Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling.
more can be said about this iconic franchise? How about this: seven years after the final volume was published, readers young and old still go crazy at the slightest rumor of a new Potter story.
Buy now:Harry Potter (series)
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The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak.
For many young readers, this novel provides their first in-depth contemplation of the Holocaust. Although terror surrounds Liesel, a young German girl, so too does evidence of friendship, love and charity—redeeming
lights in the darkness.
Buy now:The Book Thief
Alfred A. Knopf
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A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle.
This surrealist adventure has provided generations of children with their first-ever mind-blowing experiences, as Meg travels across the
fifth dimension in search of her father. But the sci-fi also has a message: Meg learns self-sufficiency and bravery in the process.
Buy now:A Wrinkle in Time
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White.
Readers are still drawn to the simplicity and beauty of arachnid Charlotte’s devotion to her pig pal Wilbur. Though family farms may be less common than they were in 1952, E.B. White’s novel remains timeless for its enduring meditation on the power of friendship and of good writing.
Buy now:Charlotte's Web
Harper & Brothers
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Holes, by Louis Sachar.
A story of a family curse, fancy sneakers and poisonous lizards moves forward and backward through time, telling of how Stanley Yelnats IV ended up in a juvenile prison camp. It’s an introduction to complex narrative, suffused with fun, warmth and a truly memorable villain.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Matilda, by Roald Dahl.
With apologies to the lovable Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this may be Roald Dahl’s most compelling read for young people. Poor Matilda feels thwarted and ignored by her family—a sense that many preteens share. They don’t share her magical powers, but that’s the enduring appeal of this escapist frolic.
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The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton.
Published when the author was just 18, this coming-of- age novel offers proof
that even the youngest writer can provide valuable insight. Her striking look at Ponyboy and gang life in the 1960s has resonated for decades with readers of all kinds, whether they identify more with the Greasers or the Socs.
Buy now:The Outsiders
Viking Press, Dell Publishing
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The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster.
In a witty, sharp fairy tale that illuminates language and mathematics through a picaresque story of adventure in the Kingdom of Wisdom, Jules Feiffer’s whimsical drawings do as much as Juster’s plain-language
interpolations of complex ideas to carry readers through Digitopolis and the Mountains of Ignorance.
Buy now:The Phantom Tollbooth
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The Giver, by Lois Lowry.
This tale of self-discovery in a dystopian society has a memorable central character, Jonas, and an indelible message— that pain and trauma have an important place in individual lives and in society, and to forget them is to lose what makes us human.
Buy now:The Giver
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
Scout Finch grows up in the racially charged Depression-era South where her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch, is defending a black man accused of raping a young white woman.
Buy now:To Kill a Mockingbird
Monster, by Walter Dean Myers.
A fictional account of an African American teenager on trial for felony murder in New York, written in a mix of first-person journal entries and a third-person screenplay.
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The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman.
Young Lyra Belacqua leads a battle in the arctic to save children who were kidnapped and severed from their animal soul mates in this fantastical world that spawned a trilogy and a 2007 feature film.
Buy now:The Golden Compass
Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
Miles Halter attends boarding school in Alabama for his junior year, where he navigates the alcohol-infused social scene of high school and falls in love with an enigmatic girl named Alaska.
Buy now:Looking for Alaska
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.
August Pullman, who has a rare cranial deformity, decides to stop being homeschooled and attend Beecher Prep for middle school, but he is forced to overcome bullying and name-calling from some of his peers.
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger.
The eternal cynic Holden Caulfield, expelled from his boarding school and wandering New York City, grapples with his own disillusionment in this timeless rendering of teenage angst.
Buy now:The Catcher in the Rye
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Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.
The four March sisters grow up in an impoverished New England household during the Civil War.
Buy now:Little Women
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson.
Jesse becomes close friends with a new girl and fellow runner at school, but a heartbreaking tragedy in their secret invented world in the forest leaves him and the reader suffering.
Buy now:Bridge to Terabithia
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The Call of the Wild, by Jack London.
Buck, a domesticated dog in California, is stolen and forced to become a sled dog in Alaska, where he ultimately must decide whether to remain with humans or enter the wilderness.
Buy now:The Call of the Wild
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A Separate Peace, by John Knowles.
Competition between two friends at an elite prep school reaches a climax when one of them impulsively shakes a tree branch the other is standing on and knocks him off, changing both of their lives forever.
Buy now:A Separate Peace
Secker & Warburg
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Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh.
Eleven-year-old Harriet records her observations about friends and classmates in a notebook as training in the hopes of one day becoming a spy. But when her friends come across the notebook, Harriet must confront their anger over her sometimes too honest notes.
Buy now:Harriet the Spy
Harper & Row
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The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier.
A New England Catholic school student tries to "disturb the universe” by challenging the school hierarchy and is forced to face his subsequent isolation.
Buy now:The Chocolate War
Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen.
After his single-engine plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness, 13-year-old Brian Robeson must survive with the hatchet gifted to him by his mother.
Simon and Schuster
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The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Hobbits, elves, wizards and men battle for control of the ring that will rule all of Middle Earth in this classic that all lovers of fantasy must read.
Buy now:The Lord of the Rings
George Allen & Unwin
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Feed, by M.T. Anderson.
A dystopian critique of consumerism and reliance on technology.
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The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott.
The most famous alchemist in the world, Nicholas Flamel, supposedly died in 1418—but his tomb is empty. Could he have discovered the elixir of life?
Buy now:The Alchemyst
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The Princess Bride, by William Goldman.
Before the beloved movie, there was Goldman's book-within-a-book recounting the misadventures of a pair of starcrossed lovers, a righteous outlaw, and the scoundrels who get in their way.
Buy now:The Princess Bride
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Melinda, an incoming freshman, is raped by an upperclassman at a high school party, but she struggles to communicate the trauma to others. In her pain and growing isolation at school and at home, she turns to her art for expression.
Farrar Straus Giroux
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Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers.
Mary Poppins, nanny to the Banks children, reveals a magical world to the unsuspecting children in her care.
Buy now:Mary Poppins
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The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.
Hazel, a 16-year-old cancer patient whose prognosis is dim, has her life transformed when she falls in love with a young man she meets at a support group.
Buy now:The Fault in Our Stars
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A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly.
Against the backdrop of the real life 1906 murder of Grace Brown in upstate New York, fictional Mattie Gokey struggles to decide between staying in her impoverished farming community or escaping to college in New York City.
Buy now:A Northern Light
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The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
A young boy’s attachment to his pet deer becomes a problem for his impoverished family living in the Florida backwoods in the late 19th century with hardly enough to feed themselves.
Buy now:The Yearling
Charles Scribner's Sons
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The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins.
In a dystopian society where a group of children is annually required to battle to the death in a televised spectacle, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to fight in her sister's place.
Buy now:The Hunger Games (series)
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For Freedom, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.
A teenage aspiring opera singer in occupied France becomes a spy for the resistance.
Buy now:For Freedom
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The Wall, by Peter Sis.
An illustrated memoir of the author’s youth depicting what it was like to grow up in communist Czechoslovakia.
Buy now:The Wall
A Wreath for Emmett Till, by Marilyn Nelson.
A narrative poem explaining and memorializing the death of Emmett Louis Till, the 14-year-old African American boy who was lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi.
Buy now:A Wreath for Emmett Till
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Every Day, by David Levithan.
A teenager called A wakes up every morning in a new 16-year-old’s body, a fact he adjusts to until he falls in love with Rhiannon and grapples with trying to stay with her.
Buy now:Every Day
Blankets, by Craig Thompson.
An autobiographical graphic novel that chronicles Thompson’s childhood in an Evangelical Christian family.
Top Shelf Productions
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Private Peaceful, by Michael Morpurgo.
A soldier recounts his life from the trenches of WWI, eventually shifting into the present tense and encountering the realities of battle.
Buy now:Private Peaceful
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The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare.
The ever spirited and goodhearted Kit Tyler is sent to colonial Connecticut in 1687, where her manners—and her friendship with an old woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond—make her suspicious to the townspeople.
Buy now:The Witch of Blackbird Pond
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Dangerous Angels, by Francesca Lia Block.
A seven-book series about Weetzie Bat and her magical adventures in Los Angeles with friends and family.
Buy now:Dangerous Angels
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Frindle, by Andrew Clements.
Fifth-grade prankster Nicholas Allen invents a new word for a pen to defy language teacher Mrs. Granger. But the word, “frindle,” quickly gains traction and spreads beyond Allen’s control.
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Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang.
Two companion graphic novels that follow the divergent political and religious paths of Little Bao and Vibiana during the divisive time of the Boxer Rebellion.
Buy now:Boxers and Saints
First Second Books
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The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.
Bod, who was adopted by ghosts and has become a part of the community of supernatural beings living in a graveyard, faces adventures and obstacles in the graveyard and natural world alike.
Buy now:The Graveyard Book
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang.
A graphic novel that jumps back and forth between a Chinese folk tale and the stories of a young Asian American and his white alter-ego growing up in a San Francisco suburb.
Buy now:American Born Chinese
First Second Books
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The Lost Conspiracy, by Frances Hardinge.
In a fantastical and harsh world of jungles and colonists, Hathin—who has grown up in her sister’s shadow—must endeavor to save them both.
Buy now:The Lost Conspiracy
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Dogsbody, by Diana Wynne Jones.
Sirius, the guardian luminary of the Dog Star, is sentenced to a lifetime as a dog and must overcome worldly obstacles to find the supernatural Zoi tool.
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The Pigman, by Paul Zindel.
John and Lorraine’s prank call unexpectedly leads to an enduring friendship with widower Angelo Pignati, whose care for the children transforms their lives.
Buy now:The Pigman
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Alabama Moon, by Watt Key.
Ten-year-old Moon leaves his sheltered home after his father dies and must adapt to the outside world.
Buy now:Alabama Moon
The Tiger Rising, by Kate DiCamillo.
Rob, sickly and devastated by the death of his mother, moves to a motel with his father for a new start. But after he comes across a caged tiger in the woods outside the motel, the unexpected find helps him overcome his sadness and open up to a new friend.
Buy now:The Tiger Rising
Saffy's Angel, by Hilary McKay.
The eccentric Casson children set off on separate adventures that are filled with hilarity and human emotion.
Buy now:Saffy's Angel
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The Grey King, by Susan Cooper.
Will Stanton, sent to Wales by his mother to recover from an illness, finds himself a protagonist in Welsh legend and must awaken other immortals to join him in a fight between good and evil.
Buy now:The Grey King
The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke.
Brothers Prosper and Boniface escape home and flee to Venice, where they join up with a gang of street children while on the run from a detective hired by their cruel guardian aunt and uncle.
Buy now:The Thief Lord
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The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart.
Four intellectually gifted children are sent to investigate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, a mysterious organization suspected of sending out cryptic, mind-controlling signals over television waves.
Buy now:The Mysterious Benedict Society
Sabriel, by Garth Nix.
Sabriel travels into the depth of the mystical Old Kingdom to save her father, where she confronts a dark world of spirits and the undead.
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Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson.
In a prequel of sorts to Peter Pan, Anderson uses Tinkerbell to tell the story of Peter’s relationship with Tiger Lily before he falls for Wendy Darling.
Buy now:Tiger Lily
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Secret (series), by Pseudonymous Bosch.
Three children must protect a mysterious secret in this layered series written by the equally mysterious Pseudonymous Bosch.
Buy now:Secret (series)
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A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin.
The first novel in the Earthsea series, the book follows the adventures of Ged in his youth before he became Earthesea’s greatest sorcerer.
Buy now:A Wizard of Earthsea
Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher.
A high school senior with a diverse background (black, Japanese and white) challenges the establishment by forming a swim team compiled of school misfits.
Buy now:Whale Talk
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