If you liked . . .
Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo,
you might like these novels, too…

D’Adamo, Francesco.  Iqbal. Aladdin Paperbacks, 2005, c2001.
Iqbal, a child labourer who escapes from a Pakistani carpet factory, returns to help other children escape before being gunned down while still only thirteen years old. Based on a true story, this short novel is on the ERAC recommended novel list for grades 8 to 9. (Pakistan; Child labor; Child abuse; Runaways; Masih, Iqbal; Courage; Murder)

Please note that some of these stories are recommended only for mature readers.

Hare in the Elephant'sBauer, Joan. Close to Famous. New York: Viking, 2011.
Twelve-year-old Foster and her mother run away from her mother’s abusive boyfriend who pretends to be Elvis. Late at night, the two of them get in their car and start driving, not stopping until they arrive in a small West Virginia town where Foster makes new friends and starts her own business: baking cupcakes.  A heart-warming and courageous novel for readers 11 years old and up.  [Baking; Courage; West Virginia; Single-parent families; Mothers and daughters; Perseverance (Ethics); Violence; Television; Moving (Household)]

Coates, Jan L. A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk. Red Deer Press, 2010.
Jacob flees when war comes to his Southern Sudan village in 1987.  He spends months on the run and years in refugee camps but somehow survives to tell his story and start a new life in Canada. Based on the experiences of Jacob Deng, this informative novel will be appreciated by readers who prefer ‘real’ stories. [Sudan; Refugees; Deng, Jacob; War; Historical fiction]


Doder, Joshua. Grk Smells a Rat! Anderson Press, 2008.
Tim and his dog Grk are off to watch Max play in a tennis tournament in Delhi, India. But when they discover enslaved children working in hidden factories, they have to help even if it places their lives in danger.  Action, suspense and humour combine to make this a great read for fourth to seventh graders. (India; Adventure and adventurers; Dogs; Humour; India; Mystery and detective stories; Child labor; Tennis)

Dyer, Hadley. Johnny Kellock Died Today. HarperTrophy Canada, 2006.
When twelve-year-old Rosalie’s cousin disappears during the summer of 1959, she and a neighbour look for him, only to discover that seventeen-year-old Johnny has feigned his own death in order to escape life with his alcoholic and abusive father. [Child abuse; Nova Scotia; Mothers and daughters; Historical fiction; Summer; Family life]

Ellis, Deborah. The Heaven Shop. Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004.
After Binti’s father dies of AIDS, she and her siblings are sent to live with unwelcoming and unkind relatives until their  grandmother finds a way to bring them together again. For mature readers due to the subject matter. (Malawi; Orphans; AIDS (Disease); Courage; Brothers and sisters; Perseverance; Grandmothers; Survival; Young adult fiction)

No Ordinary Day

Ellis, Deborah. No Ordinary Day. Groundwood Books, 2011.
Valli doesn’t know her age. She doesn’t know where to live. She runs away from the coalfields of Jharia in India  and sleeps on the streets of Calcutta until a doctor discovers her hobbling along and takes her to a hospital where Valli starts a new life. [India; Homelessness; Orphans; Runaways; Hansen’s Disease; Poverty; Courage]

Greene, Bette. Summer of My German Soldier. Bantam Books, 1977.
Twelve-year-old Patty, a Jewish girl, befriends a German prisoner of war who escapes from a camp in Arkansas during World War II. He is kinder to her than her own father who beats her. [World War, 1939-1945; Jews; Prejudice; Runaways; Loneliness; Arkansas; Historical fiction; Friendship; Fathers and daughters]

Hartnett, Sonya. The Midnight Zoo. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2010. 

“Twelve-year-old Andrej, nine-year-old Tomas, and their baby sister Wilma flee their Romany encampment when it is attacked by Germans during World War II, and in an abandoned town they find a zoo where the animals tell their stories, helping the children understand what has become of their lives and what it means to be free.” – CIP. How can there be a happy ending to a realistic story about war? Only if the characters have a sense of themselves beyond the horrors of the moment. This philosophical novel by an award-winning writer is recommended for introspective readers 11 years old and up.  It could be compared with Fish by L.S. Matthews and The Donkey of Gallipoli by Mark Greenwood. [Freedom; Refugees; Romanies; Zoos]

Laird, Elizabeth. The Garbage King. Macmillan Children’s Books, 2003.
Two teenaged runaways meet on the streets of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.  Dani has run away from his wealthy father. Mamo, an orphan, has run away from the man who kidnapped him and sold him into slavery.  Together, they find a way to survive with the help of other boys living in poverty. [Ethiopia; Runaways; Survival; Courage; Child abuse; Slavery; Homelessness; Friendship; Brothers and sisters]

Levine, Kristin. The Lions of Little Rock. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012.
Twelve-year-old Marlee is shy. She likes thinking and she likes math, but she doesn’t like talking so much. And she is not courageous. But when high schools are closed in her home town because local officials oppose integration, Marlee learns to speak up. Well-researched and based on true events from 1959, this novel will appeal to readers twelve years old and up. [Arkansas; African Americans; Racism; Schools; Family life; Mothers and daughters; Historical fiction; Friendship; Courage; Mathematics; Faith]


Mankell, Henning. Secrets in the Fire. Annick Press, 2003.
Based on a true story, this short novel describes a young girl’s attempts to survive in war-torn Mozambique despite losing her legs to a landmine explosion. (Mozambique; Civil War; Amputees; Courage)


Matthews, L.S. Fish. Delacorte, 2004.
Tiger and his parents have to leave the village where they have been working. A drought is drying up the land, war is approaching, and their only hope is to escape across the mountains. So they set out with a guide. But events become more and more mysterious after Tiger finds a little fish in a mud puddle and determines to keep it alive until they all reach safety. This short but sophisticated story is for readers with imagination eleven years old and up. (Refugees; Voyages and travels; Survival; War)

McKay, Sharon E. War Brothers. Puffin Canada, 2008.
Jacob is the son of a wealthy landowner. Oteka has lost his parents to AIDS and is alone in the world. And Hannah, beaten but not defeated, holds the secrets of all the vanished children….[Their] destines become entwined as they find themselves in the clutches of the Lord’s Resistance Army, forced to march endlessly….The boys plan a group escape, but will…[they] survive? (back cover) (Uganda; War; Soldiers; Kidnapping; Child abuse; Courage; Friendship; Young adult fiction)

Milway Smith, Katie. One Hen. Kids Can Press, 2008.
Based on a true story, this picture book a picture book tells the story of a young boy in Ghana who, with the help of a small loan, starts a small chicken farm to earn enough money to go back to school and help his family. (Ghana; Poverty; Perseverance; Loans; Decision-making)

Pull of the Ocean

Mourlevat, Jean-Claude. The Pull of the Ocean. Delacorte, 2006.
Translated from the French, this intriguing novel is a modern-day version of Tom Thumb, although most readers will not notice the connection because the story does not sound like a fairy tale, at all. Seven brothers flee their family farm and set out to reach the ocean, convinced that their lives are in danger from their abusive parents. Suspense rises right to the very end of this novel told from alternating points of view. Useful for teaching point of view, it is an ideal read-aloud for grades 5-6 and a thoughtful story for imaginative readers aged 10 and up. (France; Twins; Brothers; Courage; Trust; Runaways; Mutism, Elective; Poverty; Style, Literary)

Naidoo, Beverly. The Other Side of Truth. HarperCollins, 2001, c2000; Puffin Books, 2000.
Sade and her younger brother are smuggled out of Nigeria after their mother’s murder only to be abandoned in London when their uncle fails to meet them at the airport. What will happen to them and what has happened to their journalist father back in Nigeria? On ERAC recommended novel list for grades 6 to 9.  Winner of the Carnegie Medal in 2000. (AR 5.3; Nigeria; England; War; Brothers and sisters; Refugees)

Napoli, Donna Jo. Alligator Bayou. Wendy Lamb Books, 2009.
Fourteen-year-old Calogero can’t understand the racism and prejudice he encounters when he moves from Sicily in 1899 to join his uncles and cousin in Louisiana. He wants to make new friends and learn American customs, but not everyone likes his way of trying to fit into small-town society. (Italian Americans; Historical fiction; Louisiana; Country life; Prejudices; Racism; Moving, Household; Poverty; Uncles)

Park, Frances. My Freedom Trip. Boyds Mill Press, Inc., 1998.
A young child is secretly helped to escape across the border into South Korea in this powerful  picture book based on real events. (Korean War; North Korea; Night; Courage; Voyages and travels)

A Long Walk

Park, Linda Sue. A Long Walk to Water. Boston : Sandpiper, 2010.
Eleven-year-old Salva is separated from his family and walks with other refugees through South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya to find safety during the 1985 civil war. Based on a true story. (Historical fiction; Refugees; Sudan; Survival; War; Water)


Paulsen, Gary. Paintings from the Cave. Wendy Lamb Books, 2011.
Three novellas tell the stories of adolescents who survive despite neglect and abuse, survive with the help of art and dogs. Gary Paulsen writes at the beginning, “I was one of the kids who slipped through the cracks….We were broke, my parents were drunks, they had…an unhappy marriage. I was an outsider at school and I pretty much raised myself at home. I had nothing and I was going nowhere. But then art and dogs saved me” (ix). [Poverty; Homelessness; Art; Dogs; Violence; Short stories; City life; Courage; Hope]

Mostly True Adventures

Philbrick, Rodman. The Mostly True Adventures of  Homer P. Figg. New York: Blue Sky Press, 2009.
Twelve-year-old Homer runs away from his cruel uncle to rescue his older brother who has been forced to serve as a soldier in the American Civil War. For readers 11-years-old and up. [Adventure and adventurers; Brothers; Historical fiction; Uncles; Orphans; War; Runaways]

Pileggi, Leah. Prisoner 88. Watertown, Mass.: Charlesbridge, 2013.
Ten-year-old Jake is sent to prison, accused of killing a man. He can’t remember pulling the trigger, but he figures he must be guilty. Fearful and lonely, he arrives at the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary and is placed in a cell alongside adult criminals. Despite the violence, he finds people who protect him. And he enjoys more food to eat than he can ever remember. Based on a real newspaper article from 1885, this inspiring novel is highly recommended for readers 11-years-old and up. It could be compared to Then by Morris Gleitzman or The Killer’s Tears by Anne-Laure Bondoux.  [Courage; Fathers and sons; Historical fiction; Idaho; Prisons; Prisoners; Reading]


Ryan, Pam Munoz and Peter Sis. The Dreamer. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010.
This powerful novel of hope tells the story of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda’s childhood in Chile.  A shy quiet boy with an authoritarian father who despised his son’s love of words, Pablo protected his younger sister and dreamed of another life.  [Chile; Poets; Neruda, Pablo; Fathers and sons; Authors]

Schmidt, Gary D. Okay for Now. Clarion Books, 2011.
Fourteen-year-old Doug has just moved to a small town in New York State. He has a mean older brother and an abusive father. He can’t read and he has no friends. But slowly he makes friends with a classmate, with his teachers and with a librarian who teaches him how to draw. And after his oldest brother comes back from Vietnam, life starts to change at home, too.   [Family life; Fathers and sons; New York (State); Schools; Friendship; Drawing; Violence; Child abuse; Audubon, John James; Theater; Brothers; Vietnam conflict, 1961-1975; Moving, Household; Dating (Social customs)]

Carpet Boy's Gift

Shea, Pegi Deitz. The Carpet Boy’s Gift. Tilbury House Press, 2003.
This picture book tells the story of Nadeem, a young boy who is inspired by a carpet boy named Iqbal to help other children gain their freedom by repaying the loans given to their parents by the factory owner. Includes lists of resources and teaching materials, bibliographies, websites and historical information. (Pakistan; Child labor; Runaways; Courage)

Sheth, Kashmira. Boys Without Names. Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 2010.
Eleven-year-old Gopal and his family leave their rural Indian village for life with his uncle in Mumbai, but when they arrive, his father goes missing and Gopal ends up locked in a sweatshop from which there is no escape.

Sterling, Shirley. My Name is Seepeetza. Douglas & McIntyre, 1992.
Twelve-year-old Martha secretly keeps a diary in which she records her life in a residential school during the 1950s where she is not allowed to use her real name, Seepeetza. [Boarding schools; Child abuse; First Nations; Salish Indians; Racism; Historical fiction]

Stratton, Allan. Chanda’s Wars. HarperCollinsPublishers, 2008.
A teenaged girl tries to help her younger siblings survive when they are kidnapped and forced to serve as child soldiers in central Africa. For mature readers only. (Young adult fiction; Child abuse; Courage; Civil War; Kidnapping; Soldiers; Orphans; Africa)


Whelan, Gloria. Chu Ju’s House. HarperCollins, c2004.
Fourteen-year-old Chu Ju leaves her home in rural China to find work in order to save the life of her baby sister who is the third child born in a country where families are only allowed to have two children. (China; Courage; Homelessness; Child labor; Runaways)

White, Ruth. Tadpole. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
During the summer of 1955,  four Collins sisters – Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia and Carolina – discover their thirteen-year-old orphaned cousin is being brutally mistreated by the guardian who is supposed to be taking care of him.  So, along with their single mother, they decide to rescue him. (Poverty; Historical fiction; Orphans; Humorous stories; Summer; Cousins; Family life; Child abuse; Runaways)

Click HERE for more stories about courage.

Click HERE for more stories about abuse.

Click HERE for more books about India and Pakistan.

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