Nowhere Boy

Marsh, Katherine. Nowhere Boy. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2018.

Thirteen-year-old Max is not happy when his family moves from Washington, D.C. to Brussels, Belgium for a year. He is even less pleased when he has to attend a local school with instruction all in French. Worse yet, he has to repeat the sixth grade. But life changes when Max discovers a fourteen-year-old refugee, Ahmed, hiding in the basement. Told from alternating points-of-view, this 362-page suspenseful novel – set in the days following the 2016 Paris bombings – provides a heart-rending yet hopeful picture of life for survivors of war. Highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up. 

Learn the true history behind this fascinating novel!

More stories set in Europe 

More stories of refugees

More stories told from alternating points of view

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)

 

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 .

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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. 

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The Bicycle Spy

McDonough, Yona Zeldis. The Bicycle Spy. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.
Twelve-year-old Marcel – riding his bicycle and dreaming of racing in the Tour de France – discovers that he is delivering more than bread from his family’s bakery. He is delivering secret messages that must be kept hidden from the German soldiers who have invaded France. Set in 1942, this suspenseful novel – with widely spaced lines and relatively large print – will appeal to readers 10 years old and up. 

More stories of World War 2 

More stories set in France

Birdsong

Flett, Julie. Birdsong. Vancouver, BC: Greystone Kids/Greystone Books, 2019.
A young Cree girl moves to the countryside where she makes a new friend, an elderly woman who shares her love of art. Passing through the seasons of the year, this wistful picture book is filled with quiet love. It can take its place along with Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney as a story for readers who appreciate the power of creativity.

More books about the power of art

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” – Leonardo da Vinci

More indigenous stories

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

More Canadian writers

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Dream Within a Dream

MacLachlan, Patricia. Dream Within a Dream. New York, Toronto: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2019.
Many of Patricia MacLachlan’s novels are about children in some way abandoned by their parents. In My Father’s World, a Fiona and Finn grieve the death of their father.  In Arthur, For the Very First Time, Arthur is sent to live with his aunt and uncle for the summer. In Dream Within a Dream, Louisiana and her younger brother Theo are left with their grandparents on a small island while their parents travel around the world studying birds. In each case, the characters learn to see life from different perspectives. They learn more about themselves and their own talents. And they become stronger and more courageous. This pattern could become tiresomely repetitious, but the vivid writing and unique characters make each novel a new delight. Happily recommended for readers 9 to 12 years old. 

What makes Patricia MacLachlan’s novels such a pleasure for so many students?  Lots of conversation. Heartwarming relationships. Courage in the face of adversity. Short sentences and paragraphs. Big print and wide margins.