As we enter the last stretch of summer before school starts again, we present our big annual book list — and this year, we're focusing on great reads for kids.
Back in June, NPR's Backseat Book Club — our book club for young readers — asked you, the NPR audience, to nominate your favorite books for kids age 9-14. More than 2,000 of you replied, giving us hundreds and hundreds of titles to consider. So we turned to our expert panel (read more about them — and their Newbery honors! — here), who combined audience favorites with their own choices to come up with a curated list of 100 must-reads.
And our final Backseat Book Club list has a little bit of everything: tales of trying to fit in, escaping to magical lands, facing prejudice, coming of age and fighting to survive. There are animal stories, pioneer sagas, science-fiction adventures and, of course, beloved classics.
So if you're looking for a new book for the young readers in your life — or you want to relive that age yourself — please stick around and browse our bookshelf. (Here's a printable version of the list, too.) And if your favorite book is missing, please tell us about it — nicely! — in the comments. Happy reading!
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie's humorous, semiautobiographical novel, illustrated by Ellen Forney, follows 14-year-old Junior — poor, skinny and with a freakishly big head — as he leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation for a mostly white school in a nearby town. Alexie captures the pain and awkwardness of adolescence while also meditating on the devastation that poverty, racism and alcoholism have wreaked on Native American communities.
Caddie Woodlawn isn't interested in being a lady. Living on the Wisconsin frontier with her pioneer family, the free-spirited tomboy — inspired by the memories of Carol Ryrie Brink's grandmother — runs wild, causes trouble, has adventures and befriends the local Indian tribe.
The House on Mango Street
For Esperanza, a young girl growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago, life is an endless landscape of concrete and rundown tenements. She tells her story in a series of vignettes, as she tries to rise above the hopelessness of her surroundings and come into her own power.
The Birchbark House
The first young adult novel from the National Book Award-winning novelist Louise Erdrich, The Birchbark House follows Omakayas, a girl from the Ojibwa tribe, as she nurses her family during a devastating smallpox epidemic and discovers a mysterious secret from her past.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Author Harper Lee explores racial tensions in the fictional "tired old town" of Maycomb, Ala., through the eyes of 6-year-old Scout Finch. As her lawyer father, Atticus, defends a black man accused of rape, Scout and her friends learn about the unjust treatment of African-Americans — and their mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley.
A Long Way from Chicago Series
Richard Peck's stories follow siblings Joey and Mary Alice, growing up in Chicago in the 1930s. They're city kids, but the real excitement happens during their annual summer trips to rural Illinois — where their larger-than-life grandmother turns small-town visits into big-time fun.
Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico and go to work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farmworkers on the eve of the Great Depression.
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn
Growing up in the dirty, crime-ridden tenements of Brooklyn in the early 1900s, Francie Nolan has to be tough to survive. Determined to become a writer, Francie fights her way out of the slums with the resilience of the "Tree of Heaven," a special tree that can grow and thrive even in the most inhospitable environments.
The Witch Of Blackbird Pond
In 1687 in Connecticut, Kit Tyler, feeling out of place in the rigid Puritan household of her aunt and uncle, befriends an old woman considered a witch by the deeply religious community — and suddenly finds herself standing trial for witchcraft.
Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Cassie Logan endures humiliation and witnesses the racism of the KKK as she grows up in Depression-era Mississippi. She learns from her mother, a schoolteacher who refuses to use textbooks that whitewash slavery, and her father, who stops a lynch mob, what it really means to fight back.
All-Of-A-Kind Family Series
Five mischievous sisters live on Manhattan's Lower East Side in the buildup to the First World War. In this sweet series illustrated by Helen John, the girls find fun in the rituals of faith and family as they celebrate the Jewish holidays and treat each day as an adventure.
Little House Series
Laura Ingalls Wilder based the Little House series on her memories of growing up on the American frontier in the 1800s. Illustrated by Garth Williams, the nine books follow the resourceful, resilient pioneer family to the Big Woods, the Prairie, Plum Creek, Silver Lake and beyond.
Often described as "the Aeneid of rabbits," this is the story of young rabbit Fiver and his brother Hazel, who set out on an epic journey to find a new home after their own warren is destroyed. Watership Down began as a series of improvised stories author Richard Adams told his young daughters during car trips. Adams also invented the language, Lapine, spoken by Hazel and Fiver.
The One and Only Ivan
Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has spent his life in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant, and decides that he must find her a better life. The novel is illustrated by Patricia Castelao and inspired by a real gorilla named Ivan, who lived in a mall and later became a celebrity at the Atlanta Zoo.
Mr. Popper's Penguins
House painter Mr. Popper receives an unexpected gift, and before he knows it, his house is home to a charming (but expensive) waddle of penguins. Desperate to find a way to make ends meet, Mr. Popper takes the tuxedoed birds on the road as "Popper's Performing Penguins." The Atwaters' comical tale is illustrated by Robert Lawson.
In this whimsical political allegory, beautifully illustrated by Brian Floca, a group of mice fights to regain its liberty from the tyrannical owl Mr. Ocax. He rules the mice with an iron claw, granting them protection from a fearsome porcupine — but only in exchange for their undying obedience.
Because of Winn-Dixie
When 10-year-old India Opal Buloni finds a big, mangy hound wreaking havoc on the local Winn-Dixie supermarket, she takes him home with her to save him from being sent to the pound. She names the stray Winn-Dixie, and he inspires her to start making new friends.
Misty of Chincoteague
Paul Beebe and his sister Maureen have their hearts set on buying and taming Phantom, the wildest mare on Assateague Island. Though Phantom remains wild, her daughter Misty becomes an important part of the Beebe family. Marguerite Henry's tale of the wild ponies is illustrated by Wesley Dennis.
A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery
Chester the cat begins to notice something odd about his family's new pet rabbit. Fangs, capelike markings and a nocturnal disposition harden Chester's conviction: The sweet baby bunny is actually a vampire. James Howe's creepy, furry tale is illustrated by Alan Daniel.
The Redwall series
Deep in the Mossflower Forest lies Redwall Abbey, populated by a motley cast of mice, squirrels, hedgehogs and other forest creatures. This 22-book series covers a vast span of time in the idyllic world of Redwall; jump in anywhere and join heroes like Martin the Warrior and Triss the squirrelmaid as they battle evil in between lavish abbey feasts of Veggible Molebake and Woodland Summercream Pudding.
The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh
The collected adventures of A. A. Milne's famous "Bear of Very Little Brain" and his companions in the Hundred Acre Wood, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard. Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo, Owl and the rest spend their dappled days boosting Pooh out of Rabbit's doorway, meeting Heffalumps, playing Poohsticks, giving parties and attempting to "unbounce" the excitable Tigger.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
A widowed field mouse must enlist the help of a pack of ex-lab rats to save her home from a farmer's plow in this novel playfully illustrated by Zena Bernstein. In exchange, she helps the rats, who are a sophisticated and literate society, as they look to cast off the yoke of human dominance.
Where the Red Fern Grows
The Story of Two Dogs and a Boy
Billy roams the Ozarks with his two beloved dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann, teaching them how to hunt raccoons. But when tragedy strikes in the form of a mountain lion, Billy takes comfort in the Native American legend of the red fern, which can be planted only by an angel.
The Cricket in Times Square
Chester the cricket is happy living in a peaceful Connecticut meadow. But when he follows the smell of a picnic-goer's liverwurst all the way to New York's Times Square, he finds he can't get enough of big city life with his new friends, a cat, a mouse and a boy.
A little girl, a loquacious spider and "some pig" star in this beloved story of friendship, ingenuity and the cycle of life, illustrated by Garth Williams. Farm girl Fern loves Wilbur the pig, who is destined for the dinner table until quick-thinking gray spider Charlotte starts spinning his praise in web form — with the comical assistance of Templeton the rat.
A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary
This scrapbook biography of Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, profiles two intellectuals — from very different backgrounds — who shared interests in literature and politics, as well as a great love for each other. Candace Fleming uses photographs, drawings, recipes, notes and letters to illustrate their remarkable union.
Anne Frank the Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank died in a concentration camp just a few months before the end of World War II. Her diaries, preserved by her father, provide a vivid portrait of the years she and her family spent hiding in an Amsterdam warehouse that Anne referred to as "the secret annex." Frank's diaries are a deeply human mix of teen angst and an unshakeable faith in the triumph of good over evil.
A Life of Discovery
In a sympathetic and sensitive portrayal of the United States' longest-serving first lady, Russell Freedman follows Roosevelt from her difficult childhood to her years in the White House during her husband's four terms to her work with the United Nations following FDR's death.
The Race to Build - and Steal - The World's Most Dangerous Weapon
Full of treachery, spies, adventure and deception, Bomb is the story of "the creation — and theft — of the deadliest weapon ever invented." Told like an adventure story, it follows the United States and the Soviet Union as they work furiously to develop the atomic bomb.
The Tuck family is confronted with an agonizing situation when it discovers that a 10-year-old girl and a malicious stranger now share their secret, about a spring of magical water that prevents the drinker from ever growing any older.
James and the Giant Peach
James' parents are trampled by a rhinoceros, and he is sent to live with his abusive aunts in this fantastic tale, illustrated by Quentin Blake. When James accidentally spills magical crocodile tongues on a peach tree, it grows the largest, juiciest, ripest peach imaginable — the perfect vehicle in which to escape his horrid aunts.
Four cousins spending their summer vacation in a city apartment find an ancient coin and enjoy a series of fantastic adventures when they learn the coin is "half magic." Cheerful drawings by N.M. Bodecker illustrate the sometimes unexpected results of the children's wishes.
The Graveyard Book
Reared by ghosts, werewolves and other residents of the hillside cemetery he calls home, an orphan named Nobody Owens wonders how he will manage to survive among the living having learned all his lessons from the dead. And the man Jack — who killed the rest of Nobody's family — is itching to finish the job. Illustrations by Dave McKean.
Ever wondered why you're constantly losing socks? Or buttons, or paper clips, or postage stamps? Perhaps it's because you unwittingly live with Borrowers, tiny people who furnish their secret homes with castoffs "borrowed" from "human beans." The Clock family — mother Homily, father Pod and daughter Arrietty — live safely out of sight, until one day Pod is spotted by a human boy.
Harry Potter series
The adventures of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and his wand-wielding friends at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry, Ron and Hermione must master their craft and battle the machinations of the evil wizard Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
A Series of Unfortunate Events books
The three Baudelaire children are sent to live with the dastardly fortune hunter Count Olaf when their parents die in a fire, and that is just the beginning of their misfortunes. Luckily for readers, the children encounter enough misery to fill 13 books of this deliciously morbid series.
A stern but magical English governess is blown into the Banks' lives by the east wind. She slides up the banisters, can produce enormous objects from her carpet bag, and takes the children to a tea party on the ceiling in this beloved children's classic.
In Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, the lives and adventures of the four independent, creative March sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy — are set against the backdrop of 19th century New England while their father is away during the Civil War.
Ramona Quimby, irrepressible owl-wrecker, burr-crown-maker, one-bite-apple-eater, anti-smoking campaigner and toothpaste squeezer, goes from pesty little sister to grown-up 10-year-old over the course of this beloved, humorous series by author Beverly Cleary. Ramona began as an incidental character in a different series, but quickly became a kid-lit icon in her own right.
Walk Two Moons
Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle sets off on a cross-country road trip with her grandparents to try to find her mother, who recently left her and her father. On the way, Sal tells them about her friend Phoebe Winterbottom, whose story of an absent mother begins to illuminate Sal's own.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
Ten-year-old Kenny and his family, "the Weird Watsons" of Flint, Mich., go to visit their grandmother in Alabama as racial tensions are peaking. They arrive in Birmingham in time to see the deadly bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in this elegant blending of fact and fiction.
Catherine, Called Birdy
The daughter of a medieval English nobleman, Catherine has been raised for just one thing: marriage. But she has other ideas, and does her best to drive away any potential suitors, until she meets the dreadful and persistent Shaggy Beard, whom she fears she'll never escape.
Danny the Champion of the World
Danny lives in a converted gypsy caravan with his dad, who runs a gas station and garage — and secretly spends his spare time poaching pheasants from the forest of villainous local landowner Mr. Hazell. When Danny's father is injured by one of Mr. Hazell's man-traps, the two hatch an ingenious plan to wreck the landowner's annual pheasant shooting party by stealing all the pheasants first. Illustrated by Quentin Blake.
In 1940s New York, the four Melendy children decide to pool their allowances to create the Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club (I.S.A.A.C.). Every Saturday, a different child can use the whole amount on an activity of their choice, from concerts to museums to utterly unexpected adventures.
Sarah, Plain and Tall
When their widowed father invites a mail-order bride to come live with them in their prairie home, Caleb and Anna are captivated by their new mother, Sarah, who sings and makes her own clothes. But when she goes back home, the children fear she'll never return.
Anne of Green Gables series
In this collection of eight novels by Lucy Maude Montgomery, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a rather prim and elderly brother and sister pair, send away for an orphan boy to help them run their farm on Canada's Prince Edward Island. But when the orphan arrives, he's not a he, he's a she — the loquacious and dreamy red-haired Anne-with-an-E Shirley — who quickly takes up a central place in their hearts.
One Crazy Summer
In the tumultuous summer of 1968, Delphine and her two sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, Calif., to spend a month with their mother, a radical poet who sends them to the local Black Panther center for summer camp. There, they begin to learn about the fraught relationship between race and power.
The Chronicles of Prydain series
Welsh mythology forms the basis for this tale of assistant pig-keeper Taran, who dreams of being a hero and eventually realizes that dream. Along with his companions Princess Eilonwy, and Gurgi the half-man (and of course, Hen Wen the oracular pig), Taran defends the mythical land of Prydain from the Death-lord Arawn, and in the end must decide if wants to rule Prydain himself.
Peter Pan and Tinker Bell whisk the three Darling siblings off to Neverland in J.M. Barrie's classic story about how "all children, except one, grow up." In Neverland, they encounter the Lost Boys as well as the wicked Captain Hook, who loves to feed his enemies to the crocodiles.
After Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion follow the Yellow Brick Road to the magical Land of Oz, new characters — including wooden Jack Pumpkinhead, mechanical Tik-Tok, kind Shaggy Man and beautiful Princess Ozma — are introduced in Frank Baum's imaginative, mysterious world, full of cruel Growleywogs, chatty Rigmaroles, Munchkins and mermaids.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Alice follows a talking white rabbit in a waistcoat down a rabbit hole, and from there, things only get curiouser and curiouser. After run-ins with a Mad Hatter, a hookah-puffing caterpillar, and a disappearing cat with an enigmatic grin, Alice incurs the wrath of a dangerous enemy: The Queen of Hearts.
The City of Ember
In the year 241, 12-year-old Lina trades jobs on Assignment Day — the day schoolchildren are told what their jobs will be — to become a Messenger so she can run to new places in her decaying but beloved city, and perhaps even glimpse Unknown Regions.
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
With help from an eccentric professor, three children succeed in locating the last of the really great Whangdoodles, a wondrous, mooselike creature living in Whangdoodleland. There, they work to grant his heart's greatest wish: a female Whangdoodle for him to love.
The Earthsea Cycle series
Yearning for knowledge and power, Sparrowhawk, a young student at the School for Wizards, becomes overanxious and tries his dangerous powers too soon, unleashing a terrible evil throughout the land, as he prepares for his destiny as the greatest sorcerer in the history of Earthsea.
Chronicles of Narnia series
The four Pevensie children have been evacuated from London to the countryside during the Blitz — but when youngest child Lucy stumbles through a strange wardrobe and into the magical land of Narnia, an even wilder adventure begins. These six books lay out the history of Narnia from creation to destruction and beyond to its re-creation by the mythical lion Aslan.
Jonas lives in a seemingly perfect world: Everyone has an assigned role, there are no choices, and no one experiences pain. But at 12, Jonas is given his lifetime assignment and he becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community — and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.
The Wee Free Men
In a remote corner of Terry Pratchett's Discworld, a young witch-to-be named Tiffany Aching teams up with the Wee Free Men, a clan of rowdy, 6-inch-high blue men, to rescue her baby brother and ward off a sinister invasion from Fairyland.
His Dark Materials series
In this hit series, young Lyra Belacqua tries to prevent kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments; helps Will Parry — a boy from another world — search for his father; and finds that she and Will are caught in a battle between the angelic forces of the Authority and those gathered by her rebel uncle, Lord Asriel.
Or There And Back Again
Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, well-to-do hobbit, lives comfortably in his hobbit hole until the day the wandering wizard Gandalf chooses him to take part in an adventure from which he may never return.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda series
Sixth-grader Dwight is a total loser. But things start to look up when he begins to dispense eerily good advice from an origami finger puppet of Yoda. When a classmate and his Darth Vader finger puppet become determined to end Dwight, can Yoda save him once more?
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Sixth-grader Margaret Simon talks to God about faith, bras, periods and boys, in between bosom-building exercises and preteen chants of: "I must — I must — I must increase my bust!" Torn between the faiths of her Jewish and Christian families, she finds a relationship with God that is all her own.
The Secret Garden
Bratty Mary Lennox, born in India to wealthy and neglectful parents, is sent back to England after a cholera epidemic to live in a rural manor with her uncle. At first rude and angry, Mary is transformed by the kindness of the staff and by her discovery of a neglected garden that once belonged to the late lady of the manor.
The Hundred Dresses
A poignant tale of bullies and bystanders, The Hundred Dresses tells the story of Wanda Petronski, a Polish schoolgirl whose classmates tease her for wearing tattered clothes. The story, which is illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, was inspired by a little girl author Eleanor Estes remembered from her own childhood who was picked on by other kids.
Harriet the Spy
Harriet wants to become an author, so she keeps a secret notebook full of thoughts and observations about her classmates and friends. But when she misplaces her notebook and it falls into the wrong hands, Harriet knows she is going to have a lot of explaining to do.
Born with a facial deformity that initially prevented his attendance at public school, August "Auggie" Pullman enters the fifth grade at Beecher Prep and struggles with the dynamics of being both new and different in this tale about acceptance, self-esteem and the transformative power of human kindness.
Bridge to Terabithia
Jess Aarons is the fastest runner in his class — until a newcomer, the tomboyish Leslie, challenges him. Not only is Leslie a tomboy; she's also an atheist and a misfit at their school. But after that rough beginning, Jess and Leslie become close friends, inventing together the magical forest kingdom of Terabithia. A story of friendship, imagination and learning to deal with tragedy.
When Stanley Yelnats, the unlucky hero of Holes, is wrongfully accused of stealing baseball player Clyde "Sweet Feet" Livingston's shoes, he is sent to a juvenile detention facility in the desert where the inmates must dig 5-foot holes all day. It doesn't help that Stanley carries a family curse passed down from his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather."
Okay for Now
Fourteen-year-old Doug Swieteck has just moved to a new town where he doesn't have any friends. His teachers and the police think of him as a "skinny thug." He finds his way to the library, where he discovers John James Audubon's Birds of America. When he notices that some of the pages are missing, he resolves to track them down.
Jeffrey Lionel Magee, also known as "Maniac Magee," is an orphan and a runaway. He ends up in a small Pennsylvania town torn apart by racial strife, and astounds everyone with his extraordinary athletic feats as he works to heal the painful divide between the town's black and white citizens.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Nine-year-old Peter Hatcher has it rough: His little brother, Farley Drexel (who prefers to be known as Fudge), gets all the attention, despite his tantrums and infuriating behavior. Peter's one consolation is his pet turtle, Dribble — but even Dribble falls victim to Fudge, who ends up in the hospital after swallowing the unfortunate critter.
Matilda is the story of an exceptionally gifted girl who outsmarts her cruel parents and the brutish school headmistress Miss Trunchbull with the help of her magical abilities and her kind teacher Miss Honey. Illustrated with vivacious drawings by Quentin Blake.
The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton Juster's classic fantasy — with wry illustrations by Jules Feiffer — follows bored young boy Milo after he receives a mysterious gift: a tollbooth that allows him entrance to the magical "Lands Beyond." Milo and his traveling companion, Tock the watchdog, restore the princesses Rhyme and Reason to the Kingdom of Wisdom — and in the process Milo discovers the real world has its own charms.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
Sad-sack sixth-grader Greg Heffley just wants to fit in. His preteen diaries chronicle the dramas of junior high as he and his best friend, Rowley, try to survive as undersized weaklings amid boys who need to shave twice daily. When Rowley grows more popular, Greg takes drastic measures to save their friendship.
The Bone Series
Inspired by Pogo and the Disney comics of Carl Barks, the Bone graphic novels tell the epic tale of cousins Phoney, Smiley and Fone Bone, who are exiled from their hometown of Boneville after Phoney's mayoral campaign goes wrong. After wandering across a desert, the cousins eventually end up in a mysterious valley where they are drawn into a battle to defeat the dark Lord of the Locusts.
In this lovely, wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his homeland and sets off for a new country, where he must build a new life for himself. The evocative sepia drawings capture the heartbreak and longing of leaving home, as well as the wonder of arriving in a strange new land.
American Born Chinese
Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang's funny and sensitive drawings weave together the stories of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American kid who just wants to fit in at his new school; basketball player Danny, whose life is bedeviled by his stereotypical cousin Chin-Kee; and the mythical Monkey King, whose desire to become a god gets him in rather a lot of trouble.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
In an alternative-history version of England during the reign of the (fictitious) King James III, Bonnie, Sylvia and Simon try to foil the plots of their detestable governess, Miss Slighcarp, who holds the household in an iron grip while Bonnie's parents are abroad.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls
Illustrated by Edward Gorey, a master of macabre, this sinister novel follows Lewis, an orphan who goes to live with his magician uncle in a house that holds a clock counting off the time until the end of the world. When Lewis accidentally raises the dead, he must stop the clock before it strikes for the last time.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
When Claudia decides to run away from home, she knows any old place won't do, and so settles on the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She and her little brother, Jamie, move into the museum, sleeping in a 16th century bed and bathing in the fountain. While there, they uncover a tremendous secret.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
A Novel in Words and Pictures
In this magical novel written and illustrated by Brian Selznick, 12-year-old Hugo is an orphan, clock-keeper and petty thief living within the walls of a Paris train station in 1931. Before he died, his father left him a broken automaton, and Hugo labors to uncover the secret hidden inside the machine.
When You Reach Me
In the 1980s, as her mother prepares to be a contestant on a television game show, Miranda tries to make sense of a series of mysterious notes received from an anonymous source that seems to defy the laws of time and space.
The Egypt Game
Melanie and April are fascinated by ancient Egypt and decide to play their own Egypt game in the storage yard of a mysterious professor's antique shop. But the imaginative game soon takes on a life of its own as the kids get entangled in a murder mystery. With illustrations by Alton Raible.
The Dark Is Rising series
Five novels steeped in British and Welsh mythology follow the story of 11-year old Will Stanton, seventh son of a seventh son and last of the Old Ones, in his quest to vanquish the powers of the Dark.
D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths
Married couple Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire wrote and illustrated this luminous guide to the Greek gods, from cold, beautiful Artemis — goddess of the hunt — to the mighty father Zeus who lives on Olympus, "a mountain so high and so steep that no man could climb it and see them in their shining palace."
The Little Prince
An aviator whose plane is forced down in the Sahara encounters a little prince who has fallen to Earth from a tiny planet and relates his adventures in seeking the secret of what is important in life. The poetic French novella was translated by Richard Howard.
At birth, Ella is given the "gift" of obedience by a meddling fairy — with the result that she's forced to obey any command anyone gives her. When she finds herself falling in love with Prince Char, she knows she can't marry him because anyone who discovers her secret could force her to destroy the kingdom — so Ella must choose between her own happiness and the safety of her country.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Inspired by Chinese folk tales, Grace Lin's novel tells the story of Minli, who lives in the shade of Fruitless Mountain. The bitter Jade Dragon keeps the mountain barren and empty, but Minli (whose name means "quick thinking") sets out to find a solution from the Old Man of the Moon.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series
This thrilling fantasy quintet follows the life of Percy Jackson, a demigod and the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. Though heavily inspired by classical mythology, the series feels thoroughly modern thanks to Percy's funny, smart-aleck narration.
The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales
Maria Tatar collects 26 classic fairy tales, pairs them with exquisite illustrations and supplements them with literary, cultural and historical commentary. From "Little Red Riding Hood" to "The Princess and the Pea," these stories are enchanting for kids of all ages.
The Sword in the Stone
This 1938 children's classic chronicles the boyhood of Wart, the future King Arthur, as he comes under the tutelage of the great wizard Merlin. In this charmingly quirky tale, Merlin teaches Wart about the world by transforming him into various kinds of animals.
Inside Out & Back Again
The story of Ha, a young girl living during the end of the Vietnam War, is told in a series of understated poems. Ha chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama.
Young Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, bred to be a genius, is drafted to Battle School where he trains to lead the century-long fight against the alien Buggers.
The House of the Scorpion
In a future where humans despise clones, Matt enjoys special status as the young clone of El Patron, the 142-year-old leader of a corrupt drug empire nestled between Mexico and the United States. Escape is his only chance to survive — but even that may not save him.
A Wrinkle in Time series
Madeleine L'Engle's bestselling series revolves around the precocious Murray children. Plain, bespectacled Meg, brilliant Charles Wallace, the sensible twins Sandy and Dennys, and their friend Calvin travel through time, encounter strange creatures and battle the forces of darkness in these metaphysical science fiction novels.
My Side of the Mountain
Sam Gribley runs away from his family's cramped, crowded apartment in New York City and lives alone with his pet falcon in the Catskill Mountains, struggling to survive. Hunting and fishing sustain him in the wilderness, but when a terrible storm approaches, Sam has to fight for his life.
Julie of the Wolves
Fleeing from an arranged marriage, a 13-year-old Eskimo girl gets lost in the desolate Alaskan wilderness and is taken in by a pack of wolves. The wolves accept her as a daughter, and she grows to love them too, but the time comes when she must leave them behind.
Number the Stars
Lois Lowry's novel illustrates the power of friendship in the face of terrifying oppression. In Nazi-occupied Denmark, 10-year-old Annemarie helps shelter her best friend from the Nazis while the Danish Resistance works to smuggle thousands of Jews across the sea to Sweden.
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Headed for Canada to visit his father for the first time since his parents' divorce, 13-year-old Brian is the sole survivor of a plane crash, with only the clothes he has on his back and a hatchet to help him live in the wilderness.
The Twenty-one Balloons
William Pène du Bois' classic novel documents the incredible adventures of Professor William Waterman Sherman, who in 1883 sets off in a balloon across the Pacific, survives a volcanic eruption, discovers a fantastical diamond-filled island, and is eventually picked up floating in the Atlantic.
Soman Chainani wrote his graduate thesis on why evil women make irresistible fairy-tale villains. His first novel, The School for Good and Evil, debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List and is currently being adapted into a film by Universal Pictures.
Travis Jonker is the elementary school librarian for Wayland Union Schools in Wayland, Mich. He reviews children's books for School Library Journal and writes about all things children's literature on his blog, 100 Scope Notes.
Gussie Lewis is an independent bookseller focusing on childrens' and YA titles. She has worked for Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., and currently serves as the chair of the Children and YA Author Recruitment Committee for the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, Md.
Linda Sue Park is the author of many books for young readers, including A Single Shard, winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, and two books in "The 39 Clues" series. Her most recent novel is the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water.
Margi Preus writes books for young people, including the novels Shadow on the Mountain and Heart of a Samurai, a 2011 Newbery Honor book and featured by NPR's Backseat Book Club. Margi also writes plays, hikes, skis, paddles, or sits quietly with a book in her lap.
Rita Williams-Garcia is an award-winning writer of books for young readers, and is known for her realistic portrayal of teens of color. Her books include Jumped, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, and One Crazy Summer, which won the Coretta Scott King award in 2011.
Produced by Justine Kenin, Petra Mayer, Michele Norris, Beth Novey, Annalisa Quinn and Matthew Weddig