Let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day with a sweet jFIC love story:
Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan
Louisa is not looking forward to spending another summer with her grandparents on the tiny island where they live. Her brother doesn’t mind, but she’s a writer, so even though she enjoys her grandparents’ company, she would rather be off having adventures with her ornithologist parents. This year, however, she discovers that the island has a lot to offer, and she meets George, a very special boy with whom she forms a very special friendship.
And for Black History Month, here are a few of my favorite historical novels by African American authors:
Finding Langston Trilogy (Finding Langston, Leaving Lymon, and Being Clem (coming in August, 2021) by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Elijah of Buxton and other awesome novels by Christopher Paul Curtis
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and other installments of The Logan Family Series by Mildred Taylor
Some Places More than Others by Renée Watson
One Crazy Summer Trilogy by Rita Williams-Garcia
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson
“Words cannot espresso how much you bean to me!” –unknown
Happy New Year! Looking forward to a year full of awesome reads!
My favorite dozen from 2020:
Eva Evergreen (Semi Magical Witch Book 1) by Julie Abe (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7)
Eva Evergreen’s quest is to earn the rank of Novice Witch before her thirteenth birthday, for if she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic powers forever. The problem is that Eva only has “a pinch of magic” – or so she believes. This delightful fantasy novel reads like an anime movie. I look forward to the sequels!
The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman (Ages 9-12; Grades 4-7)
After a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explodes, two rival fifth-grade girls from completely different backgrounds end up on a train on their way to stay with one of the girls’ estranged grandmother. A poignant multigenerational historical novel about the power of friendship.
Premeditated Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery 1) by Elizabeth C Bunce (Ages 10-18; Grades 5-12) (some diversity)
Myrtle Hardcastle is a brilliant twelve-year-old girl obsessed with forensic science and detective work who persists in her investigations in spite of the social expectations of her time. The series has similarities to the award-winning Flavia de Luce Mystery Series by Alan Bradley, but it’s written for kids! Engaging and delightful!
The Sisters of Straygarden Place by Hayley Chewins (Ages 10-14; Grades 5-9)
A beautifully-written surreal fantasy about an enchanted house, menacing plants, bonds between sisters, and reality-bending revelations. I loved the little black dogs that squeeze inside their owners’ brains to help them sleep. Spooky and original!
Leaving Lymon (Finding Langston Trilogy Book 2) by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7) (BIPOC author)
The second installment of the Finding Langston Trilogy follows the story of the bully Lymon, and includes the reasons for his anger, his love of music, and his finding hope for a better future. A moving and inspiring historical fiction story told by an outstanding writer.
One Time by Sharon Creech (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7) (some diversity)
With the help of a brilliant teacher and a boy with a generous smile, 11-year-old Gina Filomena and her classmates discover that their future is full of wonderful possibilities. An uplifting coming-of-age story that’s perfect for classroom reading groups.
The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher (Ages 9-12; Grades 4-7)
Thirteen-year-old Seren Rhys is an orphan hoping for a better life in her Godfather’s country mansion. But nothing turns out as she expects, and she ends up going on a fantastic journey to rescue the family’s young son who has been stolen by fairies. A mysterious and fast-paced fantasy with themes of resilience, courage, and belonging.
A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7)
The Widdershins sisters discover that they’re under a generations-long curse that keeps them from leaving their island, so they set out to break the curse and save their lives with the help of three magical objects and a mysterious prisoner. An exciting fantasy adventure with excellent world-building and characterization.
The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7) (bi-racial blended family)
A gorgeously-written, enchanting family story that follows the daily lives of 11-year-old Abi, her two stepbrothers, and her father and stepmother, as they adjust to a new family and a new home: a mysterious and possibly magical ivy-covered house. A suspenseful and heartwarming novel from a brilliant author. My favorite juvenile novel of the year!
Of Salt and Shore by Annet Schaap (Ages 10-12; Grades 5+)
Lampie, the lighthouse keeper’s 11-year-old daughter, makes a terrible mistake that results in punishments both for her and her alcoholic father. Hers is to be sent to live and work at the Admiral’s house, where a monster is said to live. A fantasy adventure with extraordinary characters and themes of courage, friendship, belonging, and self-worth.
The Monster Who Wasn’t (Monster Who Wasn’t Trilogy Book 1) by T. C. Shelley (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6)
Imp hatched in a monsters’ lair, but looks just like a human boy and is possibly something between fairy and monster. The gargoyles and their angel take him under their wings, but the king of ogres has sinister plans for him. A fantasy story of family, good vs evil, and seeking one’s place in the world. Exciting and heart-warming!
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (Ages 8-12; Grades 5+)
The Great Depression forces 12-year-old Ellie’s family to leave their home in town and move to the untamed forests of Echo Mountain. There Ellie discovers a love of nature and is enjoying her new life until her father has an accident that leaves him in a coma. Ellie then decides to go to the reclusive “hag” of the mountain for help. A story about having the courage and persistence to become your own true self.
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
Whatever happened to April and May? Proof we’re living in sad and stressful times. Let me catch June before it whizzes by too!
Here are a few titles I’ve read recently along with my ratings. Most should be available as ebooks and/or audio ebooks.
The World’s Greatest Detective, Caroline Carlson 2017 ****
Mystery, 4th-6th grades
A whodunit story with an endearing main character, quirky secondary characters, and high stakes. The mystery itself is a bit simplistic (from an adult perspective), but interesting and entertaining, and will appeal to kids starting to become familiarized with the genre. (Early 20th century white community.)
“A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony.” (Kirkus) A group of humans are granted refuge on another planet, but while making the trip there, the planet’s government changes, and their request is denied. Highly entertaining and thought-provoking. Loved the aliens, especially the highly intelligent, marshmallow-like Ororos. (Diversity is implied.)
The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley, April Stevens 2018 ****
Fiction, 4th-6th grades
A moving, coming-of-age story about acceptance (of oneself and others), empathy, kindness, forgiveness, friendship, grieving, and growth. Loved the main character’s interest in nature and the impact that the wise and kind aging bus driver has on all the children. Great for gifted kids who feel misunderstood and isolated. (Universal messages, but minimal diversity.)
Fantasy (I question this classification), 4-6th grades *****
From the book’s blurb: “When eleven-year-old Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides it’s time to find out more about his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby.” A poignant commentary on the struggles of refugee immigrants and those who bravely choose to protect them. (Hispanic characters and Own Voices author.)
Aggie Morton Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn 2020 ****
Mystery/Historical Fiction, 5th-7th grades
Twelve-year-old amateur detective and aspiring writer Aggie Morton investigates a murder by poison with the help of her Belgian friend Hector Perot. A well-crafted mystery inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child. The book’s one disappointment is Perot’s poorly-developed character and insubstantial role. (Also, no diversity.) Hopefully Perot’s characterization will improve as the series progresses. For fans of The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.
A story about a 14-year-old girl uncovering a painful family secret. The pacing is a bit slow, but the lovely seaside setting, the endearing secondary characters, and the main character’s emotional journey hold your interest, plus the climax and resolution make the wait worthwhile. (White main character/family. Indian and biracial secondary characters.)
Some Places More than Others by Renee Watson 2019 *****
Realistic Fiction, 4-6th grades
A lovely story about an 11-year-old girl’s longing to connect with her father’s side of the family and their history. It reads like a travel journal, but that’s the beauty of it: it takes the reader on a fascinating historical tour of New York. (Own Voices: African American main characters/family.)
The Guggenheim Mystery: Sequel to The London Eye Mystery by Robin Stevens 2018 *****
Mystery, 4-7th grades
“Twelve-year-old Ted Stark, his sister, and cousin investigate the theft of a priceless work of art.” Robin Stevens captures the voices of the characters from the first installment of the series (The London Eye Mystery by the late Siobhan Dowd). The stakes are not as high as in the first book, but the plot and the setting hold your interest, and the writing—especially the characterization— is very good. (Diverse main and secondary characters. Main character/narrator has ASD.)
And last but not least, an important book for the times we’re living in:
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi *****
Nonfiction, YA (Grade 7+)
“The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.
“Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.”
Reading is the perfect activity for these unprecedented times of social distancing. Many libraries and bookstores are closed, but you can still borrow or buy ebooks and audio ebooks or simply order books and audiobooks online (preferably from your favorite local bookstore).
On March of last year, I posted a list for Women’s History Month titled Herstorical JFIC. Here’s a list (alpha by title) of several books from that post that are probably available to borrow as ebooks and/or audio ebooks from your local library (they’re all available from mine: the Denver Public Library):
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
Birchbark House (The) by Louise Erdrich
Breadwinner (The) by Deborah Ellis
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson
Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia (The) by Esther Hautzig
Esperanza Rising and Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (The) by Jacqueline Kelly
Full Cicada Moon by Larilyn Hinton
Green Glass Sea (The) by Ellen Klages
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff
Lions of Little Rock (The) by Kristin Levine
Lyddie by Katherine Paterson
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Night Diary (The) by Veera Hiranandaani
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
One Crazy Summer and sequels by Rita Williams-Garcia
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
War That Saved My Life (The) and sequel by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Witch of Blackbird Pond (The) by Elizabeth George Speare
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Stay home and read, everyone! ❤️
“For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought to me about eleven, so much better. Tea should be taken in solitude.” ~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
Comments Off on Historical JFIC for Women's History Month
Eleven-year-old Buddy goes on a dangerous quest to rescue his dad from a magical crime Lord. His weapons are a knife and his father’s magical Parsnit cards, and his sidekick is a spider-folk girl named Tally. A fantastic setting, page-turning danger and adventure, quirky characters, a creative game of cards, great messages about family and identity, and a fascinating metanarrative all work together to make this novel an outstanding read.
Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo (Realistic Fiction)
This is the third book featuring characters from the world of Raymie Nightingale. I loved this tenderhearted, sensitive story about dealing with grief and hardship, and finding unlikely friends in the process. Lyrical, poignant, and simply wonderful.
A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff (Historical Fiction)
A lovely novel, written in verse, about the Irish Land War (1881). Well done, suspenseful, and poignant. Excellent characterization.
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt (Realistic Fiction / Humor)
Carter Jones is dealing with his first year in middle school, his father’s absence, his brother’s death, his distraught mother, helping to take care of his three younger sisters, and a surprise English butler who wants him to behave like a “proper gentleman” and learn to drink tea and play cricket. Well-written and both funny and heart-wrenching.
The Runaways by Ulf Stark (Realistic Fiction)
A young boy helps his dying grandfather to run away from the hospital for a couple of days, giving him the chance to prepare for his final good-bye. Well-written with delightful characters. An inter-generational adventure full of humor and heart.
“What’s this?” I said.
“Tea with milk and sugar,” said the Butler.
“I don’t drink tea,” I said.
“All civilized people drink tea, young Master Jones.”
“Then I guess I’m not civilized.”
“A claim you share with Vikings, Huns, assorted barbarian hordes, and marauders of all stripes. I have taken the liberty of adding more sugar than one might normally expect.”
I sipped at it. I sipped again. It was pretty good.
“It stinks,” I said.
— from Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
Here’s a list of 25 diverse jFIC books about family stories. Some are happy and some are sad, some are contemporary and some are historical, most are realistic and a few are fantastical, and all are great reads.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay and sequels by Julia Alvarez
My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Lotterys Plus One and sequel by Emma Donoghue
The Birchbark House and sequels by Louise Erdrich
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and sequels by Karina Yan Glaser
A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Riley Giff
The Family Hitchcock by Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett
Sarah, Plain, and Tall and sequels by Patricia MacLachlan
Saffy’s Angel and sequels by Hilary McKay
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
The Borrowers and sequels by Mary Norton
Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr
The Best Man by Richard Peck
Esperanza Rising and sequel by Pam Munoz Ryan
Shooting Kabul and sequels by N.H. Senzai
All-of-a-Kind Family and sequels by Sydney Taylor
Three Times Lucky and sequels by Sheila Turnage
One Crazy Summer and sequels by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
“Mercy on us, how they did talk! first one, then the other, then all burst out together–trying to tell the history of three years in half an hour. It was fortunate that tea was at hand, to produce a lull and provide refreshment–for they would have been hoarse and faint if they had gone on much longer.” – Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
October is my favorite month of the year, not just because it’s so cool and colorful, but because it has the funnest holiday: Halloween! To celebrate, here’s a list of creepy reads that’ll leave you feeling delightfully spooked. Read them at night with a steaming cup of your favorite autumn tea.
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson
Small Spaces and Dead Voices by Katherine Arden
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
The House With a Clock in Its Walls and other books by John Bellairs
Doll Bones by Holly Black
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
The Ghost Road by Chris Cotter
The Witches by Roald Dahl
A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
Watch Hollow by Gregory Funaro
The Graveyard Book and Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Wait Till Helen Comes and other books by Mary Downing Hahn
The Great Ghost Rescue and Dial-a-Ghost by Eva Ibbotson
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
How to Catch a Bogle Trilogy by Catherine Jinks
The Dark Thirty by Patricia McKissack
The Book of Bad Things and other books by Dan Poblocki
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (three books) by Alvin Schwartz
City of Ghosts and Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab
Beware! scary stories picked by by R.L. Stine
Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine
Lockwood & Co Series by Jonathan Stroud
The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne
Nightbooks by J.A. White
“Autumn stars shine through gaps in the wall. We brew midnight tea by the stove’s ruddy light.” ~From a traditional Taoist song