Kid Canon


This is actually the second in a series of posts I began last fall; once again, I’m relying heavily on my blog’s only assistant editor, 13-year-old Elizabeth, the older sister of one of my older son’s best friends. (Without her, I wouldn’t have a prayer of being able to cover these books—so again, thanks, Elizabeth!) Here are some of her picks  from the mountain of books I’ve given her over the past several months:

The Clockwork Three, by Matthew J. Kirby. Three separate plotlines involving three children—an orphan street violinist, an apprentice clockmaker, and a hotel maid—are slowly woven together in this adventure mystery (the author’s debut). As it turns out, each one has part of the answer to the puzzle one of the others is trying to solve, and they must learn to work together to deal with very real dangers.

Elizabeth’s take: A great mystery, this book has many twists and turns, in addition to interesting characters. Once you start, you can’t put it down.

The Queen of Water, by Laura Resau and María Virginia Farinango. This novel, based on a true story, tells of Virginia, a seven-year-old Andean girl in Ecuador who is sent by her desperately poor parents to be the servant in a wealthier mestizo household. It’s rather like something out of a Dickens novel—she is beaten, and promises to send her to school are broken—but she educates herself nonetheless in secret, and in the meantime becomes accustomed to a very different way of life from the one she’d known. Then, at age 12, Virginia has the chance to return to her parents…and finds herself ambivalent. This is a powerful caught-between-cultures tale.

Elizabeth’s take: This book is touching and inspiring. It’s written so well that it’s almost hard to believe it’s a true story. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone.

The Chaos, by Rachel Ward. You didn’t think we were going to get out of a teen-novel roundup in 2011 without an dystopic novel, did you? The second book in Ward’s (and no, she’s not that one, though she is also British) Numbers series is set 10 years after the first one, in 2026, and follows young Adam, who has inherited his mother’s curse from the first book: When he looks into someone’s eyes, he can see the date of their eventual death. When he notices that an awful lot of the strangers’ deaths he can’t help but encounter are on the same date in the future—New Year’s Day 2027—he realizes that he has to try to find out what this apocalyptic event is and try to stop it. Even on just her second book, Ward writes crackling suspense and dialogue, making for a real page-turner.

Elizabeth’s take: This book is told from an interesting perspective: a boy who doesn’t use proper grammar. And you can follow the plot without having read the first novel, Numbers. I’d recommend it to those who enjoy science fiction or apocalyptic stories.

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. This is cheating a little—it’s the paperback edition of this winner of the Newbery Medal and many other awards, and even it came out several months ago—but we missed it in hardcover, and Elizabeth was so enthusiastic that I couldn’t leave it out. It’s a tightly written (and fairly short, as these novels go) story about Miranda, a 1979 New York City sixth-grader whose world starts to unravel after she has a falling out with her best friend, Sal, and then starts getting mysterious anonymous notes about an upcoming tragedy she must try to prevent. Presented in Miranda’s pitch-perfect first-person voice, and referring directly and indirectly to many of the classic novels sixth-graders of the 1970s and ’80s would have been reading (A Wrinkle in Time, Harriet the Spy), it’s pretty much an instant classic in its own right.

Elizabeth’s take: I could not put this short but eventful novel down! It has that quality that makes you think, “Well, maybe just another few pages…or chapters….” The characters are believable and easy to relate to. All in all, worthy of the Newbery on its cover.

Photo by Andrea Chu

From You Know, For Kids.


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