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Young Adult Reading


(ages 11 or 12 and up)

 

The term "young adult" was coined by librarians and the book industry to describe books for readers who have grown past middle grade books (ages 8-12) and are eager to read adult books. Typically, these readers range in age from 10 or 11 through high school, and many titles are published specifically for them, featuring people their age. Also, many books targeted at adults are great reading for young people, so this is a true "crossover" area.


scat
 Scat by Carl Hiassen.

 Known for his popular adult titles, Hiassen began writing for young people a few years ago with the hugely successful Hoot . After that came Flush , which I thought had more message than  story. Now here is SCAT, more like Hiassen’s adult work, without the cussing. In this novel, teenagers Nick and Marta suspect that their biology teacher, Mrs. Starch, has met with foul play.  Their search for her, involving numerous kooky characters and plot twists, is a true Hiassen mystery that displays his knowledge of science and his love for what remains of the old, wild  Florida.

 

  whirla Whirligig by Paul Fleischman.

 Teen readers should identify with Brent who has moved from school to school and has yet to find self-confidence. When he is insulted at a party by a girl he likes, he leaves and crashes his car on        purpose, accidentally killing a young girl named Lea. Lea’s mother asks him to atone by traveling to the four corners of the U.S., building a whirligig in Lea’s likeness in each place. As Brent travels, he   meets people who help him figure out who he is, and gradually his understanding of himself and of life matures.

 

ordinarywolves Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner.

This is a gritty, authentic book with details about Alaska that only an insider can know. The main character Cutuk is an outsider where he lives in rural Alaska, but he doesn’t fit very well in the city either, so he’s an observer and a shrewd one. Readers say they can’t put this book down, that the language and character development is amazing, and all kinds of other good things, so I’m offering it as a good read that will open your eyes and your heart to our most amazing, untouched state.

 

chains Chains Laurie Halse Anderson.

Set during the Revolutionary War, Anderson’s gripping, memorable story features Isabel, 13, and her younger sister Ruth, slaves who should have been freed when their mistress died. Instead, they were sold to the Locktons, who took them to New York City. The Locktons are Loyalists, actively working against the Revolution, and they treat Isabel and Ruth terribly. When Ruth is sold away, Isabel feels she must find a way to be free no matter what she has to do. The vivid characterization, careful research, and writing skill of the author make this award-winning book a must-read.

 

OxfordbookThe Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing compiled by Richard Dawkins.

If you enjoy science, this collection will bring you much pleasure. The various writers were chosen by well-known biologist Richard Dawkins to showcase the variety of sciences now available, and to let the best science writers hang out together in good company, for all to read. Maybe you’re thinking of a career in science and can’t be sure which branch would suit you best…well, these 83 “literary prose poems” will help you decide. These writings prove that science is thoughts and dreams and puzzles that just won’t quit! I am itching to read “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” by Alan Turing and The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? by Paul Davies. This is a most special book.

 

 

eggandme The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald.

This is MacDonald’s memoir of her life with a husband who chose to run a chicken farm in the far northwest. As a good wife, she went with him and found “a ten-gallon keg of good whiskey, some very dirty Indians, and hundreds and hundreds of most uninteresting chickens.” Though the book came out in 1945, it is still very much alive, for many reasons: the writer is outstanding and laugh-out-loud funny, the characters come to life, and the lifestyle itself is fascinating. Few people now live the way this couple lived. I read this book as a teenager, loved it, and have recommended it ever since. Also read Plague And I ; Onions in the Stew ; and the classically hilarious children’s series, beginning with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle .


fragments Fragments by Jeffry W. Johnston (Edgar award nominee, 2008)
Teens really like this book, calling it "dark and edgy" and "compelling." All professional reviews are raves, so I look forward to reading the story of Chase, a junior in high school who is recovering from a serious accident. As days go by, flashes of highly unpleasant memories come to him and he realizes that he needs to know more, though he fears what he will learn. As Chase's partial amnesia fades, tension mounts. This is the author's first book, but it foretells a writing future.

 

 

extremepets Extreme Pets! by Jane Harrington.

 


You might need a few science genes to really appreciate this book, but hey! lots of us have those genes. Suppose you don't want a puppy or a kitten or a hamster, but instead you want a snake. Or a tarantula. Or a nice rat. If so, this book is terrific. Five major sections include Cold Blooded! Pocket Pets! Insects! Slimy Pets! and D.I.Y. Guide. This is a sensible, informational approach with a sense of humor and lots of pictures to help you decide if YOU want to own a very different, extreme pet!

 

bloodyjack Bloody Jack, Being An Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary (Jacky) Faber, Ship's Boy by L.A. Meyer.
Disguised as a boy in order to survive, Mary applies to be a ship's boy and succeeds with her deception, becoming Jacky. As she is both lovable and tough, readers are pulling for her from the earliest pages. She comes close to getting "caught out" a few times, but Jacky is resourceful. When breasts threaten to give her away, she binds them. When a pirate comes at her in a war, she shoots him, thus earning the name "Bloody Jack." Time passes, and this deception becomes more and more difficult to sustain. Somehow Jacky has to figure out how to survive on land, as a young woman. Based on much historical research and the lives of several real girls who pulled the same trick, Bloody Jack is a terrific read. I inhaled it!

 

lighteningthief The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan.
This book started a fascinating sci-fi/fantasy series about Percy Jackson, a 12 year-old guy who knows he is different-he has ADHD and gets kicked out of private schools everywhere-but when he learns that he's the son of a Greek god, that explains a great deal. At his most recent school, one of the teachers turns into a monster and Percy's best friend becomes a satyr, and bingo! the adventures take off. Due to the writer's skill, it is easy to believe that Mount Olympus is located today on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building and Hell is at DOA Recording Studio, somewhere in LA. Readers who don't know Greek mythology will learn a lot here incidentally, and lovers of old myths will be in heaven. Readers can keep up with Percy, Grover (the nervous satyr), and AnnaBeth (daughter of Athena) in sequels: The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2) and The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3)

 

americanchinese American Born Chinese (a graphic novel) by Gene Luen Wang.
Winner of the Printz award for Young Adults, this remarkable novel has three story strands: the Chinese folk hero, Monkey King, who wishes to become a god; Jin Wang's story, an outsider who would love to fit in at school; and Danny's story, a regular all-American kid who is so mortified by his cousin, Chin-Kee-a painful and purposeful stereotype-that he changes schools. How these three plotlines converge is what makes this such a dynamic book. Each person learns to be comfortable in his own skin-a major achievement as years go by and teenagers grow to adulthood.

 

 

threehome Three Came Home by Agnes Newton Keith.
Interned with her young son, George, Agnes Keith endures three years in a Japanese POW camp during WW2, rarely seeing her husband who is kept in another part of the camp. Daily beatings occur in camp, food is nearly nonexistent, yet Keith retains her senses, enlivened by an occasional wry sense of humor. Realizing he has an exceptional prisoner, the camp commandant has Keith write positive, upbeat descriptions of life in the camp, which are wholly false, of course. She keeps her own memoirs hidden, recording the truth for later use in case she survives the experience.

Her first book, Land Below the Wind (1939), set in northern Borneo, brought her acclaim, partly because of the airy, charming humor she possesses, but this book is more somber, of course. Somber certainly doesn't mean boring; this is a compelling book that was made into a movie in 1950. Both are worth your time.

indiandiary The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
The part-time Indian is Arnold Spirit, who lives on the Spokane reservation in Washington; he is encouraged to go elsewhere to make something of himself. He switches to a white school, where he expects major rejection, but instead finds himself making all kinds of new friends. Of course he had friends on the rez, too. And this is a book about friendship, and the resilience of people—their strengths that come often from friendship. And it’s about being a member of a basketball team, which helps. When his home life disintegrates because of alcoholism, Arnold (known also as Junior), must find out how to chart his own path. With humor, Junior makes his way, forging ahead in a realistic manner. Along the way he draws the most eloquent cartoons, which add greatly to this uplifting, gripping book! (Winner of the National Book Award.)

 

 

 

rulesoftheroad Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer.
I enjoy all of Bauer’s work, because she writes so well and creates characters that step right out of the pages into life. In this story, Jenna is the star salesman for Gladstone’s shoe store. Jenna loves selling. She isn’t all that impressed with herself—believes she’s not pretty and is too tall—but readers like her wit, her honesty, and her struggles to grow up. When Jenna gets a chance to drive cranky, elderly Mrs. Gladstone across the country for business reasons, she worries about getting along with the old lady. Instead she gradually becomes attached to her. The contrast between the teenager and the older woman is fascinating. Both people grow and change before our eyes, and the story of how that happens makes a terrific read.

 

 

 

poetslave The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle and Sean Qualls.
Told in poetry, this enchanting book is the story of an amazing person—Juan Manzano, who was born into slavery in 1797. Saying that Manzano was gifted is a huge understatement. He memorized anything he decided to memorize, long and short, in many different languages, and then he recited it for the pleasure of his owner and her company. From age six to age eleven, he was safe with this mistress, but when she died he was sold to a cruel, largely insane woman who had him beaten and locked up whenever she wished. At 16, he escaped, his miraculous mind and memory intact. This is a powerful true story, showing the actual face of slavery in Cuba, and giving readers many reasons to love the poetry of the man named Manzano. Everyone needs to read this book.

 

intheirshoes In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Careers by Deborah Reber.
For older teens considering careers, this book is a winner. The author interviewed 49 women in various jobs. She follows the same format with each, relating the facts of each job, pay scale, level of stress, etc. She describes a typical day for each worker. The people interviewed often give advice or suggestions relating to their careers, which lends the book extra authority and immediacy. Reber shows readers the curriculum vitae (resume) for each of the interviewees. Most of them stressed that job changes are inevitable. The book includes an index plus factual lists of women in today’s workforce and lists of possible careers.

 

 

 

threebagsfull Three Bags Full, A Sheep Detective Story by Leonie Swann.
You’re going to like these sheep. Nineteen of them trot into life as you read about their murdered shepherd and the efforts of his sheep to find out whodunit. Miss Maple, clever and determined, keeps the flock on the job as they try to discover who planted the spade in their shepherd’s guts, and which sheep kicked him near the end. The clues are kept by Mopple the Whale, the memory sheep, a chubby Merino ram who is nearly always hungry. Othello, a black Hebridean four-horned ram is part of the mystery, more intriguing as the story goes forward and we learn about his difficult past. Sir Ritchfield is the lead ram, but his memory isn’t what it was and neither is his hearing. Each sheep has a definite personality and a part to play in the story. As humans come and go in the fields where the sheep live, we learn that drugs are involved in the mysterious death. It’s all I can do to put this book down, in fact, to write these reviews! And I’ve never cared much for sheep. Have fun with this book!

 

 

hawaii  Hawaii by James Michener.
I read this book in 1960 and have never forgotten it. I don’t remember names of characters, just that they became real for me. The poetic opening of the book shows us the earliest people leaving Bora Bora, seeking new land. They found Hawaii and its several islands, and began a civilization there of what we call Polynesian people. In came the missionaries, who tried to “civilize” the Polynesians. And the Chinese and Japanese, who came to work. Toss in the leper colony. The mix that became the Hawaiian islands, our 50th state, is endlessly fascinating. Many regard this as Michener’s best novel and I’d agree. How I hated coming to the end of it! It must be time for me to re-read it.

 

 

 

unlundun Un Lun Dun by China Meiville.
For the sci-fi lovers among us, here’s a winner. Teens will enjoy this fast-paced tale of a pair of 12 year-olds, one of whom may be the Chosen One. Zanna and her friend Zeeba find themselves in an alternate reality—an UnLondon. There, Zanna battles the villain Smog, with results that do not match the prophecies. What is going on? Back at home, Zanna recalls nothing. Yet Zeeba remembers and must find a way back to the other world. Readers are passionate about this book, so why not give it a go?

 

 

 

 

jericho The Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper.
Jericho and his cousin Josh—believable, likable African-American teenagers—are excited to be asked to join the most prestigious high school club, the Warriors of Distinction. The first task of the pledges goes all right, but after that life becomes much more complex…that is, if one wishes to be part of this club. The real topic in this highly-readable story is making choices, and how those choices can affect your entire life. Dialogue seems stilted sometimes, as Draper avoids profanity that all teen boys use freely, but the peer pressure and characters ring true.

 

 

 

dairyqueen Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.
When DJ’s dad breaks his hip, she must do all the farm work, mucking out the barn, and milking on their dairy farm in Wisconsin. Okay, she’s a serious football fan and basketball jock herself, so she’s strong and can handle the work. But no time for sports. Instead, 15 year-old DJ helps a guy from a rival high school learn how to be a quarterback. Over the summer, DJ begins thinking about who she is and where she’s going in the world. The writer has created a “real” set of teenagers here and a wonderful, compelling story.

 

 

 

 

roadwrangler Road Wrangler: Cowboys on Wheelsby Joe Novara, Ill. Robert Lawson and Kimberly Spatrisano.
When Nick gets home from camp, he discovers that his mom has gone back to college, his dad is out of work, and the family is nearly out of money. Hoping to help out, Nick takes a job at Shamrock Stables and begins rounding up cattle—in Michigan! Who’d have dreamed? Of course, no cattle drive ever went smoothly and Nick’s doesn’t either. Here’s an enjoyable, realistic story that makes the point that reading is FUN.

 

 

 

 

katherine Katherine, by Anya Seton.
As a teenager, I devoured all of Anya Seton’s historical books. She’s one of the very best writers in this genre. This tale is the love story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of many later royals. Set in England in the 14th century, the story comes alive as the time of Chaucer and the dreaded Black Death, knights and jousts, and unbelievable trickery and deceit at court. This classic look at medieval history is unputdownable! Check out Seton’s other fine books: Green Darkness; Devil Water; Dragonwyck; Avalon: A Novel; and The Winthrop Woman: A Novel.

 

 

 

milkweed  Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli.
Set in Warsaw, during World War II, this novel by Newbery winner Spinelli, is another example of his excellent writing and ability to create gripping characters. An orphan called StopThief because he steals to survive, has no idea whether he’s Jewish, or Gypsy or what. Uri befriends him and gives him the name Misha Pilsudski so that he can act as if he’s a Gypsy—with the hope of surviving the Holocaust. Readers love Misha, who is young, appallingly innocent, and generous, all characteristics that are dangerous in Nazi Poland. What with bombs exploding in air, parades of Nazi “Jackboots,” and wailing sirens, the action and tension are non-stop, yet they cannot change Misha’s positive outlook. This is a must-read.

 

 

 

chickensoupteen  Chicken Soup for the Teen Soul: Real Life Stories by Real Teens by M.V. Hansen, S.H. Meyer, John Meyer, and Jack Canfield.
Teens speaking to other teens seems like exactly the right idea for a book. These stories are bound to resonate with young people who often think that they are the only ones with certain problems. Yet always, other people have shared those miseries and learned how to survive and thrive. I remember my teenage years with a shudder—it was never easy somehow. These stories can help.

 

 

 

 

octaviannothing  The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor To The Nation, Vol 1., The Pox Partyby M.T. Anderson.
Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Young Adult books, this intriguing satire is set in the 1760’s, in Boston. Octavian and his mother, both African-Americans, live on the estate of a philosopher/scientist who is examining the intelligence capabilities of Africans. Octavian dresses well and has an excellent education, without realizing that he is an amazing exception among his race in America. When he learns the truth, he is older, and life becomes more complicated, to say the least.

This outstanding work is written in 18th century style, told from Ocatavian’s viewpoint, and stuffed with carefully researched historical detail. It’s a rewarding, powerful read, especially for the thoughtful young adult or adult.

 

 

movingcastle  Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones.
This author is a huge favorite with many readers, me included. In this pair of books, readers step into the land of Ingary, where magical objects like seven-league boots and wizards are common. In Howl’s Moving Castle, a girl named Hattie becomes an old witch when the Wicked Witch of the Waste curses her. Poor Hattie hides out in wizard Howl’s castle until she figures out how to triumph over the curse. Full of twists, turns, humor, and surprises, this novel is terrific, imaginative fun.

The sequel, Castle In The Air, stars young Abdullah, a rug merchant who purchases a magic carpet and sets out to find the love of his life, which he does, yet she is soon taken prisoner by a warlike djinn. What Abdullah does to recover her takes him to the land of Ingary, where everything—as readers know—is magical and crazy at the same time. Both books highly recommended for lovers of fantasy.

 

Other Recommended Books:

Tomorrow, The River by Dianne E. Gray, Ill. Stephanie Cooper.
Fans of historical novels—adults and young adults—will be absorbed by this realistic portrayal of paddleboat life on the Mississippi in the 1890s. Megan Barnett, 14, her sister and brother-in-law and their son, are believable, engaging characters who pull readers quickly into the story, which has trials and troubles aplenty. Newspaper articles—fictional and fascinating—appear between chapters, to give the reader information that Megan doesn’t have, which heightens suspense. Librarians highly recommend this book, as do readers, who appreciate the page-turning plot and wry humor of Gray’s book.

Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher.
When this book came out in 1989, the ALA awarded it Best Book status, and when they examined YA books again in 2001, they put it on the 100 Best Books for Teens.

In this story, high school senior Dillon Hemingway is a trainer for the girls’ basketball team and an excellent athlete himself. He’s tough emotionally, so that he survives witnessing his brother’s suicide (brother was a double amputee, addicted to drugs, former biker) and is still able to offer intelligent help to his new girlfriend who’s been sexually abused by both her father and stepfather. He’s amazing, yet believable, probably due in part to Crutcher’s own experience as a family therapist. He knows kids and families inside out, and some of it isn’t pretty. Some think that too many un-pretty topics appear in this story, but teen readers disagree. They like it unequivocally.

Older teens will want to discuss the serious topics in this book. Can fiction help them to make better decisions based on awareness? Many believe so. This is a gripping novel by one of the best writers in America today, but it is not for wimps.

Ivy's Turn by David Updike.
Today’s teen readers recommend this contemporary book to each other, a significant point. They appreciate and respect this short book about an African-American girl named Ivy, and her boyfriend Zak, who is white. This is a sincere, sweet story that explores the growing relationship between two highschoolers who are “not supposed to” fall in love with each other. The writing is excellent, the story, honest.

The River Between Us by Richard Peck.
Winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and a National Book Award finalist, this title is historical fiction at its most compelling. Although the book opens in 1916, in the voice of 15 year-old Howard Hutchings, it doesn’t stay there. After Dr. Hutchings and his three sons arrive at the old home place in southern Illinois, the time flashes back to the years leading up to the Civil War, and narrator Tilly Pruitt, who narrates the majority of the story. It is a mystery involving America’s stormy, changing culture, racism, slavery, and bigotry. This is a spare yet meaty page-turner with a sense of humor, which means it’s wonderful like all of Richard Peck’s books. Enjoy!

Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Writing from a guy’s perspective for the first time, Anderson tells the story of Tyler Miller, a typical, invisible high school nerd, part of the high school background. But when he makes a big mistake and must do tough work over a summer, he gets muscles that everyone notices, especially his secret crush, Bethany. Problem is, Bethany is his enemy’s sister. How does he cope, change, and grow? What defines and describes a man today? That’s the solid core of this engrossing story. Highly recommended.

Mysteries by Mary Stewart
This is a blanket endorsement of all of Mary Stewart’s mysteries, as they are terrific fun. I particularly remember Airs Above the Ground, which featured a Lippizan stallion. This Rough Magic is set in Greece, and told with wonderful prose and high suspense, as always. Stewart is also famous for a trilogy about the wizard Merlin and King Arthur. I have read nearly everything this author has written and it is all wonderful! Highly recommended for anyone who loves a mystery.

The Drifters by James Michener.
Like the mysteries above, this title is part of our reading past—another oldie-but-goodie that survives because it is still fascinating. This title focuses on the sixties, when many young people just dropped out of their places in life and ended up on the coast of Spain, determined to enjoy themselves—with a few trying to “find themselves.” Strong characterizations make the teens and twenty-somethings believable and the settings are intriguing.

This novel helps to put the 1960’s into perspective. It was a tumultuous, rebellious, questioning decade that I did not understand until I read this book, and while the literary device is highly suspect—one man, the narrator, somehow knows all of these characters—it’s still a highly enjoyable read.

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson.
This true story features New Jerseyans John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, whose work is deepsea diving in dangerous places. In the ‘90s, they found an undocumented German U-boat, sixty miles off the Jersey coast, in 230 feet of water. Records of this boat were unclear; names of the dead crew on board, equally unclear. Although lives are lost in the attempt, Chatterton and Kohler persevere, determined to identify the bones onboard the submarine. Exciting, factual adventure like this is hard to beat.

The Work of Wolves by Kent Meyers.
A trio of strangers join to correct a serious wrong. Carson Fielding has a gift for training horses. A Lakota teen named Earl Walks Alone hopes to win a scholarship to MIT. Willi Schubert is a German exchange student with a passion for Lakota culture, which is why he came to South Dakota. When these three discover some starving, abused horses in a pen on the land of a wealthy rancher, they know what the right thing is. How to do it, why they do it, and how they become men in the process makes an engrossing story. Highly recommended. See Meyers’s other books, too!

Life Support by Tess Gerritsen.
Gerritsen writes medical thrillers, this one featuring young, attractive Dr. Toby Harper, an ER specialist in a hospital near Boston. Fans of Gerritsen’s books say that all the characters, especially Toby Harper, are so real they jump right off the pages. In this story, Dr. Harper sees elderly patients in her mother’s nursing home exhibiting unusual and destructive behaviors, which prompts her to investigate the nursing home. After the helpful doctor at the nursing home is murdered, Harper discovers that someone is stalking her. This story pounds furiously toward an exciting conclusing. For thriller fans, this one’s a must.

Also try Harvest Gerritsen’s first novel.

Slam! by Walter Dean Myers.
This one’s for basketball fans. Greg “Slam” Harris can do anything he wants on the court, but off court his life is chaotic, to say the least. At a predominantly white magnet school in South Bronx, Greg tries to fit in, but his street lingo doesn’t help. Readers far away from this life will see a complete and vivid picture; readers closer to Greg’s life will feel total empathy as he struggles to find his direction…to decide who he wants to be. Myers is exceptionally good at male coming-of-age stories, known as bildungsromans, and this is one of the best.

Alice On Her Way by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.
This is the 16th book in the “Alice series” that I have raved about before. I believe that all of today’s girls should read these books. Alice is honest, frank, and endearing. She confronts her evolving womanhood with the same confusion and insecurity that all young women do. But knowing the facts is reassuring, and Naylor does not shrink from discussing awkward sexual subjects. Significantly, she does so with good taste, sensitivity, and intelligence. Hers are the books we WANT our girls to read, and of course, there's a great deal more to growing up than just the questions about sex! Naylor's plots are terrific fun.

Alice’s friends typically make far rasher steps into the adult world. Alice watches and reaches the conclusions we want our kids to reach, so I find her an excellent role model. Best of all, we get believable characters depicted with winning humor.

Storm Catchers by Tim Bowler.
Set in Cornwall, this thriller is a kidnapping with a hidden cave in a raging ocean setting, plus a family with major, appalling secrets—well, lots of riveting stuff. It starts racing along in the first chapter when a big, teenage boy kidnaps 13 year-old Ella. Narration then focuses on the family as they receive the kidnapper’s calls. The suspense builds and builds…well, you just have to read this one. Bowler is already famous in Britain for winning the Carnegie Medal for River Boy in 2000. And there’s another great read!

TheE Glass Cafe: or The Stripper and the State; How My Mother Started a War With the System that Made Us Kind of Rich and a Little Bit Famous by Gary Paulsen.
I don’t own this book yet, but as I own everything else by Gary Paulsen, I will be getting it soon! In this story, 12 year-old Tony, who lives with his single mother, Al, decides to further his art education by drawing the human figure, as all serious artists do. He has permission to draw the other dancers who perform with his mother at the Kitty Cat Club. Authorities hear about this art project being carried on by a minor, and the troubles begin. I cannot wait! All reviewers and librarian friends say that the relationship between Tony and his mom is an excellent one, that this story is hilarious, and that all kids (and adults) will love it.

Swimming To Antarctia: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer by Lynn Cox.
Lynn Cox fell in love with swimming when she was eight or nine and went on to swim the English Channel, where she broke the record at age 15. Further swims include one in the Nile River with raw sewage, dead rats, and chemical waste, a swim that landed her in the hospital. I would have quit then, but not Lynn! Probably the most famous long-distance swimmer of our time, she went on to swim the Cape of Good Hope (with sharks), Alaska’s Glacier Bay, and finally from Alaska to the Soviet Union, across the Bering Strait. An amazing true story that anyone, swimmer or not, can enjoy.

The Black Rose by Thomas Costain.
For me and many other readers, this book is one of our favorite pieces of historical fiction. Costain intended his story to be about Edward I and Bayan of the Hundred Eyes, but he instead is more interested in the unlikely romance between Thomas a Becket’s parents: an English knight and an Eastern girl. Our nobly-born hero takes a long journey to Marseilles, Antioch, Venice, Cathay, and Bombay, and along the way becomes a believer in the rights of all people, not just the ruling classes. The intertwining love stories, the exotic and well-pictured settings, the meticulous research, and the gripping plot combine to make this book a memorable experience. Also recommended: Below The Salt; The Silver Chalice; The Darkness and the Dawn …well, all of Costain’s work.

The Tiger Rising (National Book Award Finalist) by Kate DiCamillo
This short book of only 116 pages has a real tiger in it, the one Rob Horton finds locked in a cage one day as he walks in the misty Florida woods. “He was orange and gold, and so bright , it was like staring at the sun itself, angry and trapped in a cage.” And there are other tigers—Rob’s torments in life, like the bullies in school, a disease on his legs, and the recent death of his mother. Luckily Rob has a friend in Sistine, who is able to speak her mind, unlike Rob, who mainly suffers in silence. These sympathetically-drawn characters pull readers into the story immediately and they don’t let go. A memorable read.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
I pick this book up, read a chapter, and put it down. But I always go back, because Bryson has collected some of the most interesting facts in the world, in one book. This is a long one, 544 pages including the index, which you can use to take you to the pages you want to visit. Interested in paleontology? Tons of pages treat this topic and the various significant discoveries made to date. How about the atom? It’s in these pages, in some depth. The bibliography is 10 pages alone, in tiny type, and it alone is worth the price of the book! I think this outstanding reference / reading experience belongs in every home.

Also, read Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, a hilarious trek along the Appalachian Trail, stuffed with history and natural lore. Hard to put THIS one down!

Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow, and The Reckoning, a trilogy by Sharon Penman
Gather round ye lovers of historical fiction. These books are set in 13th century Wales, featuring Llewelyn the Welsh Prince, John the English king, and Joanna, daughter of John who is married off to Llewelyn to forge a political alliance. The attention to historic fact is outstanding, but the characters and the story are even better. Readers from teenagers to elderfolk sing in unison about the pleasure these books give.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier
A classic Gothic romance, this book still collects fans like flypaper. It’s hard to resist the intriguing characters, the pulse of danger on every page, and the appealing heroine—Mary Yellan, a young orphan woman who comes to Jamaica Inn on the English moors to live with her Aunt Patience. Yet Aunt Patience appears perpetually afraid, and Mary’s Uncle Joss Merlyn repulses her with his crudities. (Joss’s younger brother Jem is the love interest.) Somehow, amid storms, smugglers, and murder, Mary struggles to make a new life for herself.

My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen
Anyone can tell, reading my reviews, that I’m a fan of Gary Pausen, author of Hatchet; Dogsong; Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, and many others. In this autobiographical book, Paulsen writes about the herd of dogs he has owned / adopted / rescued / driven in a sled team over the course of his life. The man is kuh-razee about dogs, okay? And he writes about them better than almost anyone else. Enjoy!

Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
All of Crutcher’s books are good, and this is a set of GOOD short stories about teenagers involved in sports. The two stories about wrestling are my favorites, but they are all superb. Each story is also about “life,” and how teens deal with various demanding aspects of it. One guy has gay parents; another fellow loses a good friend to AIDS. The settings are small towns out west, a welcome change from the huge number of YA books set in cities.
Other superb titles by Crutcher: The Sledding Hill (outstanding!); Running Loose(football and sportsmanship); and Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Christopher decides he needs to find out who murdered his neighbor’s dog, because HE sure didn’t do it, although he is accused of the crime. In his journal, Christopher records his thoughts and his search for the real murderer. Because Chris is autistic, he sees things differently, which is charming—funny—and believable. For a unique look at the world, through the eyes of a most special teenager, try this most fascinating book.
My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Anna thinks that her family finds her “useful” because she can donate a kidney to save her sister Kate’s life. But is that really true? Lost in misery, Anna sues her family. What happens to families torn apart by the predicaments that modern medicine presents? This family story is told from many different points of view, which pulls the reader into the family in a dramatic way. A gripping read, for sure.

Hole In My Life, by Jack Gantos
This autobiography by Newbery Honor writer Gantos (Joey Pigza Loses Control) would probably interest any older teen and all adults. Gantos was in a medium-security prison at age 20, where he gave serious thought to where he had gone wrong. Drug-dealing was clearly not the way to succeed in life. He began writing instead, tiny lines wedged between the lines of the only book he had, The Brothers Karamazov. Gantos tells his story plainly, directly, and with characteristic humor. This narrative has a LOT to say, yet it is not didactic, thank goodness.

That Fernhill Summer, by Colby Rodowsky
It’s always a joy to see another book from Colby Rodowsky, a fine writer for the older grades, and for young adults. In this novel, hot off the presses in April 2006, thirteen year-old Kiara goes to visit her mom’s side of the family in Baltimore. While she knows almost nothing of this part of the family, she thought they’d be thrilled to see her, or at least pleased. Yet the grandmother she visits is NOT pleased. Kiara wonders if it is her skin, which is “dark, like mocha latte.” Clearly, Kiara’s mother’s side of the family is problematic at best.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, by Richard Feynman
One of the most unusual autobiographies I’ve read, this is also one of the most memorable. Feynman was the physicist who explained for TV viewers why the Challenger spacecraft failed. He quietly dropped an “O” ring in ice water to demonstrate one significant problem of spacecraft in outer space. He’s also a man who plays bongo drums and cracks safes as entertainment, just to see if he can do it. Think you don’t LIKE physics? Think again, please, because here’s the man who can make it fascinating. Reading this book is like having Feynman sitting next to you at the table, shooting the breeze.eze.


Patiently Alice, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.
The summer after her first year of highschool, Alice McKinley, the well-loved star of "the Alice books," volunteers at a nature camp for disadvantaged city children. As camp counselors, Alice and her friends Elizabeth and Pamela do their best, and while it’s often hilarious, the job is not simple. The girls are 15 now, and life presses in. Alice’s father is getting married at last, and her brother Lester is moving out to be on his own. Worrywary Elizabeth buys some condoms, "just in case" Pamela decides to experiment with sex.
These are, in my opinion, the best kind of books for teenage girls--written in an ethical manner by a thoughtful, gifted author. Today’s girls are so lucky to have this series.

The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry.
This classic holiday short story should resonate with today’s teens who are mature in so many ways, while young in others. It’s a fine read-aloud, too, because of its author’s relaxed, conversational style, and would make an excellent evening before the fire in this hectic season.

Someone Like You, by Sarah Dessen.
This could be a girl and boy book, but girls will identify better with the two main characters. Teenage Halley and Scarlett decide to be more reckless, less conventional, less predictable. This behavior is often the route to real trouble and in this story, Scarlett becomes pregnant. The girls work together on this most serious problem, and readers find themselves thinking, “Hoo, boy, I don’t want to do this!” Unfortunately, this gritty subject matter does apply to teens, and so the book is widely recommended. I recommend it for girls 14 and over, and think it’s a good one to discuss with your mom.mom.

Books by Uri Orlev, translated by Hillel Halkin
Those of you familiar with the Batchelder Award—given to children’s books originally published in a language other than English—will recognize Orlev as the writer of many outstanding books for young readers. I am particularly fond of these titles: The Man from the Other Side and Run, Boy, Run, both written originally in Hebrew. These are the most authentic portraits possible of life during WWII in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. Orlev lived there as a boy, from 1939-1941, hiding with his mother and brother. When the Nazis killed his mother, the boys were sent to Bergen Belsen. After the war, Orlev moved to Israel where he now lives with his family.

These books are grim without being hopeless, and true, of course, though masquerading as fiction. Many readers prefer books like this, and I have never forgotten this pair by Orlev, who also won the Hans Christian Anderson award as one of the most distinguished authors of children’s books.

Black Star, Bright Dawn, by Scott O’Dell.
O’Dell’s deceptively simple style has always lulled readers into turning pages, then turning them faster, and faster until the book is finished. Try going online, clicking on this title, and searching inside the book to read the first few pages. sp; sp; sp; How can anyone not go on??? In particular, dog lovers will fall in love with Black Star. Like so many of this writer’s books, this story is set in the far North, where people must hunt on the ice in winter.

Daddy Long Legs, by Jean Webster.
Here’s another “girls’ book” but I can’t help myself. This one’s an old charmer, told in diary format by a young woman who has a mysterious benefactor, whom she nicknames “Daddy Long Legs.” As her attachment to this mysterious person grows, so does the suspense in the story. A delightful young romance—may it never go out of print!int!

Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up, by Dave Barry.
Barry writes to make us laugh, bless him forever. We can never laugh too much, except maybe in school when a teacher is bent on conveying something grim. Much new research supports the therapeutic value of laughter and the rise in endorphin levels when we are happily chuckling. Laughter also strengthens our immune systems, so let’s get busy and enjoy ourselves.
Why Things Bite Back:Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences, by Edward Tenner.
So far, I’ve read only a few pages of this fascinating book, but the start is dynamite. Tenner’s understanding of our love/hate relationship with electronic devices is the basis of the book, and we all know about unintended consequences. I can’t wait to dive back into this book, which seems right on target for teens and adults both.

See also Tenner’s website: www.edwardtenner.com/work2.htm


The Redwall series, by Brian Jacques.
Especially for lovers of fantasy! This series reminds me of “the adult rabbit book”---Watership Down, by Richard Adams. Both authors feature wild creatures who struggle to overcome the same problems that humans do. In the Redwall series, the mice, shrews, moles, and squirrels who love peace do daily battle in a medieval setting with the dark side of their world—the rats, weasels, stoats, and foxes. Jacques’s books have a strong, vocal following among people who are 10 and older, including thousands of adults.
Woodsong, by Gary Paulsen.

Thank goodness for Gary Paulsen, who creates story after story that both young people and adults enjoy reading. Always we are caught up right away and transported to another world, one filled with woods, and streams, and dogs, and wild creatures—innumerable things to fascinate those of us who are urbanites. In clean, spare prose that looks so simple (Hah! All writers know better), the pages fly by until the tale is told, and we need another book by this talented writer. Try this one. It’s not just for boys.
Anna and the King of Siam, by Margaret Landon.

Beautifully written, this blend of fact and fiction tells the story of young Anna Leonowens, governess to the king’s many children in Siam in the 1860s. First published about 60 years ago, it is the basis for the musical The King and I, and every bit as enjoyable. It’s an historical novel, a love story, and a page-turner, probably because Landon is an excellent storyteller. Both adults and teenagers enjoy this novel.

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling.
Volume 6 in the series is “only” 652 pages long, for which I am grateful. Don’t get me wrong, I love the HP books, but I also admire clean, succinct prose and Volume 5 was too long.
The scenes for this book are set mainly at Hogwarts, with only a few memorable excursions to other locations. As Rowling promised, the books have grown successively darker as the war between good and evil heats up. (Lord Voldemort does not appear in this volume, only the work of his evil henchmen, the Death Eaters).

Now that he’s 16, soon to turn 17, Harry has accepted the prophecy that says (essentially) that he must defeat Voldemort, or die in the attempt. He does none of the why-me? whining that permeated Volume 5.


For me, the pleasure of these books results from the unparalleled imagination of its author. Each new spell or bit of magic is enchanting…fun. I even enjoy the Quidditch games, although they sound positive deadly. I enjoy the maturing of the main characters and their search for the just-right person. Sex is very low key, so that readers encounter only occasional kissing and snuggling.
Rowling has modeled her series and her hero along classic lines. Think of Tolkien’s work and the Star Wars series. Readers can find dozens of parallels between the basic elements of Potter’s world and other worlds, both real and fictional. Now that the Death Eaters are terrifying the community of witches, wizards, and Muggles—committing murder whenever—they strongly resemble our current terrorists, caught up in evil for the sake of evil. That behavior must always be combatted. The struggle of good vs. evil is the oldest story.

The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts, by Richard Peck.
Another treat from the author of A Year Down Yonder, A Long Way From Chicago, and Fair Weather. You can count on great characters, outstanding writing, and laughter from this talented writer—every time. In this story, 15 year-old Russell is not downcast when Miss Myrt Arbuckle, the schoolteacher, dies in August. With only 6 students, he figures the old schoolhouse might just be knocked down. Who needs it? But folks in early 1900’s Indiana were resourceful and Russell’s very own, very bossy older sister becomes the teacher. But, of course, there’s more…. Teens and adults will find everything to enjoy in this witty return to yesteryear.

Down to a Sunless Sea: The Strange World of Hydrothermal Vents (Ocean Explorers), by Kate Madin.
According to biologist Holger Jannasch, hydrothermal vents are “One of the major biological discoveries of the twentieth century.” These vents are cracks in the ocean floor at near-freezing depths, where fluids up to 600 degrees pour into a sunless, eerie environment. Here worms can be tall as trees and clams the size of your head keep company with white crabs and dozens of other creatures. This is a reference book, yes, but such a page-turner! The information comes from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and features excellent photography, a glossary, and an index. Anyone interested in the ocean will enjoy this book.

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole (series), by Kathryn Lasky.
Absorbing, action-packed tales about woodland owls and their teachers in a fantasy forest. Readers appreciate the skillful writing and the well-developed characters, happy to go along with the book’s premise that owls have as much personality as you or I! This is the best kind of escapist reading for lovers of animal fantasy, which is a large number of young readers.

Fat Kid Rules The World, by K.. L. Going.
Beware some salty (true-to-life) language here in a very true-to-life story about an overweight teenager with an attitude problem. He’s wryly humorous, acid at times, very believable. He does need to fix things, but he doesn’t have to lose weight to be a winner in life. What he has to do is try to grow up, which is never easy. Kids find this book very appealing and recommend it eagerly to other teens. (Printz Honor Book.)

The Trumpeter of Krakow, by Eric Kelly.
Another oldie-but-goodie here. This one won the Newbery in 1929 and as it’s historical fiction—set in Poland in the early 1460s—its age doesn’t matter! And it’s a well-beloved book. The story revolves around the Charnetski family, who must flee their home in the Ukraine as Tartars attack first, and then a bandit believes they have a special treasure. This fast-moving tale features strong teenage characters, an alchemist, bandits, and fascinating medieval lore. A fine read for teens…and adults, too!

Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer.
"It was my fourteenth birthday, and I took to waitressing like a hungry trucker tackles a T-bone." Now, as the story opens, Hope is 16 ½, with three waitress jobs behind her and the satisfaction of inventing a popular sandwich, a main menu feature. She and her aunt are bound for Wisconsin to manage a diner there, and Hope is frankly worried about adjusting to a different place. How she makes her mark in Wisconsin is a warm and humorous story that makes readers sorry when it's over. Bauer's teenagers are wholly believable and engaging. Girls and women will ALL enjoy this story. Betcha anything!

P.S. It won 4 major awards, one being the Newbery Honor


Winterdance, The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, by Gary Paulsen.
Author of Hatchet--one of the all-time greatest books for any age--Paulsen not only writes exciting stories, he lives them. He survived this grueling Alaskan race, but it was a near thing. I found this book one of the most interesting memoirs I'd ever read, and I really appreciated Paulsen's attitude toward his dogs. He's been called "an extraordinary prose stylist with an impeccable sense of rhythm" by R. O. Butler, a Putlitzer prize-winner, and that's no exaggeration.

Red Sky At Morning, by Richard Bradford.
While his dad is in the Navy during WWII, seventeen year-old Josh moves with his mother from Mobile, ALA, and a highly-civilized lifestyle, to a small town in the Southwest. In Corazon Sagrado, New Mexico, Josh finds a vastly differrent world and a serious need to learn Spanish pronto. And how to get along with the Natives, muy pronto!
Novels that show how someone grows up and becomes an adult are termed bildungsromans in the literary world. You remember Hatchet, right? And Little Women? And Anne of Green Gables? So many of our favorite pieces of juvenile literature are bildungsromans. This novel, with its vivid, appealing characters and authentic representation of another time and place, is one of my favorite books in this genre. (Note: Some spicy language here in the dialogue. That's why it rings so true!)

The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett.
How I could NOT have been reading Terry Pratchett all these years?! In this wry, fast-paced Celtic fantasy, a young witch-to-be, Tiffany Aching, must defend her home. Luckily, she has the assistance of the 6-inch-high Nac Mac Feegle, ferocious little blue men (not really ferocious, just funny) who steal sheep and anything else that isn’t nailed down. This isn’t just for laughs, though. Readers find many a shrewd observation here and there, and a fine understanding of what it means to grow up. I truly loved this book, and I respect this writer.

Surviving The Applewhites, by Stephanie S. Tolan.
Anyone 10 or over will enjoy this story of the wacky Applewhite family who know how to make learning exciting…and life, too. When bad-boy Jake Semple is given a choice of attending either a juvenile delinquents’ facility or the Applewhites’ home school, he reluctantly chooses the home school. And there is teenage E.D., a sensible, well-organized, intelligent girl—-unlike her family of artists. She and Jake are supposed to “study together,” of all things. Jake plans to do only what he wants, except somehow that doesn’t work out.

This is a super book to read aloud and to read alone. Lots of fun and much to think about in this Newbery Honor Book of 2003.

Conspiracy, a Lady Grace Mystery, by Patricia Finney.
How about some historical fiction combined with mystery? The Lady Grace Cavendish, is a young maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth I in mid 1500s, England. Lady Grace must solve a mystery, as the queen’s life is apparently in danger while she visits Kenilworth castle. Real people blend with fictional people and TONS of atmosphere in this appealing, well-researched book. My reviewer buddy, Judy Crowder says, “The writing is lively and suspenseful,” and recommends this title heartily. Sounds like fun to me!

Note: If you enjoy this book, you may want to read the other Lady Grace mysteries: Betrayal and Assassin.

The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson.
When a 16 year-old boy becomes a father, he sees all that is involved in his new role. Excellent writer. (I have not read this. Joan)

A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly

Keesha's House, by Helen Frost


Fat Kid Rules The World, by K. L. Going


The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler


Brushing Back Jim Crow: The Integration of Minor-League Baseball In The American South, by Bruce Adelson
Anyone 11 or 12 and older who's interested in baseball will probably enjoy this history. Adelson is an excellent writer who brings many skills to a book, including careful scholarship and an understanding of his subject. Even if you don't care about baseball or wonder about the process African-Americans have gone through in the last 100 years, I believe you'll be keenly interested in both by the end of this book.

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, by Studs Terkel.
Terkel recorded people who simply chat about what they do at work, and the result is a fascinating look at America. Few books ever get the rave reviews that this one has, from everywhere. "A celebration of individuals" from the LA Times. "Earthy, passionate, honest," from the Washington Post. The praise seems endless. But then, this is a unique book. For young people trying to decide what they want to do, it's also invaluable.

The House of the Scorpion (Newbery Honor Winner), by Nancy Farmer
Winner of the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor award, and a Printz Honor award--this fascinating book is a grim story. It's science fiction, set in a territory called Opium, between Mexico and the United States, where El Patron rules. The story opens and El Patron is 148. Amazing? Not if you repeatedly have yourself cloned so that you can harvest spare parts as needed. The main character, Matt, who was incubated in a cow, is the most recent of El Patron's clones. (It took me almost 200 pages to figure out just how doomed Matt is.) How Matt escapes his fate and the land of Opium, which is supported by opium poppies, is the plot of the book.

I think this book is for mature readers who can put the story in some kind of perspective. It IS gripping and memorable, but if you're not a sci-fi fan it seems a mite long. I also think that more than enough happens to Matt to qualify him as a genuine superhero.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by A Brashares.
This is a story about friendship among 4 fifteen year-old girls, who must spend the summer apart. But the thrift-store jeans that (amazingly!) fit each girl, travel from friend to friend, demonstrating the power of both friendship and love. Readers adore this book.

All Creatures Great and Small; All Things Wise and Wonderful ; etc. by James Herriott*.
Herriott, a Yorkshire vet in the north of England, wrote the stories of his small-town-and-country veterinary practice in the evenings, after working all day. He brought to vivid life the the Yorkshire dialect, the people and their animals, and the poignant moments in the life of a caring vet. I can't say enough about the power of these books to give readers joy.

In 1985, when our family lived in England, we went north to meet Herriott, actually Alf Whyte, and shake his hand. I thanked him for being the
inspiration for my kids' book, Pets, Vets, and Marty Howard (sequel to When The Boys Ran The House), and gave him a copy of Pets, Vets. He lives on in our photo album, a slight, smiling man unchanged by great fame. He is one of my heroes.
*Herriot's books are read by kids in 6th grade, too, but the humor is often so subtle that I tend to recommend them to more sophisticated readers. Also, a few of the stories have been turned into picture books, but as they were never intended for that level, I find them only mildly satisfactory.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.
Although Grisham usually writes legal thrillers, this novel is humorous. How many adults would like to avoid the hassle and commercialism that Christmas has become? Nearly all of them, as it turns out, but eluding this holiday is not simple. Why this couple decide to skip Christmas and how they do it (or don't) is a secret--until you read the book, that is. Enjoy!

Will In The World, by Stephen Greenblatt.
Here's the much-touted new biography of William Shakespeare, based on vast amounts of research by a careful biographer. I haven't read it yet, but I mean to. Those who have, give it rave reviews. For anyone who loves the Elizabethan period or plays or England or Shakespeare, this book sounds like a winner.


Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie, by Barbara Goldsmith.
Here's another biography, on the top of my reading pile for the new year. Marie Curie has long been an idol of mine as she was the pioneer scientist who studied uranium and radioactivity, thereby becoming the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Now, thanks to the patient study and careful attention of author Goldsmith, we can learn much more about this female in the vanguard of the woman's movement. Again, the reviews from picky readers are all praises. I can't wait!

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
The author, who grew up in Kabul and moved to California in the eighties, has given us a book that has created a devoted following among book clubs, librarians, and bookstore owners. It's the tale of an Afghanistan boy, Amir, who becomes a young adult just before the Russian invasion in the last century. Reviews say that this is a powerful book--fierce and sometimes angry like the Afghani people who have waited a long time to know peace. It's a family story, with some raw parts "excruciating to read" according to the Washington Post Book World, but also one that is "lovingly written." Hoo boy. What if we just "skipped Christmas" and took to our couches with some hot tea and all these books?

3/1/15 -- I've read it now! An amazing book that opens a window onto another world. Beautifully written and memorable. - Joan

The Sound of Coaches (Puffin Books) by Leon Garfield.
"Once upon a winter's night when the wind blew its guts out and a fishy piece of moon scuttled among the clouds, a coach came thundering down the long hill outside of Dorking." So begins a rattling good suspense story by one of England's finest writers in this field: Leon Garfield. Of him, Lloyd Alexander wrote: "Leon Garfield is unmatched for sheer, exciting storytelling. The reader simply can't stop reading him."

Most of his tales are set in 18th century England and display the finest craftmanship along with humor and wholly believable characters.

Also read: Black Jack; John Diamond ; Smith ; and Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris (Sunset Book)

The Tarantula In My Purse: And 172 Other Wild Pets by Jean Craighead George.
Lucky America to have this author for all of us, not just young people. You may know Julie and Julie of the Wolves by this author, but her autobiographical tales are equally wonderful. If you even mildly enjoy animals, you will love this book. Read also There's an Owl in the Shower .

Snowboarding by Steve Davis.
Everything you need to know to get going, get gung-ho, and get the lingo down pat. Not everyone can DO it, but all can be knowledgeable now that snowboarding has become an Olympic sport.


Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises, Ed. by Mark Cawardine.
A 1999 Checkmark book, this is a resource that anyone would love to own. Thirteen marine specialists contributed material to showcase the Cetacea family--the whales. Facts, graphs, maps, super photography, an extensive bibliography, and a dynamite layout make this a winning title.
Little, Little, by M.E. Kerr.

What would it be like to be a very small girl -- perfect -- but so small that you are actually a dwarf? This riveting story puts you in the teenage heroine's tiny shoes, so that you get a glimpse of another world. By the way, all of M.E. Kerr's books are outstanding.
The Hobbitt, by J.R.R. Tolkien

First of the books about hobbitts, and forerunner to the The Lord of the Ring (50th Anniversary Edition) trilogy, this story tells of the hobbitt who first acquired the magical ring. It is warm, humorous, and fast-paced fantasy.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

A young girl attending a "Welcome Freshman" party (before high school begins) is raped by a crude upperclassman. Believe it or not, this episode is handled delicately and tastefully, although readers realize what has happened. How the heroine reacts to this unspeakable outrage is told with utmost sensitivity, and there is no female on earth who cannot learn and profit from reading this masterful story. I will give it to my granddaughters when they are 12 years old.

It's Not About the Bike, by Lance Armstrong

Armstrong shows his readers what extreme demands professional sports can make upon the mind, body, and soul. He explains clearly how he took control of his life, even to triumphing over cancer. As the only person ever to win the Tour de France six times, he is is a fascinating personality.

Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton

Wow. Science fiction with dinosaur sizzle. Fast-paced, humorous, and educational, this tale is really tough to put down. The movie was great (duhh) but the book is better because it lasts longer!

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

When she was only four, Lily Owens witnessed the killing of her mother. Ten years later, with black Rosaleen as her caretaker, Lily leaves town in search of a better life--somehow. With help, she thrives, and HOW she does it makes an amazingly memorable reading experience. All females adore this book.

I Heard The Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven

Mark Brian, a priest with only two years to live, is sent to work among a vanishing tribe of Indians, the Kwakiutl Indians, in the seacoast wilderness of Britsh Columbia. There he becomes part of the village and the Indians. This charming book speaks to people of all ages about our life's purpose, and how we can fulfill it. Reading this story is an uplifting experience, not a depressing one.

Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns

Narrated by young Will Tweedy, who would be a perfect companion for Huck Finn, this Southern story has everything we hope to find in a book--great characters, fine story, and terrific humor. The South comes alive in this family tale that is perfect for anyone ten and over. One beautiful book!

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Reading this autobiography, we wonder how little Frank can survive Ireland's deadly depression. While his story should be a downer, it never is, because his sense of humor triumphs. You'll read on into the night, I promise, pulling for this amazing kid every minute.

To Sir, With Love, by E.R. Braithwaite

In the movie of this book, Sidney Poitier stars as the young black teacher who strives to teach a class of mighty-tough teenagers in a New York ghetto environment. Every character and situation in this story is funny or memorable or heart-breaking--or all three at once. An uplifting, truthful, dynamite book.

The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin

In times past, when the animals could speak, Chaunticleer the Rooster was their head, and the world was basically at peace. But lurking below them was Wyrm, a deadly force of evil. Yes, this is fantasy, and a story of good pitted against great evil, just as in all the modern "thrillers." Well, this one's a thriller, too. It is beautifully written and its characters are truly individuals. I'll never quit recommending this book!