I am posting the second part of this list again, from my experienced friend, Karen Arenesen. This is the second half of her list. I thought I would have to do three posts, but I was able to fit them into two. These books specifically highlight great morals and character, mostly by showing children going through hard things. Over and over as I read reviews of the books below, readers said they were favorites of their family. The books below are a wealth of experiences and history that our children can experience and think about. These summaries come from Amazon reviews and wikipedia. These books are recommended ages 9-13+.
The Singing Tree, Kate Seredy. “This book and The Good Master are hands down two of the best books we’ve read with our kids as a family. This book treats serious subject matter (World War I) and shows the ugliness without getting into graphic detail. It is an easy book to read, but the writing is also very beautiful. A wonderful book.”
The Good Master, Kate Seredy. Jancsi is overjoyed to hear that his cousin from Budapest is coming to spend the summer on his father’s ranch on the Hungarian plains. But their summer proves more adventurous than he had hoped when headstrong Kate arrives, as together they share horseback races across the plains, country fairs and festivals, and a dangerous run-in with the gypsies.
The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Speare.The Bronze Bow, written by Elizabeth George Speare (author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond) won the Newbery Medal in 1962. This gripping, action-packed novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin—a fierce, hotheaded young man bent on revenging his father’s death by forcing the Romans from his land of Israel. Daniel’s palpable hatred for Romans wanes only when he starts to hear the gentle lessons of the traveling carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare. Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1687. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, believed by the colonists to be a witch, proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.
Heidi, Johanna Spyri (need a good translation by Helen Dole) When Heidi’s Aunt Dete brings the orphaned girl to live with her grandfather, no one can imagine the bitter, solitary old man caring for a child. But, to everyone’s surprise, the two grow to love each other—and Heidi blossoms in her new home.
All-of-a-Kind-Family, Sydney Taylor. Meet the All-of-a-Kind Family — Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie — who live with their parents in New York City at the turn of the century.
Together they share adventures that find them searching for hidden buttons while dusting Mama’s front parlor and visiting with the peddlers in Papa’s shop on rainy days. The girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises.
I loved these books so much as a child. There was so much structure in their days that I remember and admire.
Amos Fortune: Free Man, Elizabeth Yates.
When Amos Fortune was only fifteen years old, he was captured by slave traders and brought to Massachusetts, where he was sold at auction. Although his freedom had been taken, Amos never lost his dinity and courage. For 45 years, Amos worked as a slave and dreamed of freedom. And, at age 60, he finally began to see those dreams come true.
“The moving story of a life dedicated to the fight for freedom.”—Booklist
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor.Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And it is also Cassie’s story—Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.
The Hawk that Dare Not Hunt by Day, Scott O’Dell. Tom Barton and his Uncle Jack help William Tyndale smuggle newly translated Bibles into England. The chapters are short, well-written, very descriptive and definitely gripping. You get a real feel of what life was like back in the time of William Tyndale during the early 1500s when King Henry VIII was on the throne. Many reviews said that teenagers enjoyed this book.
On to Oregon, Honore Morrow. The epic journey of the Sager children by covered wagon from Missouri to Oregon in 1848.
The Endless Steppe, Esther Hautzig. In June 1941, the Rudomin family is arrested by the Russians. They are accused of being capitalists, “enemies of the people.” Forced from their home and friends in Vilna, Poland, they are herded into crowded cattle cars. Their destination: the endless steppe of Siberia. This is a memoir of the author, whose family was shipped to Siberia. When they finally returned back to their home, they realized being shipped off had probably saved their lives.
For five years, Esther and her family live in exile, weeding potato fields, working in the mines, and struggling to stay alive. But in the middle of hardship and oppression, the strength of their small family sustains them and gives them hope for the future.
Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt. n 1861, America is on the cusp of war, and young Jethro Creighton is just nine-years-old. His brother, Tom, and his cousin, Eb, are both of fighting age. As Jethro’s family is pulled into the conflict between the North and the South, loyalties are divided, dreams are threatened, and their bonds are put to the test in this heart-wrenching, coming of age story.
Little Britches series, Ralph Moody. We read the first book as recommended by Karen for our book group, and I fell in love with this series.
Ralph Moody was eight years old in 1906 when his family moved from New Hampshire to a Colorado ranch. Through his eyes we experience the pleasures and perils of ranching there early in the twentieth century. Auctions and roundups, family picnics, irrigation wars, tornadoes and wind storms give authentic color to Little Britches. So do adventures, wonderfully told, that equip Ralph to take his father’s place when it becomes necessary. Little Britches was the literary debut of Ralph Moody, who wrote about the adventures of his family in eight glorious books, these are all nonfiction which makes the stories even more amazing,
Little House on the Prairie series, Laura Ingalls Wilder. The nine books in the timeless Little House series tell the story of Laura’s real childhood as an American pioneer, and are cherished by readers of all generations. They offer a unique glimpse into life on the American frontier, and tell the heartwarming, unforgettable story of a loving family.
Johnny Tremaine, Ester Forbes. Set around the time of the Revolutionary War in Boston, Johnny Tremain is a coming-of-age story about a talented young silversmith apprentice (one who molds silver) who struggles to find his way.
Other favorites of mine are “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.”
I also found a great list of wonderful reads from NPR. This list is for 9-13 year olds as well.
The web site bestchoicereviews.org has 100 books for all ages 2-18.
Why read aloud meaningless pablum, when there is such magic awaiting us? As we make time to read to a child, we will come to love this part of our day. A time to sit, to teach, to wonder and bond together. It’s worth the effort!