Published: 2015
Theme: Homelessness
Best for: 9 and up

“Robin asked what is a keepsake. My mom said it’s an object you treasure. Then she said things don’t really matter, as long as we have each other.”The most interesting part of this children’s book is that it allows us to see that perhaps homeless people are just the same as you and me, but having a very difficult financial time.

Published: 2000
Theme: Adventure and Fantasy
Best for: 9 and up

“A water rat scuttled away as the children felt their way along the narrow passage. It led to a canal, like so many of Venice’s alleys and passages…Someone had painted “Vietato Ingresso” in clumsy letters on the door- No entry.” Once again, I am dazzled by Cornelia Funke and her masterful way of putting characters and plot together that is memorable and exciting…

Published: 1954
Theme: Space Travel
Best for: boys 8 and up

“Wanted: A small space ship about eight feet long, built by a boy, or by two boys, between the ages of eight and eleven…An adventure and chance to do a good deed await the boys who build the best space ship.” In this delightful early science fiction children’s book, we are introduced to space travel, impossible in 1954, and of course, becoming quite possible only a decade later…

Published: 2006
Theme: Historical Fiction Hero
Best for: 7 and up

“Once there was a boy who could not claim his Father. Kil Dong, as he was called, was the second son of a wealthy and powerful advisor to the king, Minister Hong. But Kil Dong’s mother was not the noble wife of the minister…” This historical fiction, beautifully illustrated ‘graphic’ novel, set in 16th century Korea, tells of the Korean Robin Hood…

Published: 1991
Theme: Deep friendship
Best for: 8 and up

“The egg shook in his hands. The dancing colors froze in place. He heard a scratching sound. Suddenly a single, sharp claw pierced the shell. The tiny talon sparkled like a jewel in the moonlight…” This particular children’s book on the theme of raising a dragon has a lovely simplicity and innocence about it…

Published: 2012
Theme: Against Stereotyping
Best for: 9 and up

“The whole idea that he might try to walk away from puzzles-even for a day- suddenly seemed ridiculous. A weekend of puzzle games at some famous person’s mansion? How could Winston not jump at this?” The most recent book in the Winston Breen series, this one has some wonderful elements in it that surpass the previous books, including culture (music), and pathos (end of life.)

Published: 2002
Theme: Baseball
Best for: Baseball fans, ages 10 and up

“I looked at my mother. A few minutes ago, she was refusing to give me permission to travel through time because it was so dangerous. Now she was asking me to go..”. This book is a cross between fantasy– time travel; and historical fiction– we go back to Shoeless Joe’s time…

Published: 1956
Theme: Survival, War
Best for: ages 9 and up

“The family pig, the three ducklings, and the little stone mill to grind the rice for the baby sister– these they have saved from the mud house of the family of Tien…Besides these they had saved absolutely nothing, except Beauty-of-the-Republic, Tien Pao’s baby sister.” It’s never easy to read a story about war, even if it’s packaged in a children’s book. Yet there’s no denying that it is important to help children understand just how difficult war can be.

Published: 2010
Theme: Responsibility for the Future
Best for: 9 to 12

“Y’know, I like baseball too,” he said quietly. “I’m a Mets fan. They stink I know…But listen, man, there are other things in life that are more important than baseball.” In this 9th book of the series, the author introduces the readers to topics bigger than baseball – like responsibility for the future of the planet…

Published: 2007
Theme: Puzzles and Mystery
Best for: 9 and up

“One of his favorite puzzles was: What is something you can break just by saying your name?” “Oh, wait, I know that one,” Winston said. This is the first children’s book in a series of puzzle and mystery books that aim directly for kids who love both puzzles and mysteries..

Published: 2010
Theme: Bravery
Best for: ages 11 and up

“Mattie felt a sudden dizziness. Just for a second or two, it was almost as if she herself were tumbling through the air. And once again the boundaries that separated human beings from birds seemed to dissolve.” A wonderful creative look at the early life of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, with lots of equality for women thrown in…

Published: 1988
Theme: Survival
Best for: boys 11 and up

“…he learned the most important rule about survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work… the self-pity had accomplished nothing.” About a third of the way through the book, when it became clear this was really about survival in it’s truest sense, I was hooked on the mesmerizing story.

Published: 1999
Theme: Resilience
Best for: 9 and up

“We were all standing in line waiting for breakfast when one of the caseworkers came in and tap-tap-tapped down the line. Uh-oh, this meant bad news, either they’d found a foster home for somebody or somebody was about to get paddled.” Humor, pathos, drama, history, and emotion create an intensely beautiful and impactful piece of children’s literature…

Published: 1995
Theme: Family
Best for: 11 and up

“”Lona, what you teach these babies up North? Don’t they know how to give no one a proper hug?” Grandma Sands reached up over Byron’s head. “A little short on hair but we gonna get on just fine, what you think, By?” Country kids meet city kids. Northern kids meet life in the South, circa 1963. Sibling rivalry. Delinquency. Parental decisions. The ground this book covers is astounding…

Published: 2007
Theme: Freedom and Slavery
Best for: 12 and up

“I’d started with ten fish and now I was down to six, and even though I ain’t particular worthy at my schooling, it’d take a whole lot of doggone humbug algebra and trickaration geometry to make ten percent of ten come out to four.” In this skillfully written historical fiction children’s book, we see the world through the eyes of a freeborn child, whose parents had been slaves.

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: 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: 2004
Theme: Good vs Evil
Best for: ages 10 and up

“As if reading her mind, a large porpoise rose straight up, using its powerful tail to lift its head well clear of the water, dancing on the churning water. It looked at Molly, grinning, and said, “Hello.” ” An action packed pirate story, with lots of fights, heroes, and drama, this is a magical prequel to Peter Pan…

Published: 1998
Theme: Native American lifestyle
Best for: 9 and up classrooms

“I believe that in many instances where the white settlers had trouble with the Indians it all started because the Indians were just curious to know what in the world the white settlers were doing, and not be because they …even knew they were doing any damage.” This nonfiction children’s book is simple and informative, giving a full and loving picture of a culture that tragically has disappeared.

Published: 2008
Theme: Adventure
Best for: 9 to 12

“The children took off, hurrying away from the castle. Down, down along the twisting cobbled street, weaving through pedestrians, crossing tiled plazas, down and down to where the street grew still more narrow and began to branch off into…alleyways.” Think James Bond, non-stop action, fights, captures, escapes, but no one getting killed, and you have a bird’s eye view of this adventure.

Published: 2014
Theme: Friendship, First Chapter Book
Best for: 5 to 8

“Under the kitchen sink, where the beetles live, there is an art studio just for Marvin. James gives him paper and ink. He can draw and draw. Marvin loves making pictures. But today he just doesn’t feel like it.” This children’s book succeeds on several counts – imagination (the world as seen by beetles), clear simple writing, and a single message: friendship.

Published: 1953
Theme: Coming of Age
Best for: Boys 11-12

“San Ysidro is the patron saint of our village of Los Cordovas…He keeps an eye out special for Los Cordovas…For as long as I can remember, there have been no complaints about how San Ysidro has handled things for our village.” Miguel is twelve years old, a middle child in a large family of shepherds who have lived on the New Mexico lands for hundreds of years. Somehow he has a way of muddling everything he tries to communicate…

Published: 1983
Theme: Divorce, Compassion
Best for: Boys, 10 and up

“Who wants to be friends with someone who scowls all the time? asked Mr. Fridley. “So you’ve got problems. Well, so has everyone see, if you take the trouble to notice.” This book takes us on a journey with a young boy and his feelings towards his estranged dad. The entire story is …

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: 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: 2013
Theme: Perseverance
Best for: 9 – 12

“Cat laughed again. In case you hadn’t noticed, she laughs a lot. That’s one of the things I like about her. …And she doesn’t judge people all the time. Cat figures that if someone is always cranky like Grandma Melvyn, it’s just who they are. It doesn’t mean they are a bad person.” Drum roll. Lights. Ta-Da! Applause, as Robbie himself would say in this immensely likeable, creative, and somewhat wacky children’s book. I love it…

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…

Published: 1998
Theme: Loyalty and Courage
Best for: Boys 6 and up

“He had promised Joseph he’d protect him. But he didn’t. They were best friends. Best friends were supposed to stick together. Even if it meant being called names…Even if it ruined the sport you loved more than anything in the world. Even then.” This first chapter book delighted me from beginning to end. It places the dilemma of friendship front and center…