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Books for preteens and teens
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Mr. Tiger, Betsy, and the Blue Moon by Sally Gardner: Betsy lives with her ice-cream-making father and mermaid mother on an island that was left off world maps. One day, she and her father meet a princess who has been turned into a toad. Together with Mr. Tiger and his circus troupe of tiny Gongalongs, Betsy and her parents set out to find a wish that can save the princess. This fun, whimsical story could appeal to young teens—and since the villain, giantess Princess Olaf, is more comical than scary, it is suitable for younger children as well. (Ages 8-12)
The Summer We Found the Baby by Amy Hest: Three children—Julie, Martha, and Bruno—are spending the summer at Belle Beach, Long Island. One day sisters Julie and Martha find a basket on the library steps with a baby inside. The girls take the basket, and their neighbor Bruno follows them. Chapters rotate between each child’s perspective: The book requires focused attention because the story is told out of chronological order. Each child has suffered—Julie and Martha lost their mother, and Bruno’s older brother is fighting in World War II—but love between families and neighbors gives the story warmth. (Ages 11-14)
All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat: In July 2018, 12 boys and their soccer coach entered a cave in Thailand to explore. The monsoon rains came early, though, trapping the team and prompting a dramatic search and rescue. This book tells the true story with colorful details, interesting characters, and plenty of pictures and diagrams. Parents should be aware the book contains sidebars with an evolutionary perspective on things like cave formation. It also explains some Buddhist ideas and practices. These asides could provide opportunities for discussing worldviews while learning more about the incredible rescue. (Ages 10-14)
Cry of the Raven by Morgan Busse: In this exciting conclusion to the Ravenwood Saga, the Empire’s army marches against the alliance of Great Houses. Lord Damien and his wife Selene believe all seven houses united can defeat the enemy, but only five committ. Meanwhile, Selene’s hones her dream-walking gift to support the Empire. As the characters prepare for the final war, Selene’s allegiance to the Light and her relationship with Damien face their own tests. Themes of forgiveness and using powers for good despite temptation run throughout the plot. (Ages 13-16)
As the holiday season approaches, Barbara Reaoch’s latest devotional, A Better Than Anything Christmas (The Good Book Company, 2020), offers families a guide to Explore How Jesus Makes Christmas Better. In the same format as her earlier Advent devotional, A Jesus Christmas, Reaoch’s 25 entries explore and explain Scripture readings while showing children how the “Bible tells us that Christmas is about the gifts Jesus came to give us.”
An out-of-print book by Elizabeth Yates offers a nostalgic family read-aloud this Christmas. In Once in the Year (1947), Peter and his family are preparing for Christmas: His mother recounts the story of Jesus’ birth and her favorite Christmas Eve memory. Old Benj shares the legend of barnyard animals talking on Christmas Eve. Vintage lithograph illustrations adorn the pages, adding additional charm. Although the book may be hard to find, its endearing message of Christmas makes it worth the hunt. —Kristin Chapman
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