In the last month, I’ve been asked by several different people for book recommendations for the kids in their lives. I answered like I always do – then it hit me. If two are wondering, I bet a whole lot more could benefit from the same info. I hope this post is helpful! 

Also, details and link for the new Nerd Factory Journal at the end of this post!! 

Maybe you’ve browsed Amazon or Barnes & Noble hunting for the perfect book for your voracious reader – that of course they haven’t read yet.

Maybe you found a book that seemed decent but upon getting it home, you read it a bit more thoroughly and discover themes and junk you wish people would just keep out of kids books.

Maybe you are pretty confident in your book choices but feel clueless about where to begin to find a great read for your niece or nephew, granddaughter or grandson.

Wherever you find yourself, I hope this post will give you a bit of hope.

1. Not all kids books have taken the Diary of a Wimpy Kid dive.

2. There are still great authors writing great books.

In my experience as a teacher and a mom, there are 3 kinds of kids. There’s the one who checks out the absolute limit of books at the library because he just might run out in a couple days. Next, there’s the kid who would rather be playing or building something and wouldn’t ever consider picking up a book. And last, but definitely not least, there’s the kid who picks up a book only if the title/cover/content strongly appeals to her. 

Voracious Reader:

Unwanteds by Lisa McMann – This is a Harry Potter meets Hunger Games series where being creative makes you unwanted in this dystopian society, but there’s a magical place where being creative isn’t only a strength – it’s a weapon. My resident dystopian novel reader says there is some “relationship stuff” meaning a boy and girl end up liking each other, but they are clean and Lisa does a good job. After all, there are 8 of them!

The Warrior Cats Series (and all the spin-offs) by Erin Hunter – My girl absolutely devoured these books! Lots of time on library waiting lists! The Erin Hunter writing team created an intricate world that she cannot get enough. Her only criticism is that they haven’t cross-checked their series/characters enough. It annoys her when a cat is described a certain way and when the character appears in another spin off series completely different. Other than that, she’s super excited that her little cousin is now reading them – someone new to discuss all the twists and turns!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – This classic of fantasy literature weaves together deep subtle theology and an unforgettable story to create a world that gives one pause before one shuts oneself up in a wardrobe. A witch, magic, betrayal, redemption and worlds to explore are found in these pages by the master story-teller Lewis.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien – A contemporary of Lewis but a completely different writer in the way he not only created a world but a language and universe influenced by his experience in the Great War. 

Romanov, Fawkes by Nadine Brandes – I know she’s got another YA series but I’ve only read her take on the Romanov family as well as her take on Guy Fawkes Day. She has such a delightful way of weaving her imagination through actual historical facts. I know she’s working on a new book currently and I can’t wait to see what piece of history she tackles next!

The Weaver Trilogy by Lindsey A. Franklin – Story Peddler enraptured my inner YA novel reader. What could be better for a writer than having the actual gift of telling a story and seeing it take shape from your very hands??! Her second book Story Raider is on my current TBR and I’m excited to share it with you in the January edition of our new Nerd Factory Journal!

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson – I didn’t know Andrew Peterson wrote books until somewhere I discovered this series. We first began the books listening to the audiobook read by some British guy. I’m sorry. One cannot truly get the full scope of all that is meant by “the fangs of dang” spoken in the formal British accent. It’s just not possible. That American nasal twang is essential! Anyway, there are many laugh out loud moments mixed with equally sad yet deeply emotional and redemptive moments.

Refugee by Alan Gratz – My 7th grader is a serious fan of Alan Gratz. His reading tastes are history and good quality. He’s told me how irritating “book club” is in school because “the books are SO predictable!” Gratz has won him over. By the time I listened to the audiobook, he’d read Refugee several times and practically begged me to get the CDs from the library. It’s a deep and wide look at the world from several different time periods all while the characters process what it means to be a refugee. As an adult, I was challenged to see things differently and – I believe – that was Mr. Gratz’s goal.

Gary D. Schmidt’s books – I had the joy of hearing him speak last October specifically to writers and challenged us to “stay on the log” with those young readers who believe no one will come – because no one ever does. Each one of his books deals with real things and real life that are sometimes very hard but always from a real and true perspective. They give the reader time together on the log of life processing the stuff of life.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo – You need to know this story is not happy and uplifting, but sometimes we need to sit with the hard junk in this world a bit. Edward Tulane is a porcelain rabbit with a very haughty attitude. This is truly the story of the miraculous journey on which he discovers, much like the Velveteen Rabbit, it’s not the fancy things that matter most. There is joy swirled around and good things that make you believe in new beginnings – but one only sees those things when contrasted with the dark.


(the book for the hands-on person)

The Chronicles of Narnia by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre – My favorite first line of all time is: There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it. The theatre production team kept to the original text of the book so well it was used to begin the Voyage of the Dawn Treader just as C.S. Lewis intended! Also check out their biography options! They also have a fantastic version of Les Miserables – especially if you are not a fan of musicals.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt read by Joel Johnstone – You’ve heard by now my fan-girling over Gary D. Schmidt’s books but guys, this audiobook takes his books to a whole new level. Joel Johnstone does an incredible job with portraying Holling Hoodhood. As a family, we listened to this on our way up to Mackinac Island this past summer – laughing right out loud!

Future Voracious Reader:

(because a voracious reader becomes such when they find that one book)

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt – Another book by the inimitable Gary D. Schmidt – this one addressing the issue of a father abandoning his family. Yet the way he tells the story, you can’t help but laugh if you have anyone in middle school. This book would appeal to someone who’s read Middle School the Worst Years of My Life.

Micah’s Super Vlog Series by Andy McGuire – I heard about this series at Baker Book House Librarian’s Day. I haven’t read them cover to cover, but glancing through, I loved the pictures which would draw fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid in the way the character/underdog is presented – yet without the accompanying potty humor. My youngest loves Dog Man and Mac Spy and other graphic novels. My hope is to season his reading with a couple of these in his stocking this year.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure the second I post it, I’ll think of at least 5 more titles to add! But use this list to start a new author obsession and maybe you’ll come to the end of 2020 having read all of their books. 🙂

Remember read. Then read some more. Read to your children. Find books that not only make you laugh but helps deal with hard things. We want to build not only readers but also thinkers.


Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

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