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Best 25 Books of 25 Years: Ages 10 & Up

In researching this exceedingly difficult assignment, we went first to our in-house library – a twenty-five year archive – and compiled a list of titles selected, throughout those years, by parents, grandparents, librarians, educators and many, many children.

The Parents’ Choice “Best 25 of 25” Book Committee, comprised of parents, teachers, librarians and critics, then reviewed and reevaluated the selections, honed the list again, and again, and came up with what we believe are very fine choices. When making the final selections, we looked for a balance of humor, history, character and ethics. We must admit, that we had to divide the list into two age groups – infant through age nine, and ages 10 and up. We simply could not do it any other way.

Among the many to thank for the arduous task of making the final selections are Diana Huss Green, Kemie Nix, and Timothy Capehart.            

Because of Winn-Dixie
By Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press

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. Kemie Nix ©2000 Parents' Choice

Anastasia Krupnick
By Lois Lowry, Illustrated by Diane de Groat
Houghton Mifflin/Walter Lorraine Books

Maniac Magee

By Jerry Spinelli
Little, Brown & Co.

So far From the Bamboo Grove

By Yoko Kawashima Watkins
HarperCollins Publisher/ William Morrow/ Lothrop, Lee & Shepard

The Boy and the Samurai

By Erik C. Haugaard
Houghton Mifflin Co.

Orphaned and on his own by the age of five, Saru manages to survive the wretched existence of a homeless child in feudal Japan through a combination of cunning and luck. In his misery, he has two friends - a small tabby called "Neko," meaning "cat," and the kindly old priest of a small Shinto shrine who ultimately takes him in. When a despairing Samurai begins to visit the shrine he becomes friends with the boy and the priest and gradually reveals that his wife is being held hostage in the local warlord's castle. The uneducated but streetwise boy formulates a successful plan for rescuing her. This protagonist is one well-drawn boy with uncommon common sense and, miraculously, humor. The setting is authentic, the book finely crafted.

The Great Gilly Hopkins
By Katherine Paterson
Harper Collins Childrens Books

The Whipping Boy

By Sid Fleischman, Illustrated by Peter Sis
Harper Collins Children's Books / Greenwillow

An exciting tale set in something like eighteenth-century England. Jemmy is the whipping boy of the title, a surrogate who gets the spankings that Prince Brat richly deserves. Brat forces Jemmy to run away with him, and they are caught by a couple of comical plug-uglies, who decide to hold the Prince for ransom. Problem is, they think Jemmy's the Prince because he can write, and there are more mixups and adventures when the boys escape and meet a bear-trainer, her bear (named Petunia), and a hot-potato man who helps them escape. The nasties are in hot pursuit, and the chase ends in the sewers under the city where Jemmy meets one of his old pals, a rat-catcher. The language is vivid, and the Princes' transformation from mean selfish kid to sadder-but-wiser-and-more-likeable young man is smoothly handled.

Or Give Me Death Wayside School Is Falling Down The Whipping Boy Walk Two Moons

Walk Two Moons
By Sharon Creech
Harper Collins Childrens Books

Wayside School is Falling Down

By Louis Sachar, Illustrated by Adam McCauley
Harper Collins

Wacky Wayside School is unique. Built sideways, with thirty rooms piled atop each other, it lacks a nineteenth story because the builder forgot it. It provides a perfect setting for a long litany of nutty disasters. In the first book, Sharri falls asleep and rolls out the window; Joe counts all wrong and gets the right answers; Calvin is sent to deliver a note to the missing nineteenth floor. Kids will get hooked on the broad humor and twisted logic of these loosely connected stories. Who could resist the teacher in the second book who throws the computer out the window to demonstrate gravity? And who will be surprised that Wayside School's fire drill is announced by a cowbell? When it sounds, the school promptly fills with cows.

Or Give Me Death
By Ann Rinaldi
Harcourt Trade Publishers/Gulliver

In a riveting page turner of a novel - a piece of historical fiction no less - the accomplished Ann Rinaldi has speculated on the origin of a phrase that rang through colonial Virginia, history, and heralded our Revolutionary War. "Give me liberty or give me death," was uttered by statesman Patrick Henry to an assembly of gentlemen legislators. Here Rinaldi, an impeccable researcher and imaginative writer postulates the phrase was first spoken by Henry's wife, Sarah. And hereby hangs a tale. Told with power and compassion by two of the Henry children, this story of Sarah's descent into madness and its effects on her amazing children, each a fully realized character, her household and perhaps in part, on the colony, is at once stunning and affecting. Diana Huss Green ©2003 Parents' Choice

Baseball Saved Us
By Ken Mochizuki
Illustrator: Dom Lee
Lee & Low Books

Catherine, Called Birdy

By Karen Cushman
Houghton Mifflin /Clarion Books

Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush

By Virginia Hamilton
Penguin Putnam Inc./ Philomel

Joey Pigza Loses Control

By Jack Gantos
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Joey finally feels a sense of self-control over his hyperactivity now that he receives daily medication patches. Visiting his divorced father for the summer seems like a good idea until his father, a mirror image of the pre-meds Joey, flushes all of the boy’s patches down the toilet. The comic elements of this truly funny story only enhance the deeper fundamentals of Joey’s discoveries about identity and familial love. Kemie Nix ©2000 Parents' Choice



By Peter Dickinson
Random House Children's Books/Delacorte Press

Missing May
By Cynthia Rylant
Scholastic Inc./Orchard Books

Already broadly and deservedly acclaimed, Cynthia Rylant's near-perfect novel is about a hand-me-down orphan finally adopted by a pair of elderly relatives. All three "wanted a family so bad…we just grabbed onto each another and made us one."

May and Ob pack up the small girl, named Summer, and take her to live in their trailer in Deep Water, West Virginia. They are blissfully happy for six years; then Summer and Ob are devastated by May's unexpected death. The girl senses Ob is in danger of dying of grief. She doesn't know how to help; she's back on her own and she's numb. When an eccentric classmate, Cletus Underwood, starts hanging around, Summer notices that Ob brightens up in his company. Cletus tells Ob about a Charleston psychic, Rev. Miriam B. Conklin "Medium at Large", who contacts the dead. The three go off in Ob's rusty Valiant to find her, and possibly "talk to" May. The plan fails. They lose hope, and find one another. "And then a big wind came and set everything free."

By Brian Jacques, Illustrated by Gary Chalk
Penguin Putnam Inc./ Philomel

In the Abbey of Redwall lives a brotherhood of mice, a society whose vocation is aid and comfort to the sick and poor. To its great dismay, the peace-loving community discovers it is about to be attacked by the infamous rat Cluny the Scourge and his army of vicious rodents. It becomes the calling of the young novice Matthias to take on the mantle of the legendary warrior mouse Martin and lead the brotherhood into battle.

Reminiscent of Watership Down in its creative animal characterizations, Redwall is a thrilling tale of danger and adventure. With its distinctive heroes and villains and its classic good-versus-evil theme tempered with elements of romance, comedy and melodrama. This is an edge-of-the-seat, can't-put-it-down book with potential for classic status.

The Darkangel
By Meredith Ann Pierce
Little, Brown & Co.

Small and blonde, Aeriel appears to be an insignificant slip of a girl. Being a servant to the daughter of the ruler of the village is certainly unremarkable- except that the village is on the moon. Following her mistress, Eoduin, into mountainous, dangerous territory, Aeriel is the terrified witness to Eoduin's abduction by the Darkangel, an exquisitely beautiful vampyre. Resolutely setting out to find and confront the vampyre, Aeriel is, of course, found by him. This strange, rich, evocative fantasy not only stirs up familiar longings in the reader, it satisfies them. Traces of fantasies that shaped the author's imagination and universal images from myth and faerie are blended with Aeriel's human qualities of love and fortitude to shape an excellent fantasy.

The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm
By Nancy Farmer
Scholastic Inc./Orchard Books

The Ghost in The Tokiado Inn

By Thomas Hoobler & Dorothy Hoobler
Penguin Putnam Inc./ Philomel

Although Seikei has been born into the merchant class, he dreams impossibly of becoming a samurai. In 1735, on the Tokaido Road, the life of this fourteen-year-old Japanese boy changes dramatically. Exotic and exciting. Kemie Nix ©1999 Parents' Choice


The Kestrel

By Lloyd Alexander
Penguin Putnam/Dutton Children's Books

Mickle, Queen August of Westmark, is a most unwilling monarch. She was far happier when she was a street girl in love with Theo, a former printer's apprentice. They had survived by hoaxing the public under the superb tutelage of Count Las Bombas and the dwarf, Musket. When Theo disappears on a fact-finding mission, Mickle runs away with her former colleagues to find him. They are not to be easily reunited, however; war has broken out with a neighboring country, and both young people fling themselves into the fray. Mickle takes command of her demoralized army, and Theo proves his courage by joining a band of guerrillas.

Through Theo's gradual corruption into Colonel Kestrel, a murderous leader of the guerrillas, the author succeeds in making the reader empathize with a character's terribly destructive behavior - an almost impossible accomplishment in a book for young people. this illuminates both the brutalizing aspects of war and the universal human potential for becoming brutalized. Although all of alexander's books are, in a sense, anti-war, The Kestrel, with a full share of his special humor, is also his most powerful. Kemie Nix ©1982 Parents' Choice

Fallen Angels

By Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic Inc.

Like most of his Harlem peers in the 60's, Richie Perry loves basketball. Unlike most of them, he graduated from high school with dreams of going to college and becoming a writer like James Baldwin. However, his desire to help support his mother and small brother outweighs his dreams, and he joins the army. Predictably, he is shipped to Viet Nam.

As Richie begins his inexorable descent into a series of battles, he is befriended by Pee-Wee Gates, a tough, funny character from Louisiana, and by Lieutenant Carroll, who prays with his platoon, referring to the dead as "angel warriors that fall." In a novel filled with action and compassion, the author leads Richie and the reader into and through the internal and external chaos of the war in Viet Nam. Kemie Nix ©1988 Parents' Choice

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind

By Suzanne Fisher Staples
Random House Children's Books/Knopf

Weetzie Bat

By Francesca L Block
Harper Collins Publisher/Charlotte Zolotow

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 language, however, is a Southern California import. Perhaps the mores are too. Weird as the characters may seem to the rest of the country, the book's tone is sweet. Its mood and message are the same: love (with or without sensuality) includes everybody. Parents may want to discuss this book with their children.

The New Way Things Work
By David Macaulay
Houghton Mifflin Co.

The New Way Things Work, like the best-selling original is a superb illustrated guide to the technical processes everyday devices and well-known machines work. The book is organized by the broad scientific principles that govern technology (i.e. electricity, chemical elements). The titles are done in a clever way for curious young thinkers. The illustrations are large and demonstrate the process of broad to more specific. Attuned readers will note that complex scientific principles influence a multitude of simpler ones. The inclusion of household devices with more complex technology offers a fascinating look at the dynamics of technology. The format entices. The index is complete. A fine glossary helps. The New Way Things Work could be used by children with a burgeoning interest in all fields of hard science. Eileen Kuhl ©1999 Parents' Choice

So Far From the Bamboo Grove The Boy and the Samurai The Boy and the Samurai Because of Winn-Dixie Because of Winn-Dixie Fallen Angels The New Way Things Work Weetzie Bat The Ghost in The Tokiado Inn The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm Joey Pigza Loses Control Catherine, Called Birdy Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush


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