Fourteen-year-old Alyce Greenliefe is witch born and pursued by witch finders.  When her mother Ellen is executed in Fordham, Essex, in 1577 for practicing witchcraft, her dying desire is that Alyce should deliver a letter to John Dee at Bankside. On her journey to that destination, Alyce is caught and confined at Bedlam Royal Hospital, as a prisoner, not a patient.  When an unknown man and woman come to liberate her, Alyce escapes, but in running for her life, she nearly collapses from malnutrition and fatigue.  Eventually, she finds herself at Cripplegate on the northern edge of London’s shopping district.  Knowing it is wrong toRead More →

Misunderstood and somewhat disengaged from her sophomore classmates, Jess Cutter lives in a fictional town in Montana called Birdton, where not much happens and where “unwritten sock protocols” often marginalize her.  When her identical twin sister Anna—creative writer and out-going socializer—dies mysteriously, grief consumes Jess, but she’s afraid that if she begins to cry, she will “dissolve, leaving only a ring of salt behind” (22). Because her sister’s death leaves Jess feeling like a part of her is missing, she gives her life purpose by working to reconstruct the events of her sister’s death so that she can understand not only Anna’s motivations but the secretsRead More →

Here’ the dirt on Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein: Eleven-year-old Yonder attends Robert Frost Middle School in Vermont, where her classmates are “just dumb losers with mean mouths full of empty words” (5). After her mother dies, Yonder screams and yells for her mother to come back but realizes that words don’t work, so she stops speaking since “silence seems safer.” Yonder’s father masks his grief and fills the empty void with alcohol: “My father drank and drank and drank and didn’t really know how to be a regular father at all” (48). Despite his sobbing and his littering the floor with beer bottles, YonderRead More →

Death has a different impact on us all. Some drown in sorrow and others simply go numb. When Toby’s best friend Lucas dies, he blames himself for the accident that killed him. Toby’s form of grieving involves fulfilling a promise, though. Toby and Lucas had made The List, a collection of fun things that they wanted to do together before the end of summer, a sort of bucket list. The List includes things like going fishing, building a treehouse, and eating a worm. The last thing on The List is to “Hike the Appalachian Trail, from Velvet Rocks to Katahdin” (19). After Lucas dies, TobyRead More →

How to Be The Someday Suitcase by Corey Ann Haydu Share the lives of believable and genuine characters: Ten-year-old, curious, and easily distracted Danny who is in charge of passion and of reminding others how to have fun; eleven-year-old Clover who loves science, has a knack for observation, and is in charge of reason and reminding Danny to focus; six-year-old Jake who can make any situation lighter, sillier, and simpler because his moods are big, buzzy, and contagious. Look for scientific reasons to explain life’s mysteries but realize that science shows us both certainties and limitations to those certainties. “Ms. Mendez says the best scientistsRead More →

If you’re looking for a novel this summer that will inspire thought about all of life’s big topics, like love, sex, kissing, loss, and death, Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue is that book.  Although a simple-looking book on the surface, Words in Deep Blue packs a philosophically powerful punch by asking some tough questions, inviting the reader to wrestle with a variety of options about topics that matter, questions like: Are all worthwhile things—like love and the ocean’s depths—also terrifying?  It poses some theories, too—about how people are like secondhand books, full of mysteries, or how science attracts us because it is rich withRead More →

As Jing turns eleven, she realizes that the age is “like an age of breakthroughs – tea-drying for the first time, my first offering to the guardian, visiting a new city, getting a new hanfu…new adventure, new experiences” (30). What seems like an exciting new period of her life quickly turns into her greatest fear, though. Jing’s widowed Aunt Mei has led the family since the death of Jing’s mother, and because of low resources, she convinces Jing’s father that it is time for Jing to get married. Jing is spirited enough to fight back against the plan to sell her to a big cityRead More →

“Sometimes we hold on to guilt or grief because it’s the last thing we have that ties us to the person we miss” (329). Ethan Truitt’s been holding onto his grief and guilt every moment since he’s lost his best friend, Kacey. He feels responsible for what happened to her and his frustrations fill him with the urge to run, to find Kacey and feel whole again. After his third attempt at running, where his older brother Roddie catches him, Ethan’s parents decide to move the family from their home in Boston to Palm Knot, Georgia. The family moves in with Grandpa Ike, who isRead More →

As far as the world is concerned, Jonathan Grisby is a trouble-making delinquent, a criminal. As far as Jonathan is concerned, the world is right. After a mysterious incident leaves Jonathan riddled with guilt and pain, he is sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, “a dark place for dark youths” (2). Slabhenge is a building made of decaying, grey stone, sitting far from land in the foaming sea. The tall, jagged building has no land surrounding it, only a small dock where mail, supplies, and new criminal boys are delivered. When Jonathan first arrives, it’s clear that Slabhenge is not the “kind ofRead More →