The Old Man

V., Sarah. The Old Man. Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press, 2018.
An old man, hungry and homeless, wanders the streets. The weather is cold and dark, windy and wet. But a little girl offers her sandwich and smiles. His heart is warmed as he trudges to the safety of a shelter. Poignantly illustrated by Claude K. Dubois and translated from the French by Daniel Hahn, this picture book is most highly recommended for readers 7 years old and up.

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A Place to Belong

Kadohata, Cynthia. A Place to Belong. New York: Atheneum, 2019.
Twelve-year-old Hanako, her younger brother, and her parents have been incarcerated in internment camps ever since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942. Although the war is now over, her family is still not wanted in America, so her parents give up their American citizenship and move to Japan. Her grandparents are overjoyed to see them, but Hanako doesn’t feel at home. She is too American to blend into Japanese life. And the poverty is overwhelming.
This 399-page novel is an outstanding addition to the historical fiction genre. The facts of post-war Japanese life are smoothly embedded in an emotionally powerful story – with an unerring sense of voice – highly recommended for competent readers 11 years old and up.

P.S. This is a superb novel for a small group study. Numerous thought-provoking sentences will promote connections between the story and readers’ own lives…

“‘When I walked away last time…I never looked back….I was scared it would make me change my mind'” (90).

“‘…you must forgive….I see and hear many bad in world, many bad….but there is also many good. So we move forward in life, neh? When we can, we move forward'” (105).

“This was the thing about being spoiled: you had to rise above it” (136).

“There was not enough; this was a fact. The world was filled with facts that could not be changed. She had learned this during their camp days. There were many, many, many facts” (158).

“‘Maybe same thing make you sad, make Japanese children happy'” (189).

“‘You did the right thing….You may cry. But don’t forget that you did the right thing'” (204).

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Ada’s Violin

Hood, Susan. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 

Ada lives in a poverty-stricken town that serves as the main garbage dump for the capital city of Paraguay. She – along with thousands of other residents – spend their days picking through the trash to find things to recycle and sell. This poignant and inspiring story tells how a man sent to teach safety practices decided to teach the children how to make musical instruments. The orchestra he formed has now performed around the world!  Dramatically illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, this true story is recommended for readers 7 years old and up. 

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Very Rich

Dear Reader,

Isn’t life astonishing? There are so many wondrous things in this world, so many amazing people. And each life is uniquely valuable. 

You already knew all that?  I thought so.

But this novel says it in a whole new way, one that will make you walk away laughing and feeling happy. 

Horvath, Polly. Very Rich. New York: Puffin, 2018.

Ten-year-old Rupert is hungry and neglected. Neither of his parents care for him. But one Christmas he’s invited into the wealthy home of an eccentric family. Suddenly, his life is completely changed. If you’ve read other stories by Polly Horvath, you know that at least a little wackiness is ahead. Be ready for the unexpected! 

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Learning to love the little things

Winter, Jonah. Born and Bred in the Great Depression. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011.
The author tells the story of his father’s childhood in Texas during the 1930s. Told from the second person point of view, this beautifully designed picture book with pencil, ink, and watercolour illustrations by Kimberly Bulcken Root is accompanied by black and white photographs. Highly recommended for readers 8 years old and up.

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“My parents survived the Great Depression and brought me up to live within my means, save some for tomorrow, share and don’t be greedy, work hard for the necessities in life knowing that money does not make you better or more important than anyone else.” – David Suzuki, Canadian environmental activist and science broadcaster

 

What do you see?

“Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.” – E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web

Wung-Sung, Jesper. The Last Execution. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. Translated by Lindy Falk van Rooyen.
Chapter by chapter, the final hours count down to the last execution in Danish history. Chapter by chapter, eleven bystanders reveal their thoughts about the 15-year-old boy accused of arson and murder.  And in each chapter, we also hear the voice of that forlorn and forsaken boy. Based on a true story from 1853, this heart-wrenching novel of poverty and prejudice is highly recommended for thoughtful readers 14 years old and up. 

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