden on the bus, and the two start on a madcap cross-country journey to discover the place where her mother’s ashes should be spread. Friends come along, new friends are made along the way, and hope for future happiness finally arrives in this heart-warming novel for readers 10 to 13 years old. (Alert: the main character swears, not frequently, but often enough that readers who might be bothered should probably skip this novel.)

More stories of grief

More stories set in the U.S.A.

Another novel by Dan Gemeinhart

More humorous stories

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