The Rough Patch

Lies, Brian. The Rough Patch. New York: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.
Everything is wonderful. Until it isn’t. Evan’s best friend – his dog – dies. And life becomes dark and angry. Until, in autumn, Evan takes a pumpkin from his garden and goes to the town fair. He sees some friends, wins a prize, and goes home with a new puppy. A story of loss and grief but also hope. A perfect picture book, told not only with words but also with illustrations. A 2019 Caldecott Honor Book. Recommended for readers 5 to 11 years old. 

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Grandpa’s Stories

Coelho, Joseph and Allison Colpoys. Grandpa’s Stories: A Book of Remembering. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019.
A young girl remembers all the special moments she shared with her grandfather. Spring. Summer, Fall. Winter. Every season holds precious memories of her beloved grandfather. A poignant picture book by an award-winning British writer and an Australian artist. Recommended for young readers who are grieving.

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Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened

Blejwas, Emily. Like Nothing Amazing Every Happened. New York: Delacorte Press, 2020.
Twelve-year-old Justin lives with a mystery: how did his father – a military veteran – die? Was it an accident or suicide? Who will tell him the truth? This 210-page novel portrays the effects of post-traumatic-stress-disorder and the complexities of history in a small Minnesotan town in 1991. Highly recommended for readers 11 to 14 years old.

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Saving Winslow

Creech, Sharon. Saving Winslow. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.
Louie’s father often brings home small animals needing to be rescued. Most of the time, they don’t survive. Louie usually doesn’t have any better luck. The worms he brought home? Dead after two days. The lightning bugs? Dead after three days. But Louie – missing his older brother who is stationed far away as a soldier – is determined. When his father brings home a motherless mini donkey on a cold January morning, Louie decides that this time he will succeed: Winslow will live. Beautifully written and heart-warming, this 165-page novel is most highly recommended for animal lovers 8 to 12 years old.

P.S. Of course, all Sharon Creech stories are amazing works of art. But this one is outstanding in its introduction to themes to encourage conversation between children and adults. How can you love someone if you know they might disappear? How do you regain hope after loss? How can you joyfully help someone fulfill their purpose in life even though it means they will leave you? 

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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.)

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Addy’s Cup of Sugar

Muth, Jon J. Addy’s Cup of Sugar: Based on a Buddhist Story of Healing. New York: Scholastic Press, 2020.
How do we carry on after a loved one has died? That is the question in another picture book about grief. Similar to The Boy and the Gorilla, this story depicts a helper. Stillwater, a giant panda who has appeared in previous books by Jon Muth, teaches Addy how to recover from grief after her beloved kitten is hit by a car. She is sent to borrow a cup of sugar from someone who has never experienced loss. By the end of the day, she realizes that everyone has suffered the desolation of losing loved ones. She is not alone in her pain. And she still has a heart full of loving memories. This story, with its full-page watercolour and pencil illustrations, will appeal to readers of all ages and all faiths. Highly recommended. 

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The Boy and the Gorilla

Kramer, Jackie. Azúa. The Boy and the Gorilla. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2020.
A young boy, missing his mother, converses with an imaginary gorilla. Where do loved ones go when they die? How do we remember those no longer with us? How do we learn to go on with life? Softly illustrated by Cindy Derby, this short gentle story will prompt reader’s own conversations about death and grief. Recommended for children 5 to 8 years old.
P.S. Always take the time to look at a picture book by Candlewick Press.

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