- The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje. In the early 1950s, an 11-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. He becomes part of a group of youngsters and voyages into maturity as well as across space. A spellbinding story about the magical, often forbidden discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.
- Crow, by Barbara Wright. In 1898, one generation away from slavery, a thriving African American community—enfranchised and emancipated—is home for 11-year-old Moses in North Carolina. The summer is filled with ups and downs for him, but he along with his neighbors suddenly and violently lose their freedom in a violent riot. Based on actual events, the fictional characters seem as real as the historic ones.
- How It All Began, by Penelope Lively. A wry, wise story about the surprising ways lives intersect through chance and chaos. When a retired schoolteacher is accosted by a petty thief on a London street, the consequences ripple across the lives of acquaintances and strangers. I was especially taken with the style that consists of multiple voices and differing tenses.
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Yes, the one the movie’s based on. This dystopian tale is terrific, fast-moving, thought-provoking, as the protagonist and her partner battle for survival, which may or may not be for the good. Parents, kids and grandparents will find lots to discuss.