Deadman’s Castle

Lawrence, Iain. Deadman’s Castle. New York: Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House, 2121.
Ever since his father witnessed a crime seven years ago, Igor and his family have been on the run. They’ve moved all over the U.S.A., constantly hiding from a man who has threatened harm. Igor has never been allowed to attend school, own electronic devices, or have any friends. He has changed identities so many times, he can no longer remember where he was born or what he was first named.
On his twelfth birthday, Igor decides he is tired of living in fear. What if what his father has told him isn’t even true? What if no one is hunting them down? What if his father is actually crazy?
This quickly-paced, 243-page novel is highly recommended for readers 11 to 14 years of age.

Another novel of suspense by Iain Lawrence

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P.S. Remember the beginning of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time? Remember how Meg thinks everyone in her family hates her and that is why she has been given a bedroom in the attic? Adolescence is generally a time of questioning adults and feeling unloved. As you read Deadman’s Castle, you might like to notice how Igor’s emotions and actions are common to many twelve-year-olds, even those who aren’t living in extraordinary circumstances.

Ruby in the Sky

Ferruolo, Jeanne Zulick. Ruby in the Sky. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019.
Twelve-year-old Ruby has secrets to keep. No one is supposed to ask any questions about her mother and father. But when she meets a recluse who lives near her new home in Vermont, life starts to change. And when she meets Ahmed – a Syrian refugee – at her new school, friendship develops despite her reluctance. Maybe it is possible to find a new home, after all.  A wonderful story for readers 11 to 14 years old. 

And after you’ve read this novel, be sure to read Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie and Alan Cumyn’s North to Benjamin

More stories about moving to a new home

My Heart is Laughing

Lagercrantz, Rose. My Heart is Laughing. Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press, 2014.
Dani is always happy. Except when she is unhappy. But she does not count those times. This cheerful story about the little adventures of life is filled with quiet wisdom: Don’t give up, even when things seem hopeless. Try to think about something fun when you’re upset. Forgive people. Originally published in Sweden in 2012, this short novel with large print and wide margins is perfect for readers 7 to 10 years old. 

Some stories have an intriguing plot line. Some have finely drawn characters. But very few flow beautifully. Lyrically. And that last quality is what turns a novel into a work of art. Rose Lagercrantz’s story – translated into English by Julia Marshall and illustrated by Eva Eriksson – is a true example of writing as art.

What other novels have such rhythm and grace? Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie. Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May. Joy Cowley’s Chicken Feathers. Patricia MacLachlan’s Kindred Souls. Margery Sharp’s The Rescuers. Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree….

More great novels for young readers 

Some challenging reads for young readers

Lagrecrantz, Rose. My Happy Life. Wellington, N.Z.: Gecko Press, 2014, c2013.
Want to teach young readers how to recognize theme in novels? Want to use a novel to start philosophical discussions with 7-year-olds? Read this novel aloud and watch for true-to-life sentences.

Lagercrantz, Rose. See You When I See You. Wellington, N.Z.: Gecko Press, 2017.
This novel continues the Dani series. Although not as full of profound truths about life, it is still greatly entertaining.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Schmidt, Gary D. Pay Attention, Carter Jones. Boston: Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.

Life can be chaotic and a bit crazy. That’s normal in a busy family with three kids and a father stationed overseas with the U.S. army. Well, it was normal until a bowler-hatted man appears at the door and announces that he has come from England to help them. His former employer, the children’s grandfather, has left a bequest providing the services of a full-time butler. Mr. Bowles does a lot more than keep the household in order. He helps sixth-grader Carter see life from a new perspective and supports the whole family when there’s a painful surprise. A humorous yet serious story recommended for readers 11 years old and up.

P.S. It’s worth reading all of Gary Schmidt’s novels.

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Where do I belong?

Stevens, April. The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2018.
Figrotten loves nature. And she loves spending time outdoors on a big rock on a hill behind her house. She feels safe up there. Like she can truly be herself when she is there alone. But over the course of her eleventh year, she starts to see life differently. Maybe she can find friends at school, after all. Maybe her sister doesn’t hate her, after all. Maybe she can find a balance between being along and being with people.
This 196-page novel is beautifully written. Like poetry in prose. Highly recommended for thoughtful readers 10 to 13 years old.

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”  A.A Milne

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Let me learn!

Hopkinson, Deborah. Steamboat School: Inspired by a True Story. Los Angeles: Disney•Hyperion, 2016. 

A law against educating African Americans was established in Missouri in 1847. But a minister – John Meachum – found a way around this restriction by creating a school in the middle of the Mississippi River. Ron Hubbard, the first African American animator at Disney Studios, provides vivid illustrations for this moving story useful as a read-aloud for readers 9 years old and up. An afterward provides additional information including recommended websites and books. [African Americans; Historical fiction; Missouri;  Racism; Schools]

More stories about people of African heritage HERE

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