Born Behind Bars

Kabir’s only home has been the jail where he was born.  He lives there with his mom, who is serving time for a crime she did not commit.  The warden changes and this warden follows the rules more strictly.  According to the rules, when Kabir turns nine he will no longer be able to live at the jail. 

As the story opens he only has a few days left there.  On the. day of his birthday he’ll be sent away from the only family he knows:  his mom and their cellmates.  Each of them have taught him important lessons:   how to be safe, the importance of honesty and a belief that he deserves his place in the world. Kabir’s teacher at the prison school also tries to teach him what he will need to know once he is free and living in Chennai, India – how to ride a bus, how to pay for things and how to show respect.  

On the day he turns nine, Kabir is handed over to his “long lost uncle.”  It seems okay at first, but odd too.  Kabir stays alert.  He remembers the lessons of his prison family.  When he realizes his “uncle” is a fraud and going to sell him into labor, Kabir does the only thing he can – runs!

Alone on the streets Kabir wonders how he will survive.  Where will he live?  How will he eat?  Will he ever see his mother again.  Fortunately he meets Rani, another street kid, who is willing to help him answer his questions.  She helps him figure out what to do next in a world that cares very little for homeless orphans who are from the low caste.  It is hard.  It is dangerous. But, with the support of a few people who are willing to see the good in him, Kabir makes his way.   He shows the free world he deserves a place in it … right beside his mom.

Be sure to read the Author’s Note.  Kabir’s story was inspired by an actual event in 2013, and unfortunately, this is not the only one.  Stories like this one, help me understand how important my voice is. Perhaps by becoming more aware and paying closer attention to injustices around us, we can make a difference.  Every kindness matters.  Thank you for all you do.

Happy Reading!📚

If you’re intrigued and want to understand more about kids born and living in prisons, read A Wish in the Dark (review here) or All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook.  If you have titles to add this list please leave them in  a comment.   Thank you.



Solimar: The Sword of the Monarch by Pam Muñoz Ryan tour 15-year old heroine on a magical adventure to rescue her kingdom and save its sacred symbol.

The time for Solimar’s quinceañra and official coronation as princess is fast approaching.  She has mixed feelings about the changes and new responsibilities coming her way.  She loves her family.  She is proud of her heritage and holds deep respect for her elders.  She, as are all the citizens of San Gregorio, is a fierce protector of all the natural wonders around her.  Still she questions and wonders about how “new and different” might strengthen her kingdom rather than diminish it.

While waiting for her grandmother, Solimar slips quickly into the forest to witness a moment in the annual migration of the sacred butterflies.  Though her visit is brief, she is chosen by the monarchs to be their champion.  In return for her protection, Solimar receives a magical gift.  As she is learning how to use this new gift wisely, a neighboring king plots to kidnap her family and force the kingdom under his will.  Solimar, alone, has what it takes to rescue her family and save her kingdom if only she can follow signs with strength, courage and speed.

What a surprising and wonderful story!

Happy Reading. 📚

Amal Unbound ~ Omar Rising

Amal tells her story ~ the story of a 12-year old Pakistani girl with dreams.  She dreams of becoming a teacher, sharing her love for learning and language with all the children of her village   One day she accidentally insults a member of her village’s ruling family and her dream is shattered.

As punishment for her behavior, Amal is forced into servitude.  She must leave her family and friends to go to work for the Kahns at their family estate.  Distraught by this turn of events, Amal gathers her courage and determines to make the best of things.  It is a terrible situation, but she is willing to give her all for her family’s safety and future.

Once at the estate there are many rules Amal must learn – those that govern her life as a servant and those that define her place in the hierarchy of staff.  It is difficult, but Amal is determined to succeed.  Over time, the things Amal observes and learns makes her feels more and more uncomfortable.  She begins to understand how ruthless the Kahn family is willing to be in order to maintain their power and position.  Amal decides, if she’s ever going to see her family again or have any opportunity in her future, she must take action.  If is frightening, but… she finds a way!

Omar, Amal’s best friend, tells his story too.  He has recently  a scholarship to Ghalib Academy Boarding School – a game changer for his life.  He is the son of a servant and this opportunity, he believes will open the door to a whole host of opportunities.  He can’t wait to play soccer, join the science club and discover all the new ideas and information available to him.

He soon learns, however, that there are no sports or clubs for scholarship students.  In fact, there may not be a second year for scholarship students – no matter how hard he tries.  He’s. been set up to fail.  Regardless of what Omar has been told, he decides to do all he can.  He studies endlessly.  He works hard  at his in the kitchen.  He is helpful and kind.  Everyone deserves a chance and he find a way to learn from everyone as he works to build his future.

This combination of kindness, determination, and the relationship building leads Omar forward.  It’s not easy, but he finds a way to change what at first seems to be an impossibly rigged system established to keep “scholarship” kids down.

There is so much to learn from these characters and the struggles they endure – for things we take for granted each day.  I am grateful for what we have and am reminded of the importance of checking in with others – do you have what you need?  Can I be your voice?  Can I find a way to add in?  Can I help?   What can I do to ease the struggles of others?

Happy Reading!📚


Gary Paulsen’s last book ~ so good!

Leif, orphaned at birth, raised as a wharf rat, next as a ship rat, was sent with four of the oldest, crippled crew members and the only other young boy on the ship (bought for a bolt of sail cloth) to set up a fish camp.  The rest of the crew sailed north on a seal hunt.  Those in the fish camp set about catching and smoking salmon.

After they had smoked enough fish the last the entire crew six months, they realized that the main ship was not going to come back for them.  It had been gone too long and so the six,  5-year old Little Carl, 12-year old Leif, and four seasoned seamen, including wise and caring Big Carl, created a cedar dugout large enough for all of them to return to a port to find another ship.  Before they were able to leave the fish camp, a ghost ship drifted into and out of  their bay, silently leaving a deadly sickness.

The older seamen succumbed first.  But before Big Carl became too ill, he gathered a bundle of supplies and pushed Leif and Little Carl out to sea in the canoe, advising them to head North to stay away from the sickness.  While at sea, the boys became ill too.  Leif recovers. Little Carl does not.  After burying Little Carl, Leif follows the old seaman’s advice and paddles North.  Day after day after day after week Leif paddles.  This Long Paddle is full of danger, challenge, constant change and wonder.  Leif observes carefully –  looks for new ways to understand and know – always questions and always learns.  What a journey!  You won’t regret a moment of your time with Leif.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to find a quest of your own.

Happy Reading! 📚

Sorry I was away for so long ~ I had computer issues.  They’re fixed for now.  Phew!📖

How to Get Away with Myrtle

I really like Myrtle.  She is a spunky detective.  If you’re a mystery lover, I know you’ll like her too.   Before the train has left the station in the second book of the series (and I hope it is long), Myrtle is on a new case.

Myrtle has been sent on a “relaxing vacation” by her father.  She is to be accompanied on this trip by Aunt Helena, Miss Judson and Peony – because at the last minute Myrtle just couldn’t leave her cat behind.   Peony may be the only good thing about being on a “vacation” with Aunt Helena at the seaside.   At the train station Myrtle begins observing what is happening all around her –  as any detective would.  When she sees something that seems a bit off, she follows her instincts … and follows.

This is how she makes the acquaintance of Mrs. Bloom, a professional insurance investigator who is aboard this train the to protect the priceless Northern Lights Tiara. Myrtle is looking forward to learning all that she can from the investigator, but before the train reaches its destination, both the tiara and Mrs. Bloom have vanished. 

At the end of the line a dead body Is discovered in the baggage car.  Someone has been murdered—with Aunt Helena’s sewing shears.   The trip is derailed, the local police appear to be inept, Scotland Yard is in no rush to arrive, so Myrtle is the only one following the leads. What’s a smart, bored Young Lady of Quality stranded in a washed-up carnival town to do?  

Readers who already know Myrtle, will know exactly what her choice will be.  If this is your first time with  Myrtle, she will follow the evidence to find out which of her fellow travelers is a thief and a murderer.

There are lots of challenges along the way as you read along with Myrtle and solve this mystery.  I hope there is a  next book with Myrtle.  If there is, I’ll be reading it!.

Happy Reading!📚

The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas Book Review By Ogen Y ~ a guest reviewer  from Northwood Elementary School

The Emerald Atlas is a fantasy/adventure book about 3 kids who are left by their parents,  but are part of a prophecy. The oldest one, Kate, has to take care of her younger siblings, Micheal and Emma. They live in orphanages and they find a magical book called The Atlas. They put an old picture in it and they get teleported to Cambridge Falls in the past, full of magical disasters. But then they lose The Atlas. Can they retrieve it in this magical past of their setting? Read it to find out! If I were to rate this book, I’d say 5 stars out of 5 stars. 2 things I like about this book is that it is so detailed, it can make you actually feel a reaction when reading it, I also like how they were able to add so much story and plot to the 1st book!  One thing I wish was that there could be more length to the book because it was such a good read. Overall, a pretty good book!


Boots completes Kate Hannigan’s The League of Secret Heroes trilogy. (Well, maybe?!.  As the books ends, there is room for more stories with these characters. I would be glad to read them.)   The series presents a blend of history, mystery and superpower action.  They are fun!  The graphic interludes sprinkled throughout are a nod to comic books, important to the era, and the stories.  Each book, Boots, Mask and Cape, celebrates the story of the girls who make the new super-hero group, The Infinity Trinity.  Through them readers learn about different aspects of society during the. World War II era.  One is an Irish immigrant, one is Japanese American and one is African American.

Throughout the series Josie, Akiko. And Mae, discover and grow their powers.  Drawn together by their love of comic book heroes, the girls soon realize something is wrong.  There are plots and spies in the. United States.  Through codes, ciphers and persistence, the girls realize they must do something to help their heroes survive and save their country.

Boots begins in Chicago where the girls discover a Nazi plot to disrupt airplane manufacturing.    Chicago is where Mae’s grandmother and aunts live  Mae’s aunts are pilots who deliver planes from the manufacturing plants to the air strips where they will be launched into service.  The plot becomes personal when the evil Metallic Falcon captures Aunt Willa and Aunt Janet in an attempt to keep the Infinity Trinity from achieving their ultimate goal of finding and freeing Zenobia and the other missing super heroes.

It will take all their courage and skill.  Can they complete their biggest mission yet?


Happy Reading!📚

The Silver Gate

The Silver Gate by Kristin Bailey is set in medieval times, when superstitions ran high, and anything different was seen as an omen or curse.  The people of the village are on edge.  They’ve been dealing with one unexplained hardship after another.  Perhaps, they think, a fairy curse has been set upon them – perhaps, unbeknownst to them,  a changeling lives in the village.  The child must be found and left to die so the rest of the villagers can survive – that is the rumor running throughout the town.

At the start of the story, Elric is running to the village church to get out of torrential spring storm.  The whole village is gathered there for warmth and safety.  Elric is the keeper of the village sheep and he’s lost them all in the storm.  Everyone is cold.  Everyone is angry.  Everyone is working hard.  It is easier to blame the next person for this present. misery.   Elric isn’t looking forward to the cold muddy work of finding the sheep; neither is Hereward the keeper of the town’s pigs.   It seems as though everyone is crowded, uncomfortable and on edge… and then, a baby starts cry.

“Shut him up,” the townspeople yell.  “We’ve been cursed.”

It’s a changeling.”

“Cuthburt take the child and leave it outside where it belongs.  The fairies can just take it back if it’s supposed to live.”

“What does it matter, it’s just a halfwit,” yells Hereward.

That’s all Elric can take.  No one should live in fear of losing their child, half-wit or not.  He helps the mother of the crying baby escape the church mob by throwing a punch at Hereward, the one who in their conversation about lost pigs and sheep had  claimed halfwits had no reason to live.  The brawl was ended by the priest. Elric can’t/won’t explain himself, nor will he apologize, so he leaves.

He leaves to keep his biggest secret.  His mother is hiding and living with his disabled, “halfwit” sister in the forest.  With all the talk or curses, Elric knows he must go and warn them.  What he finds when he arrives sends him forth on a quest he is bound to make to honor the promise he made to his mother, to keep his sister, Wynnfrith, safe.  How can you stay safe when the place you seek is from a fairy tale?  Is it possible that trusting in fairy tales will help Elric and Wynnfrith survive?  Read The Silver Gate  to find out ~ sometimes you have to bring magic of your own to open doors.

This book and its sequel, Into the Nutfell Wood will give you lots to think about.  What gifts matter?  What is the difference between fact and fiction?  What matters most in a life?

Happy Reading! 📚

PS – If you’ve been reading some great books, please share them.  Books are great, but they are better shared.   Leave a comment…write a review… 📖

A Wolf Called Wander

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry is the story of Swift, a yearling wolf, who loves his life:  his den, his family, his pack, his valley.  Each day is full of challenge and wonder.  Swift has so much to learn, and he is excited to learn it all.  He admires his father.  He admires how his father and mother form a perfect team to ensure the pack’s safety and survival. Right from the start, Swift shows his interest in learning, determination and a kind heart.  He watches everything and remembers all he can.  Swift aspires to be as great a pack leader as his father.

One terrible day, too soon of course, Swift is separated from his home, his family and everything he knows by a rival pack.  Their attack claims his family’s territory – he hears that in his father’s final song and howl.  Too soon Swift finds himself alone, left to figure out how to survive.  

From that day on he begins a seemingly endless journey to find a new home and pack.  On his journey, Swift has to deal with many things he has never encountered before – black rivers (roads), spiked vines (barbed wire), and immature wolves who bring danger by acting in ways Swift’s father would never allow

Swift’s journey is full of danger, hunger, and desperate loneliness. The story was inspired by OR-7, a real wolf naturalists tracked in the wild.  Many facts inspire the twists and turns of Swift’s story.  I really liked the  symbiotic relationship Swift had with a scarred raven.  It made me glad that Swift was not totally alone.  It was even better to learn that ravens and wolves do actually work together for real.  

A Wolf Called Wander is a wonder.  It is a great story – based on the life of a wolf who is alive today.  It is written from the perspective of a wolf so we can live right beside Swift in his joy, confusion, fear and sorrow.

Happy Reading! 📚

A Place to Hang the Moon

When A Place to Hang the Moon begins it is 1940 and Anna (9), Edmund (11) and William (12) find themselves orphaned and alone in London.  After the death of their grandmother, the children discover she has left no provision for their guardianship in her will.  What will happen to them now?  Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London be the answer?  Maybe.  Their solicitor develops a “preposterous plan.”  He suggests the children go to the countryside.  Perhaps there, they will find a forever family for themselves.  The solicitor helps the children join the local schoolchildren who are being evacuated to countryside for the duration of the war.  The hope – for the solicitor AND the children –  is to be placed in a temporary home that will last forever if all three of the childre agree on the choice.

The children are determined to stay together, but this proves challenging.  Not many homes are willing to billet three new children.  First the siblings have to deal with the cruel tricks and bullying from their foster brothers.  Next they have to survive the cold realities of poverty, outdoor toilets and gnawing constant hunger.  Always they have to satisfy the head teacher, who did not want them in the first place, and who finds Edmund to be a real trial.

The only comfort in their terrible ordeal is the small lending library and the librarian, Nora Müller.  Every time they arrive at the library there is a warm fire, a kind smile, an extra cookie and just the right set of books.  Anna thinks Mrs. Müller would be an excellent choice for their “forever home”, but her husband is German.  No one knows where he is currently, and some in the village stay away from her and believe she is most unsuitable as a home for children. The boys think she is a good choice, but time will tell.

Time does tell.  Eventually it becomes clear that something must be done if they are to survive … and it is.

A Place to Hang the Moon is an unforgettable book.  It is impossible to make it last just as Anna found with her one book –  one page leads to the next, and the next and the next, until, before you know it, you’ve reached the very satisfying end. 

In the Author’s Note, Kate Albus tells us that her Edmund is named for the first Edmund she met when she read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  She says that is where the idea for this book began.  The similarities shine.  What a wonderful story.  What a wonderful book.  

Happy Reading!📚

If you find yourself interested in reading more about the children involved in the evacuation please look for The War That Saved My Life.