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Books Depicting Kids' Hardships Aid Others in Similar Circumstances
Reading about other kids' struggles with serious issues helps young people deal with comparable situations. These thoughtful books bring teen suicide, the effects of war on soldiers' families, illness and life on the run as a police officer's child to the table.
"Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher; Razorbill Books; 288 pages; $16.99.
Both heartbreaking and promising, this suspenseful novel for teens stars a boy named Clay Jensen, who finds a strange package with his name on it. When Clay listens to the tapes in the shoe-box, he hears the thoughtful, poetic, even funny words of a classmate named Hannah, who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah tells Clay why he's one of the 13 reasons why she killed herself, and then asks him to forward the tapes to the next name on the list.
With a compelling storytelling manner, Asher brings to light the most dire of teen problems with clarity and insight. Just like Clay, who becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, readers will yearn to learn more about this special girl as well as what Clay discovers about himself as he crisscrosses his town with Hannah's voice as his guide.
A fabulous first novel from Asher, "Thirteen Reasons Why" becomes amazingly real, and readers of all ages won't be able to turn away until it's over. Hopefully then, teen readers will begin to enact simple, kindly actions toward other teens, and rates of suicide will slow. Asher also adds a most important note at the back of the book — "Need to talk? 1-800-SUICIDE. www.hopeline.com."
"Off to War: Voices of Soldiers' Children" by Deborah Ellis; Groundwood Books; 176 pages; $15.99.
Award-winning author Ellis shares first-hand stories from children that remind readers of the cost of war on families at home. In the dramatic accounts, Ellis interviewed children from military families across the U.S. and Canada; she introduces them briefly and lets them discuss their own stories. Most kids tell of stress and time missed at school events, dinners and holidays. Some act brave and encouraging and try to be positive.
"Find someone you can trust if you need to talk," says Allison, age 11.
The book, aimed at kids 9 and up, includes pictures, a glossary and a list of organizations and publications that help soldiers, veterans and their families.
Kids with deployed parents will certainly find comfort in the similar feelings and voices of other kids going through the same.
"Ways to Live Forever" by Sally Nicholls; Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic; 212 pages; $16.99.
Sam, 11, is living through the last stages of leukemia; he wants to know all about UFOs, ghosts, and what it feels like to break a world record and kiss a girl. He's surprisingly upbeat and interested in everything around him, especially airships, rockets and his best friend Felix, who is also sick. Lots of musings about death and dying are part of Sam's repertoire, as are funny observations about his Mum, Dad and little sister Ella.
Though this is not a biography, author Nicholls interviewed doctors, nurses and kids at a London hospital, and certainly breathes realism, humor and heartbreak into her moving novel for children ages 8 to 12. The tale's encouraging title proves that young Sam, indeed, finds his own ways to live forever.
"The Year We Disappeared" by Cylin Busby & John Busby; Bloomsbury USA; 340 pages; $17.99.
In 1979, when Cylin Busby was 9 years old, her police officer father was shot and left clinging for life. After he recovered, the family found themselves under 24 hour police surveillance at home in Massachusetts, and the stress eventually caused them to leave everything and disappear to a farm in Tennessee.
Cylin's detailed account of her childhood is real and, though certainly full of danger and fear, is also a testament to the strength of the power of kids' resiliency. Although the shooter and his family remained on the run and after John Busby, the Busby's drive to keep their family safe resonates with awe throughout the book.
A fascinating true story for young readers 10 and up, "The Year We Disappeared" makes for a spellbinding reading.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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