1. White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web. Estate of Garth Williams, 1999. 184 pages. Tr. $4.51 ISBN 0064410935
Brief Plot Description: Wilbur, a pig raised in Mr. Zuckerman’s barn, tries to escape from the barn for freedom. He feels lonely until he meets his friend, a spider named Charlotte. Charlotte saves Wilbur’s life from being butchered by weaving words of “some pig,” “terrific” and “radiant” on the web that tricks Mr. Zuckerman and people in town into believing Wilbur is an unusual pig. Since then, Wilbur gets famous and is treated very well by Mr. Zuckerman. When Charlotte is dying, Wilbur saves Charlotte’s children and takes care of them.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Juvenile Fiction, Friendship, Farm life, Domestic Animals, Pigs & Spiders.
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Awards: Newbery Honor Book for 1953, Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal 1970, Massachusetts Children’s Book Award for 1984, Award winners-ALA Notable/Best Books; Award Winners-SLJ Best Book.
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Mogo, the Third Warthog by Donna Jo Napoli. The Cricket in Times Square byGeorge Selden.
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can have a role play with this story since many children are familiar with this story.
Personal Thoughts: I chose this book because it is one of the favored classic novels for children. The story is well-written and easy to read. It can easily spark children’s interest in reading since the little pig and the spider are so adorable in the story. Friendship, love, and compassion are the themes of this book. The story reveals the true meaning of friendship in that “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Children can also learn not to judge everything from the surface. Although the spider’s appearance is not attractive, she has a beautiful soul and is supportive of her friend.
2. Selden, George . The cricket in Times Square. Ariel Books, 1960. 151pages. Tr. $18.95 ISBN 0312380038
Brief Plot Description: Mario’s family makes their living at a newsstand at the New York Times Square Highway Station. Mario often helps his parents sell newspapers. One day, he finds a cricket from Connecticut at the station and raises it as a pet. The cricket’s musical talent is revealed and Tucker Mouse, Harry Cat, and the cricket come up with a plan to help Mario’s newsstand business. The cricket plays music at the station to encourage people to stop by and buy Mario’s newspapers.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Animal Series, animal fantasy, Changes and New Experiences, City Life, Friends and Friendship
Reading Level: 8-12
Awards: Newbery Honor (1961), Lewis Carroll Shelf Award (1963), Massachusetts Children’ s Book Award (1979)
Sequels: Tucker’s Countryside (1969), Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy (1974), Chester Cricket’s Pigeon Ride (1981), Chester Cricket’s New Home (1983), Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse (1986), and The Old Meadow (1987)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Young Fredle by Cynthia, Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye, Loamhedge by Brian Jacques
Programming/Lesson Ideas: After reading the story out loud to children, librarians can ask them to draw a picture based on the plot of the novel.
Personal Thoughts: This beloved and heartwarming story is a perfect choice for reading out loud to children. The plot is unique and very interesting. It combines the realistic element of New York Times Square and a fantasy element of a cricket playing music together in the story. The little boy Mario is a nice character who has love and empathy towards animals. The friendship between the cricket, Tucker Mouse, Harry Cat, and Mario are my favorite part of the story.
3. Sacher, Louis. Holes. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. 265 pages. Tr. $18 ISBN 0374332665
Brief Plot Description: Stanley Yelnats, an overweight boy from a poor family accursed with bad luck, is sent to Camp Green Lake because of the misapplication of justice. As he is walking home, a pair of sneakers falls from the sky and hits his head. He takes the shoes and runs away, but soon he is arrested and convicted of stealing the sneakers donated by a famous baseball player, Clyde Livingston. On the dry lake bed of Camp Green Lake, Stanley is required to dig a hole five feet deep and five feet in diameter every day with other boys for character improvement. He meets Zero, X-Ray, Zigzag there and discovers the truth behind the use of the holes and the person responsible for stealing the sneakers.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): realistic fiction, mystery, adventure, juvenile delinquency, friendship, pride and self-esteem, courage, determination, and survival
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: National Book Awards for 1998 and Newbery Medal for 1999
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: The Young Man and the Sea by Rodman Philbrick. The Summer of the Swans byBetsy Cromer Byars.
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can have a group discussion using the discussion guide here https://multcolib.org/holes
Personal Thoughts: This is an amazing story for its plot full of twists and turns leading from the beginning of the story to the end. This is a story about destiny, friendship, punishment, and courage. Stanley blames his bad luck from a curse caused by his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather”, but he understands later that his destiny is in his own hands. Many plot points in the story are carefully arranged and interrelated.
4. Paulsen, Gary . Hatchet. Aladdin Paperbacks, 1987. 195 pages. Tr. $16.95 ISBN 0689810926
Brief Plot Description: Brian Robeson, a thirteen-year-old boy, flies with a pilot to visit his father working in the oil fields of Canada after his parents’ divorce. During the trip, the plane crashes into a lake because the pilot suffers a heart attack. Although Brian is alive after the crash, he has to struggle to learn how to survive in the wilderness with only a hatchet, a gift from his mother.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): realistic fiction, adventure, coverage, heroism, and survival
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Awards: Newbery Honor Book for 1986; ALA Best Book for Young Adults, School Library Journal Best Book of 1985
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Stranded byChristopher Tebbetts and Jeff Probst.
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Imagining themselves in the same situation as Brian, children can discuss what they would do in order to survive and what items are essential for living in the wilderness.
Personal Thoughts: This is a good book that inspires children to remain hopeful and courageous in the face of harsh and difficult circumstances. This book also addresses the negative effects of parents’ divorce on children.
5. O’Dell, Scott . Island of the Blue Dolphins. Houghton Mifflin, 1990. 181 pages. Tr. $18.95 ISBN 9780547328614
Brief Plot Description: An Indian girl named Karana lives alone on the island of the Blue Dolphins for years after she is separated from her family as a result of the battle between the Aleuts led by Captain Orrlov and the tribe led by her father. Living alone on the island, she has managed to survive by herself. She works to build a house and a fence, cook food, make weapons, and watch for the coming of dangerous animals and the Aleuts. She also befriends some dogs, and at the end of the story, she goes to Mission Santa Barbara.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Adventure fiction, survival, determination, and perseverance.
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Awards: Newbery Medal for 1961
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Programming/Lesson Ideas: The story is based on the true story of Juanna Maria, so it is suggested to do some research on Juanna Maria to have a better understanding of this novel.
Personal Thoughts: This story is sad, yet inspiring through portraying a courageous and determined character to children. It is hard to imagine how difficult it is for a girl living alone on an island by herself for such a long time. It sends a positive message to children that growing up sometimes is not easy, but they have to confront the difficulties they face.
6. Palacio, R. J. . Wonder. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. 315 pages. Tr. $13.98 ISBN 9780375869020
Brief Plot Description: This novel is about a ten-year-old boy named August Pullman who was born with facial abnormalities. Because of his unusual face, he had to face spurn and insults from his classmates when he entered fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan. Longing for others’ equal treatment, August struggles with all the difficulties he encounters.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): realistic fiction, disabilities, friends and friendship, adolescent issues.
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Awards: West Australian Young Readers' Book Award (WAYRBA) for Younger Readers (2013), Carnegie Medal in Literature Nominee (2013), The Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children's Literature Medalist (2013), NAIBA Book of the Year for Middle Readers (2012), Waterstones Children's Book Prize (2013)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, Ok for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Librarians can suggest that children observe disabled people around them and discuss their thoughts after observation. There are many moving stories about famous people with disabilities such as Stephen Hawking, FDR, and Ralph Braun. Children can research stories about them and learn how they succeeded in life despite their physical impairments.
Personal Thoughts: Studying students with special needs is an important subject for ordinary students because it introduces the world of disabled people to them. Wonder is a good book on this topic that allows readers to see the world from the perspective of the disabled, so that they can learn empathy and respect. The book is also about self-acceptance, which encourages disabled students to stay optimistic and have high self-esteem. Children can learn from the strengths of August to cope with their own difficulties in life.
7. Lowry, Lois . The Giver. Houghton Mifflin, 1993. 179 pages. Tr. $5.95 ISBN 9780385732550
Brief Plot Description: Jonas lives in a utopian community where everyone believes in equality without pain and happiness, and everyone has his/her own role in the community. At the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is chosen to be the receiver of memories from the Giver, the only person who holds people’s memories in the community. Through the Giver, Jonas begins to be able to see colors, have feelings of love, happiness, and sadness and learn the truth behind all this and the real meaning of “release.” Jonas decides to change the community by returning people’s memories back to them.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Fantasy, Science Fiction, courage, compassion, power, authority and governance, families and social structures, leadership and responsibility
Reading Level: Ages 9 and above
Awards: Newbery Medal Winners for 1994
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins,Ear, The Eye, and The Arm by Nancy Farmer
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Since this novel is not easy to read for some tweens, it is suggested to have a study guide or group discussion guide for tweens.
Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed reading this novel because it is thought-provoking. Do people really need a utopian society like Jonas’ community? I think the true value of a human being’s existence is the ability to have feelings, to love, and to have freedom of choices. Although people need to face the dark side of their emotions sometimes, such as frustration, sadness, and fear, people still enjoy their lives because they also feel happiness and love. It is more important to have the freedom to choose our own lifestyle instead of living aimlessly like the people in the novel.
8. Holm, Jennifer L . Turtle in Paradise. Random House, 2010. 191 pages. Tr. $18.95 ISBN 9780375836886
Brief Plot Description: During the Great Depression, eleven-year-old Turtle is sent to live with her aunt Minnie in Key West, Florida because Turtle’s mother finds a job working as a housekeeper, but her boss does not like kids. The unexpected arrival of Turtle is not welcomed by her aunt and her cousins. Turtle has a hard time adjusting to her new life, but through her endeavor, she is accepted by a local group of boys, the Diaper Gang. She also meets her grandmother and finds buried pirate treasure. After Archie, her mother’s boyfriend, takes away Turtle’s part of the treasure and flees to Cuba, Turtle and her mother find their real paradise.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Historical Fiction, Adventure, Changes and New Experiences, Extended families, moving
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: Newbery Honor (2011), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nomiee (2013), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2012)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, Leo and the Lesser Lion by Sandra Forrester, The Wonder of Charlie Anne by Kimberly Newton Fusco
Programming/Lesson Ideas: To better understand the historical background, children can read some nonfiction books about the Great Depression.
Personal Thoughts: The story is told from Turtle’s perspective, and readers can easily immerse themselves in Turtle’s world. Turtle is my favorite character because she is a strong, courageous, and independent girl. She grows up from her adventure in Key West, learning how to care about others and the true meaning of home and family bonds. Although she does not have a Hollywood ending through owning a fancy house, she has the best ending in that she is able to live with her extended family. This book is good for children who need to find a sense of belonging and home security.
9. Stead, Rebecca . When you reach me. Wendy Lamb Books, 2009. 199 pages. Tr. $15.99 ISBN 9780375850868
Brief Plot Description: The story is set in New York during the years 1978 and 1979. Miranda is a sixth grade girl living with her single mother. Miranda’s old friend Sal stops talking to her after he gets punched by a boy named Marcus. One day, Miranda receives an anonymous note claiming someone is coming to save her friend’s life and requesting Miranda to write a letter with an indication of the location of her house key. Miranda feels scared as she continues receiving three cryptic notes because the messages are predicted correctly. What is the relation between Marcus and the laughing man? As everything unfolds at the end of the story, the laughing man is revealed to be the older Marcus coming from the future to save Sal from the car accident and he is also the note writer who requests Miranda to write letters to the younger Marcus.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Science Fiction, Historical Fiction Mystery, Adolescent Issues, Magic and Supernatural, Friends and Friendship
Reading Level: Ages 9-13
Awards: Newbery Medal (2010), School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2009), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Nominee (2011), Parents' Choice Gold Award (2009), IRA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Award for Young Adult–Fiction (2010)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle, Nick of Time by Ted Bell, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’ Engle
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can compare the book with A Wrinkle in Time to find their similarities and differences.
Personal Thoughts: This novel is a must read for any mystery fans. The story is compelling and full of suspense. The author weaves the plot carefully to keeps readers wondering about the truth of the notes. Time travel is one of the major themes of the book. Miranda always holds a classic science fiction book, A Wrinkle in Time, which foreshadows the development of the story. Theending surprised me and I believe many readers will go back to the beginning of the novel to read it again, as I did. Another major theme in this book is friendship in school. Children can relate themselves to Miranda and her friends.
10. L’Engle, Madeleine . A Wrinkle in Time. Houghton Mifflin, 1962. 262pages. Tr. $13.78 ISBN 9780374386160
Brief Plot Description: In order to rescue her father who has been locked up by IT, the creature controlling the dark planet of Camazotz, fourteen-year-old Meg, Calvin O’Keefe, Charles Wallace, and the supernatural beings Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which have to travel through time and space to the dark planet of Camazotz by means of tesseract to fight against the forces of evil there.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Classics, Science Fiction, Family Life, Courage, Bravery, Heroism, Honor, School Life
Reading Level: Grade 6-8
Awards: Newbery Medal (1963), Sequoyah Book Award (1965)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: The Giver by Lois Lowry, When you Reach me by Rebecca Stead.
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Librarian can give children some books about the solar system to read after discussing this book.
Personal Thoughts: This remarkable classic science fiction novel sparks its readers’ imagination and sends them positive messages. I really admire the author’s creativity, imagination, and use of science fiction elements such as time travel. It has great influences on the development of science fiction. Moreover, this novel is not just about a battle between good and evil, but also teaches children about family bonds.
11. Hale, Shannon. Princess Academy. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2005. 314pages. Tr. $13.78 ISBN 1599900734
Brief Plot Description: A fourteen-year-old girl named Miri lives with her father and sister in Mount Eskel, where the villagers make a living by quarrying stones and selling them to the lowlander traders. One day, the nation’s priests announce that the prince will choose his bride from Mount Eskel. Miri’s life changes when she is selected to attend the Princess Academy with other eligible girls. During her adventures in the academy, Miri learns much about commerce and quarry-speech, which enables her to help her villagers increase trade with the lowlanders. She also utilizes her knowledge to call for help in order to save the girls’ lives when bandits attack the academy.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Fantasy, Adolescent Issues, Social Studies, Determination and Perseverance, Leadership and Responsibility, Friends and Friendship
Reading Level: Ages 9-14
Awards: Newbery Honor (2006), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award Nominee (2008)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris, The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker, Ella Enchanted, The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Princess Academy program is for tween girls to join for princess tales and other activities related to princesses such as making princess crafts.
Personal Thoughts: The title of this book attracted me to pick up this book from the book shelf and I have enjoyed reading it. Miri is a role model for tween girls, revealing the value of a girl through courage, intelligence, and independence. The novel also emphasizes the importance of education, which can change someone’s life and help them realize their dream.
12. Law, Ingrid. Savvy. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2008. 342pages. Tr. $7.19 ISBN 9780803733060
Brief Plot Description: Mibs is excited for the coming of her birthday because she is going to have savvy, a magical power that the Beaumont family members possess once they are at the age of 13. Unfortunately, two days before Mibs’ birthday, her father gets hurt in a serious car accident and is in a coma at Salina Hospital. As Mibs believes her savvy can wake up her father, she took a bus with her brothers and the preacher’s kids to the hospital. However, their bus takes a wrong turn that leads to the beginning of an adventure where she discovers her real savvy is being able to listen to the talk of tattoos and read other’s minds. Mibs finally wakes her father up with her savvy.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Fantasy Fiction, Family Life, Magic and Supernatural, Individuality
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: Newbery Honor (2009), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children's Literature (2009), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award Nominee (2011), Iowa Children's Choice Award Nominee (2012), The Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children's Literature Honor (2009)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick, Attack of the Turtle by Drew Carlson, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull,
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can have a group discussion by following the discussion questions on the back of the book.
Personal Thoughts: The main themes of this book are family life and adolescent problems. The main character Mibs, who is turning 13, also encounters the same adolescent problems like many other children at the same age. Mibs hates her father for not being able to come to her birthday at first, but she finds herself and grows up during her journey. She becomes brave and saves her father with her savvy.
13. Just, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth. Bullseye Books, 1988. 272pages. Tr. $7.00 ISBN 9780394820378
Brief Plot Description: Milo is a schoolboy who always feels bored with his life. One afternoon, he unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth. Milo drives his toy car through the tollbooth to the land of the Kingdom of Wisdom. During his adventure, he gets lost in the Doldrums, but is saved by a watchdog named Tock. Milo and Tock learn that the two capital cities of the Kingdom of Wisdom, Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, are at war because the two rulers of the capital cities disagree between the importance of words and numbers. The two princesses Rhyme and Reason are banished to the Castle in the Air. Milo, Tock, and Humbug set off to rescue the two princesses, but they have to fight with demons and overcome some obstacles along their journey. Finally, the two princesses are rescued by them and the Kingdom of Wisdom returns to harmony.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Classic Fantasy, character and values, life experiences, families and relationships, child development and behavior
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandby Lewis Carroll, Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can play Scrabble and mathematic games after reading aloud the story.
Personal Thoughts: This classic fantasy story is very interesting and compelling. Although it was published a long time ago, it still appeals to many children. I am fascinated by the imaginative use of words and numbers in the story such as words being able to be eaten, sold, and bought. The story also educates children that life can be colorful instead of boring when people are willing to take time to appreciate everything around them.
14. Creech, Sharon. Walk Two Moons. HarperCollins, 1994. 280pages. Tr. $5.42 ISBN 0060233346
Brief Plot Description: On a road trip from Ohio to Idaho, Sal shares the story of her friend Phoebe with her grandparents. As the mystery of the disappearance of Phoebe’s mother is unveiled, readers can find the similarities between Sal’s story and her sadness over the death of her mother.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Realistic Fiction, Death, Loss of Extended Families, Grief, Native American, Cultural Identity.
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: Newbery Medal (1995), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award Nominee (1997), Sequoyah Book Award (1997), W.H. Smith's Mind-Boggling Books Award (1996)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan, Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi
Programming/Lesson Ideas: While reading aloud, librarians can ask children to use a map to mark down the places where Sal and her grandparents travel.
Personal Thoughts: This story is captivating and moving, and touches on the themes of a love one’s death and grief. The novel is layered in that readers need to discover Sal’s own story by following her narration of Phoebe’s story. Although Sal’s story and Phoebe’s story are two parallel stories, the endings involving their mothers are different. Phoebe’s mother returns while Sal’s mother was killed in a car accident. Sal always thinks her mother is still with her, singing in the trees, which is her way of releasing her grief.
15. Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet, the Spy. Harper & Row, 1964. 298pages. Tr. $7.19 ISBN 9780385327831
Brief Plot Description: Eleven-year-old girl Harriet dreams of being a writer. She has an unusual habit of spying on others and writing notes about them on her notebook. One day, she loses her notebook and it is read by her classmates. Her awful notes about her classmates enrage everyone in the class. Harriet is isolated from the class and her classmates create a plan to exact revenge on her. At first, Harriet does not care about her classmates’ hostile attitudes toward her, and insists on writing her notes. A letter from Ole Golly Waldenstein makes Harriet realize that what she did was wrong. By the end of the story, with her writing and observation skills, Harriet is selected to be the editor and she befriends her classmates again.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Comedy and Humor, Adolescent Issues, Journal Writing, Honesty, Manners and Conduct, School Life, Understanding self and others
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: Sequoyah Book Award (1967)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Dawn by Ann M. Martin, Secrets, Lies, and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman, Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can write a spy diary on any topics that interest them for a period of time. Then, children can share their spy diary with others. Here is the detailed suggestion from scholastic.com: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/harriet-spy-lesson-plan
Personal Thoughts: This is a very funny and interesting story that would not disappoint any readers of any age. Harriet is a well-developed character in the story and is easily relatable by tweens. Some readers might hold negative feelings towards Harriet since she is mean and self-absorbed at first. However, we cannot deny that Harriet is an intelligent girl who is persistent in her dream of becoming a writer. Parents should learn how to educate a child properly with encouragement instead of denying his/her ability. The story is also about friendship, honesty, and memories. The story mentions that lying is okay sometimes, when the reason for lying is caring about others’ feelings.
16. Yelchin, Eugene. Breaking Stalin’s Nose. Holt and Company, 2011. 140pages. Tr. $7.19 ISBN 9780805092165
Brief Plot Description: This story takes place during Stalin's reign of the Soviet Union. Sasha Zaichik, a ten-year-old boy, is looking forward to becoming a Soviet Young Pioneer just like his father. Despite being a devoted communist, Sasha’s father is arrested by the State Security officers as an enemy of the people. Sasha becomes homeless and his aunt refuses to let him stay at her home. The school is going to hold a Pioneers rally, but Sasha accidently breaks off the plastic nose of Stalin’s statue. His classmate Four-Eye Finkelstein confesses the crime on behalf of Sasha in order for him to be able to be locked up to see his parents in prison. The teacher Nina Petrovna is arrested too because the nose is found in her desk. Sasha starts to examine his beliefs and decides he does not want to be a Pioneer anymore.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Historical Fiction, Communism, European History, Parents, Human Rights
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: Newbery Honor (2012); The Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children's Literature Honor (2012)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Silent Thunder: A Civil War Storyby Andrea Davis Pinkney, Soon Be Free by Lois Ruby
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can read the biography book of Stalin to better understand this story.
Personal Thoughts: Through the story of Sasha’s breaking Stalin’s nose, the author exposes Stalin’s reign of terror, a serious political topic, to readers in an interesting way. This novel won the 2012 Newbery award. I think it is a unique story for tweens who are interested in learning Russia’s history during the Stalin era and the truth of Stalin’s Communism. I would suggest tweens to read the author’s note behind the book describing the background information about the author and the purpose of writing this story. The story aims to not only show the dark side of Stalin’s rule, but also to ask people to be aware of examining their belief and learn to judge right from wrong.
17. DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn-Dixie. Candlewick Press, 2000. 182pages. Tr. $4.06 ISBN 97807633644321
Brief Plot Description: Living in a broken family, Opal Buloni moves with his father, a preacher, to Naomi, Florida from Watley in the summer. He saves a dog in the Winn-Dixie grocery store and claims it as his dog when the manager is going to send it to the pound. Opal brings the dog home and names it Winn-Dixie. Because of the Winn-Dixie, Opal starts to make friends with other people in his community. He gets to know the librarian, Miss Franny Block ,and Otis, the owner of the pet shop through getting along with them.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Realistic Fiction, Single Parents, Friends and Friendship, Understanding Self and Others
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: Newbery Honor (2001), Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children's Literature (2001), Mark Twain Award (2003), Texas Bluebonnet Award (2002), BCCB Blue Ribbon Book (2000), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award Nominee (2002), South Carolina Book Award for Children's Book Award (2003), Charlotte Award (2002), Nene Award (2005)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Dog Friday by Hilary Mckay, The Warm Place by Nancy Farmer, Daring to be Abigail by Rachel Vail, Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Programming/Lesson Ideas: It is suggested to host a read-to-pets program, and invite children to bring a dog or other pets to read this lovely story to their pets.
Personal Thoughts: Many people like dogs and consider dogs as faithful friends to humans. The story of Opal making new friends in a new place because of his dog Winn-Dixie appeals to children since dogs are one of their favorite pets. The bitter story of the librarian Miss Franny helps Opal understand that he is not alone and that everyone has to face with his/her own difficulties in life. Another important theme from the novel is learning how to build relationships with other people.
18. Snyder, Zipha Keatley. The Egypt Game. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1967. 215pages. Tr. $14.31 ISBN 9781416990512
Brief Plot Description: Fascinated by ancient Egypt, Melanie and April read all the books about ancient Egypt at the library. The two girls and Melanie’s brother begin to build an Egyptian temple on a vacant yard located behind the Professor’s curios store. They start to play Egypt games there and later more kids join in on their Egypt games. However, they have to stop playing the game because murder cases are happening around the neighborhood. The Professor is suspected to be the murderer, but he proves his innocence by saving April from danger when she is attacked by the murderer.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Mystery and Suspense Fiction, Cleverness, Creativity and Imagination, Grandparents and Grandchildren, Friends and Friendship
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: Newbery Honor (1968), Lewis Carroll Shelf Award (1970), George C. Stone Center for Children's Books Recognition of Merit Award (1973)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright, Lily’s Ghosts by Laura Ruby, The Ghost’s Grave by Peg Kehret
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Librarians can give some nonfiction books about ancient Egypt to children to read. Children can invent some games and play the games with others.
Personal Thoughts: This story is mixed with mystery, imagination, and a scary atmosphere. It not only encourages children try to find out who the murderer is while reading the story, but also sparks their imagination on creating their games. It also develops children’s interest in learning more about the history of ancient Egypt.
19. Lai, Thanhha. Inside Out &Back Again. Harper, 2011. 262pages. Tr. $14.00 ISBN 9780061962783
Brief Plot Description: In this verse novel, Hà and her family flee to Alabama from Saigon, Vietnam because of the Vietnam War. Hà’s father is a soldier who is captured when he leaves home on a navy mission. Hà and her family have to endure the hardship as refugees in a new country and maintain hope in order to confront difficulties. Hà and her family always pray for the return of their father, but sadly, they find out that he is dead.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Verse Novel, Historical Fiction, Family Life, Immigration, Vietnam War, Tolerance and Acceptance
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: National Book Award for Young People's Literature (2011), Newbery Honor (2012)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Drita, My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard, 90 miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis, The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can discuss with peers by using the discussion guide http://teacher.scholastic.com/clubs/pdfs/guides/inside_out_guide.pdf Children can also share their own stories as immigrants or stories from their family members.
Personal Thoughts: This verse novel is written based on the author’s own life experience as an immigrant, which makes the story sound very authentic. The poems are beautifully written in free style. Through these free verse poems, readers can recognize the struggle of a Vietnamese refugee girl and her family to survive and fit in in a strange country.
20. Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.Atheneum, 1968. 162pages. Tr. $14.95 ISBN 0689853548
Brief Plot Description: This story is about a girl named Claudia, who runs away from home to have an adventure with her brother Jamie. They choose the destination for their adventure to be the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. While living at the Metropolitan Museum, they try to solve the mystery of an angel statue that is sold by Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler at the auction for $225. They want to find out whether the statue is the work of Michelangelo or not, and they need to find the answer from the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Mystery and Suspense, Classics, Adventure, Arts and Creativity, Siblings, Running Away
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: Newbery Medal (1968), Lewis Carroll Shelf Award (1968)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, The Sixty-eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can gather together to take a tour at a local museum and write a report afterwards.
Personal Thoughts: This classic mystery story is delightful and inspiring. The two characters Claudia and her brother Jamie are well-developed. Claudia is an intelligent planner who plans everything ahead while her brother is good on managing their daily expenses when they are living at the museum. They have a good relationship as siblings. Claudia is persistent on her goal of solving the mystery of the statue so that she can become someone different, and Jamie always compromises with his sister. The main reason for Claudia running away from home is to find her self- worth. This is a perfect mystery for children who desire to have something change in life and leave home for an adventure.
21. Peterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia. Haper Trophy, 2005. 191pages. Tr. $6.24 ISBN 9780060734015
Brief Plot Description: This is a sad romantic story about Jesse Aaron and Leslie Burke. Jesse gets to know more about Leslie after Leslie beats him in the school race. They become good friends and build a secret kingdom called Terabithia in the woods where they spend time together as king and queen. However, a tragedy occurs, changing everything. Leslie dies in an accident, and Jesse needs to find the strength to go through all the pain and fear.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Classics, Realistic Fiction, Confronting and Resolving Fears, Death, Grief, Loss, Cleverness, Creativity and Imagination, Friends and Friendship
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Awards: Newbery Medal (1978)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu; The Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker; Last Summer with Maizon by Jacqueline Woodson; Time Pieces by Virginia Hamilton
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can have a group discussion by following the discussion guide inside the book.
Personal Thoughts: I am fascinated by the magic kingdom in the story. For some children, having a secret place of their own is a beautiful dream, and being able to have someone available to share this secret place with you is even better. Sometimes, children do not want to share their feelings with their parents, but choose to release their feelings alone or with friends in a secret place. Moreover, the novel is also about resolving fears, death, and grief that can give children some insights and strengths.
22. Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy. Delacorte Press, 1999. 245pages. Tr. $7.19 ISBN 9780803733060
Brief Plot Description: During the Great Depression, ten-year old orphan Bud is adopted by the Amoses, a stereotypical abusive family. Bud is tortured by a twelve-year old boy named Todd, the son of the Amoses. Bud’s mother died when he was six years old. Convinced Herman E. Calloway is his father based on fliers left by his father that show Herman E. Calloway and his jazz band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression, Budd sets off on a journey to find his father.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Historical Fiction, African Americans, Music, Depressions, Runaways, Adoption and Foster Care, Parents
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Awards: Newbery Medal (2000), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award Nominee (2002), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2002), Nene Award (2002), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award (2001)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine, The Black Canary by Jane Louise Curry, The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton
Programming/Lesson Ideas: After reading the story, children can have a Bud’s Suitcase project to design Bud’s suitcase with paper, pictures, poetry and more. Here is the example of the project: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/244883298460338285/
Personal Thoughts: The novel is compelling and touching, which weaves the historical event of the Great Depression and the story of an African American boy seeking his father together. It reveals how much people suffered during the hard times of the Great Depression, especially African Americans. Bud is a heroic character who is courageous, persistent, and disciplined. The mystery of the fliers attracts readers to keep reading to the end. I also find the metaphor of names quite meaningful. Bud is always called Buddy by people intentionally which is a dog’s name, but Bud’s mother tells Bud that his name is a “flower-in-waiting, a fist of love waiting to unfold and be seen by the world” (p.42).
23. Peck, Richard. A Long Way from Chicago. Dial Books for Young Readers, 1998. 148pages. Tr. $9.50 ISBN 0142401102
Brief Plot Description: This novel tells several stories encompassing Joey and his sister, Mary Alice, and their memories of spending summer vacations with their gruff grandmother in rural Illinois during the Depression. They fly from Chicago to visit their grandmother in rural Illinois every summer from 1929-1934.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Comedy and Humor, Historical Fiction, Communities and Ways of Life, Manners and Conduct, Grandparents and Grandchildren
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Awards: Newbery Award (1999)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Backwater by Joan Bauer, Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen, Missing May by Patricia MacLachlan, Sun and Spoon by Kevin Henkes
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can have group discussion following the discussion guide: https://multcolib.org/long-way-chicago
Personal Thoughts: This humorous story can bring back children’s memories of spending time with their grandparents. Grandparents play an important role in influencing their grandchildren’s values, but the grandmother in the novel has no good influence on her grandchildren. However, if readers take the historical background of the Great Depression into account, it is not hard to understand why the grandmother acts out like this. The gruff grandmother in the novel is a typical character reflecting life in a small town in the Depression era.
24. Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows. Delacorte, 1954. 192pages. Tr. $8.50 ISBN 9780152020682
Brief Plot Description: A boy named Billy is longing to own a pair of coonhounds, so when he reads an advertisement selling a pair of dogs for $50, he works several jobs to buy these two dogs with his savings from work. Billy trains his dogs to hunt raccoons, and they soon become Billy’s inseparable companions. They win the hunting competition and catch the “ghost coon”, but Old Dan and Little Ann die after their struggle with the mountain lion.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Adventure, classics, realistic fiction, animal stories, determination and perseverance, death, grief, loss, country life
Reading Level: 9-11
Awards: Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (1987), North Dakota Children’s Choice Award (1981)
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: The Boy Who Spoke Dog by Clay Morgan, Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen, Jason’s Gold by Will Hobbs
Programming/Lesson Ideas: After reading this story, children can draw their favorite pets and share stories of raising their pets with others.
Personal Thoughts: This beloved classic about a boy and his two dogs is touching and thought provoking. It is a well-written book that teaches children about love, loyalty, determination, adventure, grief, and country life. The closed relationship of the threesome, the strong character of Billy and his brave and loyal dogs can reach the hearts of many readers. It is easy for tweens to relate themselves to the story.
25. Lupica, Mike. Travel Team. Philomel Books, 2004. 274pages. Tr. $16.99 ISBN 0399241507
Brief Plot Description: Although Danny Walker is the fastest and best passer on the basketball court, he is cut from the local travel team, the Vikings because he is too small. His father Richie Walker, a former NBA player, decides to help his son to start a new travel team, the Warriors. When Danny’s father is injured in a car accident, Danny takes his father’s role to be the coach of the Warriors and leads the team to win against the Vikings.
Genre(s)/Subject(s): Realistic Fiction, Basketball, Fathers and Sons, School Fiction
Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Books Similar in Style, Content, Theme, or Characters: Full Court Dream by Jake Maddox, Taking Sides by Gary Soto, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Three on Three by Eric Walters
Programming/Lesson Ideas: Children can relate themselves to the main character Danny and discuss with peers. What would you do if you were Danny? Would you give up playing basketball? Children can also do research on famous basketball stars and share stories of these basketball stars with others.
Personal Thoughts: This story is inspiring and interesting, and would appeal to young basketball fans. The character of Danny Walker is well portrayed. Danny is a determined and courageous character, who never gives up on his goal of being a good basketball player like his father. The success of Danny teaches tweens not to feel ashamed of their own physical disadvantages. A person’s strengths are more important than his/her appearance.