Skip to main content

Culture Children's Books

Persevering plots

Children’s Books

Persevering plots

Fiction for tweens to older teens

Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse: In this sequel to Mark of the Raven, Selene adjusts to being Lord Damien’s wife. Despite their hasty marriage and enemy families, they are falling in love. But the shadowy goddess known as the Dark Lady haunts Selene’s dreams, forcing her to choose between the Dark Lady or the Light, her husband’s good God. This book has all the charms of its prequel—a setting with interesting culture, likable characters, and pure romance—and also the same annoyances. Selene spends pages pondering the same questions, and the nightmares involving the Dark Lady could scare younger teens. Note: Selene and Damien’s romance is a significant theme. The book focuses on their friendship but describes their feelings of excitement when they kiss and hints at the first time they have sex. (Ages 16 and up) 

Sawdust in His Shoes by Eloise Jarvis McGraw: The circus is in Joe Lang’s blood. At 15, he is proud of his abilities and aims to become the best performer in the top circus troupe. But when his father dies suddenly, Joe finds himself in a boys home waiting for a judge to decide his fate. He runs away and ends up on the Dawson family farm. The well-written plot focuses on the character development Joe undergoes during his time with the Dawsons—a loving family that extends him grace before he appreciates it. This book first released in 1950, but today’s tweens will enjoy the reprint edition. Parents will appreciate the refreshing perspective of a family unit with a strong father and a young man learning humility. (Ages 10 and up) 

Hunger Winter by Rob Currie: The Ingelse family is fighting for survival in this fictionalized account of life in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation of World War II. When the Gestapo arrests eldest daughter Els in a ploy to lure out of hiding her father Hans, a hero in the Dutch Resistance movement, 13-year-old Dirk becomes the sole protector and provider for their young sister Anna. Fearful that the Nazis will soon come for them, Dirk and Anna flee into the night and undertake a daring journey across the Netherlands in search of safety. Along the way they encounter challenges and setbacks that will test their faith and courage, but they persevere, emboldened by their father’s words that “Sometimes you have to take a chance, because it’s the only chance you have.” (Ages 10-14) 

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell: Is it ever acceptable to steal back “what was already stolen”? That’s the question readers will wrestle with as Vita Marlowe forms a plan to get her grandfather’s castle back from the man who took it. Vita, who has just come with her mother from England to 1920s New York, has to convince a group of kids to join her in righting the injustice by stealing back what was stolen. This fun, engaging story offers varied and interesting characters and an exciting plot that showcases loyalty and friendship. A few notes for parents: At one point the children visit an illegal speakeasy under a brassiere shop, one character curses in Russian, and another says a “single, unrepeatable word” when he sees Vita’s African American friend Samuel. (Ages 10 and up)

AFTERWORD

In The Princess in Black and the Bathtime Battle (Candlewick, 2019), Shannon and Dean Hale deliver another edition in their Princess in Black series for elementary readers. The Princess in Black and her fellow heroes must work together to defeat a terrible smell that is spreading across all of their kingdoms. After attempting to blow it away in every direction, they learn that the stench is coming from a particularly smelly monster. But defeating the monster like usual won’t solve the heroes’ problem. The Hales offer clever writing and LeUyen Pham’s illustrations are cute and colorful. Although the book’s level is geared for intermediate readers, it would also be a fun book to read aloud to younger children.

In Anne Bustard’s Blue Skies (Simon & Schuster, 2020), fifth grader Glory Bea is watching for a miracle: Her whole family thinks her daddy died on Omaha Beach during the war, but Glory Bea refuses to believe the same. She secretly holds out hope he’s still out there somewhere and any day now he will finally make it home. As she waits, she prepares along with the rest of her Texas town for the arrival of the Merci Train—49 boxcars filled with gifts the French sent to the United States as a thank-you for the food and supplies Americans shipped to the beleaguered nation post–World War II. Blue Skies is a heartwarming tale for middle-grade readers about finding closure and silver linings amid unmet expectations.