Books to Keep Kids Reading

School is out for the summer.  Nine weeks of freedom for the kids.  Reading is an excellent antidote for busy summer activities.  Encourage your children to grab a book during the quiet morning hours before the day is in full swing or to take a much needed late afternoon break with a novel in a backyard blanket fort.  Summer reading helps prevent the dreaded summer vacation brain drain.  The Bishop Library is sponsoring a summer reading program for kids (ages preschool to twelve).  Drop by the library to register and get a reading log.  Stickers are rewarded along the way when children present their reading lists to the librarians.  Program end July 31 with a party and prizes.  Call 760-873-5115 for more information.

Below are some excellent book choices for children of all ages.  (Adults might even enjoy rereading some old favorite.)  Titles available at East Side Books. And remember, if you ever need help finding something, ask our staff for assistance.  We also can place special orders if you don’t find what you are seeking.


For young readers who have zipped through the Junie B. Jones series and are yearning for another fictional character to be their alter ego of naughty behavior, check out the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary.  Ramona is the original early elementary school rascal.  Ramona the Pest and Ramona the Brave are an excellent place to start.  Look for all of Cleary’s book on the Middle Reader bookshelves in the Children’s Room.

What do we do now that the Harry Potter series is finished???  Although there is no real replacement for the Hogswarts crowd, fans might be interested in checking out the excellent Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.  Lewis’s popular seven book series appeals to readers of all ages.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to begins the adventure.  Equally appealing is the five book series by Madeline L’Engle that begins with the wonderful A Wrinkle In Time.  (By the way, L’Engle was the mother of four children and often could only find time to write late at night where she would fall asleep draped over her typewriter.)  Complete sets and individual books of both of these series can be found in the Children’s Series section.  More advanced readers might enjoy The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkiens.  Well written and wildly imaginative, Tolkiens has almost a cult following. Ask for assistance finding Tolkiens’ novels.


Boys especially can’t help but be drawn into the “Brian” series by Gary Paulsen.  Starting with Hatchet and continuing on with Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return, and Brian’s Hunt, Paulsen writes in clear, simple language about a young boy’s attempt to survive in the wilderness after a plane crash.  A consistently good writer that appeals to boys, check out Paulsen’s other titles outside the series as well.  Look for him in East Side’s Middle Reader and Young Adult sections.

Girls (and boys) alike will love Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s stories of her childhood as her family struggles as homesteaders.  We offer complete series and individual copies of the Little House on the Prairie nine book series.  For slightly older readers, the L.M. Montgomery eight book series are a must read. The title book is the much loved Anne of Green Gables. It is impossible to stop once you start this series so you might as well just buy the whole set at once.

FOR MIDDLE READERS…(ages 7 to 14)

Judy Blume No other children’s writer can write about coming-of-age issues with as much grace, humor, and style as Judy Blume.  She is most famous for Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret, but other excellent reads are Freckle Juice, Blubber, and the Fudge series that include Superfudge, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Sheila the Great among other titles.  Blume’s books can be located in the Middle Reader section as well as the Young Adult section.

E.L. Konsigsburg An excellent children’s writer who is often overlooked, Konsigsburg’s books are wonderfully clever with unpredictable plot twists and characters you wish were your kids’ best friends.  Appealing to both boys and girls, check out From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The View from Saturday.

Louise Fitzhugh It is easy to love Harriet the Spy by Fitzhugh, the tale of a young girl who records her thoughts and observations in a notebook. Notebook entries are noted in bold capital letters giving the book great reading appeal and breaking up the text for new readers. Equally as good, but often skipped is Fitzhugh’s follow up book The Long Secret.

Andrew Clement A strong writer who appeals to boys, Clement is the author of Frinde, A Week in the Woods, and Lunch Money.  Clement writes in an easy manner, has themes that appeal to all ages, and his books tend to be short–a great choice for reluctant older readers.  His books can be found in the Middle Reader section and the Young Adult section.

Last, but not least, the master Roald Dahl It is hard to resist Dahl.  Slightly naughty, slightly gross, wildly imaginative, and always unpredictable, Dahl is like no other.  You can’t go wrong with the classics James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but for a complete Dahl experience, enjoy his lesser known works such as Danny Champion of the World, The Witches, and The BFG. (Adults and young adult readers should check out Dahl’s short story collections.  Twisted and clever, they will linger in your memory.)

East Side Books has an extensive Middle Reader selection in the Children’s Room.  We are happy to give recommendations depending on your reader’s interest and ability. (In fact, we LOVE giving recommendations!)

Also, check out our section of Newbery Medal winners for children’s fiction located at the beginning of the Children’s Series section.  There is a reason these books have won an award.  Some titles not to miss are: The Giver and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Missing May by Cynthia Rylant, Manic Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, and  Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes.


Teenagers may not always be receptive to suggestions, but if you give your favorite teen one of these titles, you have a chance of avoiding scorn and maybe even invoking a “thank you.”  Find the below suggestions in our Young Adult section.

Louis Sachar Author of the award winning book Holes and the sequel Small Steps, Sachar is a good choice for reluctant readers.  His characters have a knack for making mistakes with big consequences, and Sachar has a knack for teaching through his stories her that mistakes and people are redeemable.

Jerry Spinelli If know a teenager who hasn’t yet read Stargirl, you should run down to East Side Books right now and pick up a copy.  But before you give it away, you should read it yourself.  Spinelli’s story of a girl who isn’t afraid to be herself will make you want to go back to high school and do it all over again.  Spinelli is a prolific writer who has many excellent titles in both the Middle Reader and Young Adult sections.

Alice Hoffman Hoffman is know primarily as an adult author, but she is quite prolific as a Young Adult author.  Her books tend to mix up fantasy, reality, and mysticism in an appealing brew that truly transports readers to a new place.  Some of her Young Adult titles are Green Angel, The Foretelling, and Indigo.

Carl Hiaasen Hiassen is also known for his adult novels, but his recent foray into Young Adult fiction netted him a Newbery Honor Book award for Hoot. He has also written Scat and Flush. All his work carries an environmental theme that appeals to kids who care for the natural world.

Lois Duncan If your teen is looking for a little something to give him or her shivers on a hot summer day, give them a copy of I Know What You Did Last Summer. Scary, without being graphic or gory, Duncan’s classic is sure to please.  Some of her other titles are Down a Dark Hole, Ransom, and Summer of Fear.

Laurie Hasle Anderson This is an author who isn’t afraid to tackle tough issues, and she does it with great skill and success.  Parents and teens alike would benefit from reading her award winning book Speak about the fall out of date rape as well as Wintergirls which deals with the issue of eating disorders. Her historical fiction novel Fever 1793 is excellent also.

Cynthia Voigt Although Voigt’s series about Dicey Tillerman can be a bit heavy emotionally, these books tend to appeal to those wrapped up in their own teenage angst. Voigt doesn’t spare any punches that life can be hard and not always work out as planned.  The series starts with Homecoming, but each book stands on its own so the series does not need to be read in order.  Dicey’s Song and A Solitary Blue are award winners.

We would love to know if you have read any great children’s literature lately.  And remember, we are always happy to assist if you need help finding a title or would like to place a special order.

2 thoughts on “Books to Keep Kids Reading

  1. Melissa asked me for ideas, or what I liked to read in my middle school years for this post. She has hit on many great authors, and some of my favorites. I realized after considering her request, that my choices were shaped by what was on the shelf of the Mono County Bookmobile (bless Mono County for operating the library Bookmobile for so many years), and I had really read all of the kids material by middle school….you too may want to consider some appropriate adult books to really stimulate your readers. Nothing like reading grown-up books for inspiration! Tolkein is along those lines and I loved his books in middle school. I just remembered reading “The Thousand Mile Summer” by Colin Fletcher, wonderful because he hiked right through our area, and might inspire your kids to get some hiking in as well as reading. Mary Stewart’s Merlin/King Arthur series “The Crystal Cave”, is another part fantasy part history group that will appeal to teens. I did not read them (because they were not on the bookmobile), but my kids have also loved Douglas Adams’ “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and all of its sequels, very funny stuff. Another bookmobile shaped addiction in my younger years was novels by Zane Grey – there was a whole shelf of those! And for a desert kid, the landscapes are very recognizable which I loved. There is a lot of (innocent) romance, but plenty of action too. My boys have preferred Louis L’amour, nice and short, great fight scenes, no questionable love scenes, action packed, and a full summer’s worth of reading!
    Try some of these if you have older, reluctant readers. Their taste may have outgrown the kid’s shelf too, but there is plenty of good, appropriate reading out there. Happy Summer!

  2. O_ooh god!! don’t get me started.I aatuclly didn’t even know what contemporary meant in the book world so yeap only after I read one and looked it up did I knew of the books that might make this list for me is Dark Song by Gail Giles, I aatuclly read to forget and get out of real life and I’m a let’s just say I have a soft place for happy endings so while reading this book I aatuclly think I reached my lowest and even a bit lower than that…it striked so close to home so many freaking times that at some part I had to put it down though it’s one of the few books I’ve read in a single sitting…I mean it like 4 hours tops…this definitely is a book I will never forget for how uncomfortable I felt…almost as if I was reading my life…not the ending if some of you have read it but…well just some in between things that WOW just T_TThen it’d be most of the adult books I’ve read…introduced by the release of a cover from one of Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series.-_- sorry now I feel blue for remembering that book…Dark Song I mean… T_T ~goes now before it’s too late~but I love the post!

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