Teenage Refugees from Haiti Speak Out (In Their Own Voices)

These books begin with historical overviews of Haiti, including the reasons for recent political unrest. The first-person narratives of young refugees follow. All of the teens tell why they left their native countries, how they made their journeys, their experiences and difficulties in North America, and if they plan to return to their homelands. The introductions state that the young people were interviewed; it is unclear exactly when these conversations took place. It seems in Haiti as if they occurred prior to the reinstatement of President Aristide.

A Handful of Seeds

One sad day, Grandmother died. “You cannot stay here,” said the man who owned the land. “I have a family ready to move in.” Young Concepcion has no choice but to move to the [barrio] of the nearby city. There she meets children who, in order to survive, must steal the good they eat. But Concepcion has a plan. With back-breaking work she plants a garden amid the rubble, using her grandmother’s legacy: a handful of chili, corn and bean seeds. But her garden is destroyed. Will she have the strength to begin again? Published in collaboration with UNICEF Canada, A Handful of Seeds offers a message of hope on behalf of the thirty million children worldwide who live on the streets of their cities.

The Traitors’ Gate

When his father is arrested as a debtor in 1849 London, fourteen-year-old John Huffman must take on unexpected responsibilities, from asking a distant relative for help to determining why people are spying on him and his family.

Tales of the Monkey King

The first night I went to work at the shelter, the attendant said, “You know they will not rest.” I stood in the doorway of the dormitory crowded with children. In the dark, the nightmares would come, but rest would not. Empowering Mexico’s vulnerable street children is no easy task when the dangers they face are real and many. But there is incredible strength in an unfinished story, especially if that story has a small hero who can overcome great odds. Night after night, Tales of the Monkey King, begun at dark and never finished until the next day, were precisely what the children needed. The brave little monkey, who fought against unspeakable odds but was never conquered, had come from far away to become their hero. Through him, many found the strength and courage they needed to face their living nightmares and cheat the King of Death. Stunning paintings by Brian Deines underscore the message and speak to the hero in everyone.

Useful Fools

Alonso, a dirt-poor teenager living in Peru, helps out at the public health clinic his mother, Magdalena, opened, so that he can see Rosa, the beautiful and wealthy daughter of the clinic’s doctor. Alonso and Rosa are both shattered when Magdalena is assassinated by a revolutionary terrorist organization. Left with no hope, Alonso might be seduced into becoming a guerrilla in the same organization that killed his mother. Rosa becomes disgusted with her father’s complacency and leaves wealth and safety behind to somehow help what is left of Alonso’s family. The story of how love can find its way through poverty and war.

The Road of Bones

In school, Yuri is taught that the revolution liberated his country. He learns how the new leaders are always working for the greater good. But the truth is that life for his family and those around him is a brutal, poverty-stricken struggle. The government does nothing except punish those who protest. And one day, to his shock and horror, Yuri himself is branded an “enemy of the state” simply for dropping a few careless words.

In an author’s note, Anne Fine describes The Road of Bones as an adventure-escape story set in “a sort-of Russia, in a sort-of 1930s, under a Stalin-type leader.” This chilling political thriller follows the frantic footsteps of a teenager on the run, a criminal who hasn’t committed a crime, a young man on a path to discovering the truth about how far he will go in order to survive.

Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and the Strawberries

Flicka, Ricka and Dicka are going wild-strawberry picking, and Mother has promised to pay for every basket they gather. When they stop at a cottage to ask for directions, the girls meet Mary, her baby brother, and their mother. They are very kind, but have patches on their clothes and no milk to drink. After the girls help Mother make strawberry jam, they think of a special way to spend the money they have earned.

Babu’s Song

Bernardi lives with his mute grandfather, Babu, who supports them by making toys. Bernardi wishes he could go to school, but they can’t afford it. When a tourist offers a handsome price for the music box Babu gave him as a present, Bernardi regretfully sells it, giving the money to Babu. Babu uses the money to pay for his grandson’s school, and he starts working on a new music box.