Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rubbish as Reading

Rubbish is read a lot.  I don't have a problem with this, I simply have a problem with giving horrible messages to tween and teen girls, who already have enough problems and hormones that they don't need bad messages and examples on top of it.  What am I referring to?  The Twilight series, the blockbusting book and movie I wanted nothing to do with.  Unfortunately, their popularity caused me to take notice, not because they were getting girls to read, but because they promote abstinence, self-depreciation, and unhealthy relationships.  A very good article can be found in Bitch magazine (a feminist response to pop culture) here:

I am currently reading the books (slogging through is more like it) so that I can write a more thorough article on them.  Meanwhile, I encourage open discussion about the bad examples found in these books and a shift to more empowering fiction (Alanna, anyone?).  

Series Or the Missing Books

I am sitting at my computer in New York searching the online card catalog of my library.  Julie is in Massachusetts, sitting at her computer and looking at the online card catalog of her library.  And every time I come across something I’d absolutely love to read, a little window pops up on Julie’s screen saying something to the effect of, “this is absolutely amazing.  The imagery is gorgeous and it made me cry.” Or, “damn it! Why do they never have the first book in the series!”  And Julie will type something back to me along the lines of, “Let me see if I can inter-library loan it.”  Or, “I know!  The third and the fifth aren’t much good without the first.” 

What can be determined from these brief examples of our conversation is that (1) we read a great deal, (2) we prefer to read our series in the correct order, and (3) public libraries have a terrible habit of buying books with no regard to their order in a series.  This last conclusion is the most important of you are a public librarian.  If you are a public librarian, I suggest that you do a complete sweep of your library and fill in the gaps currently present in your series.  This means that if you own the third and fifth books in a series (which I have found to be the most common volumes in most libraries), you must buy the first, second, and fourth books in the series. 

Now, if you find that your search is not turning up these anomalies in your collection, I suggest that you skip ahead to science fiction and fantasy, where this problem seems to be an epidemic.  If you are still finding that all the volumes in a series are present in your collection, you are either not looking correctly and should therefore find a nerdy teenager to help, or you should be congratulated for actually buying books in the correct order.

To be fair to librarians, book buyers, and booksellers, I will admit that some authors do make it awfully difficult to keep a series in order.  For example, why does the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy by Douglas Adams have five volumes?  And is C.S. Lewis’ the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe the first book in the Narnia series, or the second?  The answer to the first question is you should never trust science fiction writers as their minds spend most of the day in outer space or on other planets.  The second answer: we wanted answers as to Narnia, and we got them in the form of a prequel.  As The Magician’s Nephew is delightful story, and answers our questions, you should not complain about so inconsequential a problem as the order of the books. 

As to the problem of figuring out what books in a series your collection is missing, the answer is quite easy to find.  If you are anti-computers, I would suggest going directly to the root of the problem: the books themselves.  Most, if not all, books in a series will display their position in a series on the spine, the cover, or inside the book on a page listing other books by the author.  If, like me, you are sitting at your computer, or if the numerical information cannot be found on the book, Amazon is your next best bet. 

I adore Amazon.  Yes, I know it is a mega-corporation that will someday beat out all the lovely little independent bookstores, but I still love it.  You can find everything, and I mean everything, even the out-of-print lovelies you thought you’d never seen again and the books that won’t actually be released for a few weeks.  But I’m sidetracking.  You can search any and everything on Amazon.  So, the simple way to find the gaps in your collection is to plug in the author or title of the books you are searching, and bing! Up will pop a nice window giving all the information you could ever wish to know about the book, including if it is in a series, and then you can even find the other books in the series.  And, get this, you don’t even have to launch another search- generally, you can just click a link.  Sometimes I do love technology. Just think, you could order the book, have it in less than a week, and have it on the shelf…. Oh, yeah.  I forgot about the process part of actually getting the book on the shelf…but I’ll deal with that later. According to the web, my library actually has the first in a series Julie recommended….  

Reading During Dinner

I read too much.  I have always read too much.  I am sure most parents say they would be over-joyed if their children read too much.  But the fact is, when it actually happens, it’s not what you think it will be.  I’m not saying my parents weren’t happy that I read too much, but they did spend a rather large amount of time telling me and my brother to “put the book down and come eat dinner.”  Now, if we had simply put our books down and gone running to the dinner table, I don’t think there would be as much trouble as there was.  Instead, we would have to finish the page.  But here’s the catch, on how many pages does the paragraph end neatly at the bottom?  Very few, I should think, and therefore we’d have to finish that paragraph also.  But when you’re gulping down fiction, the ends of paragraphs aren’t exactly noticeable, and so “just let me finish this page” would really end up becoming, “just let me finish this chapter.”  And now, any book-lover will be asking, “but why stop there?” 

Why indeed?  I believe that by the age of ten or so, I had trained myself to ignore chapters.  By that point, I didn’t really see what the purpose was to have chapters, for I had no problem sitting down and reading until I finished the book.  I still have no problem doing this, though now these one-sitting books have gotten much longer and therefore often last until the wee-hours of the morning.  But back to dinner. 

So, my brother would continue to read, through the end of the page, the end of the paragraph, and, indeed, the chapter.  Furthermore, we would be so absorbed, we wouldn’t hear my mom yelling at us to “just drop the book and come eat.”  Eventually we’d make it to the table, though throughout dinner we would pine after the books we had put down, or, more precisely, had ripped out of our hands. 

Nowadays, I would say most parents have to tell their children to turn-off the tv and do their homework.  In my house, it was, “put down the book and do your homework.”  This phrase sounds quite odd.  Put down a recreation you love and learn from to do homework that bores you.  Maybe even, put down the classic children’s novel to answer questions on a book you read three years ago and hated because you said the characters were underdeveloped?  Right.  That makes perfect sense. 

Reading for school was always difficult.  I don’t mean that the reading itself was difficult, or the questions complicated, that problem was that I read too fast and understood too much.  In schools, it is quite common for a class to take at least a month to read or study a book.  It would take me a day to read that same book.  A week, tops.  This meant, by the time the questions were handed out, or a project needed to be done, my memory of the book was at least three weeks old, and my mind was concerned with some new adventure. 

I remember getting in trouble for reading ahead while the class was reading aloud.  Examples from third grade come to mind, as do examples from tenth grade.  The teachers would make us read “pop-corn style” students would be chosen at random to pick up reading the book.  This method was used to ensure that everyone was actually reading the book.  My problem was that I while I was reading the book, I was most likely a few chapters ahead of the class. 

At this point I really must comment upon reading aloud; some people just don’t read aloud well.  I have listened to some amazing readers in my time, my mom, for one, my good friend Anna, another.  Anna and I used to read Shakespeare aloud together simply because it was so much nicer aloud.  In audio books, it is mostly the voice that makes for a good listen.  I have listened to books I hated to read simply because the reader had a fabulous voice.  I’ve also had to turn off books that rank among my most lent simply because the readers were so awful. 

In school, you cannot simply hit the stop button.  Therefore, I became very good at tuning out the rest of the world.  I have become so good at it, in fact, that you can dance in front of me and yell my name at the top of your voice, and I wouldn’t even know you had done it when you finally caught my attention.  This ability is not exactly cheered by teachers.  In fact, they rather hate it.  Especially during pop-corn reading. 

“Your answer is too long.  Go back to your seat and fix it.”  Come again?  You think the answer to the comprehension question is too long because it has too many examples and is written in complete sentences?  So you’re telling a second-grader that she comprehends the reading too well.  Since when has comprehension been a crime?  (Yes, since politics began comprehension has been a crime.  But I’m not talking about politics; I’m talking about elementary reading lessons.) 

Now, my second grade teacher was a lovely lady, I have absolutely nothing against her.  I’m just asking why a second grade teacher, or any teacher, for that matter, should have a problem with a student writing complete sentences and using examples from the text to back up her writing.  Time wasn’t the issue; it took me less time than most of the other students.  Even now, I have no idea what the issue was.  But I do know that from then on, I did the smallest amount of work possible to get an A.  Yes, it is sad, but it gave me more time for my greatest love, my greatest passion, reading what I wanted to read.  

Non Fiction

Something I personally dislike, but I have found some to like. 

Artists in Times of War – by Howard Zinn – This book is good for not just artists, but all people.  Zinn is amazing.  This book contains four short essays and is easy to read in one sitting (not a Marika sitting, a normal sitting).  This may be my favorite non-fiction. 

Nickel and Dimed: on (Not) Getting by in America* by Barbara Ehrenreich- my mom’s college professor.  Follows the author’s journey as she attempts to get by in America with just minimum wage jobs.  An eye-opener.  I suggest anything by Ehrenreich. 

Madeleine L’Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life* - I found this book insightful, especially after rereading her novels.  Highly recommended (and I don’t even like non-fiction).  This book provides insight into writing, reading, life, and religion.  Each idea is a page long so it’s good if you want something that’s stop-and-go.  It’s wonderful in conjunction with her fictional works. 

Big Fat White Men, Dude, Where’s My Country? By Michael Moore- these are a leftist-view of American economy and politics.  Some people can’t stand Moore, but I found his books insightful and amusing in high school. 

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn- an amazing, eye-opening view of American history. One of the best histories you can find.  Also watch the documentary on him: You Can’t Stay Neutral on a Moving Train.  

Night by Wiesel- a holocaust story that is short but heavy (I read it in 8th grade reading).  I’ve seen pieces from it done for speech and debate many times.  

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell- Amazing book that was passed from my mom to me, to my brother.  It explores the validity of first impressions, as well as their shortcomings, and how the brain goes about processing things.  I’m trying to get my hands on his most recent but haven’t yet succeeded. 

Crossover Fiction by Sandra Beckett- one of the only books written on crossover literature it is a very expensive book and difficult to get your hands on but well worth the wait of interlibrary loaning- especially if you are a librarian or teacher.  With chapters on crossover books in different languages and countries as well as some brief history on crossover novels in our past (though this is not quite as thorough as it could be).  Some very good quotes by authors are included.  This book played an important role in the formulation of my minor’s thesis.  

Modern/Retold/Very Good Fairy Tales, Myths & Legends

I would suggest going to the library and loading up on a bunch of these, most read quickly and smoothly.  I would then suggest a comparison.  My mother-daughter book club did this one summer on a retreat and found it insightful.  There are many more modern/retold fairy tales that are not included on this list.  You should also look for other books by these authors. 

Robin Hood/ Maid Marian

Robin’s Country by Monica Furlong (author of Wise Child, etc.)- also enjoyed by Jake, an outsider’s view of Robinhood.  Can be read by an elementary student. 

The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson- Marian’s believable story about her coming of age, growth, and finding her own place in a community of the poor and forgotten.  

Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood both by Jennifer Roberson- Marian’s tale but each chapter rotates to follow a different character.  This book gets into more of the details of various stories and legends surrounding Marian and Robin.  A slightly longer read.  For high school plus readers. 

The Outlaws of Sherwood (Robinhood/Maid Marian), Beauty* and Rose Daughter* (both Beauty and the Beast tales) Deerskin (for older readers) all by Robin McKinley and very good, especially for comparison.  Honestly, check out anything by McKinley and try it. 

Classic Fairy Tales

Zel* (a Rapunzel story that puts the witch in new light), Sirena (a little-mermaid tale), The Prince of the Pond* and sequels, Spinners (a Rumpelstiltskin story), and others by Donna Jo Napoli.  The Prince of the Pond is wonderful for elementary students and/or read aloud.  It is told from the point of view of the prince as frog. 

The Mer-child by Robin Morgan- a very short mermaid story I found on my shelf.  

Ella Enchanted* by Gail Carson Levine- this isn’t my very favorite Cinderella, but it’s a classic one and recommended by many, though stay away from the movie!  Suggested for younger readers. 

Just Ella* by Margaret Peterson Haddix-my very favorite Cinderella.  This version puts the story into a more realistic setting and portrays true beauty knowledge. 

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times by James Finn Garner- a very short but funny book.  I lent my copy to a friend and never got it back; hopefully it’s circling among the stars.  There are also sequels. 

Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret, further sequels planned by Juliet Marillier.  Marillier’s foray into the Young Adult market, this book uses aspects of the twelve dancing princesses.  Though I didn’t like it as much as her other work, it is much better than Sevenwaters for a High School audience and Maddie Sawyer, whose opinion of books I place in high regard, loved it (she read it as an 8th grader). 

The Sisters Grimm by illustrated by Peter Ferguson- This series has the best packaging and covers of any literary children’s series.  It draws on classic fairy tales and classic literature to create a literary children’s version of the comic book Fables.  Each book is a complete mystery following the adventures of two sisters.  For elementary students plus.  

(Relatively) Realistic Fiction

This is a huge  category within that of young adult (YA).  It's not something I was ever really into as why read about all the horrible problems of high school when I went to class with them?  Still, these are good books and can be used as a teaching aid.  Also check out my new favorite: Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is told through the eyes of a fifteen year old autistic boy.  

Hope was Here* by Joan Bauer- I enjoyed this and my mom loved it (a quote from it was painted on our kitchen floor at one point).  Be warned: this book will make you want to eat sandwiches.  A coming of age story. 

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner- the stories of family members as their mother is dying and their journey to bury her.  Each chapter is told by a different person.  Slightly confusing but with beautiful language. 

Seed folks by Paul Fleischman - centered around a city garden, many people tell their stories.  Very short.  One my mom bought for everyone. 

Speak* by Laurie Anderson- realistic teen fiction- something I absolutely loathe, however, I could deal with this.  A short important book dealing with the topic of rape.  Some public high school programs have even begun to include it in their required reading. 

Tangerine by Edward Bloor- about high school, moving, soccer, friends, family relationships, life, hope; not a long read, also a chinaberry book at one point.  His later book, Crusade, wasn’t as good.  Unlike most of the books above, there is a male protagonist, though it is good for everyone. 

Holes* by Louis Sachar- don’t really like this author much but this book is amazing.  The movie goes by the book pretty well (it passes Anna-Marika standards which is rather amazing).  Stories span generations and are interwoven.  Has its funny parts, spiritual parts, good all around.  The sequel is crap and shouldn’t be bothered with. 

Historical Fiction

I went through this phase in 4th and 5th grade.  I haven't reread them since so cannot say how they translate to an older reader.  I say go for it regardless.  

The Orphan Train Quartet, Land of Hope trilogy, High Trail to Danger and sequels- all by Joan Lowery Nixon- this and Rinaldi describes 4th grade (which I would place as the minimum level for readers).

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons and almost anything else by Ann Rinaldi (though this one is my absolute favorite)- again, 4th grade and the way I learned history.  Depending upon age, some may need discussion.  

Less Age Sensitive Or Reading the Entire Family Can Enjoy (together, even)

I believe that these are appropriate for those who are slightly younger (Elementary and Middle school), though everyone else should read them. Again, these could appear in other sections of the list.  

Zazoo (I forget the author at this moment)-found in chinaberry; bittersweet and worthy of a cry.  I read it in a night- best not to be disturbed while reading. 

Shadow Spinner* by Susan Fletcher- a modern tale of Shahrazad, each chapter starts with a lesson in story telling. 

Juniper, Wise Child, and Colman by Monica Furlong- comfort books until my mom gave our copies away to someone. Involve an earthy, dark magic. 

Dealing With Dragons and the other three that follow as well as anything by Patricia C. Wrede- A read aloud when Jake and I were little and always comfort rereads.  Jake and I drew illustrations for the text while my mom read aloud. 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Alice Through the Looking Glass by Louis Carroll- of course a classic but a good one that should be reread and looked at again as you get older (it only gets stranger) as references to it are liberally sprinkled about the world. 

Septimus Heap: Magyk by Angie Sage -finally, a fantasy story in which the parents are very much present and take their own roles within the narrative.  An exciting adventure about the discovery of magic. 

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart- Good for people who enjoyed the Series of Unfortunate Events.  Illustrations by Carson Ellis, which add a quirky feel to the beginning of every chapter heading. 

The Bad Beginning and all the other Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket- these are funny with British sound (don’t be fooled- he’s from Chicago).  The movie isn’t bad, but the costumes and end credits are what make it.  Illustrated by the amazing Brett Helquist.  Also check out The Unauthorized Autobiography. 

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie- My mom read this aloud and it’s better read aloud than by yourself.  Fun but interesting when politics are applied.  Strongly suggested, especially for adults.

Skellig* and Heaven Eyes both by David Almond- both are slightly haunting but in a beautiful way. 

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum- a classic that is light-hearted (I read in 4th grade) and should be followed by all the sequels- which are greatly forgotten but lots of fun (more so than the first). 

Jacob Have I Loved* and The King’s Equal by Katherine Paterson- both good.  The second one is very short and strong- though it may be hard to find a copy as it’s out of print- try to find the full-color illustrated version as it’s lovely.  The first is touching, strong, and truthful. 

Number the Stars* by Louis Lowry- a holocaust story told from a young girl’s point of view- isn’t too depressing or graphic and is nice with white cupcakes with pink frosting.  Strongly recommended for mother daughter book clubs. 

Turnabout and Running out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix- strange, interesting plots that might be considered sci-fi. 

Star Girl* by Jerry Spinelli- not an author I’m crazy about; his writing isn’t the greatest but I really enjoyed some sections and passages and this book has important messages and relationships. 

King of Shadows* by Susan Cooper- I love this book.  Goes along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and features Shakespearian historical content.

The View from Saturday* and The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg- at first I couldn’t read The View from Saturday, so I listened to it on tape and really enjoyed it.  The second is really a classic and a recommended read if you plan on visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Stewart Little and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White- I was a little unsure about putting these down as they are very young, however, the first goes along with a New York trip to Central Park and the second is sweet and sad- I dislike animal stories but loved them both.  Again, I listened to these on tape first and enjoyed them.  Stewart Little entranced the 1st and 3rd graders whom I baby-sit- they wouldn’t go to bed until I finished.  However, the movie should not be touched. 

Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George-Again, I’m not an animal person, but I enjoyed these (though they seem quite distant, now).  The sequels should also be read.

Gone Away Lake* and sequel by Elizabeth Enright- a sweet reread.  Lighthearted and fun- nice male and female protagonists. 

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt- I’ve read this a couple times but enjoyed it all of them.  However, I wouldn’t go see the movie (the previews showed that it was nothing like the great book so it was boycotted). 

Chasing Redbird* and Walk Two Moons* both by Sharon Creech- I prefer the first one to the second.  Good book club material. 

Going Through the Gate* by Janet S. Anderson -a coming-of-age book good for 5th graders and transitions (from elementary to middle school or junior high). 

The Giver* by Lois Lowry -interesting book and one my mom gave to everyone.  Almost a younger version of Anthem.  Gathering Blue is the sequel but it’s nothing to rave about. 

Narnia by C.S. Lewis- simply a must.  My mom read these to Jake and me when we were in early elementary school.  You don’t register the Christian undertones until you’re older. 

Madeleine L’Engle: anything by her is amazing.  Great fantasy and twined tales.  5th grade plus.  The audio versions are okay- her voice takes getting used to. 

Anne of Green Gables and sequels by L (ucy) M (aude) Montgomery- I read these in 3rd grade and fell in love with Anne, so much fun. 

Peter Pan by James M. Barrie – References to this classic are sprinkled throughout literature. The many spin-offs of this classic story mean children are likely to encounter it.  Best that it begin with the story in it’s true form.  Once children have read the story it’s a nice exercise to do a comparison with a stage or movie version as well.  The newest movie is very good and follows the book and “Finding Neverland” is a good supplement for adults. 

Peter and the Star Catchers and sequels by Dave Barry and ? – What happened before Peter Pan.  How Neverland came to be, all aided by a girl named Molly.  And of course there are Mermaids, and Pirates, and Indians and stardust.  The illustrations are a wonderful complement to the text. 

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black illustrated by Toni DiTerlizzi– recommended for early elementary students before reading before the Series of Unfortunate Events.  Good for children to read on their own…lovers of Narnia may enjoy.  The series follows three siblings in their large old house as they make discoveries of fantastical creatures.  They are aided by the books and inventions of the professor who had previous lived in the house. 

The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner- Fictional series taking place in ancient Greece.  Very, very good.  Originally recommended by Julie Diewald.  The Thief himself is much like a young George Cooper (Lioness Quartet).  NOTE: read this series beginning with the second, then the third.  Read the first book last.  I know this seems strange, and I very rarely encourage people to read series out of order, but this is a very enjoyable way to read these, specifically for older readers.  Also good in audio book form.  


Theatre.  Where literature and human magic combine to bring to life to alternative worlds.  If you like theatre, Peter Pan, or Public Radio, listen to Fiasco on the This American Life archive.  

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde- Wildean social satire.  Extremely quotable.  Also a good movie. 

Much Ado About Nothing*, A Midsummer Night’s Dream*, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Hamlet, and many more by William Shakespeare.  Also watch the most recent A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing movies (Much Ado uses coconuts like in Monty Python).  Anna and I used to read these aloud to each other. 

Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee - read this in my 8th grade reading class with the best teacher I ever had.  Has good historical and scientific content. 

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee- I love the transcendentalist lines in this play.  It is a beautiful and enlightening piece. 

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett- an absurdist play, some like them, some don’t. 

The Zoo Story, The Sandbox, and American Dream by Edward Albee- all of these plays are absurdist.  They are humorous and shocking and recommended for older readers. 

Antigone by Sophocles- I read this on my own for school and liked it- some nice sections and a good example of classical Greek literature.  Worth seeing a stage version.  I saw one in Chicago where Creon was dressed as a politician and entered with actors playing members of the secret service. 

Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring- a funny play about two old women and I can’t say more or I’ll ruin it! Also a good movie.  


It's a bit odd to have this as its own category, but there's overlapping all over the place, so voila! 

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant- a biblical story told from a woman’s point of view: Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter.  I did a chapter of this for a speech and debate piece. 

Sarah*, Rebekah*, Rachel and Leah all by Orson Scott Card- again, biblical stories from women’s viewpoints. I found Sarah to be better written than Rebekah and both to be better than Rachel and Leah.   


The great crossover genre of fabulousness.  

Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen (these are a trilogy, in the correct order) all by Garth Nix- loved.  The third in the trilogy came out during midterm week- bye tests!

Secret Sacrament and The Raging Quiet both by Sherryl Jordan- I found these through chinaberry and cried over the first one.  They are both glorious.  The first is fantasy and the second a sort of historical fantasy.   

Abarat* by Clive Barker- the writing wasn’t as nice as I had hoped, but the illustrations, glossy pages, and plot are fun- at least look at the pictures.

Jackaroo and On Fortune’s Wheel both by Cynthia Voigt- both are a part of the Kingdom series that I enjoyed, even though I never got into her other books that much.  Possesses fantasy elements.  Recommended for upper middle and high school. 

Stardust by Neil Gaiman- A new fairytale that my mom and I both enjoyed.  It is relatively short and sweet.  Also a movie very different from the book.  The audio book, read by Neil Gaiman, is very good.  For upper middle school plus. 

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier- A retelling of the Celtic six swans myth.  My friend Julie put off papers for a week trying to finish it.  She told me that it sucked her in, which I assumed was meant in the normal sort of sense, where you really could put it down, if you tried.  Not so!  This sorrowful, painful book casts a spell around you, so don’t read it unless you have a long weekend, break, or don’t mind putting off work!  It will make you cry multiple times.  The second book, Son of the Shadows, is even better (if that’s at all possible).  The third book of the Sevenwaters trilogy, Child of the prophecy, was not nearly as good, but worth a read to see what happens.  Her Bredi Chronicles are decent.  Heir to Sevenwaters, the most recent addition, takes some time to get into, as the previous three books must first be established.  This book was obviously written after Wildwood Dancing and I believe it is appropriate for the Young Adult audience.  The story is based on myths and folk tales of changelings and the journey into fairie.  I would recommend reading it after the Sevenwaters trilogy, and if so, I promise some squealing moments.

The Blue Sword by – After reading this, I had to look up the publication dates for both it and the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce.  The two are very similar if you know them very well.  If you love Alanna, it’s worth reading this just for the comparison.  Found courtesy of Julie Diewald.  The prequel to this novel is The Hero and the Crown.  Most everyone I’ve discussed these books with prefers The Blue Sword.

The Princess Bride abridged by William Goldman- It is very rare that I would even think of suggesting an abridged book.  However, this one is totally worth it.  Don’t miss the introduction and watch the movie afterward.  {Please note that only the abridged copy of this book exists; there is no other version.  William Goldman wrote the abridged copy, which is also the unabridged copy.} 

Winter Rose; Od Magic; The Forgotten Beasts of Eld; The Bell at Sealy Head by Patricia A. McKillip-  fantasy fairy tales with an ethereal, transparent quality that makes them seem to be faerie.  Not rambling adventure stories, they have more of the quality of a finely spun dream. McKillip’s books tend to be for older readers (High School at the earliest). 

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner- A famed master of the sword and his dealings with the upper class.  Instead of the common fighter-female relationship, the protagonist is gay and both he and his partner work to rescue the other. I just wish the library had more by this author.  For older readers (late high school and beyond). 

Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner- Like many Kushners, a wonderful romantic novel filled with the dark secrets and frightening fear of faerie.  A twist on the classic Thomas story.  Recommended for those who enjoy Patricia McKillip. 

The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll- A romantic fantasy (trilogy).  Each book follows one of three sisters, each of whom has her own special traits, in their grappling with the dark queen.  Low-key magic involved (but nicely integrated to keep with the period).  More of a fluffy romance than what I normally recommend.  Not for those looking for serious story and writing. 

Patricia C. Wrede: (Her Enchanted Forest Chronicles are in the section for younger readers).  Try her Lyra books, short stories, and Sorcery and Cecilia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot and sequels- a sort of fantasy meets Jane Austen.  Good for advanced elementary plus. 

The Mists of Avalon* by Marian Zimmer-Bradley- I read this the summer I was going into 8th grade (as it’s long, I would suggest reading it over a summer).  A book that should be discussed with a mother or older female if read (especially before high school). A classic.  I have not seen the film version, so I cannot yet say how it compares. 

Tamora Pierce’s series: The Song of the Lioness Quartet, The Immortals Quartet, Protector of the Small (also a quartet), Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen (only two)- series should be read in the order listed and I’ve reread them more times than her editor.  Amazing, loved, and owned.  When I saw her newest book in a bookstore, I started crying.  Wonderful coming of age stories for middle school plus.