November 17, 2017

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Orphans Abound: Conquering Larger-than-Life Hurdles | JLG’s On the Radar

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From Victorian England to modern day America, orphaned children often face struggles that kids with parents rarely confront. However, most middle-grade students will relate to the issues explored in these new fiction titles―from poverty to self-confidence―selected by the editors at Junior Library Guild. In fact, these works may give young readers hope about their own issues, while giving them stories that help them step back from their own realities.

JINKS, Catherine. How to Catch a Bogle. illus. by Sarah Watts. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. ISBN 9780544087088. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

As an orphaned girl in Victorian London, 10-year-old Birdie McAdam could have a worse job, though some would argue that being the bait to catch bogles is not exactly work for the faint of heart. She works as an apprentice for Alfred the Bogler, who catches monsters that eat children. They are very busy, but very successful. When a wealthy lady in their town agrees to pay to watch them work so that she can satisfy her scientific and mythological curiosity, Miss Eames quickly finds the work to be more dangerous than her expectations. Her growing fondness for Birdie and her concerns for the child’s future push her to bargain for Birdie’s education, while putting herself in mortal danger. The first in Jinks’s new trilogy introduces memorable characters in heart-stopping suspenseful action in their fight against evil―both monster and human.

RUNDELL, Katherine. Rooftoppers. illus. by Terry Fan. S & S. 2013. ISBN 9781442490581. JLG Level: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

Not every orphan lives in a facility, or even on the streets. More than one hundred years ago, many parentless children fended for themselves on the rooftops of London. When infant Sophie is rescued by a stranger from the shipwreck that took her parents’ lives, Charles does the best he can to raise the strong-willed girl. He teaches her to “never ignore a possible”―a possibility that may be true. When the government threatens to take the now 12-year-old Sophie to an orphanage so she can be taught to be a proper lady, the eccentric pair slips off to Paris to find the mother that Sophie believes to be alive. Her search unexpectedly leads her to the rooftops where she learns of lives far-removed from hers, but gathers friends who fight for her cause.

SLOAN, Holly Goldberg. Counting by 7s. Dial. 2013. ISBN 9780803738553. JLG Level: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

Willow Chance has lost her parents―twice. Adopted as a baby, she has no memory of her birth parents, and nothing but memories of her adoptive parents. An untimely car accident takes them without warning while Willow is on her way home from a counseling session. Deemed a cheater when she scores a perfect score on a standardized test in 17 minutes, “genius” is the term that the guidance counselor quickly writes in her chart. She makes friends with Mai, the Vietnamese older sister of the boy who is counseled by Dell Duke before her. With the police in Willow’s driveway waiting to tell her the news, Mai takes matters into her own hands. Soon the newly-orphaned girl has a temporary family that consists of a cab driver, a counselor with his own personal issues, and a take-charge nail salon owner. For the gifted girl, counting by 7s cannot bring back the normalcy she expects in her life, but perhaps life has other surprises to offer.

URSU, Anne. The Real Boy. Illus. by Erin McGuire. Walden Pond. 2013. ISBN 9780062015075. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

Oscar cannot remember much about his life before he becomes Master Caleb’s hand. Working in the cellar, he grinds the herbs and plants that will become magical potions and powders. After the apprentice is killed in the forest by a mysterious beast, his master leaves for the continent, leaving Oscar to mind the shop by himself. Apprentice Callie, comes to his aid, as the boy has not had many social experiences and finds reading facial expressions difficult. In exchange for plant knowledge, Callie agrees to coach Oscar about how to interact with people. With both masters mysteriously gone at a time when the village needs them most, it’s up to Callie and Oscar to find a cure for the sick children. With a monster on the loose and magic out of control, can the hand and the apprentice find a way to stop death from reaching the Barrows?

For audio/video versions of these booktalks, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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