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Friday, October 16, 2009

Great Books for Young Readers!

Last week I was lucky enough to represent the Mississippi Library Commission at the State Fair. Every year MLC has a booth at the Trade Mart to tell visitors about our services and to pass out goodies. Telling people about Learn-A-Test was fun, no doubt, but the highlight of my experience had to be meeting so many young people who love their libraries and love to read. I had several young ladies tell me about the trials and tribulations facing Kirsten, Chrissa, and the other American Girls. It was so refreshing to see how animated these young readers became when talking about their favorite characters and I could not help but think about my first experiences with the joys of reading. I decided to describe a couple of my favorite books and invited Tracy and Brandie to share their favorite first books.

Here’s what Brandie had to say:
"The Fear Street series by R.L. Stine.
I’m not sure if the books in this series would classify as children’s books, but I read them as a child, and I loved them. Each novel tells a horror story that involves young adults or teens. I was addicted to the series because all the stories were so vivid and downright scary. It’s a great series for older kids, but some of the themes and descriptions within them may be a little too intense for younger children. This is from the same author responsible for the popular
Goosebumps series, which is aimed at a younger age group than the Fear Street audience.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar.
I ran across this book a few months ago while cleaning out my closet, and the stories inside still had me laughing aloud. This particular title is actually the first of a three-book series. It’s also the funniest of the three. The book is a collection of short stories about a school where weird, funny, and creepy occurrences are the norm. It’s a great book for kids of all ages."

Tracy, as you can imagine, loved books as a young lady. Here’s how she explains her favorite books as a young reader:

"I have to admit I read a LOT of Sweet Valley High books when I was a preteen, but I read a lot of other things, too. The ones that stick out in my memory are the following:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. This 1979 Newbery Medal winner is about 16 strangers who are named as potential heirs in a man’s will. They’re told that one of them took the man’s life, and the person who figures it all out will win the estate. Lots of good characters, nothing naughty enough to arouse the suspicions of nosy parents, and a genuinely entertaining read. True confession time: I re-read this a few months ago and it was just as good!

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. What child doesn’t dream of running away from home, but gets stuck on the details of such things like food and shelter? In this novel, Claudia Kincaid and her little brother James run away with a plan: they head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where they bathe in the fountain (and raid the bottom for coins people have thrown in) and sleep in the furniture exhibits. Not only is that an awesome runaway solution, but they become interested in a statue of an angel thought to be created by Michelangelo, which leads them to further adventures. I have a baby at home, but if he doesn’t like this book when he gets older, I am sending him away.

Even though I grew up in the 70s and 80s, for some reason I was fairly obsessed with the 50s. My entire perception of high school and dating came from reruns of "Father Knows Best" (Princess had a date with a different boy every day of the week!) and from the teenybopper novels of Beverly Cleary. My two favorites were Fifteen (Jane meets Stan, who eventually gives her his ID bracelet; swoon!)and Jean and Johnny (Jean is a nerd and Johnny is popular; this is a bad combo, but it turns out ok in the end). It goes unsaid that my actual dating experiences in high school were a bit different."

As for me, my favorite book growing up was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien. I read this book going home every day on the school bus. I remember being asked by one of the older students why I was reading outside of class. Talking owls, secret rosebushes, genetically mutated rats that swordfight? Are you kidding? I was completely hooked after this book.

Another one of my favorite books growing up was Sounder by William Armstrong. Sounder is a great book about a boy, his dog, and a stolen ham. It may not sound that exciting, but I think Sounder is a great book that shows the value of education and empathy. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

So that’s a short list of some of our most beloved books. We would love to hear from some of our readers’ favorite titles.
Happy reading!


  1. some that come to mind for me are:

    A Cricket in Times Square

    Runaway Ralph (and the others in the series)

    Roald Dahl books

    Hank the Cowdog books

    a series about warring rats and gerbils and such that had crazy made up words as titles, one started with a S (no clue the actual title)

    and between elementary and junior high I read every Hardy Boys and Louis L'Amour westerns & Sacketts (I think, I even had a checklist).

    By the way is it just me or were L'Amour's books about WW II terrible while his others were not?

  2. BSquared-
    You're not talking about the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, are you? Salamandastron?

  3. That is it, I remember the covers and checked Amazon and that is the set.

    Excellent answer based on a very poor description by me.

  4. I think Jacques started publishing the Redwall books while I was growing up. I remember them well. We actually have several of them available in the Library Commission's collection!

    I confess that I have never read a Louis L'Amour novel, or even a true Western. (Could I include the Little House on the Prairie series in the Western genre?) The Hardy Boys never made my list either, but I did go through quite a long Nancy Drew phase! We actually have one or two interesting titles on those last two series at MLC, too.

  5. One of the scariest and most intriguing books that I found in the adolescent lit section in South Hills Library in south Jackson is:

    House of stairs / William Sleator

    There are two other books I found in the same place, but I can't remember their names. One was a coming of age story about a Russian girl studying the piano under Communism; it seems like the word awakening is in the title.

    The other is about some state of emergency in the United States and a family who is prepared, but is accused by others of hoarding food.

    I also loved anything by Norma Johnston, especially the Keeping Days series about Tish Sterling at the turn of the 20th century. She also had another excellent couple of books about Bridget who lived during the Civil War.


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