The first one I actually read this summer and somehow forgot to blog about it. It's called Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan. It's kind of a genre defying book because it starts off as a fairy tale and then has three parts of what appear to be unrelated historical fiction and then finishes as both a fairy tale and modern fiction. It sounds a bit confusing but I assure, the story is anything but. It starts with a boy named Otto who is wandering around in a forest and gets lost. He is approached by three sisters who have quite a fantastic story. They leave him back at home, a bit confused, but with a harmonica to remind him of his quest. Then we go to Freidrich in Germany in the late 1930s. Then to Ivy in California in 1941 and finally to Mike in Pennsylvania. I don't want to tell you too much more about the plot because it's so much fun to have it revealed. I will tell you that I think Pam Munoz Ryan is a genius and this story proves it.
The second one is also historical fiction and is also set in World War 2. It's called "The War that Saved My Life" by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It's about Ada who lives with her mom and her brother Jamie in a one room apartment in London. Life is pretty limited for Ada because her mom doesn't want her to ever leave the house because Ada has a deformed foot. When kids are evacuated from London because of the fear of bombing, Ada's mom sends Jamie, but not Ada. But Ada runs away anyway. They end up with a single lady who says pretty plainly that she doesn't want them. It turns out the lady is suffering from a big loss and is quite depressed. She takes the kids anyway and it over time, it becomes clear that they are saving each other. Ada is a great character with a lot of strength of character and kids are going to find it easy to connect with her. This one might be good to connect with "One Crazy Summer" by Rita Garcia Williams (another mom who sent her kids away) or "Echo" by Pam Munoz Ryan (World War 2 connections), or "Lost in the Sun" by Lisa Graff (dealing with anger issues).
The last one I really wanted to read in the spring last year when the book fair came through but I was busy and just didn't get a chance so this year, it was one of the first ones I scooped up. It's called "The Mark of the Thief" by Jennifer Neilsen. A bit of a disclaimer, first, I'm a BIG fan of Jennifer Neilsen's - I loved "The False Prince" and the other books in that series and I also loved "A Night Divided" so I wasn't surprised that I loved this one too. It's about Nic, a slave boy who is working in the mines near Ancient Rome. Unsurprisingly, he hates the work, he hates his owner and the only reason he's sticking around is to protect his sister. One day, a man comes to the mines and asks for someone to go down into a very small chamber and retrieve an amulet. Naturally, Nic is the one who has to go. The amulet is guarded by a griffin, which attacks Nic. Nic somehow only comes away with a scratch but suddenly seems to have magical powers. He is approached by a senator from Rome and is told varying stories about who is trying to worm their way into power in Rome and how they plan to do it. Each plan involved treachery and each one has someway to use Nic and get his sister back. Each one also seems to have some gaping hole that Nic can see through. So lots of political intrigue, magic, action... it's a terrific book.