Resilient reads for middle graders
CHILDREN’S BOOKS | Stories of heartache, hope, and adventure
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A Duet for Home
Karina Yan Glaser
First the Yang siblings lose their father, then they lose their home. June, her younger sister Maybelle, and their deeply depressed mother have no place to go but Huey House, a New York homeless shelter far from their familiar Chinatown neighborhood. As June wonders whether their bad luck will ever end, glimmers of hope emerge and she discovers new friends who rally around each other and fight for what is right. Glaser’s story, which came from her experiences working at a New York homeless shelter, offers an empathetic portrayal of the challenges and heartache facing these resilient kids and their families. (Note: mention of a racy book cover.) Ages 8-13
The Blackbird Girls
In this fictional account, Blankman weaves a gripping story by tying together the 1986 Chernobyl disaster with the 1941 German invasion of Russia. Classmates (and sworn enemies) Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko must together flee their homes after the nuclear meltdown at the plant where their fathers both work. As the girls adjust to their new life with Valentina’s grandmother in Leningrad, they discover unexpected friendship and hope. The story addresses themes of racism and oppression as well as the transforming power of love. Caution: One character is the victim of cruel physical and mental abuse by a parent. Ages 9-14
After Cress’ Papa fails to return home from foraging, Mama assumes he has met an untimely end. She moves her rabbit family to the Broken Arms, a shabby apartment tree where Cress struggles to adjust amid nosy neighbors, a demanding landlord, and her raw grief. Eventually Cress realizes that not everyone is as they appear and just as the moon will wax and wane, so will sorrow in her life. Although the book features David Litchfield’s beautiful illustrations, families who enjoy books like the Green Ember series will be disappointed with the snarky characters, routine rude behavior, and the occasional inclusion of dialogue that alludes to more adult themes (i.e., discussion of affairs, poker, drinks, etc.). Ages 9-12
The Last Mapmaker
When Sai joins a naval expedition to help an esteemed mapmaker chart the unexplored southern seas, she sees it as her chance to make a name and new life for herself. While Sai carefully guards the truth of her past—she’s the daughter of a con man with no social status—she discovers those around her also are harboring their own secrets that may jeopardize the success of their voyage and their search for a supposedly mythical continent. Even though Sai’s quest for position and prestige initially blinds her to the truth and leads to unintended consequences, she ultimately chooses to do the right thing. An engaging adventure read for middle graders. Ages 9-14
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