The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

When 14-year-old William Kamkwamba’s Malawi village was hit by a drought in 2001, everyone’s crops began to fail. His family didn’t have enough money for food, let alone school, so William spent his days in the library. He came across a book on windmills and figured out how to build a windmill that could bring electricity to his village. Everyone thought he was crazy but William persevered and managed to create a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps. Several years later he figured out how to use the windmill for irrigation purposes.

Mermaid Queen

As a child growing up in Australia, Annette Kellerman was a frail ugly duckling who dreamed of becoming a graceful ballerina. With courage and determination, she confronted a crippling illness to become an internationally known record-setting athlete who revolutionized the sport of swimming for women, a movie star who invented water ballet, and a fashion revolutionary who modernized the swimsuit.

An Elephant in the Garden

Lizzie and Karl’s mother is a zoo keeper; the family has become attached to an orphaned elephant named Marlene, who will be destroyed as a precautionary measure so she and the other animals don’t run wild should the zoo be hit by bombs. The family persuades the zoo director to let Marlene stay in their garden instead. When the city is bombed, the family flees with thousands of others, but how can they walk the same route when they have an elephant in tow, and keep themselves safe? Along the way, they meet Peter, a Canadian navigator who risks his own capture to save the family. As Michael Morpurgo writes in an author’s note, An Elephant in the Garden is inspired by historical truths, and by his admiration for elephants, “the noblest and wisest and most sensitive of all creatures.” Here is a story that brings together an unlikely group of survivors whose faith in kindness and love proves the best weapon of all.

A Girl Named Faithful Plum

In 1977, when Zhongmei Lei was eleven years old, she learned that the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy was having open auditions. She’d already taken dance lessons, but everyone said a poor country girl would never get into the academy, especially without any connections in the Communist Party of the 1970s. But Zhongmei, whose name means Faithful Plum, persisted, even going on a hunger strike, until her parents agreed to allow her to go. She traveled for three days and two nights to get to Beijing and eventually beat out 60,000 other girls for one of 12 coveted spots. But getting in was easy compared to staying in, as Zhongmei soon learned. Without those all-important connections she was just a little girl on her own, far away from family. But her determination, talent, and sheer force of will were not something the teachers or other students expected, and soon it was apparent that Zhongmei was not to be underestimated. Zhongmei became a famous dancer, and founded her own dance company, which made its New York debut when she was in just her late 20s.  In A Girl Named Faithful Plum, her husband and renowned journalist, Richard Bernstein, has written a fascinating account of one girl’s struggle to go from the remote farmlands of China to the world’s stages, and the lengths she went to in order to follow her dream.

Nowhere Girl

Luchi Ann only knows a few things about herself: she was born in a prison in Thailand. Her American mother was an inmate there. And now that her mother has died, Luchi must leave the only place she’s ever known and set out into the world. Neither at home as a Thai, because of her fair skin and blond hair, nor as a foreigner, because of her knowledge of Thai life and traditions, Luchi feels as though she belongs nowhere. But as she embarks on an amazing adventure-a journey spanning continents and customs, harrowing danger and exhilarating experiences-she will find the family, and the home, she’s always dreamed of. Weaving intricate elements of traditional Thailand into a modern-day fairy tale unique unto itself, Nowhere Girl is a beautifully rendered story of courage, resilience, and finding the one place where you truly belong.

The Secret Garden

“The Secret Garden” is the story of Mary Lennox, a sick young girl living in India with her parents. Mary rarely sees her parents though, as her sick and unsightly condition is too much for them to bother with. She is placed in the constant care of Indian servants until an outbreak of cholera kills everyone in the Lennox household except for Mary. Mary returns to Yorkshire to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven. It is here that Mary learns of a secret garden that belonged to the late wife of her uncle. Mary is instantly intrigued and sets out to find this secret garden and what is contained within.

Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert

In early August 2010, the unthinkable happened when a mine collapsed in CopiapÓ, Chile, and 33 miners were trapped 2,000 feet below the surface. For sixty-nine days they lived on meager resources and increasingly poor air quality. When they were finally rescued, the world watched with rapt attention and rejoiced in the amazing spirit and determination of the miners. What could have been a terrible tragedy became an amazing story of survival.