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 Wonderland by 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. 140 pages. 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 Story by 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 Fridayby 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: Backwaterby 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.