Children's Literature
Come On, Seabiscuit

Come On, Seabiscuit

Adults may know Come On, Seabiscuit as the book Laura Hillenbrand credited with inspiring her lifelong fascination with the horse. Kids will love this exciting true story of a knobby-kneed horse, a down-on-his-luck jockey, and the unlikely path that brought them victory.

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Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows

$20.973.95 (AUDIBLE DEAL)

A story of a boy and his dogs, and about so much more: love and yearning, struggle and poverty, and hunting—which means it's necessarily about death. My fifth grade teacher made a class of thirty students cry, excepting none, when she read the final chapters aloud. Of note: Rawls spent twenty years writing this novel, then burned it out of embarrassment. Lucky for us, his wife encouraged him to write it again, and he dashed off the whole thing (sans punctuation) in three weeks. Originally published as an adult novel, it still didn't sell until teachers and students got ahold of it.

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Lassie Come-Home

Lassie Come-Home

Lassie is Joe’s beloved dog and constant companion, but when Joe’s father loses his job, Lassie must be sold. Three times Lassie escapes from her new owner to return home to Joe in Yorkshire, but then she’s sold to a wealthy lord in Scotland to be trained for dog shows … but she desperately misses her “boy” and is determined to find him. A poignant tale of the bond between a boy and his dog, and a perfect book for any young dog-lover.

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Star Wars: Jedi Academy
The Day the Crayons Came Home
The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

I can't believe I haven't read this yet. From the publisher: "Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships."

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Wildwood

Wildwood

Imagine a modern-day Narnia, set in Portland, Oregon. Featuring beautiful illustrations from Carson Ellis.

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Goodbye Stranger

Goodbye Stranger

I'm a big fan of Newbery winner Rebecca Stead, and the reviews on her new novel are fantastic. I was underwhelmed by the composite structure and thought the ensemble cast only worked so well, but my biggest regret has nothing to do with Stead's writing. This was the first time I handed one of her novels off to my kids (in this case, my 10-year-old) without reading it first, and boy was I sorry. The three interwoven plots tackle the Sturm and Drang of adolescence, and my daughter wasn't ready to read about cyberbullying or sexting. Not bad, but nowhere close to When You Reach Me, and definitely for middle school and older.

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

$5.67$2.99

From Time magazine: "One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century." Add Audible narration for $2.99.

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The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

This is a contemporary novel (published 2005) but it feels like it could have been written fifty years ago, and is often recommended to fans of Louisa May Alcott, Noel Streatfeild, and Edward Eager. Four sisters spend their summer holiday at a beautiful estate called Arundel, where they have adventures of all kinds (and a few mishaps, of course). First in a quartet.

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Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins

I love that my girls love this book. When a young girl is marooned for eighteen years on an island off the coast of California, she not only survives, but manages to find a kind of happiness with only the animals for company. Kanana is strong and smart and resourceful as she waits for the ship that took her tribe away to return. This popular modern classic is loosely based on a true story.

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Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle

My 11-year-old doesn't typically choose fantasy novels, but she just devoured this series (which is four books right now). This middle grade novel has a bit of Hogwarts magic to it: every Tuesday, Castle Glower rearranges itself, growing a new room or adding a new hallway. The royal family is accustomed to its eccentricities. When disaster strikes, Princess Celie and her siblings team up to save the day. Their pranks will make you giggle even as the story deals with serious themes like grief and fear.

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Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust

$7.99

My 11-year-old told me she was glad this was required reading because she wouldn't have read it otherwise and it's one of the best books she's ever read. Told in free verse, this is the story of a young girl's life in the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma during the Great Depression. It's bleak and tragic and ends with only a glimmer of hope, but young (and old) readers will be moved as they root for fourteen-year-old Billie Jo to transcend her dire circumstances and find the beauty in her unlikely surroundings. A short, quick read.

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Home for the Holidays (Mother-Daughter Book Club #5)

Home for the Holidays (Mother-Daughter Book Club #5)

Sarah (age 9) snatched this up from our library's holiday display table, and we just finished reading it together. She loved it, and I loved reading it with her. Now she wants to go back to the beginning and read the whole series. (Don't tell: she's getting the box set for Christmas.) She's writing copycat fiction in the meantime.

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Heidi

Heidi

$5.99

The classic story of a young orphan who lives an idyllic life with her grandfather, the goat-herd, and her young friend Peter in the French Alps, and then becomes desperately homesick when she's sent to the city to become companion to a young invalid. The prose is a little dated to my dears, but my daughters remain quick to recommend this book to friends their age.

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The Book with No Pictures

The Book with No Pictures

My kids fell in love with this thanks to B. J. Novak's reading on Youtube. This not-quite-picture book is completely ridiculous in the best possible way. Prepare yourself to read this over and over and over again over holiday break. I don't think you'll mind (too much).

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Once Upon a Toad

Once Upon a Toad

$5.99

I picked this one up because my daughters loved Frederick's Mother-Daughter Book Club series, even though the plot sounded ridiculous. My girls loved it. Cat's mother is an astronaut, and when she gets sent to the International Space Station Cat is sent to live halfway across the country with her Dad and her real-life evil stepsister. That's bad enough, but then one morning at breakfast Cat opens her mouth and a toad hops out! But when her stepsister speaks, diamonds and flowers come out of her mouth. If you can suspend your disbelief, this story is good clean fun.

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God Made Light

God Made Light

This inspirational children's book is meaningful and fun to read. I can't describe it any better than Lisa Jo Baker, who said it's "like Dr. Seuss meets Genesis." Gift alert: Dayspring has a small product line to go with the book, including encouragement notes for kids, a nightlight, and a floor puzzle.

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Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting

$5.67$3.99Audiobook: 4.49 (Whispersync)

When an overprotected ten-year-old stumbles upon a boy her age drinking furtively from a spring near her home, she discovers what he's trying to keep secret: since his family began drinking the water, they haven't aged a day. There are so many middle grade stories that wrestle with death these days; in this novel, Babbit wrestles with the decidedly mixed blessing of living forever. The prose in this is really lovely (which is not a code word for boring).

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MAYBE YOU SHOULD FLY A JET!

MAYBE YOU SHOULD FLY A JET!

When I graduated in the '90s, Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was a clever, quirky pick for the new graduate. No longer. This classic has been marketed to death: don’t even think about buying this (unfairly) tired-out book for your graduate. Instead, try this lesser-known Dr. Seuss classic. It's out of print, but it shouldn't be too hard to find a copy–and it's well worth it. (Warning: brace yourself for a terrible ending. It's worth reading anyway.)

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The Lemonade War

The Lemonade War

$13.991.95 (AUDIBLE DEAL)

When two siblings have a conflict they can't talk about, they take it out on each other by going to battle with their respective lemonade stands: who can earn the most money selling cold drinks this summer? This is a fast-moving story about sibling rivalry, different kinds of intelligence, and how math works in the real world. A good independent read for younger tweens, but even my six-year-old is loving this as a read-aloud.

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All Four Stars

All Four Stars

Unbeknownst to everyone, NYC’s toughest restaurant critic is an 11 year old girl. Gladys started cooking impressive gourmet meals when she was 7 but she has to find a new outlet when her parents cut her off from the kitchen after a mishap. When she accidentally gets contacted to write a restaurant review, it seems like a sign. There’s just the little matter of keeping her identity a secret. A fun middle grade read.

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Raymie Nightingale

Raymie Nightingale

From The New York Times Book Review: "With its short, vibrant chapters and clear, gentle prose, this triumphant and necessary book conjures the enchantments of childhood without shying away from the fraught realities of abandonment, abuse and neglect…Twirling a baton requires flair and confidence, in addition to an understanding that the baton is always balanced just a tiny bit off-center. There is something wonderfully off-balance, too, about DiCamillo’s storytelling. It allows her characters to sparkle and soar. DiCamillo has called this novel, based partly on her own fatherless Florida childhood, "the absolutely true story of my heart."

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Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures
We Are in a Book!
Play Ball! (Little League)