Young Adult Books for the Young at Heart

January 30, 2001

With the Harry Potter craze, many adults discovered the delights awaiting them in books ostensibly written for young adults and children. The books in this list are a few of the best ones Lisa Sanning, Reference Librarian, read in the year 2000.

To order any of these titles, contact the library by email, mail or phone. You may also request these titles online through our OPAC. Happy Reading!

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman.
RC 39832, BR 50317.
This is a story of life in the last decade of the twelfth century as seen through the eyes of a young teenage girl. Here the heroine is feisty Birdy, who has been instructed by her older brother to keep a diary so that she may grow less childish. Birdy, the daughter of a minor lord and lady in Lincolnshire, reluctantly agrees, but initially she has nothing more interesting to report than how many fleas she has picked off herself. As the months roll on, however, life becomes more stimulating as Birdy's father tries to marry her off to a variety of suitors. The diary format helps portray the tedium of life in the Middle Ages, the endless sewing, cooking, and other chores; the dirt and the illness; and, worse, the lowly role of women in medieval life.

Count Karlstein by Philip Pullman.
RC 48180.
Switzerland, 1816. A young house servant, Hildi Kelmar, tells the tale of the Count, cruel uncle of Charlotte and Lucy. He invites the girls to visit his hunting lodge deep in the forest. But Hildi learns of his pact with Zamiel, the Demon Huntsman, and tries to protect the girls.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
RC 46186, BR 50727.
At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well being seem in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self discovery, trying to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you have ever read.

The Giver by Lois Lowry.
RC 37689, BR 9626.
In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, twelve-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community's Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price. 

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright.
RC 10042.
A delightful, beautifully written story, just this side of fantasy and filled with interesting, likable characters. A brother and sister from the city take the train to visit their country cousin. The children discover an old, mostly abandoned summer colony of houses near a swamp that used to be a lake. There they meet an elderly brother and sister, Minnehaha Cheever and Pindar Payton, who are living happily in the place where they spent summers as children. The pair wear old fashioned clothes stored away many years ago by their family, cultivate a variety of gardens, and have chickens, goats, a duck, and a cat named Fatly. Once a month Pindar cranks up the antique Franklin car and drives into town for supplies. The children are adventuresome and imaginative, and have no need of television to keep themselves amused.

Holes by Louis Sachar.
RC 47444, BR 12174.
"If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy." Such is the reigning philosophy at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention facility where there is no lake, and there are no happy campers. In place of what used to be "the largest lake in Texas " is now a dry, flat, sunburned wasteland, pocked with countless identical holes dug by boys improving their character. No matter that Stanley Yelnat's conviction was all a case of mistaken identity, the Yelnats family has become accustomed to a long history of bad luck, thanks to their "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!" Despite his innocence, Stanley is quickly enmeshed in the Camp Green Lake routine: rising before dawn to dig a hole five feet deep and five feet in diameter; learning how to get along with the Lord of the Flies-styled pack of boys in Group D; and fearing the warden, who paints her fingernails with rattlesnake venom. But when Stanley realizes that the boys may not just be digging to build character, that in fact the warden is seeking something specific, the plot gets as thick as the irony. Stanley Yelnats, Book 1. Series Code YES.

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck.
RC 50305, BR 12129.
Grandma Dowdel is not a good influence and that is one good reason why Joey likes visiting her. Each August, from 1929 to 1935, he and his younger sister travel by train from Al Capone's Chicago to spend a week with Grandma in her scrappy small Illinois town. In seven short stories, one for each summer, Grandma lies, cheats, trespasses, and contrives to help the town underdogs, including her own worst enemy, outwit the banker, the Holy Rollers, and the establishment.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.
RC 46712, BR 11956.
Told in free verse, an account of two years in the life of Billie Jo Kelby, who at thirteen, loses her mother and new baby brother in a terrible accident for which she is partly to blame. Life in Oklahoma in the mid-1930s is difficult, and Billie Jo can no longer play the piano, her one solace in the past. She seeks a way to heal her father and herself.

Skellig by David Almond.
RC 49233, BR 12915.
With an ailing infant sister, Michael is sad as his family settles into their new home. In the ramshackle garage Michael discovers Skellig, a sickly winged man. As the boy and his intellectual next door friend, Mina, nurse Skellig back to health, the mysterious man introduces them to life's magical side.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor.
RC 46159.
Paul Fisher's parents are avid fans of his older brother Erik's promising football career. In contrast, legally blind Paul wears extremely thick glasses because, according to Erik, Paul stared at an eclipse. When they move to Tangerine, Florida, Paul's new friendships help him uncover what he has really known all along about Erik.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.
RC 47183, BR 11285.
Set in a time long ago and far away, this first person novel tells of a gifted young thief, imprisoned for life, who is offered one chance to win his freedom. If Gen can steal for the king's magus a legendary stone hidden in a mysterious temple, the magus will set him free. Portrayed as a likable rogue, Gen endures the difficult trek to the stone's hiding place with much complaining and little grace, but shows his mettle when he steals the stone twice and risks his life for his companions. Still, the revelation of Gen's identity surprises the magus even more than his deeds.

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli.
RC 45229.
Based on Rapunzel, the setting is fifteenth century Switzerland, and the story is told in the present tense from three alternating points of view: the happy peasant girl, Zel, about to turn thirteen, eager, creative, daring; the young nobleman who falls in love with her and wants to marry her; and her mother, who loves Zel so much that she is driven to lock her beloved daughter in a tall tower because she cannot bear to let her go. Only the mother's narrative is in the first person; she is at the center of the story. Her intense tenderness for Zel is never in question; in the wild, beautiful mountains she has raised a wonderful child. But gradually we learn that the loving mother is also a witch and why. Barren, in anguish, thirteen years earlier she had made a pact with the devil and had stolen another woman's baby. Now she sees that child, Zel, fall in love, and the desperate witch uses lies and black magic to try to keep her daughter.