Five must-read books for you & your kids

One of the classes I recently completed was a children’s literature class requiring me to read 60 books (some novels, some storybooks, some nonfiction, and everything in between).

I read so many outstanding books, and I want to share them here. Some of you, like me, have a reluctant reader (or two) in your home, and it’s wonderful to find good books you can read in tandem or that you can recommend to them. Here are five of my favorites from the course:

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare. I expected this book to be a major drag because I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond by the same author in seventh grade and thought it was a snooze. Instead, it was fascinating. The book tells the story of a young Jewish man living in the time of Christ. It explains why there was so much friction between Jews and the Romans, and I better understand the New Testament because of this book. Yes, it’s just a novel, but the context of the Gospels makes better sense now. I recommend it to anyone religious or curious about religion. (Also, the ho-hum cover is such a disservice to this book, so please ignore that.)

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson. Just a warning straight out of the gate: This book will tear.your.heart.out. This book tells the story of an 11-year-old foster girl named Gilly who has been hardened by moving from house to house and who longs to be reunited with her biological mother. She finds herself placed in a family far from her ideal, and she is surprised when she begins loving them. Unfortunately, decisions have natural consequences, and Gilly experiences first-hand how the choices we make shape our future. Please read this book with your child! It will help both of you appreciate how good life is.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I love learning about the Civil Rights Movement, and this autobiography takes place during that time. The entire book is written in verse (poetry), but don’t fret! It’s such an easy, beautiful read.

The story is told from a young girl’s perspective. She experiences divorce, separation from her mother, fear for her brother’s health, death of loved ones, poverty, and on and on. You will be pleasantly surprised, however, by the optimism of the family. They work hard and love hard, and their life is good because of it and in spite of things that could break them. Hopeful is the best word I could use to describe the tone. You will love this book and so will your kids (especially daughters!).

Pie by Sarah Weeks. This is such an adorable book all about a little girl named Alice who grows up baking pies in her beloved aunt’s pie shop. When the aunt dies unexpectedly, she leaves her award-winning crust recipe to … her cat. Chaos ensues, and the resolution at the end is clever and heartwarming. The description of the pies is mouthwatering, and the love between Alice and her aunt is the sweetest. This is a quick read and a fun mystery—perfect for elementary-school kids.

I actually read this last book just after the class ended, but I couldn’t leave it off this list: Refugee by Alan Gratz. This book is an important read, and I think everyone—EVERYONE—10 and older should read it. Three fictionalized stories of refugees are included: a Jewish family escaping Nazi Germany, a Cuban family riding a makeshift boat to Florida, and a Syrian family fleeing Aleppo after their home and homeland are destroyed. This book will require you to take a hard look at immigration, asylum, and detention. One of the boys in the Syrian story was based on the child in this real-life photo:

via—read this article for more information

I can’t get this book off my mind. It’s the kind of novel that changes you and makes you want to be a better person. It also makes little things like broken-down cars and dishwashers on the fritz seem completely unimportant. Life is good. If you live without fear, life is good.

My sister-in-law is an avid reader, and she prefers children’s and young-adult lit because she doesn’t have to worry about something raunchy showing up midway through the story. It’s so true. Any of the above books could be read with children or on your own without any guilt or grossness later.

What books have you read and loved lately? Please share in the comments. •

Book-cover images via Amazon

6 thoughts

  1. Love getting book recommendations and I’m anxious to read some of these. That is so true, I think I need to read more child and young adult books to avoid the trash some books have in them! I just finished The Kitchen House and the sequel and loved them! I haven’t read books that good in awhile.

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  2. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is an excellent book for young people and adults alike. It was the Newberry Award winner in 2002 and in my opinion deserved the award. It is set in 12th-century Korea about a13 year-old orphan named Tree-ear. He becomes fascinated by the work of a potter in the village whose work is meticulous and beautiful. The history and the characters come to life as this young boys learns lessons of hard work, perseverance, honesty, loyalty and love. The Audible version is great too. It helps with pronunciation of the Korean words. Give it a try. I think you’ll be glad you did.

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  3. Thanks for the recommendations! A book that my family absolutely love (and should be considered for a future list!) is “D-Pug in New York” by Janie Nugent. It is a fabulously illustrated book about Michael and his pug, Doug. It’s the second book in the series and Michael and Doug have moved to New York (His New York friends have given him a nickname….D-Pug). Their circle of friends include schoolmates, teachers, 4-H members, local pet shelter volunteers and pets. They have to build a float for the Thanksgiving Day Parade so the book really focuses on the importance of teamwork. Both books in the series are definitely worth checking out: https://janienugent.com/

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