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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Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Schmidt, Gary D. Pay Attention, Carter Jones. Boston: Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.

Life can be chaotic and a bit crazy. That’s normal in a busy family with three kids and a father stationed overseas with the U.S. army. Well, it was normal until a bowler-hatted man appears at the door and announces that he has come from England to help them. His former employer, the children’s grandfather, has left a bequest providing the services of a full-time butler. Mr. Bowles does a lot more than keep the household in order. He helps sixth-grader Carter see life from a new perspective and supports the whole family when there’s a painful surprise. A humorous yet serious story recommended for readers 11 years old and up.

P.S. It’s worth reading all of Gary Schmidt’s novels.

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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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Whom can you trust?

Lisle, Janet Taylor. Quicksand Pond. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017.
Twelve-year-old Jessie makes a new friend and discovers a decades-old mystery when she spends the summer with her family in a ramshackle Rhode Island saltbox. This 240-page novel by a skillful novelist is recommended for readers – 11 to 15 years old – who enjoy stories of friendship, secrets, and betrayal. 

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Adventure and courage

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.  

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