The Year We Learned to Fly

Woodson, Jacqueline. The Year We Learned to Fly. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2022.
What do you do in spring when it’s raining outside and you have to stay inside? What do you do in summer when you have to do chores and can’t stop quarrelling with your brother? What do you in autumn when it’s dark outside and you’re stuck inside? What do you do in winter when you move somewhere new and you don’t know anyone at all? Well, use your imagination, of course! Remember the strong people who came before you. Lift up your arms, close your eyes, and let your mind fly! This joyous and inspiring picture book – illustrated by Rafael López – is highly recommended for readers of all ages.

P.S. Any book published by Nancy Paulsen Books is worth picking up. Sometimes you might not be ready for a particular story, but the quality of the writing will always be superb.

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They Went Left

Hesse, Monica. They Went Left. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2020.
After surviving the horrors of being locked up in a concentration camp, eighteen-year-old Zofia travels back to her home in Poland in 1945 with the help of a Russian soldier. She hopes to be reunited with her younger brother, but he isn’t there.  So she sets off in the middle of the night to search for him, determined not to give up until she finds him. It is in a displaced-persons camp in Germany where she finally discovers the truth.
A young adult novel about love and loss and learning to live with memories, this novel is most highly recommended for mature readers 13 years old and up.

(Note: due the sexual references, some private schools and some parents may prefer to reserve this book for older readers.)

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A Secret Shared

MacLachlan, Patricia. A Secret Shared. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2021.
Thanks to the wonders of DNA testing, Norah and Ben stumble upon a secret. Their younger sister, Birdy, is adopted. Should they tell their parents what they’ve discovered? Should they tell Birdy? This 145-page present-tense novel, printed in a relatively large font with widely spaced lines and short paragraphs, is a wonderful story for readers 8 to 12 years old. As with all Patricia MacLachlan stories, the language flows gracefully and the ideas linger in the mind long after the book is closed. Highly recommended, of course.

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A Place to Belong

Kadohata, Cynthia. A Place to Belong. New York: Atheneum, 2019.
Twelve-year-old Hanako, her younger brother, and her parents have been incarcerated in internment camps ever since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942. Although the war is now over, her family is still not wanted in America, so her parents give up their American citizenship and move to Japan. Her grandparents are overjoyed to see them, but Hanako doesn’t feel at home. She is too American to blend into Japanese life. And the poverty is overwhelming.
This 399-page novel is an outstanding addition to the historical fiction genre. The facts of post-war Japanese life are smoothly embedded in an emotionally powerful story – with an unerring sense of voice – highly recommended for competent readers 11 years old and up.

P.S. This is a superb novel for a small group study. Numerous thought-provoking sentences will promote connections between the story and readers’ own lives…

“‘When I walked away last time…I never looked back….I was scared it would make me change my mind'” (90).

“‘…you must forgive….I see and hear many bad in world, many bad….but there is also many good. So we move forward in life, neh? When we can, we move forward'” (105).

“This was the thing about being spoiled: you had to rise above it” (136).

“There was not enough; this was a fact. The world was filled with facts that could not be changed. She had learned this during their camp days. There were many, many, many facts” (158).

“‘Maybe same thing make you sad, make Japanese children happy'” (189).

“‘You did the right thing….You may cry. But don’t forget that you did the right thing'” (204).

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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.

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

Pesky Siblings

Today is a sad and gloomy day. It’s raining outside and I can’t play basketball. But today is a great day to spend an hour reading my novel: Hideout by Gordan Korman. Before I start reading, though, I’ll finish my schoolwork. 
When I am done reading, I will play a new game with my sister because she talks all day long without stopping. For the game, we’ll sit on my bed and I’ll tell her, “Whoever stays silent the longest wins.”  Then, I’ll turn off the light and not talk to her. We’ll see what happens! I bet I’ll win! 
Later, I’ll go down to the garage and dribble my basketball for half an hour or so. This is the most rainy it has been for the past two weeks.
P.S. I played the silent game with my sister. She lasted for 20 minutes. I won! – Manshan in grade 6

 

The Secrets of Blueberries…

Nickerson, Sara. The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2015.
Twelve-year-old Missy and her older brother Patrick convince their parents to let them get a job picking blueberries. But Missy acquires much more than money during the summer. She learns how people change. How life doesn’t stay the same. And sometimes there is no one to blame. Sometimes things just happen.
This 323-page novel with a relatively large font and well-spaced lines of print is easy to read. It flows smoothly with lots of conversation and short paragraphs.
Some novels written from the first person point of view seem too self-centred. This story, though, suits this approach. The difficulties of adolescence, the frustrations of life, the slow change of perspective on life are all empathetically portrayed in this introspective story recommended for readers 11 to 14 years old.

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