As a former teacher, parent, and author of children's and young adult novels, Colleen McKenna values fiction for young readers that doesn't insult their intelligence.
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic. Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
Olive Burns, Cold Sassy Tree If the preacher's wife's petticoat showed, the ladies would make the talk last a week. But on July 5, 1906, things took a scandalous turn. That was the day E. Rucker Blakeslee, proprietor of the general store and barely three weeks a widower, eloped with Miss Love Simpson—a woman half his age and, worse yet, a Yankee! On that day, fourteen-year-old Will Tweedy's adventures began and an unimpeachably pious, deliciously irreverent town came to life. Not since To Kill A Mockingbird has a novel so deftly captured the subtle crosscurrents of small-town Southern life. Olive Ann Burns classic bestseller brings to vivid life an era that will never exist again, exploring timeless issues of love, death, coming of age, and the ties that bind families and generations.
Katherine Paterson, The Great Gilly Hopkins Eleven-year-old Gilly has been stuck in more foster families than she can remember, and she's disliked them all. She has a county-wide reputation for being brash, brilliant, and completely unmanageable. So when she's sent to live with the Trotters — by far the strangest family yet — Gilly decides to put her sharp mind to work. Before long she's devised an elaborate scheme to get her real mother to come rescue her.But the rescue doesn't work out, and the great Gilly Hopkins is left thinking that maybe life with the Trotters wasn't so bad…