For ages 9 to 12, these stories will help children learn about life and move them from children's stories to longer books.
Shipwrecked!, by Rhoda Blumberg (Harpercollins, 2001). Marooned on an island for six months, the true story of Manjiro Nakahama chronicles his rescue and American education before he returns to Japan where he becomes an honored samurai.
Matilda, by Rohald Dahl (Viking, 2002). Matilda doesn't watch television. At age five she reads a lot. But when she gets frustrated with her school principal, Matilda uses her new found mental power to save the school.
Snail Mail, No More, by Paula Danziger & Ann Matthews Martin (Bt Bound, 2001). Tara and Elizabeth have gone virtual. Since their last book, P.S. Longer Letter Later, the two teens have gotten e-mail and continue their friendship despite being far apart.
Monkey Island, by Paula Fox (Yearling, 1993). When his parents are unable to care for him, Clay Garrity is left homeless in New York City. Afraid to go to the police, Clay, along with the help of two homeless men survives in a park until he is reunited with his mother and baby sister.
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster (Random House, 2000). After a magic tollbooth appears in Milo's room, he pays the toll. What ensues is an adventure that takes him through the Mountains of Ignorance, the Word Market and finally to Dictionopolis in an effort to save the Princesses, Rhyme and Reason.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis (Harpercollins, 2000). Stepping through the back of a wardrobe, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy find themselves in Narnia, a land ruled by a lion that is being threatened with an eternal winter by an evil witch.
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin, 1992). Set in World War II, the fictionalized story of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen and her efforts to save her best friend from the death camps.
The Plant that Ate Dirty Socks, Nancy McArthur (Avon, 1988). Cleaning your room was never so easy. When some odd seeds arrive in the mail, Michael and his brother Norman plant them only to grow a plant that needs a little more than water to grow.
Secret Letters from 0 to 10, by Susie Hoch Morgenstern (Viking, 1998). Ernest Morlaisse lives with his 80-year-old grandmother and has a pretty uneventful life. When a new neighbor, Victoria Montardent, moves in Ernest's world is transformed as she teaches him to enjoy life and the joy of experiencing new things.
Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen (Simon Pulse, 1999). When the plane he is on to visit his father crashes, Brian Robenson is left to survive in the woods with only a Hatchet. Will rescue come before winter sets in?
Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Louis Sachar (William Morrow, 1998). In a school that was built on its side, there only can be odd stories to tell. From the child stuck in his chair by a wad of gum to the tale of a Bebe, a quirky artist, this book is sure to make you laugh.
Summer Reading is Killing Me!, by Jon Scieszka (Bt Bound, 2001). The Time Warp Trio are back, and after the boys realize they placed the summer reading list in the magical book that transports them back and forth in time, they are faced with having to stop the bad literary characters, led by an evil teddy bear, before they get rid of all the good ones.
Black Beauty, by Ann Sewell (Grammercy, 1998). This classic tale told from one horse's point of view shares in the animal's hardships and fortune. Children will learn about relationships and consideration for others.
The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Event, Book 1), by Lemony Snicket (HarperCollins, 1999). Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire lost their parents and their home in a fire. Turning the pages to find a happy ending is pointless as the children only endure more hardships in this surprisingly humorous story.
Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli Jeffery (Little Brown, 2000). Magee is just a kid from a small town. Sure he can run fast and hit homeruns, but Magee is better known for how he bridged the town's racial gap.