The Wicked and the Just by Jillian Anderson Coats
Haughty English teenager Cecily is in a snit because she and her father are moving “out in the wilderness” to Caernarvon, Wales, where the king is offering Englishmen cheap land in return for their help controlling the newly conquered Welsh. At least Cecily will be in charge of their household — but that’s not easy, either, as her Welsh maid, Gwenhwyfar, is stubborn and resentful. Painting a (sometimes brutally) clear picture of late-13th-century Wales, a period and place seldom written about, this dramatic, detailed story is narrated by both Cecily and Gwenhwyfar, who are realistically complex characters.
A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata
Thirteen-year-old Y’Tin is the youngest elephant handler in his South Vietnamese village. He can barely think about anything besides his beloved elephant, Lady. All of that changes, however, in 1975, when American troops withdraw from the village, and the North Vietnamese army sweeps in, ruthlessly killing half of the villagers. Although Y’Tin and Lady survive the attack, Y’Tin’s thoughts are turned toward anger, uncertainty, and the desperate hope of escape. Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata offers readers an unusual perspective on the horror and confusion of war in this haunting, thought-provoking survival story.
The Death-Defying Pepper Roux by Gerladine McCaughrean
Because his devout (and jealous) aunt was told so in a dream, everyone in Pepper Roux’s family, including him, is convinced that he’s going to die on the day that he turns 14. So when Pepper wakes up and finds himself both 14 and alive, he high-tails it out of town believing that the grim reaper must be on his heels. This rollicking and hilarious story follows Pepper’s adventures — at sea, wrangling horses, posing as a journalist, and more — all across early-20th-century France, and it’s sure to charm anyone who likes plenty of action and fascinating characters.