I just learned all about the Indian expulsion from Uganda instituted by Idi Amin in 1972 and….. how the Inuit community in Churchill Manitoba is preserving the tradition of dogsledding and…… what life was like for a poverty-stricken young girl in London at the end of the 19th century.
I discovered all that fascinating information in the most engaging way. I read three well-written and thoroughly enjoyable middle-grade books. Not many people realize what a valuable source of information middle-grade books can be for adults. They can provide an accessible way to learn about a whole host of topics from writers who are masters of their craft.
Orange For The Sunsets by Tina Athaide takes us back to 1972 in Entebbe, Uganda. Edi Amin has just declared that all citizens of Indian descent must leave the country in 100 days. This includes a young girl from a wealthy family named Asha. She narrates the story alternately with Yesofu her best friend. His African parents work as servants in Asha’s household. Yesofu and Asha are complex and interesting characters and Tina Athaide keeps events moving at a heady pace with plenty of suspense. Through the eyes of the two children, we receive a balanced understanding of a challenging political situation.
Tina Athaide was born in Uganda and although she grew up in England brings the knowledge of her rich family history to the story.
Qaqavii by Miriam Körner is the story of a teenager named Kitty who moves to Churchill, Manitoba with her single Mom. There are things about their past her Mom won’t discuss and Kitty is feeling angry, confused, and rebellious. She finds solace in a friendship with an Inuit boy named Barnabas whose grandparents take her into their circle of care and affection. The family keeps sled dogs and races them. Kitty develops a special relationship with one of the dogs named Qaqavii.
I hope to make a trip to Churchill someday and this book helped me get to know the community and also provided added insight into Inuit history and culture. Author Miriam Körner and her husband live in northern Saskatchewan with a brood of racing sled dogs and Miriam brings that rich expertise to her award-winning novel.
The Ghost at the Window by Elyssa Warkentin takes us into the world of the great private eye Sherlock Holmes and helps us explore the darker, more desperate side of London at the end of the 19th century through the eyes of a young girl named Janey who has only a little education and lives in abject poverty with her mother. Janey has spunk, bravado, curiosity, and a warm and direct way with people that comes to her aid when Dr. Watson and the great Sherlock hire her to do some detective work for them.
Like the movie Enola Holmes which provided a young female perspective on the Sherlock Holmes character in The Ghost at the Window, we gain new insight into the great detective’s personality. Dr. Watson declares at one point that the book’s hero Janey and the great Sherlock are “two peas in a pod.“
If you think middle-grade books are only for kids I’d invite you to give one of these novels a try. Well-written, interesting and informative, they will help you understand why books for kids can be books for adults too.