As a voracious reader, I think that books might just be the ideal gift: they are a rendering of our affection for the recipient. Think about it: a book, wisely and carefully chosen, reflects just how well you know a person, how well you understand them, what you might hope for them, what you think they will or will not like.
My daughter is also a voracious reader. By this, I mean that like me she will read every sign, every label, every ad, every magazine cover, any word she can get her eyes on. We both read quick and dirty. By this I mean we are fast readers (for example, I read Diana Gabaldon’s 640-page Outlander in 2 days and I can tell you every detail in this incredibly detailed book) we immerse ourselves in the story. We linger on every word, every phrase; we ingest. We become a part of the story. We are perfectly content to while away an entire day with a good book, our minds and dreams carried away from wherever we are, like a leaf on the breeze.
So, if you have a young reader in the family, or if you are encouraging your young reader to read more, we thought we might compile a list of books that would make nice gifts this holiday season. These books are notable in that they are great for any gender, they are “clean” and generally speaking, they have something to offer in the way thinking about life in a new and fresh way. Gemma compiled and wrote this list, so keep in mind, these are the thoughts of a ten-year-old. She notes that they are not in any kind of order.
1. RoofToppers by Katherine Randall
Sophie was found in a cello case floating on the English channel when she was only one year old. Orphaned by the shipwreck, Sophie swears that she remembers seeing her mother waving for help. Since there are no other female survivors of the wreck, this vision of her mother must be a dream. Although her guardian, Charles, tells Sophie it’s almost impossible, Sophie still believes her mother lives.
When the adoption agency threatens to take Sophie away, she and Charles head to Paris to find her mother with only the address of the cello maker, printed on the case. When Sophie finds a secret network of orphans in hiding on the rooftops, her chances of finding her mother seem to get even better. As Sophie and her friends race against time, hilarious and heartfelt moments and incidents occur.
I also read The Explorer and The Wolf Rider by Katherine Rundell. I found them in a bookstore in Paris. The Wolf Rider is amazing and I highly recommend it. So is The Explorer, which is about a group of kids who have to survive a plane crash into the Amazon. The children find a map, which leads them to a secret and to many great adventures.
2. Julie of the Wolves by Jean George (author) and John Schoenherr (Illustrator)
Review by Emilie Coulter from Amazon.com:
Miyax, like many adolescents, is torn. But unlike most, her choices may determine whether she lives or dies. At 13, an orphan, and unhappily married, Miyax runs away from her husband’s parents’ home, hoping to reach San Francisco and her pen pal. But she becomes lost in the vast Alaskan tundra, with no food, no shelter, and no idea which is the way to safety. Now, more than ever, she must look hard at who she really is. Is she Miyax, Eskimo girl of the old ways? Or is she Julie (her “gussak”-white people-name), the modernized teenager who must mock the traditional customs? And when a pack of wolves begins to accept her into their community, Miyax must learn to think like a wolf as well. If she trusts her Eskimo instincts, will she stand a chance of surviving? John Schoenherr’s line drawings suggest rather than tell about the compelling experiences of a girl searching for answers in a bleak landscape that at first glance would seem to hold nothing. Fans of Jean Craighead George’s stunning, Newberry Medal-winning coming-of-age story won’t want to miss Julie (1994) and Julie’s Wolf Pack (1998).
3. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
This amazing book tells the tale of AnneMarie Johansen, a young girl in Nazi-occupied Denmark in World War 2. AnneMarie’s family takes in her best friend, a Jew, and attempts to rescue her by smuggling her across the sea disguised as AnneMarie’s sister, who died in the Resistance. When Ellen’s father loses an important package, AnneMarie must risk her life to return it to him. The package contains a handkerchief covered in a special formula that makes it so the dogs used to hunt for escaping Jews can’t smell them. Ultimately, this story is about good and evil and how even children can be courageous when they know that good must win.
Review by Amazon:
The evacuation of Jews from Nazi-held Denmark is one of the great untold stories of World War II. On September 29, 1943, word got out in Denmark that Jews were to be detained and then sent to the death camps. Within hours the Danish resistance, population and police arranged a small flotilla to herd 7,000 Jews to Sweden. Lois Lowry fictionalizes a true-story account to bring this courageous tale to life. She brings the experience to life through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen, whose family harbors her best friend, Ellen Rosen, on the eve of the round-up and helps smuggles Ellen’s family out of the country.
4. Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
Trapped in a hidden ice fortress for protection, Solveig, her brother the Crown Prince, her older sister and an army of boisterous warriors await news of their father, who is away at battle. But when no news is delivered, and treacherous activities begin to occur, the children begin to wonder if their friends could be traitors. Solveig and her siblings must choose their allies wisely. This book has suspense, fantastic descriptions of life in a medieval Nordic landscape, wonderful characters and plenty of opportunities for Solveig to prove her courage and strength. If you like Nordic mythology or tales of kingdoms and danger, you will like Icefall.
5. The Fellowship Of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”
Sauron, the dark lord, made a powerful ring that could decide the fate of the world. But when he lost it, the ring passed through many generations until Bilbo Baggins, wins it in an intense contest for life or death against an evil creature called Gollum.
When Bilbo realizes the ring’s potential to wreak havoc and evil, he gives it to his young nephew, Frodo, who sets off to the cracks of doom with his faithful friends to destroy the ring once and for all to foil Saurons dark plot. This timeless classic written by J. R.R. Tolkien will live on forever as one of the greatest books ever written.
6. Island Of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
This is the story of the story of Karana, a Native American girl living alone on the Island of Blue Dolphins. When a terrible tragedy strikes her tribe and many of the members, including Karana’s father, the Chief, die, a boat comes to rescue survivors. When Karana misses the boat, she is forced to find a way to live, to find food, clothe herself, and build a home on the beautiful island. This is a Newberry Award winning book that every 4th or 5th grader should be required to read. It is a classic.
These graphic novels use a mix of facts, humor and a clear grasp of the interesting facts and personalities that define moments in American history. One Dead Spy follows the real Nathan Hale, a schoolteacher turned spy in the American Revolution. The Donner Dinner Party tells the story of how the Donner Party attempted to cross the Continental Divide en route to California in the years of the Gold Rush. Alama All Stars showcases the larger-than-life men who barricaded a small fort against a large Mexican army. Each of these books reveals who lived, who died, who helped (or didn’t) and other well-researched exploits of American heroes. There are seven books in the Hazardous Tales series, and my brother and I love them all. The drawings are as good as the story. There are bibliographies at the end if you want to learn more.
8. Refugee by Alan Gratz
This is an excellent book. Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. When he must join his mother and young sister to escape extermination in the concentration camps, he and his family board a ship for America. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. When her family experiences the hunger, riots, and danger of life in her country, she and her family set out on a raft, also hoping to find safety in America. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his country destroyed by war, he and his family begin a long trek to Europe. Each of these children will face dangers that children my age in America will never imagine as they try to find a safe place to live. This novel is action packed, and although you might wonder how these three characters from different times will relate to each other in the end, believe me, it all comes together in a way that helped me better understand what it means to simply want to find a home.
9. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
When Daniel bar Jamin sees his father executed by the Romans in New Testament era land of Israel, he devotes himself to avenge his father’s death. He joins a group of other young boys to spy on the Romans and to plot their demise. Daniel learns of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but is turned off by the message of forgiveness, which leaves no room for his brooding hate. As Daniel lets his hate overcome his closest friendships, his love and even the needs of his own sister, who has struggles of her own, he heads toward disaster, only to learn in the end how to accept and understand love. This book is another Newbery Medal winner.
10. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
When her grandmother dies and a much older man tries to force her into marriage, young Kit Tyler leaves her home in Barbados for New England. As she travels on a boat upriver through Connecticut, a child accidentally loses her favorite toy overboard, and Kit jumps into the water to save it. When the other passengers see her swimming so strongly, they begin to wonder if she is a witch.
Life in her new home is difficult: the weather is cold compared to her island home, Kit wants to teach girls to read and write but is prevented from doing so, her aunt and uncle’s family is not exactly welcoming and Kit fears the townspeople’s growing suspicions against her. During these hardships, Kit develops a deep friendship with Hannah, an outlawed Quaker. The story peaks when Kit is accused of being a witch when a practice book filled with the letters of a local child is found. This book is a tale of friendship, of love, of caring for others and of what it means to be strong and smart, even when people tell you that you can’t be.
11. Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Madness, Illustrated by Gris Grimly
This book contains four classic Edgar Allen Poe stories, all of which will scare you, make you wonder, and sometimes make you laugh: The Black Cat, the MAsque of the Red Death, Hop-Frog and The Fall of the House of Usher. My mom gave me this book for Halloween, but I’ve read it several times. In fact, I love to hear her read it out loud, as she makes things like a dead cat coming back to life at the exact moment that the police give up searching for the murdered woman the cat is hidden with seem believable…in a good way. Edgar Allen Poe was no Sherlock when it comes to smart murders, but he sure does make scary stories alot of fun. Another book full of scary, but great stories is Grimms Fairy Tales.
12. Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Brushac and Bright Path: Young Jim Thorpe by Don Brown
These books tell the story of Bright Path, better know as Jim Thorpe, the “Greatest Athlete in the World”. Most kids my age have heard of Jim Thorpe but don’t know the story of how he overcame a difficult life to become a champion athlete. Jim lost his twin brother to pneumonia and later, his mother as well. His father was killed in an accident. As a Native American, he was sent away to an Indian school where he couldn’t speak his language and where the white people tried to make him forget his Native traditions. Although Jim wanted to study electricity, he was recruited to attend a school in Pennsylvania, where he grew to love football, track and field, and many other sports. These two books tell Jim’s tale. Combined they tell a more complete story of Jim’s life before and after his trip to the Olympics, where he set longstanding records in track and field events. These books are great for younger readers as well.
I love poetry, and wish my school would spend more time learning about different styles of poems and why they are as important as books. I love to write poetry too. This book looks like its for little children–I received it as a gift when I was 5–but it is good four older kids too. The poems include classics by Robert Louis Stevenson, Emily Dickinson, Rudyard Kipling and others, as well as many haiku, nursery rhymes and more recent authors. The pictures of the animals are amazing. This books makes me want to read and write poetry every time I open it. My brother who is 9 loves it too.
These books follow Caden, eighth-born prince of Razzon, who has been waiting his entire life to finally slay a dragon. When he finally gets the chance, he is magically and mysteriously transported from his home to Asheville, North Carolina. Please see my note below about The Serafina Series. I think I really need to get to North Carolina soon.
These are some of my favorite books of all time. These stories follow Serafina, a young girl in North Carolina who lives in the basement of the Biltmore with her father. It turns out, Serafina is half catamount and has special powers. She uses these powers in the fight against evil. Serafina is truly the hero of all the people and creatures of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
16. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Once a year in the Protectorate there is a Day of Sacrifice. The youngest baby is taken by the Elders and left in the forest to die, thus appeasing the witch who threatens to destroy the village if not obeyed. Unbeknownst to the people, Xan, the witch of the forest, is kind and compassionate. When she discovers the first baby left as a sacrifice, she has no idea why it has been abandoned. She rescues the infants, feeds each one starlight, and delivers the shining infants to parents in the Outside Cities who love and care for them. On one occasion, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight along with starlight, filling her with glowing magic. Xan is smitten with the beautiful baby girl, who has a crescent moon birthmark on her forehead, and chooses to raise her as her own child. Twists and turns emerge as the identity of the true evil witch becomes apparent. The swiftly paced, highly imaginative plot draws a myriad of threads together to form a web of characters, magic, and integrated lives. Spiritual overtones encompass much of the storytelling with love as the glue that holds it all together. VERDICT An expertly woven and enchanting offering for readers who love classic fairy tales.—D. Maria LaRocco
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