143 books directly related to sibling 📚

All 143 sibling books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Gregor the Overlander

By Suzanne Collins,

Book cover of Gregor the Overlander

Why this book?

I know better than to judge a book by its cover. Still, I didn’t want to read Gregor the Overlander when I first saw the cover. It was recommended for 5th graders and I read it so I would be able to talk to my students about it. I am so glad I did because I loved the story, characters, and world building. When Gregor and his sister, Boots, fell through the grate in the laundry room I was right there with them. The world they discovered was so well described that I felt like I was in the Underland meeting the cast of characters that awaited them. The prophecy that involves Gregor made me nervous and excited, as I hoped he would be able to do what he needed to do. This is an adventure that will become a favorite of fantasy lovers!


Milo Imagines the World

By Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson (illustrator),

Book cover of Milo Imagines the World

Why this book?

This book, like the author’s award-winning Last Stop On Market Street, features a child taking a trip on public transportation to an unknown destination. Milo, the protagonist, imagines where his fellow passengers are headed in language that is believably childlike but also fresh and vivid. He is heading to prison, to meet his mother – and the surprise ending to this book begs the question of who has a right to judge anyone else, and sends a gentle but powerful message against making conclusions about people based on appearance.


Six Feet Below Zero

By Ena Jones,

Book cover of Six Feet Below Zero

Why this book?

I love a thrilling mystery with secrets, humor, and surprises. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out if anyone would realize Rosie and Baker were hiding their Great-Grandma in a freezer. It was all Great-Grandma's idea! The kids race against time to piece together clues to find a missing will and save the family home from destruction. Reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock story with unexpected twists and heart-pounding danger. Fun mystery!


Siblings: You're Stuck with Each Other, So Stick Together

By James J. Crist, Elizabeth Verdick,

Book cover of Siblings: You're Stuck with Each Other, So Stick Together

Why this book?

This was one of the first books targeting not preschoolers adjusting to a new baby but older kids struggling to get along. It is perfectly pitched to middle-grade readers, with just the right balance of direct talk and humor. The book normalizes sibling conflict while providing solutions 8-13-year-olds can implement on their own or with the help of a parent. Written in 2010, this book stands the test of time.


My Sibling

By Isabelle Filliozat, Éric Veillé (illustrator),

Book cover of My Sibling

Why this book?

My Sibling is an activity book with drawing prompts, stickers, crafts, and activities just right for 6-10-year-olds. Touching on jealousy, fairness, sharing, and more, the book gently guides children to try new ways of thinking and behaving towards their siblings. An extensive section for parents and caregivers more fully explains what parents can do to help their children get along.


His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story

By Sally Lloyd-Jones, David Roberts (illustrator),

Book cover of His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story

Why this book?

When King Baby arrives, a young princess is forced to share her kingdom. The princess protests her new brother and his attention-demanding ways. She plots to break the spell King Baby holds over the rest of the kingdom until she discovers that perhaps there are benefits to co-ruling after all. Filled with humor, this voice-y princess is sure to be a hit with young rulers everywhere.


The Bossier Baby

By Marla Frazee,

Book cover of The Bossier Baby

Why this book?

Boss Baby is used to being in charge but when his baby sister arrives, it is clear that there is a new CEO in town, and he is not happy about the perks she is getting that he never got. Boss baby feels replaced and ignored until an unexpected move from the new CEO shows that perhaps there is room for two CEOs after all. With a loud fun voice and adorable artwork, this is a hilarious and heart-squeezing read.


The Seven Silly Eaters

By Mary Ann Hoberman, Marla Frazee (illustrator),

Book cover of The Seven Silly Eaters

Why this book?

I love this book as a parent because it is a joy to read. Its rhyme is sheer perfection (which is hard to pull off) and the conclusion is pure genius, as Hoberman deftly weaves a tapestry out of seemingly random strings. This is a hilarious book about a mother who grows more and more weary from the demands of her seven children and their very particular and fussy eating habits. This kitchen-bound, short-order-chef hero of a mom gets a lovely surprise at the end that makes all the chaos seem worth it. Kids will giggle, moms (or dads or other caregivers) will relate.


Ish

By Peter H. Reynolds,

Book cover of Ish

Why this book?

For anyone who has kids who are perfectionists or are perfectionists themselves, this is a perfect book! It helps kids recognize that something does not have to be perfect to be beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, especially with art. But in my opinion, this message can apply beyond art and help parents talk with their kids about being beautiful just as they are. This was a popular one in my house and one that we still reference even now that the kids are older.


The Tunnel

By Anthony Browne,

Book cover of The Tunnel

Why this book?

What does happen when you get into a dark tunnel? When you quit reality to enter the realm of dreams and nightmares? A great story by the great Anthony Browne, which also deals with the relationship between sister and brother.


The Inheritance

By Tamera Alexander,

Book cover of The Inheritance

Why this book?

Tamara Alexander is a prolific writer, any of her novels could have made this list. They are all rich in history, full of character development, and feature sweet romances. The Inheritance stands out to me for a couple of reasons. One, the main theme of this book is tough love. An older sister who is forever rescuing her brother has to learn that love can look a lot of different ways and sometimes love requires letting consequences follow actions. This message is rarely featured in a book! It’s not an in-your-face moral, but a gentle thought-provoking takeaway. Another reason this book is exemplary in its well-crafted love story. Alexander expertly weaves her story threads together, giving you bits of history and romance like a weaver of a great tapestry.


The Immortalists

By Chloe Benjamin,

Book cover of The Immortalists

Why this book?

This is a novel that approaches grief from a different direction: what if you were told the exact date you were going to die and had to live the rest of your life with that knowledge? In 1969 New York, four siblings visit a traveling psychic who gives each of them this information. The rest of the novel unfolds from that moment, as they try to figure out how to move on from there. A lyrical and sprawling novel, spun from a question that most of us have considered, but few of us would really want answered.


Amari and the Night Brothers

By B.B. Alston,

Book cover of Amari and the Night Brothers

Why this book?

This book will ignite a reading rush no matter the age. It’s books like these that make you appreciate how words can draw such vivid pictures in our heads. With a mystery at its core, a determined young girl at its lead, and a spectrum of supernatural influences as its backdrop, Amari and the Night Brothers will awaken the imagination in anybody. It’s fun, action-packed, and a crossover of old fantasy meets modern. 


Raising Stony Mayhall

By Daryl Gregory,

Book cover of Raising Stony Mayhall

Why this book?

Stony Mayhall is not like other boys. Discovered as a baby with a still heart but a moving body he is, as you may have guessed, among the undead. Nevertheless, the introspective witty youth will win your heart in the end. 

I personally love this zombie story’s deep dive into zombie politics and Stony’s anti-hero arc as he tries to discover the meaning of his own existence. And despite the heavy weight that puts on a zombie, Daryl Gergory still manages to have a lot of fun with the characters, the premise, and the plot.


Things Unsaid

By Diana Y. Paul,

Book cover of Things Unsaid

Why this book?

Things Unsaid provides the best reason why not everyone who marries should have children. Seriously, if you don’t like children, don’t have children! And yet, we can still be entertained by reading about those mothers who don’t deserve the title. Diana Y. Paul’s novel paints an in-depth character study while also examining the hardship that follows neglected children after they enter adulthood, trying to fit into their new roles as parents and caregivers of aging parents.

Best read with a red Zinfandel (Just to be clear…red, not white).


He Started It

By Samantha Downing,

Book cover of He Started It

Why this book?

In He Started It a group of siblings embarks on a road trip from hell in a warped trek down memory lane. The thought of being trapped in a car with unlikeable people or with those keeping dark secrets feels claustrophobic and full of tension. To me, travelling is supposed to be fun or an adventure. Not in this case! I raced through this tightly plotted thriller, unable to put it down.


The Castaways

By Clarke Lucy,

Book cover of The Castaways

Why this book?

A small plane crashes on an uninhabited island in the Pacific. The fear and tension among the survivors against the backdrop of paradise and the wreck of the plane is palpable. As the main character Lori struggles to survive her sister, Erin, who missed the flight, has no idea where the plane crashed. As the group of people struggles to survive the hardships, fear grows as it seems there is no way off the island. Chillingly brilliant.


A Tale Dark & Grimm

By Adam Gidwitz, Hugh D'Andrade (illustrator),

Book cover of A Tale Dark & Grimm

Why this book?

I love humor in stories (I even perform improv at a comedy theater in San Diego!), and this book is the funniest, quirkiest fairy tale retelling I’ve ever read. It is filled with dark humor and nods to the sometimes-gruesome source material, including cannibalism and children getting their heads chopped off (did you know you could get away with head-chopping in a children’s book and make it funny?!) and lots of warnings to the “little kids” that they better stop reading. Somehow, the book is able to remain lighthearted as Hansel and Gretel flee their own story and journey into eight other fairy tales.


Dory Fantasmagory

By Abby Hanlon,

Book cover of Dory Fantasmagory

Why this book?

This young chapter book series wasn’t around when I was a kid but I would have 100 percent loved Dory, aka Rascal, and would have wanted to be just like her. I kind of still do. I love the way the author incorporates Dory’s inner zinging life—it really feels like being in the head of a six-year-old. The first-person narrative writing weaves in and out of Dory’s fantasy and reality so seamlessly that there is really no distinction—which is how life should be for every 6-year-old. This book is sweet, poignant, and absolutely hilarious to boot! 


Hide Me Among the Graves

By Tim Powers,

Book cover of Hide Me Among the Graves

Why this book?

Tim Powers is an acknowledged modern master of the preternatural, but many readers probably don’t know he’s also a practicing Catholic. In Hide Me Among the Graves, his passion for the Romantic poets brings poor Christina Rossetti, her family, and others both historical and fictional under the sway of her vampire-uncle John Polidori, author of The Vampyre. Powers’s wild imagination casts the Thames River as Purgatory, songbirds as soul-catchers, and vampires as the ancient Biblical Nephilim. It’s a kitchen sink approach to fantasy that will keep readers guessing until the end.


Contacts

By Mark Watson,

Book cover of Contacts

Why this book?

The concept for this book had me intrigued from the moment I saw the front cover. James Chiltern sends a message to all 158 contacts on his phone, telling them he plans to end his life in the morning. Then he switches his phone to flight mode and sets off on an overnight train journey. While I have had dark times and moments where I was close to the edge throughout my life, I’ve never reached the point where I had actually made a plan to end things. So to read a story where the main character has made that heart-wrenching decision and to see the differing perspectives of all the people in his life waking up to that message was both heart-breaking and riveting.


Savvy

By Ingrid Law,

Book cover of Savvy

Why this book?

Mibs (the main character) isn’t homeschooled yet, but she is about to be homeschooled with her older siblings. The characters felt like ones I would meet in my homeschool or church life. They felt comfortable.

But more than that, this book is just fun. I love the story and the characters so much, as well as the struggle to find what makes a person unique. The family bonds in Savvy are strong, and Mibs develops deep friendships with characters of all ages. It’s a special story, and one of my favorites. I am not doing it justice by half.


Jabari Tries

By Gaia Cornwall,

Book cover of Jabari Tries

Why this book?

Many of us can relate to a younger sibling bugging the heck out of their older sibling when they are trying to get something done. Jabari is trying to build a flying machine and his little sister, Nika wants to be involved.  I love this book because it not only demonstrates Kabari’s perseverance but also the strategies he uses and the reflection that he does between each attempt. (He sketched, he planned, he made changes) When he became frustrated, he took a break, took a breath (a great strategy for all of us to use when we get “stuck”), and allowed his little sister to be his thought partner! Lots of lessons in this fun picture book for kids: Perseverance, resiliency, changing strategies, reflection when you make a mistake, and having a thought partner. Hmmmm…perhaps a lot of good lessons for adults too!!


You'd Be Home Now

By Kathleen Glasgow,

Book cover of You'd Be Home Now

Why this book?

Bestselling Girl in Pieces author Glasgow knows her way around hard-hitting hyperrealism. (Plus, she writes beautifully about my once and future home of Tucson, Arizona.) In her latest, a modern take on Our Town, Emmy’s brother comes home from rehab, and Emmy prepares to fulfill the role she’s always had as the household rock and peacekeeper. But what about what she needs, and what if Joey has problems she can’t cover up? This novel’s depiction of drug addiction, and how its impact reverberates through families, is informed and unromanticized.


Crossing Ebenezer Creek

By Tonya Bolden,

Book cover of Crossing Ebenezer Creek

Why this book?

I love stories that teach me something I didn’t know, even when it’s an ugly truth—especially when it’s an ugly truth. I studied History as an undergrad. I even wrote a paper on Sherman’s March to the Sea, but I’d never heard of Ebenezer’s Creek. In the midst of this shameful episode in the Civil War, Tonya Bolden gives us hope, truth, love, and utter cruelty. As heart-rending as this story is, I wanted to read it again immediately upon finishing it. Its honesty is as important as its poignancy. 


Zen Shorts

By Jon J. Muth,

Book cover of Zen Shorts

Why this book?

I adore this picture book and return to it often, to read to myself or to share with children. The story of three children meeting Stillwater, a peaceful panda, is fresh and fun. Stillwater teaches each child through an ancient story. The tone of the book and Muth’s illustrations perfectly reflect the concepts of stillness, self-awareness, self-acceptance, and non-judgment.

Jon Muth says it best when he writes in his author’s note: “’Zen Shorts’ are short meditations—ideas to puzzle over—tools which hone our ability to act with intuition. They have no goal, but they often challenge us to reexamine our habits, desires, concepts, and fears.”


I'll Give You the Sun

By Jandy Nelson,

Book cover of I'll Give You the Sun

Why this book?

Teen twins, once close but now estranged, tell their tale in alternating sections. In an intriguing twist, Noah’s account takes place 3 years ago while Jude’s is in the present.

The reader gets bits of the full picture from each sibling until their turbulent narratives coalesce in a way that is both appropriately artistic and moving. Nelson weaves a great plot, but it’s her characters’ depth that makes this book exceptional.


Freedom Fire

By Daniel José Older,

Book cover of Freedom Fire

Why this book?

This middle-grade novel introduces us to a real place—the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York City—and invites us to imagine the historical children who lived there as freedom fighters. Those fights for freedom, it turns out, take place on the back of dinosaurs! While the surprising addition of dinosaur battles might seem like a diversion from the hard work of learning about slavery’s painful history, in Older’s hands, the dinos offer young readers a way to meditate on power and its abuses. Viewed in the context of a Black radical tradition that insists on alternate timescapes, Freedom Fire’s dinosaurs do not function as a bit of whimsical unreality that overwrites difficult historical truths. Instead, their discordant presence actually offers a space for readers—children and educators both—to better inhabit the surreal, disorienting history of enslavement and freedom in the United States.


Oh, Brother... Oh, Sister!: A Sister's Guide to Getting Along

By Brooks Whitney, Laura Cornell (illustrator),

Book cover of Oh, Brother... Oh, Sister!: A Sister's Guide to Getting Along

Why this book?

Pitched to 9-11-year-old girls, Oh Brother…Oh Sister! is a practical guide kids can read on their own or together with a younger sibling (of either gender). There are activities for siblings to do with one another, and plenty of humor to keep kids laughing as they absorb important lessons about getting along. A surprising number of children are motivated to sign the Sibling Constitution at the back of the book, and to honor the agreements they’ve made. The only downside is that the book is clearly written for girls. It’s a pity, boys could use a book like this, too.


The Littlest Viking

By Alexandra Penfold, Isabel Roxas (illustrator),

Book cover of The Littlest Viking

Why this book?

Sven is the littlest and loudest attention-demanding Viking until a new warrior princess arrives. Sven’s baby sister is even louder and more attention-demanding than Sven and no one has time for his stories anymore… that is until Sven dreams up the perfect solution for all. Filled with heart and humor this book celebrates imagination, Vikings, storytelling, and new siblings.


Mia Moves Out

By Miranda Paul, Paige Keiser (illustrator),

Book cover of Mia Moves Out

Why this book?

When Mia’s new brother arrives, she finds herself without a place of her own – Brandon’s stuff is everywhere! She moves from place to place around the house, but nowhere feels quite right. In the end, Mia comes to find that having her own space doesn’t have to mean moving away from Brandon. This book beautifully opens the door to conversations around adjusting to a new sibling, sharing, and personal space. I also love that it incorporates adoption without making that the focus point of the story.


My Sister, Daisy

By Adria Karlsson, Linus Curci (illustrator),

Book cover of My Sister, Daisy

Why this book?

This is a heartwarming and sensitive story of a change in a family when a younger brother announces a new gender identity. She is a girl. There's an author's note, telling us this is based on a true story. And the bright darling illustrations add to this needed picture book for all children.



Daughter of the Forest

By Juliet Marillier,

Book cover of Daughter of the Forest

Why this book?

Based on the Six Swans fairy tale and the legend of the Children of Lir, this series starter follows Sorcha, daughter of the Lord of Sevenwaters. When her father’s new wife turns her six brothers into swans, Sorcha is the only one who can save them. To do that she must complete an impossible task. She survives in the forest, with the help of the Fair Folk, but when she’s kidnapped and brought to a foreign land she’s torn between opposing forces: the desire to save her brother, protect herself, and be with the man she loves. The Otherworld in this series exists alongside the daily life of the inhabitants of Sevenwaters. The characters know it as a double-edged sword that may help or harm depending on the situation.


Fog Island

By Tomi Ungerer,

Book cover of Fog Island

Why this book?

I was a friend of Tomi Ungerer since he used to answer metaphysical or philosophical questions asked by children in Philosophie Magazine, each month, in a special chronicle. Fog Island is less famous than Otto or the Three Robbers, but it’s an ode to Ireland where he used to live. The magic island in his story actually exists: Tomi Ungerer has drawn the rocky “Evil’s Tooth” that was planted in the ocean, just in front of his house. A beautiful tale with a realistic background.


Paul and Antoinette

By Kerascoët (illustrator),

Book cover of Paul and Antoinette

Why this book?

Two siblings with very different personalities. The fun of following these two characters grows with every scene. A very skillful, beautiful depiction of the richness of life and creative collaboration. A funny and endearing book.


Rules

By Cynthia Lord,

Book cover of Rules

Why this book?

12-year-old Catherine’s feelings toward her younger, autistic brother are complicated. She’s protective of him and also appears to be embarrassed by his behaviour. All she wants is a “normal” life. When she becomes friends with a paraplegic boy she’s forced to think about what “normal” really means. This book is hopeful, humourous, thoughtful, and explores what it means to interact with someone who is neurodivergent. The author is the mother of a child with autism and the complex relationships and friendships in the book felt real and captured the mixed-up emotions of middle-graders. 


Before We Were Yours

By Lisa Wingate,

Book cover of Before We Were Yours

Why this book?

It’s hard to write a book this riveting and wrenching and raw without resorting to baser language and situations, but Wingate does so beautifully as she takes readers back to a fictionalized version of a real-life adoption agency in the 1930s that kidnapped and sold children to wealthy families. This split-time book also has a compelling touch of mystery, which appealed to the suspense writer in me. But mostly, it’s about resilience, determination, and the strength of family ties even in adversity and across time and distance—which is why I found this book uplifting despite the hard subject matter.


Ginger Pye

By Eleanor Estes,

Book cover of Ginger Pye

Why this book?

This is one of my all-time favorites. But it’s an old one. It was first published in 1951. It is adorable and funny, and I don’t think it’s ever been out of print. It’s about a boy who searches for his dognapped dog, Ginger Pye. No worries. Love will triumph!


The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963

By Christopher Paul Curtis,

Book cover of The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963

Why this book?

This is one of the funniest, and saddest, books ever. When Kenny starts telling the story, it’s dead winter in Flint. Michigan. Cold enough to make your spit freeze. Momma, who grew up in Alabama, begins yearning for the South. By reputation, Momma’s momma is the strictest, meanest grandma ever. Kenny - who’s never met her - decides Grandma Sands must look like a troll. Dad and Momma decide that Grandma Sands is the perfect person to straighten out big brother Byron, who shows signs of turning into a juvenile delinquent. So... Join the Watsons. Get in their car (also known as the Brown Bomber), listen to the tires roll onto I-75, and imagine what’s going to happen when Byron meets his doom.


A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning

By Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist (illustrator),

Book cover of A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning

Why this book?

I read all thirteen of these books and I found them to be a fast read. I found them to be riveting because I kept wondering how bad things were going to get for the children in the story.

I liked how the author kept you concerned for the children to the very end. I kept asking myself, when will someone stop Count Olaf? I loved how unusually bright and innovative the Baudelaire children were. I connected to this story because I like stories of unique people who face challenges and eventually come out on top.


Wildwood

By Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis (illustrator),

Book cover of Wildwood

Why this book?

I want to list something that is contemporary and this was one of the few series I was willing to see through. I was impressed with the way the world beyond the Impassable wilderness comes to life, literally, as we follow Prue and Curtis on their mission to rescue Prue’s baby brother. As well as plunging into forests or villages, replete with talking animals and birds, menacing ivy, an army of coyote bandits, underground warrens, cushions made of moss, an occult queen– there is enough mysticism, ritual, strange politics and twists, turns and perils to ensure a compelling narrative pace. 


Rules for Stealing Stars

By Corey Ann Haydu,

Book cover of Rules for Stealing Stars

Why this book?

Haydu’s voice in Rules for Stealing Stars feels incredibly authentic to the middle-grade age group. The main character, Silly, walks a fine line between being childish enough to believe in magic, and old enough to begin to question her deeply dysfunctional family situation. Silly’s honest, first-person narrative beautifully expresses both the wonder of the escapist worlds to which she travels, as well as the trauma of living in a dysfunctional household. Haydu expertly weaves together this child-like voice and fantastical story with underlying themes of trauma and dysfunction to create a whimsical, yet meaningful story.


The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy

By Anne Ursu,

Book cover of The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy

Why this book?

In the kingdom of Illyria, boys are potential sorcerers while girls are only taught to keep house and don’t always learn to read. Marya has spent her whole life swallowing her anger at the unfairness of it, but after her parents blame her for spoiling her brother’s chances at becoming a sorcerer, she is sent to a remote school for troubled girls. There, as she and her classmates form tentative friendships, they question teachers and sorcerers and seek the truth in embroidered messages and folk songs. Marya proves herself to be braver and nobler than the revered sorcerers of Illyria. This staunchly feminist middle grade fantasy empowers young people to interrogate the narratives of the powerful and realize that there is nothing wrong with who they are.  


The Wishing Spell

By Chris Colfer,

Book cover of The Wishing Spell

Why this book?

This novel is the first of a 5-book series that served as the primary inspiration for my own, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If the idea of reading about fairy tales that aren’t quite like the ones you heard when younger sounds intriguing, then this book will serve as an excellent introduction.

What’s more, The Wishing Spell has excellent artwork and a very detailed map, something rather rare in all but the most traditional of fantasy books. Having these to consult while reading truly made the story come alive!


Frankie

By Shivaun Plozza,

Book cover of Frankie

Why this book?

I really loved reading Frankie. The feisty main character, Frankie, meets Xavier, who claims to be her half-brother. When he goes missing in Melbourne, she is determined to find him, and you really feel you are there with her in her quest. It is a poignant and touching story, and the climax leaves your emotions reeling. You’ll want to read more from this author.


Lemonade in Winter: A Book about Two Kids Counting Money

By Emily Jenkins, G. Brian Karas (illustrator),

Book cover of Lemonade in Winter: A Book about Two Kids Counting Money

Why this book?

This sister-brother duo decides to earn money by having a lemonade stand, but how can they make their venture a success on an icy winter day? Advertising, entertainment, and a supportive neighborhood all come into play, but what will happen if the two don’t turn a profit? This sweet, citrusy book is especially engaging for kids learning coin values and addition.  


The House We Grew Up in

By Lisa Jewell,

Book cover of The House We Grew Up in

Why this book?

In England, we have the Queen who opens Parliament and then we have the Queen of Domestic Suspense and that is Lisa Jewell. Lisa has written a slew of phenomenal novels but The House We Grew Up In always comes first to mind whenever I think of her work. The quality of descriptive detail in this book means that years after I first read it, I can still picture every room inside the Bird house and recall every twist and turn in Lorelei Bird’s journey as she transitions from a normal mother in a messy home to a toothless hoarder living out of a depilated den. A fascinating read packed around secrets and lies and an examination of family dynamics. All that glitters isn’t foil-wrapped gold in this one.


Slacker

By Gordon Korman,

Book cover of Slacker

Why this book?

I love Gordon Korman’s books. Slacker is a great way to get young gamers hooked on a great author. Hard-core gamers will relate to the main character, Cameron. This kid does not even notice the fire alarm going off because he is so engrossed in his game.

When his parents tell him he has to join a school club he just makes up a fake one. Why? So he can keep gaming. Of course, things don’t go as he planned – people want to join the club and then a beaver needs to be saved. Cameron learns a lot about being a friend, a brother, and how great it feels to be part of a real-life community.


An Ember in the Ashes

By Sabaa Tahir,

Book cover of An Ember in the Ashes

Why this book?

In a fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome with a Hunger Games-type tournament, a spy hiding as a slave clashes with an elite soldier who is more than meets the eye. The unexpected chemistry between Laia and Elias shines against the backdrop of the brutal world of the Empire. This story explores so many different sides of humanity, and it’s the human connections that kept me hooked and eagerly anticipating the rest of the series.


A Different Kind of Heat

By Antonio Pagliarulo,

Book cover of A Different Kind of Heat

Why this book?

Luz Cordero lost her brother in a police shooting. Anger and grief burn within her for her brother's tragic death, and this young girl must battle through her emotional pain toward forgiveness during her stay at a Boys and Girls home. This is one girl's story as she pulls herself from the life of gangs and violence toward forgiveness and ultimately peace. I couldn't put it down. 


The Sheen on the Silk

By Anne Perry,

Book cover of The Sheen on the Silk

Why this book?

Anne Perry is a superb mystery writer who ventured once into the Byzantine world with this novel and I am so glad she did. The story takes place in 1273, twelve years after the overthrow of the Latin rulers who had occupied Constantinople since the horrific attack by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The city still struggles to recover and a young woman, Anna Lascaris, who has learned medicine from her father, decides to disguise herself as a eunuch to more easily find out who framed her brother for murder, which resulted in his exile to a distant monastery. Poisonous political intrigue swirls around Anna/Anastasius as she practices the healing arts while searching for clues about who was the true killer.   


This Book Betrays My Brother

By Kagiso Lesego Molope,

Book cover of This Book Betrays My Brother

Why this book?

Molope’s twitter profile features my favourite Toni Morrison quotation (one I want used in my obit, when the day comes), so I had to buy this novel.


Its core is about doing, or not doing, the right thing. I loved the writing, the moral complexity and the exploration of strangeness from the point of view of Naledi, a young teen, living in post-apartheid South Africa. She has moved from the bottom, a place of outhouses and rocks, to the top, a place of fountains and statues, and then discovers her brother is also a stranger. But then she warns us early that the township Marapong is a place you arrive at after "experiencing that unnerving feeling of being lost in a strange country with a strange language.”


The Ivory Key

By Akshaya Raman,

Book cover of The Ivory Key

Why this book?

This book tells the story of four siblings, all of whom have a complicated relationship with their nation Ashoka and each other. Though they’re estranged from each other, the siblings must set aside their differences and work together to follow a series of clues leading them to the Ivory Key, a fabled source of infinite magic. I loved this book’s mix of adventure and puzzle-solving, and would recommend it to anyone no matter what, but this book also has a POV character stuck between two worlds. Kaleb, one of the four siblings, is half-Ashokan and half-Lyrian, the country at war with Ashoka, and he struggles to reconcile his identity with his loyalty to his family and nation. I highly recommend picking up this debut!


This Is Where I Leave You

By Jonathan Tropper,

Book cover of This Is Where I Leave You

Why this book?

Haha, it would be a nightmare having to spend seven days with the members of your family of origin, amirite? This book's main character is forced to do just that, as the Jewish ritual of shiva after a death requires it. After his father's death, not only can Judd Altman not get away from his oversharing mother and weird siblings (and everyone's exes, including his own), he's forced to keep secrets about, among other things, his own relationship status. Trust me, if you're about to head into a period at close quarters with your FOO, you can take heart at the fact that Judd made it through! (Also, I loved how this one made me realize that even most normal-seeming families are...not.) 


Homecoming: Volume 1

By Cynthia Voigt,

Book cover of Homecoming: Volume 1

Why this book?

Homecoming has been around for a long time, but it is a story I’ve never forgotten. Voigt opens her novel with Dicey Tillerman, thirteen, and her three younger siblings abandoned by their mother in the parking lot of a shopping mall. The only way Dicey can keep the family together is to get them to a great-aunt’s home, but that means a long journey with little money. This is a tale of fiction, yet it exemplifies the courage and strength that so many kids muster in the face of impossible odds. I’ve always felt that too many people underestimate the resilience of our youth.


And the Trees Crept In

By Dawn Kurtagich,

Book cover of And the Trees Crept In

Why this book?

Hoping for a better life, Silla and her little sister Nori escape their abusive childhood home and journey to their aunt’s eccentric mansion, ensconced in a cloyingly dark forest. But despite their Aunt Cath’s warm, maternal welcome, something isn’t quite right at La Baume. The looming trees seem to draw closer every day, Nori’s new imaginary friend is a strange, faceless man in the woods, and Aunt Cath’s quirky, odd behavior quickly devolves into madness. Not to mention that strange creeaaking night and day, that sets Silla’s teeth (and nerves) on edge. This was my most recent read, which I chose to enjoy as an audiobook, where the excellent production quality brings Kurtagich’s prose alive with creepy sounds, music, and Polly Lee’s brilliant narration. Truly an immersive experience!


The Hueys in It Wasn't Me

By Oliver Jeffers,

Book cover of The Hueys in It Wasn't Me

Why this book?

I always admire Jeffers’s work – it is ever creative and original. The Hueys are arguing when Gillespie comes by. He asks them, “What are you fighting about?” This stumps them. They don’t remember. Then comes Gillespie’s last line, which blows your mind. The ending couldn't be more perfect.  


The Flight of Swans

By Sarah McGuire,

Book cover of The Flight of Swans

Why this book?

When Princess Andaryn’s father gets lost in the woods and returns wed to a mysterious woman with magical power, her life is turned into a nightmare. To save the lives of her six brothers, she agrees to a bargain, swearing to remain silent for six years. In a cruel trick, the wicked queen transforms them into six black swans and Ryn discovers that protecting them will be far more difficult than she ever expected. But she doesn’t need a voice to fight for those she loves and seeing her courage and steadfast determination makes this a book I’ll never forget. This is a beautifully written, richly imagined retelling of the fairytale “Six Swans” or “The Wild Swans” and I loved it. Readers ready to bridge the gap between middle grade fantasy and young adult fantasy will appreciate following Ryn as she grows from powerless young girl to strong young woman.


The Railway Children

By Edith Nesbit,

Book cover of The Railway Children

Why this book?

The Railway Children is a rich family saga set in 1905 told from the perspective of the children, Bobbie, Phyllis, and Peter. They live a happy, comfortable life until their father is suddenly taken away by two police officers. The family is forced to move away and adapt to living in the countryside on a much-reduced income. The separation from their father is keenly felt by the children, whilst their mother hides her own distress to protect them. 

We eventually realise that an injustice has occurred, but how can the children hope to reunite with their father? The Railway might provide an answer. Edith Nesbit has created a warm and engaging novel where acts of kindness, sometimes misguided, are integral to the storytelling.


Ruby's Sword

By Jacqueline Veissid, Paola Zakimi (illustrator),

Book cover of Ruby's Sword

Why this book?

Ruby’s Sword explores the type of imaginative play that can be had with natural world elements. Letting your kids explore nature in a tangible way does wonders for their learning and ingenuity. A simple stick turns into a sword, turning a little girl into a gallant knight. Our children do not need colourful plastic toys to have fun. All they need is a little fresh air and something as simple as a stick. Once my family moved out to the country, I saw my children transform before my eyes. Rocks have become treasures and bugs their newest friends. With the first signs of spring, socks are flung aside as their naked toes seek sand and grass. Let your kids fall in love with nature and it will be a love affair that lasts a lifetime. 


Caddie Woodlawn

By Carol Ryrie Brink,

Book cover of Caddie Woodlawn

Why this book?

Caddie Woodlawn is a kindred spirit with her love of adventure, boisterous friendship with her brothers, and her dislike of the constraints of “lady-like” expectations. Her parents give her freedom and responsibilities, both of which help her grow into a young woman—not of fashion, but of character. I love the interactions between the siblings and between the parents and children. They are real, with frustrations and forgiveness, love and laughter.


The Black Witch

By Laurie Forest,

Book cover of The Black Witch

Why this book?

I think I’ve loved academic settings for fantasy ever since I read Harry Potter, and The Black Witch has one of the best I’ve come across since. Laurie Forrest completely captivated me with her world, her characters, a great underground rebellion, a romance to root for, and a heroine blind to her own immense power. Definitely a must-read on my list!


Peter's Chair

By Ezra Jack Keats,

Book cover of Peter's Chair

Why this book?

The simplicity of the story and the collage illustrations are perfect for the youngest children. They will connect with Peter's experience of having to share something he values very much. They will experience how Peter works through his feelings with the help of a loving and supportive family. This is one of the first preschool books that I found to feature an African American family.  


You'll Be Fine

By Jen Michalski,

Book cover of You'll Be Fine

Why this book?

This novel achieves something that, as a writer, I think is one of the hardest things to pull off: tackling troubling, emotionally fraught material yet finding moments to make readers laugh out loud. The novel’s protagonist, Alex, has plenty of challenges to deal with: the loss of her mother to an apparent drug overdose, a difficult relationship with her can’t-seem-to-grow-up brother, and an uncertain reconnection with an old flame. Through Alex, Michalski manages to both confront these challenges and find humor in them. As I read the book and thought of the difficulties in my own life, I considered how I needed to take a page from this character’s playbook. Another element that leavens the novel’s heavier material is a plot thread that will delight rom-com enthusiasts.


Gravity Is the Thing

By Jaclyn Moriarty,

Book cover of Gravity Is the Thing

Why this book?

Yes, she is one of ‘the’ Moriartys, and this surprise shift away from her usual young adult fiction works is more than worthy of her famous surname. This book is sublime, whimsical, dreamy, chatty, fun, sad, joyous, and all with a sense of surreality that you strangely and completely enjoy. I found myself swept away as the lead character, Abigail, seeks to find answers to the tragedy that has haunted her since she was young and oh, how I walked that path with her. The strange retreat she is on will keep you guessing and the sweetness of her story will stay with you long after the final page.


Fasting, Feasting

By Anita Desai,

Book cover of Fasting, Feasting

Why this book?

This is another novel I enjoy teaching; students respond well to it. Desai excels in giving detailed domestic pictures of life in India. Here she recounts how an ungainly disabled daughter with what seems to be epilepsy and a learning disability is largely kept out of sight by her upper-middle-class family in the 20th century. The daughter, Uma, goes away with assorted other characters, finding a measure of freedom, but invariably needs to return to her parents’ confining house. At the end of the novel, she is largely taking care of them. Desai shows what we might call a “feminist ethic of care” as she writes of a disabled woman as interesting and worthy of sustained attention, which implicitly feeds into advocates’ contention of the value of all disabled people.


To the Other Side

By Erika Meza,

Book cover of To the Other Side

Why this book?

I had the pleasure—and the privilege—of reading this book before it was published. Having lived for many years in Tijuana, and being a migrant herself, Erika Meza has an undeniable passion for children’s rights and the humanitarian crisis on the border between Mexico and the US. 

In this book, she deals with a complicated topic, the experience of children fleeing their home countries in order to seek stability and security, and how sometimes that experience can be in itself life-threatening and overwhelming. This book is more important than ever, as it deals with a horribly complicated, and sometimes gloomy topic in a sensitive, yet realistic way. Plus, the details of the Mexican masks are amazing!


Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life

By Dr. Laura Markham,

Book cover of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life

Why this book?

This one is for parents, not kids, but I included it because what parents do (or don’t do), say (or don’t say) is such an important part of the equation when it comes to sibling rivalry. Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings teaches the basics of Emotion Coaching (introduced in Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by the same author), then walks readers through using this approach with multiple children. Grounded in brain science, pairing firm limits with genuine empathy, parents who take the time to learn/practice this way of parenting will undoubtedly see a significant reduction in sibling squabbles, and in conflict more broadly.


Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers

By John Dougherty, Sam Ricks (illustrator),

Book cover of Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers

Why this book?

This hilarious series is totally bonkers but full of sibling love and loyalty. The writing is witty and surprising, and a great fantastical read. The intrepid heroes are brother and sister, Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and we follow them as they set off on a nail-biting but very silly adventure. I love books about sibling relationships as children seem to spend SO much time bickering with their brothers and sisters and I think books can be a great way to remind them how awesome their sibling really is and how lucky they are to have a brother or sister to love them!


Never-Contented Things

By Sarah Porter,

Book cover of Never-Contented Things

Why this book?

One thing you’ll discover as you read YA tales about the fae is that bored faeries are always causing trouble. In Porter’s novel, they tempt Ksenia’s foster brother and best friend away from her and then put her through a progression of nightmares as she tries to wrest him out of their clutches. There’s so much darkness in this book but it never quite tips into horror. It’s more of that incessant creepiness of the Twilight Zone, with scenes that keep ratcheting up the tension and impossible situations. This isn’t your average faerie tale with romance and hijinks—not by a long shot. But because of all that, it’s an absolute delight to read.


The London Eye Mystery

By Siobhan Dowd,

Book cover of The London Eye Mystery

Why this book?

Here’s one for slightly older children. The story of two siblings, one with Asperger’s syndrome, who find themselves at the centre of a riveting detective story. They’re on the hunt to find their cousin Salim, who’s gone missing from a sealed carriage on The London Eye. Throughout the book, we are challenged to see the world from different people’s points of view in order to solve the mystery.


It Had to Be You

By Susan May Warren,

Book cover of It Had to Be You

Why this book?

This is the second book in the Christiansen family series, but in my opinion, is one of the best. Why? It’s about a hockey player (hello!), and the over-committed sister of one of his teammates. This book explores things such as family obligations and unspoken expectations, discovering God’s purpose for your life, and learning to accept God’s grace. The use of Scripture is powerful and inspiring yet used so naturally that I’m sure readers will be encouraged as I was, and as for the romance – prepare for some swoon-worthy kisses!


Dry

By Neal Shusterman, Jarrod Shusterman,

Book cover of Dry

Why this book?

Dry, written by father and son duo Neal and Jerrod Shusterman, is a young adult novel that examines a world in which the California drought has reached a tipping point, and the state no longer has any running water. After what has been dubbed the 'tap-out,' our teen protagonist Alyssa must make life or death decisions when her parents leave in search of water, and do not return.

This plot-driven novel soon turns into an apocalyptic road trip that rarely lets up in the tension department as we watch humanity crumble and our protagonist and her friends struggle to survive. Prepare for this book to make you thirsty.


Tikki Tikki Tembo

By Arlene Mosel, Blair Lent (illustrator),

Book cover of Tikki Tikki Tembo

Why this book?

This is another book that some might find problematic, in that it is clearly a caricature of an old Imperial Chinese village, but the rhyming wordplay in Tikki Tikki Tembo’s name is delightful, and the moral of Brother Chang’s worth and value is an important one for anyone with a child looking to step out of the shadow of an older sibling.


Al Capone Does My Shirts

By Gennifer Choldenko,

Book cover of Al Capone Does My Shirts

Why this book?

A perfect example of baseball books not about baseball. Yes, Moose loves the game, and the prisoners at Alcatraz play it. But Choldenko packs so much story into her novels— backstory, asides, history, and humor. I’ve read every one of the Al Capone books and it’s hard to pick a favorite, but this is the one that started it all. I can still quote the first sentence and I still laugh out loud. I am in total awe of her writing.


A Wind in the Door

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Book cover of A Wind in the Door

Why this book?

Of Madeleine L’Engle’s books, A Wrinkle in Time gets all the attention. But as often happens, praise sometimes misses something great. Her follow-up to Wrinkle in that same series, A Wind in the Door, is extraordinary. In one particular way, Wind gets at a truth; that the scale of big to small, human to mitochondria, mitochondria to galaxy, is actually not as distancing as it seems. No matter what size, everything has an essential part to play. There is also a theme to the book that, then and now, I find particularly poignant; the value of putting down roots and deepening into your life. As sometimes happens with YA books, Wind offers something really valuable for adults. Plus it’s short, which is pretty cool.


Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas

By Pamela Ehrenberg, Anjan Sarkar (illustrator),

Book cover of Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas

Why this book?

This picture book has grabbed me over the years, being a fan of both Hanukkah and dosas. My childhood home and my home now has always been filled with traditional Indian and Jewish foods. I loved the holiday food fusion here and how festive the family is as they blend their traditions together. The story isn’t so much about how and why they blend their cultures the way they do—they just do. It centers around a boy and his very active little sister who ends up saving the holiday with her extra energy. The illustrations by Sarkar are so sweet they just make you want to jump in the book and be part of their dosa-filled Hanukkah celebration.  


Ender's Game

By Orson Scott Card,

Book cover of Ender's Game

Why this book?

“Growing up is hard. Growing up while leading the war against aliens that want to annihilate Earth is cool.” A little departure from the other stories on my list, Ender’s Game is a bit lighter on mythology and literary allusions but has become a sci-fi classic. Ender grows up in a future under siege by aliens and is sent to battle school to rise through the ranks and become Earth’s head commander. The grandaddy of a sub-genre that features young adult protagonists going off to “school” to become adept in their special abilities, Ender’s Game is a fast, gripping read. It’s also dark and disturbing, carrying a deeper message about the dangers of lack of communication and understanding that is combined with humankind’s innate propensity toward xenophobia and violence. 


The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole

By Michelle Cuevas,

Book cover of The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole

Why this book?

Stella is grieving the death of her father. When a black hole follows her home one day, Stella is able to hide away all the memories she hopes to forget. In this touching and funny tale, Stella and her brother come together in their sadness. Yes, it is a story of grief, but it is also a story centered on science. I learned a lot about black holes in this book and there’s enough space jokes and puns to keep all space nerds laughing for days.


We Dream of Space

By Erin Entrada Kelly,

Book cover of We Dream of Space

Why this book?

I was gutting part of an old house when the radio announced the Space Shuttle Challenger’s explosion. Suddenly, I was gutted too. This devastating historical event offers an emotional center to a sensitively-told tale of a family experiencing a more insidious kind of destruction. The three Nelson Thomas siblings orbit elliptically around endlessly bickering parents. Cash isn’t good at anything, Fitch’s temper is growing hard to control, and quiet Bird is the family’s logic board. As her science class counts down together to the shuttle launch, Bird hatches dreams of going to space herself someday. My favorite part of this wonderful book? When the launch goes so horribly wrong, it’s her brothers who help her pick up the pieces of her dreams and start to redraw the landscape of family.


The Diamond in the Window

By Jane Langton, Erik Blegvad (illustrator),

Book cover of The Diamond in the Window

Why this book?

First published in 1962, I read this book in the late 70s when I was about ten years old. Not quite as iconic as The House with the Clock in its Walls (another favorite), this novel is equally evocative and strange, with its rambling, Victorian house, mysteries unfolding in the attic, and just the right hint of menace. Secrets lurk behind doors and in dreams, but the daylight world of the book is just as compelling. I recall as a child being swept away by the charm and pedigree of historic Massachusetts with all its transcendental mystique (replete with busts in the hallway of Emerson and Thoreau). Filled to the brim with what we might now call magical realism, this book is seared into my DNA – a must-read.


The Way Past Winter

By Kiran Millwood Hargrave,

Book cover of The Way Past Winter

Why this book?

From the moment I opened this book I could feel the prickling tension of something about to happen. And when it does, prompting Mila and her sisters to set off on a quest through this wild and wintry world, you just know it’s going to be epic. With treacherous terrain and overwhelming odds, The Way Past Winter fully lives up to its promise of grand adventure.


The Wish Granter

By C.J. Redwine,

Book cover of The Wish Granter

Why this book?

Two words: Princess Ari. She loves butter as much as I do, but that is not why I love her. This character is far from perfect, but she doesn’t let that stop her. She embraces who she is and refuses to let others’ perceptions of her dictate her sense of self-worth. She is no victim, even when she literally is one. Ari would have your back at all times, and then bake you tasty pastries after your adventures.


Breathless

By Jessica Warman,

Book cover of Breathless

Why this book?

Breathless is Warman’s first full-length novel, perhaps lesser known than some of her others, and it’s a brilliant example of coming to age. Warman’s style is propulsive and character-driven. Katie, often overlooked due to the attention her older brother requires, is forced to make her own way in the world. She attends boarding school and finds family among people to whom she has no biological relation.

I first met Warman while earning a master’s degree in writing alongside her.  Needless to say, I learned as much from her as from our instructors. Her ability to throw a reader into immediate conflict, as well as her talent to put one at ease, is notable—especially here, where her young protagonist navigates a crooked path to the promise of happiness.


Over the Moon

By Natalie Lloyd,

Book cover of Over the Moon

Why this book?

Over the Moon is a book that is lush with description and fantastical ideas. While reading, I could see, smell, taste, and hear every tiny detail of Lloyd’s beautifully drawn world through her poetic language as if I were standing right inside it. What is even more impressive is that through all her worldbuilding, at no point does Lloyd’s character or thematic development become lost. This book is a story of hope and of bravery with a character whose resilience and determination shine like the moon.


When We Believed in Mermaids

By Barbara O'Neal,

Book cover of When We Believed in Mermaids

Why this book?

What begins as a mystery surrounding a missing sister becomes a richly told tale of family, loss, and vulnerability. I loved Kit―she’s a fascinating protagonist―nuanced, multi-faceted, and a mass of contradictions. Seeing her sister, presumed dead, in a news story from across the world ignites a quest to delve into the past to understand the present. It’s an emotional, raw, and cathartic read. 


The Uncommoners #1: The Crooked Sixpence

By Jennifer Bell,

Book cover of The Uncommoners #1: The Crooked Sixpence

Why this book?

Bell’s Uncommoners series is set in a richly-imagined magical world where everyday objects have extraordinary powers – and when darkness closes in, Seb and Ivy Sparrow must race to uncover an Uncommon mystery before it’s too late. Featuring a talking bicycle bell, police officers armed with toilet brushes, and the incredible city of Londinium, these books will fling you straight into a thrilling adventure.


Waylon! One Awesome Thing

By Sara Pennypacker,

Book cover of Waylon! One Awesome Thing

Why this book?

Waylon has lots of ideas for making life more awesome through science, like attracting cupcakes by controlling gravity. But it's impossible for him to concentrate on his inventions when Arlo Brody is dividing the fourth grade boys into two groups. His attempts to navigate fourth grade and be friends with everyone (except for one very scary new kid) are hilarious.


The Bone Houses

By Emily Lloyd-Jones,

Book cover of The Bone Houses

Why this book?

I love this book because it feels like stepping into a creepy fairytale. The restless dead wander the shadowy forest surrounding Ryn’s small village. Ryn is an apprentice gravedigger and normally the dead hold no fear for her. But their numbers are growing and now Ryn might be the only one who can save her people from being destroyed by an ancient curse. This book is still firmly in the category of fantasy rather than horror. I love that Ryn’s position as a gravedigger gives her a unique perspective on death that allows her to face problems others would rather ignore. This book is also the only one I’ve ever read that turns a slightly rotted goat into a loveable character.


Farah Rocks Fifth Grade

By Susan Muaddi Darraj, Ruaida Mannaa (illustrator),

Book cover of Farah Rocks Fifth Grade

Why this book?

Farah and her best friend Allie yearn to go to middle school at the exclusive Magnet Academy. But Farah decides to screw up her schoolwork on purpose, in order to stay behind and protect her developmentally disabled younger brother from bullying. I appreciated how this book portrayed Farrar’s struggles with issues very real to kids, that adults often miss, and the inclusion of Arab culture and language throughout the book. 


You Should See Me in a Crown

By Leah Johnson,

Book cover of You Should See Me in a Crown

Why this book?

You Should See Me in a Crown is a book that showed me how intersectionality impacts everything, even over-achieving. Liz Lightly, a Black lesbian from a poor family, faces more hurdles than my character, Alison, who has grown up in a middle-class neighbourhood. Alison works hard, but she doesn’t have as much on the line as Liz. Still, I think they’d be good friends if they met. The world may not be the meritocracy we want it to be, but when a character works as hard as Liz does, you want them to succeed.


Luck of the Titanic

By Stacey Lee,

Book cover of Luck of the Titanic

Why this book?

Sometimes you think you know all about a famous incident, I mean the Titanic has been overdone in films and books, right? Well, Stacey Lee gives it a totally fresh approach from the point of view of a young Chinese-English teen, Valora Luck. And while this is a fictional take on what might have happened, the fact that there were Chinese people onboard The Titanic, who at that time would not have been allowed into the USA makes for a gripping and thought-provoking read. And then of course there’s Stacey Lee’s wonderful storytelling!

Valora Luck has a dream that one day she and her brother will be famous acrobats, touring America. But once she’s on board The Titanic, she soon discovers she must hide her identity, both as a girl and as a servant, and use her talents to save her brother and his motley band of friends. But like the ship, her dreams are soon on a collision course with reality. This is a fresh take, giving a poignant perspective that shines a light on the lesser-known stories of the diverse passengers that were lost in this tragic event.


The Sanatorium

By Sarah Pearse,

Book cover of The Sanatorium

Why this book?

We’re back in the Alps—this time in Switzerland—and a storm’s a-brewin’. The Sanitorium follows an uptight detective hoping for some much-needed time away from work. But, lo and behold, the mountainside hotel of Le Sommet is anything but relaxing. I loved the cold and creepy isolation this book offers, and much of the mystery in the book centers on the hotel’s previous existence as a sanitorium for women with tuberculosis. Aside from the landscape, the way Pearse subtly criticizes the historical mistreatment of women in this book is what really hooked me.


The Wendy Project

By Melissa Jane Osborne, Veronica Fish (illustrator),

Book cover of The Wendy Project

Why this book?

Although shorter than the other books on my list, I think the story and art is none the less impactful. The Wendy Project deals with grief, especially grief in younger readers with a gentle understanding. I loved the unique approach to the whole book as well. The book is the journal of the main character Wendy, who receives it and starts to draw in it during the events of the story. I found The Wendy Project in my hands at a time when I was struggling to acknowledge my own grief, and it certainly nudged me to face it.  


Bunny Party

By Rosemary Wells,

Book cover of Bunny Party

Why this book?

Bossy, responsible Ruby is planning Grandma’s birthday party, and as usual, little brother Max has his own ideas. Ruby has invited her dolls to the party, but Max places his favorites—like the Ear-Splitter Space Cadetat the table, swiping costume bits off Ruby’s dolls to disguise the imposters. Ruby is confused by the extra guests: “It must be a bad counting day. We need another chair.” Young readers will see what’s really happening—and Max’s facial expressions emphasize what he’s up to. What will Grandma think of the unusual guests?


Butterfly Yellow

By Thanhhà Lai,

Book cover of Butterfly Yellow

Why this book?

I was in high school when the Viêt Nam War ended. I grew up watching news reports and seeing photographs on the front page of The New York Times. I remember when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers. I read David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. I wish there had been books like this one for me to read. I am cheating a tiny bit with this choice as it does not take place during wartime. It is set six years after the Viêt Nam War in Texas, yet is about the ravages of war and how one goes on after unimaginable loss. I love this book because it is exquisitely written. It is equally painful and joyous. And I don’t think you can find a stronger character than Hằng.


Our Only May Amelia

By Jennifer L. Holm,

Book cover of Our Only May Amelia

Why this book?

What do you do when you have seven brothers, are the only girl for miles, and are being told you need to act like a proper lady? You say no. May Amelia does not want to be harnessed like a darn mule. The Washington wilderness of 1899 lays before her in all its glory. Her brothers are off exploring. Why can’t she too? And if that means breaking a few rules, well May Amelia Jackson is just the girl to do it. May Amelia’s tenacity and bravery made me want to stand up and cheer. She is my kind of girl—one who has the will and the determination to make a life lived on her terms.


All Adults Here

By Emma Straub,

Book cover of All Adults Here

Why this book?

All Adults Here is a summer read—when you just want something light. It’s a family drama, which I always enjoy, and always seem to write about myself. Plus, its protagonist, Astrid Strick, who, at sixty-eight, comes out to her family as bisexual, makes me really happy. I mean, older people have sexual needs too! There’s also a lovely transgendered character, her son. Really, the book is about inclusivity, and that’s a theme that always sings for me. And Emma Straub is just a beautiful writer.


The Same Stuff as Stars

By Katherine Paterson,

Book cover of The Same Stuff as Stars

Why this book?

Life is tough for Angel—her dad is in jail, her mom is irresponsible, and she has to take care of her seven-year-old brother. Paterson doesn’t hold back in this unflinching look at family brokenness, but as sad as the circumstances are, there is hope! Angel meets some new adults and through their small kindnesses, she learns that she is stronger than she ever knew. It’s a great message for any kid who is struggling with too much responsibility. It has a redemption arc that I also loved. 


Fablehaven: Volume 1

By Brandon Mull,

Book cover of Fablehaven: Volume 1

Why this book?

Fablehaven is a book stuffed to the brim with magical creatures and artifacts, and the sheer number of peculiar creatures featured, such as the wooden puppet Mendigo, is enough to catch the attention of any fantasy fan. However, what I found most compelling about this book was the structure of the enchanted world hiding in plain sight that Mull constructed. The many mythical creatures that call Fablehaven home can only be seen by drinking the milk of a special cow, and otherwise appear to those without this magical vision as mundane sights such as rocks or animals. Moreover, the creatures residing in Fablehaven must all abide by a treaty protecting humans and magical creatures alike, which leads to some interesting developments as the series continues… 


Twelfth Night: Or What You Will

By William Shakespeare,

Book cover of Twelfth Night: Or What You Will

Why this book?

On the surface, this is a comedy of mistaken identity with identical twins, Sebastian and Viola, at its heart. It concerns members of the nobility: Orsino, Olivia, and Viola (disguised as Orsino’s serving-man, Cesario). But there are other characters, too, who drive the sub-plot. Key among these is the jester, Feste, who knows that all of life is uncertain, a matter of ‘the wind and the rain,’ and that so much of existence is to do with confronting forks in the road. At the end of the play, the ’toffs’ dutifully pair off: Olivia marries Sebastian and Orsino marries Cesario (or rather, Viola, unmasked in the nick of time). And Feste is on hand to pronounce on the mutability of life and on how its choices aren’t always ours to make.


The Raven Heir

By Stephanie Burgis,

Book cover of The Raven Heir

Why this book?

This is fantasy right up to date: for 8 to 12-year-olds, it was published in 2021. Its castle setting immediately defines it as fantasy: "Beyond the castle’s moat, the deep, dark forest was shot through with trails of sunlight, tracing golden paths of possibility…. The dark-haired girl… sat, bare feet dangling against stone, on the windowsill of her tower bedroom." It’s a vivid picture, instantly engaging us in a world where family is very important. The heroine, Cordelia, is one of three triplets. Their task is to use their magical powers to find and mend the Raven Crown so that the parched land beyond the forest can be healed of the fighting that rampages across it, and people and the natural world live in peacethemes I feel very much in sympathy with.


I'll Be Watching

By Pamela Porter,

Book cover of I'll Be Watching

Why this book?

I’ll Be Watching is a verse novel that evokes place and character in tight, specific moments. It’s a page-turner that tells a harrowing story of children in 1941 surviving on their own through the brutal winter in a small Prairie town. Nuanced and impressionistic, moments are layered to create a world of childhood without a supportive adult net. I love the restraint and the specificity of Porter’s writing. She has focussed on childhood, during the war, in a very ordinary, very unlikely location and written a thriller.


The Nest

By Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney,

Book cover of The Nest

Why this book?

When brainstorming “comps” for my book, my first impulse was to cite Sweeney’s debut, but that seemed presumptuous given that The Nest was an instant NYT bestseller and named best book of 2016 by countless reviewers. But like my own debut, The Nest is a darkly comic exploration of middle-aged siblings, their relationships and rivalries, and the way that money can insinuate itself into our lives in ways both unwelcome and unimaginable. 


Salvage the Bones

By Jesmyn Ward,

Book cover of Salvage the Bones

Why this book?

When I am asked whether my next book will also be true crime, I say that my wheelhouse isn’t actually true crime but stories about pregnant teenage girls. This extends to my reading material. Salvage the Bones is a heart-stopping novel about a 15-year-old girl being raised by her widowed father in small-town Mississippi. In the calm before Hurricane Katrina, Esch and her three brothers—who alternately play basketball, raise pit bulls to dogfight and get in the way—are only just getting by. But Esch has a secret, which threatens to tip her life into chaos—there’s a baby growing inside of her. This book shines a light on the vast unfairness of the responsibility of pregnancy. I all but held my breath for the last 50 pages.


The Owl Service

By Alan Garner,

Book cover of The Owl Service

Why this book?

The haunting themes and mood of The Owl Service lodged themselves in my imagination when I first read it as a teenager and there they stay, decades later. I’ve returned to its mysterious and beguiling world several times since then, and on each occasion, the book has immediately woven its old spell around me. It is rich in Welsh magic as the past is played out against the backdrop of the present, and a hidden collection of plates decorated with what might be a pattern of owls becomes something far more potent and sinister. This is one of the books that first introduced me to the mysteries of landscape, the power of the past, and the enduring life of myths.


The Names of All the Flowers: A Memoir

By Melissa Valentine,

Book cover of The Names of All the Flowers: A Memoir

Why this book?

I have not read a book like Melissa Valentine's The Names of All the Flowers, which is a beautiful, painful, and exquisitely written narrative about her brother Junior, who was gunned down on the streets of Oakland when he was 19. "Say his name, say her name," we chant when yet another one of our brothers or sisters is killed. In this memoir, Valentine gives us not only Junior's name but an intimate look into his head, his heart, his fears, his dreams, his joy.


The Cruel Prince

By Holly Black,

Book cover of The Cruel Prince

Why this book?

If you want to read a book with a strong female character, this is the book for you. It’s a fun read with enemies that you find yourself secretly wishing to get together. The ending was something I lived for, making me read the rest of the series, and I have no doubt you’d be interested in staying for the rest of the ride as well.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

By Andrew Peterson, Joe Sutphin (illustrator),

Book cover of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Why this book?

When my family read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness together, we were captivated! The story is a unique fantasy tale full of friendly humor, children's characters who go on adventures they never asked for, and plot twists you’d never expect! This book is gripping for readers of all ages while interweaving truth and opening the door to wonder and dream up stories all my own. The fantasy world was fun to dive into, and I left the story inspired to be courageous, to prioritize family, and to understand sacrificial love and living for a kingdom in a personal way. It made us laugh, cry, and bond as a family and individuals.


Outer Dark

By Cormac McCarthy,

Book cover of Outer Dark

Why this book?

A book from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author should always be on any list about teaching new writers. With Outer Dark, McCarthy goes down a violent and disturbing route that’s more art than book. Its graphic scenes and heavy plot material won’t even be the most disturbing aspects of this book. It’s the lack of setting and time that will trigger deep existential feelings of a primal sort of fear that is difficult to explain. The book takes place in the deep south of the United States (possibly) sometime in the past. But how far in the past? How much time passes between the first page and last page? How do the brutal antagonists know the things they know? This book is perfect for setting the bar for how to properly handle the surreal and psychological aspects of writing, which in this book’s case is far more terrifying than a hook through the jaw or drinking the blood of a victim (I did explain the villains were brutal after all). 


The Night Gardener

By Jonathan Auxier,

Book cover of The Night Gardener

Why this book?

The setting and mood of a book often draw me into the story more than anything, as is the case with The Night Gardener. From the dark wood and the run-down manor, to a terrible curse, this Gothic tale is dripping with atmosphere. This is a book about siblings, storytelling and lies, and what the things you desire are truly worth. Perfectly creepy!


The Keeper of Night

By Kylie Lee Baker,

Book cover of The Keeper of Night

Why this book?

The Keeper of Night’s protagonist Ren Scarborough is the epitome of a character trapped between two worlds. Half-British Reaper, half-Japanese Shinigami, Ren starts off the book living in London but never quite feels like she belongs there. When she travels to Japan for the first time, she finds out that Japan isn’t quite as she expected it and ends up getting tangled in the affairs of Yomi, the Japanese underworld. Although a bit on the darker side, this is a fantastic book for anyone interested in Japanese mythology, anyone who likes their fantasy a little on the dark side, and anyone who’s felt the frustration of never quite fitting in anywhere. 


The Sound and the Fury

By William Faulkner,

Book cover of The Sound and the Fury

Why this book?

While no one would call Faulkner’s 1929 masterpiece “a surprisingly accessible read,” it remains a landmark of modernism and one of the finest examples of stream of consciousness prose. Faulkner takes readers deep into the minds of his perspective characters, showing the ways they think in real-time as they navigate a day while consumed by past traumas, unstable identities, and inherited historical burdens.


The Last Wish of Sasha Cade

By Cheyanne Young,

Book cover of The Last Wish of Sasha Cade

Why this book?

I used to work as an oncology RN so I generally avoid cancer stories, but this author is a friend so I gave the book a chance, and wow am I glad I did. This story manages to capture the crushing reality of cancer for both the patient and the people who love her, but it’s also funny and mysterious and romantic, with plenty of meaningful things to say about grief. It takes insight and compassion to balance all those elements without ever being disrespectful to or flippant about terminal illness. I powered through this gorgeous book (the cover is even more incredible in person!) in one sitting and finished the story feeling hopeful and inspired.


Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds

By Samira Ahmed,

Book cover of Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds

Why this book?

Jinn. A sleep spell. A mystical land. A piece of the moon hurtling towards Earth. An ancient prophecy. And my favorite—a tale of siblings. What sets this book apart from other fantasy novels is that when Amira and her younger brother Hamza are tasked to save the world from the wrath of terrifying jinn, devs, and ghuls, they use science and logic instead of magic to win. This book is full of relatable references and hilarious puns while Amira is a budding feminist. What’s not to love in this riveting story of legend, science, history, adventure, and humor?


An Illusion of Thieves

By Cate Glass,

Book cover of An Illusion of Thieves

Why this book?

I have a tender spot for heroines who experience such strong emotions that they’re prone to being tossed by their own inner tempests. (I…ahem…might resemble that last comment). Romy had to make a wretchedly hard choice to protect her brother and the fallout separates her forever from the man she loves. She’s a determined, fiery woman and her diligence helps her survive in a city where her magical gift is forbidden. Her past could easily have made her bitter, but she fights with hope for second chances and a ferocious love that makes me adore her! When Romy teams up with other magically gifted people for a complicated heist, she’s consistently kind, unifying, and bravely vulnerable. I just love her!


The Masqueraders

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of The Masqueraders

Why this book?

For those Regency romance purists and Georgette Heyer fans out there, it would be criminal to leave this tale off the list. Known as the Queen of Regency, Heyer weaves an interesting tale about two masters of disguise. Both brother and sister dress and conduct themselves as the opposite sex in this adventure! Do you enjoy witty banter? Me too! I love lighthearted, humorous moments, and I was not disappointed.

This book is very true to regency form in terms of language, vocabulary, and sentence structure. That being said, you’ll enjoy this book more if you already have a solid understanding of Regency societal rules and peerage, codes of conduct, etc.


Clockwork Angel

By Cassandra Clare,

Book cover of Clockwork Angel

Why this book?

I was intrigued by this YA novel’s supernatural vibe. I enjoyed how this story incorporated angels, demons, shapeshifters, and automatons into old-world New York and London settings. I found the ensemble of paranormal and supernatural species to have a comic book quality as to the diversity of their talents and abilities to fight for good or with evil. The lead character Tessa is on a journey to find her brother and discovers things about herself that change her perspective of her own place in the world. Clare’s period elements suggest the darkness of Victorian England’s Jack The Ripper or Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll. But while those are male dominant, I much prefer a novel with an inquisitive, determined, and trust-her-instincts protagonist. 


In the Same Boat

By Holly Green,

Book cover of In the Same Boat

Why this book?

This was one of my favorite books of 2021. In The Same Boat tells the story of Sadie, a fierce canoer, who must finish the Texas River Odyssey, a 260-mile canoe race. Members of her family have raced for years—and always finished. But last year, Sadie wrecked her canoe and couldn’t finish. As a result, her dad’s barely speaking to her. So, this time, she must finish. She’s set to race with her brother but at the last minute, she’s forced to canoe with her ex-best-friend-turned-worst-enemy who inconveniently has become hot. It’s a gripping read with a swoony romance and a whole lot of family heart. Green does the very hard thing of writing a feminist sporty romance where the love interest doesn’t define her athleticism. 


La Linea

By Ann Jaramillo,

Book cover of La Linea

Why this book?

I really enjoyed this Y/A novel about 15-year-old Miguel and his journey across Mexico. His goal is to reach the border in the north of the country, and from there to cross to a better life, freedom from poverty and hunger, hope. The early scenes as he is preparing to leave his beloved grandmother and his friends behind are poignant and touching. Miguel’s character is extremely well-drawn. His descriptions of his country life and his attitude towards his sister 13-year-old Elena, who longs to go with him, endear the reader to this desperate and courageous boy. Imagine his feelings when he realises that Elena has disguised herself and is following him!  The frustrations, dangers, and fears the siblings experience on their journey North make exciting and absorbing reading.


Find Layla

By Meg Elison,

Book cover of Find Layla

Why this book?

I loved Find Layla and not just because there are a lot of similarities to my own book. Like Mattie, my main character, Layla is the daughter of a single mother and lives a day-to-day existence doing all she can to care for her younger sibling. She is strong, smart, and determined to rise out of poverty even in the face of impossible odds. Elison doesn’t waste words, setting out the reality of Layla’s life in vivid detail and a straightforward style.


Snowflake, AZ

By Marcus Sedgwick,

Book cover of Snowflake, AZ

Why this book?

A totally distinctive coming-of-age novel, set in a desert community where people with environmental illnesses are forced to live, far away from the everyday chemicals and wireless gadgets which make them sick. The author gets so much right about the emotional fallout of this falling away from the normal: the ache that never quite goes for the old life that has been lost; the new bonds that form between disparate characters finding themselves in the same boat; the corrosive extra layer of societal contempt and disbelief (“of course it’s all in the mind…”). which makes these already devastating illnesses even harder to bear - and the lurking temptation of suicide. I gasped with recognition on almost every page. It’s a YA novel, but who cares?


O Pioneers!

By Willa Sibert Cather,

Book cover of O Pioneers!

Why this book?

How can you resist a title with an exclamation mark! This feminist eco-classic has Alexandra Bergson as its central character – a frontier farmer who wears a man’s long coat and carries it off “like a young soldier” – and who seems to have a more intense relationship with the land than with other human beings. She is not the flashiest of heroines but she burrowed her way into my imagination: tireless, patient, persevering, and mysterious.


The Mill on the Floss

By George Eliot,

Book cover of The Mill on the Floss

Why this book?

As someone occasionally made to feel I was “too much” as a child—too emotional, too smart, too odd—I’ve always been drawn to The Mill on the Floss’s temperamental and bewildered young protagonist, Maggie Tulliver. I’m moved by her attempt, as she grows older, to navigate relationships with three men who represent three different possible paths for her: her staid older brother; a gentle, intellectual soulmate; and an erotic tempter. One minute I’m hooked by the drama, the next I’m chuckling at the comic portraits of Maggie’s many colorful relatives.


The Condition

By Jennifer Haigh,

Book cover of The Condition

Why this book?

Jennifer Haigh's novel is a family saga that reads like a post-mortem. With alternating narration, each of the five family members gives their perspective on what led to the family's demise and current state. The novel's title, The Condition, seems to refer specifically to one child in the family who has been diagnosed with a rare medical condition called Turner's Syndrome. But throughout the book, it becomes clear that each family member has developed their own "condition" or way of existing that is just as much a part of their identity.


The Children's Crusade

By Ann Packer,

Book cover of The Children's Crusade

Why this book?

The major drama in The Children's Crusade revolves around four adult children deciding whether it's time to sell their childhood home. Each sibling tells their own story in first-person narratives and these chapters are interwoven with omniscient narratives that describe their earlier lives. Each character is such a fascinating individual and while their adult voices are distinct from each other, they're also completely recognizable in their portrayal as children. This book explores the unique bond between people you’ve known your whole life.


Five Children and It

By E. Nesbit,

Book cover of Five Children and It

Why this book?

This book sparked my imagination. I loved the fantasy element that delivered amazing experiences to five ordinary children, and many years later when it came to writing my own novels for young readers, I found myself writing my own quirky adventures where remarkable things happen in a world that otherwise appears to be as we know it.  


Space Station Seventh Grade

By Jerry Spinelli,

Book cover of Space Station Seventh Grade

Why this book?

I read this book when I finishing an early draft of my own first novel and I was thoroughly impressed as well as a little intimidated by it. Having drummed up the courage to write my own coming-of-age novel after reading another YA novel that was popular at the time which I felt had clunky dialogue and narration, I was amazed at Spinelli's spot-on dialogue and crisp narration which captured the quirky and (sometimes) wonderful world of a 7th-grade narrator who was no longer a little kid but who hadn’t yet entered into young adulthood. It remains one of my favorites even today.


Autism in My Family: A Journal for Siblings of Children with ASD

By Sandra Tucker,

Book cover of Autism in My Family: A Journal for Siblings of Children with ASD

Why this book?

This book beautifully explores the challenge of living with an autistic sibling. Eight – 12-year-olds are invited to draw/write about their feelings and experiences on their own and/or with a parent or their special-needs sibling. The basics of autism are explained to help children understand why their sibling acts the way they do, increasing empathy, reducing frustration, and decreasing conflict. This is a gentle, normalizing, and ultimately empowering book geared to families living with autism but potentially useful to children with special-needs siblings of all stripes.


Alphonse, That Is Not Ok to Do!

By Daisy Hirst,

Book cover of Alphonse, That Is Not Ok to Do!

Why this book?

I would highly recommend any of Daisy Hirst’s books. To me Daisy Hirst’s books have both the ease and the force of natural phenomenon. They are like a gust of wind, rain, or sunshine. Immaculate expressions of the child’s experience. A seamless flow through the ordinary beauty of the surroundings, the thoughts and the emotions of the child. They represent the joy of creativity and play alongside the feelings of confusion, loneliness or guilt. Simply put, they are brilliant!


The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

By Karina Yan Glaser,

Book cover of The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

Why this book?

There are so many nice things we, as humans, can do for others. Especially people we know! It simply takes a little time and effort. In The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, Oliver and his siblings decide to grow a garden in an abandoned plot of land in Harlem, something his elderly neighbor “has been hinting at for years”. Before long, it’s not just the Vanderbeekers who are helping with the garden. And I dare you not to smile when the whole neighborhood sees it bloom. 


The War That Saved My Life

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,

Book cover of The War That Saved My Life

Why this book?

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s brilliant storytelling brought me into Ada’s world and made me root for her right from the start. I could feel the excruciating physical and emotional pain she experienced both at the hands of her abusive mother and from her clubfoot. She was prevented from ever leaving her apartment and interacting with anyone besides her younger brother Jamie. I cheered Ada on when she secretly taught herself to walk so she could escape London, and her mother, with Jamie as children were being evacuated by train to the English countryside to get away from the dangers of World War II. However, it was Ada’s relationship with Susan, the woman who is forced to take her and Jamie in when they arrive in the countryside and have nowhere to stay, that I found most powerful and moving. It showed that with patience, trust and mutual respect a bond can grow that can turn strangers into a loving family.


The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray

By E. Latimer,

Book cover of The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray

Why this book?

As a kid, I was always enthralled by the idea of paintings coming to life. Blame it on old Vincent Price movies and Scooby-Doo cartoons!  This book is clever and creepy, and at its heart, speaks to the power art has to change the world by unleashing truths we might not want to talk about. You may want to read some of this book with the lights on! (I did!)


The House at Riverton

By Kate Morton,

Book cover of The House at Riverton

Why this book?

Kate Morton is the penultimate professional at combining sweeping historical fiction and a mystery element. Any of her books are a delight, but I chose to showcase The House at Riverton because of its English aristocratic setting and the heavy mystery element. I adore Morton’s almost magical ability to successfully weave two or even three plotlines, all in different eras, into one tight story.  


The War I Finally Won

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,

Book cover of The War I Finally Won

Why this book?

The title offers an important hint that the focus isn’t solely on exterior events. In this sequel to The War That Saved My Life, World War II still rages across the English countryside, though Ada’s actually emotionally safer than she’d ever been when living with her mother. But memories of that time still give her terrible nightmares, and when a crisis makes her feel like they’re coming true, she discovers that there’s a big difference between fear and what you do with it. The horses, the lushly-depicted historical landscape, and a truly relatable and beautifully-wrought battle with the wars we carry inside make this a book I want to read over and over.


The Lost Man

By Jane Harper,

Book cover of The Lost Man

Why this book?

This is not a Young Adult book but it’s such a great crime book I’ve got to include it. Plus it’s set just over the ditch in Oz and it’s the perfect antidote after reading my book. In my book you’ll be drowned in the rain, in The Lost Man you get to bake in the hot, hot sun! I loved learning about life in rural Australia and, as farmers in New Zealand, how large sheep ranches are run there. I now want to visit!


Ottilie Colter and the Narroway Hunt, Volume 1

By Rhiannon Williams,

Book cover of Ottilie Colter and the Narroway Hunt, Volume 1

Why this book?

This wonderful (and danger-ridden) adventure starts by establishing a believable and endearing bond between siblings Ottilie and Gully—despite their grim life circumstances. The stakes are shot sky-high when Gully goes missing, and Ottilie risks life and limb to find him and get him back—only to discover a much more incredible (and terrifying) predicament that spans way beyond her small little (family-orientated) world. The mystery and tension driving Ottilie (and the story) are tight and addictive. And the world-building and dangers are delightful in the most imaginative (and scary) way. Secret organizations, dangerous hunts, blight-spreading monsters. And a scared but clever and determined girl who must disguise herself as a boy, to save the one she loves most. A well-worth read!


Hourglass

By Myra McEntire,

Book cover of Hourglass

Why this book?

I’ll be completely honest, Hourglass sat on my bookshelf for years. I kept pushing it off, and pushing it off, until one day I took the plunge and read it. Why did I wait so long?

I fell in love with the main character Emerson. While she was immature I had to remember her age and she does progress as the book goes on. Emerson has visions and has a hard time dealing with them like any girl would. Her caring brother hires Michael who promises he can help control these visions. The two don’t exactly hit it off right away, but their dynamic is hilarious. Their relationship was slow to build, my favorite kind. The author did an excellent job explaining how time travel works for Emerson. It wasn’t difficult to understand, but it was tricky and very unique. The slow-burn romance eventually builds and, well you’ll have to read it to find out what happens between the two.


Flowers in the Attic

By V.C. Andrews,

Book cover of Flowers in the Attic

Why this book?

This is a book about a mother who hides her children away from her new husband so that she can win an inheritance.

I read the book when I was at an age I believed all mothers loved their children selflessly so the story of a mother betraying her children traumatised me. I sobbed my way through it and recall my younger brother asking me why I just didn’t put the book down if it was making me so sad. It was a question to which to date I have no answer.  Although it was fiction because of the way it touched me, I learnt that sometimes greed can make people justify anything. 

I would recommend it for being very emotive! And if one needs a good cry.


Purple Hibiscus

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

Book cover of Purple Hibiscus

Why this book?

The main character Kambili helplessly suffers domestic abuse by her father who spares no one in the family. The bullying the family undergoes due to their tyrant father is heart-wrenching and a sadness stayed with me long after I closed the last page. The vivid writing made me feel as if I was at Kambili’s side watching helplessly as everyone imagined she had a perfect life. I recommend it for the descriptive writing, for anyone interested in coming of age stories, and if one wants to get a feel of an aspect of family life in Nigeria. Having grown up in Lusaka I could relate to the story. Because of the way the story ends, the lesson I took away is that if one is in an abusive marriage/relationship, forget tradition and societal values – get out fast!


The Wicked King

By Holly Black,

Book cover of The Wicked King

Why this book?

Holly Black is the queen of fairy tales, but not the happily ever after kind. The world building is lush, from the exotic fruits, foreign, but gorgeously detailed landscapes and lush parties with Fae royalty to the variety of magical creatures: Beautiful women with horns and cloven feet, princes with tails and kissable lips, and humans who find themselves immersed in the Fae games, which could very well result in life or death.

I could choose many of her books, but Wicked King is my absolute favorite. Yes, it’s the last book in a trilogy, and sometimes that is a letdown. Not true here. There is tension, passion, intrigue, and nonstop action all the way to the end, which I won’t spoil for you, but I will say left me completely satisfied.


Clockwork Princess: Volume 3

By Cassandra Clare,

Book cover of Clockwork Princess: Volume 3

Why this book?

Really, the entire Clockwork series by Cassandra Clare earns its place here. The love story between Tessa, Will, and Jem remains my absolute favorite because it’s honest in that you can love more than one person, even if you find that you’re having to choose between them. I don’t normally go in for love triangles, but in this one there was a delicate beauty to their story that I find myself going back to time and time again. Clockwork Princess sees the culmination of that love story and shows how each character has grown and been challenged by the love they have for one another. 


The Anti-Cool Girl

By Rosie Waterland,

Book cover of The Anti-Cool Girl

Why this book?

Rosie is one of Australia’s most compelling young writers. Her book came out at the same time as mine, so my wife read it straight after my book. Afterward, she picked up my book and said: “You really are just a middle-class whinger.” Ok, it was said with a smile, but she had a point. Rosie’s parents were so much worse than mine—jaw-droppingly awful—yet it’s brilliant how Rosie shrugs off any urge for self-pity.