Tag Archives: Redemption

Scar Island

“Scar Island” by Dan Gemeinhart

published by Scholastic, 2017, 249 pages

Appeals to 5th to 7th graders


“The jerks are gone,” he said. “We can do. Whatever. We. Want.”

This fast paced thriller will keep you reading until the last page.  The story is set in a Dickensian prison reformatory on an island. The men who oversee the boys, “scabs”, are scheming and sadistic.  One of the unfortunate boys, Jonathan, is convicted of arson. Jonathan has his own guilt to come to terms with and consequently feels he needs to be punished. He arrives by boat to sit out his sentence in this foul place that, contrary to public perception, is dangerous with labyrinthine corridors, large rats and storms at sea. Fear, however, is the unexpected human element. When you come to the end of the book, another twist awaits you – a good one.

The story takes several unexpected turns which make it hugely entertaining. Parallels to Lord of the Flies by William Golding and other literature will make this a savvy read for anyone in Upper Elementary and Middle School.

Visit Dan Gemeinhart at his website and find out about his two other novels: Some Kind of Courage and The Honest Truth.





Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Upper Elementary/Middle School and up

277 pgs.


Should adults stop talking sometimes and allow children to connect with an animal instead? Peter’s father has his own load of trouble, and anger is one of them.  Things get better when “one little ball of gray fur still warm and breathing” – an abandoned fox kit,  is found by Peter and adopted into the family.

War is encroaching, and Peter’s father signs up to “lay wires”.  The enigma behind this is that no time or place is mentioned, and yet there is a strange home-feel about this war.

This is a great story with a good plot told from Peter and the fox’s separate points of view. The ending does not disappoint either.  One picks up some valuable worldly wisdom along the way, often spoken by Vola who lives alone. “People,” she says, “should tell the truth about what war costs. That’s taken me a long time to figure out.” This is probably what drives the novel and makes it an important book.

I’m not giving any of this story away.  Read it, please.