A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner (1986)

majesty.jpgAlice is on the run!  Her father has just been murdered and she has no where to go and no idea who she can trust.  She’s pretty sure her father’s killers were sent by Queen Elizabeth I.  Can she find safety by pretending to be a choirboy at the Yorkshire Cathedral?

And what happens when the murders show up at that cathedral too?

Your heart will be racing until you read the very last page of A Murder for Her Majesty — and you will have learned a whole lot about Elizabeth the First and the Protestant Reformation!

Middle Grade Reading Level, 256 Pages, Historical Fiction, Published in 1986.

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The Lotus Caves by John Christopher (1969)

lotus.jpgThe Lotus Cave is another fun and exciting science fiction novel by British author, John Christopher — author of The Tripods series!

Steve and Marty live with their parents in a colony on the moon inside a massive dome.  One day they decide to skip school to escape the monotony.  But when their lunar vehicle crashes, they discover a previously unknown subterranean cave.  This mysterious cave contains exotic plants and a man who disappeared from their colony over 100 years ago!  What is going on??  And can they ever leave??

John Christopher’s novels are just FUN!  Not only does he create interesting scenarios and characters, but you’ll enjoy seeing which of his “futuristic” ideas imagined in the 1960’s exist (or not) 50 years after he published them.

Middle Grade Reading Level, 288 pages, Science Fiction, Published in 1969.


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Riding the Pony Express by Clyde Robert Bulla (1948)

pony.jpgIn a day when you can call or text just about anyone on the planet instantaneously, it’s fascinating to remember that back in 1860-1861 the fastest delivery service on the planet was the Pony Express.  In an effort to connect California with the East Coast, stations were set up across the country in 10 mile increments.  For the first time in history, a letter could cross the entire United States in just TEN DAYS.

Riding the Pony Express introduces this bygone era to young, modern readers.  Dick (the son of a Pony Express Rider), Katy (the daughter of a Pony Express station master) and Little Bear (a Native American boy) all find themselves caught up in the most exciting invention of their time and discover they can help keep get the mail delivered.

Riding the Pony Express was the first novel published by the well-loved author, Clyde Robert Bulla.

Early Grade Reading Level (many illustrations), 95 pages, Published 1948.

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Andy Buckram’s Tin Men by Carol Ryrie Brink (1966)

andy.jpgHave you ever googled a favorite author and discovered they’ve written TONS of other books you’ve never heard of??   I do this all the time, and it’s a wonderful way to find forgotten gems!  Happily with old libraries collections or Amazon.com, you can often find these lesser known titles without too much effort.

Carol Ryrie Brink is best known for her beloved young adult novels Caddie Woodlawn (Newbery Medal Winner in 1936 and one of my personal favorites!), Magical Melons and Baby Island, but she’s actually written more than 2 dozen titles.  For those who love her work, Andy Buckram’s Tin Men is another favorite.

Andy loves tin cans and finds endless uses for them, but when he reads in the newspaper and learns a California boy built an 11 foot robot, he can’t wait to try too!  Can he use lowly tin cans to tackle this exciting, but nearly impossible project?  A perfect story for readers who love tinkering and robots!

Middle Grade Reading Level, 192 pages, Published in 1966. 

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Gone-Away Lake & Return to Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (1957 & 1961)


Portia and Foster Blake spend part of every summer with their favorite cousin, Julian Jarman.  But this summer, Julian’s parents have purchased a new house in the country and this brings all kinds of new possibilities!

Imagine the children’s delight when they discover a deserted Victorian resort community nearby!  The once well-known lake is now only a small bog and the only inhabitants of this once vibrant community are an elderly brother and sister.  But these elderly siblings are more than happy to share their happy memories with the children and fuel their imaginations for adventures of their own.


never.jpgGone-Away Lake was a Newbery Medal Honor Winner in 1958 and is still consistently listed as one of the top 50 novels loved by young readers.

Don’t miss the sequel!  Return to Gone-Away Lake published in 1961.

Middle Grade Reading Level, 272 pages & 224 pages, Newbery Honor Book, published in 1957 & 1961.  

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The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh (1954)

sarah.jpgThe purported true story of seven-year-old Sarah Noble.

In 1707, Sarah and her father travel to the frontier of Connecticut to establish a homestead on property he has recently purchased.  Connecticut is wild country in those days, filled with animals and members of the Native American Schaghticoke tribe.  Sarah has heard frightening things about the Schaghticoke, but despite her many fears, she follows her mother’s counsel to “have courage”.

How will things turn out between the Native Americans and these new settlers?  This Newbery Honor Book is an interesting peek into the 1950’s view of relations between White settlers and native peoples in the early 1700s.

Many sensitive topics can be discussed when you read The Courage of Sarah Noble aloud with your child.

Advanced Early Grade reading level, 64 pages, Newbery Honor Book, Published in 1954.

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Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)

red.jpgMr Pierce, my 5th grade teacher,  read aloud to our class every day after lunch in our basement classroom at Garfield Elementary in Boise, Idaho.  It was a magical 30 minutes.  He probably read 8 books to us during that year, but the one I remember best was Where the Red Fern Grows.

Was there ever such a sweet (and heart-racing) story of a young boy and his two hunting dogs and the sacrifices they all make for each other?  I read this to my children years ago and began sobbing on the first page because I knew what was ahead!  We all LOVED IT!

I remember loving the 1974 film starring James Whitmore and Stuart Peterson.

Middle Grade Reading Level, 304 pages, Published in 1961.

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