Socio-Emotional Booklist – Novels Grades 4-8

These novels range from topics of family, friendship, bullying, abuse, finding courage, and rising above circumstances. Some of these novels may have heavier topics –  we suggest that you pre-read or seek out reviews from a trusted source.

Available In physical format, L4U Catalogue:

  • After Peaches by Michelle Mulder (Grades 4-8)
  • Between Heaven and Earth by Eric Walters (Grades 4-8)
  • The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
  • Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry
  • City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (Grade 4-8)
  • The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (Grades 4-8)
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (Grades 4-8)
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (Grades 4-8)
  • The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park
  • Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff
  • Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (Grades 4-8)
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Grade 4-8)

Available in March 2017:

  • The big wave,  Pearl S. Buck
  • Bud, not Buddy
  • Counting on grace by Winthrop, Elizabeth
  • Finders Keepers by Spalding, Andrea
  • Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin
  • Nim’s Island
  • The Old Brown Suitcase by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz
  • Understood Betsy

Available in Overdrive:

All suggested grade levels and reviews below are from Overdrive.

Socio-emotional definition: Socio-emotional development is the development of a child’s experience, expression, management of emotions, and ability to create relationships. Reference

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After Peaches by Michelle Mulder (Grades 4-8)

Ten-year-old Rosario Ramirez and her family are political refugees from Mexico, trying to make a new life in Canada. After being teased at school, Rosario vows not to speak English again until she can speak with an accent that’s one hundred percent Canadian. Since she and her parents plan to spend the whole summer working on BC fruit farms, she will be surrounded by Spanish speakers again. But when her family’s closest friend Jose gets terribly sick, Rosario’s plans start to unravel. Neither Jose nor Rosario’s parents speak English well enough to get him the help he needs. Like it or not, Rosario must face her fears about letting her voice be heard.

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Banjo of Destiny by Cary Fagan (Grades 4-8)

When the music of a banjo stirs the soul of wealthy, cultivated young Jeremiah he is determined to learn how to play it — even if he has to make one himself.

Jeremiah Birnbaum is stinking rich. He lives in a house with nine bathrooms, a games room, an exercise room, an indoor pool, a hot tub, a movie theater, a bowling alley and a tennis court. His parents, a former hotdog vendor and window cleaner who made it big in dental floss, make sure Jeremiah goes to the very best private school, and that he takes lessons in all the things he will need to know how to do as an accomplished and impressive young man: etiquette lessons, ballroom dancing, watercolor painting. And, of course, classical piano. Jeremiah complies, because he wants to please his parents. But one day, by chance, he hears the captivating strains of a different kind of music — the strums, plucks and rhythms of a banjo. It is music that stirs something in Jeremiah’s dutiful little soul, and he is suddenly obsessed. And when his parents forbid him to play one, he decides to learn anyway — even if he has to make the instrument himself.

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Between Heaven and Earth by Eric Walters (Grades 4-8)

DJ is David McLean’s eldest grandson, so it stands to reason that he be the one to scatter his beloved grandfather’s ashes. At least that’s how DJ sees it. He’s always been the best at everything – sports, school, looking after his fatherless family – so climbing Kilimanjaro is just another thing he’ll accomplish almost effortlessly. Or so he thinks, until he arrives in Tanzania and everything starts to go wrong. He’s detained at immigration, he gets robbed, his climbing group includes an old lady and he gets stuck with the first ever female porter. Forced to go polepole (slowly), DJ finds out the hard way that youth, fitness level and drive have nothing to do with success on the mountain – or in life.

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The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck

The author of The Good Earth tells a poignant story about two boys whose friendship and courage help them survive an overwhelming tragedy

On a mountainside in Japan, two boys enjoy a humble life governed by age-old customs. Jiya belongs to a family of fishermen; his best friend, Kino, farms rice. But when a neighboring volcano erupts and a tidal wave swallows their village—including Jiya’s family—life as they know it is changed forever. The orphaned Jiya must learn to come to terms with his grief. Now facing a profoundly different life than the one he’d always taken for granted, he must decide on a new way forward.

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Booked by Kwame Alexander  and Crossover (Grades 4-8)

National Book Award Long List
New York Times Bestseller

Like lightning/you strike/fast and free/legs zoom/down field/eyes fixed/on the checkered ball/on the goal/ten yards to go/can’t nobody stop you/
can’t nobody cop you…
In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel THE CROSSOVER, soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.
This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match!

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The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis (Grades 4-8)

The Breadwinner, the first in the Breadwinner Trilogy, is an award-winning novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances. A map, glossary and author’s note provide young readers with background and context.

One day, Parvana’s father is arrested by the Taliban — the extreme religious faction that controls Afghanistan — and the family is left without anyone to earn money and shop for food. Forbidden to work as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy to save her family. The Breadwinner is a novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances. A map, glossary and author’s note provide young readers with background and context.

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Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award-winning classic about a boy who decides to hit the road to find his father—from Christopher Paul Curtis, author of The Watsons Go To Birmingham—1963, a Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honoree.
It’s 1936, in Flint Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud’s got a few things going for him:
1. He has his own suitcase full of special things.
2. He’s the author of Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.
3. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression!!!!!!

Bud’s got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road to find this mystery man, nothing can stop him—not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.

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Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Mafatu’s name means “Stout Heart,” but his people call him a coward. Ever since the sea took his mother’s life and spared his own, he has lived with deep fear. And even though his father is the Great Chief of Hikueru—an island whose seafaring people worship courage—he is terrified, and consequently, he is severely scorned.

By the time he is twelve years old, Mafatu can bear it no longer. He must conquer his fear alone . . . even if it means certain death.

This classic tale of a young boy’s hidden strength has been a favorite of readers of all ages since its 1940 publication—and this exclusive audio edition preserves its original poignancy and splendor, and brings Mafatu to life for future generations of listeners.

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Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford (Grades 4-8)

When Newt Newman’s football-star brother, Chris, is knocked into a coma during the biggest game of the season, Newt’s two best friends keep his mind off of the accident by helping him create the ultimate Halloween costume: Captain Nobody. Newt feels strong and confident in his new getup, so he keeps wearing it after Halloween is over. Soon Newt assumes the role of a hero in a string of exploits that include foiling a robbery and saving a planeload of passengers. But will Captain Nobody be able to save the one person he cares about most?

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Children of the River by Linda Crew (Grades 4-8)

Sundara fled Cambodia with her aunt’s family to escape the Khmer Rouge army when she was thirteen, leaving behind her parents, her brother and sister, and the boy she had loved since she was a child.
Now, four years later, she struggles to fit in at her Oregon high school and to be “a good Cambodian girl” at home. A good Cambodian girl never dates; she waits for her family to arrange her marriage to a Cambodian boy. Yet Sundara and Jonathan, an extraordinary American boy, are powerfully drawn to each other. Haunted by grief for her lost family and for the life left behind, Sundara longs to be with him. At the same time she wonders, Are her hopes for happiness and new life in America disloyal to her past and her people?

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City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (Grade 4-8)

The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must race to figure out the clues before the lights go out on Ember forever!

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Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Grades 4-8)

In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

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Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop (Grades 4-8)

1910. Pownal, Vermont. At 12, Grace and her best friend Arthur must leave school and go to work as a “doffers” on their mothers’ looms in the mill. Grace’s mother is the best worker, fast and powerful, and Grace desperately wants to help her. But she’s left handed and doffing is a right-handed job. Grace’s every mistake costs her mother, and the family. She only feels capable on Sundays, when she and Arthur receive special lessons from their teacher. Together they write a secret letter to the Child Labor Board about underage children working in Pownal. A few weeks later a man with a camera shows up. It is the famous reformer Lewis Hine, undercover, collecting evidence for the Child Labor Board. Grace’s brief acquaintance with Hine and the photos he takes of her are a gift that changes her sense of herself, her future, and her family’s future.

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The Crazy Man by Pamela Porter (Grades 4-8)

Novelist and poet Pamela Porter uses free verse to tell this moving, gritty and award-winning story that is accessible to a wide range of ages and reading abilities.

It is 1965 and 12-year-old Emaline must deal with a family that is falling apart. Her father accidentally runs over her leg, leaving her with a permanent disability and then leaves Emaline and her mother on their own. Despite the neighbors’ disapproval, Emaline’s mother hires Angus, a patient from the local mental hospital, to work their wheat farm. Though the small town’s prejudice creates a cloud of suspicion around Angus that nearly results in tragedy, in the end he becomes a force for healing as Emaline comes to terms with her injury and the loss of her father.

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Explore by Christy Goerzen and other Orca Currents titles (Grades 4-8)

When Mike Longridge gets in trouble yet again, he is given a choice: juvenile detention or an outdoor program called Explore. He chooses Explore, but he worries about how he can survive ten months with the hippies and keeners in the program. He is certain he will never get the hang of outdoor activities, and the only person who understands him is the other juvenile delinquent in the program. Will Mike return to his trouble-making ways, or will he finally find a place to belong?

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Finders Keepers by Andrea Spalding (Grades 4-8)

Short-listed for the Sheila A. Egoff Award for Children’s Literature, 1996, the Violet Downey IODE Book Award, 1996 and the Silver Birch Award, 1997
While walking through a neighbourhood field in Alberta, Danny finds an 8,000-year-old arrowhead. His friend Joshua, who lives on the Peigan reserve at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, joins him on buffalo hunts, powwows, archaeological digs, and a break-in at the local museum. In the process Danny learns about history and gains the self-confidence to overcome dyslexia.

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Finding Grace by Becky Citra (Grades 4-8)

Growing up in the ’50s with a single mother and no father, Hope is a loner with a wonderful imagination. The letters she writes to her imaginary friend, Grace, help her cope with the difficult times in her life – her mother’s sad days, their money worries, the pressures of not fitting in. On her eleventh birthday, Hope is shocked to learn that Grace is real. Hope decides that by finding Grace, their family will be healed. But, like most adventures, things do not go exactly as she hopes.

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Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (Grades 4-8)

Enjoy the adventures of eleven year-old Portia, who together with her younger brother, Foster, spend a summer with their cousin, Julian, engaged in more than the usual summer pastimes of sun, fun and games! The three intrepid children soon discover a fascinating abandoned summer resort, consisting of deserted crumbling Victorian summer homes surrounding a vanished lake, which is now a swamp. But, best of all, they discover and befriend an elderly eccentric brother and sister who tell them the story of “Gone-Away Lake”!

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The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (Grades 4-8)

Ranofer wants only one thing in the world: to be a master goldsmith like his beloved father was. But how can he when he is all but imprisoned by his evil half brother, Gebu? Ranofer knows the only way he can escape Gebu’s abuse is by changing his destiny. But can a poor boy with no skills survive on the cutthroat streets of ancient Thebes? Then Ranofer finds a priceless golden goblet in Gebu’s room and he knows his luck−and his destiny−are about to change.

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Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

13-year-old Brian Robeson learns to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness, armed with his hatchet and resourcefulness.

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Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (Grades 4-8)

Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?

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The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (Grades 4-8)

Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.”

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Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (Grades 4-8)

Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kep beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches.

Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply.

More than this, it is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana’s quiet courage, her Indian self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic.

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Jacob I Have Loved by Katherine Patterson

The remarkable Newbery-winning classic about a painful sibling rivalry, and one sister’s struggle to make her own way.

“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated . . .” With her grandmother’s taunt, Louise knew that she, like the biblical Esau, was the despised elder twin. Caroline, her selfish younger sister, was the one everyone loved.

Growing up on a tiny Chesapeake Bay island in the early 1940s, angry Louise reveals how Caroline robbed her of everything: her hopes for schooling, her friends, her mother, even her name. While everyone pampered Caroline, Wheeze (her sister’s name for her) began to learn the ways of the watermen and the secrets of the island, especially of old Captain Wallace, who had mysteriously returned after fifty years. The war unexpectedly gave this independent girl a chance to fulfill her childish dream to work as a watermen alongside her father. But the dream did not satisfy the woman she was becoming. Alone and unsure, Louise began to fight her way to a place where Caroline could not reach.

Renowned author Katherine Paterson here chooses a little-known area off the Maryland shore as her setting for a fresh telling of the ancient story of an elder twin’s lost birthright.

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Jo’s Triumph by Nikki Tate (Grades 4-8)

In the late 1850s in and around Carson City, struggles between the Indians and the local whites are growing. During the struggles, Joselyn, a young orphan, meets Sarah Winnemucca, a Paiute girl who becomes her friend and gives her some valuable advice. When Joselyn takes that advice and escapes from the Carson City Home for Unfortunate Children, she has no idea that her boy’s disguise and her love for and expertise with horses will lead her straight to the Pony Express. Joselyn becomes Jo and turns to a life that demands all her inner strength and resources. Then the meanest man on the route learns her secret and uses it to extract a promise that kept or broken could mean death.

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The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park (Grades 4-8)

In a riveting narrative set in fifteenth-century Korea, two brothers discover a shared passion for kites. Kee-sup can craft a kite unequaled in strength and beauty, but his younger brother, Young-sup, can fly a kite as if he controlled the wind itself. Their combined skills attract the notice of Korea’s young king, who chooses Young-sup to fly the royal kite in the New Year kite-flying competition—an honor that is also an awesome responsibility. Although tradition decrees, and the boys’ father insists, that the older brother represent the family, both brothers know that this time the family’s honor is best left in Young-sup’s hands. This touching and suspenseful story, filled with the authentic detail and flavor of traditional Korean kite fighting, brings a remarkable setting vividly to life.

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Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff (Grades 4-8)

This “brilliantly told” (New York Times) Newbery Honor Book gives readers a sense of what it was like to be on the American home front while our soldiers were away fighting in World War II.

As in past years, Lily will spend the summer in Rockaway, in her family’s summer house by the Atlantic Ocean. But this summer of 1944, World War II has changed everyone’s life. Lily’s best friend, Margaret, has moved to a wartime factory town, and, much worse, Lily’s father is going overseas to the war.

There’s no one Lily’s age in Rockaway until the arrival of Albert, a refugee from Hungary with a secret sewn into his coat. Albert has lost most of his family in the war; he’s been through things Lily can’t imagine. But soon they form a special friendship. Now Lily and Albert have secrets to share: They both have told lies, and Lily has told one that may cost Albert his life.

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Little Voice by Ruby Slipperjack (Grades 4-8)

Eleven-year-old Ray feels like a misfit at school and in her family. Things have been hard for her family since her father’s accidental death in a logging accident, and Ray has been unable to express her grief. In school, the green eyes she inherited from her father are unusual for a child from an Ojibway background in a northern Ontario town and get her noticed in ways she doesn’t enjoy. At home, Ray believes that her mother, grieving herself and busy with Ray’s younger brother and sister, no longer needs her. Ray becomes so withdrawn that at times she hardly speaks.Then Ray gets the chance she’s been longing for: to spend a summer in the bush with her beloved grandmother – fishing, camping, and living off the land. During this visit, guided by her grandmother’s sure hands, compassionate wisdom, and unfailing sense of humour, Ray begins a marvellous journey. Her grandmother, Agnes, a skilled healer respected in her small community, is the mentor and teacher Ray needs. She sees Ray’s need to find her own identity and voice and begins to help her learn traditional skills.At the end of this beautiful and empowering story, which begins in 1978, the withdrawn green-eyed girl has found her voice and is not afraid to use it.

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Loser by Jerry Spinelli (Grades 4-8)

From renowned Newbery-winning author Jerry Spinelli comes an incredible story about how not fitting in might just lead to an incredible life.

Just like other kids, Zinkoff rides his bike, hopes for snow days, and wants to be like his dad when he grows up. But Zinkoff also raises his hand with all the wrong answers, trips over his own feet, and falls down with laughter over a word like “Jabip.” Other kids have their own word to describe him, but Zinkoff is too busy to hear it. He doesn’t know he’s not like everyone else. And one winter night, Zinkoff’s differences show that any name can someday become “hero.”

With some of his finest writing to date and great wit and humor, Jerry Spinelli creates a story about a boy’s individuality surpassing the need to fit in and the genuine importance of failure. As readers follow Zinkoff from first through sixth grade–making this a perfect classroom read–and watch his character develop, it becomes impossible not to identify with and root for him through failures and triumphs.

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Middle of Nowhere by Caroline Anderson (Grades 4-8)

At first Curtis isn’t that worried when his mother doesn’t come home from her all-night job at the local gas bar. She’ll be back, he’s ten out of ten positive. After all, she promised she would never leave him again.

Besides, Curtis is used to looking after himself and his five-year-old brother, Artie, and for a time he manages things on his own, keeping their mother’s absence a secret. He knows exactly what will happen if any of the teachers find out the truth. He remembers his last horrible foster home all too clearly.

Curtis gets pretty good at forging his mother’s signature, but when the credit card maxes out and the landlord starts pressuring for the rent, it’s more than a twelve-year-old can handle. Just in time, Curtis and Artie make friends with Mrs. Burt, the cranky, lonely old lady who lives across the street. And when the authorities start to investigate, the boys agree to go with Mrs. Burt to her remote cabin by the lake, and the three of them abscond in her 1957 Chevy Bel Air.

At the lake, the boys’ days are filled with wood-chopping, outhouse-building, fishing, swimming and Mrs. Burt’s wonderful cooking. But as the summer sails by, Curtis can’t stop thinking about his mother’s promise.

Then the weather grows colder, and Mrs. Burt seems to be preparing to spend the winter at the cabin, and Curtis starts to worry.

Have they really all just absconded to the lake for a summer holiday? Or have the two boys been kidnapped?

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Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin (Grades 4-8)

Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or “Little John” as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree.
There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties.
But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy.
Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, Nightingale’s Nest is an unforgettable novel about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a girl with the gift of healing in her voice.

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Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

A girl. An iguana. An island. And e-mail. Meet Nim–a modern-day Robinson Crusoe! She can chop down bananas with a machete, climb tall palm trees, and start a fire with a piece of glass. So she’s not afraid when her scientist dad sails off to study plankton for three days, leaving her alone on their island. Besides, it’s not as if no one’s looking after her–she’s got a sea lion to mother her and an iguana for comic relief. She also has an interesting new e-mail pal. But when her father’s cell-phone calls stop coming and disaster seems near, Nim has to be stronger and braver than she’s ever been before.

And she’ll need all her friends to help her.

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Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff (Grades 4-8)

Nory Ryan’s family has lived on Maidin Bay on the west coast of Ireland for generations, raising a pig and a few chickens, planting potatoes, getting by. Every year Nory’s father goes away on a fishing boat and returns with the rent money for the English lord who owns their cottage and fields, the English lord bent upon forcing the Irish from their land so he can tumble the cottages and clear the fields for grazing. Times are never easy on Maidin Bay, but this year, a terrible blight attacks the potatoes. No crop means starvation. Twelve-year-old Nory must summon the courage and ingenuity to find food, to find hope, to find a way to help her family survive

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No Small Victory by Connie Brummel Crook (Grades 4-8)

It’s the Hungry Thirties and Bonnie’s family has been hit hard by the Depression. Relocating from their farm in Massasaga to Lang, Ontario, is supposed to give them a fresh start. But Lang soon presents its own set of challenges for Bonnie and her family as they learn to adapt to their new surroundings – and get by with less.For Bonnie, settling into her new school is an uphill battle. Still, in spite of an unsympathetic teacher and a few malicious schoolyard bullies, a series of small victories soon sets Bonnie onto a new path of success. After a devastating scarlet fever epidemic, a headlice infestation, and a skating incident gone dangerously wrong, Bonnie’s classmates soon realize that this spirited newcomer has more than enough gumption and courage to become an invaluable member of their community.On the home front, Bonnie’s family must be resourceful if they are going to put food on the table. Their hopes rest on a precious clutch of chickens carefully hatched in their living room and then sheltered in an outdoor shed. Disaster strikes when the shed door blows open in a storm and their young chickens are trampled by a stampeding sow. At the urging of her new friends, Bonnie enters a regional spelling bee in the hopes that the cash prize will be enough to replace the lost poultry and save her family.

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The Old Brown Suitcase by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz (Grades 4-8)

The Old Brown Suitcase, an award winning book that has sold extraordinarily well both nationally and internationally, now appears in a new edition by Ronsdale Press. The novel narrates the absorbing story of a young girl who survived the Holocaust against all odds.

At age fourteen, Slava comes to Canada with her parents and sister and a suitcase filled with memories of a lost childhood, memories that now haunt her new life. She cannot forget the hunger, stench and disease in the Warsaw Ghetto, nor the fear and humiliation of being incarcerated behind a high brick wall. She cannot forget her extraordinary escape from the Ghetto when she walked alone through the gate while the guards were looking the other way. Nor can she forget being swallowed up in a strange and unknown place to survive under a hidden identity.

The story juxtaposes heart-wrenching scenes from a child’s life in war-torn Poland with the life of a teenager trying to adjust to a new country in time of peace. In Canada, it is not easy for Slava to build a bridge between two cultures; nor is it easy to live with the turmoil of her immediate past. At the same time she must face the new challenges involved in being an immigrant, a Jew and a teenage girl. This new edition appends notes on the Warsaw ghetto and a bibliography for future reading.

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Peacekeepers by Dianne Linden (Grades 4-8)

13-year-old Nell Mackelwain has to share her mother, a Canadian peacekeeper, with the world, when she just wants her home in Edmonton, helping her deal with the bullies at school. Nell’s trying to be understanding about her mother’s chosen mission, to go halfway around the world to be a peacekeeper, even though she’s a single mom and has to leave Nell and her brother with their uncle Martin who doesn’t know anything about raising kids.

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Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff (Grades 6-8)

This Newbery Honor book about a girl who has never known family fighting for her first true home “will leave readers . . . satisfied” (Kirkus Reviews).

Hollis Woods

is the place where a baby was abandoned

is the baby’s name

is an artist

is now a twelve-year-old girl

who’s been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all.

When Hollis is sent to Josie, an elderly artist who is quirky and affectionate, she wants to stay. But Josie is growing more forgetful every day. If Social Services finds out, they’ll take Hollis away and move Josie into a home. Well, Hollis Woods won’t let anyone separate them. She’s escaped the system before; this time, she’s taking Josie with her. Still, even as she plans her future with Josie, Hollis dreams of the past summer with the Regans, fixing each special moment of her days with them in pictures she’ll never forget.

Patricia Reilly Giff captures the yearning for a place to belong in this warmhearted story, which stresses the importance of artistic vision, creativity, and above all, family.

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Plain Girl by Virginia Sorenson (Grades 4-8)

An Amish girl, Esther feels like “one black bird against the sky” in her plain clothes. So when she’s forced to attend public school she’s terrified. She fears the new world she must enter, fears the way she sticks out next to other kids, and—most of all—fears she may do what her brother did: run away and join the sinful but great wide world she’s only just discovering.

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Shabash! by Ann Walsh (Grades 4-8)

Rana’s on the team — but is he still all alone?

Short-listed for the 1996 Silver Birch Award

As a Sikh living in small-town British Columbia, Rana knows he is different. In fact, he is the first Sikh in Dinway to try out for the hockey team. But Rana persists, making the team and meeting Les, who becomes fast friends with him.

Still, the bullying from his teammates and community members continues. Then, just before the most important game of the season, an extraordinary event interrupts the lives of everyone in Dinway, and Rana risks everything.

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Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (Grades 4-8)

Manolo was only three when his father, the great bullfighter Juan Olivar, died. But Juan is never far from Manolo’s consciousness–how could he be, with the entire town of Arcangel waiting for the day Manolo will fulfill his father’s legacy?

But Manolo has a secret he dares to share with no one–he is a coward, without afición, the love of the sport that enables a bullfighter to rise above his fear and face a raging bull. As the day when he must enter the ring approaches, Manolo finds himself questioning which requires more courage: to follow in his father’s legendary footsteps or to pursue his own destiny?

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Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (Grades 4-8)

Twelve-year-old Matt is left on his own in the Maine wilderness while his father leaves to bring the rest of the family to their new settlement. When he befriends Attean, an Indian chief’s grandson, he is invited to join the Beaver tribe and move north. Should Matt abandon his hopes of ever seeing his family again and go on to a new life?

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Trapped in Ice by Eric Walters (Grades 4-8)

Thirteen-year-old Helen is not entirely sure she is looking forward to spending the next six months on board the Karluk, a ship headed on an Arctic expedition. But with the recent death of her father, it is the only work her seamstress mother can find. Helen’s nine year-old brother, Michael, is delighted to be off on a real adventure but neither he nor Helen could have realized just how extraordinary this trip would be. The ship’s hard-bitten captain, Robert Bartlett, must use all his seafaring skill when the Arctic Ocean begins an early freeze-over and the ship becomes trapped in ice. But will Bartlett’s knowledge of the unpredictable and treacherous Arctic be enough to save his passengers?

In the pages of her diary, Helen records the fate of the crew and her family as they leave the ship and try to make their way across shifting ice flows, through blinding blizzards and past polar bears to safety on solid land. As the trek proceeds, Helen learns a few things about her family, about friendship and about a remarkable strength she never knew she had.

Based on true events surrounding the ill-fated Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913, Trapped in Ice is a riveting, fast-paced adventure set in a marvelous but brutal world of ice and snow.

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Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (Grades 4-8)

Elizabeth Ann, a nine-year-old girl, is timid and small for her age; she is also an orphan. At first she lives with her father’s aunt, Harriet, who expects her to lead a very sheltered life. When she is sent to live with her mother’s family, on a farm in Vermont, she is then expected to do many of the chores that Harriet had thought too demanding of a little girl. Elizabeth Ann, nicknamed Betsy, discovers her own abilities and gains a new perception of the world around her.

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The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (Grades 4-8)

In this Newbery Honor-winning novel, Gary D. Schmidt offers an unforgettable antihero. The Wednesday Wars is a wonderfully witty and compelling story about a teenage boy’s mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967–68 school year in Long Island, New York.
Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behaviour: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

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When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Grades 4-8)

Winner of the 2010 John Newbery Medal
Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.
By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:
I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

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The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Grade 4-8)

Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.

Elizabeth George Speare won the 1959 Newbery Medal for this portrayal of a heroine whom readers will admire for her unwavering sense of truth as well as her infinite capacity to love.

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