Author – Paul Jennings
Illustrator – Geoff Kelly
Age – 9+
A boy gets up one morning from the floor of his room. His bed was burnt for firewood the night before, just to keep him and his mum warm. The boy has a plan to improve their lives, but first he has to climb a hill on this frosty morning. But on the way up he sees an accident and he is the only one who is there to help.
He tries to sound the alarm but his voice doesn’t work. It hasn’t for some time, and he’s teased about it at school. But he can do something. A dog has been thrown from the vehicle and the boy is determined to save it. But this dog is special and the way out is treacherous. Can he get them to safety and then save the dog from its past?
By the renowned author Paul Jennings, A Different Dog has been written with reluctant readers in mind, but still gives any reader a story about bullying, poverty, courage and survival.
(Animal, Dog, Courage, Poverty, Bullying, Accident, Reluctant Reader)
ER – WIL
Author – Jacqueline Wilson
Age – 8+
11 yr old Clover Moon doesn’t go to school. She has to stay home and look after her many step siblings and younger sister Megs. Clover uses her imagination to entertain them and is popular with the alley’s children. But Clover is unhappy. Her stepmother is nasty and even beats her and Clover wants to leave. But how could she leave Megs and Pa?
But then tragedy strikes and Clover has nothing to stay for. Where will she go? Can she be an apprentice to Mr Dolly (her nickname for the local doll maker who has been kind to her), or will she find a job on the harsh streets of Victorian London?
Using all her courage, she ventures out on her own, and it’s her skills with children and street smarts from the alley she’s lived in all her life, that help her become more than she’d ever hoped to be.
Another story for girls about living in Victorian London from this multi award winning author. Another of Jacqueline Wilson’s characters (Hetty Feather) features at the end of the story, linking the two series together.
TEEN – GLE
Author – Morris Gleitzman
Age – 13+
No.5 in this hugely popular series. Felix is now 13 and living with Gabriek who spends a lot of his time drinking his cabbage vodka. But living in the rubble of a city after the war is just as tough as during it. People are just as desperate for food and will kill to get it.
Gabriek has warned Felix to keep to himself, but he can’t ignore people who need help. This attracts a leader of thugs. When Felix stops to help a young boy who has been shot, Gogol kidnaps Felix and demands he help an injured man in his gang. Felix does the best he can and doesn’t realise that he will be in charge of a small baby boy by the end of the day.
This story might be set after the war is finished, but it is no less harrowing. Great series.
(War, Conflict, Courage, Friendship, Historical, Series, Secret, Poverty)
TEEN – RUN
Author – Katherine Rundell
Age – 10+
Charles Maxim finds a baby floating in a cello case in the English channel. Their ship (The Queen Mary) had just sunk and the baby was the last to be rescued. Charles decided to name her Sophie and raises her the best he can. He was a scholar and taught Sophie himself, never sending her to school, but teaching her all about the world around her. As she was prone to dropping plates, she ate off books and learnt her lessons out on the roof of his home where she could see the sky and the birds. She doesn’t like crowds or small spaces and attributed that to the sinking of the ship when she was a baby.
As she got older she wanted to learn music and was keen on the cello as she remembered her mother playing. Charles said it couldn’t be possible that she’d remember something from when she was so young, but Sophie is adamant. After all, Charles was always saying, “Never ignore a possible.”
When the authorities came to check on them, they weren’t happy with the trousers she wore, the way her hair wasn’t brushed properly or the fact that she was allowed to draw and write on the walls of their home. It wasn’t ‘proper’.
The same authorities decide Sophie’s fate which leads them to escaping England for France – after a clue Sophie has found about her mother. What follows is a look into a world of children who live on the rooftops and in the trees of Paris. Sophie’s upbringing could be just the thing that helps her connect to these silent shadows of the night, who help her in her quest to find her mother.
(Friendship, Paris, Historical, Blended Family, Courage, Poverty)
Author – S D Crockett
Age – 13+
The icecaps have melted. There are no longer warm sea currents but seemingly endless winters.
Willo hides in the snow, watching his family being taken away by soldiers. Where are they being taken? Why? When he begins his search, he meets Mary, a 13yr old from the city. She’s been hiding in the mountains too – away from the filth, endless hunger, guns and control of the city police. They end up back in the city as Willo continues his search, but he finds things he never knew about his father. He is the leader of an underground following of people who believe there is a better life away from what they know. A return to how it was before…
(Future, Family, Poverty, Future, Dystopian, Revolution)
Author – Catherine Norton
Age – 10+
With an idea from a true event, Crossing is about living on one side of a wall that divides their country – as in East and West Berlin. The author says it isn’t set in any particular time.
This story is about doubt. About a young girl called Cara growing up and realising maybe everything she has been told isn’t all true.
(Future, Friendship, Mystery, Conflict, Poverty, Doubt, Historical, Love, Murder, Secret, Crime)
Author – Mary Hooper
Age – 13+
London. 1861. The time of Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria. But also a time of terrible poverty and hardship. Grace Parkes and her sister Lily live this life of daily hand to mouth existence.
The story begins with Grace hiding her tiny baby’s body in a woman’s coffin at a cemetery – just so it doesn’t have a pauper’s grave.
She returns home to Lily promising herself a new start in life – a new beginning. But what follows is a loss of her home, her freedom and nearly even Lily. But there is something she doesn’t know – Something that will change their lives forever. Her father who left for America to find work has left them a fortune in his will. How will she claim what’s rightly hers and free herself of the family who is trying to claim it for themselves?
The cover of this book does not do it justice – proving the age old adage – Do not judge a book by its cover.
The Victorian setting for this novel is so richly written, I could almost smell the manure covered streets, and feel the damp London fog and the hunger of the characters. The ending is a page turner, wonderfully wrapping up the several threads of the story.
(Victorian, Historical, Courage, Grief, Poverty, Loss, Courage)