The Adventures of the Borrowers

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The Borrowers, The Borrowers Afield, The Borrowers Afloat, The Borrowers Aloft, The Borrowers Avenged
by Mary Norton
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2003 (1953) | Sandpiper

Pod, Homily and Arriety Clock live under the floorboards of a house, borrowing from the humans to clothe, furnish and feed themselves. They are seen by a boy who befriends them, but discovered by the less friendly housekeeper, and are forced to flee the house.

In the second book of the series, they move into another home with their relatives but eventually must leave as the humans who live there are going. In book three, they take to the river in Spiller's kettle, making for the legendary model village of Upper Fordham. Grounded at one point, they are almost caught by Mild Eye the gipsy, but manage to escape.  Books four and five continue their adventures.

A lighthearted classic children's series, portraying matter-of-factly the Borrowers: Pod, the protective father, Homily the houseproud mother, and Arriety the teenager yearning to go outside.

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The Unforgotten Coat

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The Unforgotten Coat
by Frank Cottrell Boyce
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2011 | Candlewick | 112 pages

I knew I would love this little book as soon as I saw the photo on the first page: four middle school-aged children in their uniforms, posing for the camera with goofy grins on their faces. Boyce actually tells this touching story of compassion and loyalty through a series of snapshots presumably taken on a beat up Polaroid. Julie finds the photos in the pocket of an old coat, left hanging on a hook at her former school. The coat belonged to Chingis. Chingis and his younger brother, Nergui, had immigrated to England from Mongolia when Julie was still in school. They chose her to be their "good guide" in their new environment.

Julie took seriously her responsibilities of introducing Chingis and Nergui to western culture. She learned that there is more to life than boys and make-up and avidly absorbed everything Chingis and Nergui told her about Mongolia. For her part, Julie explained the ins and outs of middle… click here to read whole article and make comments



Reading Matters’ 100 Books for Christmas 2011

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Here are some suggestions for young and not-so-young readers.  Many thanks to for contributing to our list.

Ages 2-7

1. Art & Max, David Wiesner

2. Boy Wonders, Calef Brown

3. Can I Cuddle the Moon?, Kerry Brown

4. Grandpa Green, Lane Smith

5. Interrupting Chicken, David Ezra Stein

6. It's a book, Lane Smith

7. Kimonos, Annelore Parot

8. Love Mouserella, David Ezra Stein

9. More!, Peter Schossow

10. Over the Rainbow, Judy Collins

11. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Jerry Pinkney

12. The Rainbow Book, Kate Ohrt

13. A Small Miracle, Peter Collington

14. Starry, Starry Night, Sarah Kate Mitchell

15. When You Wish Upon a Star, Judy Collins

Ages 7-10

16. The Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi (illustrated by Roberto Innocenti)

17. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking and Other Natural Disasters, Lenore Look

18. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, Joyce Sidman

19. The Drinking Gourd, F.N. Monjo

20. The Empty Pot, Demi

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The Magician’s House Quartet Series

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The Magician's House Quartet
by William Corlett
written for ages 9-12 | recommended with reservations
published in 2011 (1991) | Simon Pulse

This is a series of four books, written intentionally as a series. The books are: The Steps Up the Chimney The Door in the Tree The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall The Bridge in the Clouds In them the three Constant children: William, Mary and Alice spend their holidays at Golden House with their uncle and aunt while their parents are doing relief work in the Third World. They team up with the magician who used to live in the house in order to protect themselves from various forms of attack, including the magician's evil apprentice and modern-day developers.

A mediocre series from the point of view of the plot lines. The characters are fairly well fleshed out, and there is some nice interplay between the children and the animals whose bodies they inhabit temporarily. The trouble is that, whereas ecology and concern for wildlife are uppermost, the fact that the childrens' vegetarian aunt and uncle aren't married is passed off… click here to read whole article and make comments



Turtle in Paradise

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Turtle in Paradise
by Jennifer L. Holm
written for ages 9-12 | recommended with reservations
published in 2011 | Yearling | 208 pages

Toughened by a rough life, eleven-year-old Turtle has learned to take care of her mother, Sadiebelle. Sadiebelle works hard cleaning houses, so she and Turtle are managing during the Depression. The problem is she cannot stop "falling in love". As a matter of fact, Turtle has spent her short life watching her mother's heart break time after time as one man after another came and went from their lives. Archie is different, though. He surely will keep his promise of striking it rich as a traveling salesman and marry Sadiebelle. Until he does, Turtle will have to live in the Florida Keys with the cousins she never knew.

Turtle learns about her mother's childhood on the islands. She meets Sadiebelle's older sister and brother-in-law who struggle to keep their family together. She conquers her grandmother who apparently hates children-but falls in love with Turtle. Finally, Turtle becomes acquainted with "Slow Poke", a neighbor whose kindness leads her to believe that… click here to read whole article and make comments



Lorna Doone

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Lorna Doone
by Richard D. Blackmore
written for ages 15-18 | highly recommended
published in 2010 (1869) | | 388 pages

The story tells of the adventures of John Ridd after his father is murdered by the Doones. After falling in love with Lorna Doone his life is put in great danger and we follow his perilous adventures to a conclusion which narrowly avoids tragedy.

This novel is not only a fine story of adventure and romance but it also has an interesting historical background and powerful descriptions of the Somerset countryside. The feud between John Ridd and the bloodthirsty Doones gives the book a dark and sinister tone. For me, one of the most gripping scenes is the final confrontation between John Ridd and Carver Doone in which Carver is sucked into the mire.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London.  He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.

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The Door in the Forest

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The Door in the Forest
by Roderick Townley
written for ages 9-12 | recommended with reservations
published in 2011 | Knopf Books | 256 pages

Daniel Crowley has spent nearly all thirteen years of his life longing to get onto the mysterious island in the river near his hometown. Some say the island is haunted; others that it is guarded by enormous snakes. Daniel does not care. He is simply looking for adventure and for a place where no one has ever told a lie. Why? Because when Daniel tries to lie he becomes physically ill, and it is hard to make friends when no one trusts you to keep a secret.

Meanwhile, Emily arrives with the refugees fleeing to the countryside to escape government oppression. Emily stays with her grandmother, Birdey, an eccentric woman who knows the mystery of the island. Emily, Daniel and Daniel's younger brother Wesley discover the way onto the island with the help of a map from Emily's mother. In the process, they unwittingly open this formerly protected sanctuary to the soldiers occupying their town.

Roderick Townley weaves small town… click here to read whole article and make comments



The Demonata Series

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Lord Loss
by Darren Shan
written for ages 13-16 | not recommended
published in 2006 (2005) | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | 240 pages

Grubbs Grady sees his family horribly killed and is taken in by his father's mysterious brother who explains that the family is cursed and that he must learn to defend himself from demons and to play chess to help fight the curse. Along with Billy, a local lad, Grubbs believes that his uncle is secretly a werewolf but things turn out differently and Grubbs finds himself battling a demon master and his demon servants.

I won't keep you long: if you have any reservations about demons, black magic, grotesque and horrific deaths or werewolfs then walk away from this book. If, however, you're not that bothered about lightweight horror-fodder aimed at young teenage boys then read on...

While the story's definitely not for the squeamish, the demons are just stock-uglies from a parallel dimension, and their master a grotesque enemy with a suave manner and penchant for playing chess. There is a black-magic-style ritual carried out by Dervish to summon… click here to read whole article and make comments



Francis Woke Up Early

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Francis Woke Up Early
by Josephine Nobisso
written for ages 2-7 | recommended
published in 2011 | Gingerbread House | 32 pages

No saint outside of the Bible is as widely known as St Francis of Assisi, yet he can be little more than a garden statue in children's minds. Francis Woke Up Early gives children a chance to enter into a day in the life of the child Francis and see that all saints began life like them, seeking outdoor adventures, and loving their family, yet, his future spiritual greatness is foreshadowed in this enchanting book.

What is best known about Francis is his bond with animals, particularly his sermon to the birds and his befriending the fierce wolf of Gubbio. Using these events as inspiration, author Josephine Nobisso paints a charming yet thoughtful portrait of the young saint. Imagine a sunny morning, which awakened Francis at dawn, and coaxed him to venture outdoors past a sleeping household in search of a breakfast of goat's milk, all frothy and warm.

Dramatic storytelling paired with brilliant illustrations fires imaginations both young and old,… click here to read whole article and make comments



Look to the Lady

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Look to the Lady
by Margery Allingham
written for ages 13-16 | recommended
published in 2006 (1931) | Felony and Mayhem | 274 pages

Val Gyrth, son of a nobleman, is down on his luck when he is rather mysteriously invited to meet Albert Campion, escaping abduction on the way. Campion reveals a plan to steal the chalice from Val's ancestral home and proposes that they both go down there, Val to make peace with his father and Campion to prevent the theft, ultimately by killing the thief.

Soon after they arrive, Val's slightly batty aunt is found dead in the woods and the chalice stolen. With the help of some gypsies camped nearby, Campion recovers the chalice (which is a fake) and just prevents the real one from being stolen.

What makes this book so readable is the unexpectedness of most things; even when you think you now know everything there is to know, there's another surprise around the corner.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London.  He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.

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Reading Matters is MercatorNet’s blog about children’s literature. Our goal is to enable parents and educators to find quality books for young people. For an explanation of our evaluation system, click here. We welcome reader input and new reviewers. We love comments on the book reviews. Write to us at

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