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All Library branches will be closed and the Mobile Library will not make its scheduled stops on Monday, July 4.



Great Reads from the Past








Have you entered the Library Bingo challenge? Library Bingo runs through February 15 and provides activities that encourage kids from pre-readers to teens to stretch their reading muscles. Visit any library branch or Mobile Library to pick up the form, or download one here. You’ll find lots of booklists on the Kids and Teens web pages to get you started. 

One of the activities that might provide an added challenge for kids ages 9 through 14 is to “Read a book that’s older than you are.”  Frequently, established readers get caught up in reading just one genre or author, and more often than not, stick with recently published titles. Librarians know there are awesome reads that get lost in the book stacks because they were published before the reader was born, didn’t win an award or aren’t recommended by a parent or teacher. Fortunately, recommending riveting and exciting literature that kids will connect with is right up our alley!

Each of the recommended titles in the article includes a link to the Library catalog for the print format that you can place a hold for. Hop down to the booklist below the article to find links to print, audio and digital formats for each recommended title. If you read any of these recommendations from our bright and bookish youth services staff, please email us at and let us know what you thought! 

Jeannine at the Schweitzer Brentwood Branch recommends The Willoughby’s by Lois Lowry, published in 2008.  If you're a fan of dark humor, this book is for you! The four Willoughby siblings don't like their parents and their parents don't like them either (cue disbelieving gasp!). In this parody of sweeter, old-fashioned stories like Mary Poppins, Lowry turns the idyllic story of a loving family upside down in this smart and hilarious adventure about the evil ideas and plans that pit the children against their parents and vice versa. The book is also accompanied by a satirical glossary and bibliography to reference during or after completing the book. This over-the-top fun book will appeal to both kids and adults who love a good and clever laugh and new vocabulary and is recommended for fans of The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Mayrose Wood. It is also the basis of a new animated film on Netflix. The Willoughby’s is also available as an e-book on Hoopla.

Kate at the Strafford Branch Library loves Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, published in 2008, and highly recommends you listen to the author narrating the book. Fortunately, the Library has this award-winning title in multiple formats. You can also find the e-book and digital audiobook versions on Hoopla. Kate encourages the book to fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and The Witches by Roald Dahl, and shares this summary: “As a baby, Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens is adopted and raised by ghosts in a nearby graveyard after a family tragedy strikes. Bod learns life lessons and hard truths while living among the wide variety of spirits, but he also discovers more about the mystery of who ripped his family apart and the terrors of ghouls, man-eating creatures that threaten Bod’s world. I love this book because it is spooky and will make you want to leave the light on, but it also makes you love and appreciate found families. It isn’t every day that you read a book about ghosts as caretakers, but Neil Gaiman does it beautifully. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it introduced me to one of my favorite authors!”

Lots of our active young readers who visit the Library Center know Sarah, who loves to recommend new genres and titles for them to try. Here a handful of her favorites. For readers who may want to dip their toes into the thrill of reading horror, Sarah recommends A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, published in 2010: “Think you know your fairy tales? Adam Gidwitz dives into the darker tales, the original Grimm tales, with this series starter that tells the story of what really happened to Hansel and Gretel. Don't let the horror or YA label throw you off! The horror is on par with what you'd  find in Coraline or the Goosebumps series, and the book will work for readers in grades 5 and up. The author is very clever and warns readers if something spooky is about to happen, but take it from the biggest chicken at the Library, it's not so bad! The way the stories connect is fun to uncover and after reading the first page I have a feeling you'll want to keep going!”

Readers in grades 5 and up may also enjoy The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, 1996. When asked to describe the first book in this adventurous series, Sarah stated, “I can't give too much away because that ruins the fun of discovering it yourself. But I will tell you that the story is about Gen, a thief of great renown, who is tasked with stealing an ancient and legendary object. Can he do it? Will he be caught? And whose side is Gen on? The finale of this series released in late 2020 and it's been twenty years in the making! If you're looking for a great family read-aloud for tween readers, try listening to The Thief digital audiobook, which is narrated by the fantastic Steve West.  Sarah recommends the Queen’s Thief series for readers who enjoyed The False Prince or love to read books with lots of twists and turns. The entire series is available as e-books on Hoopla.

Sarah frequently recommends Sharon Draper’s Out of my Mind, 2010, to younger readers who loved Wonder. “This book is incredibly thought-provoking and I also found the storyline and characters to be more realistic when talking about diverse abilities. Melody has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak. But when she is given a computer to help her communicate, she feels as though she can finally fit in with her classmates. Told with a lot of heart and humor, this is a great book for kids and parents to share together and talk about, and it might just open your eyes to see the world in a new way.”

For readers who like to laugh and enjoy magical tales, try Half Magic by Edward Eager, originally published in 1954. This very silly story involves magic, wishes and wild adventures. What would you wish for if you were granted a magic wish? What would happen if your magic wish only covered half of what you wished for? You might wish to travel somewhere, but the half magic would only take you halfway there. You'd have to be careful with your wishes and be very thoughtful in the adventures you embark upon with your newfound half magic! Fans will be delighted to know there are several additional titles in the Tales of Magic series, and they are available as e-books on Hoopla.

For fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson looking for an infusion of humor, Sarah recommends Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson and originally published in 2007, as a great combination of silliness mixed with magic and fantasy. Alcatraz Smedry is always breaking things. He's not even sure how he does it and his strange habit of everything falling apart keeps the orphaned Alcatraz moving from home to home. But on his thirteenth birthday his grandfather shows up and explains that as a Semdry, breaking things is his talent! His grandfather has a talent for being late and his uncle trips over things. It's these unusual Smedry talents that are going to help Alcatraz save the world from the Evil Librarians. Wondering if Sarah is an evil librarian? She'll never tell … but she will tell you that this book is lots of fun! The digital audiobook is available on Hoopla.

Phyllis at the Library Station also has lots of recommendations for kids who love adventure, magic and fantasy. One of her favorites to recommend is The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, 2010, and the first book in the Kane Chronicles series. Everyone knows who Percy Jackson is, but fewer readers know Carter and Sadie Kane! Phyllis loves the Kane family chronicles because it introduces kids to Egyptian mythology, stars bi-racial twin protagonists, and features a first chapter that grabs kids and never lets go. The hysterical way the twins poke fun at each other is the frosting on the cake! Readers who prefer graphic novels will love Riordan’s adaptations of the series. The full series is also available as e-books on Hoopla.

When fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter are pining for similar adventures, Phyllis hands them The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, 2007, the first book in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. The series is a masterwork of folk motifs from different cultures mixed with magic, danger and a battle of good vs. evil. 

Many children have watched the movie, but viewers may not have read How to Train Your Dragon, 2004. For the best experience, Phyllis recommends families listen to Cressida Cowell’s entire series narrated by the amazing David Tennant in his Scottish brogue.

 Children who approach Phyllis wanting a “feel-good” read are handed 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, 2009. In fact, she recommends every 11 year old read 11 Birthdays! The story centers around Amanda and Leo, who have literally spent every birthday together since they were born. On their 10th birthday, Amanda overhears him say something that she cannot forgive, so she pulls away from their friendship.  Now they are about to both turn 11, and Amanda finds herself living the same day over and over again, just like the movie Groundhog's Day! The digital audiobook is available on Hoopla.

Megan at the Republic Branch Library recommends Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, 2004, to readers who love the Chronicles of Narnia, Warrior Cats Saga, The Unwanteds, Percy Jackson and The City of Ember. “Gregor and his sister, Boots, fall underground to discover a world on the brink of war. Humans and giant, talking animals must choose sides. All Gregor wants is to protect his sister, but the Underlanders have other plans. This is the first title in the Underland Chronicles, a fast-paced series filled with strong friendships, heroism, and lots of action; even though bad things happen, there’s always some lightheartedness to brighten the darkness around the characters.”

Ashley at the Midtown Carnegie Branch has magical memories of the time she read The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop, 1985. “I haven't touched this book since I last checked it out from my elementary school library over thirty years ago, and seeing the castle map on the inset again brought back a flood of memories that makes me think I read it more than a few times. William receives a miniature castle with resident leaden knight as a going away present from his beloved nanny. The first time he picks up the knight he's surprised to find it squirms to life, and the next few days are spent learning the knight's enchanted story and bringing him tiny meals from the kitchen. Adventure follows, as William finds himself on a quest in the knight's medieval kingdom. I loved the descriptions of the castle and reading about how William finds himself to be more resourceful and courageous than he expected. Kids that like castles, fantasy, chivalry and stories of courage and adventure will enjoy the fantasy.”

The Watson’s Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis is in Cathy’s top three favorite books, so she frequently recommends it to kids who visit the Library Station looking for something to read. She notes that even though the book, published in 1995, won literary awards, many children are not familiar with it. She loves this book because the first part is full of laugh-out-loud family situations. Since the second half of the book is set in Birmingham during the tragic summer of 1963, Cathy warns readers that it can be shocking in it's abruptness and violence. As Curtis’ characters are so real and relatable, Cathy finds that kids want to learn more about this time in history after reading his book.

Jeannie at the Library Center has fond memories of reading Judy Blume’s Fudge series, starting with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, first published in 1972. “Judy Blume is still one of my favorite authors and I love the Fudge books because of their hilarious, sometimes crazy but still believable, stories about Peter and his little brother Fudge. They were my segue into the writings of Judy Blume, who provided me with excellent literary escapes all the way through my high school years.

 I returned to them often because they made me laugh and, let's face it, middle school is hard. Peter is not just dealing with the difficulties of being a fourth grader and having fourth grade relationships, he's also constantly on the defensive at home. Little Fudge can't seem to stay out of Peter's things and stop causing trouble, even at one point mistaking Peter's tiny pet turtle for a culinary delight. Poor Dribble.” Jeannie recommends this series as perfect for family read-alouds for parents with a mix of younger and older children.

 Finally, Iggi at the Republic Branch Library wants to point readers moving from middle grade to teen novels to Wild Magic, published in 1992. Written by Tamora Pierce, this light, exciting fantasy centers around Diane, a 13-year-old girl who has to learn to master her magic that lets her talk to animals and maybe even transform into them. Readers who enjoy fantasy series will be happy to learn this is the first book in the Immortals series, which consists of four titles. Iggi recommends this especially for fans of Eragon. Wild Magic is also available as a full-cast digital audiobook on Hoopla.

 Use this booklist to find all the formats of the recommended books listed in this article.

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
After celebrating their first nine same-day birthdays together, Amanda and Leo, having fallen out on their tenth and not speaking to each other for the last year, prepare to celebrate their eleventh birthday separately but peculiar things begin to happen as the day of their birthday begins to repeat itself over and over again.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Follows Hansel and Gretel as they walk out of their own story and into eight more tales, encountering such wicked creatures as witches, along with kindly strangers and other helpful folk. Based in part on the Grimms' fairy tales Faithful Johannes, Hansel and Gretel, The seven ravens, Brother and sister, The robber bridegroom, and The devil and his three golden hairs.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand which is immediately stolen by the evil Librarians who are trying to take over the world, and Alcatraz is introduced to his grandfather and his own special talent, and told that he must use it to save civilization.

Half Magic by Edward Eager
Faced with a dull summer in the city, Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha suddenly find themselves involved in a series of extraordinary adventures after Jane discovers an ordinary-looking coin that seems to grant wishes.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is a truly extraordinary Viking hero known throughout Vikingdom as "the Dragon Whisperer", but it wasn't always so.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Considered by many to be mentally retarded, a brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Life with his little brother, Fudge, makes Peter Hatcher feel like a fourth grade nothing. Whether Fudge is throwing a temper tantrum in a shoe store, smearing mashed potatoes on the walls at Hamburger Heaven, or trying to fly, he's never far from trouble. He's an almost three-year-old terror who gets away with everything, and Peter's had it up to here! Lexile 470

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
While working at pleasant but mundane summer jobs in San Francisco, fifteen-year-old twins, Sophie and Josh, suddenly find themselves caught up in the deadly, centuries-old struggle between rival alchemists, Nicholas Flamel and John Dee, over the possession of an ancient and powerful book holding the secret formulas for alchemy and everlasting life.

The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop
A gift of a toy castle, complete with silver knight, introduces William to an adventure involving magic and a personal quest.

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.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
After their father's research experiment at the British Museum unleashes the Egyptian god Set, Carter and Sadie Kane embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest which brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Gen flaunts his ingenuity as a thief and relishes the adventure which takes him to a remote temple of the gods where he will attempt to steal a precious stone.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
In this tongue-in-cheek take on classic themes in children's literature, the four Willoughby children set about to become "deserving orphans" after their neglectful parents embark on a treacherous around-the-world adventure, leaving them in the care of an odious nanny.

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
The mage Numair, the knight Alanna, and Queen Thayet enlist thirteen-year-old Daine's help to battle the dreadful immortal creatures that have recently begun to attack the kingdom of Tortall.