Children’s fiction can be as powerful and true as any adult literary novel. What distinguishes children’s books is the sense that there is some hope no matter how small or unlikely it may seem. Reach for the hope in these titles and, perhaps, a box of tissues.
by Joan Bauer
“Soar,” Joan Bauer’s latest novel, is the story of 12-year-old Jeremiah who lives, breathes and eats baseball. Jeremiah is one of those remarkable kids who beam from the inside with true goodness and optimism even though he has every right to be angry and frustrated. Abandoned at birth in an office building’s snack room, hospitalized with a heart transplant at 10 and restricted from playing ball, Jeremiah has not had the easiest of lives. Moving to a new town with his Dad presents yet another challenge but Jeremiah sees it as a golden opportunity when, upon arriving, they see that this small town loves baseball as well but perhaps too much and at too high of a cost. Jeremiah defies the odds in every way and keeps what is pure and true about the game and life alive.
by Sara Pennypacker
War, no matter how immediate or remote, renders a price on society, the land and wildlife. In “Pax” by Sara Pennypacker, the reader experiences this price through the experiences of Peter and his pet fox Pax.
After raising Pax from a dying kit found in the woods, Peter is forced to abandon Pax in the wild by his father who is leaving to fight in the war. Heartbroken and ashamed, Peter runs away from his Grandfather’s house determined to travel the 300 miles back home to find Pax, who is anxiously waiting for “his boy” to come back. While Peter and Pax tell of their struggles to survive so that they might be reunited, war draws ever nearer and the prices to be paid get ever higher.
“The Skeleton Tree”
by Iain Lawrence
Children can be the ultimate survivalists. Faced with circumstances often beyond their control, and the power to change them, many find a core of strength and hope to not only survive but thrive. In “The Skeleton Tree” by Iain Lawrence, readers meet Chris, who has never been the adventurous type but, upon an invitation from his Uncle Jack, finds himself in a small boat sailing down the West Coast from a port in Alaska. Along for the ride is angry, taciturn Frank whose presence is unexplained and not wanted by Chris. The boat founders in a turbulent ocean and Uncle Jack drowns leaving the boys in a tiny lifeboat with no supplies, no radio and no idea about their location. Upon finding land, they now have to figure out how to survive all the elements and, most importantly, each other.
These titles are appropriate for upper elementary and early middle school readers. Hope to see you at the library.
— Cheryl Weems, Deschutes Public Library, youth services collection development librarian