Published: 2001
Theme: Queen of England
Best for: 12 to 14

“So my sister was now queen. And because she had triumphed, I was next! This was the moment, standing in the knot garden, when I realized that someday I, too, would become queen of England…” In this historical fiction children’s book, we get a very good look at the way power can corrupt even the best of people…

Published: 2012
Theme: Forgiveness
Best for: 9 to 12

“It is better to light a lantern than to bemoan the darkness,” Madame Change said softly to herself, as if in a dream. “Can’t we light more lanterns, then?” Peiyi said eagerly, “to make up for the light of the moon?” In another lovely children’s book, Grace Lin deftly weaves a dramatic story of forgiveness around the retelling of classic Chinese tales.

Published: 2014
Theme: Accepting Differences, Autism
Best for: 11 and up

“I hear lots of things I’m not supposed to hear, and lots of things nobody else is able to hear, because my hearing is very acute, which is part of my diagnosis of high-functioning autism…” This entire work of fiction is written in the voice of an autistic child, displaying all her unusual tendencies, such as obsession with homophones and prime numbers…

Published: 2012, 2014
Theme: Fantasy Exploring
Best for: 12 and up

“We Explorers have always been redrawing the maps. That map was no less correct when it was made than the ones made by Ortelius or Mercator. A map of the world isn’t a fixed thing. We know only what we can see.” This series is superb. The adventures, the dangers, the daring, the unstated metaphors to today’s warped political world, are both disturbing and important…

Published: 2013
Theme: Power to Create
Best for: 8 and up

“[The Gods] did tell one another what they would make once they got back to work, if only they had the energy, and if only they had the time, but in truth their world was still unfinished, still had many gaps and spaces in it, and there was still much making to be done.” This book has a profound message for all ages – within each of us is the power of the Gods to create our world, and… we must be responsible…

Published: 2014
Theme: Faith
Best for: 11 and up

“Everyone in Chile has an explanation for earthquakes. I say that the earth has the right to yawn and stretch just as I do in my bed when I don’t want to wake early for school, and also has the right to sneeze as we all do when covered in dust.” Profound and poetical are the best two words to capture the new children’s book by Chilean author Marjorie Agosin about a young girl forced into exile from Chile…

Published: 2014
Theme: Friendship and Love
Best for: ages 11 and up

“The present is here and here and here, a sky full of light, a path under your feet, your hair lifted by wind, the smell of flowers, green grass, red rocks, all of it tumbling toward summer, and all of it yours. All you have to do is set fear aside and stretch out your hand.” This children’s book offers so many messages – about hope, friendship, the Quaker ideals of peace, and the power of the present moment, and does so amidst a very contemporary drama…

Published: 2005
Theme: Middle School Anxieties
Best for: 6th grade and up

“Hero smiled at him. Her father was always clueless about her real life. She felt a strange mixture of pity and gratitude. It was good to be home, in the bright, safe kitchen… her parents bustling obliviously just a few feet away.” An unusual stew of elements – adjusting to a new school, bullying, a missing diamond, and Shakespeare’s real identity – create an interesting story.

Published: 2009
Theme: Beyond Stereotyping
Best for: 12 and up

“We’re supposed to talk about real differences and perceived differences, and…I just don’t know. Sadness feels the same, whether it’s in Lexington or here in Thunder Creek.” This beautifully written, heartfelt children’s book gives us a direct experience that caring for others not only yields the greatest happiness, but transcends social class…

Published: 2004
Theme: Trust and Loyalty
Best for: 12 and up

“The world was so beautiful in those days, Annika. The music, the flowers, the scent of the pines…” “It still is,” said Annika. “Honestly, it still is.” Filled with unexpected twists and turns, with terrific characters, and with a cliff-hanger, but happy, ending, this children’s book is terrific from start to finish.

Published: 2009
Theme: Self-determination
Best for: ages 11 and up, especially girls

“Granddaddy and I sat motionless for a good five minutes and then quietly collected our things and moved on. On the way back, he spotted the rarest and most delicate object in the wild, an old hummingbird’s nest, fragile and expertly woven, smaller than an eggcup.” Imagine a children’s book which mixes together life in a rural southern town in 1899, a big dose of Charles Darwin, the natural world, and the coming of age of a young girl. If you think this is an implausible mixture for a children’s book…

Published: 2007
Theme: Friendship, Commitment
Best for: 11 and up

“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood…Best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.” There is quite a bit of wisdom to digest in this highly unusual children’s book, not to mention many puzzles to solve. It is a book that is borderline fantasy…

Published: 1955
Theme: Historical Fiction
Best for: ages 10 and up

“The troops from Andover appeared in there dashing red uniforms, every button shining, leather gleaming…The church bells chimed. Then a great shout went up. For there was President Washington – a tall, commanding man, riding horseback to enter the town.” Here’s a children’s book that is so informative, it’s a little hard not to compare it to a dull textbook that might teach the same subject. The subject matter is navigation, discoveries, and life at the time of the American Revolution.

Published: 2010
Theme: Courage, Racial Discrimination
Best for: 11 and older

“Would Mama like the colors I picked? Would she be mad about me taking them pieces from her apron? I turned the quilt in the air, looking at it this way and that. Soon I would be running out of thread.Wasn’t but a few inches hanging down like the tail of a kite.” Gee’s Bend is indeed a real place. The women of Gee’s bend have a tradition of creating quilts that dates back to early American history. In recent years, their quilts were discovered…

Published: 2005
Theme: Courage, Immigrants
Best for: 12 and up (PG)

“How much he missed Rachel. Would he be able to hold out long enough for the revolution? Would he survive? Would he ever devote endless hours to practicing a Brahms concerto? Would he ever play games with his sister again?” Here is a painfully beautiful and difficult children’s book that I must recommend particularly because I want my son and grandson to read it…

Published: 2003
Theme: Simplicity of Heart
Best for: 11 and up

“More animals appeared, and then from behind Dinadan came a gentle piping sound, like the wind whistling through chinks in a wall, but the piping kept time with Dinadan’s song. Then, to Dinadan’s wonder, it began to play in counterpoint to his own melody.” Each children’s book in the Squire’s Tales series is a re-telling of an Arthurian tale. This one retells Tristam and Isolde, adapted for children…

Published: 2000-2010
Theme: Arthurian Tales
Best for: 9 and up

“Knight, holy man, family, poet–it is all that any land could want. If the knight will be honorable, the holy man true, the family loving..And if the poet will sing. After all, someone needs to tell the story of Arthur.” I went on a “Knights of the Round Table” binge, reading all the remaining stories of the Squire’s Tales that I had not yet read. Reading these children’s books is somewhat like candy for the heart, mind, and soul.

Published: 2000
Theme: Nonconformity
Best for: ages 12 and up

“I see, I hear. But not with eyes and ears. I’m not outside my world anymore, and I’m not really inside it either. The thing is, there’s no difference anymore between me and the universe.” Where do I begin to sing the praises of this fabulous children’s book for teens? It is about the most essential message you can give to teens…

Published: 2013
Theme: Inner Power and Mystery
Best for: 12 -14

“There are those who, unmistakably, have a powerful talent, able to access the sensory energy of the world around them.They can even learn to work with it, harness it, utilize it to make change. Your sister is showing clear signs that she has these talents.” A blend of inner power, African-American life in Chicago, and the thrill of solving mysteries makes this a very unusual book.

Published: 1994
Theme: 13th Century Life
Best for: girls 12 and older

“I am commanded to write an account of my days: I am bit by fleas and plagued by family. That is all there is to say.” It’s not often that I read a somewhat serious children’s book that makes me laugh out loud. This book certainly does that, due to the main character, a sharp, funny, sarcastic, and somewhat willful 13th century teenager.

Published: 2007
Theme: Loyalty
Best for: age 11 and up

“If the difference between a surviving group of students and a dead group of students is that a thief managed to sneak behind the enemy and steal a magic weapon or incapacitate a skilled mage, then it’s well worth risking moral ambiguity.” Here’s a children’s book that is just non-stop adventure from chapter to chapter, as well you might expect with its title. Well-written and fast-paced…

Published: 1917
Theme: Chivalry
Best for: ages 10 and up

“Be not robbers to any who are poor and who are good fellows–having only their poverty against them. Be kind to those who help you, but exact toll as heretofore of all who come through the greenwood. The rich to pay in money, and blood–if it be necessary.” Given how riveting the tale of Robin Hood is, I surely hope others don’t wait as long as I did to finally read this masterpiece of children’s literature. It is everything I had hoped it would be…

Published: 2004
Theme: Love Conquers All
Best for: 9 and older

“It is a failure of courage, and worse yet, a failure of love to relinquish your dreams so easily…Each of us holds within his soul the ability to conquer sorrow, fear, and misery with charity, compassion, and wisdom…. You must find a way to use what your soul knows.” If ever there was a children’s book that conveys the deeper meaning of the holiday, this is it. The power of faith in one’s dreams, faith in oneself, and faith in goodness, pour out of every page of this book.

Published: 1986
Theme: Courage, Destiny
Best for: ages 8 and up

“Mattias cut a comical little figure as he wobbled his way along the cloisters, with his large sandals flip-flopping, and his tail peeping from beneath the baggy folds of an oversized novice’s habit. He paused to gaze upwards and tripped over the enormous sandals.” I have to admit I was hooked on this children’s book with the opening lines even before I realized this was a book about mice and small animals. One of the amazing features of this fantasy children’s book is that it is so real…

Published: 1977
Theme: Friendship, Courage
Best for: ages 11 and up

“He was angry, too, because it would soon be Christmas and he had nothing to give Leslie. It was not that she would expect something expensive; it was that he needed to give her something as much as he needed to eat when he was hungry.” When I put this children’s book down, my shirt was dampened with teardrops, and I couldn’t do anything but sit quietly for a while. I felt like I had just lost my best friend, as Jess had. The impact was astounding…