My Fiction Favorites

Here are a few of my favorite titles!

  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. ¬†This is one of the most beautifully written children’s books that I’ve read lately and I’ve really been promoting this book to my middle school age kiddos. ¬†The book begins with a troubled little boy who receives night-time visits from our antagonist, our bad guy, a monster who lives in the cemetery next door.¬† We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with this little boy but he appears to be neglected and something just isn’t right. ¬†As the story progresses, we learn that the little boy’s mother is very ill and the little boy’s home situation is tenuous and framed with great uncertainly. ¬†Here’s where the book begins it’s beautiful shift. ¬†As we read, we come to¬†realize that the antagonist really isn’t a monster at all. ¬†Instead, this boy is facing an internal struggle while trying to deal with problems much greater than problems other children his age typically face. ¬†The resolution of the story is one of realistic hope. ¬†For many children, it will be the first story they read that doesn’t deliver a happy ending but instead delivers a realistic but optimistic hope for the boy’s future. ¬†I LOVE THIS BOOK!
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane¬†by Kate DiCamillo. ¬†I would say that this book would be best enjoyed by students in maybe grades 3-6. ¬†This is another beautifully written book about a beautiful but vain, uncaring porcelain rabbit named Edward. ¬†An unfortunate event at sea causes Edward to become separated from his owner. ¬†He sinks to the bottom of the ocean where after a very long wait, he is rescued by a humble fisherman who takes Edward home as a present for his wife. ¬†He hears the stories of the fisherman and his wife and gets his first, unappreciated glimpse of humility and a different, simpler type of life. ¬†Unfortunately, Edward isn’t meant to remain with that family and he finds himself in the hands of many owners. ¬†Each time, he gains a little bit better perspective of the world and the meaning of love. ¬†Will Edward ever truly learn humility and how to love?
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. ¬†Jackson is our main character and his family is being evicted AGAIN! ¬†Jackson remembers the last time this happened and how hard it was for his family and himself. ¬†He remembers watching his mother beg for food. ¬†He remembers sleeping in the family car and having no privacy. ¬†He remembers eating vending machine meals instead of real food because his mother had nowhere to cook. ¬†That was the last time he saw Crenshaw, an imaginary cat who visits him when times get tough. ¬†Jackson knows Crenshaw isn’t real but he also can’t control Crenshaw’s “visits.” ¬†Sure enough, Jackson and his family are forced to leave their home and Jackson with the help of his imaginary friend, must find¬† a way to deal with his very real problems.
  • What Do You Do With a Problem?¬†and¬†What Do You Do With An Idea? ¬†by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom. ¬†Ok, these are picture books that I just so happen to believe are perfect for almost any kid to read or be read. ¬†The main character is a little boy who just happens to look¬†like Zelda from my childhood videogames. ¬†The boy doesn’t really have a name and that’s ok because both stories are written from a first person perspective. ¬†In¬†What Do You Do With a Problem?,¬†the little boy finds himself with a problem and he has no idea what to do about it. ¬†He decides to ignore his problem but instead of going away, it just gets bigger and bigger until one day, he is forced to confront this huge problem. ¬†This is a wonderful “how to” suggestion for all kids facing a problem on their own. ¬†In¬†What Do You Do With An Idea?,¬†this same little boy finds a tiny little idea. ¬†At first, he is unsure what to do but ultimately, he decides to nurture it and give it things to make it grow. ¬†The boy is ultimately rewarded for his efforts because he gets to see his idea grow into something absolutely beautiful.
  • 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis. ¬†As a student, I was never a fan of history. ¬†Memorizing facts and dates was just too boring to keep my mind entertained and to this day, most of the history knowledge that I have in my old thinker has come from first reading a great piece of historical fiction and then researching on my own to learn more. ¬†This book is great because it inspired that same journey and now I know more about the history of Cuba as well as the Cuban-American relationship. ¬† This is¬†a sentimental story about a boy named Julian who takes an unexpected journey with his two older brothers to the U.S. shortly after Fidel Castro comes to power in Cuba. ¬†Julian becomes part of Operation Peter Pan which actually helped over 14,000 Cuban children enter the U.S. as refugees in a time when there was a great fear that many of these children would be sent to labor camps and taken from their families if they remained in their home country. ¬†When I read this book, I could feel Julian’s fear of leaving home and going to a foreign country. ¬†I hurt and sympathized with Julian while he experienced being mistreated and undervalued by both his family and everyday citizens of the U.S. who could only see a skinny boy who was “different” and who couldn’t speak the language. ¬†Also, being a teacher, I celebrated at the end when it was his teacher who helped Julian finally express his unique experiences and their value to his classmates and family. ¬†I loved this book!
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.¬† This story takes place on Alcatraz Island in 1935.¬† This is a well written story about a family who struggles and sacrifices everything to give their older daughter, born with autism, her best possible chance at an education during a time when the education of children with disabilities was often unheard of.¬† I love that this story weaves actual history into an otherwise work of fiction.¬† In reality, it was common practice for the guards to bring their families onto Alcatraz island and there were actual apartments where the families could live.¬† Rent was expensive in San Francisco and these apartments were much cheaper.¬† The families that lived there were often quoted as saying that it was safer on the island because all the criminals were already locked up.¬† This is a great read partly because of the interesting history that’s woven into the book but also because the characters are just so so imperfectly human.¬† This is another great read!