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Chapter Books on the Loss of a Family Member

Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

In thinking about particular trends and themes in books explored during 2020 while serving on ALA’s Notable Children’s Books Committee, I want to share some of my heroes and heroines found within the pages of novels, especially in light of issues of family loss through death and separation. As is a common trait of fiction for adolescent readers, the protagonist is faced with a situation or problem around which the plot develops and the character evolves. The situation is one that is believable and invites the reader into the lives, actions and decisions of characters who experience identity shaping events. While the stories can be emotionally charged and often mirror the increasing complexity of a young person’s life, at times without a definitive conclusion, they do end with hope. So, I was not surprised to find the characters in books I read and discussed in 2020 to be in complicated situations; however, interesting was that most experienced the loss of a family member who played an important role in their life. The loss was through death, separation, or the ability of the person to function in the supportive way that they did prior to a change in health, mental abilities, or other life changes. In spite of and because of their loss, characters became resilient, self-reliant, and self-aware. Readers become immersed in their stories and lives, with the potential of learning more about themselves. A few of the books that continue to resonate in my thoughts follow. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Brother’s Keeper

Cover of Brother's Keeper, depicting a girl and a young boy climbing an icy mountain.
North Korean, 1950. What the world comes to know as the Korean War is imminent. Determined to escape the North Korean regime during the chaotic days at the onset of conflict, the Pak family joins the stream of evacuees headed to South Korea while they feel they have a chance to escape. But then there is a napalm bombing, and the throng of refugees is thrown into turmoil. What happens next is chronicled in Brother’s Keeper, a piece of historical fiction for middle grade students. Continue reading