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Great Books for Great Kids

09/05/2016 11:01AM ● Published by Alexandra Brown

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In 2012 my children were ages 11 and 9 and loved to read.  I loved reading with them and discussing the stories.  We enjoyed every minute of our time spent together in great books.  Finding the good books was a bit of a challenge, though.  The challenge prompted the idea of writing an article so that I could share the titles of good books we found with other parents and grandparents.  Since the beginning, I have written almost two dozen articles reviewing approximately 75 books.  Anyone who would like a full list of the books reviewed may send an email request to  I have truly enjoyed every book that I have included over the past few years, and I think your children will as well.

As my children have now outgrown the middle school age years, it is time for me to pass the proverbial baton and as such this is my last book review article.  Thank you for all the positive feedback I have received.  It has been a wonderful experience encouraging reading across the Emerald Coast!

Before I am finished, I have a few more books to suggest for your children.  First is a classic.  During the summer I had the opportunity to spend time with a lot of middle school aged children.  I was dismayed to find that so many of them have missed wonderful classics.  Quite a few of them I have included in past articles.  Another classic that I believe is a “must read” is “The Sign of the Beaver” by Elizabeth George Speare.  Ms. Speare also authored “The Bronze Bow” and the “The Witch of Blackbird Pond. “  In “The Sign of the Beaver” 13 year old Matt is left alone in the wilderness to care for the home while his father travels back east to get the rest of the family.  Matt is afraid to be on his own as there are Indian tribes in the area.   However, he is befriended by an Indian boy to helps him fend off intruders and attacks.  This book may be been written decades ago, but the action packed story is timeless and every child age 9 and up will enjoy it.

Another book I feel should not be missed is “Lucky Strikes” by Louis Bayard.  Set in the time of the Great Depression, 14 year old Amelia is suddenly left alone to care for her younger siblings.  Her mother is dead and her father hasn’t been seen or heard from in years.  To add to the difficulty she has to figure out a way to keep the family owned gas station – and only source of income – out of the hands of shrewd competitors.  Her plan is to find a new father – and fast.  So, when a hobo turns up in town Amelia grabs the opportunity to portray him as her father.  Can she make it work long enough to keep her family out of foster care and save the business?  Read and find out!  Children ages 12 and up will appreciate this wonderful story.

The next two books I am including are decidedly for teens.  I usually stay away from contemporary teen books as themes included in them are mature and the language is usually pretty “colorful.”  However, these two books are so good I think you should give them consideration.  One is “Orbiting Jupiter” by Gary D. Schmidt.  The premise of this book is a heartbreaking story – Joseph is an abused, unloved, bullied teenage boy who became a father at age 13.  He never even saw his daughter, Jupiter.  After spending time in a juvenile facility, he is placed in foster care.  He arrives to his foster family angry, silent and beaten.  For the first time, things start to change for Joseph – his foster family is loving, patient and determined to help Joseph.  This story is heart wrenching at times, it is very forthright with the abuse and difficulties Joseph has endured, yet it teaches the reader about hope and the meaning of family.  I will caution parents that there is violence and language in this one, but I feel the redeeming lesson make it worth the read.  

The second teen book is “Learning to Swear in America” by Katie Kennedy.  Don’t let the title lead you to believe that the book is all about swearing, it isn’t.  The title is a clever way to show how a teenager coming from another country to America for the first time might see the way of life of an American teenager.  In the story, a meteor is heading toward earth.  The meteor is of the size that it will destroy much of the Western Hemisphere.  Hope lies in a 17 year old Russian genius, Yuri, who may have the knowledge to help the United States destroy the meteor.  The story follows Yuri’s experiences in the U.S. and his attempts to save the earth.  If your teen is a science buff, he or she will really enjoy this one as scientific facts are woven throughout the story.    Once again, I caution parents that there is some language in this, but I find the story to be worth it.

Thanks for reading this article, and for reading in general.  As a good friend of mine used to say “Readers are leaders!” and we need some good leaders in our future! 

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The Bronze Bow The Sign of Beaver Elizabeth George Speare The Witch of Blackbird Pond Lucky Strikes Orbiting Jupiter Gary D. Schmidt Learning to Swear in America Katie Kennedy

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