Abeel, Samantha. My Thirteenth Winter. Orchard Books, 2003.
Al-Windawi, Thura. Thura’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Diary in War-Torn Baghdad. Puffin, 2004.
Becker, Helaine. Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2018.
Buzzeo, Toni. A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventures of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015.
Cynthia Moss was not afraid of big things. Born in 1940, she grew up to become on of the most important elephant researchers in the whole world. This colourfully illustrated picture book will be appreciated by readers – and listeners – 7 to 14 years old. The smoothly flowing language and cheerful pictures will inspire writers and artists to create their own works of art. The courage and determination portrayed in this biography will encourage everyone to work hard to reach their goals in life.
Halilbegovich, Nadja. My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary. Kids Can Press, 2006.
Jiang, Ji Li. The Red Scarf Girl. HarperCollins, 1997.
Kamara, Mariatu. The Bite of the Mango. Annick Press, 2008. [For mature readers only.]
Little, Jean. The Stars Come Out Within. Penguin, 1990.
Lobel, Anita. No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War. Greenwillow Books, 1998.
Love, D. Anne. Of Numbers and Stars. Holiday House, 2006.
MacLeod, Elizabeth. Helen Keller: A Determined Life. Kids Can Press, 2004.
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.
Mortensen, Lori. Away with Words: the Daring Story of Isabella Bird. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, 2019.
Myers, Walter Dean. At Her Majesty’s Request: An African Princess in Victorian England. Scholastic Press, 1999.
Napoli, Jo. Mama Mita. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010.
Nivola, Claire A. Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.
Wallner, Alexandra. Lucy Maud Montgomery. Holiday House, 2006.
Winter, Jeannette. Nazreen’s Secret School: A Story from Afghanistan. Beach Lane Books, 2009.
Winter, Jeanette. The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps. Schwartz and Wade, 2011.
Ye, Tian-Xing. My Name is Number Four. Canada Seal Books (Random House), 2008.
Balliett, Blue. Hold Fast. Scholastic Press, 2013.
On a cold winter day in Chicago, Early’s father disappeared, and now she, her mother and her brother have been forced to flee their apartment and join the ranks of the homeless – and it is up to Early to hold her family together and solve the mystery surrounding her father. – CIP While the plot line is similar to some of Joan Bauer’s novels, the writing is more sophisticated. Highly recommended. [Homelessness; Poverty; Missing persons; Kidnapping; Fathers and daughters; Family life; Chicago (Ill.); Smuggling; Mystery and detective stories]
Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks. Knopf, 2005.
Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.
Blos, Joan W. A Gathering of Days.
Blos, Joan W. A Gathering of Days. Aladdin Paperbacks, 1990.
Bresdorff, Bodil. The Crow-girl. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2004.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden. Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1987.
Carter, Anne. The Shepherd’s Granddaughter. Groundwood Books, 2008.
Cleary, Beverly. Beezus and Ramona. HarperFestival, 2010, c1955.
Cleaver, Vera. Hazel Rye.
Cleaver, Vera and Bill. Where the Lilies Bloom. J. B. Lippincott, 1969.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, 2008.
Collins, Suzanne. Catching Fire. Scholastic Press, 2009.
Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay. Scholastic Press, 2010.
Creech, Sharon. Granny Torelli Makes Soup. HarperTrophy, 2005, c2003.
Cushman, Karen. The Midwife’s Apprentice. HarperTrophy, 1996, c1995.
Dahlburg, Maurine F. Play to the Angel. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2000.
DiCamillo, Kate. Three Rancheros series:
Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2019.
The third in a trilogy about three friends, Beverly, Right Here tells the story of fourteen-year-old Beverly who runs away from home and gets a job in a neighbouring town.
Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2016.
The first in the series was Raymie Nightingale, about a girl who misses her father, who hopes if only she can win a beauty contest, he will come home.
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2018
The second story was Louisiana’s Way Home in which the main character’s grandmother wakes her in the middle of the night to tell her they’re leaving town right now and never coming back.
Three elegantly written novels, set in Florida, with a consistent theme:
Life is not always the way it should be. Your parents may not have enough energy or interest to properly care for you. The people you depend on may not always be dependable. You probably will have to make important decisions all on your own. But there is hope. Someone will come along – even if only for a moment – to give you words of encouragement and wisdom. Life will never be the way you’d hoped it would be, but it will still be good. And remember: you are loved.
Highly recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old.
Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Dovey Coe. Aladdin, 2000.
Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Shooting the Moon. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008.
Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner Trilogy. Groundwood Books, 2009.
Enright, Elizabeth. Gone-Away Lake. Harcourt, Inc. 2000, c1957.
Enright, Elizabeth. Return to Gone-Away. Harcourt, 2000, c1961.
Fletcher, Susan. Walk Across the Sea. Atheneum, 2003.
Fritz, Jean. Homesick: My Own Story. Puffin, 2007.
Funke, Cornelia. Inkheart. Scholastic, 2003.
Giff, Patricia Reilly. R My Name is Rachel. New York : Wendy Lamb Books, 2011.
Three city siblings, now living on a farm during the Great Depression, must survive on their own when their father takes a construction job miles away.” – CIP A wistful story about a girl who enjoys reading and writing and daydreaming but is determined to keep her family together. Recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old. [Brothers and sisters; Farm life; Moving, Household; Poverty; Self-reliance]
Giff, Patricia Reilly. Nory Ryan’s Song. Delacorte Press, c2000.
Hayes, Rosemary. Payback. Frances Lincoln Children’s, c2009.
Hesse, Karen. Aleutian Sparrow. Aladdin Paperbacks, 2003.
Hesse, Karen. Letters from Rivka.
Holm, Jennifer L. Our Only May Amelia. HarperCollinsPublishers, 1999.
Horvath, Polly. The Canning Season. Groundwood Books, 2003.
Horvath, Polly. My One Hundred Adventures. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2008.
Horvath, Polly. Northward to the Moon. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010.
Horvath, Polly. Pine Island Home. Toronto: Puffin Canada, 2020.
Feeling fatigued by the constraints imposed by this pandemic? Feeling irritable about life in general? Read a novel by Polly Horvath. She has an extraordinary ability to use life’s craziness to make us laugh. This latest novel is no exception. Four sisters are orphaned in Borneo when their missionary parents are washed away by a tsunami. Unfortunately, their great-aunt – who had volunteered to take them in – dies before they arrive. Now what will they do? Where will they go? The four girls decide to settle into their aunt’s rural home on an island off the coast of British Columbia and pretend that a grumpy neighbour is their legal guardian. Will their scheme work? Well, all ends happily but not before all sorts of crazy complications surprise everyone. This very highly recommended novel will be enjoyed by readers 10 to 13 years old.
Ibbotson, Eva. Journey to the River Sea. Dutton Children’s Books, 2001.
Ibbotson, Eva. The Secret Countess. Young Picador, 2007.
Jocelyn, Marthe. Mable Riley. Tundra Books, 2004.
Kelly, Jacqueline. The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
Twelve-year-old Callie continues her investigations into the natural world in this sequel to the Newbery Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. When a veterinarian comes to town, Callie expands her knowledge of animal care but secretly, as only her grandfather encourages her dreams and hopes for the future. Observant readers will notice that each chapter begins with a quotation from The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin, the English naturalist whose own father disapproved of his unconventional life but whose maternal grandfather encouraged him. This 312-page novel is highly recommended for readers 10 years old and up. [Family life; Historical fiction; Naturalists; Sex role; Texas; Veterinarians]
Kessler, Cristina. Our Secret, Siri Aang. Philomel Books, 2004. [For mature readers.]
Khan, Rukhsana. Wanting Mor. Groundwood Books, 2009. [For mature readers.]
Larson, Kirby. Hattie Big Sky. Delacorte Press, 2006.
Laird, Elizabeth. Oranges in No Man’s Land. London: Macmillan Children’s Books, 2006.
Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking. Viking, 2007.
Little, Jean. From Anna. HarperTrophy, 1973, c1972.
Little, Jean. Kate. Harper & Row, 1971.
Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. Dell Publishing, 1990, c1989.
MacColl, Michaela. Promise the Night. Chronicle Books, 2011.
Young Beryl, abandoned by her mother and living with her father on a farm in Kenya, is determined to be independent. She is determined not to become a dignified young lady despite all the attempts made by the new housekeeper her father brings into their home and by the headmistress of the boarding school she is forced to attend. Based on the stories and diaries of Beryl Markham, the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, this novel set in the early 20th century will appeal to readers 10-14 years old. [Africa; Markham, Beryl; Kenya; Friendship; Loneliness; Determination (Personality trait); air pilots; Historical fiction]
MacLachlan, Patricia. The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt.
MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall. HarperTrophy, 2004, c1985.
Mah, Adeline Yen. Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society. HarperCollins, 2005.
Mankell, Henning. Secrets in the Fire. Annick Press, 2003.
Martel, Susanne. The King’s Daughter. Groundwood, 1994.
Matas, Carol. Lisa. Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1989.
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]
McMullan, Margaret. Sources of Light. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.
Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables. Tundra Books, 2000.
Naidoo, Beverly. Journey to Jo’burg. Lippincott, 1985.
Naidoo, Beverley. The Other Side of Truth. HarperCollins, 2001, c2000.
Namioka, Lensey. An Ocean Apart, a World Away. Delacorte Press, 2002.
Yanyan, hoping to become a doctor, leaves her family in China to attend Cornell University in New York State during the 1920s where she discovers prejudice, friendship and the difference between attraction and love. [Historical fiction; China; New York (State); Dating (Social customs); Prejudice; Racism; Courage; Individualism; Adventure and adventurers; Sex role]
Namioka, Lensey. Ties that Bind, Ties that Break. London: Puffin, 2003.
“Ailin’s life takes a different turn when she defies the traditions of upper class Chinese society by refusing to have her feet bound.” – WAFMS. A fascinating fast-moving story that follows a young girl from the age of four to adulthood during the mid-20th century. Highly recommended for readers 12-years-old and up. [China; Sex roles; Immigration and emigration]
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Starting with Alice. Aladdin Paperbacks, 2004, c2002.
Nesbit, E. The Railway Children. Tantor Media, 2005.
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]
Paterson, Katherine. The Day of the Pelican. Sandpiper, 2009.
Paterson, Katherine. Flip-Flop Girl. Puffin Books, 1994.
Paterson, Katherine. The Great Gilly Hopkins. HarperTrophy, 2004, c1978.
Paterson, Katherine. Lyddie. Dutton, 1991.
Patron, Susan. The Higher Power of Lucky. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006.
Patron, Susan. Lucky Breaks. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Pausewang, Gudrun. Dark Hours. Toronto: Annick Press, 2006.
Sixteen-year-old Gisel and her younger siblings flee Russian soldiers during a cold winter in World War 2. Trapped underground after an air raid, Gisel calls on all her courage and ingenuity to enable them to survive. Brilliantly written by an award-winning German author and translated by John Brownjohn, this young adult novel is highly recommended for competent readers 12 years old and up.
Pearson, Kit. Perfect, Gentle Knight. Puffin Canada, 2007.
Pennypacker, Sara. Clementine, Friend of the Week. Disney-Hyperion Books, 2010.
Pennypacker, Sara. The Summer of the Gypsy Moths.
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as We Knew It. Harcourt, 2006.
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. This World We Live In. Harcourt, 2010.
Porter, Pamela. The Crazy Man. Groundwood Books, 2005.
Riordan, James. The Sniper. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008.
Rundell, Katherine. The Wolf Wilder. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015.
“In the days before the Russian Revolution, twelve-year-old Feodora sets out to rescue her mother when the Tsar’s Imperial Army imprisons her for teaching tamed wolves to fend for themselves.” – FVRL. “A slightly different version of this work was originally published in 2015 in Great Britain by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.” – T.p. verso. This story of courage with the echo of a powerful myth is recommended for all readers 11 years old and up. [Historical fiction; Mothers and daughters; St. Petersburg (Russia); Survival; Wolves]
Ryan, Pam Munoz. Becoming Naomi Leon. Scholastic, 2004.
Rylant, Cynthia. Missing May. Orchard Books, 1992.
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; Runaways]
Scattergood, Augusta. Glory Be. New York: Scholastic, 2012.
“In the summer of 1964 as she is about to turn twelve, Glory’s town of Hanging Moss, Mississippi, is beset by racial tension when town leaders close her beloved public pool rather than desegregating it.” FVRL [Courage; Friendship; HIstorical fiction; Mississippi; Racism; Segregation; Sisters; Summer]
Sheinmel, Courtney. Positively. New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Thirteen-year-old Emmy, grieving over her mother who died of AIDS, resentful of having to live with her father and pregnant stepmother, and despairing about her future, finds hope at a summer camp for HIV-positive girls like herself. Includes facts about Elizabeth Glaser, one of the founders of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. – CIP [HIV (Viruses); AIDS (Disease); Death; Stepfamilies; Camps; Friendship; Loneliness; Grief]
Smelcer, John. The Great Death. Henry Holt and Co., 2009.
Springstubb, Tricia. The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe. New York: Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House, 2021.
Eleven-year-old Loah Londonderry is left with elderly caretakers when her mother goes on an Arctic research expedition to study a rare species of bird. While Loah enjoys being at home, she desperately misses her mother and counts down the days until her return. Only her mother doesn’t return. She goes missing. It is up to Loah to sound the alarm. This pitch-perfect novel of friendship and courage is highly recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old.
P.S. Always check out novels published by Margaret Ferguson Books. They tend to be stories of adventure and grace.
“Expeditions come in every size and shape. You can be an explorer without ever leaving home.” (p. 172)
Stead, Rebecca. The List of Things That Will Not Change. New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2020.
Ten-year-old Bea knows her parents both love her, despite their divorce. She is excited about her father’s upcoming marriage to his gay partner and excited about getting a new step-sister. So life should be as full of as much happiness as her heart can hold. But she has a secret: she has done something that worries her, something that may have harmed someone else. No one else writes about guilt as powerfully as Rebecca Stead. Her Newbery award-winning novel When You Reach Me also carries the feeling of dreadful responsibility that comes with guilt. This novel will appeal to slightly younger readers, 10 to 13 years old, who enjoy stories by Patricia Reilly Giff, Patricia MacLachlan, Susan Patron, and Sara Pennypacker.
Stevens, April. The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2018.
Figrotten loves nature. And she loves spending time outdoors on a big rock on a hill behind her house. She feels safe up there. Like she can truly be herself when she is there alone. But over the course of her eleventh year, she starts to see life differently. Maybe she can find friends at school, after all. Maybe her sister doesn’t hate her, after all. Maybe she can find a balance between being along and being with people.
This 196-page novel is beautifully written. Like poetry in prose. Highly recommended for thoughtful readers 10 to 13 years old.
Stratton, Allan. Chanda’s Wars. HarperCollinsPublishers, 2008. [For mature readers.]
Weeks, Sarah. So B. It. HarperTrophy, 2005, c2004.
Whelan, Gloria. Chu Ju’s House. Scholastic, 2005.
Whelan, Gloria. The Disappeared. Dial Books, 2008.
Whelan, Gloria. Listening for Lions. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
Thirteen-year-old Rachel, returning to England from British East Africa after being orphaned in the 1918 influenza pandemic, longs to return to rebuild her parents’ hospital. Recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old.
Whelan, Gloria. The Locked Garden. HarperCollins, 2009.
Whelan, Gloria. Small Acts of Amazing Courage. Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Whelan, Gloria. That Wild Berries Should Grow.
Ye, Ting-Xing. White Lily. Seal Books, 2003, c2000.
Bridges, Shirin Yim. Ruby’s Wish. Chronicle Books, 2002.
Bunting, Eve. Walking to School. Clarion Books, 2008.
Campbell, Nicola I. Shi-shi-etko. Groundwood Books, 2005.
Cole, Brock. Good Enough to Eat. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007.
A tall tale, a folktale, a cautionary tale… When an ogre threatens a town, the people offer him a young girl. Scraps-and-Smells is poor and homeless, the perfect person to give away, they think. But she outwits them all. A marvellous story reminiscent of The Little Red Hen but far more joyful, this picture book is recommended for readers 7 years old and up who like to see people get their comeuppance.
P.S. Anything written and illustrated by Brock Cole is worth reading. Look for his books!
Cooney, Barbara. Miss Rumphius. Viking Press, 1982.
Hoban, Russell. A Bargain for Frances. HarperCollins, 1992, c1970.
Khalsa, Daul Kaur. Tales of a Gambling Grandma. Tundra Books, 1986.
Napoli, Donna Jo. The Earth Shook: A Persian Tale. Hyperion Books, 2009.
Recorvits, Helen. My Name is Yoon. Frances Foster Books, 2003.
Steig, William. Brave Irene. Collins, 1986.
Wells, Rosemary. Streets of Gold. Dial Books for Young Readers, 1999.
Williams, Vera B. A Chair for My Mother. Greenwillow Books, 1982.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Show Way. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005.
Yee, Paul. Roses Sing on New Snow. Groundwood Books, 1991.