©2019 by Clare Lund, Librarian on the Loose. All views are my own. I receive no compensation for reviews.

For Young Readers (and the young at heart)

Children's literature has a far wider audience than many realize. You may notice that my age recommendations are always phrased "and up" instead of placing a maximum age on a book, because I believe that no one is too old to enjoy a good story!

 

Booked

by Kwame Alexander

Sports, novel in verse
Ages 10 and up

Kwame Alexander has a way with words, and his storytelling style makes the books accessible and exciting for all readers. This one follows 12-year-old Nick as he learns lessons on and off the soccer field. My favorite character is The Mac (a rapping librarian!) and I love the vocabulary lessons throughout. Important issues like bullying and divorce.

Also check out Kwame's Newbery-winning book The Crossover and its prequel, Rebound!

I Will Always Write Back

by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda

Nonfiction
Ages 10 and up

This true story is written as a touching dual narrative and will inspire everyone who reads it! When she was in middle school, Caitlin's classmates each received a pen pal from a different country, and she was excited to learn about Zimbabwe. When Martin received her letter, neither of them know this would be the start of a life-changing friendship. This book is very popular at my school, and won our student-choice reading award.

Wishtree

by Katherine Applegate

Magical realism
Ages 8 and up

Told from the perspective of Red, an oak tree, this story has a timely lesson of acceptance. For generations, the people of the neighborhood have written down their wishes and tied them to Red's branches. But when a new family moves in, not everyone is welcoming, so Red and her wisdom are needed now more than ever. I can't recommend this book enough!

Be sure to read The One and Only Ivan and Crenshaw, also by Katherine Applegate.

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

Fantasy
Ages 9 and up

Nan Sparrow is an orphan and the best chimney climber in Victorian London. This reads like a fairy tale from the world of Charles Dickens, and made me laugh, cry, and cheer out loud. Sweep is the most charming and whimsical story I’ve read in a long time, with an important theme of speaking out against child labor and dangerous work conditions.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

by Kelly Barnhill

Fantasy
Ages 10 and up

Every year, the people of the village leave a baby as a sacrifice to appease Xan, the witch who lives in the woods. But Xan is actually kind and gentle, and rescues the abandoned children, feeding them starlight and giving them to welcoming families on the other side. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight, giving her magical powers, so she decides to raise the girl, whom she names Luna, as her own. An enchanting story with incredible imagery.

Insignificant Events

in the Life of a Cactus

by Dusti Bowling

Realistic fiction
Ages 9 and up

Aven was born without arms, but she is resilient and quickly learns to adapt. When her parents decide to move to Arizona, Aven is not looking forward to the stares and questions she fears she will face at her new school. But she makes an unexpected friend in Connor, a classmate with Tourette's syndrome who can relate to her struggle, and together they uncover an incredible mystery. An inspiring read.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus

by Ann Braden

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

Zoey may only be in 7th grade, but she has her hands full at home, looking after her siblings while their mom is at work. When Zoey learns how to build a strong argument in debate club, she pushes her mother to start standing up for herself. This book is an eye-opening portrayal of poverty, emotional abuse, and gun culture, and the characters stuck with me long after I finished reading.

The War the Saved My Life

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Historical fiction
Ages 9 and up

Ada lives in London during WWII, but she has never left her apartment because her cruel mother is too embarrassed by her daughter's clubfoot to let her outside. When children are evacuated to escape the bombing, Ada escapes with her younger brother to start a new life in the country. Beautiful themes of family and trust.

I also highly recommend the sequel, The War I Finally Won.

The Wild Robot

by Peter Brown

Science fiction
Ages 8 and up

When Roz the robot is shipwrecked on an island, she must learn to adapt to life in the wild instead of the factory she was designed for. Chapters are very short and many pages are illustrated, and Peter Brown's breaking of the fourth wall makes it fun to read out loud. Themes include identity, environment, loyalty, loss, and sacrifice.


Then finish the rest of Roz's story in The Wild Robot Escapes!

Walking with Miss Millie

by Tamara Bundy

Historical fiction
Ages 9 and up

It is 1968, and Alice is upset when she and her mom and brother have to move to Georgia to care for her grandmother. But she soon makes an unexpected friend in Miss Millie, the 92-year-old woman who lives next door. Alice finally opens up about her father who left the family, and begins to see the glaring racism and segregation in a whole new light. Beautiful story of a lovely and life-changing friendship.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

by Pablo Cartaya

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

Arturo's family has run a Cuban restaurant for generations, but now the business is being threatened by a fancy downtown development. The Zamoras are determined to fight for their future, and for the community they want to preserve. I loved this incredible story about the bonds of family, the dangers of gentrification, and the importance of standing up for what's right... plus the descriptions of food and recipe for Fricasé de Pollo at the end will make your mouth water.

See You in the Cosmos

by Jack Cheng

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

Alex may only be 11 years old, but he and his dog embark on a life-changing journey as they head from Colorado to New Mexico for a high-altitude rocket festival. Inspired by his hero, Carl Sagan, Alex is determined to launch a "golden iPod" into space, filled with observations about the world and conversations with people he meets. This book will make you laugh out loud, break your heart, and put it back together. Tough topics include parental neglect and mental illness.

Hour of the Bees

by Lindsay Eagar

Magical realism
Ages 10 and up

Carolina is not excited to spend her summer caring for a grandfather she's never met before. But she soon finds herself fascinated by the stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. The thin line between magic and reality starts to blur in this beautiful and heartbreaking story about family roots: "Do not be afraid to die, and you will not be afraid to live."

We Will Not Be Silent

by Russell Freedman

Nonfiction
Ages 10 and up

This is the true story of the White Rose student resistance movement. Hans and Sophie Scholl were brought up in the Hitler Youth, but began to doubt and then outright oppose the Nazi regime as young adults. The story is accompanied by photos, letters, diary entries, and excerpts from the actual White Rose leaflets. This powerful piece of nonfiction shows the power of resistance and standing up for what is right, even when the consequences are severe.

The Honest Truth

by Dan Gemeinhart

Realistic fiction
Ages 10 and up

Mark just wants to be a normal kid, but instead he's stuck in hospitals, getting treatments for his cancer. One day he gets sick of it all and runs away, leaving home with his camera, his notebook, his dog. Mark has always wanted to climb Mount Rainier, and he's determined to try, even if it's the last thing he does. Heartbreaking and inspiring, this book is about big questions and small moments.

Refugee

by Alan Gratz

Historical fiction
Ages 10 and up

This incredible book brings three separate stories to life: Josef flees Nazi Germany in 1939, Isabel attempts to escape Cuba in 1994, and Mahmoud is forced to leave Syria after his home is destroyed by bombs in 2015. Decades apart and in different parts of the world, the stories have parallel themes and tie together in a heartbreaking way at the end, proving that history really does repeat itself.

Full Cicada Moon

by Marilyn Hilton

Historical fiction, novel in verse
Ages 10 and up

I absolutely loved this story about Mimi, a half Japanese, half Black girl living in Vermont in 1969. Mimi loves science and wants to be an astronaut... and won't take no for an answer when people tell her she can't accomplish her goals. It's written in beautiful verse and covers themes of discrimination, perseverance, and courage.

The Night Diary

by Veera Hiranandani

Historical fiction
Ages 9 and up

Filled with gorgeous language and vivid imagery, this is the story of one family after the partition of India in 1947. Nisha's father is Hindu and her late mother was Muslim, leaving Nisha feeling torn when conflict between the two religions intensifies: "Can you hate half a person?" The home she has always known is now part of newly formed Pakistan, which Nisha and her family must risk everything to leave.

Fish in a Tree

by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Realistic fiction
Ages 9 and up

Most people look at Ally and just see a behavior problem, but not Mr. Daniels. He sees through her stubborn exterior and helps find the creative girl hiding inside, and teaches Ally to cope with the undiagnosed dyslexia she has been struggling with her whole life. Every kid deserves to have a "Mr. Daniels" in their lives! This should be required reading for all teachers... and parents... and human beings.