Six years. Ten concentration camps. Through the cruelty, starvation and hard labor, Yanek Gruener was determined to survive. Without his family, all he had to cling to was hope and a vision of freedom. Based on a true story. From the last two paragraphs of Chapter 1, I was hooked. Chapter after chapter I found myself marveling at Gratz’s writing, as he described the horrors of the Holocaust as seen through one young man’s eyes. Without using overly graphic details or belaboring the harshness of the world in which Yanek was quietly fighting for survival, Gratz conveys the realities of Nazi cruelty in a way that is disturbing, riveting and appropriate for a younger teen audience. His language is stark and honest, enabling the reader to create a vivid picture of the scenes in their head, showing, instead of telling. Though a very intense read (have tissues ready), it is also a quick read with short chapters, and the subject matter of the Holocaust is sure to attract droves of teen readers. Broken down by Yanek’s location (i.e. the Krakow ghetto, Birkenau Concentration Camp, Death March to Dachau), the story is very easy to follow. Each chapter holds horrifying acts of cruelty, astonishing acts of desperation and heroic acts of bravery. Though a work of fiction, Gratz incorporates many factual details and true stories from Jack (Yanek) Gruener’s experiences. Ten to Fourteen. Alicia Blowers
Dodger, 17, survives in nineteenth century London by scouring its sewers for jewels. When he sees a girl desperately flee from a horse-drawn carriage trying to escape captors, he takes action that leads him to encounters with Sweeney Todd, Charles Dickens, and Benjamin Disraeli. Stephen Briggs brilliantly conveys the sorrow, dry humor, and danger in this historical fantasy. (14 up)
In 1958, 12-year-old Marlee's forbidden friend, fearless Lizzie, helps her find her own voice in concert with the adults around her who have been quietly acquiescent to the battle against integration that closed high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958. The novel’s verbal power offers a viable alternative for Julia Whelan’s uniquely voiced and perfectly-timed audio narration. (10-14)
Note: Renominated for new narrator -- Twelve-year-old Abilene has just been sent to live in the town where her father grew up. A drifter since childhood, he doesn't have any living relatives, but for a time, he found a home in Manifest, Kansas. Though upset about being sent away, Abilene takes the opportunity to dig into her dad's (and the town's) storied past. Jenna Lamia's young voice suits Abilene and the story's other characters while the use of multiple narrators helps listeners keep track of the story as it jumps between 1936 and 1918. Audio. Colleen Beaupre
This fictional account of Manjiro, the 14-year-old Japanese boy whom whalers rescued in 1841, is filled with hardship and adventure as well as an outsider's perspective on nineteen-century American culture. Gritty details and authentic illustrations evoke the period.