Category: 10 and up

All Things Wise and Wonderful, by James Herriot

These books are absolute gems, recreating the Yorkshire life of a country vet in the 1930s. Herriot tells stories beautifully, loves the animals he cares for, both great and small, and his deep affection for his adopted part of the world glows throughout. Wonderful, wonderful books. For ages 10 and up.

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Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

In this exceptional book, Woodson tells the story of her own family and growing up years in the crux of the civil rights movement, and she tells her story in a series of free verse poems. Her writing is lyrical and lovely – a very accessible read for young people and adults who don’t normally consider reading poetry. We meet her father, who leaves their family early; her South Carolina grandfather, who steps into the father’s role in her life; her siblings; her extended family; her Latina best friend when they move to Brooklyn. The chapters are almost short stories, and they evoke the era and the world around young Jackie. A gem. For age 10 and up.

Into the Wild, by Sarah Beth Durst

Durst’s spunky 12-year-old heroine has grown up with a fairytale mom (Rapunzel) and the knowledge that she knows former fairytale characters but is not one herself. But when The Wild escapes, and fairytale forests take over their town, it is only Julie and her status as “not part of story” that can save her family and her community. Great action adventure, and lovely to have a younger heroine. For tweens and up.

The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley

I just finished reading this one aloud to my rising 6th grader, and I read it aloud to her older sister three years ago. One of the original action-adventure stories for girls, this Newbury-winner sets a gold standard. Recommended for age 10 and up, but I like to read it aloud to them to discuss the themes and review words like “wryly” and “dispassionate”. McKinley is one of my very favorite authors, and this one is a classic.

The Royal Ranger, by John Flanagan

The 12th and final book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series brings us full circle, to the end of one thing and the beginning of something new. The book includes a strong, self-willed girl character, and that certainly broadens its appeal.  It’s an adventure-filled read, as ever, and, with the notable exception of excessive gore in the final chapter, I’d target it for age 10 and up.

Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede

Cimorene makes a delightful princess – smart and self-motivated, with no tolerance for fools. The fact that her parents and her kingdom don’t appreciate these qualities means she’s bored and unhappy. When her family tries to force an engagement on her, she runs away to live with the dragons, who need her more than they know. Great fun all around. For ages 10 and up.<br/><br/>Re-read this through MarkReads.net, and this time around, I appreciated more the subversive nature of Wrede’s writing, featuring a princess who is bored with princess life and takes her happiness into her own hands. Terrific read – for 9 and up.