Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Nielsen deftly captures the history of Lithuania’s book smugglers as well as the fundamental truth that books give readers freedom from oppression; books keep alive a language, culture, and identity, no matter how hard someone tries to erase it. Audra doesn’t know her parents are book smugglers until they are arrested by the Cossacks. She flees to their contact’s house, soon learning that her parents were part of a network of Lithuanian’s who fought against the Russians by smuggling books. Initially, she didn’t want anything to do with it. Part of her reluctance was because she herself didn’t read or write but as she slowly learned, she developed a fire for words and their power. Not only that, she became a passionate and clever smuggler, despite the opinion of the adults who wanted her to keep safe. I love knowing about this incredible history — it’s inspiring that a little country of farmers managed to keep their culture alive even after the Russians banned their language and their books. Highly recommended!
Charlotte Spies for Justice A Civil War Survival Story (Girls Survive) by Nikki Shannon Smith
Based on the true story of a courageous female spy in the South during the Civil War. Charlotte is a servant girl in Elizabeth Van Lew’s house, who learns that her boss (not owner, Miss Van Lew freed her slaves when her father died) is a spy for the Union. Charlotte convinces Miss Van Lew to let her help deliver messages to the Confederate prison. It’s a shorter chapter book but serves as a fascinating introduction to the spying methods during the Civil War and female activism throughout history. It’s readable, compelling, and interesting.
Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dees
Wow. I’m really impressed. And I’ll be honest, I felt quite skeptical of this book at first but almost immediately resonated with the honest reality of Mia’s situation. You see I, like many of you, have been in similar situations. So I’m really thrilled that Barbara Dee wrote this timely book. It’s long overdue.
The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown
PARANORMAL / GHOST
If you like a little history with your ghost story, this book is for you! Thinking she’s just making a snow angel, Iris accidentally disturbs a grave and calls forth the ghost of a little girl — a little black girl buried in a neglected Black cemetery when segregation extended to death as well as life. Nightmares, weird open windows, and a strange connection to her friend Daniel’s grandmother (Suga) create a distraction from the ghost’s dark purpose– to have a friend forever. Alive or dead. In the end, Iris and Daniel rescue Iris’ little sister and figure out how to appease the angry ghost child. (As well as gain awareness for the segregated history and clean up the abandoned cemetery.) A fast-paced, well-written ghost story with an interesting storyline.
Sauerkraut by Kelly Jones
Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson
A story about finding your strength even if it looks like a weakness…McKenna enters a long dog sled race in order to bring awareness to her sister’s degenerative eye disease. Which McKenna can tell she has, too. Her eyesight is worse and worse. She just doesn’t want to tell her parents and be treated differently. During the race, she relies on her lead dog to guide the sled. Another racer, a boy with a blind dog, shows her that his dog is a powerful leader. He quickly notices that’s McKenna can’t see either. The challenges of the race and her new friendship help McKenna realize that just like Zesty the blind dog, she is not disabled and that her differences make her better.
The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell
ADVENTURE / HISTORICAL FICTION
It took me a few chapters to embrace this story but once I did, I found it to be a lovely, kid-powered adventure with a feel-good ending. Vita’s grandfather has been swindled out of their family mansion. She’s determined to right the wrong and enlists three other children to help her — a pickpocket and two circus boys. She makes a lot of mistakes — like confronting the evildoer — but learns and plots to succeed. And in the end, their little troupe of good thieves prevails!