Category Archives: best books

Powerful (true) Novels

Here are some powerful novels I enjoyed reading. Hope you (or your (pre)teen readers) will, too.

The 2004 Asian tsunami lead Canadian author Eric Walters to write his novel Wave (Doubleday Canada, ISBN 978-0-385-66443-1), a juvenile fiction novel. Sam and his parents leave his sister behind in snowy New York to spend Christmas on the beach in Thailand. Little did they know that their lives were about to change forever. The first part of the story is written in the voice of 12 year old Sam, the latter part in Beth’s voice – making this a book that will appeal to both boys and girls. Once the tsunami hits, the book becomes a page turner.

Walters uses a similar natural disaster – the earthquake in Haiti, to pen another novel based on a current event that will bring reality to students who have heard about it and seen it on TV. In Shaken (Doubleday Canada, ISBN 9
78-0-385-67081-4) 15 year old Josh and a church youth group travel to Haiti to help, not knowing that a devastating earthquake will change minds and lives forever. (Also available as e-book.)

And two more powerful books written in the first person; both gripping personal narratives showing the importance of keeping a diary.

The Story of My Life (Simon & Schuster, ISBN 1-4169-0670-3) was written by Farah Ahmedi, an Afghan girl who shares an insight into her childhood in Afghanistan where the classrooms only have a chalkboard and where it is difficult for a girl to get an education. Farah’s life is forever changed when, en route to school, she steps on a landmine. The book was voted Winner of America’s #1 Story. 

Similarly powerful is the novel The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland (Annick Press, ISBN 978-1-55451-158-7). Mariatu lived in Sierra Leone where war changed her childhood. During an attack by child rebels, Mariatu lost both hands. Her amazing story is well written and brings home the reality of war but also of hope and human resilience. Mariatu now lives in Canada and serves as special representative for UNICEF.

The Underneat by Kathi Appelt

The Underneath The Underneath, Kathi Appelt.
Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-84738-311-2

This book.
What a book it is.
Not poetry really, but such a story.
Woven around some kittens and a hound.

This story is dark, heavy, gripping. Yet light as a feather. I couldn’t put it down – wanted to taste the words and swirl them around on my tongue. How does one author make such words, put them in such a delicious order?
This author.
She is a story spinner.

Some stories are built on strong characters, with strong settings. A plot.
This story has all that, spun out of wonderful words.
It draws you in, like the whirlpools in the dark river in the story.
I was scared. Scared for the kittens and the hound.
Scared of the snake and the gators.
Scared of the darkness of the man.

But there was light, too.
Light of love, and hope.
Always hope. Hope for a happy ending…
This is a story to read aloud, share with children the story this author spins.
If you are a writer, read these words. See how she spun them. Into a story that will tug at your heart strings. A story of love and friendship. A story of deep running hatred. A scary story that is beautiful.
Part folklore, part fairytale. A tale set in the south.
A tale that you will not soon forget.
Oh, such a tale.

Awards for The Underneath:

  • Borders “Original New Voices”
  • Book Sense “Pick of the Week”
  • Starred review, Booklist Magazine
  • Top Ten Bestsellers, Indie Bound
  • Finalist, The National Book Awards
  • John Newbery Honor Book, ALA
  • Finalist, Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award
  • PEN Center USA Award Children’s Literature
  • Winner, Writer’s League of TX Award for Children’s Literature
  • New York Times Bestseller