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?

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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 

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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.)

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Here We Are

Jeffers, Oliver. Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth. London: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2017.
What do we need to remember living on this planet in space? Jeffers eloquently explains in this gently profound picture book written for his newborn son. The world is wonderfully complex.  And life passes quickly.  So be good to the people around you and take care of the earth.  Full-page illustrations in Jeffers’ uniquely whimsical style and a friendly yet formal font help create a picture book that will appeal to readers and listeners of all ages.

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The Blackbird Girls

Blankman, Anne. The Blackbird Girls. New York: Viking, 2020.
Valentina and Oksana live in the specially built city of Pripyat, home to workers at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. They are classmates but not friends. Valentina is Jewish and the target of bullying. Initially, it seems that Oksana has a better life but all is not as it appears on the surface. When the reactor at the plant explodes, the girls and their mothers are abruptly evacuated. The girls escape to far-away Leningrad to live with Valentina’s grandmother, where secrets are slowly revealed and the girls learn whom they can trust. A complex yet hopeful novel, told from alternating points of view and based on historical events of both 1986 and the 1940s, highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up. 

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Labors of Hercules Beal

Schmidt, Gary D. The Labors of Hercules Beal. New York: Clarion Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2023.
Hercules’s seventh grade teacher has assigned a ridiculous project: replicate in real life the twelve labours of the mythical Hercules. This could be a silly spoof of story. But the author is the award-winning Gary Schmidt, so you can be assured that while full of outrageous antics, this well-crafted novel is not light-weight entertainment. While completing his project, Hercules discovers that despite his parents’ death, he is not actually alone and unwanted in this world. Recommended without reservations for readers 11 to 14 years old. 

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Town is by the Sea

Schwartz, Joanne. Town is by the Sea. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2017.
A young boy wakes in the morning to hear seagulls calling, a dog barking, and a car going along the road. Meanwhile, his father is working far underground. He plays outside in the sunshine with a friend and looks out at the sparkling sea. Meanwhile, his father is working far underground. He goes to the grocery store for his mother and to the graveyard to visit his grandfather. Meanwhile, his father… The sensory details in the rhythmic text and the silent information provided by Sydney Smith’s ink and water-colour illustrations together tell a quiet story of life in a coal mining town. Both the author and illustrator grew up in Nova Scotia. Together, they have created an incredible picture book for readers of any age. If you admire excellence in children’s books, don’t just borrow this book from a library. Buy it!

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