Fighting Words

Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. Fighting Words. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020.
Another novel with a ten-year-old main character, Della. But this time the story is not so cheerful. Not on the surface and not underneath, either. Della has always had a protector: her older sister Suki. When their mother was in prison, Suki took care of her. When their mother’s boyfriend did something terrible, Suki took care of her. But now Suki has tried to commit suicide and it’s time for Della to speak up and tell the truth. Neglect and abuse were addressed in a previous novel by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – The War That Saved My Life set in World War II England – and now these problems occur in a story set in present-day America. Only this time, the description is grittier and the issues more immediate. A realistically hopeful novel recommended for mature readers 11 years old and up. Older readers who are fans of Joan Bauer will also appreciate this empowering story of survival. 

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Pine Island Home

Horvath, Polly. Pine Island Home. Toronto: Puffin Canada, 2020.
Feeling fatigued by the constraints imposed by this pandemic? Feeling irritable about life in general? Read a novel by Polly Horvath. She has an extraordinary ability to use life’s craziness to make us laugh. This latest novel is no exception. Four sisters are orphaned in Borneo when their missionary parents are washed away by a tsunami. Unfortunately, their great-aunt – who had volunteered to take them in – dies before they arrive. Now what will they do? Where will they go? The four girls decide to settle into their aunt’s rural home on an island off the coast of British Columbia and pretend that a grumpy neighbour is their legal guardian. Will their scheme work? Well, all ends happily but not before all sorts of crazy complications surprise everyone. This highly recommended novel will be enjoyed by readers 10 to 13 years old.

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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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