“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” – Aristotle


Chanda's Wars


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]

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; AR 4.6)

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. (AR 4.4; Mozambique; Civil War; Amputees; Courage)

Mankell, Henning. Shadow of the Leopard. Annick Press, 2007.
In this  sequel to Secrets in the Fire, Sonia still lives in a village in Mozambique  but is now expecting her third child while her husband works in the city and only comes home on Saturdays. Sonia fears the worst when one weekend, Armando does not come home. For mature readers only due to the subject matter. (Young adult fiction; Mozambique; Courage; Marriage; Infidelity; Honesty; Theft)

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)

Naidoo, Beverly. Journey to Jo’burg. Lippincott, 1985.
Thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother travel over 300 kilometers from their village to Johannesburg to find their mother who works as a maid for a white family. (South Africa; Brothers and sisters; Voyages and travels; Courage; Racism; Apartheid)

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)

Oron, Judie. Cry of the Giraffe. Toronto: Annick Press, 2010.
Thirteen-year-old Wuditu and her family, Ethiopian Jews, set out for the Sudan, hoping to eventually reach safety in Israel.  Instead, Wuditu ends up in a refugee camp and life as a slave.  Will she ever be reuinited with her family?  Based on a true story, this novel is for mature readers. [Ethiopia; Sudan; Jews; Refugees; Slavery; Historical fiction]

Smith, Harvey. Siad of Somalia. The Kids Netword, 1997.
A short novel written by a Canadian high school student about the effects of Canadian peacekeepers in Somalia. (Somalia; Soldiers; Canada; Children’s writings)

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)

Walters, Eric. Shattered. Viking Canada, c2006; Puffin Canada, 2008.
A teenage boy from a wealthy home, volunteering in a poor area of Vancouver, B.C. in order to meet high school graduation requirements, meets a homeless soldier and learns about the plight of victims of war. Includes a forward by Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire. (Rwanda; Soldiers; Homelessness; Vancouver (B.C.); War;  Post-traumatic stress disorder; Teenagers; Young adult fiction; AR 4.4)


Bell, William. Forbidden City.
Seventeen-year-old Alex is excited to join his father, a CBC cameraman, in Beijing until political events become dangerous. Set in Tian An Men Square in the spring of 1989, this fast-paced novel will appeal to students in grades 6 to 9. (China; Democracy; Violence; Voyages and travels)

Carmi, Daniella. Samir and Yonatan. Scholastic, 2000.
Two injured boys, one Palestinian and one Jewish, find themselves side by side in the same Israeli hospital. Slowly, together with the other patients in the children’s ward, they overcome their fears and form an unexpected friendship. (Israel; Prejudices; Friendship)

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; AR 5.1)

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; Mystery and detective stories; Child labor; Tennis)

Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner. Douglas & McIntyre, 2000.
Eleven-year-old Parvana must disguise herself as a boy so that her family can survive after her father’s arrest in Taliban-ruled Kabul.  The sequel is Parvana’s Journey. (Afghanistan; Courage; Family life; Sex role; Child labor; Fathers and daughters; AR 4.5)

Ellis, Deborah. Mud City. Groundwood Books, 2003.
The third in a trilogy about an Afghan girl, Parvana escapes the rule of the Taliban in her own country only to find herself in a refugee camp in Pakistan. On ERAC recommended novel list for grades 6 and 7. (Afghanstan; Pakistan; Refugee camps; Sex role; War; Perseverance; AR 4.6)

Ellis, Deborah. Parvanna’s Journey.
Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis is the sequel novel to the wonderful book, The Breadwinner. Parvana is now thirteen, and still disguised as a boy. She is travelling with her father in search of the rest of her family who left for Nooria’s wedding, and are now missing. When her father dies from illness, Parvana is taken in by a generous family who believe she is a young boy. When they discover her secret, she decides to run away before they can turn her into the Taliban. As she is making her escape, she hears a wailing. She finds an abandoned baby in the corner of a bombed house. She then takes the baby with her on her journey. How will this book end? Will she find her family? These are the questions that came to mind while reading this incredible novel. (Yasmine in grade eight)

An amazing book is Parvanna’s Journey by Deborah Ellis. Our favorite parts were when Parvanna found her mother in a restoration camp and when Asif started to be nice. All in all, the novel was a great book! (Myles, Kory and Jeremy)

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]

Khan, Rukhsana. Wanting Mor. Toronto: Groundwood Book, 2009.
After her mother dies and her father starts a new life with a new wife in Kabul, Jameela has to find a way to survive on her own after being abandoned in a marketplace. (Afghanistan; Homelessness; Courage; Survival; Orphans; Sex role; Stepfamilies; AR 3.7)

Laird, Elizabeth. Oranges in No Man’s Land. London: Macmillan Children’s Books, 2006.
Ayesha and her grandmother live in a bombed-out building in war-torn Beirut. But when her grandmother needs more medicine, Ayesha must find the courage to venture out for help. (Lebanon; Grandmothers; Courage; Survival; War)

Manivong, Laura. Escaping the Tiger. Harper, 2010.
Escaping from Laos in 1982, twelve-year-old Vonlai, his older sister and his parents hope for a better life in Thailand. But instead, they encounter deprivation and despair during their four years in a refugee camp while waiting to emigrate to America. Based on the experiences of the author’s husband, this compelling novel is suitable for mature readers in grades six and up. (Refugees; Laos; Thailand; Historical fiction; Brothers and sisters; Hope; Courage; War; Family life; Homelessness)

McCormick, Patricia. Sold. Hyperion, 2006.
Thirteen-year-old Lakshmi lives in poverty with her mother and stepfather on a Nepalese mountainside.  She hopes a better life awaits her when she is sent to work in the city. But instead, she discovers she has been sold into prostitution. A National Book Award finalist, this disturbingly realistic novel is for mature readers only. On ERAC Recommended List for grades 11-12.

O’Brien, Tony.  Afghan Dreams. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2008.
This poignantly illustrated collection of brief interviews tells the true stories of children and young adults trying to survive in Afghanistan.

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)

Perkins, Mitali. Bamboo People. Watertown, Mass.: Charlesbridge, 2010.
Chiko’s father is a doctor, imprisoned for resisting the Burmese government. Tu Reh’s father is a fighter with the Karenni resistance, a minority people persecuted by the Burmese government. The two boys meet in the jungle when Chiko is forced to join the army and Tu Reh runs away from a refugee camp to help his father. Readers of War Brothers by Sharon McKay and Shattered by Erica Walters will appreciate this political novel filled with compassion and hope.  [Fathers and sons; Burma; Survival; Soldiers; Refugees; War stories; Courage]

Rumford, James. Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad. Roaring Brook Press, 2008.
In this picture book for adolescents, bombs and missiles fall on Baghdad while a boy uses the art of calligraphy to emotionally distance himself from the fighting. (Iraq; Courage; Hope; War; Calligraphy)

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; AR 3.9)

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.

Staples, Suzanne Fisher. Shabanu. Dell Laurel-Leaf, 1989.
Eleven-year old Shabanu, daughter of a nomad in present-day Pakistan, is pledged to marry an older man and must decide whether to honour or defy her culture’s traditions. A 1990 Newbery Honor Book, the novel is on ERAC recommended novel list for grades 8 to 11. (Pakistan; Family life; Marriage; Sex role; Runaways; Muslims, Fathers and daughters; Young adult fiction; Newbery Medal)

Whelan, Gloria. Chu Ju’s House. HarperCollins, 2004.
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; AR 5.2)

Whelan, Gloria. Homeless Bird. Harper, 2000.
Thirteen-year-old Kola’s family has decided it is time for her to be married. But what does she want to do? And how can she find a way to determine her own destiny in the face of tradition?  (India; Marriage; Sex role; Courage)


Bunting, Eve. Gleam and Glow. Harcourtbooks, 2001.
After his home is destroyed by war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, eight-year-old Viktor finds hope in the survival of two very special fish. This picture book is based on a true story.  (Fishes; Refugees; Bosnia-Herzegovina; War; Courage; AR 3.3)

Bunting, Eve. Walking to School. Clarion Books, 2008.
In this picture book set in Belfast, Ireland, eight-year-old Allison has to walk through a Protestant neighbourhood to get to her Catholic school. (Northern Ireland; Schools; Civil War; Courage; Religions; Prejudices)

Bresdorff, Bodil. The Crow Girl. Douglas & McIntyre, 2004.
A girl lives by the sea. When her grandmother dies, she sets out alone on a journey, meeting new people and creating a new family. (Denmark; Courage; Orphans; Family life)

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 both 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 including 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?

Ellis, Deborah. No Safe Place.  Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2010.
Fifteen-year-old Abdul and two other young migrants, meet in a boat adrift in the English Channel. For mature readers due to sexual references and violence.

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Genevieve’s War. New York: Holiday House, 2017.
August of 1939. Summer is over. Time to leave France and go home to America. But thirteen-year-old Genevieve decides – at the last moment – to stay with her grandmother in the small Alsatian village rather than return to New York. Mere months later, Nazi soldiers arrive and life changes.
This story is among the best of Giff’s many novels. Who are your friends? Whom can you trust? For whom will you risk your life? All these questions are quietly and skillfully addressed in a compelling novel for readers 11 years old and up. [France; Grandmothers; Love; Orphans; Self-reliance; Underground movements; World War, 1939-1945]

Heneghan, James. Safe House. Victoria, B.C. : Orca Book Publishers, 2006.
Twelve-year-old Liam runs for his life after watching intruders kill his parents.  The police hide him in a safe house, but a betrayal means he is on the run again. This easy-to-read novel for readers eleven years old and up vividly portrays the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast, Northern Ireland. [Northern Ireland; Violence; Murder; Orphans; Suspense]

A Night Divided

Nielsen, Jennifer A. A Night Divided. New York: Scholastic Press, 2015.

When the Berlin Wall went up, Gerta, her mother, and her brother Fritz are trapped on the eastern side where they were living, while her father, and her other brother Dominic are in the West–four years later, now twelve, Gerta sees her father on a viewing platform on the western side and realizes he wants her to risk her life trying to tunnel to freedom.” – CIP. Highly recommended for readers 11 to 16-years-old. [Berlin Wall; Courage; Germany; Secrets; Tunnels]

Nobleman, Marc Tyler. Brave Like My Brother. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.

Only 100 pages long, it is printed in a large font with lots of space between the lines and large margins. And each chapter is only 4 pages long. Actually, each chapter is a letter. Yes, a letter. And the novel is a series of these letters. The first and the last letter are from Charlie, writing to his older brother, Joe, a soldier sent to England during World War II. All the others in between are letters from Joe, writing to tell of his experiences during the days leading up to D-Day, the Allied invasion of France. [Brothers; Bullying; Courage; England; World War II] 

Paterson, Katherine. The Day of the Pelican. Clarion Books, 2009.
Thirteen-year-old Meli’s family, ethnic Albanians, flee the fighting in 1998, travelling from one refugee camp to another until they reach America.

Think of that one day where you did something wrong, the day you are pretty sure affected your whole future and those around you. Imagine your feelings: desperation, guilt, shame and a longing to go back and change that day. This is how Meli Lleshi from The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson (Clarion Books, 2009) feels all the time after her family is forced to flee their city. She thinks that just because she drew a rude picture of her teacher, which led to her brother being beaten and jailed, the Serbians are going to attack her home and family. Even after, when they are in a refugee camp, safe and protected, her mind takes her back to that dreadful day where everything changed. Now they are in America and there is “a new beginning” as her father says, a new beginning of hope, peace and freedom. But even this does not last long. Soon after the 9/11 attack, everyone is paranoid and wicked glances are thrown in her direction and she is treated as if she is a terrorist, as if this is all her fault. Will her family ever fit in and go back to living a life of happiness? (Ilar in grade eight)


Chapman, Fern Schumer. Is It Night or Day? New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010.

“In 1938, Edith Westerfeld, a young German Jew, is sent by her parents to Chicago, Illinois, where she lives with an aunt and uncle and tries to assimilate into American culture, while worrying about her parents and mourning the loss of everything she has ever known. Based on the author’s mother’s experience, includes an afterword about a little-known program that brought twelve hundred Jewish children to safety during World War II.” – CIP. A memorable story of courage and resilience highly recommended for readers 11 to 15 years old. [Chicago; Grief; Holocaust; Immigrants; Loneliness; Jews; WW 2]

Hill, Kirkpatrick. Do Not Pass Go. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.
Deet discovers that life is more complex than he’d imagined when his father is arrested for drug possession and sent to prison.  This easy-to-read novel by an Alaskan writer will appeal to readers eleven to thirteen years of age. (Alaska; Prisons; Quotations; Schools; Fathers and sons; Family life; Prejudice; Courage)

Kelly, Erin Entrada. The Land of Forgotten Girls. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2016.

“Abandoned by their father and living in poverty with their heartless stepmother in Louisiana, two sisters from the Philippines, twelve-year-old Sol and six-year-old Ming, learn the true meaning of family.” – CIP.  A heart-moving story of loss and resilience highly recommended for readers 11 to 14 years old. The design – large margins and widely-spaced lines – helps to make this 299-page novel easy to read. [Filipino Americans; Friendship; Grief; Immigrants; Louisiana; Neglect; Sisters; Stepmothers]

LaFaye, A. The Strength of Saints. Simon & Schuster, 2002.
If you like books that get more and more interesting as you read, then this is the book for you! The Strength of Saints by A. LaFaye (Simon & Schuster, 2002) is about a girl named Nissa Bergen. She lives in Harper, Louisiana. Harper is a small town where white people think that they are better than black people. Because of that, when Nissa opens up a library, she has to separate it into two halves: the East Library and the West Library.
The main conflict in the story starts when a cannery is built in Harper. When the owner hired people, he hired both white and black. One day, when Nissa is taking some books to the Crocked Gator, a restaurant, she sees a group of men outside. She goes inside to find that a black man named Leo Simmons has gotten his hands shoved into the machinery by a white boy named Simon. After that, everyone is mean and it all goes downhill. The cannery is set on fire and there is a mob trying to kill Nissa and her friend. Will this town every become better? or will it stay the evil town it is now? You will have to read to find out.
I liked this book because it shows that even kids can make a difference if they try. (Emily in gr. 6)

Paulsen, Gary. The Crossing. Dell, 1990, c1987.
Thirteen-year-old Manny, a street kid fighting for survival in a Mexican border town, develops a strange friendship with an emotionally disturbed American soldier who decides to help him get across the border. (Mexico; Texas; Orphans; Emotional problems; Soldiers; Friendship)

Ryan, Pam Munoz. Becoming Naomi Leon. Scholastic, 2004.
Naomi runs away to Mexico with her great-grandmother and younger brother in search of her father after her alcoholic mother tries to regain custody. ALA Notable Children’s Book.  (California; Courage; Runaways; Grandmothers; Alcoholism; Mothers’ and daughters; Loyalty; Mexico; Poverty)


Ellis, Deborah. I Am A Taxi. Groundwood Books, 2006.
Twelve-year-old Diego lives in prison with his parents who have been convicted of drug trafficking. But after his mother is fined, he decides to run away to make more money. The Cocalero novels ; 1. On ERAC recommended novel list for grades 6 and 7. (Bolivia; Prisons; Runaways; Child labor; Drug traffic)

I am a Taxi, by Deborah Ellis (Toronto- Groundwood Books, 2006), is a story about a young twelve-year-old boy, named Diego, who goes through a difficult and hard journey. He lives in a small jail cell with his mom and his little sister, Corina. He earns money for his family by being the taxi. In another words, he runs errands in the town for the prisoners. However, the errands don’t provide the family with enough money. Just when Diego is having a hard time, his friend, Mando, talks him into going to Bolivia to earn money by selling drugs. So, they go to Bolivia with three other boys, all glue sniffers. Their jobs in Bolivia are to stamp on the coca to make it into cocaine. The boys are drugged so that they will not get exhausted so easily. Two weeks passed, and there are no signs of payments, Mando is in danger. Diego has to escape! If you want to know what happens next and what other journeys he goes through, read the whole series by this great Canadian author!
This story made me see life differently. It taught me so much about how people will do anything to become wealthy and how you can’t always get what you want. I also learned that there are people out there who go through hard times.  (Da Eun in grade eight)

Ellis, Deborah. Sacred Leaf. Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2007.
Twelve-year-old Diego escapes from slavery at an illegal cocaine operation and is taken in by coca farmers. The Cocalero novels ; 2. (Bolivia; Runaways; Child labor; Slavery; Poverty; Drug traffic; Cocaine industry; Courage; Survival; AR 4.9)

Bondoux, Anne-Laure. Killer’s Tears. Delacorte, 2006.
A young boy, Paolo, and the man who murdered his parents, Angel, gradually become like father and son as they live and work together on the remote Chilean farm where Paolo was born. Originally published in France in 2003.  (Chile; Fathers and sons; Murder; Orphans; Child abuse; Fear; Runaways)


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)

Walters, Eric and Adrian Bradbury. When Elephants Fight. Orca, 2008.
This non-fiction book “presents the stories of five children…from five very different and distinct conflicts — Sri Lanka, Uganda, Sarajevo, Afghanistan and the Sudan. Along with these very personal accounts, the book also offers brief analyses of the history and geopolitical issues that are the canvas on which these conflicts occur.” — back cover 

Maslo, Lina. Free as a Bird: The Story of Malala. New York: Balzer & Bray an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018. [A biography of Malala Yousafzai, an inspiring activist, the youngest person to every win the Nobel Peace Prize. ]

McCarney, Rosemary. Every Day is Malala Day. Toronto: Second Story Press, 2014.

Winter, Jeanette. Malala, A Brave Girl from Pakistan; Iqbal, A Brave boy from Pakistan. New York: Beach Lane Books, 2014.

Click HERE and HERE  for more outstanding books.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *