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June 2023

When Jamie’s father leaves their family, and his aunt Saphy has an accident that leaves her needing a caretaker, Jamie and his mom move to northern Michigan to live with, and care for, his aunt. Suffering from a head injury, Aunt Saphy can’t remember anything day to day. Jamie has a dark secret that he’d love to forget, but he can’t. With the help of a new friend, Audrey, Jamie sets out to help his aunt, but ends up finding answers of his own.

This book was phenomenal. Weeks has woven together Jamie’s and his aunt Saphy’s stories in a way that reminds me of Gary Schmidt’s books.While not as rich in historical detail as Schmidt, Weeks develops her characters and reveals the plot at just the right pace. I also love how she strikes the perfect balance of Jamie being alone with his secret, without making all of the adults in his life completely incompetent. Highly recommended for readers of all ages.

Iris is an orphan, sent to live with her aunt and cousin. From the beginning, Iris struggles to fit in with her new life. Her only comfort comes from her aunt’s goats, for which Iris is responsible. Things go from bad to worse when Iris’ aunt threatens the goats, and Iris determines to take a stand to protect them.

The suspense of this book just about killed me. From the opening pages, you know what will happen to Iris, but not how she gets to that point. For the rest of the book, you are left anticipating the worst. While the plot was engrossing, there were points throughout the book when it became too intense for me and I had to put the book down for awhile. Overall, it was a great story and I was inspired by Iris’ courage and resilience.

Kyra is 13 years old when her community’s leader orders her to marry her 60 year old uncle and become his 7th wife.  With her family unable to rescue her, Kyra’s only hope for escape is herself.

This book was exciting and tense.  Kyra is a strong girl, and I wanted her to be free from the cult in which she was trapped.  At times, I felt as if the violence and control in the cult was over the top.  I was curious to know if the cult, its beliefs and its rules were based at all on real situations.

Billy can hear spirits, longs for his absent father, and wants a place to call home.  He must survive a cruel orphanage director, strike breakers at the coal mines and life on the road with the circus before he finds a place to belong.   A great read for late elementary/early middle school.

A fictional book, based on the real-life Iqbal Mashih.  As a child, Iqbal was forced into slavery in a carpet factory.  He escaped and dedicated the rest of his life as a free child to helping other children escape.  This is a short, powerful book.   Although it’s supposed to be for children ages 8-12, I would use caution when reading it with younger children.  It gives a very accurate portrayal of modern day slavery, and deals with issues that could be very frightening for children.  With some care, it would be an excellent addition to a discussion of freedom, courage and slavery.

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