The Ransom of Mercy Carter by Caroline B. Cooney

Mercy Carter is amazing. She survives an Indian attack in the middle of freezing winter temperatures, only to find herself confronted with constant ethical dilemmas. After a grueling march and incredible trek, Mercy wrestles with how to reconcile her anglo upbringing with her loving Indian captors and their traditions. She witnesses many kind and generous acts which seem to be in direct opposition with her terrible journey into the wilderness. How can she make sense of her two very different worlds? Is rescue truly coming?

Caroline B. Cooney’s book, based on a true experience,  has written this book with grace in the face of horrific acts and unimaginable terror. Her ability to turn a garrish story into one of love and hope is remarkable.


The Wanderer by Sharon Creech

The voice of Sophie sucked me right into this story! The lyrical text had me riding my own waves as I read the story. Thank goodness sea-sickness can’t follow you into a story! Sophie is sailing with her cousins and Uncles to England to visit her Bompie. She has many adventures on the way and learns a lot about herself and her family.

What I really liked about this book was the subtle mystery around Sophie. Why do her cousins think she’s making up stories about Bompie? What about Sophie’s past is such a secret that her Uncles tell her cousins they will have to wait to hear the truth from Sophie herself? Read the book and find out from Sophie yourself!

The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill

The mostly True Story of Jack is another compelling, debut children’s book. I seem to be reading a lot of these lately. There is a mystery that pulls you along from the very first page. I think that many younger readers will find this to be a little bit spooky and shivery tale. ‘Something’ magical steals children in Hazelwood, takes their souls and erases them from memory. Their families don’t even remember that they existed. With a creepy old school building built on a magical eruption point, creepy woods, and an evil, rich citizen, this book has enough creep factor to keep middle grade readers up late into the night afraid of their own shadow. It’s up to the children in the town to solve the mystery and save one another from having their souls stolen away. Perfect for a Halloween-season scare, this medium-scary tale may or may not be for your child. It would probably scare my kids too much, but they are easily scared. However, I enjoyed it.

A Step From Heaven by An Na

The 2002 winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult literature.

Young Ju comes with her family to America. As they fly in the plane, Young Ju thinks they must be going to Heaven. Her Uhmma seems so happy toa step from heaven go to this America, it must be as wonderful as Heaven. An Na’s language took me back to college days when I had 3 Korean roommates. Her subtle language reflects exactly the grammar idiosyncrasies of new immigrants (not in the whole book, but at appropriate places). We had so much fun playing around with different words and the sounds that were difficult for my roommates to pronounce. I remember helping with grammar on English papers and being frustrated because you can’t change a whole paper to sound all-American without taking out the personality of the author, and the heritage they carry.

So, back to the story . . . Young Ju is frustrated by the discrepancies between home life- and true ‘American’ life. Her parents have brought with them traditional Korean ways, which when contrasted with discussions at school, bring Young Ju much difficulty. Americans think it is okay to question everything, but at home Young Ju must not question, or she is disrespectful. This story drives home the importance of family togetherness and understanding. Definitely sad parts, and difficult topics (physical and alcohol abuse), but overall a story of hope in America and the American dream.