Almond, David. The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2013, c2012.
Stanley runs away and joins the circus after Uncle Ernie loses his job and turns their house into a fish-canning factory. But life on the road with Mr. Dostoyevsky is just as crazy as life was at home. All stories by David Almond are wonderful and this one is no exception. Highly recommended for readers, nine years old and up, who enjoy wacky humour and for teenagers and who appreciate satire. [Circuses; Humorous stories; Orphans; Runaways]


Austen, Catherine. All Good Children.  Victoria: Orca, 2011.
Max is trying to evade the authorities and survive in a world where everyone must instantly obey, children are given drugs to make them obey, and consequences for misbehaviour are immediate and severe. [Schools; Friendship; Brothers and sisters; Single-parent families; Science fiction; Family life; Runaways; Young adult fiction]

Barker, Michelle. My Long List of Impossible Things. Toronto: Annick Press, 2020.
The second world war is ending in Germany, but that does not mean safety for Katja’s family. The Soviets are invading. Katja’s father has already been long gone, killed in the war, so Katya, her older sister Hilde, and their mother are on their own, travelling by foot through forests and along dangerous roads, seeking refuge farther west.
Told from the first person point of view of Katya, a teenager who tends to speak impulsively and frequently unwisely, this extraordinary story provides a glimpse of life after the war. All the complexities, all the dangers, are vividly portrayed by an award-winning writer. Due to some of the language and some of the scenes, this novel is most suitable for readers 13 years of age and older. Highly recommended for adult readers, as well as teenagers.

Teachers: this is an excellent novel for analyzing character development. It would also be greatly enjoyed as a small group novel as it would be sure to provoke discussion.

Bodeen, S.A. The Gardener. New York: Square Fish, 2010.
“When high school sophomore Mason finds a beautiful but catatonic girl in the nursing home where his mother works, the discovery leads him to revelations about a series of disturbing human experiments that have a connection to his own life.” – CIP.  Could be compared to Gem-X[Fathers; Runaways; Science experiments; Secrets; Single-parent families]

A Time of Miracles

Bondoux, Anne-Laure. A Time of Miracles. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010.

“In the early 1990s, a boy with a mysterious past and the woman who cares for him endure a five-year journey across the war-torn Caucasus and Europe, weathering hardships and welcoming unforgettable encounters with other refugees searching for a better life.” – CIP. Includes a map tracing the journey. A memorable novel of suspense and survival by an outstanding author. Translated from the French by Y. Maudet. [Caucasus; France; Historical fiction; Refugees; Secrets; Survival]

Bow, Erin. Plain Kate. New York : Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010. 
“Plain Kate’s odd appearance and expertise as a woodcarver cause some to think her a witch, but friendship with a talking cat and, later, with humans help her to survive and even thrive in a world of magic, charms, and fear.” – CIP  Recommended for readers ten to fourteen years old and could be compared to The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman. [Cats; Courage; Fantasy fiction; Homelessness; Magic; Orphans; Runaways; Woodcarving]

 Boyne, John. Noah Barleywater Runs Away: A Fairytale. [Toronto]: Doubleday Canada, 2011, c2010.
Eight-year-old Noah runs away from home. But on his way through the forest, he meets a toymaker. All John Boyne’s books for younger readers are memorable and this one is no exception. Highly recommended for imaginative readers 8 to 13 years old. [Fantasy fiction; Puppets; Runaways; Toymakers]


Boyne, John. The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2013, c2012.
“Barnaby Brocket who is different in one important way (he floats), finds himself on a journey that takes him all over the world and discovers who he really is along the way.” – CIP  Quietly and subtly humorous, showing the perseverance needed to survive in a home where one is unwanted. Highly recommended for readers of all ages. [Australia; Courage; Family life; Fantasy fiction; Humorous stories; Individuality; Self-realization; Voyages and travels]

The War That Saved My Life

Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. The War That Saved My Life. New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015.

“A young disabled girl and her brother are evacuated from London to the English countryside during World War II, where they find life to be much sweeter away from their abusive mother.” – CIP. Highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up. [Abuse; Brother and sisters; England; Foster children; People with Disabilities; Runaways]Picture 21

DeFelice, Cynthia C. Wild Life. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011.
Twelve-year-old Eric is sent to live with his grandparents. But he misses his parents who have been deployed to Iraq, especially when his grandfather remains distant and unfriendly. So, Eric takes his dog and runs away. Into the cold bleak countryside of North Dakota. [Runaways; Grief; Family life; Grandparents; War; North Dakota] 

Gemeinhart, Dan. Some Kind of Courage. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.
Joseph is alone in the world. His mother and sister have died of illness. His father has been killed in an accident. And the man who is supposed to take care of him has sold his beloved horse. So Joseph sets out – on his own – to find Sarah and buy her back again.  This heart-warming novel – set in 1890 in the state of Washington – will appeal to readers 11 to 15 years old who enjoy stories of survival. 

Hitchcock, Bonnie-Sue. The Smell of Other People’s Houses. New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2016.
Abandonment. Loneliness. Grief. Friendship. The lives of four Alaskan teenagers – Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank – overlap in this coming-of-age novel set in 1970. A strong sense of place and a captivating sense of voice make this an outstanding story for thoughtful readers 13 years old and up. [Alaska; Friendship; Grief; Parent and child] 


Huser, Glen. Skinnybones and the Wrinkle QueenToronto: Groundwood Books, 2006.  

A teenaged foster girl, who aspires to be a model,  and a 90-year-old woman in a care home, who wants to attend one more opera in her life, go on a road trip. This humorous novel of two lonely people on the lam will appeal to readers 12 to 16 years old.  [Alberta; B.C.; Automobile travel; Foster children; Runaways; Seattle (WA); Teachers]


Ibbotson, Eva. One Dog and His Boy. New York: Scholastic, 2011.
When lonely, ten-year-old Hal learns that his wealthy but neglectful parents only rented Fleck, the dog he always wanted, he and new friend Pippa take Fleck and four other dogs from the rental agency on a trek from London to Scotland, where Hal’s grandparents live. – CIP [Dogs; England; Family life; Independence; Parent and child; Runaways; Voyages and travels]





Mathieu, Jennifer. Devoted. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2015.

“Rachel Walker is devoted to God and her large family, but as her curiosity about the world her parents turned from grows and she finds that neither Calvary Christian Church nor her homeschool education has the answer she craves, she considers leaving her sheltered life, as an older sister did.” – CIP.  The novel moves along at a quick enough pace that readers will want to keep going to find out what happens. But the characterization is rather flat and the writing not all that remarkable in its quality. Nevertheless, it is an easy and interesting read for mature readers 12 years old an up. [Brothers and sisters; Christian life; Family life; Home schooling; Runaways; Texas]

Franny Parker

McKinnon, Hannah Roberts. Franny Parker. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009. 

“Through a hot, dry Oklahoma summer, twelve-year-old Franny tends wild animals brought by her neighbors, hears gossip during a weekly quilting bee, befriends a new neighbor who has some big secrets, and learns to hope.” – FVRL. A wonderful story of first love for readers 11 to 14 years old. [Artists; Coming of age; Droughts; Family life; Family violence; Farm life; Friendship; Neighbors; Wildlife rescue]

Moriarty, Jaclyn. A Corner of White. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013.
“Fourteen-year-old Madeleine of Cambridge, England, struggling to cope with poverty and her mother’s illness, and fifteen-year-old Elliot of the Kingdom of Cello in a parallel world where colors are villainous and his father is missing, begin exchanging notes through a crack between their worlds…” CIP  “‘We must think outside of ourselves, Madeleine,’ he’d say,… ‘Live for others, not just yourself.’….’If you do not learn this thing,’ her father used to say, ‘people will give up on you. You only get so many chances’” (245-246). The cover is unfortunate. This novel is far better than the cover. Recommended for readers who enjoyed Inkheart by Funke, First Light by Stead or Alexandria of Africa by Walters. [England; Color; Fantasy fiction; Fathers and daughters; Fathers and sons; Friendship; Grief; Magic;  Missing persons; Princesses; Runaways]


Morpurgo, Michael. Pinocchio. London: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013.
Sure, Pinocchio is made of wood. But he’s still a real boy and he’s interested in adventure. He is not interested in resisting temptation. A hilarious story for everyone who loved H.A. Rey’s Curious George[Adventure and adventurers; Curiosity; Pinocchio (Fictional character); Puppets; Runaways] 

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)


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]

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]


Pennypacker, Sara. Pax. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2016. 

“After being forced to give up his pet fox Pax, a young boy named Peter decides to leave home and get his best friend back” – CIP. A fast-moving yet introspective novel for readers 10-years-old and up. It could be compared to Me & Jack by Danette Haworth. [Fathers and sons; Foxes; Human-animal relationships; Pets; Runaways; Survival]

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 11 – 15 year olds. [Adventure and adventurers; Brothers; Historical fiction; Uncles; Orphans; War; Runaways]

Porter, Tracey. Billy Creekmore. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2007.
Ten-year-old Billy suffers the cruelties of life in an orphanage. Not enough food. Not enough warmth. And no love, at all. Everything changes, though, when an uncle and aunt claim him and take him off to live with them in a coal mining town in West Virginia. Billy’s spunk and love of storytelling, though, cause trouble when he gets involved with the union. This is 1905 and the mine managers are angry. So Billy runs away to join the circus and find the father who long ago abandoned him.
This modern-day Charles Dickens novel could also be compared toThe Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. It is highly recommended for readers 9 to 14 years old. It would also make a wonderful read-aloud for a fifth grade class.  [Aunts and uncles; Circus; Coals and coal mining; Fathers and sons; Historical fiction; Honesty; Orphanages; Runaways; Self-reliance; West Virginia]


Sand-Eveland, Cyndi. Tinfoil Sky. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2012.
Twelve-year-old Mel and her mother are moving for the eleventh time in four years. But when Mel’s grandmother won’t take them in and her mother goes back to her boyfriend, Mel is left behind to live by herself in their old broken-down station wagon. A novel of courage and hope that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Hold Fast by Blue Balliet or Close to Famous by Joan Bauer. [Courage; Homelessness; Grandmothers; Moving (Household); Mothers and daughters; Poverty; Runaways]

Anna and the Swallow Man

Savit, Gavriel. Anna and the Swallow Man. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

“When her university professor father is sent by the Gestapo to a concentration camp, seven-year-old Anna travels the Polish countryside with the mysterious Swallow Man during World War II.” – CIP. So much has to be inferred in this story told from the third person point of view but only revealing the thoughts of the main character. This imaginative novel is highly recommended for competent readers 12-years-old and up.  [Poland; Runaways; Survival; WW 2]

Great Good Summer

Scanlon, Liz Garton. Great Good Summer. New York: Beach Lane Books, 2015.

“Loomer, Texas, twelve-year-old Ivy Green, whose mother may have run off with a charismatic preacher to Panhandle, Florida, and classmate Paul Dobbs, who wants to see a Space Shuttle before the program is scrapped, team up for a summer adventure that is full of surprises.” – CIP.  A marvellous lyrical novel for readers in grades 5 to 8. [Christian life; Faith; Friendship; Mothers and daughters; Runaways]

Schlitz, Laura Amy. The Hired Girl. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2015.
“Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself – because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of – a woman with a future.” – FVRL. A marvellous 387-page novel for romantic readers 12 years old and up. [Baltimore (Md.); Diaries; Historical fiction; Jewish families; Maryland; Runaways; Servants]

Schmidt, Gary D. Just Like That. Boston: Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021.
Meryl Lee is sent to a posh boarding school in Maine where wealthy students are clearly considered superior. Unfortunately, she is not wealthy enough. Matt has run away – with a pillowcase full of money – from a criminal gang and is hiding in a seaside shack. The two teenagers – each struggling to survive despite heart-breaking losses – meet and begin a friendship. Set in 1968 during the Vietnam war, this young adult novel addresses political issues, Christian beliefs, and social justice. Highly recommended for readers 12 years old and up. (P.S. Everything written by Gary D. Schmidt is worth reading.)

Orbiting Jupiter

Schmidt, Gary D. Orbiting Jupiter. Boston ; New York: Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

“Jack, 12, tells the gripping story of Joseph, 14, who joins his family as a foster child. Damaged in prison, Joseph wants nothing more than to find his baby daughter,Jupiter, whom he has never seen. When Joseph has begun to believe he’ll have a future, he is confronted by demons from his past that force a tragic sacrifice” FVRL.  This acclaimed author’s novel, perhaps his most lyrical, is reminiscent of some of Patricia MacLachlan’s novels: emotionally powerful with short sentences and long conversations.  It is highly recommended for readers 12-years-old and up. [Child abuse; Friendship; Foster children; Runaways; Teenage fathers; Winter]


Scott, Elizabeth. Grace. New York: Dutton, 2010.

“Sixteen-year-old Grace travels on a decrepit train toward a border that may not exist, recalling events that brought her to choose life over being a suicide bomber, and dreaming of freedom from the extremist religion-based government of Keran Berj.” – FVRL. [Despotism; Fantasy fiction; Fugitives from justice; Runaways; Trust]

Salt to the Sea

Sepetys, Ruta. Salt to the Sea. New York: Philomel Books, 2016.

Fleeing the invading Russian army near the end of the war, refugees try to escape aboard a military transport ship transporting German evacuees. Told from alternating points of view and based on the true story of the Wilhelm Gustloff, this award-winning 389-page emotion-laden novel is highly recommended for mature readers 13-years-old and up. Includes a map. [Germany; Historical fiction; Poland; Refugees; Survival; WW 2; Young adult fiction]

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. The Way Back Home. Toronto: Scholastic Canada, 2017.
Zoe does not want her grandmother to be moved into a care home. But Alzheimer’s disease is making it increasingly unsafe for her grandmother to live on her own. What can Zoe’s parents do to cope with the situation? What can Zoe do to help?
She decides to take her grandmother on a road trip to find a long-lost uncle. But more surprises and more difficulties are in store than she anticipated. Now how will Zoe cope?
A modern tale of family relationships and gender identity. While the frequent colloquialisms will make this book sound dated within a few years, it is nonetheless recommended for mature readers 12 to 16 years old. [Family life; Grandmothers; Toronto (Ont.)]

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. New York: Modern Library, 2001.

“The adventures of a mischievous young boy and his friends growing up in a Mississippi River town in the nineteenth century.” – WAFMS. Another classic American adventure novel, originally published in 1876. [Fugitive slaves; Humorous stories; Mississippi River Valley; 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)


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