Dodger is a tosher, a street urchin who lives by finding ‘treasure’ in the sewers of Victorian England. However, his life begins to change the night he rescues a girl who leaps from a moving carriage. As he tries to protect the girl he calls Miss Simplicity, Dodger comes in contact with historical figures such as Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, and Sir Robert Peel. Dodger’s position in society shifts as he gains responsibility and struggles to keep Miss Simplicity safe from her abusive, but high born and powerful European husband.
As usual, Terry Pratchett manages to be humorous and profound while weaving an interesting story. His characters, Dodger especially, are filled with personality and quirky depth. The book is well written, but I enjoyed this more than most, because Pratchett gave a fictional personality to one of my favorite authors. I loved reading about ‘Charlie Dickens’ interacting with the young man he will later use as a pattern for his character Dodger in Oliver Twist. The literary and historical references are fantastic, but it is a fun read even for those who might miss the allusions.
Tess’s life has been ruled by her violin. While she loves the music, she suffers from the pressures placed on all child prodigies. After a crushing failure in her first performance as a soloist, Tess retreats from New York to spend the summer with her father in Montana.
Intertwined with Tess’s story, is the story of Frederick. He is a teenaged homesteader trying to make ends meet in turn of the century Montana. Jeanette Ingold skillfully jumps between the stories of these two young people with similar struggles in vastly different time periods and life styles. Through their experiences, she shows the joy and heartache of finding one’s place in the world and taking on the responsibilities of life. Ingold provides a realistic view of both homesteader life and the struggles of a truly talented musician.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Completely unbelievable, but filled with hope, determination, and family love, Just One Wish is the story of Annika Truman who will go to any length to cure her little brother’s cancer. Although a little far-fetched, this entertaining story is light yet meaningful and heart-felt.
Relying on the power of positive thinking, Annika tells her brother Jeremy that a genie gave her three wishes and she is giving him the final two. She expects her brother to wish for a Teen Robin Hood action figure, but finds herself scrambling when he wishes to meet Teen Robin Hood himself. Most of the book describes Annika’s struggles to get close enough to the teen celebrity and convince him to spend enough time to meet her brother.
With a little predictability, but also a few plot twists, Just One Wish is a good book for those who love a modern and more realistic, magic-less fairy tale. It is perfect for readers 11 and up with some life lessons, but without great depth.
Recommended for girls ages 10-14
Michael Arroyo’s first love in life is baseball and his Little League Team is cruising through the playoffs. However, when some rival coaches become jealous of Arroyo’s talent, their complaining draws unwanted attention. They demand proof of Arroyo’s age, but his lack of birth certificate hides an even bigger problem.
Four months previously, Michael’s father died of a heart attack. Desperate to keep his boys together, Victor Arroyo insisted his death be kept a secret. Now Michael and his older brother are fighting to stay together and out of the sight of social services. Mike Lupica writes about the glory of baseball, but also about the struggle of immigrants in a new country. His writing is perfect for sports-loving teenagers, but includes some deeper questions about life.
This story is the classic tale of sacrificing what you love most in order to give to the ones you love. A short and beautifully written story, this would be most appreciated by children 10 and older.