Published: 2008
Theme: Expressing Emotions
Best for: ages 10 and up

“The chair in my room
is like a pleasingly plump momma,
big and squishy,
with stuffing poking out.”

This book is not like any other. For one thing, it is a novel, written all in verse, that deals with a boy’s sadness over the loss of his dog…

Published: 2013
Theme: Heroism
Best for: ages 9 and up

“In what way was attacking a peaceful neighboring country heroic? He degraded Erick’s men for being thieves even as he planned to steal all of Carthya from me. My fingers itched to pick up my knife and start the fight.” I love heroic characters. I don’t have much tolerance for fighting. Somehow they always seem to go together. Yet in The Runaway King, the fighting seems to be somewhat tolerable, especially because the good guy always wins…

Published: 1959
Theme: Respecting Differences
Best for: ages 10-12

“He used to live up on Hessian Hill, Onion John did, in a house he built out of piled up stone and four bathtubs and no running water. Once a month he’d get up in the middle of the night, according to the way the moon was, to cook up a stew…It was a stew to get gold out of the moon…” I read this children’s book with some trepidation, turning each page expecting something bad to happen. Yet, in fact, it turned out to be a rather heartwarming turn of events that I enjoyed…

Published: 2001
Theme: Perserverance
Best for: ages 9 and up

“Your mind knows that you are going to Songdo. But you must not tell your body. It must think one hill, one valley, one day at a time. In that way, your spirit will not grow weary before you have even begun to way.” In this lovely, art-inspired children’s book about a potter and his apprentice, the feeling of the way of the ancients comes through loud and strong. The image of the apprentice who serves the master potter for the love of the art is…

Published: 1966
Theme: The Power of Kindness
Best for: Boys age 9 and older

“As with all good magic, there is a bit of skill involved, so proceed with caution, particularly right at first. And above all, use discretion. Remember, there must be absolutely no public notice.” Who would imagine that doing good deeds, without really planning them, could have terrific results? This imaginative children’s book has a subtle way of bring the interconnectedness of life to children, without ever saying so.

Published: 1999
Theme: Finding One’s Path
Best for: 11 and over

“Gwydion caught Taran’s look of disappointment. “It is not the trappings that make the prince,” he said gently, “nor, indeed, the sword that makes the warrior…” Lloyd Alexander’s children’s book series on his invented land of Prydain undoubtedly has an enormous following. Fantasy books tend to create a real cult if they are good, and there is no question that this series is good…

Published: 1967
Theme: Overcoming Fear
Best for: 8 and older

“Mafatu lay there under his lean-to, relaxed in every nerve. He had fire, food, shelter. He had faced Moana, the Sea God…There was a new-found confidence in his heart. He had found a new belief in himself.” This tale is told as if on one long breath, an exhalation that ends in exultation. There is not a moment where you can rest until the tale is told, which of course, is what makes a great tale, and a great children’s book.

Published: 2007
Theme: Caring for the Planet
Best for: 9 and up

“His mind was full of clouds in space, huge explosions, and the millions of years it took to make a star. These thoughts took him far, far across the Universe–“ What a wonderful discovery this children’s book is, in so many ways. As a work of fiction, it makes great reading, with plenty of humor and drama all the way through. However, add to that the scientific accuracy of the genius of Stephen Hawking and…

Published: 1938
Theme: Compassion for all creation
Best for: good readers over age 10

“The Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talk to him like a baby, but the ones who just went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned.”

Published: 2000
Theme: Compassion, Friendship
Best for: Boys age 10 and up

“You know, it wasn’t so much about being in the wheelchair that I learned about, but how people reacted to me being in the chair. People treat you different. They act like you’re…you’re…” “Stupid!” David snapped.” What a courageous book for someone to write. And what a perfect book for middle school boys. The author is a middle school teacher, and clearly knows the issues boys are up against…

Published: 1986
Theme: The Grass is always greener…
Best for: 5th or 6th grade

“What was he looking for, a prince in fine velvets and a crown cocked on his head? Was it clothes that made a prince, Jemmy wondered, just as rags made a street boy?” What a great children’s book this is! I first heard of it last year when the fifth grade class in my Waldorf Charter school was reading it. A superb example of writing with humor, and capturing an era of the past…

Published: 2011
Theme: Courtesy
Best for: 6 to 9

“King Arthur covered his eyes with his hands. Sometimes in those early days he wondered what it would take to prove to his knights that courtesy was as important as courage.” In this series, Morris takes some of the same King Arthur legends, but reworks them for a younger audience. Children could read this book cover to cover, and enjoy both the writing and the message.

Published 1975
Theme: Chinese Immigrant experience
Best for: 12 and over

“All of a sudden I saw that if life seems awfully petty most of the time, every now and then there is something noble and beautiful and almost pure that lifts us suddenly out of the pettiness and lets us share in it a little.” This beautifully written and sensitive book covers the experience of the Chinese immigrants in the 1900s in San Francisco.

Published: 1950
Theme: Overcoming Handicaps
Best for: 5th grade and up, classroom/home school

“…he would learn all the ways of knighthood. He would learn how to be of service to his liege lord, how to be courteous and gentle, and at the same time, strong of heart.” This Newberry Medal winner is a well-crafted historical fiction children’s book set in medieval England, complete with knights, plagues, and cloistered monks…

Published: 1961
Theme: Wisdom
Best for: 10 and up
Five Stars

“Of course there are a few of us whose feet never reach the ground no matter how old we get, but I suppose it’s the same in every family.” This timeless classic is so filled with humor and wisdom that each reading makes it feel new. A must-have…

Published: 1972
Theme: Light over Dark
Best for: 11 to 12 year olds

The second in a series of five books, The Dark is Rising is an exciting, somewhat complex fantasy about the battle of the dark vs. the light with references to Arthurian legend, as well as Celtic and Norse mythology. Compelling writing…

Published 1979
Theme: Fantasy
Best for: Boys age 11-12

Almost written like a classic morality play, this amazing children’s book weaves a message about selfishness and pride without ever appearing terribly heavy-handed. The fantasy elements of the story, a boy finding himself in a story being written as he appears in it, brings the reader far away from the real world.

by E. B. White, published 1970. What could be more fantastical than a swan who can’t make his trumpeting sounds and so carries a trumpet. This wonderful image seems to real because E. B. White makes it so. The wonderful descriptions of nature, the lovely relationship between the boy Sam and the swan, and the feeling of life in the wild all create such a vivid experience that one forgets that perhaps a swan carrying a trumpet is make-believe..