The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Joan Skraggs is a heroine who siezes her destiny with both hands. At the beginning of the story, set in 1911,  Joan’s mother has been dead for three years. Joan believes that her mother, a delicate woman, died of overwork on the farm. Joan has a sense that if she, too, remains on the farm, a life of thankless drudgery awaits her. Her embittered father treats Joan and her brothers like laborers, not family members. Joan remembers that her mother, who always tended the chickens, was also allowed to keep the egg money, the profit from selling the chickens’s eggs. Now that Joan is tending the chickens, she asks her father if she, too, may have the egg money. This request produces an eruption of anger from her father, who denies the request. Even worse, Joan’s father commits a cruel act against his daughter which causes her to lose faith in life in her father’s household. Joan’s legacy from her late mother is a sense of faith in herself and her destiny. Joan’s teachers at school confided in her mother that Joan was a quick learner and an excellent student. Her mother cherished a dream that Joan would become a schoolteacher, a respected profession. Her mother had foreseen that day when her daughter would need help, and she might not be there to offer it, so she hid the money she had put aside for Joan in the skirt of a handmade doll, Joan’s beloved Belinda.

Joan abandons the farm in secret and sets out for the big city, in this case Baltimore, Maryland. After an exciting train ride during which she is treated like a young lady, Joan lands on the streets of Baltimore, only to realize she does not know where she can go for shelter and safety. Worn out from her adventures, she falls asleep on a bench in a public park, only to be awakened there after dark by a concerned young man. At first Joan is reluctant to accompany him, but he assures her that his mother can help her. Joan senses that he is a sincere friend and follows him to his home, where his mother, who is used to her son bringing cats and dogs home, welcomes the lost young woman.

Joan decides to create a new identity to match this new life. She takes the name Janet Lovelace, and tells her rescuers, the Rosenbach family that she is eighteen years old, when in fact she is only fourteen. Mrs. Rosenbach hires the intrepid girl as a servant in the household.  As a Catholic in a Jewish household, Joan/Janet dwells on the differences in their cultures and religion and comes to respect Judaism, and particularly the patriarch of the family, Mr. Rosenbach, who has such great faith in America. It is Mr. Rosenbach who encourages “Janet” to continue her education by allowing her free rein in his library and the time to read.

Events in the Rosenbach household are complicated by their son, David, who wants to live in Paris and beccome an artist. His family wishes that he were willing to take over his father’s department store. David takes Joan/Janet to the opera and gives her the gift of a red umbrella. Janet falls in love with him, and learning that he is leaving town, visits his bedroom at night to say good bye. They are discovered by the family’s housekeeper, who assumes the worst of the young people, though David defends himself and Janet from these accusations, which his parents eventually believe.

In the meantime, Janet’s father back on the farm has discovered her whereabouts and written to her.  It is not a kind letter and Janet remains convinced that her future is ahead of her, not behind her. Mr. Rosenbach, who has founded a school, sponsors Janet as a student. Her mother’s legacy is fulfilled, and Janet looks forward to completing her education and anticipating life’s further adventures.

Like a Love Story

“Like a Love Story” is about friends, family, acceptance, finding love, and so much more. It is 1989 in New York City, and Reza just moved to the city after his mom remarried and started his last year of high school. He knows deep down he is attracted to men, but he is afraid of admitting the truth out of fear that his mom won’t understand and that he could contract AIDS – a pandemic disproportionately affecting the gay community.

Reza’s fears are challenged like they have never been before when he meets Art and Judy, who attend his high school. Art is also gay, but he is out and proud. He also is member of ACT UP – an activist organization protesting government inaction over the AIDS crisis. Judy is Art’s best friend and an aspiring fashion designer. All three feel out of place in their high school and the larger world. All three are searching for love and acceptance from their families and each other. Reza begins to date Judy to hide his true feelings for Art. Judy eventually learns the truth about Reza and Art, and it tests all three of their relationships.

“Like a Love Story” is not just about finding acceptance from the families are born into but also finding and creating families that we choose for ourselves.

Peggy’s Letters

Fans of Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life, know that people in London, England commonly lost their homes to bombings during World War II. But if someone did lose their home this way, what was life after that like?

In the first few pages of Peggy’s Letters, while in line at the butcher shop to get sausages with their rations, ten-year-old Peggy’s home is demolished by a bomb. Though thankfully, her mother, baby brother and she are safe, they no longer have a home. And Peggy’s precious biscuit (cookie) tin filled with letter to her father is lost to the rubble. All her family has now is a pram (stroller), sausages and each other. In one of Tumblebook’s great read-alouds, join Peggy in navigating her new normal living at her gruff grandad’s home and attending a new school. The British voice actor providing audio helps the reader become even more immersed in the story. Don’t miss out!

Follow this video tutorial on how to access free Tumblebooks! And click here to follow instructions on downloading and using the Tumblebook app!


Queen of the Sea

Fantastic story of a queen in exile as told by a young girl raised in the nunnery that is her prison. Thrilling and full of unexpected twists and turns, this gorgeously illustrated graphic novel is a joy to read. This story is based on the early life of Queen Elizabeth I, and her kingdom of Albion is clearly modeled on England. The author loves history; and you will be so glad she does! Can’ t wait for the next installment.


Stone River Crossing by Tom Tingle

Martha Tom,  a Choctaw girl, crosses the river and befriends Lil’ Mo whose enslaved family works on a plantation in the Southeastern United States in the early 1800’s.  Soon after, Lil’ Mo’s family is threatened with forced separation.  Told with humor, warmth and heart, this story has a climax based on Choctaw folklore, told with magical realism. Fascinating and compelling. 

Tom Tingle is an Oklahoma Choctaw who’s traveled back to Mississippi  to learn stories from those members of the tribe that resisted relocation. This story is influenced by those tales. Whites, Blacks and Native Americans have in our past joined together to support all “good people” and, Mr. Tingle implies,  we can do it again.


The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter

Wonderful companion novel to The Mad Wolf’s Daughter (2018), this book shares Drest’s story as she struggles with the dual challenges of deciding how to cope with the price on her head — and with her place in the family whom she rescued in the The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. In order to remove the threat to her life, she needs to help her friend Emerick the Prince of Faintree regain his position as Lord Faintree. What can a poor lass do to save her own life? It is a swashbuckling adventure with fire, swords, dangerous river battles, and tests of bravery and friendship and loyalty. Don’t miss it!

Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher

This is a fictional story that takes as its starting point the real polar bear that was given to King Henry III of England by King Haakon IV of Norway in 1252.  Who might the bear’s Norwegian keeper have been? Why did he stay in England to care for the now royal bear?

By turns sweet and  terrifying, this story of pirates, long sea voyages, and the hope for freedom and family,  is about a bond between an ice bear and the boy who is rescued by her.







Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay

Hilary McKay has written a historical novel of WWI, with the endearing Clarry Penrose as main character. Clarry’s mother died in childbirth so she’s never known a mother’s love. But she loves her brother fiercely and loves her cousin Rupert in Cornwall whom she sees every summer. She’s determined to fend for herself and get an education, even though her father feels a life of dependence would be more respectable. Then war breaks out and Clarry is eventually called to unexpected and heartbreaking acts of heroism just to keep her family together. Startling, gorgeous, painful — one of 2018’s best books!

Perfect for fans of Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo, The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson.

(This book is simultaneously published in the UK under the title The Skylark’s War.)

Island War by Patricia Reilly Giff

Book CoverIzzy comes to the island with her birder mother after the death of her father; Matt reluctantly accompanies his aloof father, engaged in military intelligence. Izzy and Matt are secretly left behind while the Japanese soldiers evacuate and occupy the island, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Will Matt and Izzy survive? Or will the soldiers discover them? This book is part history, part survivalist fiction, part dog story, and all gripping. Quick, fascinating and heartfelt, written by one of our master storytellers.

Vango: Between Sky and Earth by Timothee de Fombelle

Murder, forbidden islands, Zeppelins, Vango, is nonstop thrill ride. Set in pre-World War II Europe, we first meet Vango as he is about to become priest. But, the outdoor ceremony is interrupted as the police storm in looking to arrest Vango for murder. Before the police can grab him Vango is on the run, or more like on the climb. He scales the cathedral and then makes his way to safety. Soon, we find that Vango is on the run not just from the police, but from other agents as well. As a small child, Vango and his nanny washed up on the shore of a small Italian island. The nanny and Vango have no memory of their past or where they came from. All Vango knows is that he’s always felt followed, paranoid and now all his fears are coming true. As Vango is escaping, you read about a Zeppelin flying overhead, a girl wiping a tear from her eye the crowd as she spies a mysterious man she’s seen before. All of these pieces come together in this tale which, jumps between characters, time and locations to make a brilliant story full of twists, turns and mysteries.

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