The best novels for reading from a child’s perspective

Who am I?

I was a voracious reader in my childhood. My Saturday mornings were devoted to visits to the library where I would select the maximum number of books allowed. I was very anxious and worried as a child. Later in life, when I was teaching, I was naturally able to understand and connect with children, particularly the fearful, anxious ones. As a mother of four, I had plenty of opportunity to hone that skill. Many of my novels have child narrators. That doesn’t mean that my novels are for children. I write mostly for adult audiences in an attempt to bring a child’s unique perspective to traumatic or difficult situations.




I wrote...

Corners

By Corrina Austin,

Book cover of Corners

What is my book about?

Everyone needs their own special corner...It’s 1969 and ten-year-old Davy is in a predicament. With two weeks remaining of the summer holidays, he’s expelled from the public pool for sneaking into the deep end and almost drowning. How will he break the news to his hard-working single mother? She’s at the diner all day, Davy has no friends, and he’s too young to stay by himself.

The answer lies in his rescuer, mysterious thirteen-year-old Ellis Wynn. Visiting her Grammy for the summer, Ellis offers to babysit Davy. She teaches him about “corners”–forgotten or neglected areas fixed up special. Together, the kids tackle several “corners” and Davy learns what it means to bring joy to others. Davy begins to wonder, though. Why does Ellis want to be his friend? Why doesn’t she ever smile? And is Davy just one of Ellis’ “corners?”

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Room

Corrina Austin Why did I love this book?

A young woman is held prisoner by her kidnapper/rapist and gives birth to Jack. She succeeds in protecting and providing for him for five years while trapped in a bunker which Jack calls “Room.” The novel is narrated by Jack and the room is Jack’s entire world. Because of Ma’s incredible efforts, he seems as happy as would be possible in this dire situation. An opportunity to escape arises. What follows is a realistic and heart-rending account of survival against the odds. Through Jack’s observations, I could read between the lines to understand what Ma endures. The author’s ability to tell Ma’s story without actually telling Ma’s story is fascinating. I recently finished writing a novel with a traumatized child’s voice, and I used this same method of “showing” the adults’ stories without actually writing them. It was quite challenging for me as a writer. Room inspired me to try. 

By Emma Donoghue,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A major film starring Brie Larson.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

Picador Classics edition with an introduction by John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra.

Jack lives with his Ma in Room. Room has a single locked door and a skylight, and it measures ten feet by ten feet. Jack loves watching TV but he knows that nothing he sees on the screen…


Book cover of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Corrina Austin Why did I love this book?

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close lead me into the world of grief-stricken Oskar, a boy who lost his dad in the 9/11 attacks. Oskar finds a key in an envelope labeled “Black” inside a vase belonging to his father. He resolves to find all the people named “Black” in NYC, looking for a connection to his dad associated with the key. Like most people, 9/11 left me grappling for understanding. While adults deal with their grief and anger, they sometimes neglect to notice the effects tragedies have on children. This novel opened my eyes to the depths to which children can grieve. As a reader, I followed along with Oskar in his heart-breaking key quest. It is later revealed that another character is also tracking Oskar. A “twist” is always an intriguing and engaging addition to any story. This novel was already good; the surprise adds even more dimension and credibility to Oskar’s story.

By Jonathan Safran Foer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

ADAPTED INTO A FEATURE FILM WITH TOM HANKS

From the critically acclaimed author of Here I Am, Everything is Illuminated and We are the Weather - a heartrending and unforgettable novel set in the aftermath of the 9/11

'Utterly engaging, hugely involving, tragic, funny and intensely moving... A heartbreaker' Spectator

'The most incredible fictional nine-year-old ever created... a funny, heart-rending portrayal of a child coping with disaster. It will have you biting back the tears' Glamour

'Pulsates with dazzling ideas' Times Literary Supplement

'It's a miracle... So impeccably imagined, so courageously executed, so everlastingly moving' Baltimore Sun…


Book cover of The Lovely Bones

Corrina Austin Why did I love this book?

I was into Stephen King when I was in my late teens and early twenties, but then I read Pet Sematary and swore off scary and/or paranormal books for good. I normally gravitate to quiet, tender, character-driven stories with a bit of “quirk” and this is the kind of thing I generally write, too. But once I started The Lovely Bones, I couldn’t pull myself out. The underground fort where fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon is lured to be raped and murdered is the last kind of scene I ever want to enter in a book. But Alice Sebold is such an incredible writer; it was almost like reading the book wasn’t a choice. In my mind, The Lovely Bones is a quintessential example of a book the reader can’t put down.

By Alice Sebold,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Lovely Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The internationally bestselling novel that inspired the acclaimed film directed by Peter Jackson.

With an introduction by Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles.

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

In heaven, Susie Salmon can have whatever she wishes for - except what she most wants, which is to be back with the people she loved on earth. In the wake of her murder, Susie watches as her happy suburban family is torn apart by grief; as her friends grow up, fall in…


Book cover of Life of Pi

Corrina Austin Why did I love this book?

Life of Pi is one of those books with writing so strong and engaging; I jumped in with both feet and just rode the wave. The story is so unique, the characters incredibly drawn, and the action riveting (terrible storm, horrifying shipwreck, animals thrown into the sea, a young boy in peril alone on the sea) The twist in this novel is so unexpected and heart-stopping—just masterfully done. When a writer can accomplish a plot twist and leave the reader completely oblivious until it happens, that is artistry on a whole other level. It is one of those books that I will never forget.

By Yann Martel,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked Life of Pi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

After the sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan—and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi Patel, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with the tiger, Richard Parker, for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his…


Book cover of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Corrina Austin Why did I love this book?

I read this beautiful book as a young girl and have returned to it several times. This speaks to the novel’s ability to hook the heart as it is seldom that I read a book more than once. The novel follows a young girl named Frannie and her impoverished family—the father is a tender-hearted alcoholic and the mother, a no-nonsense type who is trying to keep the family afloat. Smith captures her characters so tenderly—all their kindness, dreams, shortcomings, stubborn failings. This is one of those books where it seems impossible that the characters aren’t real people—not just that, but people that I came to know personally. In a broader sense, it is about the tenacity of human beings, and how hope can propel us forward in spite of tremendous obstacles. 

By Betty Smith,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

A special 75th anniversary edition of the beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could…


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The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

Book cover of The Road from Belhaven

Margot Livesey Author Of The Road from Belhaven

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Secret orphan Professor Scottish Novelist

Margot's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Road from Belhaven is set in 1880s Scotland. Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small girl that she can see the future. But she soon realises that she must keep her gift a secret. While she can sometimes glimpse the future, she can never change it.

Nor can Lizzie change the feelings that come when a young man named Louis, visiting Belhaven for the harvest, begins to court her. Why have the adults around her never told her that the touch of a hand can change everything? When she follows Louis to Glasgow, she begins to learn the limits of his devotion and the complexities of her own affections.

The Road from Belhaven

By Margot Livesey,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a novel about a young woman whose gift of second sight complicates her coming of age in late-nineteenth-century Scotland

Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small child that she can see into the future. But her gift is selective—she doesn’t, for instance, see that she has an older sister who will come to join the family. As her “pictures” foretell various incidents and accidents, she begins to realize a painful truth: she may glimpse the future, but…


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