This post is part of a series of monthly blog posts by Ottawa Public Library children’s librarians! We hope you enjoy today’s post and remember to check back every month for great children’s books ideas. by Anne-Marie Miller, Children's Librarian, Hazeldean Branch
* Click on the picture of each book to be redirected to the Ottawa Public Library site page for that book.
In my household there is not one problem that is going to be resolved by the wave of a wand or a secret spell. Perhaps, it is time for your readers to try some stories that are just a little more like that. In the stories suggested here , the characters need to rely on their own fortitude, ingenuity and courage to work through the circumstances that confront them. Oh yes, and they do get a little help from their friends, too. In the end, we may discover that plain old human nature has a kind of magic all it’s own.
Meg and Edward are twins but they are very different and carry on in a constant state of rivalry. Meg is a high achiever just starting seventh grade at Fischer High – the school for gifted and talented students. Edward goes to Charlton Street Alternative School where grades are not even considered to be meaningful. Never Mind by Avi and Rachel Vail is narrated in alternate chapters by Meg and Edward. Trying to impress Kimberly from the High Achievers Club at school, Meg gives the impression that her twin is a musician, a guitarist with a band. Kimberley promptly invites Meg, her twin and his band to a big Saturday night party. The problem is Edward cannot play guitar at all; he does not have a band at all; but, he does have some friends who can play a little. So Never Mind unfolds with one missed beat after another, builds to the big cacophonous party on Saturday night, and yet still manages to conclude in harmony. If you haven’t yet found Avi, this is a great start to his long list of YA novels.
In Crunch by Leslie Connor the children are all very responsible, but their parents have been stranded miles from home by the long anticipated gas crunch which has finally arrived. There is no gas to be had anywhere and the five Marriss children who expected to be in the care of the eldest, 18 year old Lily, for a weekend find they have to fend for themselves for most of the summer. Dewey tries to carry on with the family business, a bike repair shop, and finds himself overwhelmed with customers under crunch circumstances. There are lots of helpful adult friends and neighbours, but there are also a few who try to take advantage of the Marriss children. Bicycles, cash and bicycle parts go missing and some customers are just downright troublesome. The children are valiant, however. They solve their own mystery and many others around town at the same time. Mom and Dad finally make it home with the help of a new friend they have made on the road. A wonderful, humorous summer read.
Jeff and David are not supposed to canoe all the way to Lost Island on their own, but they are boys and there is a mystery out there. If they do get into trouble, they have their cousin Claire to bail them out. The Secret of the Robber’s Cave is the first of the Cabin Creek Mysteries by Kristiana Gregory featuring these three fearless wilderness adventurers. In this story when Jeff and David land on the island, they find an old cabin, build a lookout high in the trees and eventually locate the entrance to the lost cave. The group researches at the local library, seek out old timers around town and eventually solve one of the town’s oldest mysteries. This is an eventful book with enough adventure to keep the most reluctant reader going. It is easy to read and will leave your youngsters eager for the another mystery in this series.
In The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Hugo, orphaned when his father dies in a museum fire, is taken to live with his uncle – the keeper of the clocks in the Paris train station. When the uncle also disappears, Hugo carries on surreptitiously in his stead oiling and winding the station’s many clocks from within the back halls of the station and remaining in his uncle’s old apartment high over the public hallways of the station. Hugo regularly ‘borrows’ little toys from the toy seller in the station. When Hugo is caught at this, he meets Isabelle and together they unravel the mystery of the toy seller’s past. This is a big fat book that is great for stretching readers up to their next level. It is part standard novel and part graphic novel with much of the plot advancing in stunning black and white drawings so, the reader gets that accomplished sense of having read a very long text. This book is also available in French so, it is great for parallel reading by the immersion student.
Summer is over and Lucy Wu is looking forward to her best year ever. Her sister is leaving for university, so Lucy will have a room of her own. She will be in sixth grade – the top grade in the school. She will be a star performer on the school basketball team. Everything is looking up for Lucy Wu. Yet, as The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang unfolds Lucy’s expectations begin to unravel. An old Aunt arrives from China to share that coveted room. Her classmate Talent starts Saturday morning Chinese school and Lucy is made to go there instead of to basketball practise. There are bullies at school and tensions at home. Lucy is just not that interested in the fact that her family happens to be Chinese. She is interested in being American and playing basketball. Gradually, though, Lucy’s year starts to pull back together, just not exactly in the ways she had hoped. There will be a few lessons in the Chinese language and in Chinese culture for the reader, but the author takes us through these with ease even as Lucy is made to struggle with them. The prose here is breezy and readable making it is easy to be on Lucy’s side cheering her on.