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May 15, 2017 BOOKLIST
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Perhaps Terabithia was like a castle where you came to be knighted. After you stayed for a while and grew strong you had to move on. —Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
In 1977, Katherine Paterson wrote her Newbery-winning classic Bridge to Terabithia. It is the story of a boy who copes with the tragic death of his friend by finding refuge and healing in the imaginary kingdom of Terabithia, an enchanted realm they created together. Forty years later, authors continue to expand upon Paterson’s adept use of childhood imagination by adding touches of fantasy to stories, with the same intent of guiding characters—and, by extension, readers—through heavy emotional trials, such as grief, death, illness, and homelessness. More often than not, these fantasy elements give shape to intangible fears or worries, making them easier to understand, accept, or overcome. Here are some of the titles that tackle tough topics with the help of a little magic.
Cicada Summer. By Kate Constable. 2011. IPG/Allen & Unwin, $9.99 (9781741758283). Gr. 5–8.
With a light touch of fantasy, Constable weaves a supernatural tale of a girl grieving the loss of her mother and finding healing through friendship with a ghost.
A Cool Moonlight. By Angela Johnson. 2003. Dial, $6.99 (9780142402849). Gr. 3–6.
Due to a rare medical condition, Lila must avoid sunlight and can only go outside at night. A rich fantasy life sustains her, but an epiphany on her birthday helps her embrace being “the moon girl with fireflies.”
Crenshaw. By Katherine Applegate. 2015. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (9781250043238). Gr. 3–6.
Financial stress at home triggers the return of soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson’s imaginary childhood friend, a talking cat named Crenshaw. Applegate uses gentle humor, embodied by Crenshaw, to explore the topic of homelessness and help Jackson cope with his anxiety.
The Dyerville Tales. By M. P. Kozlowsky. Illus. by Brian Thompson. 2014. HarperCollins/Walden Pond, $16.99 (9780061998713). Gr. 3–6.
Vincent’s adventurous escape from an orphanage alternates with outlandish stories of his grandfather’s life in this sensitive and unblinking exploration of grief.
Firefly Hollow. By Alison McGhee. Illus. by Christopher Denise. 2015. Atheneum, $16.99 (9781442423367). Gr. 3–5.
Cricket and Firefly run away with the help of a lonely boy and a river vole. A quiet grief underpins the narrative, which strengthens the characters’ understanding of the world and resolution to take it by storm.
Hour of the Bees. By Lindsay Eagar. 2016. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763679224). Gr. 5–8.
Twelve-year-old Carolina bonds with her dementia-stricken grandfather through the fantastical stories he tells of his youth. Eager uses magic realism to create an atmospheric novel of family, heritage, and illness’ difficulties.
Maybe a Fox. By Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. 2016. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, $16.99 (9781442482425). Gr. 4–7.
In a poignant tale of overcoming grief, Jules Sherman struggles to adjust to life after her sister’s death. At the same time, a newborn fox feels a spiritual connection to Jules, and the pair’s fates become inexorably entwined.
A Monster Calls. By Patrick Ness. Illus. by Jim Kay. 2011. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763655594). Gr. 7–10.
As Conor helplessly watches his mother succumb to cancer, he is visited by a monster, who helps him navigate his grief and anger. Beautiful and fearlessly honest, this story illuminates a path through the darkness of doubt.
My Diary from the Edge of the World. By Jodi Lynn Anderson. 2015. Aladdin, $16.99 (9781442483873). Gr. 4–7.
The Lockwood family tries to outrun a looming Dark Cloud, a bringer of death, before it can claim Grace’s sickly little brother. On the eye-opening journey, Grace comes to understand and accept the cloud’s true purpose.
The Nest. By Kenneth Oppel. Illus. by Jon Klassen. 2015. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781481432320). Gr. 5–8.
An angelic wasp’s offer to fix Steven’s sick baby brother takes an insidious turn in this spine-chilling novel. Brilliantly merging Steven’s anxieties with the wasp’s malignant whispers, Oppel tells an outstanding tale about monsters both outside and in.
The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price. By Jennifer Maschari. 2016. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $16.99 (9780062380104). Gr. 5–8.
Charlie is overjoyed to discover a world where his mother is still alive, but it soon becomes clear that it’s impossible to reclaim the past. A beautifully written meditation on grief, easily digestible for a younger audience.
Season of Secrets. By Sally Nicholls. 2011. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.99 (9780545218252). Gr. 5–8.
This study in grief and renewal draws upon the legend of the Green Man as two sisters endeavor to overcome the unexpected loss of their mother.
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill. By Megan Shepherd. Illus. by Dan Burgess. 2016. Delacorte, $16.99 (9781101939758). Gr. 3–5.
In the midst of WWII, Emmaline is sent to Briar Hill Hospital, where she sees winged horses in the mirrors. When one escapes into her world, Emmaline finds purpose in caring for it, even as her own health declines.
Slog’s Dad. By David Almond. Illus. by Dave McKean. 2011. Candlewick, $15.99 (9780763649401). Gr. 4–7.
One day Slog spots a man he’s convinced is his father come back to life. This magic-realism-tinged story explores the depths of grief, longing, and hope swirling about a boy’s last chance to say good-bye to his father.
Some Kind of Happiness. By Claire Legrand. 2016. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781442466012). Gr. 4–7.
Eleven-year-old Finley Hart sometimes has “blue days,” marked by overwhelming sadness or panic. The only thing that helps is writing stories about the Everwood, a magical forest where she is queen. When the wood is threatened, Fin must confront her own darkness to save it.
Stonebird. By Mike Revell. 2015. Quercus, $16.99 (9781623654627). Gr. 4–6.
While struggling with his grandmother’s declining health from dementia, Liam gains insights into her past by reading her childhood diary and finds hope for the future in a stone gargoyle that comes to life.
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