May 15 2014
03:43 am
By: amybroyles  shortURL

Only one week left of school, and the girls and I are looking at books to read over the summer. What was your favorite book when you were eight? When you were twelve? What books had an impact on you at those ages? What books do you think "shouldn't be missed?"

Tamara Shepherd's picture


My favorite book at around age 12 was Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales, a children's rendition of some classic Greek myths.

Years later, I found a bedraggled copy of it in a thrift store for my own daughter (who was younger than 12 at the time) that she let lie around in her bedroom for forever. She was turned off by the dated-looking cover.

When she finally did get around to reading it, she loved it and proceeded to gobble up every book on my own adult bookshelf related to mythology.

She also went on to take Mythology as a high school freshman (where she expanded her interest to Roman and Norse mythology), four years of Latin in high school (where she became the team expert in mythology and Things Classic on the Scholars' Bowl team), and two more years of Latin in college (where she tinkered with the idea of majoring in classics).

The book made a lasting impression on her.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Oh, and any young woman from Tennessee must read Wilma Dykeman's The Tall Woman.

Any young person of either gender in Tennessee/North Carolina must read Forrest Carter's The Education of Little Tree, which mixes regional history with touching drama with wild hilarity.

(We made a weekend trip to Cherokee to see Unto These Hills one summer and took along Little Tree in cassette tape format to listen to in the car. When it wasn't quite over by the time we completed our drive, my husband, mesmerized, insisted we sit in the car to listen to it to the end.)

Tamara Shepherd's picture


And Richard Peck's A Year Down Yonder, a Newbery Award winner set in post-Depression years with many of the attributes of Little Tree, including the hilarity.

About any Newbery winner and/or Newbery "honor book," an esteemed award extended to children's literature, is a sure-fire bet, really.

Here is a list of Newbery winners dating back to inception of the award in 1922.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


More about Little Tree: I loaned Kenny a copy one summer, telling him I had bought and given away more copies of that book than any I'd ever read. I'd gotten to where anytime I'd see it for sale in a store, I'd just buy another copy, knowing I wouldn't own it for long.

Sure enough, he finished it and gave it away, replacing my copy shortly thereafter.

I think he'd give the title a big amen, too.

Mike Knapp's picture


Little house in the prairie series
Lemony snickett works
Hardy boys series

Foxfire series
Isaac Asimov - foundation series
J Latimer nature guides (really for both ages)

Tamara Shepherd's picture


My above recommendations were really geared toward a 12 year-old.

For an 8 year-old, two series featuring kids who've stumbled upon ways to Time Travel are The Time Warp Trio series (8 or 10 titles) and The Magic Tree House series (close to 40 titles now).

Both series are adventure fiction, but work considerable history into their content.

Mike, I never got my daughter interested in the Little House books, but surprisingly my son loved them. Around third grade, he was keenly interested in learning about things like raising log cabins, digging wells and making one's own bullets?! We read them together and when I tried to turn a page, he'd say "wait," then stare holes through Garth Williams' drawings interspersed through the volumes. Touching to recall, on this the last day of my last child's high school experience...

Knoxgal's picture

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

This is an old coming of age story that I read some time in my early to mid teens. It might be too dated for readers today. I begged my daughter to read it in her teens but she wouldn't touch it. I don't even remember what it was about as much as the feeling of complete and total engagement I had when I read it.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a wonderful fantasy story about animals your 12-yr old might like. And the Shel Silverstein poetry books like "Where The Sidewalk Ends" were favorites in this household.

Somebody's picture

Any of E.B. White's books for

Any of E.B. White's books for children.

Knoxgal's picture

I second the

I second The Magic Treehouse series and the Junie B. Jones series for your 8-yr old if she hasn't outgrown them. Junie B. Jones is a hilarious but lovable character. I grew up on the Bobbsey Twins and The Happy Hollisters (dating myself here) who were too perfect for words and totally unrealistic.

They might not be for every kid,, but I thought my son might be reading disabled until he discovered The Animorph series in 3rd grade. He's been a voracious reader ever since.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Aesop's Fables offers terrific two-page bedtime-stories-with-a-moral for that 8 year-old. Dolly Parton included it in her Imagination Library offerings, you may know.

And speaking of her Imagination Library offerings, McKay's Used Books became so inundated with those titles, they now sell for just five cents each (!) at that store, even the hardbound editions.

Dolly first distributed hardbound editions indistinguishable from volumes you'd find in a book store, then she began distributing hardbound books emblazoned with her Imagination Library emblem on the front cover, and now has begun distributing just paperbacks bearing that emblem on the cover.

I picked through hardbound copies available at McKay's (they're gathered together in a single bookcase or two down there) to select just her earliest hardbound offerings with none of those Imagination Library emblems on their covers.

At a nickel apiece, I bought around fifty of them, very handsome and durable, for about $2.50 total! What a steal! I love having them around for any very young guests!

(Several of the titles she distributes are Caldecott winners, too, which you may know is the award bestowed for extraordinary illustration in children's lit. Here is a list of those winners, dating to 1938.)

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Any history by Richard Davis (author of Don't Know Much About History).

Any science by Seymour Simon.

Any Scholastic biographies.

Any of these runs about 75 cents each at McKay's (and found not in the children's section, but in the sections with adult books on the same topics, separated on a single shelf labeled "Young Adult History," "Young Adult Science," and "Young Adult Biography.")

Cheaper still is Goodwill at four for a dollar or Community Chest at ten for a dollar. You'll be amazed at the pristine condition of many children's paperbacks you'll find there. My kids always had hundreds of books in their bedrooms this way. And I bought and gave away hundreds, or probably thousands, to their classrooms and schools over the years.

If you gotta have new, check out Scholastic's Book Fair Warehouse in Alcoa. Looks like they have a big sale going on May 9 through May 23. In years past, they priced recent and shiny-new paperback titles at just 50 cents each, relative to the $5.00 prices the same titles fetched at their school-level book fairs. Used to go all the time.

redmondkr's picture

I do recommend reading The

I do recommend reading The Education of Little Tree but do so before reading about its author, Forrest Carter.

At the very top of my list would be The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. If you aren't a dog lover when you begin reading about Enzo, you soon will be.

And don't miss Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam. Read the book, re-watch the movie (October Skies), then visit Oliver Springs to see some of the movie settings.

Jack Neely's Knoxville: This Obscure Prismatic City is an expansion of his Secret History columns and a good way to learn more about Our Fair City.

When I was in the 6th grade we were assigned to read Miss Minerva and William Green Hill by Frances Boyd Calhoun. I found a freebie of it at Project Gutenberg a few years ago but it's somehow not the same. Perhaps that's because our beloved teacher, Mrs. Arah Franzenberg, read portions of the book to us after lunch every day because it was one of her favorites.

In my early teens, my head was frequently in prized subscriptions to TRAINS and Model Railroader Magazines or the adventure books of Clarence Young. I'm unhappy to report that I read a few chapters of The Motor Boys in the Clouds the other day and the thrill is definitely gone.

There's Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maude Montgomery, although Anne is so bubbly and perky, she has to be on something.

The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come by John Fox Jr. was a favorite of my mother when she was a child so, of course, I was expected to read (and love) it. In her flea market hopping later years, she found a first edition for 50¢. It's here as a freebie at Project Gutenberg and is a pretty good read.

I'm ashamed to say that I only read enough of Great Expectations to do the required report in high school but I did read it in its entirety a few yeas ago and I loved it. Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe got the same treatment with the same results. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World is a treat too, and I have downloaded the eight books in the "Barsoom Series" by Edgar Rice Burroughs that Carl Sagan was so fond of when he was a boy. Haven't read any of them as yet but there's plenty of time for that. Speaking of Carl Sagan, there is, of course, Cosmos.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

I have many more equally boring suggestions but I gotta go now. If Lulu doesn't get her scrambled eggs RIGHT NOW, she's gonna either starve and fall over or she's gonna fire the entire staff.

As a side note, HuffPo has published this humorous collection of negative Amazon reviews of classic reads.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I was so shocked to learn about Forrest Carter's political leanings (from you, Kenny) after having bought and given away so very many copies of Little Tree. I promise, Amy, there is nary a hint of any of that in the book. If ever you duck into one of the several Welcome Centers in the Smoky Mountains National Park, you're sure to see it displayed for sale there, along with Dykeman's The Tall Woman.

And yes Kenny, that 12 year-old is probably old enough now to begin packing in her purse one of those One Hundred Greatest Novels of All Time lists, as I did for decades and as my daughter still does. Here is one such list, from Time magazine.

(Parental Guidance Suggested, maybe. I note The Great Gatsby on Time's list, which my daughter read at about that age. However, when I tried to donate it to her middle school, they rejected it due to Gatsby's and Daisy's extramarital affair being central to the plot. Your call, then.)

redmondkr's picture

What is this madness!

Everywhere I go this morning on the Intarwebs, I run into somebody asking me what I remember about favorite children's books (and this one mentions Anne of Green Gables).

Tamara Shepherd's picture

Knox County Public Library programs for teens

Also, Amy, my daughter served on what was then called the KCPL's Teen Advisory Group when she was in middle school. I don't see at their site's Teen Central tab that it's still around, but maybe something comparable is?

She also participated in the library's summer-long project to have researched and produced that documentary film on the history of Market Square Mall, if you remember it. West High teacher David Drew led the group and he was a jewel. The kids even hosted a premiere of their film at the East Tennessee History Center on Gay Street.

Lots of cool stuff still happening at the library for teens, it appears.

Rachel's picture

I can't remember at what age

I can't remember at what age I read these books (I suspect more 8 than 12), but if your girls haven't read them they should. I still remember the joy or reading them all these years later (and have been known to reread them).

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (of course)
The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald
Wind in the Willows
Definitely the Anne of Green Gables series (there must be 5 or 6 of 'em)
Frank Baum's Oz books
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

For the 12-year-old: National Velvet
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle (and its two sequels)
Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, which combines history with a detective story.

Hobbit for sure. Lord of the Rings?

I have a bunch of these; let me know if you want to borrow.

redmondkr's picture

Fannie Flagg's A Redbird

Fannie Flagg's A Redbird Christmas - a delightful tale of the deep south.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Never read that one, but I can highly recommend Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, maybe even for a rather worldly 12 year-old.

redmondkr's picture

Full Many a Flower by Ruby

Full Many a Flower by Ruby Dayton. Ruby is a friend and neighbor who was the best-selling watercolor artist at the 1982 World's Fair. In this autobiographical fiction she tells of her childhood as a sharecropper's daughter and her struggle to get an education. She lives at 'Turtle Creek' near the railroad crossing in the Ball Camp Community. I've had a paperback for years but just discovered (and downloaded) the Kindle edition.

redmondkr's picture

Amazon has a bunch of Fannie

Amazon has a bunch of Fannie Flaggs. I've read Tomatoes and highly recommend it. I also have an ebook copy of Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man but I haven't read it as yet.

redmondkr's picture

This is Ruby's Turtle Creek Studio

Min's picture

Favorite Books

At 8, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe".

At 12, John Christopher's Tripods trilogy, "The White Mountains", "The City of Gold and Lead", and "The Pool of Fire". That series and the original Star Trek made me a life-long science fiction fan.

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