The Midwife’s Apprentice

The girl known only as Brat has no family, no home, and no future until she meets Jane the Midwife and becomes her apprentice. As she helps the sharp-tempered Jane deliver babies, Brat–who renames herself Alyce–gains knowledge, confidence, and the courage to want something from life: “A full belly, a contented heart, and a place in this world.” Medieval village life makes a lively backdrop for the funny, poignant story of how Alyce gets what she wants. A concluding note discusses midwifery past and present. A Newbery Medal book.

How I Learned Geography

A 2009 Caldecott Honor Book. Having fled from war in their troubled homeland, a boy and his family are living in poverty in a strange country. Food is scarce, so when the boy’s father brings home a map instead of bread for supper, at first the boy is furious. But when the map is hung on the wall, it floods their cheerless room with color. As the boy studies its every detail, he is transported to exotic places without ever leaving the room, and he eventually comes to realize that the map feeds him in a way that bread never could. Based on the artist’s childhood memories of World War II.

Guttersnipe

Early in the twentieth century, ten-year-old Ben and his family live in the poorest part of their city with other Jewish immigrants. There is never enough money to make ends meet, so Ben, determined to do his part, lands a job delivering hat linings to a hat factory after school. He sets out on his boss’s bicycle feeling strong and free, and has a grand time until, on his way up Hill Street, he gets a harsh comeuppance, one that hurts his body and threatens to destroy his dreams as well. Based on the experiences of the author’s father and illustrated in Emily Arnold McCully’s signature style, this book celebrates a boy who nearly loses hope, but then learns that the future shines bright and full of second chances.

Ivy

Ivy is used to being overlooked. The youngest in a family of thieves, scoundrels, and roustabouts, the girl with the flame-colored hair and odd-colored eyes is declared useless by her father from the day she is born. But that’s only if you look at her but don’t see. For Ivy has a quality that makes people take notice. It’s more than beauty — and it draws people toward her.

Which makes her the perfect subject for an aspiring painter named Oscar Aretino Frosdick, a member of the pre-Raphaelite school of artists. Oscar is determined to make his mark on the art world, with Ivy as his model and muse. But behind Ivy’s angelic looks lurk dark secrets and a troubled past — a past that has given her an unfortunate taste for laudanum. And when treachery and jealousy surface in the Eden that is the artist’s garden, Ivy must learn to be more than a pretty face if she is to survive.

Julie Hearn, author of The Minister’s Daughter and The Sign of the Raven, has created a memorable tale of nineteenth-century England with a character destined to take her place alongside Dickens’s Pip and Oliver Twist.