The Paper Wolf

Gracie is an eleven year old who has been in foster care since she was six, moving from family to family. It is no wonder that she has no true understanding of family stability. After being kicked out of a foster home, she is temporarily placed in a group home while her social worker searches diligently for a new family for her.

Early on on the novel, Gracie is placed with the Barkmans. Here is a true family unit. Mr. and Mrs. Barkman have two teenagers and are eager to show love to foster children. But Gracie is not the easiest child to love or so she thinks. Plagued with emotions she can’t really name, Gracie struggles to let down her walls and allow the Barkmans into her heart.

Through unconditional love and one very dramatic experience, the Barkmans show Gracie that they do love her and want her to be a permanent part of their family. But Gracie is holding out. She has to decide if she can let go of what she dreamed of the last six years and let the Barkmans become her permanent family.

Written by a foster parent, this novel introduces its reader to the potential struggles faced by those in foster care. At some points, you just want Gracie to get over herself, but then you remember that 5 years is a long time to be in foster care and Gracie has not had loving families care for her. You begin to see that Gracie is not being a pouty preteen but is harden by a difficult life and needs lots of love to break down barriers she has had to put up to survive. As a granddaughter to foster parents, I have some personal experience with children who have had to be removed from their families for various reasons. Loving foster families can make such a difference in the lives of these children. I think this is a great book for preteen and teen readers. It lends itself to some wonderful discussion about the love of family and the love God has for us all.

Awesomeness:

-The Barkmans want to show Gracie love the way Christ loves us.

-Mrs. Barkman prayers out loud when she is having a particularly difficult moment.

-A wonderful picture of a family who truly loves each other and enjoy being around one another.

Cautions:

-As you can imagine, Gracie has a lot of anger and frustration. She has several outbursts and runs away a few times. Chrissy does a great job of showing us what possible walls a child in foster care might have and ways they might express their emotions without being unrealistic or too descriptive. I think this allows for some really great conversation regarding the experiences of children in foster care.

-There is a scene where Gracie is nearly assaulted by some older boys but is saved by her brother who is then beaten up pretty badly. The description here is well-written and does not use any unnecessary details.

You can connect more with Chrissy at www.chrissymdennis.com

Twelve Weeks to Midnight Blue

Chance has his heart set on buying a bike before school starts in the Fall. But he doesn’t just want any bike, he wants Midnight Blue which can be his for a mere $225! With this information Chance sets out to do what any enterprising kid would do: make money. He starts by cleaning his dad’s pool once a week for $10. As his customers increase, he learns about leverage, marketing, business partners, and more during his twelve weeks of summer.

In this first volume of KidVenture, Steve Searfoss takes his reader through the ups and downs of reaching for a goal. Several times Chance wonders if all the work is worth it. Through conversations with his parents and lots of math, Chance will learn just how much work it takes to run a successful business.

Awesomeness:

-The family relationships presented in this story are delightful. Chance has regular conversations with his dad about his business. He also has a personal conversation with his mom. He takes his sister on as a partner.

-Each chapter has 3 discussion questions to allow for conversation about the issues Chance encounters. Readers will have a chance to discuss what they would do or how they would proceed. This book lends itself to being read aloud.

-The book is only 118 pages and written in a way that younger readers can follow.

-A fun story for any enterprising kid!

Cautions:

-Some mild sibling bickering. (But isn’t that real life?)

Just Like That

I picked up this novel straight out of the Junior Library Gild delivery box! The book jacket sounded so good. I will tell you that I have not read any of Gary D. Schmidt’s other works. For you Wednesday War fans, just be prepared for the beginning of this book… my friend threw it across the room!

After the loss of her best friend, Meryl Lee’s parents send her to an all girls’ boarding school. There she will be exposed to societal expectations all the while attempting to become accomplished and still holding on to her personal convictions.

Gary D. Schmidt beautifully weaves two storylines together. While Meryl Lee is figuring out life at an all girls’ prep school, Matt is figuring out how to survive on the move. Finding himself on the Maine coast, Matt is welcomed into Dr. Nora Macknockater’s home. As headmistress of St. Elene’s Preparatory Academy for Girls, she encourages Meryl Lee to stay true to who she is all the while attempting to learn just who Matt is. As the common thread between the two, Dr. Macknockater has a front row seat to see just how things really do change- just like that.

Awesomeness:

-Meryl Lee works through her grief at losing her best friend and finds ways to bring people together despite their differences.

-Matt discovers a true sense of family. The way his story starts out, it reminds me of the Boxcar Children.

Cautions:

-Matt is running from some seriously nasty men. They burn down buildings and hurt people in an attempt to get back what he stole (after they killed his best friend).

-There is a bit of kissing towards the end of the book. And at the end, Meryl Lee and Matt are left alone in a house while the adult supervision leaves on an extended trip.