Annabel by Kathleen Winter

annabelThis book was hauntingly beautiful. It tells the story of a child, born in a remote Labradorean town in 1968, who is not quite male and not quite female. Winter’s storytelling is luminous and poignant as we grow up alongside Wayne (Annabel) in the cold, Canadian climate, privy to one family’s secrets. I’m still reeling from this story and it’s been years since I read it–time for a re-read! (Submitted by Meghan)

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The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

homeforunwantedgirlsI just finished reading The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman for my book club and it was a real page-turner. It’s a fictitious novel based on actual events that occurred in the early 1950’s in Quebec. At the time, many babies born out of wedlock were handed over to orphanages run by Catholic nuns. The province’s Premier of the time, Duplessis signed an order-in-council to turn orphanages into hospitals, thus allowing them to collect federal subsidies. As a result, many of the children in the orphanages were told that they were now mentally deficient, often kept drugged, and made to provide labour in support of the institutions. The children were not schooled, nor were they made available for adoption.

This story follows a 15 year old who finds herself pregnant as well as the story of the child she gives up to one of these orphanages turned hospitals. Mother and daughter never lose hope of reuniting while facing many challenges in their respective lives.

The novel was very well written and I believe it depicted the issues surrounding the times accurately. While it was sometimes difficult to read, it was also eye-opening and engaging. One of the few novels where I’ve shed tears while reading. I highly recommend it. (Submitted by Seline)

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11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

11

I love preteen novels with elements of the supernatural and this book doesn’t disappoint. Amanda and Leo are old friends, born on the same day and always happy to celebrate their birthdays together. Until this one. Something happened to their friendship that left them estranged. Turning eleven can be hard but in this instance it gets harder as the day repeats on Amanda. She can’t escape all the bad feelings and her miserable Hollywood theme party creating a fun ride as she attempts to face it differently each time. Age appropriate relationships and the unexpected ways the day plays out will keep a young reader engaged in this enjoyable work. (Submitted by Pippa)

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I know I am Precious and Sacred by Debora Abood

preciousI came upon this book by accident, while searching for something else. But, as you all probably know, many of the best things in life come as a surprise and turn out to be completely different from what we were initially looking for. When I saw this picture book, the title got hold of my attention and I started reading it. Inside, there is a powerful voice that is telling a child (or you, as a reader) as to why everyone is special and precious. The many reasons why every child and every being is unique and valuable are shared through a strong and flowing verse. This beautiful poetic language is accompanied by gorgeous, photography. The combination of the two gives this book a breath and a heart beat (the latter one is like a steady beat of a mini drum). Highly recommend this First Nations picture book to anyone who wants to empower a child (or anyone else!). The book is all about self-confidence, respect for others, and appreciation of life. (Submitted by Mariya)

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The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami

hero-walkAnita Rau Badami does an excellent job depicting the modern day life in India (I literally felt like a tourist submerged into the environment except there was also a good story and I didn’t have to physically travel anywhere). It focuses on one family, but a lot is tied into that one family’s journey: neighbours, traditions,  and daily routines.  Another interesting twist is the switching back and forth between Canada and India – this contrast is often very vivid (actually, just like everything in Badami’s book). You will feel the heat and smell the dust, or hear the rain gushing during the monsoon period. Fans of descriptive language will be thrilled with this novel. The drawback, to some people, it may seem longer than necessary at some parts of the book – but, tastes are just a matter of opinion.

One of the main characters in the novel is a 7 year-old girl, Nandana, who loses her parents in a car accident and has to go to India to live with her estranged grandparents. Nandana’s grandparents are internally suffocating from emotions of: grief, regret, uncertainty, failure, and frustration as they try their best to build a new life for their grandchild and fix up their own ones along the way. (Submitted by Mariya)

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If You Hold a Seed by Elly MacKay

if you hold a seedI came across this picture book by chance and I am grateful for this wonderful encounter. To me, a picture book, no matter how good the written content is, also has to have a very strong visual component. If You Hold a Seed kept my eyes drawn to every detail in the illustrations and I was savouring the beauty of the artist’s vision and how well it manifested in simple, yet warm and touching images. We need more picture books like this! – where pictures really do the narration. As for the story itself – it’s full of hope, patience, believing, and succeeding. I give a solid ‘A’ to Elly MacKay for writing and illustrating this gorgeous children’s book. (Submitted by Mariya)

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50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple’s Extraordinary Rescue Mission Into the Heart of Nazi Germany by Steven Pressman

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This is a true story about a very small group of people who decided to rescue 50 Jewish children from Nazi Germany in 1939-legally. The idea came from someone who was the head of a Jewish fraternal society in Philadelphia. He proposed that this society could rescue 50 children from Nazi occupied Germany and escort them to the USA where they could be fostered (both physically and financially) by other Jewish families until the rest of the children’s family could immigrate to the USA.  This size of group, coming from Germany, all children, had never been done before. The enormity of this quest was not fully realized as political (both German and American), religious, and emotional barriers all had to be overcome. Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus were the people to head up the American Calvary to rescue 50 children, and in doing so, potentially rescue 50 German families as well.  Constant worries about visas, health concerns, language differences, as well as taking these children from living parents and other siblings, weighed heavily on the Kraus couple’s mind. This book reads like a suspense novel where time is ticking away and you never know when things are going to change.  Take a read and find out if there was a happy ending! (Submitted by Jamie)

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