Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows by Molly Johnson - Ten's List




Top Ten MG Nostalgia Books

I find myself talking up the same top MG books—the ones everyone has read and still owns. But beyond Charlotte’s Web, Hatchet, and Maniac Magee, there are quite a few books that still live in the back of my mind from when I was younger—either because of a unique story line or characters I could identify with. The books below are ones I recently rescued from my parent’s attic:

1. One More River - Lynne Reid Banks: The book opens in 1967 with Lesley, a spoiled, wealthy girl, thinking of nothing but the upcoming dance…until her parents drop the bomb that they are moving. We-ell…they’re not just moving—they’re emigrating. To Israel. Aaaand, well, yeah, there is kinda this thing happening between the Jordanians and the Israelies (“war” is a good word for it). This may seem like a heavy topic for YA readers but it’s handled in such an easy, readable way because Lesley behaves how most readers would behave: rebelling, giving up, learning, and growing.

2. The Girl in the Box - Ouida Sebestyen: BEST. WEIRD. SETUP. EVERRRRRR. A girl is walking home from a fight at a friend’s house, carrying a box of stuff she’d lent her, including her typewriter. On the way, she’s kidnapped and thrown in a pitch-black, underground room, with nothing but water and doughnuts—and her typewriter. She doesn’t know when the kidnapper will return, so she passes the time by blindly typing. What she writes is The Girl in the Box, which she slips under the basement door, sheet by sheet, never knowing if anyone will ever read it. The book is in a typewriter font for an extra creepy effect…with no epilogue.

3. Searching for Shona - Margaret J. Anderson: What kid hasn’t wanted to switch lives? This is the story of two girls from different backgrounds—one wealthy, one an orphan—who meet accidentally in a London train station at the beginning of World War II. In an instant, they decide to switch places for the duration of the war (it can’t be THAT long, right? Right??). I still don’t see why they did this, but who cares? The story is compelling, following the wealthy girl, living as an orphan. Throughout, the question hangs overhead: how can this ever end well?

4. Jacob Have I Loved - Katherine Paterson: This was the first book I read as a young reader that made me actually angry. That’s because this was the first book I ever read that had a love triangle in it. Oh. My. God. There’s nothing more frustrating than being the lesser-loved twin. Throw in the isolation of living on a Chesapeake Bay island as a crabber’s daughter, and you’ve got a book ready to be flung across the room in a moment’s notice—and picked up immediately because it HAS to end well. It just HAS to! …doesn’t it?

5. It’s Like This, Cat - Emily Neville: Despite the 1960’s flavor slang, this story is really reachable for anyone who ever had to be a teenager. Fourteen-year-old Dave lives in New York City. He’s an only child and fights non-stop with his dad about everything—specifically the Harry Belefonte records that he plays too loudly and the stray tom cat Dave adopts. It’s through this cat (named Cat), that Dave gains and loses friends, begins dating a swell girl—and begins to understand that people are a lot more complex than he ever imagined.

6. & 7. The Face on the Milk Carton, What Ever Happened to Janie – Caroline B. Cooney: Imagine you’re sitting in the cafeteria, thinking about boys, and BAM—you recognize yourself on the side of a milk carton. Well, not yourself, but your 3 year old self. I mean, it’s YOU. Freeeeeakyyyyyyy. This was the most popular “series” when I was in 6th grade—the two books were never in the library. And I can see why: suddenly mistrusting your parents? Secretly searching for the key to your past? If that’s not enough, throw in randomly falling for your neighbor Reeve (yes, I still remember that name) and, later, trying to decide if you should spend a steamy night in a hotel with him after realizing you don’t have a family anymore…?! I’m telling you: it’s gripping.

8. The View From the Cherry Tree - Willo Davis Roberts: I still remember getting this at the library—and finishing it there. So I don’t even own this one, but I always remember the title and the chills it gave me. Rob is up in the cherry tree…and sees his neighbor get murdered. Of course, no one believes him because they’re too busy planning his sister’s stupid wedding. And, also obvious: Rob assumes he’ll be next.

9. & 10. The Boys Start the War, The Girls Get Even - Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: These two books (and there are even more sequels) are basically just one story: a family of three boys fighting with a family of three girls while on vacation. I remember loving the pranks in the book—and trying some of them out on my brother. And as the pranks ramped up, you just knew it had to end with someone in the hospital (not sure that actually happened; don’t quote me on that). But, with that much fighting, there is always the potential for a secondary plot! Yep, love interests abound.

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