Junior Teens: (ages 11-14)
By Lois Lowry
There is a new teacher for Littlest One. This teacher, Thin Elderly, is well versed in the art of bestowing dreams. Thin Elderly takes the curious and warm-hearted Littlest One with him on his nightly journeys to an old woman’s house, where they touch objects to gather memories. These memories weave into beautiful dreams for the old woman, easing her loneliness. One night Littlest One and Thin Elderly discover that there is a boy living with the old woman, a troubled and angry foster child named John. Littlest One wants to help John, but the Sinisteeds, dream-givers turned evil, can sense his unhappiness and begin to send terrifying nightmares. It is up to Littlest One, with the help of Thin Elderly, to fight against the overwhelming fear and anger with gentle kindness and gossamer dreams. A story both of a child’s discovery of self-identity and belonging, and the struggle between fear and joy, Lois Lowry’s Gossamer is an exquisitely written fantasy novel.
A Circle of Silver Trilogy
By Maxine Trottier
Maxine Trottier, an award-winning Canadian author and educator, covers over 50 years of early Canadian history in her Circle of Silver trilogy. This historical fiction trilogy has clean content (a few brief kisses), a couple instances of slight violence (descriptions of the Battle of Lake Erie for example), and while not extremely fast-paced, it is well written and historically accurate.
A Circle of Silver Book #1
The trilogy begins in 1760, when 13-year-old John MacNeil, the son of an English lord, travels to assist in mapping the Canadian wilderness. John has never been separated from his twin sister, Jane, before, and as a farewell present she gives him her precious silver ring. In the uneasy times leading up to Pontiac’s Rebellion, John travels and paints the wilderness around the Canadian Great Lakes, making friends with both the British settlers and the Native inhabitants, and learning not only about this new land, but also about the courage and hope that lies within him.
In the second book of the trilogy, John MacNeil, now the guardian of his niece and his younger brother, prepares to send the best friends back to England as tensions grow at the verge of the American Revolution. Before they can leave, 15-year-old Charlotte (also known as Mack) and 13-year-old Jamie MacNeil are kidnapped, and John and some of his closest friends set out to rescue them. In their adventures, Mack and Jamie make friends with Owela, a young Oneidan warrior. They also experience the Canadian wilderness, travel through a soldier’s camp, winter at an Oneida village, and explore the lore of dreams. Encircled ever by the turbulent but beautiful beginnings of Canada, Mack and Jamie learn about family and love, ever constant and more precious than silver.
In the final installment of the trilogy, Edward MacNeil, John’s nephew, is tasked with escorting the sisters Kate and Anne Kimmerling back to their home in the United States. The only problem is that it is 1812, and the war between Canada and the US makes traveling difficult and dangerous for two American girls and the half-British, half-Oneidan youth named Edward. They are shipwrecked, spend a winter at John’s cabin on Lake Erie, and are drawn into the intrigues and tensions of the war, culminating at the Battle of Lake Erie. Edward encounters the great Chief Tecumseth, explores the mystery of Mack’s journal, and struggles with his own identity and loyalty. Edward’s journey not only enables him to confront his fears, identify his strengths, and learn about love, but it also allows him to discover his own place among Canadians, Americans, and Natives.
Senior Teens: (ages 15-19)
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
By Robin McKinley
Robin McKinley, one of the best modern fantasy authors, brings the well-loved fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast to life through her gorgeous writing, stunning descriptions, and realistic characters. Once upon a time there was a rich and well-respected merchant who had three lovely daughters: Grace, Hope, and Honour. Well, Grace and Hope were beautiful as well as kind, but Honour, despite her nickname “Beauty”, was quite plain. When their father looses his fortune, the family moves from the city to a small cottage at the edge of a mysterious forest, where Beauty, her sisters, and her practical brother-in-law work hard to make life pleasant. They come to love their new life, and all is well until the old merchant gets lost in the forest. Beauty who is plain, clever and humorous, determines to save her father, and, with her faithful horse Greatheart, in her father’s place, journeys to the Beast’s castle. But what she discovers there is nothing like she ever imagined: kind-hearted (but invisible) attendants, exquisite gowns, deep and mysterious enchantments, breathtaking garden sunsets, an enormous library full of past and future books, and, of course, the Beast himself. He is ugly, sorrowful, and ever gentle, and Beauty comes to cherish his companionship, but desperately misses her family. This tale, old as time, is delightfully new in Robin McKinley’s thoughtful and gentle retelling.
The History of Emily Montague
By Francis Brooke
The History of Emily Montague is considered the first Canadian novel, published in 1769 by British author Frances Moore Brooke. While The History of Emily Montague is a work of fiction, much of what is described in the series of 228 letters came from Brooke’s own social interactions, and her experience in eighteenth century Quebec. The story takes place in Quebec in the 1760s, where friends, relatives, and lovers write each other letters, describing their daily life, relationships, and scenery of both Quebec and England. The story contains a great deal of social and cultural commentary (insights especially fascinating as they were written by woman of the British upper-class in the 1700s) but the story itself is a ‘romance’, with many of the letters discussing the subject of marriage and love (in strict 1800th century appropriateness, of course). The book is large, the language complicated and rich (think Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice but more so), and the descriptions and moral debates can be tedious. However, when read from a literary, historical, geographical, or social perspective, or just from interest, The History of Emily Montague is fascinating and glorious read.
Link to free e-book: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/brooke/emily/emily.html