Desperate Measures

Vicky has always felt responsible for her mentally disabled twin sister, Rhianna, and their feisty little brother, Jamie. So when the foster care system threatens to split them up, they all run away together, heading for a distant relativeÕs home. After a difficult journey, they arriveÑonly to find strangers living there. With nowhere else to go, they hide in a cave, and must survive by their wits. By the end of their adventure, Vicky is surprised to find that the sister she thought she was protecting is the one who saves her. This touching, funny, fast-paced novel was short listed for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Vicky and Rhianna’s engaging dual-perspective narration offers a refreshing view of people with disabilities, and their wild adventure and fierce family bond will resonate with readers.

Subway Girl

He is shy. Unassuming. Inexperienced. She is Subway Girl. Cool. Unattainable. From the moment he sees her on a Hong Kong subway, Simon is intrigued by Amy, but he doesn’t have the nerve to talk to her. When he finally works up the courage, he realizes he can’t. Because Amy doesn’t speak Chinese, and Simon is failing English. But somehow, Amy and Simon connect, and they find that they understand each other. Enough for Simon to admit that he is dropping out of school. Enough for Amy to confess that she is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s baby. Amy and Simon feel lost in a world so much bigger than they are, and yet they still have each other. In this brilliant debut by P. J. Converse, two unlikely teenagers discover that love has a language all its own.

The Bite of the Mango

The astounding story of one girl’s journey from war victim to UNICEF Special Representative.As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry.But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands.Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously survived. The sweet taste of a mango, her first food after the attack, reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her. With no parents or living adult to support her and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown.In this gripping and heartbreaking true story, Mariatu shares with readers the details of the brutal attack, its aftermath and her eventual arrival in Toronto. There she began to pull together the pieces of her broken life with courage, astonishing resilience and hope.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 3, Issue 4

Waiting For The Rain (Laurel Leaf Books)

Tengo is the 10-year-old son of workers on Oom Koos’s large farm in the Transvaal. He longs to go to school like his friend Frikkie, who visits his uncle’s farm on holidays. But Tengo’s family is too poor to pay for the education that comes free to whites. He finally gets his wish at age 14. Tengo goes to live with his cousin in a squalid township outside Johannesburg and studies furiously. After three years, he is almost ready for college, but a year-long school boycott ruins his chances and he is drawn into the fight against apartheid. When he and Frikkie meet in a violent confrontation, Tengo realizes that he will carry on the struggle for freedom as a scholar, not a soldier. The writing here is powerful, evoking in minute detail daily life and the broad landscapes of the country.

Stones for My Father

The Boer War was disastrous for the British: 22,000 of them died. Close to 7,000 Boers died. Nobody knows how many Africans lost their lives, but the number is estimated to be around 20,000. This tragic, and little remembered, chapter in history is the backdrop for Trilby Kent’s powerful novel.Corlie Roux’s father has always told her that God gave Africa to the Boers. Her life growing up on a farm in South Africa is not easy: it is beautiful, but it is also a harsh place where the heat can be so intense that the very raindrops sizzle. When her beloved father dies, she is left in the care of a cold, stern mother who clearly favors her two younger brothers. But she finds solace with her African maitie, Sipho, and in Africa itself.Corlie’s world is about to vanish: the British are invading and driving Boers from their farms. The families who do not surrender escape to hidden laagers in the bush to help fight off the British. When Corlie’s laager is discovered, she and the others are sent to an internment camp.Corlie is strong and can draw on her knowledge of the land she loves, but is that enough to help her survive the starvation, disease, and loss that befalls her in the camp?

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 5, Issue 2

Nicholas Dane

When fourteen-year-old Nicholas Dane’s mother dies, social services sends him to a home for boys where intimidation and violence keep order. After a number of fights and brutal punishments, Nick thinks that life can’t possibly get any worse . . . until he realizes that the home’s respected deputy head, who has been grooming him with sweets and solace, has something more frightening in mind. Acclaimed writer and truth-teller Melvin Burgess brings us, with Dickensian scope and compelling narrative drive, his most ambitious book yet.

Season of Secrets

Sent by their father to live in the country with their grandparents after the sudden death of their mother, Molly’s older sister Hannah expresses her grief in a raging rebellion while imaginative Molly finds herself increasingly distracted by visions, that seemingly only she can see, of a strange hunt in the nearby forest.

Saraswati’s Way

Leaving his village in rural India to find a better education, mathematically gifted, twelve-year-old Akash ends up at the New Delhi train station, where he relies on Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, to guide him as he negotiates life on the street, resists the temptations of easy money, and learns whom he can trust.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 4, Issue 1