Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

MissPeregrineCoverMiss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children by Ransom Riggs

Everything about this book screams Strange, starting with the title, front and back covers, to its title page and its beginning and layout. The text is interspersed with photographs of unusual people and other occurrences as they are mentioned. 15 year old Jacob has always maintained a special relationship with his grandfather, whose spooky stories about monsters gave Jacob nightmares when he was a child. Even though no one is the family including Jacob believed the tales, after his grandfather dies from a brutal mysterious attack in the woods, Jacob convinces his parents to let him trace his grandfather’s enigmatic last words. Jacob and his father travel to a remote island off Wales, where grandfather was evacuated during World War II after being on a kindertransport from Germany. Tracking down the house where grandfather lived with other children, Jacob finds it in ruins from a German bomb. After returning to the house several times, Jacob chases a mysterious girl through an underground cairn and learns his grandfather’s stories may have had some truth.

Even though I was hesitant at first to read this because of its unusual presentation, I kept reading due to its nomination for the 2015-16 California Young Reader Medal award in the Young Adult category. The story gains power as it continues; I became engrossed in it and am glad I read it to the end. The weaving of fantasy and reality blend seamlessly; the reader can believe this story could be possible!

Review by Ellie Goldstein-Erickson

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The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

running dream

The Running Dream  by Wendelin Van Draanen

Sixteen year old high school junior Jessica, a track champion who loves running, wakes up in the hospital to learn her right leg has been amputated below the knee from a car accident. Even though the surgeon is optimistic, Jessica can’t believe she will ever walk, much less run, again, even with a prosthetic leg. The author has divided the book into track-related sections and short chapters, as Jessica narrates her odyssey from healing from the amputation in the hospital to learning to use crutches, going home, returning to school using a wheelchair, etc. One of the adjustments Jessica makes is sitting in the back of her math class at a table that accommodates her wheelchair, next to a younger student named Rosa. Jessica learns that Rosa is a math genius who is physically disabled with cerebral palsy. As they become friends, Rosa helps Jessica with math and inspires Jessica to set a goal of running again with a prosthetic.  As her family, track team and town rally around Jessica, she takes on a mission of her own: to make disabled people visible for their abilities.

I found this book absorbing, with realistic characters and situations. As a former runner, I especially appreciated the running and race sequences as very truly to life. This book has been nominated in the Young Adult division of the California Young Reader Medal for 2013-14.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Life as We Knew It

life-as-we-knew-it

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Nominee for the California Young Reader medal: 2008-09

After an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it out of its orbit, weather on earth becomes chaotic. Tides wipes out the east and west coasts of the United States, volcanoes start erupting and block sunlight from reaching earth, mass communication is disrupted and organized society is virtually gone. High school student Miranda narrates how her family in rural Pennsylvania tries to cope with these massive upheavals. Schools close, neighbors leave and she and her family become increasingly isolated. Miranda records details of how they try to survive in the face of no contact with anyone other than themselves.

Written by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Sold

Sold

Sold by Patricia McCormack

Nominee for the California Young Reader medal: 2008-09

In a story that could have come from current news headlines, 13 year old Lakshmi leaves her isolated village high in the mountains of Nepal for what she thinks is a job as a maid in a big city. When she arrives she learns her stepfather has sold her to people who force her into a life as a prostitute. When she resists, even through beatings and starvation, she is finally drugged to break her will. Even though she suffers humiliation and physical pain, she holds onto a hope of returning home. How Lakshmi tries to maintain her hope of escaping a life of degradation provides a gripping story.

Written by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi

Daniel Half Human : and the Good Nazi by David Chotjewitz

This book is a California Young Reader Medal nominee for 2008-2009.  It is an interesting addition to what most of us call Holocaust Literature, the book tells the story from an unusual perspective, a teenager who never realized that he’s half Jewish until the Nazis were in full control of Germany.  In fact, he tried to join the Hitler Youth, but his parents refused to sign the papers.  When he finds out that his mother is Jewish, his universe turns upside down–suddenly he is the  “half-human,” the outcast, the one who is kicked off the soccer team and whispered about behind his back.

The “good Nazi” in the title refers to Daniel’s best friend, Armin.  He does join the Hitler Youth behind his father’s back, and eventually finds himself faced with the choice of being loyal to his friend, or following orders from his superiors.  Read Daniel Half Human to learn the unexpected ending to this unusual story.