There is nothing as wonderful as curling up with a good book and transporting yourself into another character's mind and body. It's magical. Brenda loves the truths that are revealed through fiction. And she loves being able to talk about books with friends. So here is where she'll recommend books to you. Check back often because Brenda is always finding new, fantastic books. Also, if you know of a great book that Brenda should read, shoot her an e-mail.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green— Beautiful, heartbreaking young adult novel that adults will love, too. If I tell you it's about two kids with cancer who fall in love, you won't want to read it, so just trust me when I say you have to read this book. Like, really. You must. And my secret wish is that when it becomes a movie, they cast my son as Gus. He would be a great Gus.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson— Young adult book that adults will love, too. It's about sisters. And love. Loss. And grief. Passion. Music. Poetry. It's written so beautifully that I cried in the happy parts and was unable to breathe during the heartbreak. It made me feel like I was in on a secret, like I was meeting these incredible friends, like I was climbing inside someone's heart. I promise you, you will love this book.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand—I don't normally read a lot of non-fiction, but this biography of World War II veteran, Louis Zamperini, grabbed me from the start and wouldn't let go. It's an amazing tale of courage and resilience and the power of the human spirit. Written for adults, but teens love it, too.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein—If you're a dog lover (and even if you're not), you will get swept away by this book told from the point of view of a lovable dog named Enzo. He belongs to Denny, a race car driver, who faces incredible obstacles in his personal and professional life. Enzo's thoughts on the human condition are humorous, honest, and heartfelt. If you've ever wondered how to live a good life, just take a listen to Enzo.
Such a Pretty Face, Short Stories about Beauty edited by Ann AngelI've been thinking a lot about inner and outer beauty lately, and this collection of short stories gave me so much to contemplate. Two of my favorites were A Bad Hair Day by Lauren Myracle (a beautiful homecoming queen grows a monstrously long chin hair and finds she is more than just a pretty face) and What I Look Like by Jamie Pittel (a pretty blonde girl dyes her hair blue and pierces her nose as she asserts her independence from her mother).
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth ScottI didn't want to read this book about a 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped by a pedophile when she was 10 and has been living with him ever since. Now that she's becoming a woman, he wants her to find him a new young girl. I had heard this book was haunting and disturbing, and I hoped my 14-year-old daughter never came upon it. But of course, one day, Faith told me about this great new book she wanted to read...Living Dead Girl. I decided the only responsible thing was for me to read the book first. I did, and I found it was haunting and disturbing. But it also answered a question that I had never quite understood before...Why don't kids in this situation tell someone or escape? Living Dead Girl is hard to read but impossible to put down. I recommend it for older teens and parents to share.
Third Grade Baby by Jenny MeyerhoffPolly Peterson is the last kid in her class to lose a tooth, and now the Tooth Fairy has forgotten to come! Is third grade too old to believe in the Tooth Fairy? This funny and tender early chapter book warmed my heart. I especially loved the sweet relationship between Polly and her baby brother Max.
Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThis book reads like a great movie. I wonder if it has already been optioned. If you like dystopian society books, you'll love this story that takes place in a future where kids have to compete to the death in a sick reality TV show. Haunting and thrilling. It's the first book in a trilogy.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. LockhartI fell in love with Frankie, and I'm not sure which would be more fun... being her, or being best friends with her. Terrific voice in this novel about Frankie's time at boarding school and her "criminal" activity. I loved the exploration of power and feminism and how that impacts boy-girl relationships.
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter CameronWhat a great coming-of-age novel. I read this in the car on the way to Florida, and I kept laughing out loud and reading excerpts to Alan. It's the story of James, a boy/man on the cusp of adulthood during the summer between high school and college. It made me laugh and cry and think about life...or me that's the mark of a great book. I hope it will be read by tons of teens as well as adults!
Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark DowellI gotta say, this book is a masterpiece. Seriously. Everyone should read this beautiful story. As for me, I am now in Reader's Shockwrapped up in the emotions of the book and feeling that I might as well give up being an author anyway because I can't possibly write something as lovely and meaningful and perfect as Ms. Dowell did.
The Nature of Jade by Deb Calettia young adult novel about Jade DeLuna, a senior in high school who has to deal with panic disorder, a heavy AP course load, falling in love with a young single father, her parents' deteriorating marriage, and the distance she feels from her friends as they all get ready to move on to the next phase of life. Jade's decision to volunteer at a zoo and work with elephants allows her to develop rewarding relationships with both animals and humans while giving her the strength to deal with life's curvy roads. I was so touched by this book, mainly because Caletti did an outstanding job of getting inside Jade's head. All the characters seemed well-rounded, with lifelike traits and flaws. The dialogue was spot on. And the sophistication of Jade's thoughts and struggles makes this book meaty enough to appeal to both teens as well as adults.
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren TarshisThis is my new favorite book! I loved it so much that I read it twice in one week. Really! You should read this book. Everyone should read this book. I laughed and cried and connected with all the characters in a deep, powerful way. You've got Emma-Jean, a very strange seventh grade girl, very much the social outcast. You've got Colleen, the nice girl who cares so much about what everyone thinks. You've got Laura, the mean girl who seems to run the school, though nobody truly likes her. You've got Emma-Jean's caring mom, her father who passed away, and Vikram, a man who rents a room in their home and cooks amazing Indian dishes for them every night. You've even got a popular, cool, and knight-like boy named Will Keeler to round out this lovely story about connections, relationships, and middle-school social angst. This book reminded me a bit of Blubber, by Judy Blume. (Huge compliment, as that was my favorite book growing up.) Although Blubber is set at an elementary school and deals head on with bullying, this book, for a slightly older crowd, touches on many similar themes. I hope lots and lots of middle school kids read Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree!
Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, Edited by Jennifer O'ConnellThis collection of essays is a must-read for every adult who grew up with Judy Blume. I laughed and cried my way through the entire book. I wonder if Judy Blume has read it. I wonder how she feels knowing she's had such a gigantic impact on so many girls. Powerful stuff!
A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy SchlitzThis buzz-worthy book, which takes place in the early 20th Century, tells the story of Maud, an 11-year-old orphan. Maud thinks it's the best day in her life when she is adopted by Miss Hyacinth Hawthorn, but that is only the beginning of a very twisted tale. Amid spirits, Ouija boards, lies, and adventure, Maud grows up, makes difficult choices, and finds a better life. I kept picturing this book as a movie. It would be a great one! A fun, fun read.
Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, Illustrated by Paul ZelinskyI love this book! It's the perfect chapter book to read aloud to kindergartners, first, or second graders. (I even caught my twelve-year-old son reading it when I left it on the kitchen table. It's irresistible!) With humor and tenderness, Jenkins tells the story of Lumphy, Plastic, Stingray, and the little girl who loves them. Each toy has its own unique personality, and kids will find much to understand and identify with in their stories. Buy this book the next time you need a gift for a 5-8 year old.
Alabama Moon by Watt KeyYet another fabulous debut! This is a survival/adventure/friendship story that both boys and girls will love. Moon Blake has been raised in the woods by his militant and loner father. He's never been to school. Never played with friends. Never known anyone besides his parents. But when his father dies, Moon comes to see the world through his own eyes, rather than his dad's. A very interesting and different coming-of-age story.
Yellow Star by Jennifer RoyThis is the best Holocaust book for kids I have ever read. Ever! Based on the true story of the author's aunt's experience as a child in the Lodz ghetto, this beautiful and powerful novel in free verse will chill and inspire you. An absolute must-read for everyone!
Sheep by Valerie HobbsThis is almost like a kinder, gentler Edward Tulane story. A touching tale told from a border collie's point of view about finding purpose and love in life. Make sure you have a tissue nearby!
Rules by Cynthia LordAmazing debut novel about a girl with an autistic brother. 12-year-old Catherine's role in her family and her new friendship with a disabled boy is sensitively portrayed, believable, and touching. I can't wait to see what Cindy Lord will write next!
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana ReinhardtAnother debut not to be missed! This story for teens is about 16-year-old Simone and her relationship with her Jewish birth mother. It's about identity, family, faith, and friendship. You'll need a tissue!
A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl by Tanya Lee StoneDefinitely for teens! I wouldn't want my 11-year-old reading this, but in a few years, it will be on her shelf. This story, written in free verse, is about three different girls and their relationship with the same boy. They each get used by him and subsequently learn and grow from the experience. The beauty of this book is just how empowering the girls' collective stories are. A great book for any girl who is beginning to get involved in romantic relationships.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamilloKate has done it again! This is a wonderful, heart-wrenching tale that's destined to become a classic. I didn't think I would fall in love with a china rabbit, but I did. And I dare you not to.
Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time, by Lisa YeeWhat a fun follow-up to Millicent Min, Girl Genius! I loved the snappy pace and true voice, and I'm looking forward to the third book in the series starring Emily Ebers.
Great Books for a 3rd-5th Grade Book Club
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume
Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos
The School Story, by Andrew Clements
The Diary of Melanie Martin, by Carol Weston
Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary
Just Juice, by Karen Hesse
Seesaw Girl, by Linda Sue Park
Anastasia Krupnik, by Lois Lowry
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman (now available as a graphic novel!)
Half Magic, by Edward Eager
Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
Sahara Special, by Esme Raji Codell
Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech
Fig Pudding, by Ralph Fletcher
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, by Bette Bao Lord
Poppy, by Avi
Notes from a Liar and her Dog, by Gennifer Choldenko