I get such a thrill when someone asks me for a book recommendation. It’s a serious responsibility, considering that time is precious, attention spans are short, and competition with screens is fierce.
My 10-year-old niece recently asked for some book suggestions, so I jumped at the chance to rack my brain for the best Kid Lit I had encountered lately. In doing so, I noticed that many revolved around the theme of survival. How to get through adolescence and school years. How to survive literally in new and oftentimes untamed lands. How to cope with bad things that happen to us or those we love.
Books have been my constant through life’s many ups and downs. Good fiction is a beacon of light, shining insight and helping me weather whatever storms I may be facing. Through well-developed characters, plots and ideas, I am reminded time and time again that others have walked similar journeys and not only survived, but thrived.
Just as I did in a post last year during Read Across America Week, I created a list of books geared toward kids that are worth exploring. Some were found through Goodreads, a few were recommended by friends, others were suggested by my kids. Collectively they’ve enlarged my perspective, reminding me that we need one another to survive in this world.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (2017)
Themes: acceptance, community, hope, nature, racism
A huge, caring oak tree co-exists in a small space with a diverse group of animals and humans. The author is brilliant at conveying important truths and incredible meaning through a simple story line and a lovable cast of characters.
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1812)
Themes: adventure, family cooperation, innovation
I’ve wanted to read this classic for some time, probably ever since I was mesmerized by the Disney movie as a child as well as the Swiss Family Treehouse during visits to Disney World. The ingenuity, imagination and close teamwork of the shipwrecked family almost made me want to get stranded on a deserted island to see how I would survive.
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (2010)
Themes: Cooperation, kindness, friendship
Fans of Wonder will find themselves familiar with the format of this story as it is shared from multiple perspectives of students in a fifth-grade classroom. The kids are guided by an insightful (if not unorthodox) teacher to believe in themselves, as well as as others outside the classroom… until an unfortunate accident bonds them together in ways they could never have imagined.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds (2016)
Themes: character, diversity, identity, teamwork, track
Our family read this book, which is part of a series, with other adults and kids during a summer book club. I’ve admittedly not read many books based in the inner city, but I found myself rooting for Ghost as he struggled to acclimate with the track team while attempting to outrun his anger and his past.
The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart (2015)
Themes: cancer, courage, friendship, honesty
The author of this book visited my son’s school, so Jon read it first and then recommended to me (a definite role reversal). It deals with some heavy, heart-wrenching themes that may be too much for some kids, but the journey a boy and his faithful dog takes leads to redemption and realization.
Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg (2016)
Themes: freedom, multi-generational family, perseverance, slavery
This story told via poetry follows the story of a young slave girl named Grace and the extent her family is willing to go to have a shot at freedom. It’s an awesome piece of historical fiction that would serve well as a family read-aloud and discussion piece.
Gone Fishing by Tamera Will Wissinger (2013)
Themes: outdoor adventure, sibling rivalry, wonder
Shared mainly from a young boy’s perspective, this collection of poems made me reminisce about my own growing-up years. The simple, engaging illustrations support the story line and poetry structures. This book is geared more toward young kids just starting to engage in the world of poetry, but I would recommend it – hook, line and sinker!
I’m always on the lookout for Kid Lit recommendations! Feel free to share some of your great children’s literature suggestions in the comments below.