Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen

Hopkinson, Deborah. Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen. New York: Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.

“Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like.”

“The real evils, indeed, of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself.”

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn.”

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Jane Austen was born in England over two hundred years ago. But her novels still entertain people all around the world. This biography tells the story of how she grew up to become a famous writer. The style and size of the text, the detailed ink and watercolour illustrations by Qin Leng, and the layout of the pages all combine to create a delightful picture book highly recommended for curious readers 9 to 15 years old.

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A list of classic novels for all ages

Deborah Hopkinson has written many wonderful picture books and novels. You can find more by typing ‘Hopkinson’ into the search box on the right hand side at the top.


Mystery Bottle

Balouch, Kristen. Mystery Bottle. Northampton, MA: Crocodile Books, an imprint of Interlink Publishing Group, Inc., 2022.
What do you own that reminds you of another place, another person, another time? A boy in New York opens a package from Iran. Inside is a little bottle. And out of that bottle comes a wind that carries him from Brooklyn all the way to Tehran and into the arms of his loving grandfather. This beautifully designed picture book, a winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award, is highly recommended for imaginative readers 5 to 9 years old. 

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Red Fox Road

Greenslade, Frances. Red Fox Road. Toronto: Puffin Canada, 2020.
Thirteen-year-old Francie and her parents are on a road trip, travelling from B.C. to Arizona. They are supposed to be having fun, but her parents can’t stop arguing. Her mother wants to use a road map; her father insists on using a GPS. He turns onto an old logging road and in the middle of the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, their truck hits a rock. They’re stuck. Francie’s father is sure he can walk out and get help. Francie and her mother are left to wait, day after day, wait. Finally, Francie’s mother sets off for help, walking in the opposite direction. Francie is now completely alone. Will she be able to survive? This gripping story of survival is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy suspense novels. 

More stories of survival


The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything

Alary, Laura. The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2022.
Two hundred years ago on Nantucket, a little girl grew up with parents who believed both boys and girls should be educated. Her father was a schoolteacher and an astronomer and her mother had been a librarian, so it is not surprising that Maria and her nine siblings were encouraged to learn and think for themselves. Maria, a daydreamer, grew up to become a teacher and a librarian who loved challenges. When the King of Denmark offered a prize to the first person who could find a new comet, Maria determinedly looked through her telescope night after night until she spied a new comet. She won! Now she was famous and was soon invited to be a professor of astronomy. Maria spent the rest of her life encouraging her students to explore the skies and ask questions. Additional biographical information and a bibliography accompany this picture book cheerfully illustrated by Ellen Rooney. Highly recommended for readers 8 to 14 years old who enjoy true stories about historical figures.

P.S. The author’s combination of short and long sentences – and sentence fragments – creates a lovely rhythm for reading aloud. So lovely that it almost seems a shame to read the story silently. But the style of font is unfortunately not so lovely: the print is too serious and too small for the pictures. But that’s a minor fault compared to the beauty of the illustrations and the flow of the words. If you want a happy story that encourages patient persistence, read this book.

Another picture book about an astronomer…

McCully, Emily Arnold. Caroline’s Comets: A True Story. New York: Holiday House, 2017.
Caroline Herschel was born in Germany in 1750. Her father and brothers were musicians but she – being a girl – was kept busy doing housework. Everything changed when she was 22 years old. She joined her older brother in England and became a professional singer and then an assistant to her brother, who had become an astronomer for King George III. Later, she also earned a salary as an astronomer for the king.  Before she died in 1848, she had discovered 8 comets and become a star among scientists.
Quotations from Caroline’s diary are embedded in this incredible story of the first woman to discover a comet. The gently old-fashioned pen, ink, and watercolour illustrations enhance this picture book biography for readers 9 years old and up.

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More stories about strong female characters



Bruchac, Joseph. Peacemaker. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021.
Can you think of someone sent by the Creator to bring peace? Can you think of someone sent in advance to tell of this peacemaker’s imminent arrival? Bruchac tells the story of how – hundreds of years ago – five tribes south of Lake Ontario agreed to stop fighting and form the Iroquois Great League of Peace. Told from the point of view of a twelve-year-old boy whose friend has been kidnapped by a neighbouring nation, this 152-page novel will appeal to both competent and reluctant readers 10 to 14 years old who enjoy action-filled stories. It will also intrigue adults unacquainted with the history of the Haudenosaunee Nations. Most highly recommended. 

Another novel by Joseph Bruchac

More stories of indigenous people of North America


Only One

Hopkinson, Deborah. Only One. New York: Anne Schwartz Books, 2022.
Nearly fourteen billion years ago, our universe began. Stars and galaxies, planets, moons and asteroids, continents, species and the diversity of life are all explained in this extraordinary picture book.  Created by an award-winning author and an acclaimed illustrator, this picture book is highly recommended for readers 6 to 10 years old. Recommended as a cheerful refresher for 11-year-old readers.

More fact-filled picture books

More books about our earth