Nicky & Vera

Sis, Peter. Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2021.
Twenty-nine-year-old Nicholas Winton saved almost 700 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938. Ten-year-old Vera was one of those children. Written and illustrated by the inimitable Peter Sis, this true story describes the astonishingly daring rescue during the war and the unexpected reunion fifty years later. Accompanied by an extensive afterward, this picture book is highly recommended for readers eight years old and up.

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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!

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Dark Hours

Pausewang, Gudrun. Dark Hours. Toronto: Annick Press, 2006.
Sixteen-year-old Gisel and her younger siblings flee Russian soldiers during a cold winter in World War 2. Trapped underground after an air raid, Gisel calls on all her courage and ingenuity to enable them to survive. Brilliantly written by an award-winning German author and translated by John Brownjohn, this young adult novel is highly recommended for competent readers 12 years old and up.

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Too Young to Escape

Imagine being left behind when your parents move to another country. That is what happened to young Van. She was left behind when her parents and older siblings fled from the communist rulers in Vietnam. Happily, Van was eventually able to rejoin her family in Canada. 

The large print and widely spaced lines make this 142-page book – illustrated with photographs – easy to read, but the story itself is not so easy to read.  Recommended for brave readers with compassionate hearts.

Ho, Van and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Too Young to Escape: A Vietnamese Girl Waits to Be Reunited with Her Family. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2018.

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Cinnamon Moon

Dear Reader,

Ailis and her brother are orphans living in a boarding house in Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871.

If you’ve read Sweep by Jonathan Auxier, you’ll remember how children were snatched by unscrupulous men to work as chimney sweeps.  In this novel, children are also enslaved, this time by devious men who force them to work as rat-catchers in the sewers of Chicago. But twelve-year-old Ailis is fiesty and brave. She is determined to save herself and her brother from a grim future. 

Cinnamon Moon is not a difficult novel to read as far the reading level is concerned.  The narration is written in present tense and from the first person point of view, so the story feels up-to-date in its style. Furthermore, the font is a comfortable size and the lines of print are well-spaced. But the story itself is serious and based on historical facts which are explained at the back of the book. However, rather than being discouraging or depressing, this novel is filled with humour and hope. I think the history will interest you and the ending will inspire you.

Hilmo, Tess. Cinnamon Moon. New York: Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar, Straus Giroux, 2016. 

P.S. Always watch for books by Tess Hilmo: they’re invariably well-written. 

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The Crossroads

Dear Reader,

In the news, you hear about people illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. You hear about people illegally entering Europe to escape from war in Afghanistan and Syria. You hear adults give their opinions about what should be done. You may even have your own opinion about people fleeing their home and escaping to other countries. 

But what is it like to be one of those people on the run? What is it like to be an undocumented teenager trying to survive in a new country?

Diaz, Alexandra. The Crossroads. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018.

Twelve-year-old Jaime and fifteen-year-old Angela are cousins from Guatemala living in a trailer in New Mexico. Jaime’s older brother works on a ranch and the two younger cousins go to school. But how can you feel like you belong when you can’t understand English? How can you feel safe when you don’t want anyone to know that you are in the country illegally? How can you rest when you are worried about your relatives back home?

This skillfully written story is full of plot twists and real life dilemmas will give you a new perspective on the problems of modern migration. The novel is long – 303 pages – but it is not difficult to read. There is lots of conversation, and the sentences are quite simple. I think you are ready to read a story about what it is like to be independent when you are only 12 years old. 

Ms R. 

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Living in Syria…

Alabed, Bana. Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.
In the  news, we hear of the civil war in Syria. On television, we see pictures of the devastated cities. But what is it like to be a child living in the midst of chaos? In September of 2016, a seven-year-old girl started telling the world using a Twitter account. And now, in this 205-page book, she tells more about her family’s journey from peaceful hope to constant fear. Interspersed with sections providing background information written by her mother, Bana describes a happy childhood that turns into a nightmare that only begins to end when the family flees to Turkey.
Highly recommended for readers twelve years old and up who have read stories and true-life accounts of suffering in World War 2 and are ready to become informed about current events in the world.

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