The best books that follow a young heroine/hero journeying into the unknown to pursue a destiny & a dream

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a wandering son. I learned that the trajectory of life is not ordained like the flight of an arrow once released from the bow. Rather it is a voyage on a broad sea encountering tempests, doldrums, and unexpected beasts including ourselves; sometimes we sail with or against the wind, but we always need to stay true to our compass, committed to a worthy destination. We learn about life by setting challenging goals, trying difficult things, by getting dirty, and by failing. The story lies at the interface between dark & light, good & evil. We value tales that stretch the antipodes of the human experience and characters who reach beyond themselves.

I wrote...

Gilly & the Snowcats

By R.S. Bovard,

Book cover of Gilly & the Snowcats

What is my book about?

Joseph Campbell said that the hero gets the adventure she/he is ready for. Gilly Wells is an adventuresome girl who aspires to run the Iditarod… with a team of cats. Inspired by the legend of the Norse goddess Freya she gathers a motley but devoted crew of felines in time for the race. With the help of animal daemons, an Athabaskan shaman, and a pouch of magic dust, she and her cats are transformed.  In this epic journey honoring the transfer of life-saving diphtheria serum in the 1925 “Great Race of Mercy,” Gilly and her companions compete against the brutal weather, beasts of the wild, and nefarious competitors & the Wendigo. Credits: I was inspired by a talented illustrator, Elizabeth Alba, and some four-footed friends.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Jungle Book

R.S. Bovard Why did I love this book?

This collection of short stories remains an elegant and much-loved classic. Although Kipling was the product of an imperial era, he had a profound understanding of India and he was able to capture the wonder of the land and its people in these memorable tales. The wonderful allegorical array of characters in the stories includes the brave & kind-hearted Mowgli (the man-cub), Akela the wolf and Gray Brother, Kaa the python, Bagheera the black panther, Baloo the bear, the Bandar-log monkeys, and, of course, Mowglis nemesis, the malevolent tiger, Shere Khan. These lovely tales remain timely & heartwarming to those of us, young and old.

By Rudyard Kipling,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Jungle Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Puffin Classics - the world's favourite stories - relaunched with exciting new covers.

The Jungle Book is a classic story of friendship between man and beast.
Saved from the jaws of the evil tiger Shere Khan, young Mowgli is adopted by a wolf pack and taught the law of the jungle by lovable old Baloo the bear and Bhageera the panther. The adventures of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi the snake-fighting mongoose, little Toomai and the elephant's secret dance, and Kotick the white seal are all part of Mowgli's extraordinary journey with his animal friends.

With an introduction by Christopher Paolini.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling…

Book cover of The Wizard of Oz

R.S. Bovard Why did I love this book?

The 1939 film starred Judy Garland, yet this book was the first of 14 Oz stories created by Baum. A brave heroine, dropped into a strange land by a swirling tornado, gathers together a bedraggled troupe of companions, a cowardly lion, a tin woodsman sans heart, and a scarecrow with brain fog. Together they confront bad and good witches, flying monkeys, singing dragoons, and sundry other antagonists in their journey to the “Emerald City”. There have been political & allegorical references to the yellow brick road and the “gold standard,” the populist movement, eastern industrialization, and scheming politicians.  In the end, we learn that Dorothy (Everyman) had the power to click her (originally silver) slippers together and go home all along. It is a magical tale that continues to please.

By L. Frank Baum,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Wizard of Oz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

HarperCollins is proud to present its range of best-loved, essential classics.

'"Come along, Toto," she said. "We will go to the Emerald City and ask the Great Oz how to get back to Kansas again."'

Swept away from her home in Kansas by a tornado, Dorothy and her dog Toto find themselves stranded in the fantastical Land of Oz. As instructed by the Good Witch of the North and the Munchkins, Dorothy sets off on the yellow brick road to try and find her way to the Emerald City and the Wizard of Oz, who can help her get home.…

Book cover of Dandelion Wine

R.S. Bovard Why did I love this book?

This is a lovely bildungsroman tale about Bradbury as a young boy (Douglas Spaulding) growing up in the Midwest. It is infused with his sense of magic in the world and the wonder of everyday existence while learning that life is not all gentle and innocent. Bradbury dares to look in the shadows and talk about death. Doug’s grandmother dies at home surrounded by her family. Later, the aging Colonel asks an old friend in Mexico City to cradle the phone on the window sill and draws his last breath listening to the sounds of the street below. Bradbury entangles joy and grief in a weave that fits tight to the skin. This tale presages later works such as Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, & Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Dandelion Wine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dandelion Wine is a 1957 semi-autobiographical novel by Ray Bradbury, taking place in the summer of 1928 in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois — a pseudonym for Bradbury's childhood home of Waukegan, Illinois. The novel developed from the short story "Dandelion Wine" which appeared in the June 1953 issue of Gourmet magazine.

Book cover of The Once and Future King

R.S. Bovard Why did I love this book?

This is a book that conjures up wonderful memories. T.H. White (not to be confused with E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web) was a gifted British Arthurian scholar. My father read a tattered copy to me as a young boy before going to sleep. Dad was a judge and could alter his voice and affect with the characters. He became Merlyn, the wizard and tutor, the young boy Wart, and the other characters in the tale. I was transformed with Wart in the hawks’ mews, became a perch and swam frantically to escape the hungry pike, became a wise badger, wild goose, ant, and owl…and learned with them all. Later Wart pulled the sword from the stone, and having learned compassion, perspective and leadership, became the great King Arthur.

By T. H. White,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Once and Future King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Voyager Classics - timeless masterworks of science fiction and fantasy.

A beautiful clothbound edition of The Once and Future King, White's masterful retelling of the Arthurian legend.

T.H. White's masterful retelling of the Arthurian legend is an abiding classic. Here all five volumes that make up the story are published together in a single volume, as White himself always wished.

Here is King Arthur and his shining Camelot, beasts who talk and men who fly; knights, wizardry and war. It is the book of all things lost and wonderful and sad; the masterpiece of fantasy by which all others are…

Book cover of His Dark Materials

R.S. Bovard Why did I love this book?

Pullman has written an extraordinary trilogy. Pullman’s introduction quotes Milton’s Paradise Lost. All human souls have an animal daemon that can morph during childhood and adolescence but which becomes fixed in adulthood. The young heroine, Lyra, and her daemon, Pan, have riddles to unravel with a magical (truth-telling) “alethiometer” compass and are challenged to discern friend from foe in parallel worlds. Lyra’s parents, Lord Asriel and the captivating Marisa Coulter, represent opposing factions to Church authority and the essential nature of Dust. Lyra gains allies in the witches, Will Parry, the aeronaut Lee Scoresby and an armored bear, Lorek Byrnison. Religious critics called the work “atheism for kids”. Pullman responded, “Why don’t we trust readers?”

By Philip Pullman,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked His Dark Materials as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Now a major critically acclaimed BBC series

This special collection features all three titles in the award-winning trilogy: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

Northern Lights
Lyra Belacqua lives half-wild and carefree among the scholars of Jordan College, with her daemon familiar always by her side. But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle - a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armoured bears.

The Subtle Knife
Lyra finds herself in a shimmering, haunted otherworld - Cittagazze, where soul-eating Spectres stalk the streets…

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Blood of the White Bear

By Marcia Calhoun Forecki, Gerald Schnitzer,

Book cover of Blood of the White Bear

Marcia Calhoun Forecki Author Of Blood of the White Bear

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author History hound Polyglot Bookworm Neatness averse Yoga beginner

Marcia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Virologist Dr. Rachel Bisette sees visions of a Kachina and remembers the plane crash that killed her parents and the Dine medicine woman who saved her life. Rachel is investigating a new and lethal hantavirus spreading through the Four Corners, and believes the Kachina is calling her to join the work against the spreading pandemic.

She finds Eva Yellow Horn, a medicine woman with the key to fighting the pandemic. When Eva demonstrates ancient healing powers beyond science, Rachel recognizes her as the medicine woman who saved her life years before. Eva reveals that Rachel’s father was investigating the 1979 nuclear disaster in Church Rock, when his plane crashed, killing her parents. Now, Rachel undertakes a new investigation, but she is not alone.

Blood of the White Bear

By Marcia Calhoun Forecki, Gerald Schnitzer,

What is this book about?

“Visions of kachinas guide doctor to spiritual healing in pandemic.”

2014 Finalist in the Willa Literary Award

This is a book that once closed and last line read, my mind wandered to explore certain character motivations and potential follow-up responses. I don’t think an author has to answer every possibility, art comes into play best when the reader’s own imagination can wander within the story.

Dr. Rachel Bisette is drawn to the Four Corners to lead the search for a vaccine against a lethal pandemic. One elusive indigenous woman, Eva Yellow Horn, carries the gift of immunity. In her search…

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