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320 books met your specifications:

TitleAuthorConceptual difficulty ageVocabulary difficulty ageGenreYear of publication

1776David McCulloughChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upnon-fiction 
 Sometimes, I'll be reading a novel and get to some worrisome plot twist. The characters I've come to love are in jeopardy, and -- the tension is too great for me. I put the book down and call someone I trust who can reassure me that I should keep on reading anyway. Sometimes, they don't reassure me. "Yeah, that book is simply not worth the time." So then I go read something else.

When I chose to read 1776, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to have to worry about the plot. After all, here we all are seven years after 9-11. Or, most of us at least...

Obviously, I remembered that there had been an American Revolution, which was a war. And that people fought and died to create our nation. But the number 1776 had always had very positive associations for me. Declaration of Independence. "Give me liberty or give me death." Etc. etc.

I tried to persuade my very sensitive 13 year old to read 1776 with me. "I think it might be pretty depressing," she said. She was right. Depressing. Harrowing in fact. But well worth reading.

And come to think of it, on this the seventh anniversary of 9-11, I'm not actually certain that the American Story has a happy ending. That we are actively dealing with the very Real Problems we Americans face. Reality is harrowing. Still. And needs to be faced even when there is a woman who shoots moose from airplanes and arbitrarily fires those who cross her running for election as vice president of the United States.
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Adam of the RoadElizabeth Gray ViningChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical, medieval1942
 Eleven year old boy walks the roads of medieval England searching for his father and his dog. Newbery award winner
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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, TheMark TwainChildren 12 and upSophisticated readersfiction1884
 When i started this book i had to get used to the language and it went along rather slowly, but as i continued to read it, I sped up and by the end i was very satisfied.

Huck Finn describes a historical period (it's set during times of slavery) and i found it very interesting to be in the mind of a boy struggling with the moral problems of setting a slave free.

--Fizzy, age 14


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Agony and the Ecstasy, The: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo Irving StoneSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upFiction, biography1961
 Reading this novelized biography of Michelangelo just now, after so recently reading the non-fictionalized Dancing To the Precipice was probably a mistake.

I did read The Agony and the Ecstasy to the end and found it mostly interesting, but -- so many unexplained wars, duplicate names, minor characters, changes of venue. Seems to me if you are going to fictionalize, you might want to streamline. If there are three characters named Ludovico, maybe rename one to be Vico?

I did learn a lot of facts, or at least I think they were facts, about Michelangelo's life and the history of the Papacy and the Italian city states. What I did not learn, and missed, was a bit more of an explanation about why this talented, obsessed artist allowed himself to be so taken advantage of? And why did the patrons who claimed to admire him so much abuse his gifts rather than help nurture them? I understand that they might need to use their enormous wealth to pay their armies, but -- Why the law suits? Why did so many popes ask the impossible when they clearly wanted Michelangelo to do great work for them?
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Al Capone Does My ShirtsGennifer CholdenkoChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, autism2004
 Some books are of their times. This book takes place at Alcatraz prison in the 1930s but is very much a reflection of contemporary culture.

The first-person narrator is a boy whose family moves to Alcatraz so that his sister may apply to a school for autistic children near San Francisco.

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Almost HeavenMarianne WigginsFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1999
 Intense story about how ordinary people cope (or fail to cope) with witnessing horrors, both natural and man-made.

-- Emily Berk


Amateur Marriage, TheAnne TylerFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, historical2004
 Thing is, most marriages in the USA are "amateur", aren't they? In fact, most decisions made by anyone, especially in his or her personal life, are going to be made amateurly, and some better than others. And just because a decision is sudden, that does not always mean that it was wrong.
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Among SchoolchildrenTracy KidderSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upNon-fiction1990
 My first comment on this book read: "So far I am really captivated by this book, which is interesting because I didn't really expect to like it so much..."

This feeling lasted for the entire book. The writing style pulled me in so much that the story didn't even matter, although it is really cool as well. Kidder basically shadowed a fifth grade class in a poor, rundown, public school for an entire school year and wrote about the experience.


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Amulet of Samarkand, The (Book One of the Bartimaeus Trilogy)Jonathan StroudChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2003
 CAUTION:

This wonderful trilogy features characters with whom the reader will fall in love, and significant violence that has predictable consequences. Please, before recommending this first volume to a sensitive young reader, either read the whole trilogy or read our reviews of book two and, especially, book 3.

Sardonic musings of a demon summoned by an academically under-challenged 12 year old apprentice wizard.
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An American ChildhoodAnnie DillardChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upnon-fiction1988
 Annie Dillard aims her clear scientist's eyes and the evocative Voice of the Pilgrim At Tinker Creek at the lives of upper class families with children in Pittsburgh, PA in the fifties. She reveals a great deal about Pittsburgh; and just about nothing about herself.
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Anansi Boys, TheNeil GaimanFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2005
 Fairy tale for us grumps about two sons of Anansi, the Spider God.
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Anastasia AgainLois LowryChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1979
 Anastasia is now 12, has a 2 year old, precocious brother, and has moved to the suburbs.
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Anastasia KrupnikLois LowryChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1979
 "Mom," my daughter said to me, in response to a very bad joke I told her. "Anastasia Krupnik is funny. Anastasia Again is funny too. That joke was not."
Life and loves of a ten year old aspiring poetess.

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Angle of ReposeWallace Earle StegnerSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1971
 Elderly historian recreates the story of his grandmother's life in the American West.
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Angus and the DucksMarjorie FlackChildren 5 and underChildren 5 and underfiction1930
 Doesn't rhyme so harder to memorize; funny; cool pictures; not cutesy; some pretty hard words keep it interesting
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At the Back of the North WindGeorge MacDonaldSophisticated readersChildren 8 and upfiction, fairy tale1871
 A child flirts with Death.
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Atlas Shrugged Ayn RandChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction1957
 Not well written, which is not exactly beside the point, given the topic.
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Awakening and Selected Stories, TheKate ChopinFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1899
 Hard to believe that these stories were written more than a century ago. Although they are firmly rooted in the bayous of Lousisiana just before the turn of the 20th century, the women in these stories face choices heartrendingly similar to those of women today.
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Bat Poet, TheRandall JarrelChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1997
 Kind of like "Are you my mother?" but with an artistic consciousness. Encourage your children to read this before they get too mature. A lovely simple story of a Poet and yes, he does happen to be a bat, who is looking for his Audience.
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BeastDonna Jo NapoliChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfairy tale2000
 Beast is the story of how Beast (from the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast) got to be who he was in the original story. It is based in Persia, and Beast starts out as Prince Orasmyn.

I enjoyed reading this book very much, for many reasons. One is because at first I was very confused about how Persia, Prince Orasmyn, and all the other things had to do with Beauty and The Beast at all, but it ended up making perfect sense, with the same happy ending and everything. I also thought that it was very cool how the Beast used lots of real Persian words in the story.


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Beautiful Mind, A: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash Sylvia NasarFor grown-ups Children 12 and upNon-fiction, biography1998
 Biography of the brilliant mathematician, John Nash.
"How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?" the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner.

"Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did," came the answer. "So I took them seriously."

In this workmanlike biography of the brilliant mathematician John Nash, Sylvia Nasar, a journalist, describes Nash's pioneering early mathematical discoveries, his decent into madness, and his eventual recovery and receipt of a Nobel Prize in Economics.
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Below the RootZilpha Keatly SnyderSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upDystopian/religious1975
 Issues sometimes arise for gifted readers who become infatuated with books written by authors who write for both adults and children and/or with books that are in series that are unevenly targeted. Below the Root, which is a book my 9 yr. old adored, is a prime example.

Because she reacts very poorly to unhappy endings, we had decided to recommend against her reading certain novels. So, for example, after significant discussion, we decided that Lois Lowry's The Giver was too intense for her, for now at least.

But she had loved Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Egypt Game, and the illustration (by Alton Raible) on the back cover of Below the Root made us yearn to read the book, even though our resident teenager warned against it.

So we decided to read Below the Root together.


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Big If, TheMark CostelloFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction2003
 Authors of novels like to think that they create civilizations using words alone. And so do computer programmers.

In The Big If, secret service people guarding the Vice President of the United States do the same. Could it be that everyone does this to survive. (Except maybe not everyone is self-aware enough to know they are doing it.)
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Big Wave, ThePearl S. BuckSophisticated readersChildren 8 and upfiction1947
 Two Japanese boys survive a tidal wave.

Living as we do near the coast, I was surprised that it took my ten year old more than a week to react to the recent devastating tsunamis.

Last night, finally, she began to take the tsunamis very personally. "We live at the top of a high hill," she said. "So I'm not worried about what would happen if I were here and the tsunami hit. But, my school is much closer to sea level. What would we do if the tsunami hit when we were at school?"

Run uphill, I told her. Run fast. What else should I have said?

Today, I paid a visit to my daughter's school. I asked them whether they would be notified if a tsunami were detected. I asked what the procedures would be in case that sort of a warning is issued. I suggested that everyone at the school get together to discuss what the plan would be.


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Black and Blue MagicZilpha Keatly SnyderChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1966
 Twelve-year old boy learns to use and appreciate his gifts.
A soothsayer once told Harry that his was "... a rare gift, and his magic will be of a special kind."
Now, many years later, it is summer in San Francisco. It's possible that Harry has heard that same voice intone the words "The air is absolutely heavy with possibilities." Or maybe he dreamed them.
Because he performed a good deed, twelve-year old Harry (interesting name, isn't it? -- my daughter thought so!) receives a gift. As such gifts often do, this one is bestowed with limitations. Harry must never be caught displaying the gift "publicly" lest the giver of the gift be harmed.

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Blue Girl, TheCharles de Lint Sophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction 
 This is a book that can be placed under the category of "Urban Fantasy" : fairies and other fantasy creatures running around modern day cities...

Picked this up as a quick read. Not gripping per say, but interesting.


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Boggart, TheSusan CooperChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 After reading The Dark Is Rising, I never would have imagined that Susan Cooper was capable of writing a book in which all characters are not either entirely good or entirely evil. And yet, here we meet the Boggart, an Old Thing, whose purpose in the world is to play tricks on people. He never intentionally harms anyone, but he almost always acts impulsively and many of his actions result in chaos at best.

Accidentally exiled from his castle in Scotland, the poor Boggart discovers peanut butter and that playing around with electricity and streetcars in modern-day Toronto can lead to dire (unintended) consequences.

Even the gifts the Boggart bestows on his hosts, ten-year old computer nerd Jessup and his twelve-year old sister, Emily, cause terrific problems.


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Book of RuthJane HamiltonFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1989
 "What did Cinderella's mother die of?," my daughter asked me, when she was 4. I myself had never troubled to think about this. But I came to realize that, in stories for children, from fairy tales to adventures to Walt Disney musicals, the mothers' presence is usually notable for its absence. Their deaths are required so that plots can unfold.

And yet, I have recently come across a few novels that consider thoughtfully the role(s) a mother may play in her daughter's future. In the two grimmest, White Oleander and The Book of Ruth, the power of the mothers to destroy their daughters despite great distance, time, and, in the case of White Oleander, despite tall prison walls, is absolute. The sorrows of mothers, say Janet Fitch and Jane Hamilton, are visited on their daughters.

...

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Book Thief, TheMarkus ZusakSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upFiction2007
 Good book. About a girl during the Holocaust, but on the side we don't usually hear: She is German, but suffering as well. In the very beginning of the book Liesel's brother dies, and she is shipped off to live with "scary" foster parents. And by the middle her family is trying to keep a Jew hidden, and still "Heil Hitler" everyone they see.
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Books for parents of gifted childrenDiverseFor grown-ups For grown-ups Non-fiction 
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Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the WorldMichael PollanChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upnon-fiction2006
 Elegant essays about the symbiotic relationship between certain plants and humans. The discussions about the way tulips and potatoes changed human history ought to change the way any reader thinks about gardens and commercial agriculture.
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Box Full of Matches, A Nicholson BakerSophisticated readersSophisticated readersFiction2003
 One of the best books "about nothing" that we've ever come across.
A gentle family man describes his philosophy of life in a diary format.

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Bull RunPaul FleischmanChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1993
 A review by a 10 year old reader...

Bull Run is written weirdly. There are sixteen people's stories of the first battle of the civil war. The story switches from one person to the next for the whole book.


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Carpet Makers, The Andreas EschbachSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upScience Fiction2005
 One of the most seriously weird science fiction books of all time. And it's a pretty interesting one too. About a society whose culture and economy are based solely on the life-consuming creation of carpets made from hair.
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Cart and CwidderDiana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 There are just a few authors that my 12 year old and I trust implicitly.

After having raced through umpteen of her novels, we may have placed Diana Wynne Jones in that category. Sure, The Magicians of Caprona was kind of stupid.... But if you locked us in a library, with a short deadline in which to emerge with a book we were willing to read, it might very well be one by Diana Wynne Jones.

Cart and Cwidder is a light-weight but enjoyable and typical Diana Wynne Jones offering. There is the standard DWJ mother -- self-involved and mostly oblivious to even the most obvious danger to her children. There are the children whose future depends on their learning to take advantage of their gifts, innate and physical. In this case, the gifts are their ability to entertain, spin tales, and play the musical instruments left to them by their murdered father.
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Catch-22Joseph HellerSophisticated readersSophisticated readersFiction1961
 Comedy about why war is not funny.
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Catcher in the Rye, The JD SalingerSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction1951
 Not a fat book, but required reading for all teenagers who become frustrated with pretention. My brother's favorite teenage angst novel.
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Catching FireSuzanne CollinsSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2009
 I am not a fan of cliffhangers. I knew this one would be, and went to order the next one from the library and discovered that it will not be published for a WHOLE YEAR! Anyway, I liked this one more than the first one. It had less scene by scene explanations of the horrible deaths of contestants entered in The Hunger Games.
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Charlotte's WebE.B. WhiteChildren 8 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1952
 Updated Sept. 11, 2006:

My then-10 year old daughter fixed her eyes on me, eyes that implied that she'd just realized that a Truth had been withheld from her, and she was going to get to the bottom of it.

"So, Mom," she said, "It seems as if what a fiction book is about is not really what it's about. Is it?"

"Hmmm," I answered. "What you mean is that a story is not just about its plot. Sometimes, often, in fact, a story has a message and the message is conveyed by the plot, but also by the author's choices of words. The message is sometimes called the theme of the book. It's what the author wants you to learn from reading the book. It's why authors go to all the trouble of writing books."

Which brings us to Charlotte's Web. Charlotte's Web has long been a favorite of mine and my daughter enjoyed listening to it for a year or two when she was very young. But when dear daughter (dd) was around four, her best friend was diagnosed with a disease that was, at the time, almost always fatal. We happened at the time to be listening to the audio book version of Charlotte's Web as read by the author, E.B. White. So, there we are in the car, listening, and dd asks, "Is L. going to die?" I turn the tape player off and answer that I don't know. Dd says "I don't like Charlotte's Web. And what did Cinderella's mother die of?"

I explain that in those times long ago, nearly everyone was more likely to die but that women of childbearing age were particularly at risk. Dd asked, "So, are you going to die? Am I going to die?" ....

For years after that conversation, dd did not willingly read or listen to Charlotte's Web. I believe that this is because, more than any other children's book that I have read, Charlotte's Web is about death as a normal consequence of living. And, no, I'm not saying that children/people never die in books, but they die romantically as in At the Back Of the North Wind or they die unexpectedly young at the hands of Evil Doers or they die off-screen, like Cinderella's mother. (Dd's friend lives and thrives, thank goodness.)

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Cheaper By the DozenFrank B. GilbrethChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upnon-fiction1948
 
Skipping grades in school was part of Dad's master plan. There was no need, he said, for his children to be held back by a school system geared for children of simply average parents.

Dad made periodic surprise visits to our schools to find out if and when we were ready to skip. Because of his home-training program -- spelling games, geography quizzes, and the arithmetic and languages -- we sometimes were prepared to skip.

... The standard reward for skipping was a new bicycle.
My 12 year old loved almost everything about this true story about how a couple of pioneering efficiency experts raised their 12 children. Except the ending.

Although I tried to warn her about the ending by pointing out some of the foreshadowing and emphasizing that this is a true story, she was pretty much devastated by it.


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Children's Book, TheA.S. ByattFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2009
 There are so many intertwining, involving stories in The Children's Book that it was sometimes hard to slow down and remember that great novels are not entirely about what they are about.

Set in the time leading up to World War I and before women's sufferage, the plot tells of a group of families and their associates and friends. There is a destitute young boy who is nurtured to become the artist he deserves to be. There are the young women who, lacking the vote and receiving conflicting messages about how to behave socially and politically, pay terrible prices. The subplots about how various characters resolve their needs to express themselves politically, even when expressing their opinions may adversely affect those they love should be required reading for anyone thinking of a career in politics.


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Chosen, TheChaim PotokSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upFiction1967
 WAS:Orthodox Jewish boy trying to decide what to be when he grows up.

Flippant. Flippant. And, entirely unfair to this book.

It is the middle of World War II and most citizens of the US are still unaware of what is happening to the Jews of Europe. Reuven Malther, an Orthodox Jew, is severely injured in a baseball game by a ball pitched by Danny Saunders, a Hasidic (much more fundamentalist) Jew. They become friends and as a result they, and we, learn a great deal about the different styles of parenting, religious observation, and reactions to the formation of the state of Israel, among believers in different branches of Judaism.

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Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1: Charmed Life / The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Diana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1988
 The books in this set are:
  • The Lives of Christopher Chant
  • Charmed Life
We actually read them in reverse order, and recommend that you do as well.

Charmed Life is the story of Cat and Gwendolen, brother and sister orphaned when their parents were drowned. Gwendolen seems to be a talented magician. And Cat -- well, not so much. Both are adopted, for reasons Cat finds difficult to understand, by a very powerful sorcerer, the Chrestomanci.

The Lives of Christopher Chant tells the exciting story of how Christopher Chant (barely) survived to become the Chrestomanci.

Both stories explore the problems of gifted children who are made to feel inferior because they are special.


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Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 2, Book 1: The Magicians of Caprona Diana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2001
 The books in this set are:
  • Magicians of Caprona
  • Witch Week
After reading Volume 1 of the Chronicles of Chrestomanci -- Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant -- we were very eager to read the second volume.

But the first book in this volume, The Magicians of Caprona, a Chrestomanci-universe-based story with many similarities to Romeo and Juliet was a real disappointment.


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Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 6: Conrad's Fate Diana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 Either Diana Wynne Jones must have had a truly rocky relationship with her uncle, and found that her mother did not protect her from him, or else she's just got a thing against uncles. In any case, evil uncles are major drivers of plots in Jones' intriguing set of worlds, as Conrad Tesdinic, the 12 yr. old narrator of this book, learns. Conrad's uncle is every bit as evil in his own ways as Christopher Chant's (who becomes the Chrestomanci in Diana Wynne Jones' universe) was to him.

A 16 yr. old Christopher Chant and his future wife, Millie, play supporting roles in this, the eventful, but not frenetic story of how Conrad avoids the terrible fate his uncle attempts to foist upon him and instead finds himself a mentor.


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Cider House Rules, TheJohn IrvingSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1999
 Complex, heavily plotted, John Irving disquisition on how official rules/laws and unwritten norms are unequally enforced based on gender, social status, and other factors. In other words, it's about the politics and the realities of Making Hard Choices.
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City of LightLauren BelferSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1999
 Kind of a Handmaid's Tale (without the explicit sex) that takes place in Buffalo, NY at the dawn of the 20th century.
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Clockwork Orange, AAnthony BurgessFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction1963
 Very violent sci fi. Challenging to read because it's written in a mush of English and Russian. But there are translations of the hard words in a glossary in the back.
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Color of Magic, The (Discworld #1)Terry PratchettChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2000
 This was Pratchett's first Discworld book and it's one I have tried to read several times before without successfully finishing it. This past spring, it was just about all-Pratchett-all-the-time for my 14 yr. old and me. After reading and just really loving Nation, I decided to try this one one more time.

My least favorite aspects of Discworld are the elephant-riding-the-turtle parts (its creation myth). And in the first books of this series, that seems to be given a great deal of attention.

Which is why The Color of Magic is still not my favorite of Pratchett's many novels. On the other hand, this is the book in which the walking/attack-dog suitcase debuts, as does Pratchett's very special Death. Funny, scary, absolutely real if mythological, these are arche-typ-ical Pratchett creations.
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Cottonmouth Club, TheLance MarcumChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 Because The Cottonmouth Club is written in the first person, you know from the start that Mitch Valentine does not actually succeed in killing himself, no matter what stupid thing he gets dared into by his misguided friends and foolish choices.

And yet, here is another "boy book" in which a boy wreaks near-disaster time and time again because of his own willfulness and yet seems unable to stop himself from succumbing to peer pressure.


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Count of Monte Cristo,TheAlexandre DumasChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction1844
 Gifted guy takes his devastating revenge.
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Crack In the Edge of the World, A: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906Simon WinchesterChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upnon-fiction2005
 Simon Winchester begins and ends with the San Francisco earthquake (and fire) of 1906, but by the time he gets around to it the second time, he's provided descriptions of earthquakes and tsunamis throughout the world so detailed that I was almost afraid to finish the book. But how could I not?
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Criss CrossLynne Rae PerkinsChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 Newbury-award winning novel. Each chapters unfolds from within the consciousness of a different young person in a group of young teens. It certainly is -- interesting.

One thing that's weird, though. Is that when you are always INSIDE the brains of the characters, it's hard to always keep track of what's actually happening to whom and/or whose brain you are inhabiting, even if it says so right at the beginning of the chapter. Not to mention that, once the novel is over, you still have no idea what the characters look like.


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Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeMark HaddonSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction2004
 First-person adolescent narrator describes his life as a boy with autism.
Highly recommended.

-- Emily Berk


Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an EraCaroline MooreheadSophisticated readersSophisticated readersnon-fiction, history2009
 Lucie de la Tour du Pin was born into an aristocratic family, served as lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette in her early adulthood, then went on to marry for love (not common in those days), birth and lose many children, and survive the treacherous political turmoils that began with the French Revolution.

After reading this book, I was not certain I understood much more than I did before about the French Revolution, but I did empathize a great deal more than I had before with the French aristocracy of that time. For example, Moorehead continually implies that Talleyrand was evil (and was he so terrible compared to the many other participants of the Terror??!!!) but never quite tells us what awful things he did.


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Dark Dreamweaver, The (Chronicles of Remin)Nick RuthChildren 5 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 This is a COOL book. It is a story about a boy named David who meets a wizard cursed into the life cycle of a monarch butterfly. David has to help reverse the curse to save the little wizard's world, the dreamland of Remin.

There are many neat, zany characters who jump in to help throughout their long journey, which leads deep into the depths and mysterious places of this new world.


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Dark Is Rising, TheSusan CooperChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1999
 "I'm more patient with books that are pretty much just pure plot than you are," my 12 yr. old tells me.

Perhaps that's why she liked The Dark Is Rising more than I did.

The contest in The Dark Is Rising is simply good vs. evil. No one who is evil at the beginning of the book recants. No one who is (truly) good goes bad. In addition to the other gifts Will Stanton, seventh son of a seventh son, inherits comes the ability to tell, almost upon meeting someone, whether they are with the Light or with the Dark.
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Dark Lord of DerkholmDiana Wynne JonesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction1998
 "The cool thing about Diana Wynne Jones is that we've read many of her books, but her stories are all very different. She doesn't repeat herself. This one goes from amazing to intense, maybe it's even a little too intense," says my 13 yr. old.

As you can tell, we here are huge fans of Diana Wynne Jones. We admire the magical worlds she creates and her characters -- human, wizard, and fantastical -- captivate us. We find the plots of her stories unpredictable but plausible, at least in the magical environments in which they take place.

Dark Lord of Derkholm is about a planet that is used as a playground by a imperial power, in the person of one "Mr. Chesney". The inhabitants are compelled to stage elaborate wargames, games in which they and the tourists who pay to join them risk losing lives, families, and livelihoods. (Lest this be thought of as a metaphor for the American adventure in Iraq, please note that this story was written back in 1998, before our Mr. Cheney lead us there.)

I have a friend whose brilliant son graduated from college and then promptly enlisted in the military. "Maybe I won't get sent to Iraq," he told her. "Yeah, and why are they teaching you Arabic?" she asked him. There are young people who need to truly understand how terrible war can be. And maybe we should try to communicate this to them before they are old enough to sign on the dotted line of that enlistment contract.

But what about the kids who have already drunk the Kool-Aid? Those who know that war is not a game. Do they need to know that mercenaries sometimes rape innocent children? That sometimes heroes die in battle? That those who sponsor the wars often profit vastly from the carnage? Maybe not. But I think I'd have been happier if my friend's son had thought about these things before he enlisted.
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David and the PhoenixEdward OrmondroydChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1981
 My young daughter liked the ending, in which the phoenix does what phoenixes do. The friend who extolled this book to her also warned her that she found the ending horrifying.

Dawn Palace,TheH. M. HooverChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction1988
 De-mythologization (probably not a word, huh?) of the story of Medea, including the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, from Medea's point of view.
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Dealing With DragonsPatricia C. WredeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, dragons, fairy tale1990
 Highly politically correct fractured fairy tale about a princess who fashions a full life for herself even though she doesn't conform to the fairy tale standards for princesses.
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Dear Mr. HenshawBeverly ClearyChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1983
 A boy who aspires to become a writer learns about being a writer by writing to one.
My ten year old daughter felt somewhat cheated by the author's technique of presenting all the letters to Mr. Henshaw and none of the letters from him. I, on the other hand, think Cleary moves the plot along quite nicely in this way. When, in the middle of the book, the correspondence shifts to being in a diary rather than an exchange of letters, my daughter responded much more positively.

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Deep SecretDiana Wynne JonesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction1999
 We here are huge fans of Diana Wynne Jones. We admire the magical worlds she creates and her characters -- human, wizard, and fantastical -- captivate us. We find the plots of her stories unpredictable but plausible, at least in the magical environments in which they take place. One of the coolest things about her stories is that although the plot of each of her novels is really unique, characters and laws of magic overlap in intriguing ways in the many worlds described in her many stories.

We enjoyed reading Deep Secret, mostly because we became interested in Nick Mallory, who is a protagonist in another of Jones' many novels, The Merlin Conspiracy. However, it is not one of our favorite Diana Wynne Jones books.

For one thing, Deep Secret seems to mostly target adults, perhaps because it seems to be Diana Wynne Jones' tribute to science fiction conventions. The plot -- regarding a Magid (a powerful wizard whose undercover job is to keep magic under control in some sector of the multiverse) in search of a student -- is certainly compelling for certain young readers. But Jones unnecessarily throws in words (such as "orgy") that young readers are likely to ask their parents about.

Anyway, Nick is a nice, seemingly ordinary teenage boy with a witch (in all senses of that word) for a mother and a touching relationship with his ne'er-do-well cousin Maree. When my daughter and I first "met" him in The Merlin Conspiracy, he was looking for someone to train him to control his wizardly gifts. In Deep Secret, Nick seems not to be consciously aware that he needs training.

We enjoyed learning more about Nick and Maree and the Magid Rupert Venables and many magical creatures, including some fascinating centaurs and phantasmagorical chicks, but might not have found ourselves so riveted if we were not already familiar with many other stories in the Diana Wynne Jones opus.
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Deep WizardryDiane DuaneChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1985
 My daughter and I read A Wizard Abroad first (the fourth book in the So You Want To Be A Wizard series), and then we read So You Want To Be A Wizard, the first book in the series.

Both stress the responsibilities and hazards of having great power. Both climax in a to-the-death battle between Good and Evil. And So You Want ..., much to the dismay of my daughter, proclaims the theme that self-sacrifice to the death is deemed a worthy and necessary outcome in certain extenuating circumstances. And that it might happen to a friend of yours. Perhaps because you need them to make that sacrifice. This is not a theme that my daughter much likes.


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Digging to AmericaAnne TylerFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, historical2006
 How does Anne Tyler do it? When she describes a person in the context of his or her family, when she makes lips move and words emerge, we KNOW that person, everything about that person. And yet, we keep reading because we know that Tyler will continue to help us learn about not only each person in her story, but also about Life and about ourselves.

As Tyler helped us learn in The Amateur Marriage, most decisions made by anyone, especially in his or her personal life, are going to be made amateurly, and some better than others.

In Digging To America, we meet two families who adopt infants from Asia.

Betsy Donaldson, the aging, opinionated ex-hippie, is never as gentle or tactful as her wardrobe might lead one to expect. The Yazdans, a young Iranian-American couple, find themselves intimidated by Betsy's suggestions, but prove to be just as caring with their young child as Betsy is to her's.


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DogsbodyDiana Wynne JonesChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1975
 There are just a few authors that my 12 year old and I trust implicitly.

After having raced through umpteen of her novels, we may have placed Diana Wynne Jones in that category. Sure, The Magicians of Caprona was kind of stupid.... But if you locked us in a library, with a short deadline in which to emerge with a book we were willing to read, it might very well be one by Diana Wynne Jones.

Dogsbody pre-dates the Chrestomanci stories; it's a bit more science fiction than Jones' usual fantasy. The characters and plot -- Cinderella meets Puss (or, in this case, Dog) in Boots -- are very appealing.

The story is told mostly from the point of view of a high Illuminancy, Sirius, who, because he lost his temper and (apparently) killed someone, is exiled to Earth in the body of a new-born puppy. As Sirius learns how to survive as a dog, while solving the mystery of how he was framed, we also learn a bit about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and about how controling our impulses can help us get what we need/want.
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Dr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeRobert Louis StevensonChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upFiction1886
 Okay, this is a BIT of a spoiler, but I knew this when I read the book, and it was just as exciting:

This book is about a man who discovers how to switch from his evil self to his good one, purposefully. It is Gothic (creepy and mysterious), and very exciting.

It is only about 100 pages long, and so the suspense is kept up through the entire book until the end. Stevenson's language is very chilling. This quote gives you a great sense of the style that the whole story is written in: [they heard a] "dismal screech, as of mere animal terror."

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Dragon RiderCornelia FunkeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2004
 Lovely, gentle story about a community of fantastical creatures and a few humans who adventure together to discover a place in which to build a new life together.

One of the many delights:
The brownie named Sorrel lives to eat mushrooms. But when she doesn't like someone and calls him or her names, Sorrel uses the names of poisonous mushrooms as epithets. SO CUTE!!!


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Dragon's MilkSusan FletcherChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1989
 I enjoyed reading Dragon's Milk. It's about a girl who is different from everybody else in her little town. Kaeldra has to get milk from a dragon so that her foster-sister won't die. And that's how Kaeldra's adventure starts.

I was upset with the end of the book because it was sad but I'm still going to read the other books in the series.

-- Fizzy, age 11


DragondrumsAnne McCaffreyChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, dragons1979
 Menolly's friend Piemur (a boy) comes of age (confronts bullying and anti-intellectualism).
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DragonflyAlice McLerranChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2000
 Smoothly told tale of a group of people who band together to raise a dragon. Confronts the reality of "scientists who would intervene" without making them out to be evil.
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DragonhavenRobin McKinleyChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 This book was very slow for a long time in the beginning, but good. It is from the perspective of a teenage boy who lives in our world, which, it seems, has dragons in it. A protected species, of course. I know that sounds very cheezy, but it is well put together, and a fun, quick read (except the beginning).
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DragonsingerAnne McCaffreyChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, dragons1977
 "Like Harry Potter, but better," says my daughter. "And, it's about a GIRL (Menolly by name) who goes to school to get better at something she's good at."
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DragonsongAnne McCaffreyChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, dragons1976
 I was not sure whether to be shocked or amazed at the outrage my daughter expressed when she realized that Menolly was forbidden to sing just because she was not a male. Guess gender bias has not held my daughter back as of yet. On the other hand, she LOVES this book.
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DuneFrank HerbertSophisticated readersSophisticated readersFiction1971
 What I love about Dune is the incredibly thoughtful and comprehensive description of the whole desert planet and how humans can find a way to live in such an inhospitable place.

I recommended Dune to my older daughter when she was about 13. Her opinion on Dune (but then she read it just about at the same time she read Winter's Tale & Monte Cristo, which have remained some of her favorite books, now 4 years later), was that it was "OK", compared to these others which really captivated her.


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Ear, The Eye, And The Arm, TheNancy FarmerChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1994
 In this Newbery Honor Book set in Zimbabwe in the year 2194, three siblings hurdle through a science fiction-y Africa and learn that even the most magical humans are not always honorable and even the most wicked exploiters can sometimes come through for you, but that family is family.
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EastEdith PattouChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, myth2003
 When my daughter chose to read East, we did not know it was based on the story collection called East of the Sun, West of the Moon (EOTSWOTM) and we had not read any of the Norwegian fairy tales in that beautiful collection.

We loved East, which describes in great detail, the life of Rose (called Karen in EOTSWOTM), who, like Beauty in Beauty and the Beast, comes to love the beast (in this case a white bear) who forces her to leave her home and loved ones.


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East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Twenty-One Norwegian Folk Tales Ingri & Edgar Parin d'AulaireChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, fairy tales1939
 Beautifully illustrated, interesting collection of Norwegian folk tales.
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Eat, Drink, and Be From MississippiNanci KincaidFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction2009
 Sweet story having to do with making lots of money, holding friends, family, and even former spouses close, and continuing to be able to trust both strangers and those you love while spending freely.

Perhaps coming from a small town in Mississippi helps with that?


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Edge Chronicles, ThePaul StewartChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2004
 The Edge Chronicles is an interesting series for advanced young readers.

They are for-real chapter books set in a very odd post-apocalyptic time/place, but they include very interesting pen drawings on nearly every page. The only downside to them is that there is a great deal of violence and death throughout, including deaths of very prominent characters.


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Egypt GameZilpha Keatly SnyderChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, magic1967
 Realistic adventures of some children who think hard about their make-believe. The plot does involve a series of child murders, but these are not described in any detail.
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Eldest (Book 2 of Paolini's Inheritance trilogy)Christopher PaoliniChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2005
 We found Eragon, the first book in this trilogy (as of Spring, 2006, the third is not yet published), so involving that we were not sure we would survive until we read Eldest.

And, well, Eldest is ok.

We are certainly going to read the next book in the series, just as soon as we can get our eyes on it.

But Eldest, like many of the middle volumes of many trilogies, was much more of a chore and less of a pleasure to read than Eragon was.


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Elegance of the HedgehogMuriel BarberySophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction 
 This book is remarkable, in that with every page I read, I was more captivated.

For one thing, the author tells the story in a very interesting way: The story is narrated by two very different, but also very similar, characters. One is a 12 year old genius and the other is a 50-something year old concierge in the fancy hotel she lives in.

So that's cool, but the writing style is what really got to me. Barbery gets very deep into some philosophical questions, that at many points I found confusing at first, but once I got into my "elegance of the hedgehog mood", I really enjoyed it.

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Elegant Universe, The: Superstrings, hidden dimensions and the quest for the ultimate theoryBrian GreeneChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upNon-fiction1999
 After reading Greene's descriptions of the theory of relativity and why objects in motion get heavier and time slows down, we actually thought we understood it, for a fleeting moment, at least.
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elsewhereGabrielle ZevinChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 Poor Liz Hall, she is killed in a hit-and-run car crash when she is only 15, and when she wakes up, she's on a ship traveling to Elsewhere, the world after death.

On the ship she meets the 6 year old captain who explains that once you die you go to Elsewhere and live backwards until you're a baby, then you sail back to Earth to begin a new life.

Also on the ship, Liz meets a dead superstar and another girl named Thandi who's around Liz's age, with whom she becomes friends. Everyone else on the ship is an old person.

At first in Elsewhere, Liz is angry and upset that her life had to end when she wasn't even 16 yet. She never got to fall in love or learn to drive, or anything!

But as her backwards life progresses, Liz meets a boy named Owen Welles, and she starts to feel like she could enjoy her not-life.

This book is not adventure-packed like some books, but it is in the mind of a girl, and with her you go through all her problems, like a boyfriend, a dog, sadness, happiness, and other things that a teenager girl would go through.

I enjoyed this book very much, because you really get to know the characters and the thoughts of Liz sound like what she'd actually think. This is a new version of what happens after life that I've never heard before, and I think that it's very interesting.

Before my parents let me read this they were worried that it would be too scary for me, Liz being dead and all, but it isn't like that at all. The book is somewhat sad and dreary in the beginning but it's not like it would give nightmares or something bad like that. This book really put new thoughts in my mind, new thoughts that weren't bad.

I recommend this book for maybe 6th or 7th graders and up, even though I read it at a somewhat younger age.

--Fizzy, age 12

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Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind Daniel TammetSophisticated readersSophisticated readersNon-fiction: Science2009
 Daniel Tammet is autistic, intellectually gifted, and synesthesic. This book, a follow-on to his autobiography, is billed as a
"...book about the mind -- its nature and abilities. It combines ... the latest neuroscientific research with [Tammet's] personal reflections and detailed descriptions of [his] abilities and experiences. [Tammet's] ... intention is to show that differently functioning brains ... are not so strange ... and that anyone can learn from them ... [and to] clear up many misconceptions about the nature of savant abilities and what it means to be intelligent or gifted."

Great intentions; I agree they are worthwhile. But, I fear, a disappointing execution.

Or, perhaps, I am not gifted enough to understand the arguments. But, really, to use the outcome of the US Presidential Election of 2000 to "prove" that the Electoral College works? Without mentioning that this election was decided by the Supreme Court and not really by the Electoral College? Seems to me that using the ideas of one person, even one admittedly highly gifted person, as a model for the prototypical smart person from whom we can all learn to think is -- misguided?
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Empire FallsRichard RussoFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, school violence2001
 The best book about the relationship between a teenage girl and her father that I've ever read.
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Ender's GameOrson Scott CardSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upScience fiction1977
 Story of a boy who is raised (some would say, manipulated) to use his gifts to save humanity, and the thanks he gets. Easy to read, but not appropriate for young readers.
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Ender's ShadowOrson Scott CardSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upScience fiction1999
 Story of one of Ender's soldiers, a boy who is bred with gifts to help save humanity, and the price he pays for having those gifts. None of the Ender books are great literature, but they resonate with gifted readers. This one may be even better than Ender's Game. Easy to read, but not appropriate for young readers.
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Equal Rites (Discworld #3)Terry PratchettChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction 
 As usual with Pratchett, this book is witty, often downright, funny, but it also has to do with real life problems.

The plot follows a girl who wants (and is destined) to be a wizard, but is not allowed to be because she is a girl. Wizarding is OBVIOUSLY only for boys.

But as little kids do, she doesn't really understand the situation and so proves that she CAN be whatever she wants.

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EragonChristopher PaoliniChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 Involving dungeons and dragons style story, with dragons of the Anne McCaffery model. (You know, the inhabitant of the egg becomes impressed on a single special human. They grow up together and have adventures.)
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Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children Ross W. GreeneFor grown-ups For grown-ups Non-fiction: Child-raising2001
 Dr. Greene describes certain children who, although they are not intentionally rebellious, under certain circumstances become so caught up in their frustration that they lose the ability to reason. He suggests that parents carefully choose which battles to fight (with detailed descriptions about how to make these selections) and provides suggested techniques for helping these children control themselves.
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Eyes of the Dragon, TheStephen KingChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1987
 According to the blurb, Stephen King wrote this book because his 14 yr. old daughter could not read his other books.

I got this book because I'm not a fan of horror, but wanted a chance to read a book by Stephen King.

It is not a book I'd recommend to a child; I found it CREEPY, perhaps not in a horror-ish way, but creepy nevertheless.


Family MattersRohinton MistrySophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction2002
 Poverty and religious fanaticism nearly destroy a Parsi family trying to care for a grandfather dying of Parkinson's disease in Bombay.

Wrenching, but the characters are so endearing that I found myself alternately clutching the book, putting it down in horror and sadness, then grabbing it up again to find out how everyone was doing.


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FeedM.T. AndersonSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction-dystopian 
 This review seems like a spoiler, but it really gives nothing away, at all...

This book really got me worried about how horrible human beings are and what we're going to do to the world... It gave me a very depressing feeling while and after reading. It is set in the (near??) future, and most people are basically controlled by their "feeds" implanted directly in their brains, which are used mostly as an excuse to constantly show them thousands of advertisements. I guess the ending is supposed to be a little hopeful, in that the main character is considering fighting the feed, when he sees its awful power over humanity, but... I think hopeful is not a word that anyone can truthfully apply to this book.


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Fire and HemlockDiana Wynne JonesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction1985
 There are just a few authors that my 12 year old and I trust implicitly.

After having raced through umpteen of her novels, we placed Diana Wynne Jones in that category. Sure, The Magicians of Caprona was kind of stupid.... But if you locked us in a library, with a short deadline in which to emerge with a book we were willing to read, it might very well be one by Diana Wynne Jones.

Fire and Hemlock is quite a bit different from other Jones' novels. For one thing, it is SPOOKY. It is, in fact, so intense, so spooky that if my daughter and I hadn't trusted Jones as much as we did, we would never have finished reading this story.

On the other hand, many of the characters do resemble other Jones characters we've met in her other stories. For one thing, every young woman of child-bearing age is at the very least utterly self-involved and uncaring about her children.


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First Meetings : In the EnderverseOrson Scott CardSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upScience fiction2003
  Prequels to the Ender stories; includes the original novella which grew to become Ender's Game. Fans of Ender's Game will like these.
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Flight of the Dragon KynSusan FletcherChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1997
 I liked Flight of the Dragon Kyn better than Dragon's Milk because it is not as depressing. There is some tragic violence in this pre-quel, though.

Flight of the Dragon Kyn tells the story of a girl named Kara who can call birds down. The people in her village don't like her or her gift; When she was very little she came down with a deadly sickness and they left her in a cave for dead. When she came back to them, her eyes had turned from blue to green.

Some villagers claimed that a dragon gave her its milk and that that's why she had changed.

When Kara gets older, she is taken away to call down dragons for the king. Kara realizes that she and her gifts are being used to commit great evil. What is she to do  -- Fizzy, age 11

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FlippedWendelin Van DraanenChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 This is a cool book because we get to see the same turn of events from two very different perspectives. It is about two neighbors, a girl and a boy, who switch off hating each other and being in love.
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Fly Went By, A Mike McClintockChildren 5 and underChildren 5 and underfiction1958
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Forsyte SagaJohn GalsworthySophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1918
 Makes the case for either marriage for love or marriage for convenience, but that it's necessary to decide up front which it's going to be. Still relevant after all these years.
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Fountainhead, TheAyn RandChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction1946
 At one point, I actually believed that Ayn Rand had overreacted and that most people respect and understand that they need intelligent, capable people around them.

Read The Fountainhead; Atlas Shrugged is identical except that it's much longer.


Freak the MightyRodman PhilbrickChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1993
 When I was young and feeling lonely, isolated, ridiculed by my fellow students, my father, one of those hugely gifted people who thrives with little interaction with other people because he is constantly obsessed by projects of his own, would suggest that I reach out to "other lonely children" and make friends with them. I never really found that forging alliances with other "outcasts" made me feel better when those in the "In Group" made fun of my clothes, hair, etc. Freak the Mighty is one of those novels in which the alliance of the weak prevails.

And, Sad Ending Alert. The foreshadowing is quite subtle, so it might come as a shock to young readers.


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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerE.L. KonigsburgChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1964
 A girl and her brother run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. A how-to, although I suspect kids would not be able to get away with this in this day and age.
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Galileo's DaughterDava SobelChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upNon-fiction1999
 The story of Galileo's daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, is mostly peripheral to the story of Galileo himself, in this non-fictional biography. Along with interesting details about what life was like for the illegitimate daughter of a famous scientist in the late 16th century, the book also concentrates on the Catholic Church's determined and successful attempt to get Galileo to renounce his conclusion that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa.
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Gathering BlueLois LowryChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upScience fiction, girl heroine2000
 Gathering Blue is a companion novel to The Giver, kind of like next-door-Dystopias. But this one is about a girl born with gifts, not engineered to have them.
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GiftedNikita LalwaniFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction, parenting 
 Unless you have been through it yourself, it is probably impossible to understand how challenging it is to parent a gifted child.

The gifted child in this story, the daughter of two immigrants from India, is identified in kindergarten by a teacher who seems not to understand that being a gifted child might not be an unmitigated blessing and that raising a gifted child may not be as easy as it would seem.

Rumika Vasi's father determines to honor her giftedness by yanking her out of the public school and forcing her to concentrate almost entirely on mathematics. Her mother is overwhelmed and threatened by British culture and defers to her husband.

By the time Rumika lives up to her father's dream -- being accepted to Oxford at 14 -- Rumika feels isolated, deeply resentful of her intellectual gifts, almost -- determined to throw them away.


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Gifted Children and the Law : Mediation, Due Process, and Court CasesFrances A. KarnesFor grown-ups For grown-ups Non-fiction1991
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Ginger PyeEleanor EstesLearning to readChildren 8 and upfiction1952
 A brother and sister pick a dog, earn the money to buy him, raise him, and search for him for months when he is stolen.

Newbery Winner, 1952

My then-11 year-old guessed who the "Man In the Yellow Hat" was long, long before the siblings discovered the culprit. And, in fact, she became quite frustrated with the young protagonists as they searched for their dog in such a disorganized fashion.

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Girl in Hyacinth BlueSusan VreelandSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1999
 Collection of short stories about a fictional Vermeer painting.
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Girl Named Disaster, ANancy FarmerChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1996
 1997 Newbery Honor book. First person account of how a gifted Mozambiquen girl orphan survives and forges families -- with baboons, scientists, and her own kin -- for herself during a harrowing trip through the South African wilderness. Nhamo, the girl, must use all that she knows -- which foods to eat, what happens when the seasons change; how to consult/appease her spirit guardians -- to survive on her own on her long trek.

A lovely, interesting, intense survival story.


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Girl With a Pearl EarringTracy ChevalierSophisticated readersSophisticated readersFiction1999
 Fictionalized biography of Vermeer told from the point of view of a servant girl in his household.

Fizzy writes:

I read the book, The Lady and the Unicorn, by Tracy Chevalier about a year ago. I enjoyed Girl With a Pearl Earring more. I think that was because I felt a lot more engrossed of the history of the time and place.

The story is Chevalier's theory about how the painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" was created. It's set in Delft, Holland, and the descriptions of the city and culture, especially pertaining to class boundaries and the "rules" intrigued me.

Adult content: For mature readers, not for language, but for plot events.


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Giver, The Lois LowryChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upScience fiction1994
 A boy bred with gifts for a special purpose and how he discharges his responsibilities. Easy to read, but not appropriate for young readers. Newbery Medal winner. See: A meditation on The Giver.
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Goddess of The Night (Daughters of the Moon, Book 1)Lynne EwingChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upScience fiction2000
 Very quick.

Unrealistic and puts the "high-school-girls-should-just-go-around-trying-to-get-a-boyfriend" spin on life. It's about this girl named Jennifer who discovers that she can turn invisible because she is a goddess.


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Going PostalTerry PratchettChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2004
 This book is super satirical, funny, and enjoyable. The main character is an ex-thief who ends up working in the government as the Postmaster.

I just love how Pratchett mercilessly mocks how stupid and horrible people can be, and still makes this into a great book, and is able to slip in some big moral problems.

Very enjoyable if you love highly satirical, sarcastic, and just plain WEIRD.

-- Fizzy


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Golden CompassPhillip PullmanFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1995
 Some parents have concerns about the themes and plot of this novel and the others in this series, which involve abuse and murder of children and other adult themes.
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Golem's Eye, The (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 2) Jonathan StroudChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2004
 Sardonic musings of a demon summoned by a very young, but now, successful, wizard.

Bartimaeus Book Two: The Golem's Eye is a very good book, but before you read it you should read Bartimaeus, Book One: The Amulet of Samarkand, because things in Book Two will make much more sense that way.

This book switches perspective between three very different characters:
  • Kitty the feisty commoner,
  • Bartimaeus the sardonic djinni, and
  • Nathaniel (John Mandrake) the annoying magician.
My favorite character is Bartimaeus, because he gives you footnotes to explain stuff better, tell us his very personal thoughts, and talks very funnily.

-- Fizzy, age 11

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Gone-Away LakeElizabeth EnrightChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1957
 Newbury Award winning novel. Kind of spooky adventure in which almost nothing happens but in an involving sort of way.
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Goodnight, MoonMargaret Wise BrownLearning to readLearning to readfiction1947
 Cool pictures; not cutesy; some pretty hard words (night, air, house, everywhere for example) keep it interesting.
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Goose Girl, TheShannon HaleChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction, science fiction 
 This book is based on the Grimm's fairy tale about a princess who was betrayed by her maid and forced to be a goose girl. In the fairy tale, in the end the maid gets killed in a coffin filled with nails as revenge... I don't know why, but i expected the author to write an alternate ending to this story.
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GossamerLois LowryChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2006
 Delicate story about how the community of ideas and the community of people can cooperate to save a ravaged young life.
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GracelingKristin CashoreSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2009
 This is a super fast-paced, easy read, which was great since that was what I had expected. The book is about a girl, Katsa, who is "graced", gifted with a special talent that no-one else has... She basically has to save the world, and on the way lots of other exciting things happen too.
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Great and Terrible Beauty, A (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy)Libba BrayChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2003
 This a spooky book about a girl with powers she doesn't understand. As she tries to survive in a "we shall civilize your daughters" kind of school, she makes friends with her enemies and brings them in on her secret.

I was always on the edge of my seat with this book, because even if no magic was happening, or she wasn't being chased by a monster, the social conflicts of teenage girls can seem terrifying sometimes.


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Great Brain, The John D. FitzgeraldChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upbiographical1967
 First person story of one of three Catholic brothers growing up in turn of the century Mormon Utah.
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Great Perhaps, TheJoe MenoFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction, parenting2009
 This novel is a deeply Confucian, metaphorical attempt to explain the outcome of the US Presidential Election of 2004. And the explanation is that many societies and ecological niches require a bully to be in charge of them in order to function well enough to survive. The bully may well shed some blood, and may often be wrong, but at least he (and it would always, pretty much, be a he), causes stuff to happen.

The metaphors here come fast and heavy-handed. The husband, Jonathan Casper, is a nerdy scientist who forgets his promises to his family as he quests after a "prehistoric" giant squid. In her off-hours, the wife, Madeline, chases a giant man-shaped cloud. At work, Madeline investigates the pecking order of pigeons by disrupting their power structures and witnessing the devastating results. (Perhaps like many academics, Madeline neglected, before she started her experiment, to understand what a pecking order is. How lucky she is to have an adviser to explicitly explain that pigeons NEED to be dominated by moderately violent males in order to avoid rampant rape and murder by the underclasses in their society.)

One of the two Casper daughters copes with her problems with excessive piety. The other responds to the chaos at home by building a bomb and ignorantly attempting to apply the Communist Manifesto to the running of her school.


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Green Eggs and HamDr. SeussLearning to readLearning to readfiction1960
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Handmaid's Tale, TheMargaret AtwoodFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1984
 Margaret Atwood's gift is to write entirely plausible nightmares that resonate to her readers' bones. Problem is, the nightmares she drags us into are so plausible that they do seem to be coming true.

The nightmare we inhabit in Oryx and Crake is an ecological one. Intense, violent, horribly sad. Just what we expect from the best of Margaret Atwood.

The nightmare we inhabit in The Handmaid's Tale is of a society gone terribly wrong.

My daughter read this book for school. Following is her review:

Note: Definitely an adult book. The main character's job in this society is to buy food and to try to make a baby every month...

This is a very creepy, but COOL book set in an imaginary future world where women are very oppressed. Although the plot moved rather slowly, it was still fascinating to soak in all the details about the world (politics, schemes, escapees, information networks).
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Harmonic FeedbackTara Kelly Sophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2010
 I really liked this book: it's told from the perspective of a girl diagnosed with Asperger's and ADHD.

Her biggest challenge in the book was realizing that the labels "normal" and "abnormal" are nothing more than labels, and that nobody is the same, so "normal" is subjective.


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Harold and the Purple CrayonCrockett JohnsonChildren 5 and underChildren 5 and underfiction1931
 Doesn't rhyme so harder to memorize; funny; cool pictures; not cutesy; some pretty hard words keep it interesting
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Harriet the SpyLouise FitzhughChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upFiction, girl heroine1964
 My daughter initially resisted reading this book because the movie made such an awful impression on her. But she really enjoyed this story of a girl who "wants to know EVERYTHING" and gets into deep trouble for writing down what she knows.
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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) J K (Joanne Kathleen) RowlingChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2003
 I think this is my favorite of the Harry Potter series so far, but also my least favorite in some ways: Harry, Ron, and Hermione have definitely grown up a lot between books four and five, but they do it in a somewhat annoying fashion.
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Hat Full of Sky, ATerry PratchettChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 A Hat Full of Sky is the sequel to the Wee Free Men. It is about an eleven-year old girl named Tiffany Aching, who is training to be a witch, and the Nac-Mac-Feegle (Wee Free Men), who are fairies (but do NOT call them that unless you want to be seriously injured).

Tiffany is a very unusual witch, because she's from the Chalk Land. In fact, Tiffany is actually the ONLY official witch of the Chalk. She is also the Hag of the Chalk Land, which means that it is her job to protect the Chalk. (She tells it what it is; it tells her what she is.)

When something evil comes to the Chalk, Tiffany has to make it go away.

-- Fizzy, age 11


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Hello GoodbyeEmily ChenowethFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2009
 Not that confronting human mortality can ever be easy. But coming to realize that your mother is mortally ill must be particularly difficult for a young person old enough to understand what death is, but not yet independent.

Chenoweth's heroine, still a college student, has known but refused to know consciously that her mother's brain cancer is terminal. In a story that could have been maudlin, Chenoweth lays out a "good" way for this young person to surface the bad news: in the company of her parents' good friends, with some younger people to interact with.


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Hidden Treasure of Glaston, TheEleanor M. JewettChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical1946
 Gentle tale of Hugh, whose family is caught up terrible violence, and who is sheltered and healed in the monastery at Glastonbury during the reign of Henry II of England.
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Higher Power of Lucky,TheSusan PatronChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upFiction2006
 As a lover of fairy tales, it was probably impossible for me not to love reading this sophisticated story, simply told, which pretty much turns every fairy tale convention on end:
  • When my younger daughter was around 3, she was obsessed with learning how Cinderella's mother had died. In this story, we learn within the first few pages that our heroine's mother died when she was struck by lightening.
  • In many fairy tales, the heroine's name has to do with her physical appearance. In this story, the heroine's name has to do with her fate.
  • Most fairy tales abound in generalities and their language is very simple, even bland. Some groups are pushing to ban this Newbery Award winner because the word "scrotum" appears on its first page.
  • In many fairy tales, the stepmother serves as villain. In this story, the heroine's father's first wife comes to Lucky's rescue -- she raises her after her "real" mother has died.
  • In many fairy tales, the protagonist leaves home to seek his (it IS usually his) fortune. In this story, Lucky runs away from home, only to realize that she belongs with her stepmother.
And yet, The Higher Power of Lucky is a fairy tale, albeit a new-fangled one.

A good one as well.
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Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyDouglas AdamsChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upScience fiction1980
 The book is pretty good but the audio recording of the BBC Radio production is our favorite. Once you read this the number 42 will take on a whole new meaning for you. Boy is it sad that Douglas Adams is no longer with us.
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HogfatherTerry PratchettChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction 
 Really cool book about a conspiracy to kill the Hogfather, who is like Santa Claus in Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

Death's granddaughter Susan, along with a toothfairy and the oh-god of hangovers have to save the world.


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HomeMarilynne RobinsonSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2008
 Beautifully written, desperately sad novel that seems to prove that love, family, friendship, faith, words, and circumstances sometimes collude to defeat well-meant efforts to escape the trap of alcoholism.
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HootCarl HiaasenChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2002
 Smoothly written story of a young man whose family relocates to Florida. He becomes involved with two other teens attempting to save a colony of burrowing owls whose nesting area is threatened by hard-hearted developers.

My then-10 year old loved this story so much that she insisted we go see the movie as a family. Which turned into a nine hour ordeal, long story, but the movie was/is not playing in many places. The book is much, much better than the movie. Perhaps that's not saying much, though ...


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Hotel WorldAli SmithSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction2001
 Extremely weird tale, told in the first person by a dead person, about the meaning of loss, love and life.
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How the Garcia Girls Lost Their AccentJulia AlvarezFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, historical1991
 Sometimes, by escaping a dreadful danger, people find themselves safe, but not happy. The Garcia Girls is a touching reminder that the situation in which you meet people might not, on its surface, tell you much about who they are or what they've suffered.
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Howl's Moving CastleDiana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2001
 A cheerful, easy to read, but very complicated, backwards fairy tale, in which the protagonist is the oldest of three stepsisters. Nearly every character in this story, major and minor, wears at least one or two disguises. In some cases, the disguise is of his or her own choosing, but not always.
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Hunger Games, TheSuzanne CollinsSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2008
 This sounds kinda negative, and I did enjoy it, but I do have a bit of a sour aftertaste after reading this:

I'm not sure how to rate this book. It was very disturbing: The whole point is that 24 teenagers all fight to the death. Yay. But it was also very gripping and exciting, and talked about the price of freedom. It definitely kept me up with vivid images in my head...


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I, RobotIsaac AsimovChildren 8 and upChildren 12 and upScience fiction1950
 One of the milestones of science fiction. The three rules of robotics are still relevant today.

Illustrated Man, The Ray BradburyChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction1951
 Spooky stories; just in case the child is thinking of getting a tatoo...
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Important Book, TheMargaret Wise BrownChildren 5 and underChildren 5 and underfiction1949
 Doesn't rhyme so harder to memorize; not cutesy; some pretty hard words in surprising configurations

In Search Of MockingbirdLoretta EllsworthChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 This is a book about a girl who spends three days on a bus to visit Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill A Mockingbird". Her mom died when she was a baby, and Erin, who is exactly sixteen, just wants to know her mother before her father re-marries.

When she discovers that Mockingbird was her mother's favorite book, (it's her favorite too), Erin decides to make a pilgrimage from her home in Minnesota to Lee's in Alabama on a Greyhound bus.

On her journey, Erin meets many interesting people who cheer her on and help her to discover herself.

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In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of GenesisKaren ArmstrongFor grown-ups For grown-ups non-fiction, religion1997
 Essays about the stories in Genesis.

Interesting to read before/after The Red Tent.

-- Emily Berk


Industry of Souls, The Martin BoothSophisticated readersSophisticated readersFiction1998
 Well, it's not physically fat, but it is fat in ideas. The gentle words of the plot quietly convey both the great good and the unspeakable, unthinking evil that humans do to each other. The story of an innocent British citizen who is freed after laboring for 25 years in a Soviet gulag. By the time Alexander Bayliss leaves the gulag,he does not forgive and does not forget, but accepts that good and bad can come to all people for no reason. This is a great book to read in times of sorrow.
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InkheartCornelia FunkeChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2003
 No doubt most authors of fiction hope to evoke worlds using words alone. But what if it were possible for certain readers to actually cause people and objects to transition between fictional worlds and our world, just by reading aloud?
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InkSpellCornelia FunkeChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2005
 No doubt most authors of fiction hope to evoke worlds using words alone. But what if it were possible for certain readers to actually cause people and objects to transition between fictional worlds and our world, just by reading aloud?

This is book two of what is promised to be a trilogy.

If anything, my 11 yr. old and I liked this book even more than its predecessor, InkHeart. And, as an added bonus, InkSpell provides a touching and believable portrayal of a pair of pre-adolescents who are just about certain they are in love.

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Into the Dark Fire, (Daughters of the Moon, Book 2) Lynne EwingChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upScience fiction2000
 This is the second in a series. This "goddess" can read people's minds. She is chosen by the evil shadow king to become evil, but fights it off.
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Invention of Air, TheSteven JohnsonChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upNon-fiction2008
 A lovely biography of Joseph Priestley, a scientist, theologian, and political thinker.

In these days when we are trying, finally, to get the politics out of science, this book argues that the reverse, having scientists care about politics is deeply ingrained in the fabric of the United States and Britain. Not that kings and princes always wish it so.

Note to sensitive readers: Priestley's experiments often involved the use of live animals and plants, some of which died in the absence of oxygen.


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Invention of Hugo Cabret, TheBrian SelznickChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 At the advanced age of 12, and although my precocious reader loves reading chapter books, she still misses having pictures in her books.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret solves this problem. A Dickensian fairy tale, told in words and beautiful, complicated charcoal drawings, Hugo Cabret tells the story of the rediscovery of a silent film director and a young boy in Paris of the early 1930s.


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Is God a Mathematician?Mario LivioSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upNon-fiction, biography2009
 I never thought I'd get my fill of non-fiction books about mathematicians. And this is not really a bad one. Maybe it was the silly title and the author's transition from that religious question to the more chicken-and-egg question: Do humans invent mathematics or do they discover mathematical principles?
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Island of the Aunts (note: this book is also called Monster Mission)Eva IbbotsonChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, magic2000
 Much less cutesy than Which Witch. In-depth descriptions of the care and feeding of many interesting mythological creatures.
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Island of the Colorblind, TheOliver SacksSophisticated readersSophisticated readersNon-fiction: Science1998
 My daughter and I listened to Dr. Sacks' narration of this book on audio tape. Listening to his quirky voice and sophisticated vocabulary requires intense concentration, but is well worth it.

My daughter was engrossed by the topics discussed, and inspired by the author himself. At one point, Sacks riffs on the wonders of the Paleozoic cycad forests, and my daughter, with love and admiration, exclaimed, "My but aren't WE a nerd?" (Acknowledging in the intonation of that sentence that she is one too.)

Here is her rather informally written review:

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Jane EyreCharlotte BronteSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1847
 A difficult book; much, much sadder than I had remembered from when I'd read it to myself a very long time ago. It's about temptation and the definition of bigamy.
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Jewel Box, TheAnna DavisFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2009
 Wars have consequences, even when they don't impact those at home directly.

Not that horrors bear comparison, but the shock to the folks at home when, eventually they heard of the carnage of World War I seems to me as if it should have been mind-altering. Hard to believe they went right back to killing each other even more horribly in World War II.

The Jewel Box
describes one woman's response to the events that affected her personally during the Great War -- she adopts the persona of a flapper.
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Johnny TremainEsther ForbesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1943
 I read Johnny Tremain with my class. It is a good book about a boy named Johnny Tremain. He is living in the time of the revolutionary war. In the book Johnny learns many things. This book has a sad ending. I like it because it is interesting plus it has a lot of true historical facts. Fizzy, age 9

Journey To the Centre of the EarthJules VerneChildren 8 and upChildren 12 and upfiction1864
 A perfect novel for science geeks of all ages.

Brilliant geologist and his apprentice/nephew discover, de-crypt, and then, with their imperturbable guide Hans, follow the directions in a Renaissance manuscript that describes how they can travel to the center of the Earth.

My 12 year old warns that the "old-fashioned" language might be off-putting to some, but that the story is so involving that it pulls you along. For young readers, you might want to start by reading the story aloud, or listening to the audio book.

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Jungle Book, TheRudyard KiplingChildren 8 and upSophisticated readersfiction1894
 "At this point, reading pretty much any book is very easy for me. So what's important to me is how the book is written and what it's about," my 11 year old said to me recently.

"Then what about The Jungle Book? Did you find that easy to read?"

"Well, no, actually. It was very hard. But beautiful."

Rudyard Kipling's century-old story may be the perfect book for advanced but very young readers to tackle. The plot is involving, the characters -- people and animals -- think and act like individuals you might have met. But what's truly captivating about the book is the language Kipling uses.

My daughter's only misgiving about the book: It's clear that Kipling does not hold monkeys in high regard. Unlike people who do not even know of the Law of the Jungle, monkeys know of the Law, but refuse to submit to it. Monkeys are dear daughter's favorite animals. She will need to write her own book, in which they state their reasons for their recalcitrance.

In terms of the monkeys and the plot in general, it turns out that Disney's animated movie, Jungle Book, stays pretty close to the original book. And it's got some wonderful music and voices as well. Too bad I won't be recommending anything Disney for the next year or so.

Anyway, this book is better than any movie.

The hardcover to which this review links also includes the stirring story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, a very brave little mongoose.

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Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly BusBarbara ParkChildren 5 and underChildren 5 and underfiction1992
 We are Junie B. Jones fans. They were WAY too easy for the 6 year old to read, so we read them to her. We didn't realize how controversial they might be until our daughter's grandfather was asked to read them to her while vacationing with us last winter. At first, he was so upset by Junie's "appalling" speech patterns and behavior that he tried to clean them up. But you really can't clean it up enough, because aside from her juvenile language, Junie B. also pushes the envelope in regards to her behavior. Finally, Grandpa rebelled and has refused to read Junie B. books to our daughter ever since.
That's why there's chocolate and vanilla. Luckily, there are lots of books in this world. Our daughter also really likes us to read her Ramona, Song Lee and Horrible Harry.

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Just EllaMargaret Peterson Haddix and Rene MilotChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1999
 Just Ella explains what happened to Cinder-Ella after her first happily ever after. She finds out that Prince Charming is not what she wants, but she has to find a way out of marrying him.

Ella doesn't like the palace either, it's too stuffy, but she does manage to make some good friends who end up saving her from a life of for ever just looking pretty and sewing all day long.

I liked this book; it was a don't-put-down-'til-you've- read-it-all book (To me, at least).

--Fizzy, age 11



KimRudyard KiplingChildren 12 and upSophisticated readersfiction1901
 When we finally read (and then re-read) the last page of Kim, my barely 12 year-old said to me, "I loved this story. I love Kim. But no more Kipling for a while. It is too hard."

We started reading Kim together in early fall. We finished in mid-December. The difficulty of:

  • The language (and there are many languages used here: British English, of course, but also Irish, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, others we probably don't know the names of...)
  • The concepts: Tibetan Buddhist vs. Hindu religious beliefs, Islamic concepts, the differences between Catholic and Protestant attitudes, and
  • The politics: What are the Russians, French, British, and the various native Indians trying to accomplish in all their complicated plots
made reading the book a long-term investment.

Some days, we could manage only a few pages, because we had to pause to analyze what had happened, or because we couldn't understand a religious practice, or the meaning of a word distracted us.

Kim is like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell meet James Bond meet Harriet the Spy, only harder.

Not a book to be read when one is tired.

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King Must Die,TheMary RenaultChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction1958
 De-mythologization (probably not a word, huh) of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur.

In this version, Theseus expresses his wonder at the radically different ways of life in the patriarchal Greek world in which he grew up and the matriarchal Minoan lands he comes to rule.



King of the WindMarguerite HenryChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upnon-fiction: animals1948
 Newbery award-winning story of Sham, the father of the modern thoroughbred, and the slave boy who believed in him.
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Kite Runner, TheKhaled HosseiniSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction2008
 An amazing book, but sooooo sad... I wish Hosseini could have given it a slightly happier ending. I think it is cool that we were able to see an up close and personal view of Afghanistan, even if it was not really a joyful thing to see. It shows how ignorant, I at least, am about the rest of the world.
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Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883Simon WinchesterChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upnon-fiction2003
 Simon Winchester does what he does better than any other science writer I know. He starts with one well-known natural disaster. Introduces us to many of the people affected by the unfolding events. Then weaves in information about the geography, geology, history, state of technology, and then puts it all together and tells the story of the disaster.
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Kristen Lavransdatter trilogySigrid UndsetFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1923
 Undset won the Nobel Prize in literature for this work set in 14th century Norway.
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Language of Good-Bye, TheMaribeth FischerFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction2001
 A novel about unexpected consequences.
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Larry's PartyCarol ShieldsFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1997
 Larry Weller is a pretty ordinary guy, who has fallen into a profession, also his obsession, as a designer of labyrinths. In this novel, Carol Shields, whose work always captivates me, tells Larry's story, from cradle through a momentous mid-life party. (See also my review of Unless.)
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Last Dragon, TheSilvana De MariChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, fairy tale2006
 A beautiful and gentle but very sad fairy tale for children about xenophobia, ethnic cleansing, forced communal farming, vegetarianism (and its limitations), witch hunts, forgiveness, sacrifice, and the difference between selfishness and self preservation. My very sensitive 12 yr. old loved this story and encouraged me to listen to it on audio CD.

The story is so intense that if Trish Connolly, the reader, were not so compelling, there were many points at which I would have stopped. No way I could read this story -- I'd have been crying too hard.

The Last Dragon is the story of Yorsh, a young elf who is taken in by two humans when all the other elves have been exterminated by the humans of Daligar. (The elves, as everyone knows, were responsible for all evil and misfortune in the world, including the terrible rainy weather and resulting floods. After all, there must always be someone to blame.) The humans who shelter Yorsh despite the peril to their lives learn to love and appreciate his special gifts. And Yorsh comes to know that not all humans are murderers and thieves.


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Last Olympian, The (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 5)Rick RiordanChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2009
 A great ending to a great series, which is about a kid named Percy who discovers he's the son of Poseidon (the ancient Greek sea god) and that all of the "mythology" he learned in school is real.
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Last Report on the Miracles at Little No HorseLouise ErdrichFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2001
 Woman is mistaken for a priest, and ends up adopting his identity and ministering to an Indian reservation in the early twentieth century. It's interesting to learn the background of some of the characters we met in Love Medicine.
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Last Samurai, TheHelen DeWittFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction, parenting2000
 This hilarious novel starts as a not-quite-five year old's mother gets so sick of answering his questions that she promises to teach him Japanese after he's read the Odyssey in the original Greek. Which he does. Should be required reading for parents of gifted toddlers, but parents of gifted toddlers probably wouldn't have the time. An excerpt.
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Letters From RapunzelSara Lewis HolmesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2007
 Abandoned by her parents (her father, a long-time sufferer from chronic depression has disappeared; her mother is just not around), constrained by overly restrictive homework assignments that she can't or won't complete, condemned to spend long, long hours in detention, terrified that now that she has been identified as gifted, she will be forced to hang out with the nerds in the gifted pull-out class, Candace frantically tries to metaphorically grow hair long enough to provide an escape.

While not a fairy tale in the ordinary sense, Letters From Rapunzel brilliantly demonstrates the power of those ancient stories to help us understand our seemingly mundane lives.


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Life of PiYann MartelSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, philosophical2001
 Say you got stuck on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a tiger named Richard Parker, a locker of stores and a succinct but helpful survival manual. What would you do? This lovely, serious book about fate, faith, and man's relationship with animals and nature describes exactly what a teenage boy does to survive.
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Lightning Thief, TheRick RiordanChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 Learning that he's the son of a Greek god clarifies some things for contemporary 12 year old Percy.

High concept, but not as stirring in its execution as I'd expected.


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Linnea in Monet's GardenCristina BjorkChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical/art1987
 Young girl visits the places Monet lived and learns about how he translated his life into his paintings.
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Little Bear booksElsa Holmelund MinarikLearning to readLearning to readfiction1957
 
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Little WomenLousia May AlcottSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1864
 Four sisters grow up poor, but mostly, with dignity, during the Civil War.
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Love MedicineLouise ErdrichFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction1984
 Set of interlocking short stories that combined help us understand many things about life on Native American reservations. One has to do with the devastating effect of alcohol on family life.
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Love, StargirlJerry SpinelliChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 It had been one of those errand-intensive Saturdays. On the way home after much driving, with groceries in the car, my 13 yr. old said, in a studiously casual way, "Hey Mom, you know the sequel to Stargirl is out." One of the pathetic things about us is that we forget our own phone numbers, but know by heart the precise coordinates of every bookstore and/or library in our current vicinity (where ever in the world that might be) and their hours. We checked Love, Stargirl out of the library within 15 minutes.

If you have a gifted child, particularly a girl, who is about to enter high school, or who is already in high school, and who has not already read Jerry Spinelli's amazing novel about the glory and the pain of being orders of magnitude different from one's peers, go now and read Stargirl. And then hand it to the child.

Love, Stargirl, which takes the form of a letter that Stargirl writes to the boyfriend who was insufficiently tolerant of her uniqueness, is not really a sequel that can be fully appreciated unless one has already read Stargirl. In her letter, Stargirl describes the process by which she rediscovers her joy in creatively reaching out to others.
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Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, AJanna LevinFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction, biography2006
 What must it be like to be so intelligent that you can't trust anyone enough to believe him or her? So confident that you are right and that everyone else is wrong that you ignore the woman who loves you when she tells you that you must eat (and assures you that the food is really, truly not poisoned)? What must it be like to know that you are moral, that you have saved civilization, but to be convicted of immorality and forced to deny your true self?

Janna Levin (our madman who is not at all mad) worms us inside the minds of Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing and forces us to look out into the world through their eyes. When we hear Gödel's story, we may be tempted to think that paranoid insanity is part of terrific genius. But then what are we to think of Alan Turing (yes, he clearly was on the autistic spectrum, but he was not crazy and not harmful to himself or to others), who only wanted to solve very hard problems and love the occasional man and was forced to ingest hormones that destroyed his body and his self-respect?


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Mairelon the MagicianPatricia C. WredeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, magic1991
 My daughter says, "I really, really like the way the characters use magic in the world the author has built."
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MakaiKathleen TyauFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, historical2000
 The Chinese-Hawaiian narrator tells, in her own (sometimes-pidgin) words, what it was like to come of age as an Oriental, but not Japanese, in Hawaii in the days just before and after Pearl Harbor. Eye opening.
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MakersCory DoctorowFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, cyberpunk2009
 Let me start by saying that I would like at least one of every invention described in Makers. I am particularly taken by the RFID/GPS/labeling/cataloging system that allows a person to locate any item they have tagged by typing in its name. But I would be happy to ride The Ride, or own any one or all of the tiny robots, the Super Marios, well, truly, any and all of them.

Doctorow also puts forward an interesting business model - the 6 months and you're out theory of manufacturing anything. Seems exhausting, but true to life. And may very well be the only viable model for hardware manufacturing in the future.

That said, Makers is the book that Ayn Rand would have written instead of The Fountainhead if she'd lived a few years later and chosen engineering rather than architecture as her metaphor.

In the Makers world, anyone with a moderate-to-high IQ is not only smart, but sensitive, creative, well-intentioned, and deep-down-to-the-core good (although sometimes that is not immediately apparent). Sure smart guys (and they are mostly guys, of course) may occasionally take actions that send others to the hospital for months at a time, but they do eventually realize the error(s) of their ways and take steps to correct them.

Women in the Makers world are very, very bright, attracted to Makers, attractive, moral, tolerant, thrifty, ... well, you know, they are pretty much not very reality-based.

Oh, and then there are the policemen. Seems that policemen (and lawyers) were pretty much put on this earth to physically and/or psychically destroy smart people.

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Man Who Loved Only Numbers, The : The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical TruthPaul HoffmanSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upNon-fiction, biography1998
 Biography of the brilliant mathematician, Paul Erdos. Inspiring because this extremely odd guy, who spoke in code and could not perform the normal functions most other human beings usually have to do (such as pay bills and cash checks), found ways to mentor promising young mathematicians and revolutionize mathematical thinking.
  In context....

Mango-Shaped Space, AWendy MassChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction 
 I loved this book. It is about this girl named Mia who has this syndrome called synesthesia. Some different parts than usual are connected in her brain, so that letters and sounds have colors (this is real!) Her cat's name is Mango. In the book she learns that she is the "weird" one in her school and has to deal with it, because at first she thinks she's crazy.
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Maniac MageeJerry SpinelliChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1990
 Modern day tall tale, beautifully written by Jerry Spinelli, whose Stargirl we also loved.

Maniac's athletic gifts and personal fortitude give him entree behind the window curtains of many homes in his small Pennsylvania town, where he is privileged to share meals and experiences with old and young, black and white, humans and zoo animals.

Maniac re-pays the kindness of strangers by helping to bridge, although not heal, the town's racial divide.

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Map of Glass, AJane UrquhartSophisticated readersSophisticated readersFiction2006
 Three plot arcs in which:
  • An autistic-spectrum woman carries on a lengthy affair with a geologist afflicted with Alzheimer's disease intersects with
  • a 19th century capitalist assault on a bog and
  • a 21st century romance
lead us to muse on the faultiness of memory and the ways in which artists, artisans, and denizens of the planet change the world by loving and hating and working and evoking and exploring it.

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MarsboundJoe Haldeman For grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2009
 Very sci-fi. Interesting take on the future.

In this setting the future seems just like now, except for updated space travel and things like that. It doesn't get toooo into details on the world, because almost all of it takes place in space. Anyways. The story follows Carmen, who is the first to discover inhabitants on mars. I like her as a character because she is very questioning of the rules and is just an interesting perspective to view the book through. Within the book there is also a romantic strand, so I'd more recommend this for women then men.

This definitely contains adult content.

-- Fizzy



Me and My Little Brain John D. FitzgeraldChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upbiographical1967
 First person story of one of three Catholic brothers growing up in turn of the century Mormon Utah.

Warning: Each book in this series veers broadly from (usually) a very cheerful first few chapters, in which the happy life of the narrator's family is depicted to subsequent harrowing chapters in which death, danger, and/or permanent dismemberment often occurs. The books usually resolve relatively pleasantly, but my daughter had difficulty sleeping after reading some chapters. (Although she always insists on getting the next book in the series.)


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Mercy Rule, ThePerri KlassFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction, parenting2009
 The Mercy Rule is a rule instituted in some amateur sports leagues that requires that if one team is so far ahead in points as to be uncatchable by the opposing team, the game is ended earlier than it otherwise might.

In this extremely gentle, wise, moving story, Lucy, a physician who is also a mother and a graduate of the foster care system, unconsciously applies this rule to her family and work life.


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Merlin Conspiracy, TheDiana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 Once, one of my daughters was interviewed for an article about gifted children. "Sheesh," she sighed when she got off the phone. "People don't realize that just because a person is smart, that doesn't mean that she knows everything. We still need to learn things and learn how to do things."

Diana Wynne Jones is one author who understands that many children have the potential to be great wizards, but they need guidance or they can go wrong. And although they are able to teach themselves many things, in order to reach their full potential, they often crave time with mentors.

In The Merlin Conspiracy, we meet three potentially great wizards. Roddy and Grundo are children of the royal court of Blest. Roddy is the daughter and granddaughter of wizards; her grandfather in particular is dauntingly illustrious. Grundo is the scion of a single (evil) mother. Roddy babies Grundo because of his learning disabilities; could it be that she coddles him too much? In another universe, Nick Mallory longs to learn from Romanov, a wizard who was hired to kill him, but who decided to let him go. But everything Nick does seems to harm Romanov rather than ingratiate him. The Merlin Conspiracy is the story of how all three get to know each other and find ways of getting educated about their worlds in an organized way.
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Mermaid's Chair, The Sue Monk KiddFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2005
 What a let-down after The Secret Life of Bees. Gross.

MessengerLois LowrySophisticated readersChildren 8 and upfiction; dystopian2004
 Sequel to Lowry's Gathering Blue, and, some might consider this the third in the dystopian trilogy that started well with, and has coursed relentlessly downhill from, The Giver. The plot is highly derivative of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, The Birthmark, with some unpleasant touches and Christian symbolism similar to Zilpha Keatly Snyder's Until the Celebration, but entirely lacks the beauty of the Below the Root books.
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Midnight ChampagneA. Manette AnsayFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1999
 Romantic story with a spooky sub-plot, about the marriage day of a couple who know they are right for each other, despite the misgivings of the bride's family. If you want to validate someone who believes in love at first sight, then this is a book for them.
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Millicent Min, Girl GeniusLisa YeeChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 A must-read for gifted girls, especially those in middle school or grade-skipped into high school.

Eleven-year old Millicent Min will be a senior in high school in the fall, but at the beginning of the summer we read about, she is teacher's pet in a community college poetry class and students ranging in age from high school age through college take advantage of her as a tutor but don't treat her as a friend. "Sooo sad!", my 10 year old sighs, empathetically.

Lisa Yee claims to not have skipped five grades in school, but she certainly understands what many of the issues that might confront a sensitive, gifted, 11-year old high school senior might be.

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Mirror of MerlinT. A. BarronChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upKing Arthur1999
 Fourth in a series about the childhood of Merlin. The bally mag is just a hoot.
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Missing MayCynthia RylantSophisticated readersChildren 8 and upfiction1993
 This short, poetic novel, which won the Newbery Medal in 1993, gently but persuasively puts forth the theory that it's worthwhile to learn from experience and from others, even others who may not seem very impressive from the get-go. It is not difficult to read, is pretty short and the text is pretty large.
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Mister Monday (Book 1 of the Keys to the Kingdom Series)Garth NixChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 Creepy, kind of random horror story, featuring an asthmatic protagonist.
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Models for Writers: Short Essays for Compostion, 8th edAlfred RosaCollege-prepCollege-prepnon-fiction1997
 by Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz Published by Bedford/St Martins Models for Writers seems to be very appropriate for the in-the-box sort of essay required on SATs and college applications. The target audience is a first year college student, yet the text does not pander or seem to assume the student can not think for him/herself. Also the text is not excessive on what I can best term to be "hip and cool": this being the attempt by the authors/publisher to appeal to some imagined college teen fixated upon MTV, fashion dictates, etc. The book also seems very appropriate for the younger teen. This is in contrast to many of the books that had essays dealing with the angst of teenhood to excess. There are many excellent samples of essays, many by well known authors, to illustrate the various points the book is trying to teach.
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Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure (Book 3)Georgia ByngChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 We had not read the first two books of this series when we read this one, and that was not a problem. Apparently, earlier in the series, Molly Moon escapes from the dreary orphanage in which she is confined by becoming a master hypnotist and defeating her uncle, who is an evil madman.

In this episode, Molly must learn to travel through time so she can rescue her beloved dog, Petula, her friends Forest and Rocky, and her earlier selves, all of whom have been kidnapped from the present to India in the 1870s.

The plot is twisty and interesting and Molly is a wonderful role model for gifted children. She has obviously had to work hard to learn to be a great hypnotist in previous books. Now that Molly is possibly the best hypnotist in the world, there are still other challenging skills she needs to work hard to learn. Skills that some adults around her have mastered and other adults are just adequate at doing. Time-travel for one.

Another endearing trait that Molly has is that she is very aware both of her great abilities and of her shortcomings. The all-knowing narrator of the book takes especial care to let us know what Molly is thinking when she masters her self-doubts, carefully thinks through her options, and then puts her all into implementing whatever solution she thinks will work best.


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Molly Moon's Incredible Book of HypnotismGeorgia ByngChildren 5 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 "Why don't they make books like THIS one into movies?," my 12 year old exclaimed. I was listening to this book on tape and dear daughter, who had read the book a few years earlier, was lured into listening.

Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism like Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure, which we read a while back, narrates the story of Molly Moon, an orphan, and her best friend Rocky.
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Monkey Bible, TheMark LaxerFor grown-ups For grown-ups science fiction2010
 I am frankly very disappointed in this book. It had so much potential, and I really enjoyed the first maybe two-thirds of it. Up to that point, Laxer posed questions that I personally thought were fascinating: What is the relationship between humans and the "non-human" world? Do we have any right to separate them at all [I don't think we do]? What does religion mean? How does the mental process of religion relate to the physical world? I was also impressed that there were no direct answers to these questions, because the answers are different for any individual... And Laxer effectively communicated that flexibility with a mix of narrators who all found different answers for themselves.

BUT. After a couple of hundred pages, the answers started being drilled into me, which I didn't appreciate, because all of a sudden the open-ness I had felt disappeared. I was also unhappy that the story took a lot of turns towards the impractical, so that by the end I didn't believe in the world presented to me anymore. All in all, The Monkey Bible represents a great idea, started off very well, but ended all-too-mush-ily for me.


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More Adventures of the Great BrainJohn D. FitzgeraldChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upbiographical1969
 Second volume in the first person series of one of three Catholic brothers growing up in turn of the century Mormon Utah.
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Mozart SeasonVirginia Euwer WolffChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, girl heroine1991
 The Mozart Season is the story, told in the first person, of a young girl who comes to understand, deeply understand, the depths of good and evil in the world. This coming-of-age novel describes the process by which Allegra comes to cherish the eccentricities of her grandmother, (who is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor), her mother's brilliant best friend (who lost her child and her equanimity in a dreadful accident), a street person (Mr. Trouble, who lost his brain to lead poisoning and his quality of life to an indifferent system), and Mozart's Fourth Concerto.
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My Brain Is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul ErdosBruce SchechterSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upNon-fiction, biography2000
 Biography of the brilliant mathematician, Paul Erdos. Inspiring because this extremely odd guy, who spoke in code and could not perform the normal functions most other human beings usually have to do (such as pay bills and cash checks), found ways to mentor promising young mathematicians and revolutionize mathematical thinking.
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My Father's DragonRuth Stiles GannettChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1948
 Three whimsical tales; adults may feel that they are so whimsical that the plots become downright arbitrary, but the story involves young readers and the words are not hard. The hardcover presents the intricate black-and-white illustrations beautifully.

My Side of the MountainJean Craighead GeorgeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1959
 reviewed by Jennifer Dees

I've just finished reading one of my old favorites to my daughter, and it occurs to me that it's a very good book for homeschooled kids. The book is "My Side of the Mountain", by Jean Craighead George (1959). I vividly remember that I cherished this book at about 8 or 9 years old, little pioneer girl that I was. We lived "out in the country", with woods bordering our 10 acres, and I spent many a happy hour out in the woods, in my own world, imagining myself an adventurer from some time past, probably as a male protagonist (they had all the fun; the feminist revolution hadn't hit our small town yet).

My daughter's well into chapter books but this one's a little long and deep for her, but when I saw it in the library I couldn't wait. I read a lot to her when I can find a break in her own reading. I knew this was one we would enjoy together, and we did.


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My Sister's KeeperJodi PicoultSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2004
 I am not very satisfied with the ending to this book. The whole thing is very sad, and Picoult just HAD to add one more horrible twist... ANYway, this book is good, but as I said, horribly depressing, as you may expect from a book about cancer. The idea is that 13-year-old Anna has always been just a vessel of bodyparts to contribute to her leukemic sister for various surgeries, and she decides to sue her parents so she doesn't have to donate a kidney.
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Mystery of Breathing, ThePerri KlassFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction2004
 Repulsive. Read The Mercy Rule instead.
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NationTerry PratchettChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2008
 My daughter has been censoring my reading lately. She refuses outright to allow me to read certain books, like Brisingr, the third book in the Eragon series and Inkdeath, the third book in the Inkheart series.

As for Nation.... "You won't like this book," my daughter said as she handed it to me. She meant that SHE did not like this book. "I usually would give every Terry Pratchett book I read a 10 out of 10. I give this one a 6, maybe. He is usually at least amusing, even when he is grim. This one is mostly just grim though."

My assessment is more generous than my daughter's. Nation is intense. And contains significantly more mayhem, death, and destruction than most Pratchett stories, for adults or children. And rage at the universe. Along with Pratchett's customary skewering of the silliness of every society and religion he happens across. With, perhaps, a little more bitterness than usual.

I could not put Nation down. And as I parsed each angry word, I thought that if I were Terry Pratchett, brilliant author of unforgettable stories, and I had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, well I would be raging at the Universe as well.


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Nine Lives of Aristotle, TheDick King-SmithChildren 8 and upLearning to readfiction2003
 Cat barrels through eight of his nine lives and finally settles down.
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Nobody's PrincessEsther FriesnerChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 Kinda cute... the princess doesn't want to be girly, but wants to learn to fight and hunt and other things that only boys are allowed to do. The book is about Helen of Sparta before she was queen or beautiful.
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Number Devil, TheAndrew RichChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upeducational fiction1997
 I absolutely love the book, Andrew Rich, a young reader, tells us, "I absolutely love the book, The Number Devil : A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Rotraut Susanne Berner (Illustrator), Michael Henry Heim (Translator). I'm learning so much from it. It starts out easy, but then it's really big and new and hard!!!"

There's also a DVD:

  In context....

Nutshell LibraryMaurice SendakLearning to readLearning to readfiction1962
 very cool pictures; extremely non-cutesy
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Ogre Downstairs, The Diana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1991
 A magical chemistry set unites the five children in a newly-blended family, and, eventually, helps three of them learn to respect and trust their new father, who is big and loud enough to be an ogre.
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One Hundred Years of SolitudeGabriel Garcia MarquezSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction1970
 Magical realism
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Orchid Thief, TheSusan OrleanSophisticated readersSophisticated readersbiography2000
 Study of a man obsessed with orchids.
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Oryx and CrakeMargaret AtwoodFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2003
 Margaret Atwood's gift is to write entirely plausible nightmares that resonate to her readers' bones. Problem is, the nightmares she drags us into are so plausible that they do seem to be coming true.

The nightmare we inhabit in Oryx and Crake is an ecological one. Intense, violent, horribly sad. Just what we expect from the best of Margaret Atwood.

A must read.

A bit of a spoiler, below.


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Owls in the FamilyFarley MowatChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upbiographical1961
 A boy's adventures with two adopted owls: one orphaned and one abused.

Pearl, TheJohn SteinbeckChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1947
 A review by a 10 year old reader...

WARNING: Plot spoilers in the long description.

The Pearl is a very sad book. Too sad for me. It shows you what greed can do to people. Which in Kino's case causes a lot of death and misery. I didn't like The Pearl very much.


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People of Sparks, The (Books of Ember) Jeanne DuprauChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 This is a story about a city of people who escaped underground while humans basically destroyed themselves with war... In the prequel the people from the underground city of Ember emerge into what seems like an empty world of sunlight. But in this book, they find a village that attempts to adopt them. In the end there is almost another war, because some of the people are just cruel.
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Peter and the StarcatchersDave BarryChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2004
 This great book may seem a little silly at first while you read it, but it's an exciting story anyway. In fact both my parents and my uncle liked it just as much as I did.

It starts as an orphan boy, Peter, (who doesn't know his last name or even how old he is), and his four friends: James, Thomas, Prentiss, and Tubby Ted are in an old smelly wagon cart on their way to a ship called the Neverland, being shipped into their adventures.

On the Neverland Peter meets a girl named Molly, (who he thinks is VERY pretty) who needs his help protecting the magical trunk the Neverland has on board. Peter doesn't hesitate in saying yes. During their voyage, they are being followed by the wickedest pirate on the seven seas, Black Stache, who is after their ship and its mysterious cargo.

In this prequel to Peter Pan, you discover how the pirates, the mermaids, the flying, the croc, and all the other puzzles of Peter Pan came to be (according to Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson).

I liked this book very much, and I feel that it does a good job of explaining how Peter Pan became Peter Pan. This book could appeal to anyone from 8 years old to full grown adults, especially if they like the story of Peter Pan.

--Fizzy, age 12


Peter PanJ.M. BarrieChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1903
 Almost every child makes up a fantasy place with all of the things that they think about. Some of these places are 'made' alone; sometimes brothers or sisters or friends help. The book Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie is about one such place.
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Pilgrim At Tinker CreekAnnie DillardChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upnon-fiction1974
 I have always been squeamish.

And yet, Annie Dillard's beautiful yet clear-eyed vignettes about the resplendence and horrors of the natural world captivate me.


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Pinhoe Egg, The: A Chrestomanci Book Diana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2006
 In this, the latest episode in the life of Cat Chant, Cat has truly settled in to preparing for his future. The story reveals that he has come far in his apprenticeship to Christopher Chant, (the current Chrestomanci -- Chief Enchanter) and his family.

Cat has learned how to learn from a very gifted nine-lived enchanter who is (obviously) very talented, but possibly not as talented as Cat is. Throughout the book, Cat works on identifying skills Chrestomanci has that Cat still needs to learn, on when to solve problems on his own and when to call for help, and on how and when to intervene in the lives of the less gifted inhabitants of the universes he is destined to govern.

Like the plots of many other stories in the Chrestomanci series, the plot of this novel explores the problems of a gifted child (in this case a girl) who is made to feel inferior because she is special.

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Pippi LongstockingAstrid Ericsson LindgrenChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1950
 My daughter was hooked the moment Pippi started explaining about how everyone in Egypt walks backwards all the time.
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Pirates!Celia ReesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction2009
 I don't think the exclamation point in the title is warranted.

I picked it up because I saw "based on a true story", and wanted a glimpse into what pirate life was really like, but throughout the book I felt like it was very fictional.
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Poison: A Novel Susan Fromberg SchaefferFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2007
 Grown-up fairy tale about how the grown children and former lovers of a philandering novelist unite to defeat his widow, the children's evil stepmother, and secure his money and his legacy.
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Possession: A RomanceA.S. ByattFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1990
 Intricate and, yes, romantic, story of the work and loves of a motley community of poets and researchers, in this century and in the past all exploring pieces of a literary puzzle.

These nerdy people, all obsessed with doing the arcane thing that they do very well, figure out how to combine their efforts for the good of the group and themselves.

Not for children, but similar in theme, although vastly more ambitious than, Dragonfly. Highly recommended for gifted adults.

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Pride and PrejudiceJane AustenSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1813
 It is amazing how a book that was written nearly two centuries ago can ring so true to this day.
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Prince of the Pond, The: Otherwise Known as De Fawg PinDonna Jo NapoliChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfairy tale1992
 A deeply imaginative, if sad, deeper look at the story of the Frog Prince.

In this version, narrated by the frog who becomes the prince's wife while he is a frog, the prince gradually adapts to his watery environment and becomes content in his amphibian incarnation.


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Princess AcademyShannon HaleChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, science fiction2005
 Nifty re-thinking of the Cinderella story.
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Princess and Curdie, TheGeorge MacDonaldChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction, fairy tale1873
 A parable that preaches unquestioning loyalty to an inherited monarchy and being hospitable to strangers.
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Princess Bride, The William GoldmanChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction; adventure/fairy tale1987
 Everyone in the family loves this book, and we might just love the movie more. But that's because we know that Mandy Patinkin can do no wrong.
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Professor and the Madman, The: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English DictionarySimon WinchesterSophisticated readersSophisticated readersnon-fiction1998
 Fascinating but depressing story of the life of the murderer who worked on the OED (one of our favorite dictionaries.)
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Prophet of Yonwood, The (Books of Ember) Jeanne DuprauChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2006
 Very preachy and had a LOT of people blindly following orders, which bothered me. The book was written as if the reader was like five, which also bothered me.
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Proud Taste for Scarlet and MiniverE.L. KonigsburgChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical1973
 Eleanor of Aquitaine and some of her friends hang out in heaven and discuss Eleanor's life and loves.
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Ptolemy's Gate (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 3) Jonathan StroudChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2005
 Sardonic musings of a demon summoned by a very young, but now, successful, wizard.

Book review: Part 1

Spoiler alert

I hate spoilers. However, I wish I had known more about the third volume in this trilogy before my daughter and I started reading the first one. (This would not have been possible when we started the first volume, because the third volume had not yet been released.)

That being said, I highly recommend all the books in the trilogy and I am glad that my daughter and I read them together.

This review is being presented in multiple parts; each part may provide additional information that, taken together, might give away some of the plot twists of Volume 3.

On the other hand, those helping highly sensitive readers select books might want to read through all the parts of this review before recommending books in this trilogy to them ...

Book review: Part 2

My 11 year old really loved these books. But they are a bit of a departure for her -- there's real murder and mayhem in them, which, until recently, she would not have tolerated.

As in previous volumes in the Trilogy, this book switches perspective between three very different characters:

  • Feisty Kitty is one of the commoners who are mistreated by the ruling elites and the demons they employ and are devastated by the economy and grief that result from the incessant wars the elites wage on foreign shores. She realizes that she must do something. But how much can one person do and can she live with the devastating consequences of her actions on her friends and colleagues?
  • Bartimaeus the sardonic djinni, who stands back and makes sarcastic comments about the other characters and the plot, even when he's right in the middle of it all, and
  • Nathaniel (John Mandrake) the gifted but annoying magician who has been co-opted by an Evil government because of his great intellectual abilities. Most of the time, the djinni has to obey the boy's commands, and a lot of the humor/sarcasm comes in when the djinni explains to the reader how morally compromised the boy is becoming. (And, to his credit, the djinni doesn't hesitate to tell the boy either, not that the boy listens most of the time.)
There is a complex relationship between these books and slavery too. The djinni is a slave, and even though he respects the good qualities of his boy master, he also hates having to obey his commands. Most of the time, the djinni makes this clear. But he's sometimes more supportive of his master than I think an average slave might actually be.

In Ptolemy's Gate, Bartimaeus also develops a touching relationship with Kitty and an awareness of kinship with the commoners whom most djinn scorn if they consider them at all. So much for cooperation between oppressed masses.

 
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Queen's NoseDick King-SmithChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, magic1983
 Involving contemporary account of a girl who is granted seven! wishes, more or less.
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Quirky Kids : Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn't Fit In- When to Worry and When Not to WorryPerri KlassFor grown-ups For grown-ups Non-fiction2003
 reviewed by An Asperger's Parent

This is a book for parents of kids who have, or resemble those who have, any of several closely related, and confusingly similar, challenges: Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disability - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Nonverbal Learning Disorder, Sensory Integration Dysfunction. But it's about the kids, not the disorders.

This is NOT the book to provide an in-depth understanding of any one of these diagnostic categories. For that purpose, a book more focused on whichever condition you're concerned about will probably serve you better. For example, my own favorite scholarly resource on Asperger's Syndrome is Asperger Syndrome (Guilford Press, 2000), a collection of articles edited by Drs. Klin, Volkmar and Sparrow of Yale.

What Quirky Kids does, and from my perspective does better than any other publication I'm seen, is to serve as a wise, perceptive and sympathetic counselor and friend for parents of kids who are in this spectrum. It speaks respectfully and helpfully about the whole range of real-world issues, including schools, helpful and non-so-helpful friends, maintaining your own mental health, balancing the needs of multiple kids when one or more has exceptional needs, genuinely appreciating your kid's strengths and quirks, understanding the aches and long-term worries.


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Ready, Set, ReadJoanna ColeLearning to readLearning to readfiction1990
 A wonderful anthology of easy-to-read but not flimsy stories. The story Boris Gets a Cold is a family favorite.
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Red Tent, TheAnita DiamantFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, historical1997
 Riff on life of biblical woman, Dinah
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Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (London Stage Revival)Rogers and Hammerstein  Children 12 and upChildren 8 and upmusical1999
 X-Men have been, and remain, our favorite super-heroes. We watch the movies; have not gotten into the comic books. Have recently also enjoyed Hellboy. Some of us really admire The Incredibles (but some of us do not).

We must write our homage to X-Men someday. After all, this is a group that thinks that hiding out in a school for the gifted will somehow shield its members from bullies. A creative, if foolish, concept.

Plus, they have both Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. And very cool superpowers. And great special effects.

We are waiting with great anticipation for the release of the latest X-Men movie, Wolverine. Although, judging from the previews, it's probably going to be depressing as anything. And meanwhile, since we love and admire Hugh Jackman (have started watching Australia), and we love and admire musicals, we sat down and watched this production of Oklahoma.

Plot spoiler alert: plot spoilers follow below...
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Rowan of RinEmily RoddaChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1993
 A Quest, gently told; a good chapter book for a young/new reader.

In Questing to the top of the mountain with six fellow villagers to obtain water for his village, Rowan, a frail, young shepherd, gains confidence and courage.


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Ruins of California, TheMartha SherrillFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2006
 Not a travel book (Ruin can be taken to mean many things in the story, including the last name of the girl narrator), but a fairy tale about parenting in the maelstrom of drugs, sexual freedom, alcohol, style, and serial divorce that was California in the 1970's (and perhaps still today).

The moral of the story? Perhaps that teaching one's children to observe closely and act on their observations is more important than preaching a strict morality that is no longer adhered to by grown-ups, teenagers, or even those who preach it.

-- Emily Berk


RulesCynthia LordChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, autism2006
 In Al Capone Does My Shirts, the first-person narrator is a boy whose family moves to Alcatraz so that his sister may apply to a school for autistic children near San Francisco.

In this less anachronistic modern-day Newbery Honor Book, the first-person narrator, Catherine writes down rules for her autistic brother, David, although she's learned from experience that he routinely ignores them.

Written by the mother of two children, one of whom is autistic, the plot, written with the help of Lord's non-autistic daughter, clearly demonstrates how much the parents of the autistic child demand from the one who does not suffer from that disease.

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Sea of Trolls, TheNancy FarmerChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2004
 Nearly-Christian, Saxon apprentice-wizard boy is abducted by Vikings and learns that even Berserkers (who live to create mayhem) are human and that ancient gods are to be respected and, often, feared, even if one does not worship them.
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Secret Life of Bees, The Sue Monk KiddSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction2003
 Huckleberry Finn in the 1960s and with all girls and the Goddess. I would have liked to have felt more Joy but my friends tell me that the 14 year old narrator is still in shock from all that she's learned. Anyway, the bees and the Sisters June, May, & August make this book well worth reading.
  In context....

Seeing & Writing 2Donald McQuadeCollege-prepCollege-prepnon-fiction2003
 The Seeing and Writing book is a very different book. It too is a book for the entry level college (or perhaps advanced high school?) writer. The over all premise of the book is that we live in a real world where visual text messages have as much, if not more, sway than a full page of text. Certainly, it is a much more interesting book to read and look through and does not pretend to hold the act of writing to a separate standard... a higher standard... than visual images. Rather, the book attempts to have the reader ponder the significance of visual images, text images, and the power of linking the two.
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Selfish Gene, TheRichard DawkinsSophisticated readersSophisticated readersNon-fiction: Science1990
 Richard Dawkins' take-no-prisoners-style riff on how evolution has made all of us.
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SilverwingKenneth OppelChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1997
 A precocious bat and his adventures during a war between the bats and the birds.
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Single Shard, A Linda Sue ParkChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, other cultures2001
 An orphan in 12th century Korea finds his calling as a celadon pottery maker. The hard lives of the people and the technology required to create this art are celebrated in this gentle book. Newbery Medal winner.
  In context....

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, TheAnn BrasharesSophisticated readersChildren 8 and upfiction2001
 A magical pair of pants, pants that are equally flattering on each in the Sisterhood, remind a group of four young women of their bond. And the pants also very creatively tether the four separate plot lines together.

Very well written chic lit.


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Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic, Book 1)Kathleen DueyChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2007
 Okay, I picked this book off the shelf because I thought it was funny to name a book "skin hunger". You can't really judge a book by its name.

The book is not about people eating each other, but two separate story-lines. One is about a girl named Sadima who can hear the thoughts of animals. The other is about a boy named Hahp sent to a gruesome magical academy. The only thing the plots share in common is a man named Somas, who owns Sadima's kind-of boyfriend, and lets Hahp's friends die of starvation.


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Small StepsLouis SacharChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2006
 Small Steps is kind of a sequel to Holes, but it's from the perspective of Armpit (Theodore) instead of Stanley.

I liked Small Steps; I read it in less than a week, although it gets a little smushy in some parts -- lots of kissing and stuff.

In the beginning, it's just a little bit boring, but it picks up at the end.

So if you read it…

Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Fizzy, age 11

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So You Want to Be a WizardDiane DuaneChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1983
 My younger daughter and I have been lucky in that we have often failed to start at the beginning of a series, and when we have, it has often worked out well for us.

We read A Wizard Abroad a while back, enjoyed it, and were advised to start at the beginning of the series. If we had started at the beginning of the series -- hmm -- well, we might not have continued.

Like A Wizard Abroad, So You Want To Be A Wizard stresses the responsibilities and hazards of having great power. And like Abroad, it climaxes in a to-the-death battle between Good and Evil. Unlike Abroad, but not unlike the third book in the series Deep Wizardry, and much to the consternation of my daughter, self-sacrifice to the death is deemed a worthy and necessary outcome in certain extenuating circumstances.
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Song of the GargoyleZilpha Keatly SnyderChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1991
 Working class fairy tale
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Song of the LarkWilla CatherChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction1915
 I am always blown away when a novel that is nearly 100 years old speaks to me as compellingly as Song of the Lark did. The story of Thea Kronborg, one of many children in a family
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Songcatcher, TheSharyn McCrumbChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical2002
 The book is actually the history of a song, rather than a story about a person who catches songs. And/or it's the story of how a song gets caught.
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Soul of a New Machine Tracy KidderChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upNon-fiction1981
 Kidder is a great non-fiction writer. This is a true story about how a company manipulated its most talented employees into creating a great computer, without regard to what the work environment would do to them or their families.
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Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness, TheKaren ArmstrongSophisticated readersSophisticated readersNon-fiction: Autobiography2004
 Thoughtful autobiography of a former nun turned writer about religious thought.

StargirlJerry SpinelliChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2000
 An amazing fiction book that confronts the issue of a gifted child trying to fit in. My 10 yo and I loved this VERY sad but VERY funny and VERY true novel. We read it to each other this summer, alternating chapters, and every time my older daughter caught us, she'd hang out and listen.
Stargirl is a brilliant and highly eccentric high school girl. The novel is written in the narrative voice of the boy who loves Stargirl with and for all her eccentricities and yet despite himself wants her to fit in at school so he can fit in too.

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Step From Heaven, AAn NaSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2003
 I'm not sure how to rate this book, because the narration ranges from a five-year-old's perspective to that of an 18-year-old one. This is really interesting, but leaves most of the book as a very easy, lower-level read. However, this story about abuse and immigration is intense and scary.
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StowawayKaren HesseChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical2000
 "Read this book," my 12 yr. old ordered me. "I'm pretty sure you'll like it. I liked it a lot."

And I did indeed like it a lot. And, I learned a lot about sea voyaging in the late 1700's too.

Hesse based her tale on fact -- there was really a young boy named Nick Young who "appeared" on the roster of Captain Cook's ship Endeavour quite a few months after the ship had left England, but before it had put into any port. Hesse guessed that he had been a stowaway and was discovered once it was too late to put him ashore.

Nick's story is told in the form of his journal entries for the entire voyage, each of which provides a date, a latitude and longitude (in measurements of Capt. Cook's time, which means that if a reader were to want to follow Nick's journey on a globe, one would have to do a little math), and an approximate location in words.

In Hesse's imagination, but perhaps this is truly how it happened, once Nick is free to show himself, he makes himself useful as assistant to the ship's physician, writing tutor, and friend to the Goat and the dogs and many of the sailors.
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Stranger in a Strange LandRobert HeinleinSophisticated readersSophisticated readersFiction1961
 Winner of the 1962 Hugo Award. Story of a human child, raised by Martians on Mars, who comes to Earth and starts a sexual revolution.

I guess it was revolutionary for its time. But re-reading it 40+ years after its release, it strikes me as as preachy as anything by Asimov, with an attitude toward women that holds over from the fifties, and as sexually innocent (not) as The Harrad Experiment.


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Stranger in the ForestEric HansenSophisticated readersSophisticated readersnon-fiction1988
 About dealing with people and environments that are not like what you're used to.
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Stravaganza: City of MasksMary HoffmanChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2002
 City of Masks is about a teenaged girl named Arianna who lives in 16th century Talia, who wants nothing more than to be a mandolier, and a boy named Lucian, who lives in 21st century England, and has an incurable case of cancer.

As Lucian suffers, his dad gives him a beautiful notebook from what seems to be very early Italy. When he fell asleep one night holding the notebook in his hand, he finds himself in 16th century Italy (Talia).

There he meets Arianna, and learns that how he got there was by what the experts call stravagation (which is how he was transferred from his world to this new one). So quite suddenly he is thrown into living two lives, one as a sick kid in modern England during the day, and the other as a perfectly healthy young man in Talia.

I recommend this exciting, kind of mysterious book for people who like fantasy and books that you don't want to put down.

City of Stars is an amazing book, the first in a series of 3. It is so wonderful for many reasons, one of which is that this book surprises you, (in a good way). While you're reading it's hard to guess what is going to happen, until it does, or nearly until it does. 
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Subtle Knife, ThePhillip PullmanFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1999
 This book is really cool: it doesn't have very much big vocabulary but it really goes deeply into the ideas of what is human or not and how our souls manifest themselves.

It also approaches the question of faith versus science, and blindly following versus scoping out your paths.

-- Fizzy, age 14

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SummerlandMichael ChabonChildren 5 and underChildren 8 and upFantasy2002
 Very long tribute to the magical powers of baseball to heal divisions between people and damage to the Earth. Intense enough so that my daughter who is not exceptionally interested in baseball kept having to check back with me to reassure herself that the story really would end in a satisfactory way (happily, that is). It also kept her intensely interested, and it gave her a new -- awe for -- the concept of the "Coyote".  
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Surely You're Joking Mr. FeynmanRichard FeynmanSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upNon-fiction, autobiography1985
 First volume in inspiring autobiography of physicist (and all-around extremely intelligent and charming guy), Richard Feynman.
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Surviving the ApplewhitesStephanie S. TolanChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2002
 Joyous, involving story about a family of stereotypically gifted but stereotypically self-involved Artistes and the stereotypically Troubled Youth who benefits by becoming swept up in their passionate pursuit of Art.
Stephanie Tolan takes wonderful advantage of the fact that we all know the Sound of Music so well we can hear the music in our heads, and those stereotypical personality types move the story along efficiently and with great humor. The characters themselves know they are stereotypical; and their self-awareness is one of the things that saves them and the story. Not a great book, but one we are very glad to have read.
We particularly LOVED the way butterflies weave the various plot elements together.
Excellent portrayal of the joys of homeschooling.

-- Emily Berk
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Sword in the Stone, TheT.H. WhiteChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, King Arthur1938
 Lovely anachronism-rich story of the childhood of King Arthur.
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Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of ThreadKate DicamilloLearning to readLearning to readFairy tale2003
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Tale of Two CitiesCharles DickensSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1859
 My daughter has become a Dickens fan; but this is a good one to start with.
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Tao of Pooh, TheBenjamin HoffChildren 12 and upChildren 5 and underNon-fiction, philosophy1983
 Not difficult to read, but explains some very interesting ideas in a humorous way.
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Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets, TheJean Craighead GeorgeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upnon-fiction1996
 The perfect book for the young reader who wants to adopt every stray creature he or she sees.

In this non-fiction collection, Jean Craighead Geoge, author of My Side of the Mountain, describes the many wild animals she and members of her family have adopted over many years, their adventures and how they fared in captivity, and (for most), how they came to be released.


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Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom : Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use to Meet the Academic Needs of the Gifted and TalentedSusan WinebrennerFor grown-ups For grown-ups Non-fiction; education1992
 If you're going to get one book and your child is in school, get this one.
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Thief Lord, TheCornelia FunkeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2002
 This interestingly imagined story describes how a group of children and a pair of carefully chosen adults build a community in the magical city of Venice.
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Thirteen Orphans, Breaking the WallJane LindskoldChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2009
 Very cool idea for a plot. Although this book is pretty long, I finished it in two or three days (despite the need to do other, more useful, things).

The story is about the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac, with a person who represents each animal. A girl named Brenda discovers early in the book that she is the future Rat, and she has to help regain the memories of her father and other "animals" whose memories of their identities have been stolen. Brenda is forced into a battle she hadn't been aware of until just weeks before, and although only a "Rat-ling", she must help the twelve and the grandson of the original emperor.


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Through Wolf's EyesJane LindskoldChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2002
 This is a book about a girl who was brought up by wolves, before being "rescued" by "civilized" people. The catch is that they think she is next in line to the throne of an ailing king. As her new friends try to teach her manners and human customs, a war is breaking out, and traitors work against everyone but themselves.
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Till We Have Faces : A Myth RetoldC. S. LewisSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, myths1956
 The legend of Cupid and Psyche is revisited in this beautiful but extremely sad consideration of the necessarily stressful interactions between humanity and its deities.
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Time Traveler's Wife, TheAudrey NiffeneggerFor grown-ups For grown-ups science fiction2004
 Is being "unstuck in time" a gift or a curse? As it did for Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5, the inability to lead life in order from beginning to end does present its challenges to Henry, the time traveler and to Clare, his wife.

Our teenager had many more misgivings about this book than I did. And, thinking back on it, I think she's right.

Fizzy's review:

A bit too mushy for me, and it bothered me that the man-woman relationship was based on the traditional beliefs that men are brave adventurers and women stay at home and worry and do housework while they cry and wait for their husbands to return...

BUT. I really liked the fact that Niffenegger took an interesting view on Time, similar to how I've always thought about it. She portrayed Time like a recorded tape, so you could rewind or fast forward (time travel), and each moment would always stay the same, not be totally changed because of your presence, or contain an infinite set of possibilities.

I really enjoyed the book from that perspective, reading about her interesting and unusual theory about what time travel would be like (if it was possible) emotionally for the traveler, and its physical qualities.

For older readers. Their relationship is very heavily based on sex....


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Tree By Leaf Cynthia VoigtChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1988
 A gloomy book about the effects of war and weather on real bodies and minds. And about how a child can come to feel responsible for the acts of man and nature.
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Tree Grows in Brooklyn, ABetty SmithSophisticated readersSophisticated readersautobiographical fiction1943
 Autobiographical novel about a girl growing up in abject poverty.
  In context....

Truckers (Bromeliad Trilogy: Book 1)Terry PratchettChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1990
 "What a GREAT ending!", sighed my 12 yr. old daughter, when she finished reading this book. "And it's by Terry Pratchett, so the sequel will be great too."

In this a tale of city cousins (members of a race of small and short-lived creatures called Nomes who consider the Arnold Bros. Department Store, est. 1905 to be their universe) visited by their country cousins (also Nomes, but ones who lived Outside before visiting the store), gentle fun is poked at organized religion, sexism, and rigid inability to think in general.

When the city Nomes finally realize that Final Clearance. All Sales Final! means that their universe, or at least, Arnold Bros. (est. 1905), is ending, they must work with their visitors to save themselves.
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True BelieverVirginia Euwer WolffChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, girl heroine2001
 Virginia Euwer Wolff impresses me with her ability to capture and express the needs, wants, temptations, fears, motivations, and ways of life of her fictional heroines.

True Believer is the second first-person fiction I've read by Wolff; the first was The Mozart Season, another great favorite of mine. Like The Mozart Season, True Believer is told in the voice of an entirely believable girl.

But unlike Allegra Shapiro, heroine of The Mozart Season, LaVaughn, narrator of True Believer, has so many worries in the present day that she cannot dwell on her past or the past of her family. LaVaughn describes her day-to-day life in the inner-city projects, a life so relentlessly hard that keeping her eye on her future becomes nearly impossible sometimes, in free verse so compelling that it reads like prose.


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Trumpet of the Swan, TheE.B. WhiteChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1970
 I won't label this a book about matter-of-factly overcoming one's disabilities; it's so much better than that. I guess what it really is is a book about how one voiceless swan found his bliss (and his voice), and it provides lessons in how we can find ours. The book on 4 CDs narrated by the author is worth many listens.

-- Emily

  In context....

Tuck EverlastingNatalie BabbittChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 This is a beautifully written book about a family of people who never age and never die.

From the perspective of 10-year-old Winnie, Babbitt shows us many details rich with color and motion that Winnie notices at first only through the bars of her fence. As she strays out of her yard for the first time, she comes to know the Tucks, who enchant her (as well as us).


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Twelve Angry MenReginald RoseChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1954
 I think this play is amazing. It focuses on twelve men on jury duty who are deciding whether a teenager is guilty of killing his father. The jurors must unanimously rule "guilty" or "there is a reasonable doubt." All of the jurors are white, fairly privileged.
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Twenty-One Balloons, TheWilliam Pene du BoisChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upScience fiction1947
 Technologist/balloonist discovers an island on which a group of very special folks have isolated themselves.

Winner, 1948 Newbery Medal


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Uncle Petros and Goldbach's ConjectureApostolos K DoxiadisSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction2000
 A mathematical fairy tale.
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Understood BetsyDorothy Canfield FisherChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical1916
 Written in 1916, it's the story of an orphan girl who adjusts to life on a Vermont farm.
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UnlessCarol ShieldsFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2002
 "What did Cinderella's mother die of?," my daughter asked me, when she was 4. I myself had never troubled to think about this. But I came to realize that, in stories for children, from fairy tales to adventures to Walt Disney musicals, the mothers' presence is usually notable for its absence. Their deaths are required so that plots can unfold.

And yet, I have recently come across a few novels that consider thoughtfully the role(s) a mother may play in her daughter's future. In the two grimmest, White Oleander and The Book of Ruth, the power of the mothers to destroy their daughters despite great distance, time, and, in the case of White Oleander, despite tall prison walls, is absolute.

...

Unless and What To Keep convey more nuanced messages. In Unless, a mother is beside herself at her daughter's transformation from promising college student into street person. Eventually, the mother reassures herself that not every activity she undertakes is invested with deep meaning and that she is not responsible for every anguish that afflicts every member of her family.

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Velvet Room, TheZilpha Keatly SnyderChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, history1965
 Gentle but involving story about young girl whose family has lost its farm, but not its love, principles, or dignity, in California in the Great Depression. One of the notable and wonderful things about this novel is that most of the adults, and most of the children, consistently act in honorable and thoughtful ways. The plot is driven principally by the harsh circumstances of the times.
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View From SaturdayE.L. KonigsburgChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1996
 Motley group of gifted kids learn about each other and to work together to win a contest, aided by an inspiring teacher.
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Warm Place, TheNancy FarmerChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1996
 Gentle tale of a young giraffe who is stolen away from her home and marshals a multi-species group of friends to help her find her way home.

As in other Nancy Farmer stories, many of the bad guys in this tale are space aliens.


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Water for ElephantsSara GruenFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2007
 Fizzy says:

Great book. REALLY cool. It follows the story of one man for one summer, as he runs away to the circus. Accidentally.

Gruen definitely did her research, and gets deep into the gritty life of traveling circuses around the 1930's. The hierarchy that separated bosses, performers, and workers is very clear, and Jacob, the narrator, doesn't fit into any of those categories, which leads to an interesting and fast paced novel.

I read it in about a day and a half. SUPER good. Recommend it to anyone.

Emily says:

Beautiful and deep, but interspersed with the fascinating circus lore is unspeakable cruelty, human to human, and especially, human to animal. Balanced, sometimes, by unbelievable grace.


Watership DownRichard AdamsChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction1972
 Epic story of a rabbit civilization that faces challenges.
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Wee Free Men, TheTerry PratchettChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 The Wee Free Men is a very enjoyable book about a nine year old girl named Tiffany Aching and her unexpected friends, the Nac Mac Feegle. I liked this book VERY much and it was fun to read. It is wacky in a normal way.

Tiffany lives on a farm peacefully if not a bit bored-ly until she meets the Feegles, and together they have to save the day.


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What To KeepRachel ClineFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2004
 The daughter of a brilliant but flawed neurosurgeon learns to appreciate the imperfect life her mother has helped her to lead.
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Wheel on the School, TheMeindert DeJongChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upFiction1955
 The children of a Dutch fishing village try various strategies in order to find a wheel that they can put on the roof of their schoolhouse so they can attract storks that will bring them luck. Winner, 1955 Newbery Medal
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Where I'd Like To BeFrances O'Roark DowellChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 A group of children abandoned to a group home and an apparently Asperger's-spectrum, intellectually gifted child, are united by a love of architecture, or building, at least, scrap-booking, and the stories told by an overly-imaginative housemate.

Not hard to read, although the stories of how the children came to live in the home are sad.


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White OleanderJanet FitchFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1999
 "What did Cinderella's mother die of?," my daughter asked me, when she was 4. I myself had never troubled to think about this. But I came to realize that, in stories for children, from fairy tales to adventures to Walt Disney musicals, the mothers' presence is usually notable for its absence. Their deaths are required so that plots can unfold.

And yet, I have recently come across a few novels that consider thoughtfully the role(s) a mother may play in her daughter's future. In the two grimmest, White Oleander and The Book of Ruth, the power of the mothers to destroy their daughters despite great distance, time, and, in the case of White Oleander, despite tall prison walls, is absolute. The sorrows of mothers, say Janet Fitch and Jane Hamilton, are visited on their daughters.

...

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Widow for One YearJohn IrvingFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1998
 If you like John Irving, I think you'll find The Cider House Rules and Hotel New Hampshire much more interesting.
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Wife, TheMeg WolitzerFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2003
 First person fiction in which the wife of a famous author describes the events that lead to the end of their marriage.
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Wild RobertDiana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 A girl whose family manages a historic castle in England summons a witch, Robert, who was buried 350 years earlier. Although Robert's behavior is impulsive and assertive, he usually has reasons for enchantments.
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Winter's TaleMark HelprinSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction1983
 New York-state-based magical realism. One of our favorite books.
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WintersmithTerry PratchettChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2006
 Sometimes a precocious person uses her gifts in a way that have dire consequences. Whether or not the harm was intentional, that person should take responsibility for the problems she creates and try to resolve them.

Early in this tale, Tiffany Aching, a very mature and gifted if reluctant witch, makes the awful mistake of arousing the romantic attention of the Wintersmith (God of Winter), and nearly simultaneously but through no fault of her own, loses her teacher and home.

Wintersmith is the story of how Tiffany:
  • Rectifies (with the "help" of her silly blue friends the Nac Mac Feegle and her not-quite-as-silly boy?friend, Roland) the wrong she's done,
  • Learns to fit back into her home, and
  • Comes to appreciate, understand, and learn from other mentors.


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Witch WeekDiana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2001
 Many of the stories in Wynne Jone's Chrestomanci series explore the problems of gifted children who are made to feel inferior or taken advantage of because they are special. This happens to the protagonists of The Lives of Christopher Chant and Charmed Life, for example.

But in the society evoked in Witch Week, anyone identified as a witch is burned at the stake. Which puts the students at the Larwood House School, all of whom are orphaned because of a family connection to witchcraft, in a desperate position. Many of them know they are witches. And although it's exhiliarating to know that one has great power, they know from experience that the penalty for getting caught, or worse, being turned in by one's peers, is death by fire.

Spoilers below...












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With Every Drop of BloodJames and Christopher CollierChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1997
 A review by a 10 year old reader...

I liked With Every Drop of Blood, but it was sad. I never have understood how people thought they were better, and smarter, and deserved a better life than black people just because they looked different.

There were two main characters: Johnny and Cush. Johnny is a white kid whose dad got killed in the civil war. When his dad died he left Johnny, his mom and his two younger siblings Sam and Sarah alone. They needed food and money (and Johnny wanted to revenge his dad's death) so Johnny went teamstering food in a wagon for the rebel soldiers.


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With Or Without YouCarole MatthewsFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2005
 "There are pink tents and pink high-heels on the cover of that book, Mom. Are you reduced to reading chic-lit?," my most opinionated daughter demanded. Don't know how exactly I ended up reading With Or Without You, but there I was. And, once you start reading a book like this, it's easier to just finish it than it is to put it down.

And, yes, the standard required elements of chic-lit are provided:

  • Insecure heroine
  • So-so job
  • Unfulfilling romantic life
  • Moralistic philosophizing


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Wizard Abroad, ADiane DuaneChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 Fourteen year-old wizard Nita's parents are worried about her "relationship" with her wizarding partner (a boy), so they ship her off to Ireland, where she gets into much more harrowing situations (and a romantic one as well) than those she might have experienced if she'd just stayed put in the USA.

My daughter and I loved the way the tiny Bard Cat interacts with her less gifted human allies. The seeming contradiction between the way wizards look -- ordinary -- and what they have to do -- extraordinary -- might be heartening to a child who feels that his or her specialness is not reflected in appearance or circumstances. And, the cameo appearances by Celtic mythological beings are fun.

The discussions of Nita's romantic thoughts (nothing graphic, but probably not of great interest to younger children) and the responsibilities that go along with great power, and the excitement, mayhem, and death that inextricably mix with battle might make this book appealing to adolescent readers, rather than to younger readers.

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Wolf StoryWilliam McCleeryChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1947
 A great book to read aloud to your child about a father who tells his son a story. Especially wonderful if you know NYC and its suburbs well enough to recognize the venues the boy and his father visit.

Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart (Wolf, Book 2)Jane LindskoldChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 My daughter will read nearly any book that is put in front of her, and she knows just about intuitively when one is "good" or not. In other words, we are entirely in sympathy with, for example, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker, in which he explains that there are really only a few stories to be told and the important thing is to tell the tale creatively and well.

On the other hand, my daughter and I have noticed that in many young adult book series, nearly every book in the series uses, not only the same basic plot, but also the exact same plot elements in the exact same order. This is truly frustrating, because, once we've caught on to this failing, basically, not only do we know exactly how each book will end, but we also know pretty much what the twists and turns will be before the end. This is even more frustrating when the characters are as interesting and unique as they are in Jane Lindskold's Wolf Series. And, even worse, Lindskold's plot twists seem to always include a planned rape, described, not too graphically, but at length, and then a protracted and bloody battle.

So, what can we now say about Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart, the sequel to Through Wolf's Eyes, which we raced through just a while ago?
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Wright 3, TheBlue BalliettChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2006
 My teacher gave me Wright 3 because I liked its prequel, Chasing Vermeer sooo much. I read The Wright Three in a day -- It is one of those books where you can't stop reading because no matter where you are in the book, you're always at a spot where it's too exciting to stop. (I remember when we were reading Chasing Vermeer in class and my teacher had to confiscate my friend's book because she was too far ahead and wouldn't stop reading.)

Wright 3 is about three kids named Calder, Petra, and Tommy. Petra and Tommy at first don't like each-other but are both friends with Calder. They have to work together to save the Robie House, a historical house in their neighborhood that has lots of secrets.


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