The magic and mystery of children traveling through a portal between two worlds masterfully woven into Indigenous sky legends and the trauma of First Nations children removed from their families and communities. Incredible! After multiple foster homes, Morgan cannot remember her mother or where she came from, but she has a deep sense of loss, anger, and alienation. Eli’s memories are more recent, and his longing presents itself in the art that pours onto his tablets. When an attic portal opens into Aski, an alternate reality of frozen, barren grounds and two-legged talking animals searching for a way to bring seasons back to save their land, Morgan and Eli find themselves on a journey to help their friends and find themselves. The adventure, humor, and heartbreaking beauty of the Barren Grounds will alter your vision of the night sky and the possibilities found in an attic sanctuary forever. I’m anxiously awaiting book two!
Heidi is about twelve; she doesn’t know when her actual birthday is, doesn’t know who her father is, doesn’t know how she and her mentally disabled mother ended up at the door of her apartment twelve years ago, and doesn’t know how the electric and rent bills are paid. What she does know is that Bernie, the neighbor whose apartment connects to theirs, is agoraphobic but has managed to love and care for Heidi and her mother beautifully. When her mom adds “soof” to her limited vocabulary and Heidi discovers a roll of old photos, she embarks on a journey to New York to discover her story. So tender and beautiful that you will not be able to close these characters into the covers of a finished book, So B. It is a story of love and its incredible power. The movie adaptation is great too!
What can a stranded polar bear and a nine-year-old girl do to help each other and bring light to the climate crisis? In the able hands of Hannah Gold, quite a bit! April’s father and she travel to Bear Island for his research, but he has been lost since the death of her mother, and the island only reinforces his alienation from April. So she wanders the island alone and discovers Bear, a polar bear who has been stranded since the ice flows have melted, making his journey back to Svalbard and other bears impossible. Their mutual need sparks a friendship between the two, and April determines that she cannot leave Bear to his fate. This is a tale of friendship, love, and the deep connections between animals and humans that propel even those of us with little power to great acts of healing.
Being 12 years old has its ups and downs, and for Clara, life on her island home does too. Everyone in her community knows each other; they know Ms. Gee sits on her porch spreading grump to the world; they know that when Pastor Brown pauses, he’s about to deliver a sermon whether from the pulpit or not; and they know that Eldorath, Clara’s uncle, is strange, a witch doctor who stays away from the village in his house on the hill. Clara is comfortable here — except for the fact that she cannot remember what happened last summer, what made her afraid of the water. This beautiful story of friendship, forgiveness, and the power of community is definitely one to share with your parents!
Forgive me. I won’t be telling you much about this tale of two cities because I don’t want to ruin the revelations peeled away by the diamond of a heroine, Rue Jelani Akintola. Trust that she is brilliant, loyal, strong, and stubborn. Know that she is about to reveal Ghazan, a fantastic world intricately woven into a poor Houston neighborhood known as East Row, both imbedded with the problems of colonialism and racism. But there is magic here, magic that comes from learning all of who we are, from ripping out what lies deeply buried in our historical myths and embracing the truth. It is the only beginning that gives true power. Young Adult fantasy? Maybe, but only in the way that young people so often show us older folks how to make the world better.