A Wish in the Dark (Candlewick Press, 2020) by Christina Soontornvat is my favorite read so far this year!
Pong was born in Nomwan Prison. He and his best friend and Somkit stare at the lights of Chattana–the city that one man, the Governor, brought light to after the great fire. If only they could escape there.
Nok is the daughter of the prison warder. She and her family are at Nomwan because the Governor is coming to visit. To her shock the young Pong approaches the Governor.
Pong thinks that such a good man as the Governor will see how unfair it is for children born to prisoners to be imprisoned. But when the Governor doesn’t agree, all that’s left to Pong is to escape, which he does.
Nok’s father is blamed for Pong’s escape and she wants to capture him to restore her family’s name. But secrets she discovers in her quest make her question everything she’s ever known.
Who will win in this unfair world?
The story has many surprising twists and turns. This Thai-inspired fantasy is a 2021 Newbery Honor book–I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner. Plus, it has won other awards and been put on many lists. See those here.
Christina has written a number of award winning books in a variety of categories–read more about her here and see all her books here.
Wish (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016) by Barbara O’Connor pulls on the heart strings!
Charlie Reese has been sent away from her home in Raleigh to live with an aunt and uncle she doesn’t know in a “sorry excuse for a town” called Colby. And as her best friend, Alvina, told her, she’s going to school with hillbilly kids. Charlie doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t want to stay here, and definitely isn’t going to like it here. She wishes on everything. But an unexpected friend, a stray dog, and love make her change her wish.
This book was a New York Times Bestseller, Junior Library Guild Selection, American Booksellers Association Best Books of the Year, 2016 Parents Choice Gold Award, Nerdy Book Club Award 2016, and SCBWI Crystal Kite Award 2017 winner.
Read about this award-winning author here and check out her current books here. I recommended her How to Steal a Dog book here.
The Last Cuentista (Levine Querido, 2021) by Donna Barba Higuera is a scary and compelling story of survival in the future and the power of storytelling.
Twelve-year-old Petra Peña and her family are leaving earth before it is destroyed. But first she has to say good-bye to her abuelita (grandmother), who tells her cuentos (tall tales), and isn’t going on the trip to a new planet. Petra expects to sleep in a stasis pod for 380 years, but something has gone wrong. She’s not sleeping. And then when Petra does awake, it’s to a nightmare of changed people, The Collective, who have renamed her Zeta-1 and expect that she’ll serve them, or be purged.
This book won the 2022 Newbery award and the 2022 Pura Belpré Medal. I think it’s great that this sci-fi story has so much recognition.
Read about Donna here and check out her other books here.
So glad I didn’t miss Beyond the Bright Sea (Dutton Children’s Books, 2017) by Lauren Wolk. This award winning book was fascinating.
Twelve-year-old Crow lives on a small island in Massachusetts with Osh, the man who found her floating in a boat when she was a newborn baby. Crow is curious about her past. Where did she come from? What did her parents name her? Who had decided to give her to the tide? And why? And why are the other islanders besides Miss Maggie afraid of her? As she says, “I had a nagging need to know what I didn’t know.” Adventure with Crow and find out the answers when she learns them.
You can see the awards this book won here where you can also read about the author’s other books and their awards. Here’s an interview with her that talks about Beyond the Bright Sea. Laura is a Newbery honor winner for her debut book Wolf Hollow. Read more about Laura here and check out her art here. She’s also a poet.
this way, Charlie, inspired by a real animal friendship, (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020) by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso is a tear-jerker of a story.
Everyone at Open Bud Ranch can see that Jack, the goat, likes space to himself. Except Charlie, the horse, who can only see out of one eye. Still Charlie is cheerful. Jack watches him carefully and realizes they have a lot in common. One day when Jack sees Charlie having trouble, he decides to lead the way. The two become close friends and help each other live better lives despite the storms that come their way.
I feel like my description is so inadequate for this powerful story of healing and friendship. Don’t miss out on this lovely book.
Caron Levis and Charles Santoso have also teamed up on another picture book. Check out Ida, Always and the awards and honors it has received. Read about the author here and the illustrator here. And don’t miss out on Charles’ other books on his website and Caron’s other books here.