Yes, I know it is November already–but hey, give me a break. I had the flu for a water witcherweek and a half, putting me so far behind that I haven’t had the chance to tell you about three books that I love. 🙂

All three involve boys who live outside the US and whose lives are not easy. Each is making the best of things–but then circumstances change and the boys have opportunities to discover what they are really made of. An added bonus? Their decisions are good not just for themselves but also for others.

All have superb sense of place, character development, and strong family presence and belonging.  All also achieve the trickiest of feats in children’s books–they tell complex stories in simple ways.

Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber–Loosely based on the camel libraries of Kenya, the story follows Muktar as he adjusts to life and school in a refugee camp. But Muktar doesn’t just miss his family and their nomadic life; he also misses their camels. Until the “library” arrives. Graber does a stellar job of layering details and meanings in such a way that it does not overwhelm young listeners but adds depth for older ones. It’s a complex story in a simple package!

First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barasch–Abaani and Haki belong to two different peoples, the Maasai and the Kikuyu, and their peoples do not get along. When a baby’s life is in danger, though, the boys momentarily forget those differences. This chance encounter opens the way for a friendship to develop. Such long standing troubles are not easily solved but Barasch captures so well the feelings  and world views of both boys, making it, too, a complex story in a simple package.

Finally, there’s Water Witcher by Jan Ormerod–Set in Australia during a drought, the story follows a boy through another parched day as he tries to find water just like his grandfather used to do. Of course, everyone thinks he’s just being a little boy but Dougie persists despite the teasing. The story has all the elements of a “real story“–and added bonus? The pictures take you there. Why is this book not on a Caldecott list? Ormerod has outdone herself! Again, complex within the simple.