Protagonists your students will aspire to be like | Mentoring in the Middle

Protagonists your students will aspire to be like

These three books...each one so different from the other...and yet, the resourcefulness and persistence each protagonist shows in her circumstances?  You will want to put these books in front of your students next year!

Iris is a deaf girl who struggles to navigate her way in a hearing school.  Kids don't know sign language, even ones like Nina who think they do, and so they mostly leave her alone.  But Iris has amazing skills.  And one of them is that she can fix almost any kind of technology, especially antique radios, using the vibrations the frequencies give off.

One day, she learns about a hybrid whale, Blue-55, who struggles to navigate his way in the ocean.  He sings at vibrations higher than other whales and so they leave him alone. 

                                     "Can you imagine that?" Mrs. Alamilla asked. "Swimming
                                     around for all those years, unable to communicate with


Iris is determined to find a way to communicate with this whale, using what she knows.  When she embarks on a secretive quest with her grandmother who struggles with memory loss, you hold your breath!  But the journey they take, although risky is one that will have you cheering for both of them.

Lynne Kelly has made Iris a wonderfully-developed character and one your students will easily relate to!

Edie knows that her mother is Native American.  She also knows that her mother was adopted by a white couple.  But she can't get any answers from her mom about her birth family, because her mom doesn't know.

And then one day, Edie finds a box up in the attic filled with letters.  And pictures.  The letters are signed by "Edith" and the pictures look just like her, down to the gap between her two front teeth.  Who is this woman?  

She asks her parents questions discretely.  She doesn't want them to know she's found the box.  Why wouldn't they have told her about it?  Why is she named after this woman?

                                         "Why am I Edith?" I ask.   "Why not Emily, or Ella?
                                          Where did---" I breathe in.  Brace myself.  "Where
                                           did my name come from?"
                                           For a second, it's as if my parents have turned to stone.

Now she doesn't know who to trust.  Her best friends, Amelia and Serenity, aren't always available when she needs them, and she has so many questions.  Bit by bit she explores the box, learning more and finally asking more.

And what she uncovers is horrible.  But it connects her to her family in ways beyond what she ever expected.

Christine Day has written a compelling story about this twelve-year-old and her friends, whose characters act very real.  She touches briefly on the travesty (my words) that was inflicted on native peoples even into the mid-20th century.  

Nan Sparrow is a chimney sweep, who learned at the feet of The Sweep, who raised her.  He also taught her to see wonder in the world and magic in the air despite the hardships of poverty in 19th century London. 

When The Sweep leaves her, she is forced to work for a greedy chimney sweep, aptly named Wilkie Crudd.  On one particularly difficult day, she gets stuck in a chimney and another sweep meanly lights a fire to "nudge" her out.  

She should have died.  But she wakes up in an abandoned house with a golem, a mysterious creature that somehow connects her to her past.  Staying out of sight so she doesn't have to return to her former life, she comes to treasure Charlie, in spite of looks that cause others to call him a monster.

Folks, I was spellbound by this book.  This is the first book I've read by Jonathan Auxier, but it won't be the last.  He is a magnificent storyteller weaving historical fiction with fantasy to ultimately bring us to the truth: Family doesn't have to be those who've birthed you.

Enjoy these books!  And Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, whatever form you take!

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