Ryan Hreljac was moved when his first grade teacher explained to the class that a lack of safe drinking water was one of the most serious problems in the world. She explained that it would cost about $70 to build a well in Africa. Motivated, Ryan worked hard and long to raise the money, only to find that $70 was only enough to buy the hand pump; a whole well would cost $2000. So Ryan said, "That's okay. I'll do more chores." So began what would over a few years grow to become Ryan's Well Foundation, raising over a million dollars to help impoverished communities throughout the world, but even more, for Ryan himself, it meant the start of a friendship with Akana Jimmy in Uganda, a boy who started out as a penpal and grew to become extended family. The writing, done by Ryan's great-uncle, is at times a little overgeneralizing and lengthy for a children's book aficionado, it is clearly done with a lot of love and admiration, and ultimately succeeds at telling a story that deserves to be told and that children deserve to know. Intermediate children in particular like to feel they are able to effect change in the world. Ryan and Jimmy's inspiring story exemplifies this can-do spirit and the will to survive that beats in the heart of children all over the world. (8 and up) Also of interest: LEFT FOR DEAD: A YOUNG MAN'S SEARCH FOR JUSTICE FOR THE USS INDIANAPOLIS by Pete Nelson (Delacorte). When eleven year old Hunter Scott began a history fair project about a naval disaster, he uncovered a high-ranking deflection of responsibility. Using his research, he went all the way to Washington D.C. to battle the history books and clear the name of an innocent man. Written in terse, Hemingway-like prose, this book makes the hairs on my back stand on end, and will do the same for your reluctant middle-grade reader. Truly an amazing true story of a boy hero, and the heroes he sought to protect. Includes a preface by the older, wiser Hunter Scott himself. Wow! (12 and up) OWEN AND MZEEby Craig Hatkoff, illustrated by Peter Greste (Scholastic) offers more inspiration; after surviving the devastating tsunami of 2004, a frightened baby hippopotamus is rescued, and "adopts" an 130-year-old tortoise as a surrogate parent. Great photographs! (7 and up) There sure is a lot of love and care in the world! What great power we have in the kindess and empathy we can extend to one another. I'm so glad books are around to examine it, help celebrate it, remind us of it, even when other media does not.