The best books to read when you feel powerless as a child living in a world amongst adults

Catherine Lloyd Burns Author Of The Good, the Bad & the Beagle
By Catherine Lloyd Burns

The Books I Picked & Why

Harriet the Spy

By Louise Fitzhugh

Book cover of Harriet the Spy

Why this book?

Because Harriet is adventurous, lonely, and resourceful. Harriet taught me that friendships and life are hard, that community and relationships and valuable, necessary, and always worth fighting for. She showed me that when your own family doesn’t feel safe you can create another family comprised of whomever you choose. She also taught me ways to be in a relationship with myself so that I never needed to feel bored. Harriet the Spy was great, great company. I never looked at alone time the same after reading about her. She is a bonafide heroine to me, even today.

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When You Reach Me

By Rebecca Stead

Book cover of When You Reach Me

Why this book?

I loved When You Reach Me because it touched on what being a tween was for me. I was proud of the independence associated with being a latch key kid but I wasn’t totally comfortable with it either. There was always a foreboding sense of danger roaming the city streets alone after school. So many children are left to their own devices after school because parents work and in the case of the protagonist of When You Reach Me, being an only child of a single parent accentuated it all. I tend to love books about friendships and imagination without a strong presence of social media. So this was a wonderful world for me. The relationship between the main character and her mother was beautiful. And as if the world of the book wasn’t ripe enough, there is an added element of time-bending too!

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Charlotte's Web

By E.B. White

Book cover of Charlotte's Web

Why this book?

Fern was my very first social justice warrior-heroine. She advocates for the little runt piglet no one cares about. Fern, Charlotte, and Wilbur expose the reader to a world beneath the world known to grownups. All around us plants and animals communicate with us, each other, and form bonds that are deep and meaningful. I am very small, 5 foot barely two inches, and Charlotte is the tiniest heroine I ever encountered. Using her last life’s breath to save Wilbur and bring new life into this world. I think Charlotte’s Web is a feminist masterpiece. Fern and Charlotte are so strong and so overlooked because they are small, young, and female.

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The Egypt Game

By Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Alton Raible

Book cover of The Egypt Game

Why this book?

I recommend The Egypt Game because it is another book about the ingenuity of one’s imagination in the company of a good friend. The friendship between Melanie and April is so satisfying and fun! I love made-up language. I love mystery. I love ritual. These two girls are left to their own devices and they embody the process of making lemonade of lemons. They help each other turn long stretches of time into adventure, connection, and creativity.

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

By e. l. konigsburg

Book cover of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Why this book?

Injustice is the battle cry of Claudia Kincaid. She is exhausted growing up in her own family, so she takes matters into her own hands and runs away. What an adventure she and her little brother have! They repurpose the fanciest and most glamorous museum in the city of New York to build a better life for themselves. This book satisfies so many itches! There is the pain of not feeling appreciated by those who brought you into this world, the anguish of being away from your family, and the thrill of taking your own life into your own hands. Yay for Claudia Kincaid.

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