One Time

Creech, Sharon. One Time. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2020.
Gina’s mind is always racing. Always observing the world around her, noticing details other people miss. But she often feels alone. Until Antonio moves next door and Miss Lightstone becomes her new homeroom teacher
“Who are you?”
“What could you be?”
Those are the questions asked in this easy-to-read novel highly recommended for readers 10 to 13 years old. (Also recommended for teachers who enjoy being inspired by new ideas.)

Of course, all novels by Sharon Creech are recommended for readers who wonder about life’s mysteries.  Find more here!

Read Allen Say’s stories, too.

And if you like words, also read…

Knight, Mary. Saving Wonder. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.
Twelve-year-old Curley Hines lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Most of his relatives have died, his father in a coal mining accident and his mother and younger brother in a mud slide caused by the mine. So now he lives with his grandfather who – every week – gives him a new word to learn: 26 letters x 2 = 52 weeks and 52 new words every year.

Right from the first sentence, this debut novel is full of the joy of life: love, hope, and determination. And the power of words! Which is exactly what Curley needs to use when the mine announces their plans to blow the top of Red Hawk Mountain. Coal is needed and a new mine manager is resolute in his decision to expand operations. Curley and his best friend Jules – with the help with her new boyfriend, the mine manager’s son –  get together to oppose the destruction of their beloved home.
Each chapter in the story emphasizes one of Curley’s words and ends with a definition. The humour in the format is delightful and never feels overbearing or didactic, probably because of Curley’s spunk and his grandfather’s loving wisdom. This novel is highly recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old. [Appalachian Region; Coal mines and mining; Environmentalism; Friendship; Grandfathers; Kentucky; Orphans]   

More books about imagination

The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe

Springstubb, Tricia. The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe. New York: Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House, 2021.
Eleven-year-old Loah Londonderry is left with elderly caretakers when her mother goes on an Arctic research expedition to study a rare species of bird. While Loah enjoys being at home, she desperately misses her mother and counts down the days until her return. Only her mother doesn’t return. She goes missing. It is up to Loah to sound the alarm. This pitch-perfect novel of friendship and courage is highly recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old.
P.S. Always check out novels published by Margaret Ferguson Books. They are invariably beautifully written stories full of adventure and grace.

“Expeditions come in every size and shape. You can be an explorer without ever leaving home.” (p. 172)

More stories of adventure

More stories of strong female characters

More stories of friendship

Just Like That

Summer holidays are coming to an end and a new term is about to begin. Get ready by reading a historical novel set in a boarding school. 

Schmidt, Gary D. Just Like That. Boston: Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021.
Meryl Lee is sent to a posh boarding school in Maine where wealthy students are clearly considered superior. Unfortunately, she is not wealthy. Meanwhile, Matt has run away – with a pillowcase full of money – from a criminal gang and is hiding in a seaside shack. The two teenagers meet and begin a fragile friendship. Set in 1968 during the Vietnam war, this young adult novel addresses political issues, religious beliefs, and social justice. Highly recommended for readers 12 years old and up. (P.S. All stories written by award-winning Gary D. Schmidt are worth reading.)

More stories of faith 

More stories of runaways

A Map Into the World

Yang, Kao Kalia. A Map Into the World. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Carolrhoda Books, 2019.
How do you find your way in a new world? A little girl settles into a new home with her parents and grandmother in this quietly hopeful picture book by an award-winning Hmong American writer living in Minnesota. As the seasons pass, Paj Ntaub welcomes her twin brothers into the world, befriends a grieving neighbour, and enjoys the beauties of nature in her neighbourhood. Softly coloured, full-page illustrations by Seo Kim help tell this story recommended for readers 7 to 11 years old.  

More stories of immigrants

More stories of grief

Skunk and Badger

Timberlake, Amy. Skunk and Badger. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2020.
There is Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. George and Martha by James Marshall. Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley. And now there is Skunk and Badger! Two mismatched roommates become the best of friends in this hilarious story illustrated by Jon Klassen. Badger is happy living alone – working on his important rock collection – until Skunk appears at the door, apparently permitted to move into the brownstone by Badger’s Aunt Lula. Badger’s quiet orderly life is abruptly upended by this noisy messy Skunk. What is to be done? How are the two going to resolve their differences? This 122-page little novel is most highly recommended for readers 7 years old and up. Especially readers who like to laugh. Especially readers who appreciate the joys of unexpected friendships.

More stories of friendships

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)