Classics, Historical Fiction, and Drama
Ann of Green Gables (9+)
Set on Prince Edward Island in the late 19th century, Anne of Green Gables is the story of Anne Shirley, an imaginative and headstrong orphan. When brother and sister Marilla and Mathew Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan boy to help Matthew work the farm, they are astonished when Anne arrives at the train station by mistake. "What use is she to us?" grumbles the gruff Marilla. "We might be of some use to her," answers Matthew, who takes an instant liking to the talkative Anne. As Anne grows up, her adventures are both hilarious and moving.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (12+)
Robert Louis Stevenson's short novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, first published in 1886, became an instant classic, a Gothic horror originating in a feverish nightmare whose hallucinatory setting in the back streets of London gripped a nation mesmerized by crime and violence. Its revelatory ending is one of the most original and thrilling in English literature.
Little Women (12+)
Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, set during the Civil War, follows the adventures of the four March sisters—Meg, Beth, Amy, and most of all, the tomboy Jo—as they experience the joys and disappointments, tragedies and triumphs, of growing up.
The Secret Garden (8+)
Bratty and spoiled Mary Lennox is orphaned when her parents fall victim to a cholera outbreak in India. As a result, Mary becomes the ward of an uncle in England she has never met. As she hesitantly tries to carve a new life for herself at imposing and secluded Misselthwaite Manor, Mary befriends a high-spirited boy named Dickon and investigates a secret garden on the manor grounds. She also discovers a sickly young cousin, Colin, who has been shut away in a hidden manor room. Mary and Dickon help Colin blossom, and in the process Mary finds her identity and melts the heart of her emotionally distant uncle.
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson (10+)
Ten-year-old Bandit is excited when her grandfather announces to the family that she will be going with her mother to join her father in America. She must leave her clan and the only life she has known in China, but she is sure that moving to America will be an adventure. To celebrate, she chooses a new name—Shirley Temple Wong. Life in America is not easy because everything is new and Shirley doesn't speak English. She is ignored by her classmates until she gains the respect of the toughest girl in class. Shirley learns to love baseball and begins to play stickball. It's 1947, and Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers is everyone's hero, proving that a black man can play baseball as well as anyone. Slowly Shirley learns about the opportunities available to her in America and begins to make true friends.
A Light in the Forest (10+)
John Butler, born in a small frontier town, was captured at age four by the Lenni Lenape Indians and raised by the great warrior, Cuyloga, who named the boy "True Son." He grew up thinking, feeling, and fighting like an Indian. Now rescued and restored to his family because of a treaty to return all white captives to their own people, John Butler rebels and tries to return to the tribe. Escaping from the family farm in Pennsylvania, he discovers the eternal and irreconcilable conflict between the two worlds. "True Son"/John Butler asks, "Who am I? Where do I belong?"
Number the Stars (9+)
The evacuation of Jews from Nazi-held Denmark is one of the great untold stories of World War II. On September 29, 1943, word got out in Denmark that Jews were to be detained and then sent to the death camps. Within hours the Danish resistance, population and police arranged a small flotilla to herd 7,000 Jews to Sweden. Lois Lowry fictionalizes a true-story account to bring this courageous tale to life. She brings the experience to life through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen, whose family harbors her best friend, Ellen Rosen, on the eve of the round-up and helps smuggles Ellen's family out of the country. Number the Stars won the 1990 Newbery Medal.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (11+)
This Newbery Medal-winning novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry tells the story of an African-American family fighting to stay together and strong in the face of brutal racist attacks, illness, poverty, and betrayal in the Deep South of the 1930s. Nine-year-old Cassie Logan, growing up protected by her loving family, has never had reason to suspect that any white person could consider her inferior or wish her harm. But during the course of one devastating year when her community begins to be ripped apart by angry night riders threatening African-Americans, she and her three brothers come to understand why the land they own means so much to their Papa.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond (9+)
Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the unfamiliar shores of colonial Connecticut in 1867. Alone and desperate, she has been forced to leave her beloved home on the island of Barbados and join a family she has never met. Torn between her quest for belonging and her desire to be true to herself, Kit struggles to survive in a hostile place. Just when it seems she must give up, she finds a kindred spirit. But Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper—who the colonists believe to be a witch—proves more taboo than she could have imagined and ultimately forces Kit to choose between her heart and her duty.
Bridge to Terabithia (9+)
All summer, Jess pushes himself to be the fastest boy in the fifth grade, and when the year's first school-yard race is run, he is going to win. But his victory is stolen by a newcomer, by a girl, one who doesn’t even know enough to stay on the girls' side of the playground. Then, unexpectedly, Jess finds himself sticking up for Leslie, for the girl who breaks rules and wins races. The friendship between the two grows as Jess guides the city girl through the pitfalls of life in their small, rural town, and Leslie draws him into the world of imagination, a world of magic and ceremony called Terabithia.
The House of Dies Drear (11+)
The house held secrets, Thomas knew, even before he first saw it looming gray and massive on its ledge of rock. It had a century-old legend—two fugitive slaves had been killed by bounty hunters after leaving its passageways, and Dies Drear himself, the abolitionist who had made the house into a station on the Underground Railroad, had been murdered there. The ghosts of the three were said to walk its rooms!
Maniac McGee (8+)
Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee might have lived a normal life if a freak accident hadn't made him an orphan. After living with his unhappy and uptight aunt and uncle for eight years, he decides to run—and not just run away, but run. This is where the myth of Maniac Magee begins, as he changes the lives of a racially divided small town with his amazing and legendary feats.
Summer of the Swans (8+)
Sara, Charlie, and their sister Wanda, all live with their Aunt Willie. Sara's brother Charlie is mentally retarded. Charlie loves to go to the lake and watch the swans. So, Sara takes him one day, but it starts to get dark, and he doesn't want to go home. That night as Charlie lies in bed, he hears the swans. He follows the sound. It is dark outside, and he gets lost. The next morning Sara, Wanda, and Aunt Willie realize Charlie is missing. During the frantic search for her brother, Sara forgets her own problems and focuses her energy on someone else.