In this historical fantasy novel, praised as a “rich, omen-filled journey that powerfully shows love and its limits*” and “propulsive, wise, and heartbreaking,”** Ziva will do anything to save her twin brother Pesah from his illness–even facing the Angel of Death himself. From Sydney Taylor Honor winner and National Jewish Book Award finalist Sofiya Pasternack. Pesah has lived with leprosy for years, and the twins have spent most of that time working on a cure. Then Pesah has a vision: The Angel of Death will come for him on Rosh Hashanah, just one month away. So Ziva takes her brother and runs away to find doctors who can cure him. But when they meet and accidentally free a half-demon boy, he suggests paying his debt by leading them to the fabled city of Luz, where no one ever dies–the one place Pesah will be safe. They just need to run faster than The Angel of Death can fly… (*Publishers Weekly, starred review; **Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
In ancient China, a young musician named Yu Boya gained fame for his talents. On the night of the Moon Festival, he encounters a mysterious woodcutter who is also a musician and admires Boya’s most famous song: Lofty Mountains and Flowing Water. Their friendship deepens and Boya vows to play the song for his new friend every year on the festival night. But the next year, upon hearing of his friend’s death, Boya smashes his instrument and never plays again. To this day, the word for “close friendship” means “understanding the music.”
The Blue Bird’s Palace
Natasha lives a simple life with her father, but when she is granted a wish and makes the selfish choice to live in a palace, the guardian of the Blue Forest transforms her into a blue bird and she learns to be grateful and share.
After something bad happens, a boy feels sad and gray. Mom and Aunt Cheryl try to talk about it, but he feels like running away. So he picks up a shovel and starts digging a tunnel from his room, deep down and into the backyard. Out there, far from the lights of the house, it’s dark enough that he could disappear. But the quiet distance also gives him the space he needs to see his family’s love and start returning home. As he heads back, the journey upward is different. He notices familiar details and tunes into his senses. The tunnel isn’t so scary this time. The boy emerges into his room just as Mom peeks in. When she notices a twig in his hair, he is ready to talk about the tunnel and finds warmth in her gentle acknowledgment: “You came back.” Love, connection, and slow healing, and are full of details that offer a glimpse into the lives of substantial and relatable characters.
Featured in WOW Review Volume XIV, Issue 4.
Twelve-year-old Nozomi lives in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. She wasn’t even born when the bombing of Hiroshima took place. Every year Nozomi joins her family at the lantern-floating ceremony to honor those lost in the bombing. People write the names of their deceased loved ones along with messages of peace, on paper lanterns and set them afloat on the river. This year Nozomi realizes that her mother always releases one lantern with no name. She begins to ask questions, and when complicated stories of loss and loneliness unfold, Nozomi and her friends come up with a creative way to share their loved ones’ experiences. By opening people’s eyes to the struggles they all keep hidden, the project teaches the entire community new ways to show compassion.
Almond: A Novel
Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother provide him with a safe and content life. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful Post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say “thank you,” and when to laugh.
In southeastern Nigeria, twelve-year-old Mnamdi is determined to avenge his police chief father, who was murdered while triyng to rid the town of criminals, but Nnamdi feels powerless until he receives a magical object which gives him superpowers.
After the events of Wicked Fox, Somin is ready to help her friends pick up the pieces of their broken lives and heal. But Jihoon is still grieving the loss of his grandmother, and Miyoung is distant as she grieves over her mother’s death and learns to live without her fox bead. The only one who seems ready to move forward is their not-so-favorite dokkaebi, Junu.
A Stopwatch From Grampa
Loretta Garbutt uses subtlety and sensitivity to explore the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in this moving picture book story of loss. It features a gender-neutral main character (no first name or pronouns are given) making the story universally relatable. This is a perfect choice for fostering discussions with children about their emotions, particularly the feeling of loss. It also offers a poignant representation of an intergenerational relationship between a grandfather and grandchild. Carmen Mok’s expressive and thoughtful illustrations employ a limited color palette to convey the character’s emotional trajectory. There are curriculum applications here in social-emotional development as well as character education lessons in caring and resilience.
With A Star In My Hand: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero
A novel in verse about the life and work of Ruben Dario, a Nicaraguan poet who started life as an abandoned child and grew to become the father of a new literary movement. Includes historical notes.