Last of the Name

Parry, Rosanne. Last of the Name. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2019.
After surviving a horrific voyage, twelve-year-old Danny and his older sister Kathleen arrive in New York City. But the prejudice against Irish Catholics is as bad in America as it was in Ireland. Determined to stay together, the siblings find work as house maids. But they can only stay as long as Danny can keep pretending to be a girl.  This novel – set in 1863 and based on historical facts – is highly recommended for competent readers 11 years old and up.

More stories set in New York City

More historical fiction

More novels by Roseanne Parry:
A Wolf Called Wander
Written in Stone

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The Oldest Student

Hubbard, Rita Lorraine. The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020.
Once in a while, a book soars above the rest. The illustrations convey emotions as well as plot details. The size and style of the font matches the tone of the text and the age of the intended readers. The words sing with the rhythm of a story told over and over aloud, and the design turns it all into a work of brilliance.
This picture book is brilliant right from the beginning. It tells the story of Mary Walker, born a slave in 1848 and growing up to labour in the cotton fields, toil in the Big House, and follow the rules: work, work, work. Do not learn to read. When Mary was fifteen years old, freedom came, but she was desperately poor and still had to work. Mary Walker married, gave birth to a son, was widowed, married again and gave birth to two more sons. Year after year, she kept working and working – and dreaming of being able to decipher the squiggles she saw on billboards and signs. Finally, when she was 114 years old, she decided it was time she learned how to read. And she did!
This inspiring picture book – illustrated by Oge Mora – is most highly recommended for all readers 8 years old and up.

More biographies

More stories about people of African heritage

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Echo Mountain

Wolk, Lauren. Echo Mountain. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2020.
Twelve-year-old Ellie meets Larkin when she and her family have to abandon their home during the Great Depression in 1934. She and her younger brother move, with their parents, to the mountains of Maine, building a cabin and making do with what the land will provide. Tragedy follows. But Ellie gains courage and learns how to be healer, bringing hope back to life in the midst of poverty and despair.  Highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up. 

There are many wonderful novels of friendship between a girl and a boy, stories of friendships that forever change the lives of the characters. Frances Burnett’s The Secret Garden is the classic example, of course. But there are other memorable friendships. Anne and Gilbert in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Meg and Calvin in Madeleine L’Engle’s science fiction/fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time. Leo and Stargirl in Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl. Bobby and Alicia in Andres Clement’s Things Not Seen. Isla and Harry in Lucy Christopher’s Flyaway, who set out to save a swan. Curly and Jules in Mary Knight’s Saving Wonder, who try to save a mountain from an expanding coal mine. And the two main characters in Vera Cleaver’s Hazel Rye, who become friends as they work together to save a Florida orange grove. What is your favourite story of friendship? 

More historical fiction

More stories set in Maine

More stories of country life

Septetys, Ruta. The Fountains of Silence. New York: Philomel Books, 2019.
In 1957, wealthy eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, an aspiring photographer from Texas who is visiting Madrid with his parents, discovers the quietly dangerous world of Franco’s Spain as he becomes friends with Ana, a hotel maid. Political intrigue, romance, and history all combine in this compelling story by an accomplished author. An extensive bibliography and black-and-white photographs supplement this 472-page novel highly recommended for readers 13 years old and up. [Dictatorships; Franco, Francisco; Photography; Secrets; Spain] 

Hyde, Catherine Ryan. Becoming Chloe. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
Two homeless teenagers, a fearful girl and a gay boy, become friends, leave New York City and take a road trip across America in search of beauty. This “is the story of Jordan who lives a lonely life in the streets. This all changes when he meets Chloe. Chloe, a small blonde girl who has also lived her life in the streets, thinks the world is ugly and full of misery. But when, Jordan takes Chloe on a road trip across the country to show her that the world is a wonderful place, they have lots of adventures, make many memories, and Chloe changes her mind. She realizes that the world really is a beautiful place. This book entertains, heals your heart, and feeds your soul. I really enjoyed reading it and I recommend this book to children ages twelve to fifteen.” (Megan)

This “is a fantastic fiction book about two homeless teenagers with dark and disturbing pasts. Jordy, the main character, faces a dilemma: should he support the troubled and abused Chloe, or should he leave her and continue to suffer on his own? Either way, his life will be a struggle but as the novel continues, Jordy realizes that it is his job to show Chloe that the world really is a very beautiful place. So they leave New York City and take a road trip across the country. And they prove to each other how wonderful their lives really are. This is truly a phenomenal novel which I absolutely recommend!” (Anna in grade eight)

 

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Little People, Big Dreams

Looking for a series about people who have made a difference in our world?
Looking for books at an easy reading level?

Try Little People, Big Dreams published in English by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Each book in the series – originally written in Spanish – is by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara. The design is simple: a plain font with only a few sentences on each page along with full-page illustrations by a variety of artists. The style is informative rather than poetic and the reading level is suitable for children 8 years old and up. There are several dozen titles, so the the books would be useful for classroom teachers starting students on basic research projects or book reports. However, children who prefer nonfiction reading would also enjoy many of these titles, and therefore they are highly recommended for curious readers 8 to 12 years old.

Available online and in-store from Hemingway’s

(Type ‘little people, big dreams’ into the search box.)

A Biography Worksheet

 

 

More titles!

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My Heart

Luyken, Corinna. My Heart. New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019.
Some days are dark and heavy. Some days are full of fear. But a broken heart can mend, and a closed heart can open again. Softly coloured illustrations – in black, white, and yellow – help tell a simple story of quiet hope and respect. A poignant picture book, useful for teaching figures of speech and recommended for readers of all ages who could use a reminder to .

Buy from Hemingway’s

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The Invisible Bear

Metzger, Cécile. The Invisible Bear. Toronto: Tundra, 2020.
Alone. Unseen. Invisible. A quiet solitary existence. Until Madame Odette moves next door and brings colour and sound and friendship into Bear’s life. This softly illustrated picture book – originally published in French – will speak to readers of all ages, especially during this time of Covid-19. 

Buy online or in-store from Hemingway’s

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Merry Christmas!

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.
Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” – Bob Hope

Boynton, Sandra. Christmas Parade. New York : Little Simon, 2020.

Tate, Nikki. Christmas: from Solstice to Santa. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2018. 

“Christmas Eve was the time when everybody was unselfish. On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because everybody, all together, stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy. And in the morning you saw what that had done.

“‘If everybody wanted everybody else to be happy all the time, then would it be Christmas all the time?’ Laura asked, and Ma said, ‘Yes, Laura.’” ― Laura Ingalls Wilder 

Merry Christmas!

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