Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978
More Articles Browse All Articles >>

You are in:  Reading | Bookshelf Travels

Bookshelf Travels

Bookshelves offer starting points for many a journey. If you’ve ever wondered what life is like in Freedom, Georgia, on a ranch in Nevada, or on Blossom Street in Marshall County Mississippi, take a trip through the pages of these Parents’ Choice recommended books available at your local library.


Send Me Down a MiracleSend Me Down a Miracle
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: Han Nolan
Harcourt Brace & Company, $13.00

Fourteen-year-old Charity is torn between her preacher father and an exciting visiting artist. So is her whole Alabama community. Outlandish good humor.



Irving and Muktuk: Two Bad BearsIrving and Muktuk: Two Bad Bears
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Daniel Pinkwater    Illustrator: Jill Pinkwater
Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, $15.00

The inhabitants of Yellowtooth in the frozen north brighten their long winter by celebrating New Year's Day with a Muffin Festival. Irving and Muktuk are ever on the prowl for muffins so Officer Bunny, the town's protector, must be ever alert. This cheerfully ludicrous story ends with the villains meeting their comeuppance. Sort of.


Weetzie Bat
Ages: 12 & Up
By: Francesca L Block
HarperCollins Publisher/Charlotte Zolotow, $11.48

In a town called L.A. lived Weetzie Bat, a high school girl with a bleached-white flattop, pink Harlequin sunglasses, sugar-frosted eye shadow, and a best friend named Dirk. When Dirk tells Weetzie he is gay, she hugs him and says, "Now we can duck hunt together." Life as they live it is almost perfect, except Weetzie Bat has three wishes. As in traditional fairy tales, the folkloric themes in this modern one are bona fide.


The Worst Goes SouthThe Worst Goes South
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: James Stevenson
HarperCollins Children's Books / Greenwillow

Mr. Worst is cantankerous, irascible, and adored by children. In his latest misadventure, his town decides to hold a Harvest Festival in the vacant lot next to his house. Worst is horrified at the thought of all the festivities, of course. Awakened in the night by the polka band rehearsing, he storms into the rehearsal where the cheerful band leader asks him what he would like to hear. His response is "Total silence!" He escapes the sounds by climbing into his 1959 Edsel and heading for Florida and a big surprise.

Because of Winn-Dixie
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, $15.99

Although she lives in the Friendly Corners Trailer Park, ten-year-old Opal has no friends. She and her preacher father have moved to Naomi, Florida for her father’s new job. Here, on an errand to the local grocery store, Opal acquires a unique friend, a large brown stray that she names for the store Winn-Dixie. The dog proves to have exquisite taste in people; Winn- Dixie charms his way into everyone's heart.


Fame and Glory in Freedom, GeorgiaFame and Glory In Freedom, Georgia
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Barbara O'Connor
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.00

Bird, who is in the sixth grade of the middle school of Freedom, Georgia, is not exactly popular. She feels as invisible as "Casper the Ghost." When another apparent loser, a boy named Harlem Tate, moves to town, Bird confides in her next door neighbor, Miss Delphine, her various schemes to win his friendship. What she ultimately wins is not fame and glory, but something much more valuable.

Moonpie and Ivy
Ages: 10 - 15 yrs.
Author: Barbara O'Connor
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.00

Twelve year old Pearl is unceremoniously deserted by her erratic, volatile mother at the home of Aunt Ivy, whom she had never met. Totally ignorant of her mother's family, Pearl must not only deal with desertion, she must try to adjust to the totally alien, rural environment of Darwood, Georgia. A neighboring, extremely pale boy, aptly named Moonpie, tries to befriend the experience-hardened Pearl. Thawing slightly under the kindness of Moonpie and Ivy, Pearl's problems are too deep for rapid healing.

The Land
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: Mildred Taylor
Penguin Putnam/Phyllis Fogelman Books, $17.99

After the Civil War Paul, the son of a white father and a black mother, finds himself caught between the two worlds of colored folks and white folks as he pursues his dream of owning land of his own.


Mailing MayMailing May
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Michael O. Tunnell    Illustrator: Ted Rand
HarperCollins Children's Books / Greenwillow, $15.95

Set in 1914 and based on a true incident, May badly wants to visit her grandmother who lives seventy-five miles away on the other side of the Idaho mountains. When her parents tell her that they can't afford a train ticket, May is crushed. Her parents decide to mail their disappointed chick to her grandmother as just that-a baby chick.


Two Days in May
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Harriet Peck Taylor    Illustrator: Leyla Torres
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.00

This unassuming but compelling urban story - based on a real-life incident in Chicago - reveals what happens when the residents of a city neighborhood band together to save five hungry deer who have wandered into their midst.

A Long Way from ChicagoA Long Way from Chicago
Ages: 10 - 14 yrs.
Author: Richard Peck
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers/Puffin Books, $4.99

Each summer over the nine years of the Depression, Joey and his sister, Mary Alice-two city slickers from Chicago-make their annual summer visit to Grandma Dowdel's seemingly sleepy Illinois town. Soon enough, they find that it's far from sleepy... and Grandma is far from your typical grandmother.

The River Between Us
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: Richard Peck
Penguin Putnam Inc./Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99

During the early days of the Civil War, the Pruitt family takes in two mysterious young ladies who have fled New Orleans to come north to Illinois.


The Canning SeasonThe Canning Season
Ages: 12 & Up
Author: Polly Horvath
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.00

Ratchet loves her selfish mother but receives little in return. Without warning or luggage of any sort, Ratchet’s mother ships her to Maine to spend the summer with two elderly relatives. Tilly and Penpen are unidentical twins who are tremendously eccentric; they are also kind and generous. A laugh-aloud, farcical story evolves from this unlikely premise.


Bus Route to Boston
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Boyds Mills Press, $15.95

Most young listeners will be sympathetic to the excitement felt by two small sisters when the bus that goes "all the way into Boston" passes down their suburban street. The author-illustrator captures the look and feel of a suburb (with city skyscrapers beckoning in the distance), and the excitement of shopping in Filene's Basement (the original one) and then eating "a big ice cream sundae" at Bailey's.

Letting Swift River GoLetting Swift River Go
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Jane Yolen    Illustrator: Barbara Cooney
Little, Brown & Co., $5.95

As a child of six, the narrator and her friends fished the Swift River, played mumblety-peg in the graveyard, and slept under the backyard maples. But then, when Boston "needed water," the towns were flooded, and Quabbin Reservoir - where a grown-up narrator sits peacefully in a boat with her father - inundated that bucolic past. The author says she has "let go" of the past. But the text, and Cooney's lovely watercolors, say otherwise.


Clever BeatriceClever Beatrice
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Margaret Willey    Illustrator: Heather Solomon
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.00

Clever Beatrice features a feisty, small heroine who outsmarts a dimwitted but surprisingly polite and appealing giant. The heroine is in need of money to buy food for herself and her impoverished mother. The giant possesses a large fortune in gold coins. At Beatrice's suggestion, the ill-matched pair engages in three contests testing brute strength, all of which the heroine wins by force of intelligence rather than muscular might.

The Log Cabin Quilt
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Ellen Howard    Illustrator: Ronald Himler
Holiday House, Inc., $16.95

When a pioneering family moves from Carolina to Michigan early in the last century, Grandmother insists on bringing along a sack of cloth scraps to make quilts, even though there is precious little room in the wagon. "I aim to set on it," she says. In a surprising way, these quilting scraps and the ingenuity of one of the children end up saving the family from a freezing winter.


The Long March
Ages: All Ages
Author: Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Beyond Words Publishing, $14.95

In 1847, an impoverished group of Choctaw Indians collected $170 from their meager resources for the relief of Ireland's Potato Famine. "The Long March" is the story of Choona, a young Choctaw who must make his own decision about whether to answer the Irish people's plea for help.

The Blues of Flats BrownThe Blues of Flats Brown
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Walter Dean Myers    Illustrator: Nina Laden
Holiday House, Inc., $16.95

Two Mississippi junkyard dogs, the young Flats and his elderly friend, Caleb, belong to a vicious man. Flats comforts himself by playing the blues on his guitar accompanied by Caleb playing the bones. Finally, forced to fight or flee, they flee.

A Flower Blooms on Charlotte Street
Ages: 10 & Up
Author: Milam McGraw Propst
Mercer University Press, $18.95

In 1898, after her mother's death, Ociee runs wild with her brothers in Marshall County, Mississippi. Her mother's sister, Aunt Mamie, has other plans for Ociee. Her loving father agrees and packs his only daughter on the train to go live with her aunt on Charlotte Street in Ashville, North Carolina; it is the biggest metropolis that the child has ever seen. This protagonist, lively and sympathetic, stars in a story that is permeated with familial love.


Once We Had a Horse
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
By: Glen Rounds
Holiday House, Inc., $6.95

When the author-illustrator was small, he lived on a ranch in Montana. One day a new horse arrived. The children admired it, then fed it, then rode it. When the snow came, the horse was led away. That's all! A magic moment, told simply and illustrated with self-effacing felicity.


Cowboy CountryCowboy Country
Ages: 6 - 8 yrs.
Author: Ann Herbert Scott    Illustrator: Ted Lewin
Houghton Mifflin /Clarion Books, $6.95

Roads crisscross the old Nevada ranches now, and machines do work that used to be done by muscle. But much is the same - the weather, the horses and the million stars in the night sky. Deep familiarity with cows is the heart of the job, says the old cowboy narrator. Graced by Lewin's remarkable watercolors, this is a super book.

New Jersey

The Girl on the High-Diving Horse: An Adventure in Atlantic City
Ages: 5 - 9 yrs.
Author: Linda High    Illustrator: Ted Lewin
Penguin Putnam Inc./ Philomel, $16.99

Ivy Cordelia is plain lucky. It's the summer of 1936, and she gets to stay in Atlantic City all summer long, where there's so much to see: boxing kangaroos, human cannonballs, card-playing cats . . . and high-diving horses! If there's anyone luckier than she is, it must be the girl on the high-diving horse, who daily performs her dangerous-looking act while the crowd cheers. Ivy's dream is to be that girl. But could she ever be that brave?

New York

Mirette & Bellini Cross Niagara Falls
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Emily Arnold McCully
Penguin Putnam/Putnam, $15.99

As they arrive in New York to perform their tight rope act across Niagara Falls, Mirette and Bellini become embroiled in the sad situation of an immigrant boy who is not met at Ellis Island by his uncle. Who could have known that the same young lad that they befriend will prove invaluable when their dangerous act is sabotaged?

The Saturday KidThe Saturday Kid
Ages: 5 - 9 yrs.
Author: Edward Sorel    Illustrator: Cheryl Carlesimo
Simon & Schuster Children's/Margaret K. McElderry, $18.00

Children are always interested in what the world was like before their arrival into it, and Edward Sorel’s evocative line drawings with watercolor overlay recreate a New York City of the 1930s. The Third Avenue El was alive and well; a Saturday afternoon at the movies was the highpoint of the week; and the newsreel was part and parcel of every film program. Our hero Morty shares his triumph when he unexpectedly witnesses himself on the Big Screen shaking hands with New York’s Mayor – Fiorello La Guardia, of course.

North Carolina

The Jack Tales: Folk Tales from the Southern Appalachains
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Author: Richard Chase
Houghton Mifflin Co., $7.95

Here is quintessential America from the mountains of North Carolina, arranged- and for decades memorably performed- by the wandering troubadour; Richard Chase. Big Jack and Little Jack, Jack and the Bull, Jack and the Bean tree- many of the plots are familiar.


Growing Up in Coal CountryGrowing Up In Coal Country
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Houghton Mifflin Co., $7.95

Before the child labor laws, young boys worked as Pennsylvania coal miners under incredibly harsh conditions. Filled with photographs, the book, with its calm understated prose, is an excellent depiction of nineteenth and twentieth century exploitation of children, a dirty period - literally - of our history.

South Dakota

Wounded Knee
Ages: 9 & Up
By: Neil Waldman
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $18.00

Neil Waldman's heartfelt and evocative black and white pictures -- with a sprinkling of sepia and earth colors for some landscapes and Indian portraits -- chronicle the last free-roaming days of the Lakota tribes of the western plains. Waldman writes a serviceable but uninspired prose that will give his readers some sense of the clash of two alien cultures (Native Americans and white settlers) that doomed the nomadic tribal life of the Indian population.


Puss in Cowboy BootsPuss in Cowboy Boots
Ages: 6 - 10 yrs.
Author: Jan Huling    Illustrator: Phil Huling
Simon & Schuster/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.00

Though the Puss in this telling of the old fairy tale wears "the purdiest pair of red snakeskin cowboy boots ever worn," he is as crafty and sly as of yore. With the story transported to Texas, the wily cat manages to marry off his penniless master to the daughter of "the biggest, the richest, and the most powerful oilman in the state of Texas," Mr. Patoot.


Jip: His Story
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Katherine Patterson
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers/Puffin Books, $4.99

Orphaned Jip, believing himself to be a gypsy, grows up on a poor farm in Vermont. When a lunatic is brought to the farm and kept in a cage during his lunatic rages, a deep friendship develops between the two. A "good read" of substance.


James TowneJames Towne
Ages: 6 - 10 yrs.
By: Marcia Sewall
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.00

A uthor/illustrator Marcia Sewall makes the settling of James Towne in 1607 an exciting and danger-filled adventure in which the reader takes part. Sewall deftly uses as narrator a young carpenter, but she adds bits and pieces of contemporary documents -- quotes from Instructions for Government, 1606, and snippets of journal entries and letters from actual passengers on the early ships.

Missing May
Ages: 10 & Up
By: Cynthia Rylant
Scholastic Inc./Orchard Books, $10.47

This novel is about a hand-me-down orphan finally adopted by a pair of elderly relatives. May and Ob pack up the small girl, named Summer, and take her to live in their trailer in Deep Water, West Virginia. After the death of the beloved aunt who has raised her, twelve-year-old Summer and her uncle Ob leave their West Virginia trailer in search of the strength to go on living.


Our Only May Amelia
Ages: 10 & Up
Author: Jennifer Holm
Harper Collins

In 1899, May Amelia lives on the Nasel River in Washington with seven brothers. Running around in overalls, she has no interest in being a proper young lady. She views all warnings as challenges. A delightful, thoroughly adventurous character.

West Virginia

Way Down Deep
Ages: 10 & Up
Author: Ruth White
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.00

Way Down Deep in West Virginia in 1944, a toddler is found sitting on the courthouse steps in the early morning sun. No one knows who she is or where she came from. The quiet Miss Arbutus Ward, proprietress of the town’s boardinghouse, volunteers to take Ruby in. Ruby’s life is happy and settled until, just before she turns 13 years old, a quirky family new to Way Down Deep seems to have some information that may unravel the truth of Ruby’s past.


The Secret Life of Amanda K. WoodsThe Secret Life of Amanda K. Woods
Ages: 8 - 12 yrs.
Author: Ann Cameron
Farrar, Straus & Giroux $16.00

Set in rural Wisconsin, this story of an eleven -year -old who lives with a difficult mother, a self-absorbed older sister, a beloved but distant father, never hits a false note. Privy to Amanda’s innermost thoughts, the reader empathizes completely with this appealing protagonist. Amanda grows and changes despite - or perhaps because of -spending most of her time coping with trying circumstances ... like the rest of us.

Share This

Teaching Kids to Enjoy Reading

Award-Winning Books

Article Archive

Sign Up
Our news & features delivered to your inbox.