What the titles in this posting have in common is the fact that they are each less than 200 pages, even if by a few pages. A lot of story power and heart are packed into these ‘shorter’ books.

BIRD GUY by David Booth (poetry) (134 pages)

Re-read this beautiful anthology of poems about birds by my dear friend David Booth presented as a young adolescent’s 9th grade English project. With illustrations by Maya Ishiura. Available through Amazon.ca

CRIME CLUB by Melodie Campbell (125 pages)

Crime Club is a breezy engaging read, particularly for reluctant readers. Campbell’s story efficiently presents the stuff of a mystery storie as a group of teenagers try to solve the mystery of a skeleton that has been hidden for over twenty years.

SWEEPING THE HEART by Kevin Henkes (183 pages)

Amelia Albright is not looking forward to spring break. Contemplating what the future brings for her, Amelia finds salvation in working with clay in the local studio and discovers a talent for making ceramic rabbit figures. Amelia’s mother died when the young girl was two years old and her father is rather secretive and hides secrets – even the fact that he is dating a woman who Amelia believes strongly resembles her mother.  A friendship with a boy, named Casey (who is angry over his parent’s imminent divorce) helps to strengthen  Amelia’s understanding of the past, the present and the future. The title has a literal and metaphorical connotation but the novel will sweep the hearts of readers who question the meaning of creativity, family, friendship, and love. Oh fine writer you are, Mr. Henkes!

TOO YOUNG TO ESCAPE: A Vietnamese Girl Waits to be Reunited with Her Family by Van Ho and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (autobiography) (142 pages)

As a young girl, Van Ho discovers that her family hasvanished, escapin  the new communist regime that has taken over Ho Chi Minh City. Van Ho and her grandmother are both unable to embark upon the dangerous journey by boat and have left behind in Vietnam, awaiting sponsorship from her parents who have settled in North America. Until she is reunited with family, Van Ho is forced to work hard and also deal with a bully who has been tormenting her. A strong story of courage and hope that builds readers empathy as they read a true tale about a child who has been affected by war.  Interviews and photographs that conclude this Canadian title provide further insights. 

BEAST RIDER by Tony Johnston and Maria Eleana Fontanot De Rhoads (159 pages)

The Beast (La Bestia) is a train that takes illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States. Twelve-year old Manuel, desperate to be re-united with his brother, leaves behind a family in a small village and jumps aboard the train and embarks on a perilous journey to Los Angeles, not knowing what awaits him there. A timely, gut-wrenching story (for older readers).

THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell (graphic novel) (176 pages)

Since it’s release in 1993, The Giver has been read by millions (particularly young adolescents).  This story of a boy who lives in a future community where everyone is the same has been transformed into a play, a movie, and an opera. The graphic adaptation is a perfect vehicle to tell the story in another art form. Much of the images are monochromatic black, white and washes of blue and splashes of colour emerge is given the power to maintain memories.

DREAM WITHIN A DREAM by Patricia MacLachlan (119 pages)

Ever since falling in love with the gem, Sarah Plan and Tall, I find myself wanting to read any novel by Patricia MacLachlan. In this short novel, Louisa and her brother are left their grandparents on Deer Island. Louisa (short for Louisiana) is very concerned when her grandfather Jake’s eyesight is failing. A friendship (and emerging love-interest) with a neighbour, George helps Louisa to deal with all the changes surrounding her. Admirers of MacLachlan’s writing will not be disappointed.

THE RUNAWAYS by Ulf Stark; illus. Kitty Crowther (129 pages)

Translated from the Swedish, with colourful illustrations by Kitty Crowther, this is a warm-hearted story between grandparent and child.  Gottfried Junior’s grumpy grandpa is stuck in the hospital. Together, the two characters hatch a planto escape.For one last time, Grandpa visits the island where he was happiest. Questions about dealing with death are filtered throughout the narrative. Lovely!

THE BRIDGE HOME by Padma Venkatraman (187 pages)

An unsettling story about four homeless children. Two sisters, Viji and Rukku escape their home from an abusive father and find refugee with two boys in an abandoned bridge. The four become friends, scavenging the city trash from day to day in order to survive. Rukku is mentally challenged and when she becomes ill,  the group is forced to decide whether to seek help from strangers or hold on to independence and freedom. A startling story of poverty set in India.



by Yayoi Kusama

The timeless, whimsical tale by Lewis Carroll is colourfully and whimsically illustrated by world-renowned pop artist Yayoi Kusama. (192 pages)