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Staff Picks - Best Children's Novels for Adults

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All titles are shelved in the Children's Fiction section alphabetically by the author's last name.

Eight Cousins
by Louisa May Alcott   
Orphaned Rose Campbell finds it difficult to fit in when she goes to live with her six aunts and seven mischievous boy cousins. I so longed for a big family – Rose got one, I didn’t!

The Prydain Chronicles
by Lloyd Alexander
Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper to a famous oracular sow, sets out on a hazardous mission to save Prydain from the forces of evil. The first in a marvelous series. These books are much more readable than Tolkien’s.

Ozma of Oz
by L. Frank Baum       
My favorite of the Oz books, this includes a princess who can change her heads as per her whim and the Gnome King who transforms royal captives and Dorothy and her friends into interior decorations almost impossible to spot. And you can’t beat the lunch basket tree!

The Penderwicks series
by Jeanne Birdsall     
While vacationing with their widowed father in the Berkshire Mountains, four lovable sisters, ages four through twelve, share adventures with a local boy, much to the dismay of his snobbish mother. Loads of fun and old-fashioned in a really good way.

Freddy and the Ignormus
by Walter R. Brooks
Freddy the pig must summon all of his courage and detective skills when the chief suspect of a series of robberies on the Bean farm is a legendary beast from the Big Woods. Freddy thinks he’s an awfully bright pig but it becomes clear he’s not. Great old series.

by Andrew Clements   
When he decides to turn his fifth-grade teacher's love of the dictionary around on her, clever Nick Allen invents a new word and begins a chain of events that quickly moves beyond his control. Kid power rules!

The Wanderer                       
by Sharon Creech
Thirteen-year-old Sophie and her cousin Cody record their transatlantic crossing aboard the Wanderer, a forty-five foot sailboat, which, along with uncles and another cousin, is en route to visit their grandfather in England. The novel is written as a long, lyrical, lovely poem.

The Graveyard Book              
by Neil Gaiman 
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Reminiscent of Dickens and Dahl, Gaiman’s second book for children won the 2009 Newbery Medal. 

Dead End in Norvelt   
by Jack Gantos
In the historic town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, twelve-year-old Jack Gantos spends the  summer of 1962 grounded for various offenses until he is assigned to help an elderly neighbor with an unusual chore involving the newly dead, molten wax, twisted promises, Girl Scout cookies, underage driving, lessons from history, typewriting, and countless bloody noses. Hilarious. Won & deserved the 2012 Newbery Award.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
by Jack Gantos
To the constant disappointment of his mother and his teachers, Joey has trouble paying attention or controlling his mood swings when his prescription meds wear off and he starts getting worked up and acting wired.  Funnier than it sounds. Joey is one of children’s literature’s most endearingly flawed characters.

Nory Ryan’s Song     
by Patricia Reilly Giff
When a terrible blight attacks Ireland's potato crop in 1845, 12-year-old Nory Ryan's courage and ingenuity help her family and neighbors survive. Beautifully written and really makes you feel what the famine must have been like. The author based it on her grandmother’s life experiences.

The Music of Dolphins                     
by Karen Hesse
After rescuing an adolescent girl from the sea, researchers learn she has been raised by  dolphins and attempt to rehabilitate her to the human world. The author shows the girl’s learning of English via different sizes of typeface in the book. 

Out of the Dust                     
by Karen Hesse   
In a series of poems, fifteen-year-old Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family's wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression. With spare language and wonderful imagery, this book won the 1998 Newbery Medal award.

Just So Stories                       
by Rudyard Kipling 
Kipling’s gorgeous facility with language makes one want to read each richly told story aloud. Favorites included in this collection are “How the camel got his hump” and “The elephant's child”. Luscious.

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle 
Meg, brother Charles & friend Calvin, embark on a journey through space & time, when they set out to find Meg's father, a physicist who disappeared while experimenting with time travel.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
by Bette Bao Lord             
In 1947, a Chinese girl comes to Brooklyn where she becomes Americanized at school, in her apartment building, and by her love for baseball. It’s nice to have a baseball novel for girls.

The Giver           
by Lois Lowry 
Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives. This haunting dystopian novel won the 1994 Newbery Medal. What do you think the ending means? Read the sequels to find out.

Number the Stars     
by Lois Lowry   
In 1943, during the German occupation of Denmark, ten-year-old Annemarie learns how to be brave and courageous when she helps shelter her Jewish friend from the Nazis. Lowry won her first Newbery Medal with this book in 1990.

The Princess and the Goblin         
by George MacDonald       
A little princess is protected by her friend Curdie and her newly-discovered great-great-grandmother from the goblin miners who live in caves beneath the royal castle. Originally published in 1872, this is soothingly old-fashioned but very readable.

Saffy’s Angel            
by Hilary Mackay   
After learning that she was adopted, thirteen-year-old Saffron's relationship with her eccentric, artistic family changes, until they help her go back to Italy where she was born to find a special memento of her past. 1ST book in a wonderful series.

The Higher Power of Lucky 
by Susan Patron
Fearing that her legal guardian plans to abandon her to return to France, ten-year-old aspiring scientist Lucky Trimble determines to run away while also continuing to seek the Higher Power that will bring stability to her life. Lucky is a character you won’t soon forget.  

A Year Down Yonder           
by Richard Peck
During the recession of 1937, fifteen-year-old Mary Alice is sent to live with her feisty,  larger-than-life grandmother in rural Illinois and comes to a better understanding of this fearsome woman. I guarantee you will laugh non-stop with this 2001 Newbery Award winner.

Criss Cross                 
by Lynne Rae Perkins
Teenagers in a small town in the 1960s experience new thoughts and feelings, question their identities, connect, and disconnect as they search for the meaning of life and love. This is one of those rare multiple-perspective stories where each voice is individually distinct. Won the Newbery in 2006.

by Louis Sachar         
As further evidence of his family's bad fortune which they attribute to a curse on a distant relative, Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hellish correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself. In my opinion this is probably the most perfectly constructed contribution to children’s literature in the twentieth century.

The Cricket in Times Square
by George Selden
Chester the cricket arrives at a Times Square newsstand where he makes friends with a boy, a cat, and a mouse. Re-reading this is like visiting a bunch of old friends, many of whom just happen to be animals.

A Series of Unfortunate Events               
by Lemony Snicket           
After the sudden death of their parents, the three Baudelaire children must depend on each other and their wits when it turns out that the distant relative who is appointed their guardian is determined to use any means necessary to get their fortune. There are an (unlucky) 13 books in this hilariously glum series.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond                   
by Elizabeth George Speare       
Kit Tyler must leave behind shimmering Caribbean islands to join the stern Puritan community of her relatives. She soon feels caged, until she meets the old woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond. But when their friendship is discovered, Kit herself is accused of witchcraft! Wonderful characters bring the Salem Witch Trials to life.

All of a Kind Family series   
by Sydney Taylor
The adventures of five sisters growing up in a Jewish family in New York in the early twentieth century. When I read these as a child I didn’t know what chickpeas were so when they bought them in newspaper cones and heavily peppered them, that was how I ate my peas. (still do even though I’m not fond of pepper).

The Sammy Keyes mystery series       
by Wendelin Van Draanen         
Thirteen-year-old Sammy's penchant for speaking her mind gets her in trouble when she involves herself in the investigation of a number of wonderful mysteries. Sammy is an unforgettable character. 

Homeless Bird                       
by Gloria Whelan       
When thirteen-year-old Koly enters into an ill-fated arranged marriage, she must either suffer a destiny dictated by India's tradition or find the courage to oppose it. A real eye-opener.

The Castle in the Attic
by Elizabeth Winthrop
Twelve-year-old William uses the magic token to return, through the toy castle in his attic, to the medieval land of Sir Simon, which is now menaced by a skeleton ship bearing a plague of ravenous rats.

Dealing With Dragons             
by Patricia Wrede
Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart. . . . And bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon . . . and finds the family and excitement she's been looking for. This is the first book in the series. Girl power all the way.

The Dollhouse Murders
by Betty Ren Wright
A dollhouse filled with a ghostly light in the middle of the night, and dolls that have moved from where she last left them, lead Amy and her mentally handicapped sister to unravel the mystery surrounding grisly murders that took place years ago. A lot of baby boomers remember this genuinely scary book.