* Summer Reading 2014 *
Every Hero has a Story
Who do you want to be?
Reading List: Ages 9 – 12 years old
Summer Reading for other ages? Look Right!
All selections and annotations by
WPL Librarian Anna L. Nielsen
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Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks (2005), The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (2008), The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (2011), The Penderwicks in Spring (2015). NY: Alfred A. Knopf. Four family stories about a family that feels real – they are funny and emotional, regular and irregular, dramatic and calm, and they always, always stick together even when they are really quite grumpy with each other. They’re a family. And the children know exactly who they are and they haven’t the faintest idea who they are. They’re figuring it out, together. Excellent reads.
Boyne, John. Stay Where You Are and Then Leave. NY: Henry Holt & Co., 2013. The first World War is on, and Alfie’s Da isn’t home and isn’t writing. Mum says everything is fine but he knows it isn’t, so he takes to skipping school on the boring days to earn extra money as a shoeshine boy. And everyone on Damley Road gets along fine except when they don’t, like when everyone decides to stone the Janecek’s store for being from Prague and to stone Joe for being a “conchie.” And Alfie’s Mum still won’t tell him the real story about his Da, so Alfie decides to find out. And Alfie does. And then Alfie decides it’s up to him to save his Da. Because he’s the man of the house now, and right is right. This Irish import manages to fit in war, conscientious objection, white feather women, traumatic head injuries, post-traumatic stress syndrome (before it had a name), families, growing up, the love of a boy for his Da, and the love of a Da for his boy. A resonant story that keeps you reading and stays with you long after you’re done. Go Alfie. Highly recommended.
Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. The War That Saved My Life. NY: Dial, Penguin, 2015. Ada’s got a little brother, a twisted foot, and an even more twisted mother. Mom doesn’t let her out of the house – a cripple in public is just humiliating, see – and sometimes decides a cripple isn’t worth feeding, either. But Ada has a little brother Jamie, and he feeds her. And when he gets shipped out to the country to escape the war in London, Ada is brave enough to sneak out after him. Those two, they stick together. And then they meet the woman who is forced to take them in and care for them and somehow, somehow, together, they all learn what caring is. Emotionally packed and delicately but strongly rendered. Highly recommended.
Ende, Micahel. Momo. San Francisco, CA: McSweeney’s McMullens, 2013 (1973). Momo is a girl who listens. She listens, and notices things. Her friends welcome her. Then the Men in Grey come. They convince everyone to bank their time, to save it for later, giving up all things social and communal and artistic and enjoyable. The world becomes a stale, vapid place, filled only with Men in Grey and efficient humans not even noticing their time is their life and once given away, lost forever. What will Momo do? What kind of life is worth living? This fable of consumption prompt us all to think about who and how we want to be.
Doyle, Roddy. Brilliant. London: Macmillan Children’s Books, 2014. Economic depression hits Dublin and the children start to notice that the adults are getting dragged down into a depression all their own. Granny says the Black Dog is in town. So the children decide to chase it down – literally. The adults can’t see the Black Dog but the children can. They run into the night, and run and run and run and run. The Black Dog isn’t going to get their town or their families. No hound is so scary they can’t tackle it together.
Dumon Tak, Bibi; illus. Philip Hopman; trans. Laura Watkinson. Mikis and the Donkey. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014. This quiet story of kindness and consideration is about a boy living in a small village in an island in Greece. One day, his Grandpa gets a new donkey. Mikis is thrilled. But then he starts to worry that the poor donkey is being overworked. The donkey is a living creature, and his friend. What is fair? What is right? Mikis, with the help of his friends, family, and entire village, will figure it out.
Harrington, Karen. Courage for Beginners. NY: Little, Brown and Company, Hachette, 2014. Sometimes, courage is just about making it through the day. Mysti used to have a best friend but now she doesn’t – she’s been ditched for the “hipster” crowd. Her Dad used to be fine but now he isn’t – now he’s in the hospital. And her mother – well, her mother hasn’t been fine for a long time. Being too afraid to leave the house does that to a person. So Mysti has to learn to make new friends, take care of her Dad, make her mom better, and shop for groceries and stuff, too. Sometimes, courage is just about making it through the day. And Mysti is all right.
L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time. NY: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1963. “It was a dark and stormy night.” So begins this modern children’s classic about a girl and her brother, Meg and Charles Wallace, who travel through time to save first their father, then Charles Wallace, and finally the world, from darkness. They do it for love. They do it for light. What could be more heroic? The darkness will not win.
Lai, Thanhha. Listen, Slowly. NY: Harper, 2015. Mai does not want to go to Vietnam with her grandmother to find out what happened to her grandfather. She does not want a cultural experience. She does not want a broadening experience. She does not want a history and perspective experience. She wants to hang out with her friends. At home. At Laguna Beach. Seriously. But her parents pack her up and off she goes, to a country she barely knows and cares even less about. And then she gets a cultural experience. And a broadening experience. And decides maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe it’s kind of great. Maybe learning about another history and perspective will help her learn where she came from and who she is and who she’s going to choose to be. Maybe. If she can listen, slowly.
Leeuwen, Joke van. The Day My Father Became a Bush. Minneapolis, MN: Gecko Press, 2013. Toda’s dad used to be a pastry chef, but then the war came, and he had to be a bush. Well, he had to be a soldier and dress in camouflage, but to Toda the outfit looked like her father had to be a bush. So she lived with her Gran until Gran thought she should live with her Mom across the border, where there was no war. So Toda gets on a bus with Public Welfare to stay with a family who may or may not want her. But Toda wants her mother. So Toda is going to find her mother. And she is going to stay with her until her father no longer has to be a bush. Poignant and funny. Toda logically and doggedly makes her way through a world that often lacks logic and sense, and she doesn’t give up. Here’s to the Toda in all of us.
O’Dell, Scott. The Black Pearl. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967. Ramon is sixteen and diving for pearls like his father on the coast of California. He dreams of finding the pearl - the giant pearl, the black pearl. And when he does, he learns that success attracts enemies, jealous and aggressive and acquisitive enemies. Why does a thing, even a magnificent thing like a black pearl, matter so much? And does it, really? Ramon will have to decide for himself.
Pierce, Tamora. First Test. NY: Random House, 1999. Book One of the Protector of the Small Quartet. Read all four; read all books, really, by Pierce, especially those in the land of Tortall. In this series, Keladry is a page in the palace, the first girl in years to train for knighthood. Unwanted, unsupported, she stays calm and works hard, harder, hardest. When the older students take hazing to the next level, she fights back on her own, every day and night. And when her year mates ask her why, she says, “If we take this as pages, what about when we are knights? Do we say, Oh, now I’m going to be nice to the weak and small? Or do we do as we learned as pages? You can laugh… but when I see anyone big pick on someone small, well, there’s going to be a fight.” Meet Keladry. Hero.
Schmidt, Gary D. The Wednesday Wars. NY: Clarion Books, 2007. Holling Hoodhood is just starting seventh grade and he just knows it’s going to be a doozy of a year. His teacher is making him read Shakespeare, there’s cream puffs and escaped rats in his classroom, his sister is anti-war and his father is for it, it’s 1967, and his father says the only way to be a man is to stand up straight and be an architect. Holling has no intention of being an architect. He will, however, stand up straight. And probably move around from side to side a bit, too. Because a person really should.
Broom, Jenny; illus. Katie Scott. Animalium. Because to learn things, to know things, to try with all your might to understand things – well. That is the most heroic thing of all. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2014.
Carson, Mary Kay; photo. Tom Uhlman. Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2014. The National Parks of the United States have been called the country’s “best idea,” and they preserve and protect the land and water of the nation so we can all enjoy our beautiful environment. Learn more about the National Park Service that makes it all possible. Gripping photographs with data-filled and easy to read text. Make sure to read all the Scientists in the Field series, too, but especially this title and The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans (Elizabeth Rusch, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2014), about the latest techniques to get energy from the power of ocean water and waves. Words to Know and Further Resources sections in both.
Lewis, J. Patrick; illus. Gary Kelley. Harlem Hellfighters. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions, 2014. This. This is a book. One of the NYT Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2014, author Lewis served as the Children’s Poet Laureate of the United States from 2011 to 2013. The Harlem Hellfighters were the all Black infantry regiment known as the 369th who were a part of the more than 350,000 black American soldiers who fought for the United States before they were allowed to vote or even drink the same water as white Americans. While the black soldiers fought abroad, their black countrymen were getting lynched. When the Hellfighters came home at war’s end and marched in music and celebration with their band, their leader Big Jim was killed for being black, sliced in the throat by a man who was white. Lewis’s free verse and Kelley’s pastels work in jarring tandem, reminding us to think of war and of country and of what, exactly, our nation is made. This. This is a book.
Schatz, Kate; illus. Miriam Klein Stahl. Rad American Women A – Z. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2015. Black paper cutouts over bold and bright colors make this alphabet book of twenty-six bold and bright women who were radical enough to dare to change the world make this book a must in all humanist collections. D is Dolores Huerta “who demands dignity and justice for farm workers,” L is Lucy Parsons “who fought for the rights of workers and poor people,” R is Rachel Carson “who taught us how to respect and protect the earth,” and X is “for the women whose names we don’t know.” Hail to Schatz and Stahl for putting this together.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. NY: Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Group, 2014. Award-winning Woodson shares another novel in verse – this time a memoir of her life from the South to her dear NYC - as poignant as her Locomotion and as concentrated and compassionate as a life well-examined and well-loved can be. A must read.
Dauvillier, Loic; illus. Marc Lizano; trans. Alexis Siegel. Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust. NY: First Second, 2012. There’s nothing simple about telling a story of war and the Holocaust - the sheer awfulness of it all makes the telling almost impossible. In this French import, Dauvillier manages by telling a tale that is also of resilience and love. A granddaughter asks a grandmother why she is sad sometimes, and the grandmother decides, this time, to speak. She begins with her childhood and the day her father came home and said, “This morning I was at a big meeting. Some people suggested that we become a family of sheriffs.” He said it in such a way that she remembers being excited. She was proud to wear a shiny yellow star, just like a sheriff. And then the rest of it all came. Through the bravery and kindness of strangers and friends, and a little luck, she survives. She survives. Try also Resistance: Book One (Carla Jablonski; illus. Leland Purvis, NY: First Second, 2010) about a brother and sister who get involved in the Resistance movement in France to save their friend. Heroes all.
O’Connor, George. Olympians series. Ares (2015), Poseidon (2013), Aphrodite (2013), Hades (2012), Hera (2011), Zeus (2010), Athena (2010). NY: A Neal Porter Book, First Second. Come meet the Gods and heroes of Greek mythology. And if you like what you see through O’Connor’s inks and naratives, slip back and grab the best of the best anthologies of Greek Myths for children, teens, and adults, D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths (Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, NY: Doubleday, 1980 (1962). The best.