Readers 10 and up

10 Historical Fiction Picks Guaranteed to Enlighten and Entertain

Historical fiction helps us view the events of history in new and meaningful ways. The best novels teach us about our past while entertaining us in the present. With that in mind, today’s list contains ten historical fiction novels (for a variety of ages) that will inform and entertain your young reader. Specifically, the books on this list taught me about events in history I knew almost nothing about. Each one is a gem, well-written and worth the read.

Quick Picks: What I’ve Been Reading

You know the feeling when you finish a good book and you want to tell someone about it?  Well, I've got that feeling. This list of books doesn’t fit on any of the upcoming book lists I have planned. I wanted to share them anyway.

If your kids are participating in the Young Book Love Bingo Reading Challenge, the books on this list will help them fill in the square “a book about someone who doesn’t look like you.” (The characters include people from Pakistan and India along with Americans with different shades of skin.) If your kids aren’t participating in the Reading Challenge and want to, you can find out more (and print off a free Bingo board) here.

Below are four books I read over the past month that I am excited to recommend. I hope your young reader will connect with them too.

Author Focus: Jennifer L. Holm

I have noticed the covers of Jennifer L. Holm’s numerous books on the shelves of our school and public libraries for years. Last month, I picked one up for the first time. Followed by another, and another until I’d read a good chunk of them. I am now a fan.

If you are looking for quality middle grade books for almost any kind of reader, Jennifer L. Holm might be just the author you are looking for. A few of the categories her books fall into include: historical fiction, science-themed stories, novels starring girls, books starring boys, a pinch of fantasy, humor, and a host of graphic novels that she co-wrote with her brother Matthew Holm.

Plus, her stories are really good!

Many of her novels are based on or inspired by stories of Jennifer’s own family. I learned bits of history that I never knew before, discovered characters I loved, laughed, cried and was thoroughly entertained by the stories that fill up her books.

The following books are excellent middle grade reads (including 3 Newbery Honor books) and I am excited to recommend them to you.

Stranger in a New Land: Six Books for Kids (and Teens) Based on the Refugee/Immigrant Experience

Refugees have been an on-going story in our world as long as there have been stories. A few years back when the Syrian refugee crisis was full-blown, it was hard for me to process. The numbers, the news reports, even the pictures, they all started to blend together. Those mediums have their place, but to read the personal story of one person can have a more profound effect than a million statistics or news reports.

Books and the stories they contain can be an amazing tool to help our kids (and ourselves) process what is going on in the world around us. As we read, learn and empathize, these stories can help us interact with our own world in a new way. We might not be able to have a direct impact on a Syrian refugee, but we can have an impact on the new kid (or their parent) who feels alone.

With that in mind, today’s list contains six books. A few of the books tell the refugee’s story as he/she flees their home country. Others are made up of characters who are living in America as immigrants. All of them give insight into what it would feel like to leave your home and start over in a strange new land. This list of books is special offering readers relatable characters they will easily root for and identify with. They also simply contain good stories that I hope your kids will enjoy as they read.

Books that Quietly Change Culture

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic in children’s literature. Written in 1962, it was well-received from the get-go and even won the Caldecott Medal that year. Who can’t relate to the wonder of a fresh blanket of snow? The Snowy Day was also one of the first picture books to feature an African American child as the main character. Written in the midst of the Civil Rights movement this book quietly made a very important statement.

I read an article that ran on NPR on January 28, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of The Snowy Day) that shared one of the ways this book made an impact:

11-year-old Girl Seeking Books with a Hook

Ava is an eleven-year-old girl who loves to read. She loves reading because it takes her into new worlds and occupies her mind. There are so many different stories to read and learn from; she loves to discover them. When she’s not reading, Ava likes to play games and play soccer.

When looking for a good book, Ava especially likes fantasy and realistic fiction. The Harry Potter series is one of her very favorites; she has read them more than once. She stays away from graphic novels because they don’t interest her and feel harder to read.

Ava has no problem abandoning a book if it doesn’t keep her interest or is hard to understand. If you are a kid looking for a good book, Ava recommends that you ask your siblings, parents, grandparents and friends for recommendations.

I am excited to give Ava a few personalized picks. To help me help her, I asked Ava to share three of her favorite books and one she was not so crazy about. Here are her favorites:

A Book List of Mysteries for All Ages

Mysteries are the perfect type of book to read on a cold and blustery fall or winter night. If your child loves the thrill of following clues along with the danger and suspense that literary detectives always encounter. I’ve got a list for you.

So get a fire going in the fireplace, grab a cozy blanket and a mug of hot chocolate, and dive into one of the following books.

Author Focus: Steve Sheinken

Sometimes history gets the bad rap of being boring. If your kids think this, or if they think the opposite and LOVE history, I have an author for you to check out immediately.

Steve Sheinken used to write history textbooks, but don’t let that stop you from picking up one of his middle grade or young adult books. His first book King George: What Was His Problem? is filled with stories from the American Revolution they wouldn’t let him put in the history books. It has a cover that is anything but boring and might be the perfect way to help your kids dip their toes into the subject of history in a way that is not at all boring.

In one of Steve’s most recent books for elementary-school aged kids, Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler, I found the following quote:

“‘Kids say [history] is… Abby lowered her voice to a whisper, ‘boring.’

‘Some shows are boring, some books,’ Mr. Douglass said. ‘But history is just stories. Surprising, sad, funny, gross stories. Set in all different times and places. What’s boring about that?’”

To me, this feels like the perfect description of what Steve accomplishes with his books. He finds and shares unique stories from history that have been overlooked or forgotten and shares them in an exciting and very readable way. His knack for creating historical books that read like suspenseful novels is legit.

The Newbery's of 1999

Several years ago, I set a goal to read all the Newbery award and honor books. You can read more about the award and my goal here. It’s a big goal that includes a lot of books over a lot of years, but book nerd that I am, I am so up for it! That said, it’s time for another Newbery Challenge post. Oh yeah!!

Today we are heading back to 1999. But, before we get to the books, here are a few other things that were going on:

In 1999 Pokemon was taking the toy world by storm. Y2K was approaching and making everyone nervous. Star Wars Episode 1, The Sixth Sense and Toy Story 2 were the box office favorites. Meanwhile on TV, everyone was watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and ER. And if those fun facts don’t take you back, maybe knowing that the words “blog” and “chillax” had just been added to the dictionary will.

The books that follow may have been written in 1999, but thankfully, good books have staying power. This year’s Newbery list was short and sweet AND contains two books that I would absolutely recommend almost 20 years later.

Mysterious, Classic, Scary and Sweet - a Fall booklist perfect for cold nights and cozy blankets

Fall is the perfect time for reading. The shorter days and colder nights drive us inside and create the ideal opportunity to snuggle up with a cozy blanket and a good book.

Yep, Autumn and reading go together like peanut butter and jelly, a classic combination.

There are certain genres of books that feel especially appropriate this time of year. Cold and gray outsides, make the insides extra cozy and the thought of diving into a thick book or classic work more inviting. Shorter days and longer evenings can be motivating to start a longer series of books. A spooky story or compelling mystery can be just the thing to set the mood for a late night read in bed while the wind howls outside the window.

Today’s list contains ideas and recommendations from all of these categories, making it a fairly diverse list. If you have a sensitive reader, some of these books might not be a good match. But, if your young reader enjoys the thrill of a scary story every once in awhile, I am excited to share some new discoveries.

Wherever your child falls on the spooky spectrum, I think today’s list has a little bit for everyone. Hopefully you will find the perfect book for your kids to dive into this Fall, to read on their own or to share together.

Louisiana's Way Home

If you have followed this blog for any period of time, you will know that Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite authors. Louisiana’s Way Home is her most recent release. When I saw a copy at my local library, I grabbed it without hesitation and started to read. I began to read even though I had an entire list of books waiting on me that I probably should have read first.

There is always a bit of trepidation when you start a new book from one of your favorite authors. You can’t help but put pressure on the new book to live up to your expectations. There is also a lot of excitement that comes with the possibility of another story to fall in love with.

This book lived up to my very high expectations. In fact, I immediately purchased my own copy after I finished my library’s so I could revisit the story, underline the words that I loved and share it with others.

Exploring Castles and Dealing with Dragons - a book list

A little over a month ago I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland. Throughout our visit we hiked trails, rode trains, toured castles and (of course) looked for Nessie all amidst beautiful and varied landscapes. At times, it felt like we were in another world, a world where fairies and dragons most definitely exist.

Now that we are home, I will grudgingly admit that these fantastical creatures (probably) don’t exist. But, I will always be thankful they ARE meant to live in our imaginations and come alive through the telling of fairy tales and the reading of good books. Scotland was a place where their existence felt possible and that is one of many reasons why I hope to return.

Until then, I am thankful for books filled with castles and dragons that give us the opportunity to get lost in a good story and visit far-off lands.

Today’s list, inspired in part by Scotand, contains books and series where castles come alive, dragons live and peasant girls try to become princesses.

Author Focus: Jennifer A. Nielsen

We (and I say “we” a lot in this post, because Jennifer Nielsen books have become a family affair) were first introduced to Jennifer A. Nielsen through her historical fiction novel, A Night Divided. While I haven’t read it yet, most of my kids have. They love it and are continually shocked when they remember I haven’t read it yet. If you ask us for a historical fiction recommendation, A Night Divided will surely be on the list.

My oldest picked up the first book in the Ascendence Trilogy, The False Prince when she was in junior high. She was hooked. She couldn’t stop reading until she had finished all three books. The same was true of my son when he read it this past summer. This fantasy series is full of high adventure, twists, turns and a good dose of humor. It is a lot of fun and has become a favorite at our house.

I finished Nielsen’s newest book Resistance this week. Resistance is another historical fiction novel and in my opinion it is her best yet. Set in Poland just before the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, it follows a young Jewish girl determined to do everything she can to fight the Nazi’s. It was excellent. I have told my kids they HAVE to read it.

With such strong feelings towards so many of her books, I wanted to share them with you. Below are short descriptions of Nielsen’s books. Most fall in the fantasy genre, but the two historical fictions listed we highly recommend.

If you are looking for quality books for your teens and pre-teens, Jennifer A. Nielsen would be a great author to try.

Quick Picks: What My Kids are Reading

As I have been blessed with a large passel of kids with a variety of ages, interests, and reading likes and dislikes, I thought I’d do a “quick pick” list inspired by them. Below are the books my kids are currently reading. If you are looking for ideas for your young reader, maybe one these books will inspire them.

The Newbery’s of 2013

Several years ago I set a goal to read all of the Newbery Medal and Honor books. I looked up and typed out the titles of all the winners over the years all the way back to 1922 when the award began.

If you don’t know what the Newbery award is, every year the ALA (American Library Association) will bestow the seal of the Newbery Medal on the children’s book they deem the most distinguished of the previous year. Named for an 18th century English bookseller, the Newbery Medal was the first children’s book award in the world. (If you are interested, you can read John Newbery’s story in the picture book Balderdash! by Michelle Markel.) While there is only one medal winner each year, the ALA always acknowledges additional books with the Newbery Honor award.

I don’t read the books in any particular order. Once I complete one, I head to my spreadsheet and change the color of the title from black to orange. While the orange is growing, there is a lot of black because there are a lot of books. Some I have loved, some I haven’t cared for, all I hope to share, eventually.

Epic Adventures and Where to Find Them

One of my favorite types of book to fall into include book series of epic proportions. I love stories that pull you into the long-standing battle of good verses evil along with tales of sacrifice, courage and doing hard things. 

There are a few obvious books that come to mind in this category. The Chronicles of Narnia is one of my all-time favorite series. The Lord the Rings is another. Hidden within the pages of these books are moments of profound insight and wisdom that have shaped my life. They hold scenes that I think of when I need a dose of courage in my real-life decisions. 

Of course, Harry Potter also falls into this category. This series is fully entertaining and so hard to put down. If your child gets lost in the first one, chances are he or she will want to keep reading to see how the saga ends. 

One thing I love even more than getting lost in an epic saga is watching a story pull my kids in hard. It is even better when that story leads to a request for the next book from the library ASAP.

If your kids love to get lost inside of an epic adventure or have never tried, this list is for you. Below are five series my kids and I have loved that might be good fits for your kids too. Some of them have profound insight and wisdom sprinkled inside (if you look for it), all of them are epic in nature with excellent stories at their heart. 

Book #5: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

My kids are back in school and I am excited to get back to sharing books with you. To transition into business as usual, I thought I’d start things off by highlighting my favorite reads from this summer. Today, allow me to share book 5 of 5:

Book #5:  A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Book #4: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

My kids are back in school and I am excited to get back to sharing books with you. To transition into business as usual, I thought I’d start things off by highlighting my favorite reads from this summer. 

Book #4:  Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Book #1: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My kids are back in school and I am excited to get back to sharing books. I have not spent a lot of time on this little piece of internet this summer, but, I have absolutely been reading. To transition into business as usual, I thought I’d start things off by sharing my favorite summer reads. Every day this week I will talk about a different book that left its mark. 

Book #1:  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Quick Pick Books for When Your Kids Don't Know What to Read Next

Have you ever walked into your local public library with your kids determined to emerge well-stocked with armloads of books only to find yourselves overwhelmed and unsure what books to pluck from their overstuffed shelves?

Me too! 

With so many options, it can be challenging to figure out exactly what book to read next. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are 10 books (covering a variety of genres and ages) to give you some direction. The next time your kids feel library overload, see if they'd like to give one of these stories a try: