When Ellie’s family loses everything in the Great Depression, they move to a Maine mountain. She loves the mountain and their new hard-scrabble life but a terrible accident leaves her father in a coma and it’s harder than ever. She takes the blame for the accident, works hard to find food, and tries to get along with her mother and siblings. A mangy dog leads her to the “hag,” an older woman who is very ill. Helping the woman’s and her grandson with remedies gives her ideas to help her father and a new direction (healing) for her life. Echo Mountain is a heartfelt story about survival, finding and accepting yourself, healing emotionally and physically, kindness to animals and strangers with rich character development.
Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros
REALISTIC / DEPORTATION Efrén’s mom gets deported back to Mexico leaving his father to work two jobs and Efrén to care for his twin younger siblings, one who has intellectual disabilities. He’s trying desperately to keep up with school, cook, and…also, not to worry. His best friendship is tested, he develops a new awareness of social justice, and he bravely faces a solo trip to Mexico to deliver money to his mom. This is an emotionally compelling story of family, friendship, and resiliency that will be eye-opening, empathy-building for many readers, and affirming for others.
The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum DYSTOPIAN
Maggie is a middle child in a town that reveres the eldest children. Just in time for her eldest brother to go to “camp” where he’ll be trained to fight in the war, she meets and befriends a “Wanderer” girl from outside of their community. Maggie betrays her new friend to garner favor in the community then realizes she’s made a horrible mistake. She learns that the mayor is selling the eldest children for food and supplies and will soon be selling her friend. Since Maggie is the only one who knows the truth, it’s up to her to makes things right. Entertaining and suspenseful.
The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean REALISTIC / GENDER IDENTITY / TRANSGENDER / #OWNVOICES
Rowan is a lonely child who feels confused about his gender identity. Born a girl, Rowan longs to be a boy. He even changes his name frequently. He shares his thoughts in letters attached to balloons, hoping someone will find them and want to be his friend. Even more confusing is that his dad comes into his room at night making him very uncomfortable and prompting unanswerable questions of what it means to be a male. The Ship We Built is a story filled with longing and heartbreak, confusion and questions, abuse and hope. It’s powerful, emotional story about gender identity, sexual abuse, and survival.
In this world, some people have the genetic ability to time travel. Regan is one of those people. Like all kids with this ability, she’s required to train as a Glitcher so as teens and adults, they’ll be ready to stop the bad guys from interfering with historical events. She gets an illegal message from her future self that she could go to jail for— and start to suspect that things aren’t as they seem. Then, she and her nemesis, another kid called Elliot, get sent to a secret partner program. They’re forced to work together clandestinely to stop a catastrophe that could destroy the entire Glitch program. Fast-paced, unique, and entertaining!
Bridie is an Irish girl who gets indentured to cruel abusive man. She runs away and befriends colored girl who helps her get a job with Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Santon. There, Bridie is exposed to radical ideas about a women’s rights to earn and keep wages as well as a woman’s right to vote, abolition, and the possibilities of pursuing your own dreams. Readers will find this to be an interesting glimpse into a significant historical time when both women’s rights advocates and abolitionists worked together to make big changes in the world.
Piper’s father cancer is worse so she’s sent to stay with the mother who abandoned her as a baby. At her mom and grandmother’s house, Piper learns that she’s from a magical lineage and the foster kids living there all have affinities. Piper’s cruel mother wants the kids to use their magic to find an elixir of immortality. Piper secretly discovers her own magic, works with the other children, and discovers the true villain in the house.
There aren’t many (any?) children’s books written about this time period in Spain during the Spanish flu and the Spanish Inquisition when Jews were persecuted and forced out of the country or killed. Loma is a super smart Jewish girl and a favorite of her abuelo who advises the monarchy, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Set in this dangerous time, we see Loma growing into herself while she’s abuelo’s traveling companion. I didn’t finish this book because the pacing was very sluggish but found the historical information very interesting.
Melissa Taylor, MA, is the creator of Imagination Soup. She's a mother, teacher, author, and freelance writer. She writes Imagination Soup and freelances for publications online and in print, including Sylvan Learning, Random House, USA Today Health, The Writer, and Scholastic Parent and Child.