'Leo and the Lesser Lion" by Sandra Forrester is an especially poignant and engaging book. I cried at the end and wished there was more.

It reminded me of similar wonderful and unforgettable books such as "Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson, and "Because of Winn-Dixie" by Kate DiCamillo. These are books about real children in real situations. They are beautifully written, with prose that draws children in and helps them identify with the protagonists.

These books are rare and a cause for celebration.

"Leo and the Lesser Lion" is set in the Great Depression. A young girl's dearly beloved older brother dies in an accident. Her world as she knew it is shattered. Before anyone in the family has dealt with the grief, two abandoned, destitute children come to live with them. Although the elements for disaster seem overwhelming, the story is one of redemption. I highly recommend this book for children from fifth grade through high school.

For completely different reasons, I highly recommend "Adam Canfield, Watch Your Back!" by Michael Winerip. Again, the book is about real children in a real situation, a nice break from dragons and magic. Adam and Jennifer are co-editors of "The Slash," their very successful middle school newspaper. As investigative reporters, they get themselves and their newspaper into trouble.

The whole galloping plot is intelligent and infused with humor. And just when kids want more, there is more because "Adam Canfield" is a series. Great for middle-school readers.

"A Brief History of Montmaray" by Michelle Cooper was a Junior Library Guild Selection. That's practically a guarantee of a good book. The protagonist and her quirky family live in a crumbling castle on a tiny island, seemingly isolated from pre-World War II politics.

Everything changes when German soldiers working for Hitler break into the castle. This is a young adult book for ages 12 and up.

It may remind adult readers of books such as "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer, which is one of my very favorite books.

These are excellent novels that "get real."

Contact Fran Hawk at franbooks@yahoo.com.