The List of Things That Will Not Change

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. Told from the first-person point of view, 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.

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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? 

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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)

 

Catch You Later, Traitor

Avi. Catch you Later, Traitor. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2015.
Twelve-year-old Pete Collison enjoys reading detective novels and listening to radio dramas. But in 1950s America, the government’s search for communist sympathizers leads to a real-life mystery when the FBI shows up at Pete’s home in Brooklyn, New York. Could there be Communist spies in his family? A note at the end of the story provides more information about this time in American history, describing the author’s connections to his own life growing up in New York City. A fast-moving suspenseful novel highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up.

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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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