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? 

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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)

 

Defiance

Dear Reader,

What are signs that you are growing up? That you are starting to leave childhood behind and starting to become a young adult? It can’t be that you merely want to make decisions for yourself. Two-year-olds want to make decisions for themselves. It can’t be that you secretly do things your parents forbid. Most children of all ages at least occasionally disobey their parents. So how does thinking for yourself and making your own decisions show maturity rather than mere selfishness?

Hobbs, Valerie. Defiance. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2005. 

Eleven-year-old Toby wants to have fun. His parents want to protect him from any possible danger. Toby has cancer. His mother wants him to stay close to their cabin in the country, out of the sun and away from anything that could cause him to get hurt or even tired. He wants to go exploring. So he does. He wakes up early in the morning, sneaks off on his bicycle, and meets an elderly neighbour, Pearl, and her old cow, Blossom. They become friends and life changes for Toby.This story is about growing up, about learning to think for yourself without thinking only about yourself. 

The reading level of this book is not difficult. There are only 117 pages and the lines on each page are spaced far enough apart to be easy on the eyes. But there is a lot to ponder in this story. So don’t read it when you are in the mood for a quickly-paced humorous story. Read it when you have the time to slow down and consider this question: What is the meaning of life?

Ms. R.

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“Life is simple.”

MacLachlan, Patricia. Just Dance. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2017.
Ten-year-old Sylvie and eight-year-old Nate live on a farm in Wyoming with their father – a cowboy with a love of poetry- and their mother – a former opera singer who now sings in the shower. Sylvie worries. Does her mother miss her glamorous life travelling the world? Might she leave them all and return to life on the stage?  Sylvie worries and thinks about love and writes poems about local events. And finally realizes that what seems ordinary is precious. An easy-to-read reflective novel that will encourage conversation. Highly recommended for readers 7 years old and up.

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A Wild Pet

Kelly, Jacqueline. Skunked! New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016.
Eleven-year-old Travis adopts two baby skunks in this historical novel for young readers. Set in a small Texan town in 1901, this easy-to-read story focuses on the younger brother of Callie, the main character in two previous novels for older readers: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. While this new novel still features Callie as narrator, the action centres on Travis and his escapades with two wild creatures. A great story for readers 7 to 11 years old. [Country life; historical fiction; naturalists; pets; skunks; Texas]

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Do maps tell the truth?

Elliot, David. Henry’s Map. New York: Philomel Books, 2013.
Henry is organized. Everything has its own place. And should stay in its place. But then he makes a map and confusion reigns over the farm yard. This cheerful story will have readers – and listeners – laughing as Henry discovers maps don’t always match what his eyes see. Recommended for ages 4 to 10.

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