The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron (originally published 1987) is a clever early chapter book about a boy and his younger brother, along with the crazy stories Julian makes up to explain the world around him.

When seven-year-old Julian does not know the answer to his three-year-old brother Huey’s questions, he makes up stories! For example, he tells his brother that a catalog is a book to order cats from, and they are sent through the mail. His imagination is ripe and the stories crafted in to his adventures are fun for the young reader. In the first chapter, I was concerned when the kids hid from Dad, afraid of the punishment, but the “beating” and “whipping” in store for the pudding-eating boys was just the right kind!

I was delighted to see such a clever and obviously enduring story (it’s almost 30 years old) for the early chapter book crowd. Although my son reads at a high reading level, sometimes he just needs something short and sweet, about a boy just his age. He read this one quickly and found it quite funny. I look forward to checking out the sequels to Julian’s crazy stories as well!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene (Dutton Books, 2014) is both an existential novel about the meaningless of life as well as an sensitive exploration of the importance of friendship in the midst of the seemingly meaningless.

Hazel is a 16-year-old girl with cancer, miraculously kept alive by a “miracle” drug that could stop working at any time for her. Stuck at home for years, Hazel has learned to distance herself from many relationships and friends, all the while reading her favorite books, studying hard, and taking courses at the local college. She is content, but as she has pointed out, a side-affect of cancer is often depression, so she has her moments.Continue Reading

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

Sometimes a clever and intriguing story line makes a novel great. Sometimes, it is the interaction of a number of interesting characters. And other times, a novel is great because because of the carefully developed setting that gives life to the situations and characters. In One Came Home (January 2013, Knopf Books for Young Readers), Amy Timberlake manages to win in all three ways. Continue Reading

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson

The Great Gilly Hopkins is not an easy book to read. Gilly is a child in a difficult situation. She is a child without a family, moved through the foster care system. She does not make it easy for her foster parents, because she believes that her mother loves her and needs her. She dreams of the happy reunion with her mother, who she has not seen for at least 8 years.

Paterson has a way of writing tear-jerker novels that deal with difficult issues that children face. This book is no exception. It takes a talented writer to capture a difficult, cranky kid in a frustration situation and somehow still manage to make her someone we want to root for. Paterson does that in this book.Continue Reading