Category Archives: Ages 9-12

Are You an Echo?










Are You an Echo?  The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko
by David Jacobson
Chin Music Press, 2016

Are You an Echo? is a treasure.  The beautifully illustrated cover and the textured and heavy-stocked pages, make a strong presentation of Japan’s beloved children’s poet.  The book includes Misuzu’s brief biography and presents 25 poems.  Fifteen poems are presented in English and Japanese on beautifully illustrated two-page spreads.

Misuzu’s poems give voice to cocoons, fish and snow.  Written with such innocence, they are the words of a four-year-old.  Of course, they are translated from Japanese, but they have a unique flavor different from children’s poetry in America.

Unlike most girls of the early 1900’s who stopped going to school after the sixth grade, Misuzu went to school until she was seventeen.  She was raised in her mother’s bookstore and she had a hard time telling the difference between real life and what she read.  Everything was alive and had its own feelings.  Always a thoughtful child, she was sensitive to everything around her and questioned everything. Unfortunately, extreme hardships entered into Misuzu’s life and she took her life at the age of 25.  This fact is included gently in the brief biography.

A delight to the imagination, this is a book to savor, study, and enjoy again and again.

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Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life












Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life

By Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book & Newbery honor award

Freedom Over Me jumps into the lives of eleven slaves, their thoughts, feelings, dreams.  The eleven selected were from Mary Fairchild’s estate listing of her property, including their names, sex, and worth.

The story opens with Mary selling off her estate and returning home to England after her husband died.  Each slave is given a story, a voice to be heard.  While the stories are fiction, they are composites of true stories of real slaves.  Written in open verse, we learn of what they currently do, their past when they were ripped from their villages, their future, all with the same dream of freedom.  At this point in the story they wait, helplessly, knowing they will be sold, and likely separated.

Loose, color-filled illustrations bring life to the people, show the love they had and the pains they survived.  An insightful, heart-felt book that gives a deep look into the lives of those enslaved.

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The True Gift













The True Gift:  A Christmas Story

by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Brian Floca
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2009

While on their annual Christmas visit to their grandparent’s farm, Liam connects with this grandparent’s white cow.  Liam senses the cow is lonely since his buddy, a burro, returned to his family.  Sensitive to the animal’s needs, he decides to find a friend for White Cow for Christmas.  He posts “Friend for White Cow for Christmas” posters around town.  He learns of a brown calf, but it costs $200.  Liam and Lily pool their Christmas money, but are still short.  Find out what Liam sacrifices and how he saves the brown calf’s life.

A page-turning story for the holidays by Newbery Award winning author, Patricia MacLachlan.

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Quiet hero, animals, 9-12

She Stood for Freedom, The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero. Joan Trumpauer Mulholland













She Stood for Freedom, The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero.  Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

by Loki Mulholland and Angela Fairwell, illustrated by Charlotta Janssen
Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2016

In 1952, when Joan, a white girl, saw the dilapidated one-room school for blacks, when her school was a brand-new brick one, she decided, “…she was going to do something about it when she had the chance.”  Joan participated in the civil rights movement, including the Freedom Rides, where she was arrested and sent to prison.  She went to Tougaloo College, a back school, and the state of Mississippi tried to close it down because of Joan.  She met Martin Luther King, participated in Woolworth Sit-Ins and the 1964 March on Washington.  In her life she had been shot at, chased after, and targeted by white people to be killed.  She calls herself an ordinary person.  She encouraged people, “Find a problem, get some friends together, and go fix it.  …you don’t have to change the world… just change your world.”  This inspiring story of a young woman who put herself in danger stood up for civil rights.  It’s a refreshing story of one of the many white people who fought for civil rights in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

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River of No Return, The Black Rock Desert Trilogy, Book III

batsRiver of No Return, The Black Rock Desert Trilogy, Book III
by Rachael Freeman Long
Tate Publishing, 2016

When wolves attacked a herd of cows, Jack knows something is wrong.  When Jack meets up with his friends Sonny, a coyote, Pinta, a bat, and Midas, a raven, he learns the evil poachers are back.  They have encountered this gang before and they are determined to stop them forever.  A complex tale that includes the former lead pack wolf, banned from the pack; Sonny’s parents who had been captured; and poacher Sarge and his motley crew Earl and Mack.  Set in a desert wilderness where copper and gold mines and old volcano flows once flourished, it soon becomes a battle to stay alive as they trail the poachers.  River of No Return is a riveting story, each page turning itself.  Author Rachael Freeman Long, an expert on bats in real life, weaves in details about bats that become critical in the friends’ survival and success.

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A Dog’s Way Home

doghomeA Dog’s Way Home
By Bobbie Pyron
Katherine Tegen Books, 2011

Readers meet Abby and her Shetland sheepdog, Tam, on an agility course race.  As expected, they win.  The two are so close, Tam reads all of Abby’s subtle signals and no words pass between them while they race.

On the way home from the race, their vehicle is in an accident and Tam is tossed from the truck and falls down a steep cliff.  Abby is taken to a hospital.  When she is well enough, she demands they look for Tam.  They don’t find him.  Abby begs to stay to look for him, but the tough decision to leave the area is made.  They arrive home, 400 miles away, and Abby knows in her heart, Tam is looking for her.  With raging winter storms, Abby’s parents doubts the dog is still alive after a week.  But Abby’s Meemaw believes her.

Told from both Abby’s and Tam’s point of view, the story moves quickly with roadblocks in every chapter.   While Tam is making his way home, for instance, Abby and her family move!  A vet checks Tam’s microchip and calls and leaves a message—the day after the family leaves.  Each chapter pulls the story forward through spine-chilling or heart-wrenching events.  Although its 321 pages long, the pages fly by.  The story is well written and compelling to its very last word.

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National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!













National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry:  200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate
National Geographic, 2012

This book is perfect for every child’s library.  National Geographic’s gorgeous photos illustrate 200 classic and new poems about animals.  The first time through the book, I had to stop reading the poems, to enjoy the photos, they were so powerful.  Even readers not usually interested in poetry, will pour over the photos and want to read the short poems that accompany them.

The 185-page book, beautiful enough for the coffee table, introduces children to animals, birds, insects, and fish from all over the world.  It features poets that specialize in nature poems, like Janet S. Wong and Joyce Sidman; current children’s favorites like Jack Prelutsky, John Ciardi and J. Patrick Lewis; as well as writers of the classics, including Ogden Nash, Emily Dickinson, and Rudyard Kipling, among others.

It also includes information on writing poems, featuring Shape Poems, Haiku, Limericks, etc. and a selected bibliography of children’s books on word play.  A great book for a gift

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Strange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History











Strange Fruit, Volume I:  Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History
by Joel Christian Gill
Fulcrum Publishing, 2014

In a graphic novel format, Strange Fruit introduces nine stories of people who did astonishing things in their time.  From Henry “Box” Brown, who mailed himself in a box to get out of slavery, to Lawman Bass Reeves, who apprehended 3,000 of the most dangerous outlaws in the old west.   These stories give a new understanding of black history and include stories children will never find in history books.

Storyteller Joel Christian Gill celebrates each person or group’s achievement, in times when Negroes lived in constant fear of Jim Crow.  He focuses on the good, even while much discrimination negatively impacted their success.  For example, in the late 1800’s, Marshall Taylor discovered the bicycle and his life changed.  With natural talent and hours of practice, he soon became a champion cyclist, in spite of Jim Crow continually trying to stop him.  He eventually expanded his racing to Europe.  He did very well financially.

Shared in a positive manner, Strange Fruit uncovers little known stories about people who, in their own way, did great things.  The title, Strange Fruit, comes from Billie Holiday’s song, and that story is in the book, too.

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Kindred Souls


Kindred Souls
Patricia MacLachlan
Katherine Tegen Books, 2015

I couldn’t put it down once I started and I was crying by the end.  Another wonderful read by Newbery-award-winning author Patricia MacLachlan.

Readers peek into the relationship 10-year old Jake has with his grandfather, Billy.  They have a special relationship and visit the special places on the farm, including the remains of an old sod house his grandfather lived in many years before.  His grandfather says they have kindred souls, something Jake doesn’t quite understand in the beginning.  His grandfather asks Jake to build him a sod house; Jake doesn’t want to.  Then one day a dog appears and Grandfather knows it has come for him and claims it.  Soon, Grandfather takes sick and is eventually taken to the hospital.  The dog bolts to follow the ambulance taking Grandfather.  Grandfather asks Jake to sleep with the dog until he returns.  The doctor gives the family special permission to allow the dog into the hospital.  The family seems to know Grandfather’s time may be coming soon, but never say that.  Instead, they build him his sod house.  Grandfather returns to enjoy his house and Jake learns that he and grandpa do have kindred souls.

A touching story I finished in one read.  Kindred Souls is a beautiful book about a quiet boy dealing with the death of his grandfather, his kindred soul.

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9-12, quiet hero, dog, death/etc

Soldier Dog

soldierDogSoldier Dog
by Sam Angus
Feiwel And Friends, 2012

Thirteen-year-old Stanley’s life is turned upside down when his mother passes and his father, so deep in his grief, is unavailable for his youngest son.  His brother, who does support him, is fighting in France in the Great War.  When the family’s prized greyhound gets loose and returns pregnant,

Stanley keeps the runt after his father tries to kill it.  It survives and becomes his best, and only, friend.  Eventually his father removes the pup.  Thinking his father drowned him, Stanley runs away and enlists in the Army, lying about his age.   Officers know Tom is young and encourage him to work with messenger dogs.  Finally sent to France, more officers protect him as they can, until one day, they have no choice, but to put his dog into action.

Written for kids, this compelling story of an English boy growing up in a war zone in 1918 is intense and moves swiftly and deeply into a reader’s heart.

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