Monday, December 26, 2011

Three Sleeper Hits for Tween Readers

I'm asked a lot about titles for kids, since I've worked as a teacher as well as being a writer. Tweens seem to be the undiscovered country these days. I want to protect them from Twilight... but not mire them in endless pablum, either.

Here are three books I very rarely hear much about, though they are stellar reads for kids in middle grades. Frankly, I enjoy them as an adult, too.


Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman is a wonderful novel set in the year 1290. It is the diary accounting of a young girl who avoids the suitors her father picks for her by running them off with cleverness. Absolutely charming, this won The Newbury Honor. I rarely hear it mentioned, but recently finished it in one sitting with absolute delight.

If Susan Cooper has outdone this series (5 books total, also available as a collection) I haven't read it. Incredibly rich world building, and the novel has a grown up tone that respects young readers without losing them. Fantastic series-- this was my favorite title of the lot, but all of them are must-reads.

This is good vs. evil in the classic tradition, but don't be tricked into thinking it's run of the mill. Cooper is a master at taking and holding the attention, and these books are essentials for young fantasy fans.


Phillip Ardagh's Eddie Dickens books are incredibly British, incredibly hilarious, and... well, just incredible. Shortish for head-shy readers, this series will appeal particularly to boys who may dodge other books. How can you fail to fall in love with a book that opens with:

"When Eddie Dickens was eleven years old, both his parents caught some awful disease that made them turn yellow, go a bit crinkly around the edges, and smell of old hot water bottles."

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