2001: a Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark (1968)

2001.jpgI know that 2001 seems like ancient history now, but this sci-fi masterpiece is still worth reading!

Five astronauts are traveling to one of Saturn’s moons to unravel the mystery of an alien monolith suddenly discovered on our moon.  But what happens when the artificially intelligent computer decides to take over the mission, and begins making life and death decisions millions of miles from earth?

I remember when EVERYONE was reading the books by Arthur C. Clark back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but none got more buzz than 2001: a Space Odyssey!  One of my earliest memories of childhood was seeing the movie with my family at the theater — I didn’t understand it at all.  But I finally read the book years later in junior high and LOVED it.  In fact, I went on to read several Arthur C. Clark books and enjoyed them a great deal!

Don’t miss the sequel 2010: Odyssey Two.  Both books have excellent film adaptations.

Middle or High School Reading Level, 296 pages, published in 1968. 




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The Borrowed House by Hilda van Stockum (1975)

house.jpgJanna is an enthusiastic member of Hitler’s Youth, and she’s proud of the new ideas and military victories Adolf Hitler has brought to Germany.  Janna’s parents are famous German actors who have even been praised by Herr Hitler himself!  Janna’s young life is full of promise!

Janna has been living in the countryside with strangers, but is finally brought to Amsterdam to join her parents who are performing in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.  Her family lives together in a beautiful home and are surrounded by the rich and powerful of the city.  But little by little, Janna begins to learn the truth about Hitler and his war machine.  Now she has to decide what to do with her newfound knowledge.

The Borrowed House is very well-researched and appropriate for young readers.  It would make an excellent read-aloud.

Middle Grade Reading Level, 190 pages, published in 1975.  


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Julie of the Wolves Trilogy by Jean Craighead George (1972 – 1997)

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Julie of the Wolves, Middle Grade Reading Level, 176 pages, published in 1972.  Newbery Medal Winner.  Julie is an Eskimo girl who runs away from her village only to become lost in the wilderness.  By carefully observing a wild wolf pack, she is able to survive.  But can Julie ever return to her family and civilization after this life-changing experience?




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Julie, Middle Grade Reading Level, 226 pages, published in 1994.  Julie’s return to her Eskimo village is a traumatic one.  So much has changed while she’s been in the wilderness with her beloved wolf pack.  She finds that many of the old Eskimo ways are being abandoned in preference for Western ways.  Even her father is riding a snowmobile instead of a dog sled!  Can Julie adapt to these new ways too?  What will become of her wolves if she does?



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Julie’s Wolf Pack.  Middle Grade Reading Level, 226 pages, published in 1997.  This final volume of the Julie series takes us inside the lives of Julie’s wolves.  We follow Kapu, the new wolf pack leader, and his fight to protect the wolves he loves.  Kapu finds that leadership is both dangerous and lonely.  Every decision he makes determines who lives or dies within his pack.



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Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2000)

Winn.jpgKate DiCamillo is one of only six authors to win the Newbery Medal TWICE.  Although her very popular book, Because of Winn-Dixie, didn’t win the Medal, it is a Newbery Honor Book and well worth reading!

Opal and her father have just moved to a small Florida town.  Opal has very few acquaintances and no friends.  She also has many questions about her mother who ran off years ago.  Despite her challenges, Opal is a good little girl who tries very hard to be happy.  One day she rescues a mangey dog from being sent to the pound.  She names her new dog, Winn-Dixie, after the grocery store chain, and immediately Winn-Dixie begins to fill in all the lonely parts of Opal’s life and heart.

This is such a sweet story with some laugh out loud moments.  It makes a wonderful read aloud.  And don’t miss the film adaptation from 2005 starring a young AnnaSophia Robb and Jeff Daniels as her father.

Middle Grade Reading Level, 208 pages, Newbery Honor Book, Published in 2000.  


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Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories by Rosemary Wells (1998)


You may know Rosemary Wells from her well-known picture books about Max and Ruby, but she has also written and illustrated dozens of other books, both fiction and non-fiction.  Mary on Horseback is one of her better known non-fiction books.

Mary Breckinridge became a nurse during World War I, but she was not content to work in a large city hospital when she returned to the United States.  Instead she headed for the hills of Kentucky in the early 1920s, determined to bring modern medicine to the Appalachian Mountains.  Doctors were scarce and vaccines even more so.  But with determination and kindness, she established the Frontier Nursing Service and helped save hundreds of lives.

Mary on Horseback is written in three short separate stories:

  1.  John Hawkin’s father has crushed his leg in a work accident.  Amputation seems like the only option — until Mary Breckinridge arrives.
  2. Maggie, a nurse and recent immigrant, has the daunting task of helping Mary stamp out diphtheria in Kentucky.
  3. Pearl’s mother died in childbirth.  Can the nurses help Pearl learn to care for her infant, twin siblings and also find a better future for herself and her family?

Mary’s a true hero you’ve probably never heard of before!  It seems that a few historical figures get all the press, so it’s lovely to find a book about someone more obscure, but who really made a difference.

Early Middle Grade Reading Level, 64 pages, Published in 1998.

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Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly (1942)

17.jpgDespite the very up-to-date cover art of Seventeenth Summer, this sweet teenage romance was written over 70 years ago!

Angie is a good girl who helps around the house and weeds her mother’s garden.  It’s the summer before she leaves for college and life is lovely.  But then she meets Jack — also a good kid who works for his father’s bakery — and the summer of First Love begins.

If you or your teen need a little romance to read at the beach for Spring Break this year, here’s a great one!  No swearing, so Facebook, no cellphones.  Just charming teen angst.

Maureen Daly wrote Seventeenth Summer while in college at age 20.  It became an instant success and has its own cult-like following — it appears to have never been out of print.

Late Middle Grade Reading Level or High School Reading Level, 384 pages, Published in 1942.




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The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (1954)

wheel.jpgWhy are there no storks in Shora, The Netherlands?  The six young children living in this tiny village decide to figure out the answer, and how to bring the storks back!  But it’s not an easy task. . . and pretty soon the whole village needs to get involved!

Here’s a Newbery Medal winner that you don’t often hear about.  I read this to my children many, many years ago and although it has a slow pace, it was sweet and memorable, with some wonderful life lessons sewn in the linings.

My husband and I took a biking tour of the Netherlands back in 2013 and we saw many stork nests up on high stands in the middle of farm fields.  But never did we see a wheel on a school!  But since I had read The Wheel on the School years earlier to my children, I WAS looking!!

Meindert DeJong is also the author of The House of Sixty Fathers.

Middle Grade Reading Level, 320 pages, Newbery Medal Winner, Published in 1954.

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