A list of my 10 favorite MG/YA Books*
Harry Potter and the...any of them.
Everyone's favorite tale about a remarkable young witch with untamable hair and spirit and her famous friend Harry, written by the amazing J.K. Rowling. I was trying to pick a favorite one and I couldn't. I do think they get better after Luna Lovegood joins the crew. All of them = must reads.
The Book of Three
The first book in the Prydain Chronicles written by Lloyd Alexander, first published in the 1960s. The next book in the series, The Black Cauldron, is a Newberry Award winner. But it's always best to start with the first book in the series. This one introduces us to Taran, assistant pig-keeper and aspiring hero.
The Lord of the Rings
Before the movies, there were the books - the ultimate in high fantasy. Actually four books by J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, the Two Towers, and The Return of the King. My middle school read The Hobbit (first published in 1937), and I thought I was lucky because I'd already read it. My usually no-fiction-please teacher father gave me his copy. These four books are the standard by which all other mythic world novels are judged. Hobbits, humans, elves, dwarves, dragons, wraiths, battles; Rings has it all. It's a little short on female characters but it does have one kick-@$$ warrior princess: Eowyn.
The Hunger Games
These are scary and grusome, and I'd say more suited to high-schoolers. But I know middle-schoolers who have devoured them, and held (non-lethal) Hunger Games birthday parties. There are three books in the series by Suzanne Collins, all set in a bleak future where the rich pit starving teens against each other in a televised survival-contest-to-the-death. The first, The Hunger Games, was published in 2008, and introduced us to one of the best heroines ever: Katniss.
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time was first published in 1962, and recently made into a movie. The book is better. What happens when your scientist father disappears and your genious younger brother takes you on a time warping journey across the universe to find him in the clutches of an evil being? Capable sister Meg finds out.
Planet of Exile
Author Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorites. The Toombs of Atuan, the second book in her Earthsea fantasy trilogy, is a Newberry Award winner. Planet of Exile is one of her many Science Fiction novels. It's set on a planet populated by a smal, struggling colony of Terrans (Earthlings), living near a tribe of natives. With the planet about to plunge into one of its 15-year winters, the technically advanced Terrans and their neighboring tribe face invading nomadic hordes from the snowy north. Can they work together to hold them off and survive? Does this story seem familiar? It's from 1966, so it's the original. (I hope middle-schoolers were not watching Game of Thrones. High schoolers, OK. But middle-schoolers, no.)
The first of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle dragon books, published in 2003. (Count at this writing: 4). My daughters brought them home and ate them up as college students; I got to read them once the girls had finished. It's a believable high fantasy world full of magic and dragons and battles of good against evil and isn't that what everything great is all about?
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
I got my grown-up ladies book and drinks club to read Ransom Riggs' 2011 book and they said they loved it -- thought probably not quite as much as I did. Scary real monsters. Family secrets. Time travel. Close-mouthed Brits. And a large home full of peculiar children. It's a delight and I can't wait to read the rest of his books.
The Hollow Hills
The second book in the Arthurian cycle by Mary Stewart, published in 1970. The first is The Crystal Cave and the next two are The Last Enchantment and The Wicked Day. Mary Stewart brings Merlin and King Arthur to life like no one else. Sex is a topic in Crystal Cave, Hollow Hills and the others (how is Arthur supposed to be conceived without it?). But that didn't keep my bookish grandmother from giving me The Crystal Cave in paperback back in the early 1970s right after she finished it.
Of course I like it. I wrote it. My 12-year-old niece read it over a long weekend and asked me to write more books about prickly protagonist Harmony and her new, or maybe even first, friends. Their story begins in the middle of adventures at summer camp deep in the California redwoods. Things get strange when a handful of tween campers are stalked by a series of supernatural creatures. They discover hidden talents, family secrets, and old powers hidden in the forest, despite the best efforts of the guardian dog charged with keeping them safe. Join my mailing list (below) if you want to find out when it's published!
- T.J. Hendrix
* That's authorese for Middle Grade/Young Adult books.