Children of Exile by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Children of Exile

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016

There are many rules in Fredtown, and sometimes it’s hard for Rosi to follow them. It seems like Edwy, the other twelve-year-old in Fredtown, doesn’t even try. But Rosi knows the rules are meant to ensure that everyone gets along and lives respectfully together. In fact, life in Fredtown with her Fred-parents is pretty great, except for the fact that it’s not her real town or her real parents. Rosi has known this all her life; nevertheless, she’s shocked when she learns that all the kids in Fredtown are going home to the real parents they left when they were newborns.

Rosi has a million questions. Why have they been raised in Fredtown since they were tiny babies? If she does have real parents in another town, why haven’t they come to get her before now? If the town her parents live in is too dangerous for kids like Rosi and her brother, why are the kids being sent back there now? Rosi takes very seriously her responsibility to help the younger kids through the trip. But as soon as they leave Fredtown, Rosi begins to question all she’s ever been taught by the Freds and everything she thought she knew. Nothing in Fredtown has prepared her for her real parents or life in the town she should call home.

Grippingly written, Margaret Patterson Haddix’s Children of Exile takes readers through a dark adventure which asks big questions. Readers will be swept up not only by Rosi, her brother BoBo, Edwy, and the other children of exile, but also by questions of respect, justice, judgment, and duty as they follow Rosi through the discoveries and trials of her new life.

The first book in a series, Children of Exile’s compelling characters and soul-searching dilemmas will appeal to middle grade readers. They’ll love Rosi’s spunk and independence and hate the injustice of decisions that are made for her and for the other children. Children of Exile provides great fodder for debates about the right course of action in a situation in which humanity’s continuing existence is at risk.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Friday’s post will review the second book in the series, Children of Refuge.

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Fall in One Day by Craig Terlson

Fall in One DayBlue Moon Publishers, 2017.

Joe Beck’s best friend, Brian, has disappeared with his father in a mysterious incident. Strangely, in Joe’s small town on the Canadian prairies in 1973 the only thing on the news is the Watergate trials in the states. The news says nothing about fifteen-year-old Brian’s disappearance and there’s little evidence that the adults are actually working to find him. Amid this background of untrustworthy adults, Joe’s uncertain what to do. But when he gets a call from his missing friend, Joe becomes determined to uncover the truth and save him.

Before I began reading Fall in One Day I wondered whether teen readers today would be interested in a book set in the 1970s, but I was quickly drawn into the story and I think many teens would be, too. Terlson weaves historical events: Watergate, LSD use, old movies, into themes that will always strike a chord with teenagers as Joe questions the trustworthiness of adults, one’s responsibility toward one’s friends, and the complications of becoming an individual within a larger society. Joe is a sympathetic character whose loyalty and intelligence lead him to investigate and solve the mystery of his friend’s disappearance.

I received an electronic advance reader copy of Fall in One Day from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman

One Good Thing About AmericaHoliday House, 2017.

When Anaïs comes to America, things are very different from her life back home in Congo. Her family is split up, people don’t speak in French, and the food is very strange. But Anaïs’s grandmother asked her to write letters in English and to include in each letter one good thing about America, and Anaïs is determined to keep her promise.

Starting on the first day of fourth grade, Anaïs writes often to Oma. At first, writing in English is hard, and finding good things to say about America is even harder. Sometimes worries about her Papa, her brother Olivier, and Oma overshadow the good things that are beginning to happen for Anaïs. But over time, Anaïs begins to make friends, build a community, and find many good things about America.

Told in compelling letters from Anaïs to her grandmother, One Good Thing About America is an important book for children to read today. Though Ruth Freeman is not herself an immigrant, her work as a teacher of English Language Learners in Maine has helped her to put her finger on the pulse of child immigrants in America today, and her compassion has allowed her to show the complexity of immigrating to a country in which the language, the customs, and the expectations are all completely unknown. The story includes not only Anaïs’s experiences, but also some insight into immigrants from Iraq, Somalia, and Libya. In my opinion, Freeman soft pedals the frictions and misunderstandings that are likely to occur between children in school, perhaps equally in service to other elements of the story and in order to keep the focus on the many other challenges immigrants must face. For me, this decision works and makes One Good Thing About America a hopeful and heartwarming read.

I’d recommend this novel as a classroom or bedtime read-aloud or for students to read on their own. This debut novel will provoke great discussions between parents and children, teachers and students, and (dare I hope?) politicians and constituents.

I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.