If you’re looking for something to read aloud to your kids, I highly recommend Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier. It’s a wonderful book that will appeal to both kids and adults.
Set in Victorian London, Sweep is the story of an 11-year-old orphan named Nan. Nan was raised by a kindly sweep, who fed her story soup when there was no food and taught her to see the wonder in the world. But when she was six years old, he disappeared, leaving only his hat and a warm lump of char. Since then, she’s worked for a cruel sweep as a climber, a dirty and dangerous job. One day, she’s caught in a chimney fire, and she thinks that’s the end for her. Instead, it’s the beginning of a new adventure with her unlikely savior, a soot golem she names Charlie.
This book is a heartbreaking story about poverty, child labor, anti-Semitism, and sacrifice. It’s also a heartwarming story about friendship, love, and a life of purpose. And it’s a delightful story about Nan and Charlie’s time together in the House of One Hundred Chimneys. Larrabee and I both loved it.
Max and the Midknights is a medieval adventure story by Lincoln Pierce, the author of the Big Nate series.
Max’s Uncle Budrick is a troubadour, who travels around singing, juggling, and playing the lute. And Max is an apprentice troubadour who dreams of being a knight.
When the evil King Gastley forces Uncle Budrick to become his court jester, it’s up to Max and a group of kids who call themselves the Midknights to save the day. To do so, they’ll have to use all their talents and face all sorts of dangers.
Like the Big Nate novels, this story is told in a combination of text and comic panels. It’s fast-paced and funny with everything you could want in a medieval adventure from swords to sorcery to dragons. Larrabee and I both liked it a lot.
I don’t know why it took me twenty-five years to read The Giver by Lois Lowry. It’s so good.
It’s the story of 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in what seems like a utopian community. At the Ceremony of Twelve, when his classmates are given their Assignments, roles like Birthmother, Instructor, or Laborer, Jonas is not assigned. Instead, he is selected at the next Receiver of Memory and is apprenticed to a man who calls himself The Giver. As he learns his new role, he begins to understand that when his community suppressed its bad memories (war, poverty, pain), it also gave up good memories (color, music, strong emotion)
The Giver won the Newbery Medal in 1994, and I’ve picked it up in the bookstore or library many times since then (including when the movie version came out in 2014). It was Larrabee who finally prompted me to read it, though. His teacher recommended it, and he decided he needed to read since it has also been suggested by someone at camp last summer. So maybe it’s one of those books that needs multiple recommendations. If so, let this blog post be the one that pushes you over the edge. It’s the type of story that will linger in your thoughts.
The other books in The Giver Quartet are Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son, but they are companion books rather than sequels to Jonas’s story. Larrabee has enjoyed the second and third books. We also enjoyed the movie, although it’s no substitute for the book in this case.