Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo


Raymie Nightingale is another great story from Kate DiCamillo. I know that the central character of the book is Raymie, but my favorite character is Raymie’s friend Beverly. Beverly is droll, tough, kind and specializes in sabotage and lock picking. She made me laugh. The whole book is a treat.

Summary from GoodReads:

“Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.”


Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate


During this time when so many people on our planet have been pushed from their homes and are on the move, this book shows what it is like to be far from home and in a new culture. Loved it.

Summary from Goodreads:

“Kek comes from Africa. In America he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He’s never walked on ice, and he falls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter – cold and unkind.

In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she’s missing. Kek is on his own. Slowly, he makes friends: a girl who is in foster care; an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and a cow whose name means “family” in Kek’s native language. As Kek awaits word of his mother’s fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.”

If you like Home of the Brave you might like The Red Pencil

Pax by Sara Pennypacker


It’s not surprising that Pax is currently on the New York Times Bestseller List. This is an amazingly well-crafted book. On the surface, it’s a story about a boy and his pet fox. The book is really about peace and war, love and pain. Pax is destined to become a classic.

I’m super sensitive about stories that involve any level of animal suffering or death. While Pennypacker handles it very respectfully, sensitive readers will want to keep reminding themselves that it’s just a story and that no animals were harmed in the making of this book. 🙂

Summary from GoodReads:

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

If you like Pax, you might also try: Nest by Esther Ehrlich.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


This book was named a Wall Street Journal’s Best Children’s Book of 2015 and I can see why. I loved this story. I loved watching Susan, Ada and Jamie become a new family. World War II plays a background character in this story; it’s the setting that allows these three people to come together. This is a story about love and strength and overcoming obstacles.

Summary from GoodReads:

“Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.”

The Haters by Jesse Andrews


I listened to Andrew’s first book, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, on audio in the car. The dialogue made me howl with laughter and one time I actually had to pull over so that I could stop laughing. The Haters did not bring me to this point of sheer giddiness, but I think it’s because I read it in book form. A couple of times I read dialogue from The Haters out loud and I did crack up. When I read silently, I skip over words. Saying or hearing the words out loud makes me pay attention to each word. And Jesse Andrews does a lot each word. This was a very enjoyable story filled with adolescent pain and cringe worthy moments. I highly recommend.

Summary from GoodReads:

“Inspired by the years he spent playing bass in a band himself, The Haters is Jesse Andrews’s road trip adventure about a trio of jazz-camp escapees who, against every realistic expectation, become a band.

For Wes and his best friend, Corey, jazz camp turns out to be lame. It’s pretty much all dudes talking in Jazz Voice. But then they jam with Ash, a charismatic girl with an unusual sound, and the three just click. It’s three and a half hours of pure musical magic, and Ash makes a decision: They need to hit the road. Because the road, not summer camp, is where bands get good. Before Wes and Corey know it, they’re in Ash’s SUV heading south, and The Haters Summer of Hate Tour has begun.

In his second novel, Andrews again brings his brilliant and distinctive voice to YA, in the perfect book for music lovers, fans of The Commitments and High Fidelity, or anyone who has ever loved—and hated—a song or a band. This witty, funny coming-of-age novel is contemporary fiction at its best.”

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine


It’s easy to forget, in 2016, that having a friend of another race was once a radical and potentially dangerous act. I’ve been on a historical fiction kick lately, and this is another great example of the genre.

If you like this book, you might also try: Revolution by Deborah Wiles.

Summary of The Lions if Little Rock – retrieved from goodreads.com:

“Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958

Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn’t have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear – speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family.

But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn’t matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.”


The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

hiredgirlThis YA book is a great piece of historical fiction. The naive romanticism of Joan made me laugh and cringe. Joan spends much time in the book thinking about faith and religion and it was fascinating to be a fly on the wall during her ruminations. It was also fun to observe the formalities of life in a “proper Jewish household” at the turn of the century. There is some controversy over a few pages in the book that describe Joan playing “Indians” with her young charge. Critics do not approve of the way Native Americans are depicted in the scene. While distasteful now, the depiction was probably pretty accurate for how an uneducated, young servant girl might have viewed Native Americans at the time.

If you like this book, you might also try: All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. This book is for younger readers, but I used to love it as a child. I loved learning about Jewish family life in turn of the century New York City.

Summary of The Hired Girl provided by Goodreads.com:

Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future.

Inspired by her grandmother’s journal, Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sharp wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a comedic tour de force destined to become a modern classic. Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!) takes its reader on an exploration of feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty, cats, hats, bunions, and burns.”