Annie never goes anywhere without being prepared. She wears a bicycle helmet, sometimes even when she’s not on a bicycle. She carries lots of band-aids. She checks for black widow spiders. She doesn’t ride her bike fast or climb too high and she always, always wears sunscreen. Annie even does research looking up the symptoms of diseases in the medical encyclopedia so she can know right away if she’s got something weird.
Annie knows there’s a lot of dangerous stuff in the world and if you don’t look for it, it might get you while you’re not paying attention. Annie wants no more surprises. She’s had one surprise and that’s enough. Her older brother Jared suddenly died from an undiagnosed heart problem. Her parents, her friends, even her friend’s dad who is a doctor…everyone keeps telling Annie not to worry so much, that she’s just fine. But they all thought her brother was just fine too.
The thing is, it’s hard to be so careful all the time and it isn’t any fun either. Annie can’t grow up covered in band-aids and walking around in a bicycle helmet. Luckily, she finds a kindred spirit in her new neighbor, Mrs. Finch, who has also lost a person close to her. Sometimes it takes a good friend who understands to help you find your smile and have fun again. Author: Lisa Graff
Abby doesn’t like homework much. She thinks she’s doing just enough to get by until she gets called into the principal’s office and learns that she has fallen below “get by” and is in danger of having to repeat sixth grade.
It’s February. In order to pass, Abby has to get a B or better on EVERY assignment and test in EVERY subject. For extra credit, she has to write a pen pal in another country, make a bulletin board display of the letters and do an oral report on the experience in front of her class.
Sadeed Bayat works hard at his homework. In fact, he is considered the best student in his class. He is definitely the best English speaker and writer. When a letter from America arrives at his village in Afghanistan, the village elders look to Sadeed to write a letter back. They also look to Sadeed to Represent their village well. But not everyone is happy about the letters. One person in Sadeed’s village sees the American stamps on the letters and is outraged - outraged enough to threaten Sadeed and his family.
This is the story of an unconventional friendship full of surprises for the two letter writers, as well as the adults who put them up to it. A great story of an international friendship that could come straight from today’s headlines. Author: Andrew Clements
If you like the idea of kids learning about each other, try Faith, Hope & Ivy June. The two girls both live in Kentucky, but when they trade places, they learn that their lives are a world apart. If you are interested in the Middle East, try Trouble in Timbuktu or The Seven Keys of Balabad.
Miranda is in the sixth grade and lives in an apartment building in New York City. The school year is moving along pretty much like any other until the Friday Miranda comes home from school and discovers her apartment door unlocked…and the spare key missing from its secret hiding spot. Miranda’s mom is immediately concerned and has the lock on the door changed.
On Monday, Miranda discovers a note hidden in her backpack:
M, This is hard. Harder than I expected, even with your help. But I have been practicing, and my preparations go well, I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter. Second, please remember to mention the location of your house key. The trip is a difficult one. I will not be myself when I reach you.
If the spare key was stolen on Friday, why would someone ask where it was hidden on Monday? It’s already gone. Weird. As Miranda’s mom says, “Someone with the key wouldn’t have to ask where the key is. It makes no sense.”
What’s weirder is Miranda keeps fiinding more notes, and the second one starts out “Miranda” not “M,” so the notes are definately for her. The writer of the notes knows things no one else should know. And then the notes start to mention things that haven’t happened…yet. When the notes start to predict what happens later, that’s when things start to get really interesting.
This story is a puzzle. It’s the kind of story you want to read again to catch how all the puzzle pieces fit together. The author had me really guessing until the very end. Author: Rebecca Stead 2010 Newbery Medal Winner
Ivy lives in the mountains in a tiny house with her Grandparents in Thunder Creek, Kentucky. She takes a long bus ride to school everyday. Her house doesn’t have an indoor bathroom.
Catherine lives in a large house in Lexington, Kentucky. Catherine’s mom drives her to school everyday. Her house has four bathrooms.
It’s hard to imagine that these girls are alive at the same time, since their way of life seems so different. Ivy seems like a girl from the past, but she isn’t. Their different ways of life are the reason each girl has been chosen to represent her school in an exchange program. Ivy will go live with Catherine for two weeks and then Catherine will go live with Ivy for two weeks. Can these two girls with such different lives find anything in common? Can they be friends?
As part of the exchange, each girl is asked to keep a journal of the time they spend together. The journal entries are part of the story. Ivy writes about finding out that Catherine shares a whole indoor bathroom with just her sister. Catherine writes about the fact that Ivy only washes her hair once a week and that the bathtub is a large tub on the back porch!
I really liked reading how each girl felt as she met and learned to know the other girl’s family. I liked reading about how the girls worried about what school would be like and what the kids would think. In the journals the girls are honest. Sometimes they don’t like what they are finding out and sometimes they do. I really liked the girls’ families and how each one reacted to their visitor.
“Different” doesn’t mean “better” or “worse,” it just means different, and different can be really, really good. Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
If you like the idea of an exchange, try The Whipping Boy or Freaky Friday. In both stories kids trade places just like Catherine and Ivy to walk a mile in someone elses shoes. You also might like Extra Credit. The kids in this story don’t actually trade places, but they do write each other letters to find out about a very different life.
13 year-old Lyza lives in New Jersey in 1968 with her Dad and her hippie sister. Lyza’s mother has abandoned the family and they are trying to keep it together with just the three of them. As Lyza says about the time since her mom left, ”our family began to unravel/like a tightly wound ball of string.” This book is written as a series of poems that make Lyza’s experiences seem even more real. It’s kind of like reading her diary or listening in on her thoughts.
Lyza’s grandfather’s death is another emotional blow for a family already on the edge. While cleaning out his house, Lyza discovers something curious, an envelope labeled, “for Lyza only.” In the envelope are old maps and clues that may lead to the pirate treasure of Capt. Kidd – a treasure that might be buried somewhere in Lyza’s hometown.
Lyza recruits her best friends Malcolm and Carolann to help her understand the clues and old maps. The kids operate in secret, doing their research by day and sneaking out at night to do their digging.
For Lyza, there are some mysteries she can’t solve by herself, like the reason her mother left. Other mysteries, like the whereabouts of Captain Kidd’s treasure, she just might be able to unravel with the help of a few good friends.
This story is set during the Vietnam war. Lyza has a lot of loss around her. Her mom has left, her Grandpa dies and boys from her town are dying in the war. All of this could make a person sink into despair, but instead, Lyza chooses to be alive. She chooses to grab the adventure that is handed to her. I really liked that about her. Life is unpredictable and sometimes very hard. But it IS life and life has all kinds of wonderful things and good surprises in it too. You can’t really have one without the other. I liked reading about a girl who is learning how to handle both. Author: Jen Bryant