Books for Ages 8 to 12
NOTES FROM THE DOG, by Gary Paulsen.Told by a 14 year-old loner named Finn, with input from his dog Dylan, this novel brings all of its characters into vivid life. Finn, who cannot seem to forge good relationships, gradually becomes acquainted with his college-age neighbor, a girl who’s battling cancer. Dylan brings notes to him from her, and we see his responses as he gradually gains self-confidence. What could have been a gloomy story is instead an uplifting one, often hilariously funny. This is another Paulsen winner—a book that boys and girls will love, and remember.
WOODS RUNNER, also by Paulsen, is heartily recommended. In fact, everything by Paulsen is recommended!
IRON THUNDER, by Avi.
Taking us back to the Civil War era, this fast-paced historical novel features 13 year-old Tom Carroll, who works in the Brooklyn Navy Yard after his father is killed in the war. Tom’s part in the war is unique, as he helps to build the ship we know as The Monitor, an ironclad soon to be famous. To escape Confederate spies, Tom begins living aboard ship, and is on board when it goes out to battle The Merrimac. Readers will enjoy reproductions of old photos, newspaper articles, and reports from the ongoing war. Even if you’re not interested in the Civil War, this is a great read.
DON'T TALK TO ME ABOUT THE WAR, by David A. Adler.This novel takes us back to 1940, during WW II, and features a 13 year-old known as Tommy, who enjoys playing stickball with his friends in Brooklyn. Yet behind the games is worry about his mother, who is gradually becoming weaker with a mysterious illness, and growing awareness of the war, which concerns his friends who have relatives deeply involved. Tommy begins helping out more at home, reading the paper, and thinking. War has a way of concentrating one’s attention. This is a very realistic, engaging historical novel that brings this era to life, and illustrates how and why people “grow up.”
THE MAGICIAN'S ELEPHANT, by Kate DiCamillo. Ill. by Yoko Tanaka.We can count on Ms. DiCamillo, as fans of The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn Dixie know. In this yarn, Peter Augustus Dechene goes to the market to make purchases that his guardian has requested, but he uses the money to pay a fortuneteller instead, hoping to learn the whereabouts of his long-lost sister. He is told that an elephant will lead him to her, a preposterous idea, he thinks, as there are no elephants anywhere around. Not so! That evening, a magician in town conjures an elephant by mistake and so…. You really have to read this one! Along with the story, you’ll enjoy the elegant illustrations of Yoko Tanaka. SLJ Starred Review.
THE BFG, MATILDA , and GEORGE'S MARVELOUS MEDICINE, by Roald Dahl.
Lucky the reader who is gifted with this trilogy of Dahl’s novels. My favorite is THE BFG, which sends all readers into howls of laughter at the brilliant language jokes. As a character, the Big Friendly Giant is as lovable as they come, and certainly the most humorous. He’s always so sincere! And his friend Sophie, a “human bean,” does us proud as she shows everyone, with the help of the Queen of England, how to put the really BIG giants away for safekeeping. They will never again run riot in the world, eating “human beans” every night.
Matilda, Dahl’s last book, is the story of a brilliant 4 year-old who must cope with unsuitable parents, a hopeless headmistress named Miss Trunchbull, and other people who don’t understand her. She’s a case! Kids love her.
George’s Marvelous Medicine, which George creates from floor polish, shampoo, and shaving cream, is meant to cure his grandmother’s extreme irritability, but has more extreme results, in a typically over-the-top Dahl concoction. All of the creations by Dahl are other-wordly…and wizard.
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