There's an excellent list of books that have been compiled for kids at this link. It's a good mix of books that everyone should read and covers a variety of ages. Some of my favorites they list are Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Goodnight Moon, A Wrinkle in Time, Coraline, and The Golden Compass. I didn't see a book on the entire list that I did think "I forgot how much I liked that book!"
I had a very happy childhood. I loved my parents, my little sister didn't annoy me unbearably, we had two cats, and there was very little for me to worry about. However I loved reading books about children who ran away from their parents, went off by themselves, and lived alone successfully. I couldn't seem to get enough. Here are a few titles that I still enjoy reading when I get the chance.
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
I included the top cover because this is the copy that I first read from. I feel like it gives you a better feeling of the kids actually living in the museum instead of going on a trip after school (which is what the bottom cover looks like to me).
I love going to museums, looking at old things, imagining where they've been and what the creators were thinking while they were creating it. So the idea that some kids ran away from home to live in a museum, where they basically spent most of their days wandering around and listening to tour guides, seemed like a fabulous combination. I'm not sure that I would have invited my sister along for the adventure, but to each his own.
Claudia decides to run away from home, inviting her little brother along (mostly because he's wisely saved all of his birthday and Christmas money for...practically forever). The travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hiding in the bathrooms at opening and closing time, blending in with school groups, and sleeping in antique beds on display. Of course this probably wouldn't be as successful an idea in today's world of motion sensor alarms, but you have to remember that this book was published in 1967, when cell phones were props in science fiction movies.
I find that a lot of characters for young adult fiction are either static (they don't change at all) or they seem to undergo drastic personality changes, which I find unrealistic. People change bit by bit with few exceptions. Claudia's character changes gradually, as she slowly discovers the real reason behind her feelings of being unappreciated at home.
I'd give this book four stars. It's not necessarily one I read ever year, like I do with others. But I definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it yet.
The Boxcar Children
This is an oldie but goodie. The Boxcar Children was originally written in 1924 and then reworked in 1942, but don't let that turn you off of them. I know a lot of you probably read some in elementary school. But if you didn't this is a great one to take a look at. I enjoyed it because you've basically got four siblings who set up their own house, going about the process of setting up their household. I've read some books where children "find" a house, complete with fireplace and furniture. That's not this book.
The Alden children become orphans and they all believe that their grandfather (who is now their legal guardian) is a terribly mean man. So they decide to go off and live alone. They find an abandoned boxcar in the woods where they set up house. They go out and scrounge for their furniture and dishes. I won't give anything else away if you haven't read it. But these kids basically do all the things my sister and I pretended to do when we played house as children.
This is a feel good book. There's nothing too dangerous going on, you know...except for the kids living unsupervised in the woods (which you shouldn't try for yourself). They get a dog. There's a happy ending.
I'm going to give this one three stars, but only because it is a bit basic. Both in plot and in the complexity of the text. Its intended audience is grades 2-6, though don't let that stop you from reading it.
My Side of the Mountain
I first read this book in middle school for a class. When we started I wasn't that impressed. We had read Hatchet earlier that year and I didn't enjoy it at all. My Side of the Mountain grew on me as we read. Enough so that when we came to the end of the book I was entirely sympathetic with the back and forth emotions the main character, Sam, was feeling.
Sam can't stand the cramped life he leads with his large family in New York City. He learns that his grandfather owned an abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains. So he begins to read up on wilderness survival skills. He doesn't really run away, because he tells his father where he's going. But the theme of running away is still there. Sam lives first in a camp, then in a hollowed out tree, making friends with a weasel and training a falcon. Along the way Sam makes friends with humans as well as the local animals, learning valuable lessons about himself and how to better survive on the mountain.
If you enjoyed Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, you'll like this book. Even if you didn't enjoy Hatchet, you'll probably find something to enjoy, whether it's Sam's struggle to escape his suffocating family or his growing repertoire of wilderness skills.
I'm going to give this book four stars. It may not be for everyone, but this book is definitely worth the time to sit down and at least start it.
I've created a Pinterest Board with Recommended Reads. This is where I'll post books that I recommend and books that others (like the American Library Association) recommend. There won't be any reviews, that's what I'll leave this space for. But if you'd like to check out books that are being buzzed about by people who know their stuff, you'll find plenty to keep you interested. There's also some other fun stuff (...well I consider it fun stuff) on there as well.
There are a few series that I absolutely love that I find myself recommending them to everyone. If the conversation turns to books I find myself bringing them up because I simply can resist spreading the joy of them. And yes, I realize that reveals the true inner nerdiness of me. But sometimes there's just no hiding it.
I absolutely love Kelley Armstrong. She's built a very believable world of vampires, werewolves, necromancers, witches, wizards, and other magical//mythical beings. The Summoning is the first book in the Darkest Powers Trilogy. There's another connected series called Darkness Rising, which should be read after you finish the Darkest Powers Trilogy. Even if you thought that Twilight was a little too...angsty and emotional, chances are good that you'll like this book.
The main character is Chloe Saunders has always been able to see people who weren't really there. Which was fine when she was little, but when she was still seeing them at 15 it lands her in a "home for troubled teens", the Lyle House. It's at Lyle House that Chloe is labeled as schizophrenic. As if that isn't enough, Chloe has to deal with the other kids that have been shuffled off to Lyle House by family or ended up there after showing that they were "problem children". Chloe comes to the realization that all is not as it seems at Lyle House and there are really weird things about each of the kids who are there. There's Tori, who is mean to everyone else and seems to know more about what's going on than she should. Rae who likes fire a little too much. Derek who is large, rude, and has abnormally sharp hearing. Derek's foster brother, Simon who is cute but seems a bit shifty. And Liz who is really nice, until she gets angry, then things begin to fly around the room. Without her touching anything. And since I don't want to ruin the plot for you, that's all I'm going to say.
The thing I like best about Kelley Armstrong's characters, is that even thought this is completely fiction, they are very believable. They have realistic problems, no one blindly trusts "just because", terrible first impressions take a long time to get over, and that there are no absolute bad guys, just mostly people who are doing bad things for what they think is the right reason. Or bad things for money or power, which again, is very realistic.
I'm going to have to give this 5 stars. This is on my yearly rotation of books to reread.
While Kelley Armstrong is a New York Times Bestselling Author, Kristin Cashore is a newcomer to the writing scene. She has a more detached writing style, but that takes absolutely nothing away from her characters, plot, or world building. Kristin Cashore draws you into her fictional world. Graceling is also the first in a series, the following two books are equally as fabulous. I dare you to read just one. Even though the main character is a girl, there's very little of the feminine in Katsa.
In Katsa's world there are two kinds of people, the Gifted and the non-Gifted. There are fairly normal Gifts like music, hunting, languages, and so on. And then there's Katsa's Gift. Which as everyone in the kingdom knows, is killing. Thanks to a very public and accidental killing of a not-so-nice man at Katsa's hands when she was very young, she's only allowed to have some semblance of freedom because her uncle finds her useful. Her uncle is the king and finds it very useful to have a Gifted killer at his disposal to scare his subjects into doing as he wishes. However, Katsa has plans of her own and is part of an underground movement of people who are trying to lessen the harsh reign of the king. Katsa sets out to free a political prisoner and runs into someone who has a similar Gift for the first time in her life. His Gift isn't killing, but fighting. This book has just about everything you could want in an action book, hand-to-hand fighting, daring escapes, sword fighting, mystery, the looming potential of war, spies, and a little bit of romance thrown into the mix.
I like Katsa immensely, partly because she can't be bothered with anything that isn't at least partly functional. But I also loved seeing her personal growth, which I know sounds boring. But Katsa shows that your own definition of yourself is more important than the ones that others give you. While the "evil ruler" and the "even worse evil ruler" are pretty standard, the other characters in the story are complex, not always perfect people. Who despite their flaws, I wouldn't mind having in my life as friends.
This is another 5 stars.
I'd heard a lot of good things about Patrick Carman before I read Skeleton Creek, so when a friend of mine gave me a copy and told me I had to read it I didn't argue. I'm certainly glad I listened because this is an amazing book. Patrick Carman is considered by many to be at the forefront of experimenting with ways to incorporate the written word with the internet, film, and audio. This book seamlessly incorporates short videos throughout the book. That being said I will warn you that if you don't have easy access to the internet, this is perhaps not the book for you. The book alternates between journal entries written by the book's main character, Ryan, and videos made by his good friend Sarah. In order to know what's going on you have to have both, otherwise it's like listening to half of a phone conversation.
The story starts off with Ryan writing that something terrible has happened. To build the suspense Patrick Carman doesn't let you in on what exactly has happened until you get a little ways into the book. Which leaves you guessing as to what terrible this this high school student could have gotten into that has made his parents ground him (basically for life) and forbid him from seeing his best friend. I confess that the first three times I read this book, watching Sarah's videos made me jump. I won't ruin the story, but let's just say there's a ghost involved. Patrick Carman does an excellent job of keeping you guessing through the whole book. And just to keep you on your toes, doesn't reveal anything until the sequel, Ghost in the Machine, which is just as good. In fact there are several books in this series, so if you like Skeleton Creek, chances are good you'll like the rest of them.
I like Patrick Carman's style of writing because he firmly places inside of the main characters mind. There's no guess what his motives are, because if the character is thinking it you can access it pretty easily. As I may have mentioned before this story is full of suspense, although I recommend you not read this book at night or on a stormy day. I readily identified with Ryan because, like him, I'm usually the cautious one. The person saying, "Hey guys, I don't know if this is a good idea." Sarah on the other hand is full steam ahead, never mind the consequences.
I give this book 5 stars. I first read this book about 3 years ago and I think to date I've read it about 10 times.
If you enjoyed reading about the Holocaust and WWII, here are some other books that I'd recommend.
Maus is told in manga (like a comic) form. It tells of a son who asks his father about his experiences during the Holocaust. The artist chose to depict each racial/nationality as a different animal, which shows in a very external manner the internal differences that people, the Nazis especially, felt existed.
I give this 4 stars.
Hitler Youth Stories
The Boy Who Dared tells the true story of Helmuth Hubener, a boy who was executed at the age of 17, the youngest executed by the Third Reich, for his open opposition to their policies. Helmuth grew up in Nazi Germany, was patriotic, and looked forward to being old enough to fight for his county. However, as he gets older he grows disillusioned with the Nazi party. He begins to listed to banned radio broadcasts and types up fliers, which he and his friends distribute to his neighborhood. The story is told in a series of flashbacks from his prison cell. If you're looking for confirmation that not everyone fell in step with the Hitler Youth, you'll find it here.
I give this 5 stars. (Although it's sad so I probably won't be reading it a lot.)
In My Hands is the story of a Polish girl, Irene, who only seventeen when the war starts. Her country is taken over and because she looks Aryan she is able to get a job in an officers' dining room. She passes information, food, and blankets to Jews in the ghetto. She smuggles people out of a work camp. And successfully hid twelve Jews in the basement of a Nazi major until Germany was defeated by the Allied forces. She doesn't start out deciding to be a hero. She sees small ways to help at first, then the opportunities seem to grow larger and more dangerous. Despite the danger to herself Irene manages to help and save many. Through Irene's story you can see that no fight is too big for one person.
I give this 4 stars.
This was the first book I had read by Carrie Vaughn and I'm always a little nervous about reading a new author. But I have to admit that I throgoughly enjoyed reading Voices of Dragons. The story is set in a world that is very similar to ours, with one exception. On the other side of "the border" is where the dragons live. Dragons and humans are distrustful of each other and exist in an uneasy truce.
The main character, Kay Wyatt, is fully aware that rock climbing too near the border is against the law. But she doesn't really care. She's looking for adventure, even if that means she's putting herself in danger. Then a dragon, Artegal, saves her life and a friendship begins. Kay and Artegal continue to secretly meet and their friendship grows stronger as they discover the sterotypes they believed about each other don't necessarily apply. The prejudices that both of the main characters walk into their friendship with are slowly worn away by reality, but their family, friends, and the leaders of their world are still operating under their misconceptions. While Kay and Artegal grow closer, their people, the humans and dragons, grow farther away from each other and war seems inevitable.
I enjoyed that Kay wasn't a typical girly-girl, she's a strong independent character who doesn't always make the best decisions. The author did an excellent job of integrating the politics of her fictional world into the day to day reality of her characters.
I give this book 4 stars and highly recommend it.
What is this?
This is a place for me, Ms. Tice, to recommend books for you to read. Sometimes it's books I've read and enjoyed. Sometimes it's books I've heard about other people enjoying. Some of the books you'll find in my class library, some the school library, some the public library, and some you may have to go out and buy.
1 star - not recommended, I wouldn't recommend this to a person I hated
2 stars - it was ok, but I didn't really it
3 stars - enjoyable, but I've read better
4 stars - I enjoyed it and I think others will too
5 stars - I loved it and will be rereading it again soon