Books

Dead Man’s Rapids

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When 13-year-old Ben Ward left school to work with his Pa in a logging camp, a winter of peeling potatoes and setting tables wasn’t the adventure he had in mind. Still, come spring, he signs up for the log drive with his friend Nevers, wishing the head cook on the wanigan (the floating cook shack) could be someone other than his crabby Pa. Fate, with a wink, complies, and Pa quits—only to be replaced by someone far worse: Pete Sardman, aka Old Sard, a cantankerous character complete with a greasy apron, an eye patch, one deaf ear, and plenty to say.

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Publisher: University of Minnesota Press, 2017
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: ISBN-10: 1517902231 ISBN-13: 978-1517902230

 

The Broken Blade

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In 1800, 13-year-old Pierre La Page never imagined he’d be leaving Montreal to paddle 2,400 miles. It was something older men, like his father, did. But when Pierre’s father has an accident, Pierre quits school to become a voyageur for the North West Company, so his family can survive the winter. It’s hard for Pierre as the youngest in the brigade. From the treacherous waters and cruel teasing to his aching and bloodied hands, Pierre is miserable. Still he has no choice but to endure the trip to Grand Portage and back.

Kirkus Starred Review
Minnesota Book Award Winner
Great Lakes Book Award Winner
Bank Street College Children’s Book of the Year List

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Publisher: Delacorte Press/Random House
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: 0613074076

 

Wintering

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Pierre, the 14-year-old hero of The Broken Blade, becomes a hivernant as he spends a winter with the North West Company in the wilderness of French Canada. The canoe-men build a camp beside an Ojibwa village, and Pierre learns the deep-winter survival skills and secrets of the fur traders and trappers. Surviving in close quarters with the repulsive bowman Beloit is a challenge, but friendship with an Ojibwe brave, Red Loon, opens up a rich new world to Pierre.

Booklist Starred Review
Northeast Minnesota Book Award 2010

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Publisher: Delacorte Press 1999, Raven Productions 2009
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: 0385325983

 

Song of Sampo Lake

For Matti Ojala and his family, Finnish immigrants in Minnesota, starting a new life in America is both a hardship and an opportunity. When their beloved Uncle Wilho is killed in a tragic mining accident, the family decides they must realize their dream of owning a homestead in the wilderness. This means constant hard work and new challenges for the entire family. But it also means that Matti, the “in-between” child, has his chance to shine. Whether he’s looking after his younger sisters, clerking in a general store, teaching English, or clearing the land with Father, Matti strives to prove himself to Father and escape his older brother’s shadow.

Publishers Weekly Starred Review

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Publisher: University of Minnesota Press, 2011
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: ISBN 10: 0816675694 ISBN 13: 978-0816675692

 

The Darkest Evening

In the midst of the Great Depression Jake’s life is turned upside down when his father gets caught up in the Socialist fervor washing over their Finnish mining community in Minnesota. His father decides to move their family to Karelia, Russia, a change that fills Jake with dread. His father dreams of creating a worker’s paradise, but Jake and his family find disappointment and hardship. The story culminates with a thrilling, mid-winter attempt to escape – on skis – from Russia to Finland.

Minnesota Book Award Winner
Junior Library Guild Selection
New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age List

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Publisher: University of Minnesota Press, 2011
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: ISBN 10: 0816675686 ISBN 13: 978-0816675685

 

The Winter War

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When the Soviet Union invades its tiny neighbor Finland in November 1939, Marko volunteers to help the war effort. Even though his leg was weakened by polio, he can ski well, and he becomes a messenger on the front line, skiing in white camouflage through the forests at night. The dark forest is terrifying, and so are the odds against the Finns: the Russians have 4 times as many soldiers and 30 times as many planes. They have 3000 tanks, while the Finns have 30. But a tank is no help in the snowy forest – a boy on skis is. And the Russians don’t know winter the way the Finns do, or what tough guerrilla warriors the Finns are. Marko teams up with another messenger, Karl. Gradually Marko learns that Karl’s whole family was killed by the Russians. And as their friendship deepens, Karl shares a shocking secret.

Best of the Year YA Fiction – KLIATT Editor’s Choice List
Michigan Reading Association Finalist – Great Lakes Great Books Award
Best-of-the-year List – Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random House
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: 0-385-74652-0

 

El Lector

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Thirteen-year-old Bella wants to be a lector just like her grandfather. All day long he sits on a special platform in the cigar factory in Ybor City, Florida, reading books, newspapers, and current events to workers as they roll cigars. Lectors have always been highly respected, but when the factory workers clash with the owners, violence erupts, and the lectors start losing their jobs. And then there’s the radio. What changes will this new device bring? It’s up to Bella to determine her future and help her people preserve their history.

Amelia Bloomer List, American Library Association
Film Option, Jane Startz Productions

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Publisher: Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: 0-439-37307-7

 

Blackwater Ben

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Thirteen-year-old Ben works at Blackwater Logging Camp as cook’s helper to his Pa. Long days of flipping pancakes and peeling potatoes with his ornery Pa make Ben long to be out in the woods with the lumberjacks. Felling trees, sawing logs, driving a team through the snowy woods . . . that’s what Ben wants to be doing.

But the long cold winter in a camp filled with outlandish characters teaches Ben a lot about himself. Especially when an orphan boy called Nevers arrives in camp. When Nevers signs on to work with Pa, Ben makes a friend and a rival, too.

Maude Hart Lovelace Nominee

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Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random House
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: 0-385-72928-6

 

The Journal of Otto Peltonen: A Finnish Immigrant

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Teenager Otto Peltonen uses his journal to describe life in a Minnesota mining town at the start of the last century. Accompanied by his mother and two sisters, Otto survives a horrendous journey across the Atlantic to join his father in America, where he anticipates idyllic opulence. Instead he is faced with life in a shantytown where the division by wealth looms ominously before him. As Otto changes from a dedicated student to a labor-worn miner, his parents go through their own fascinating battles.

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Silver Award

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Publisher: Scholastic
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: 043909254X

 

The Journal of C.J. Jackson, a Dust Bowl Migrant, Oklahoma to California, 1935

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C.J. Jackson is a young man living in the Oklahoma panhandle during the Dust Bowl, one of the most tragic times in American history. The entire country is fraught with political, economic, and environmental problems. Desperate to survive, C.J. and his family leave the panhandle and head West to California, where they hope to make a better life for themselves.

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award

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Publisher: Scholastic
Ages: 9 and up
ISBN: 0439153069

 
 
The Broken Blade Wintering The Journal of Sean Sullivan The Journal of Otto Peltonen The Journal of C.J. Jackson Song of Sampo Lake Blackwater Ben The Darkest Evening El Lector The Winter War