Literature for Younger ReadersLearning materials and resources for novels and short stories
Although the works of literature featured on this page are serious and important works of literature that may appeal to older readers as well, I’ve separated them from the Novels and Novellas and Short Stories pages for two reasons: first, the content of many of the works on those pages isn’t necessarily appropriate for younger readers, and second, the works on this page are generally taught at the middle school level and are directed toward a younger readership.
“Thank You, Ma’am” (included in Read All About It!)
Novels and Novellas
The Education of Little Tree is a soulful, wise, and humorous book about a boy’s Cherokee upbringing in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee during the Great Depression. I was introduced to it when I was 15 by a relative I loved dearly, and I’ve read it many times. Much later, I learned that the author was actually a white supremacist who changed his identity and hid his personal history, and that the source material may have been largely fictional. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a beautiful story, but it does offer an opportunity for reflection and discussion. If you choose to read or teach this book, first understand its background, and read it (as one always should anyway) with a critical eye.
Le Guin, Ursula K.
Le Guin was a versatile and prolific writer and a remarkable human being, and I’ve read A Wizard of Earthsea more times than I can remember. It mixes magic and dragons with horror and philosophy and is stylistically unique among fantasy novels.
A Wrinkle in Time is perhaps the most famous science fiction (as distinct from fantasy) book for young readers ever written in English. Quirky and sometimes awkward, but also memorable and deeply philosophical, it explores a variety of mature themes through its young characters: the social and psychological burdens of individuality and unconventionality, the power of perseverance and faith in the face of a skeptical world, and the dangers of conformity and fascism. It also features strong female characters who will inspire girls to be themselves and believe in themselves.
Dystopian science fiction just might be my favorite genre. The Giver is aimed at a somewhat younger audience than other dystopian novels like 1984 or Never Let Me Go, but it still fosters deep thinking about difficult philosophical questions while telling a moving story.
Park, Linda Sue
A Single Shard is a soulful novel about an orphan boy in twelfth-century Korea who struggles to survive with his wise friend Crane-man. Hoping to become apprentice to a skilled but taciturn potter, he embarks on a difficult journey, both literally and figuratively. The story stands out for its characters and touching story, as well as its skill in evoking the world its characters inhabit.
Taylor, Mildred D.
Roll of Thunder is both a nuanced but unflinching portrait of racial oppression in America and a moving, well-told family story with memorable characters.
As a Chinese-American who has felt like an outsider in both worlds, Laurence Yep often writes about characters who are alienated from society. Touching but frank and often unsentimental, Child of the Owl tells about a Chinese-American girl who struggles to fit in after going to live with her grandmother in San Francisco’s Chinatown.