Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Top Twelve Books for Children– ages 9 to 12


Note: I have left off the classics like Treasure Island . And some books that were favourites when I was a child (Pippi Longstalking and Little House on the Prairie, etc.,). With one exception, I've even left off books that have been made into movies (Harry Potter, etc.,). This list is really a list of newer fiction for this age group.

In no particular order:

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (I read this recently so I am excited about it...)

Mia is warned about the dangers of the thousand mile trek she will be making to her new family after her parents die. “There are huge crocodiles in the rivers that can snap your head off in one bite. Only they're not called crocodiles, they're called alligators because their snouts are fatter, but they're just as fierce.” Fortunately, Mia isn't put off by the gruesome descriptions offered by her classmates. She is travelling to Brazil, with her new nanny. It turns out that her new family is more treacherous than the environment. With her new friends, she learns to love the River Sea and manages to defeat her conspiring cousins.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead 

Miranda  receives a mysterious message: “I have come to save your friend’s life and my own.” Who left the message and how did they get into her room? Then things begin changing. Her best friend doesn’t want to be around her, there is a very strange new boy in class, a homeless man has started hanging out on the corner and Miranda has to make new friends. Mystery fans, time-travel fans and kids who like a well-written story with an interesting plot will enjoy When You Reach Me. It is a perfect novel for both male and female readers ages 9-12.


Holes by Louis Sachar (the only book on this list that has been made into a movie)
As further evidence of his family's bad fortune, which they attribute to a curse on a distant relative, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a boys' juvenile detention centre in the Texas desert. As punishment, the boys here must each dig a hole every day, five feet deep and five feet across. Ultimately, Stanley "digs up the truth" -- and through his experience, finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself. Winner of the 1998 National Book Award for young people's literature, here is a wildly inventive, humorous tale of crime and punishment and redemption. A wonderful book for boys and girls ages 9-12.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg

Beloved children's author E.L. Konigsburg strikes gold with this gentle tale that celebrates outcasts. For the last forty-five years, the Uncles of Margaret Rose Kane have been building three giant towers in their backyard from scrap metal and shards of glass and porcelain. But now, bowing to pressures from some powerful home owners, the towers have been declared a blight on the neighbourhood. Even worse, the city council has voted to have them destroyed. Margaret adores her great-uncles, and loves the house at 19 Schuyler Place--especially the three peculiar clock towers (tall painted structures covered in pendants made from broken china, crystal, bottles, jars, and clock parts) that the Rose brothers have been building for as long as she can remember. For Margaret and the Rose brothers, the towers represent beauty for beauty's sake--they sparkle in the sun and sing in the wind--they exist only to spread joy. This tale of justice and self-reliance is one I re-read yearly.


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L'Engle (there's an anniversary edition out so this one definitely breaks my no remembered classics from childhood rule).
Wrinkle in Time is like the Potter books in that it is about boys and girls in a magical or fantasy setting. It is unlike the Potter books because it does not focus on wizardry as a craft. Instead it presents the universe as full of wonder, and united by a titanic struggle of Good against Evil. Everyone in town thinks Meg is angry and dull-witted and that her younger brother Charles Wallace is dumb. People are also saying that their father has run off and left their brilliant scientist mother. Spurred on by these rumors, Meg and Charles Wallace, along with their new friend Calvin, embark on an adventure through space to find their father. In doing so they must travel behind the shadow of an evil power that is darkening the cosmos, one planet at a time.



The Report Card by Andrew Clements
There is some controversy about a girl-child playing down her knowledge and the dangerous message that can send. I think it gets to the heart of the dilemma of a gifted-child's sense of fairness when she recognizes the advantages of her intelligence as compared to her age-level peers.
Nora is a eleven-year-old girl with two smart older siblings. Nora also is very smart. And she is smart enough to know that children who aren't earning good grades feel stupid, as her best friend Stephen does. So Nora pretends to be an average student. On her current report card, Nora earns Ds. This report card is not the first one that Nora has manipulated, just the first one where she was caught. Nora has been manipulating report cards since she started school, maintaining a nondescript C+ average -far below her potential (albeit unknown to her teachers and parents). Narrated by a very bright protagonist, the story has moments of engaging tension: it highlights the controversial issues of testing and grades from a child's point of view, but it reveals the pressure that teachers, administrators and parents feel as well.


Heat by Mike Lupica
Michael Arroyo, who is a twelve-year-old baseball pitcher. He has "the heat" in his arm that makes great pitchers stand out. His team has a chance to make it to the Little League World Series, in large part because of Micheal’s pitching ability. Making it to the World Series is critically important for Michael, because it will fulfill his father's dream for him. But Michael has problems, too. His mother died when he was younger, and his father has been absent for several months. Recently, some of the adults in the community have begun asking Michael and his older brother Carlos difficult questions. Carlos is working multiple jobs to support them, but if word gets out about their father, the brothers fear that they will be separated, and put into the foster care system.


The Magicians' Elephant by Kate Dicamillo
Peter has been told that his sister Adele is dead. Wanting desperately to believe Adele isn't dead, Peter wanders into the tent of a fortuneteller. Given one question to ask (he actually gets two) Peter is given to believe that his sister is still alive and he is told that an elephant will lead him to her. Will Peter find Adele?

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin 

A story of the grass is always greener, the protagonist Minli is endearing. She travels far from her family to learn that others do not have her family's love and companionship.

The Mostly True Adventures Of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

I love this book for its voice. I just felt like Homer P. Figg was right there, telling me the story rather than me reading it from a book. When I read it aloud to my class, I had to use a southern accent!
For years Homer P. Figg and his older brother Harold have made the best of living with their nasty ward and uncle Squinton Leach. A man so mean that he finds a way to sell Harold into serving as a soldier for the Union. The year is 1863 and when Harold ends up accidentally conscripted Homer is having none of it. Why his brother shouldn't legally be serving at all! With this resolution in mind, Homer takes his propensity for stretching the truth and Bob the horse so as to catch up with the army and get his brother back. Things, however, do not go smoothly. Before he finds Harold again Homer must endure blackguards, nitwits, shysters, pigs, a travelling circus, and an unexpected tour of the stratosphere. It all comes together at a little place called Gettysburg, though, where Homer must face the facts of his situation and do his best to keep the people important to him alive.



I chose two Spinelli books – I couldn't decide; they were both great.



Loser by Jerry Spinelli
Meet Donald Zinkoff as he manoeuvres his way through elementary school. He has exuberance for everything he does: from racing down the street on the first day of school wearing his favourite giraffe hat to collecting ear wax for his new best friend,. Zinkoff has a uniqueness that is sure to win the hearts of all readers. Life for Zinkoff contains very little gray area. He wants to do what he can to make those around him happy.While Zinkoff has a distinct quality of enjoying the simple things in life, it isn't long before his innocence and naivety becomes tarnished. Sadly, Zinkoff discovers that life in elementary school is consumed by winning. Who can run the fastest? Who gets the best grades in school? Who has the best handwriting? Who has the most friends? Zinkoff, with his atrocious handwriting, mediocre grades, and turtle-speed running, never wins. Zinkoff is a loser.


Wringer by Jerry Spinelli
Palmer lives in a town where boys, ten years-old and up, participate in the annual Pigeon Day Shoot by wringing the neck of the injured birds. Palmer is an animal lover and a secret hoarder of a pet pigeon and feels increasing dismay at the arrival of his tenth birthday. Palmer's father and friends eagerly await the day he dreads.

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