This weekend marks a date that I have been waiting for since childhood. The Giver by Lois Lowry has been made into a major motion picture and that film is being released on Friday. This book, like few others in my life, was one that had a profound impact on my life. So, in anticipation of this film, I am writing my Top Ten choices for Best Young Adult Books. Now, Let me preface this by saying that you will not be seeing and Harry Potter or The Hunger Games on this list, and for one specific reason. I am keeping this list to books that had a profound impact on MY childhood. Harry Potter was not super popular in the US until I was a teenager. For a specific guideline, the books on my list is limited to anything published before 1995.
In alphabetical order by author:
1. My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier (1974): SPOILER ALERT! This novel is the story of two brother during the American Revolutionary War. Their father is a loyalist and the older brother Sam, comes home from college ready to fight with the Continental Army. It’s a great book that explores the family dynamic during this period of time.
What I Learned: It is better to have hope in a hopeless situation otherwise the journey will be miserable.
2. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (1967): The coming-of-age story of a high school boy who is caught up in a turf war between rival gangs: the Greasers and the Socs (short for Socials). As the rivalry starts to heat up, the world of the Greasers begins to crumble.
What I Learned: War is never worth it.
3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960): I am guessing you know this one… If not, stop reading blogs and go pick up this book. Seriously. Then watch the movie starring Gregory Peck.
What I Learned: Always stand up for what you believe is right, no matter what society will think of you.
4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (1950): The four Pevensie children stumble upon a magical land known as Narnia. It is a story of growing up and what that looks like. The book is one in a series of seven in The Chronicles of Narnia. This was the first published and the first that should be read. It is allegorical in nature, but also a completely flushed out fantasy series.
What I Learned: You never know when you might stumble upon a magical land. And then a lot more about life and human nature as I continuously reread this book into adulthood.
5. The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993): The story of a Utopian society that is not as perfect as it seems. As young Jonas is chosen to become the Receiver of Memories, he is exposed to the truth behind the “sameness” within his society and starts to question everything he has been taught.
What I Learned: Always Question Authority.
6. The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977): Jesse and Leslie become friends and create an imaginary sanctuary called Terabithia where they can go and be safe from school bullies and difficult home lives.
What I Learned: Let’s just say that this is the book that teachers in my school gave children to teach them how to deal with death and leave it at that.
7. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961): This book is the story of a boy and his two dogs. After saving up for months, Billy finally had enough money to buy a pair of coonhound puppies. He taught them to become two of the best hunting dogs in the Ozarks. I love this book and also hate it and the teacher who made me read it in school.
What I Learned: Never read a book where a dog is one of the major characters.
8. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1958): This is one of my top five favorite books of ALL TIME. It is the story of Kit Tyler who moves from Barbados to Puritan Connecticut in 1687. There she befriends a Quaker woman known as The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Puritans, late 1600s, do you see where this is going?
What I Learned: Not dissimilar to previous books on this list; question authority, stand up for what you believe in, but also, girls are mean and here is why…
9. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (1937): A precursor to The Lord of the Rings series, this book tells the story of Bilbo Baggins and his journey to defeat a dragon with my favorite literary wizard and a band of charming dwarfs. As you may be aware, this book has been turned into a pretty major film trilogy of its very own, the finale of which will be released in December.
What I Learned: Life is boring without some adventure.
10. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (1952): The story of the unlikely friendship between a pig and a spider. When it is time for Wilbur to go to slaughter, the spider starts spinning phrases in her web that turn Wilbur into a tourist attraction and continually delaying his cruel murder until he becomes a national treasure.
What I Learned: Bacon is not good enough to erase the memory of poor Wilbur…