UT Literature Center: Great Books for Kids to Read during Holiday Season

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KNOXVILLE — ‘Tis the season for a nice long break from school …. and, for some kids, that means too much time playing video games, watching TV, and moaning, “I’m bored.”

Miranda Clark

A perfect cure for youngsters’ holiday ennui: Books!

“With countless entertainment options, it is increasingly important for us to offer quality literary selections for our children that introduce them to new genres, exquisite illustration and rich language that expands their understanding of themselves and the world around them,” said Miranda Clark, director of the Center for Children’s & Young Adult Literature at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Luckily there is a wealth of quality literature available today. The trick is to find the right book for the right child, just in time for the holidays.”

The Center for Children’s & Young Adult Literature will have a Holiday Open House from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 8, in Room 434 Communications Building. The event is open to the public. Visitors can enjoy hot cider and pastries while perusing a display of new books to inspire holiday gift giving.

Meanwhile, Clark and her staff suggest these newly released and highly acclaimed books for kids to read this winter. The list is divided by age group:

Kindergarten through third grade

  • Red Sled by Lita Judge: At night, a host of woodland creatures plays with a child’s red sled. The story is told completely in pictures and gleeful exclamations.
  • Stars by Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee: This book explores the wonder of stars, whether they are in the night sky, on a plant as a promise of fruit to come, or in one’s pocket for those days when one does not feel shiny.
  • Stuck by Oliver Jeffers: Floyd’s kite gets stuck in a tree, and he tries to knock it down with increasingly larger and more outrageous things.
  • The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle: An artist paints the world as seen through the imaginative eyes of a child. Great book for helping kids learn colors, forms, and shapes.

Third through sixth grade

  • Young Fredle by Cynthia Voight: Fredle, a young mouse cast out of his home, faces dangers and predators outside, makes some important discoveries and allies, and learns the meaning of freedom as he struggles to return home. This book would be a good transition for older elementary school students before they move into middle school.

Fifth through eighth grade:

  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick: Relates the stories of two youngsters—twelve-year-old Ben, who loses his mother and his hearing in a short time frame and decides to leave his Minnesota home in 1977 to seek the father he has never known in New York City; and Rose, who lives with her father but feels compelled to search for what is missing in her life. Ben’s story is told in words; Rose’s in pictures.
  • Titanic Sinks! by Barry Denenberger: Retells the events surrounding the sinking of the RMS Titanic, describing the ship’s construction and launch, and featuring authentic photographs and illustrations from the period.
  • The Apothecary by Maile Meloy: Fourteen-year-old Janie Scott, newly arrived in London from Los Angeles in 1952, becomes friends with a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows. Janie is drawn into a dangerous adventure when Benjamin’s father is kidnapped and Russian spies try to steal his book of secrets.
  • Bad Island by Doug TenNapel: Reese, forced to go on vacation with his family, finds himself shipwrecked with them on a strange island full of weird plants and animals, and pursued by an unknown entity on the hunt. This is a graphic novel, which means it’s written in irresistible comic-book style.
  • The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann: In a society that purges thirteen-year-olds who are creative, identical twins Aaron and Alex are separated, one to attend the university while the other is supposedly eliminated. The “eliminated” twin finds himself in a wondrous place where youths hone their abilities and learn magic. This book has been described as a mix of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games with blends of fantasy and science fiction.
  • How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart: When eleven-year-old David Greenberg’s best friend makes the start of middle school even worse than he feared it could be, he becomes friends with Penny, who shares his love of television shows. They post one of their skits on YouTube, making them wildly popular—online, at least.

High School:

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Nineteen-year-old returning champion Sean Kendrick competes against Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the annual Scorpio Races. Both try to keep hold of their dangerous water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
  • The Auslander by Paul Dowswell: Peter, an orphan in Warsaw, is adopted by German professor Kaltenbach and his wife, who believe the boy to be a fine specimen of Hitler Youth. But Peter begins to develop his own ideas in opposition to the Nazis, an unpopular position in 1943 Berlin.
  • The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf, a frequent performer at the Knox County Public Library’s Children’s Festival of Reading and resident of North Carolina: This book recreates the 1912 sinking of the Titanic as observed by millionaire John Jacob Astor, a beautiful young Lebanese refugee finding first love, “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, Captain Smith, and others, including the iceberg itself.
  • Witchlanders by Lena Coakley: The prediction of Ryder’s mother, once a great prophet and powerful witch, comes true, and their village is destroyed by a deadly assassin. Ryder then embarks on a quest that takes him into the mountains in search of the destroyer.
  • Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt: Fourteen-year-old Doug Swieteck faces many challenges, including an abusive father, a brother traumatized by Vietnam, suspicious teachers and police officers, and isolation. But when he meets a girl known as Lil Spicer, he develops a close relationship with her and finds a safe place at the local library.

The Center for Children’s & Young Adult Literature, housed in the School of Information Sciences in the College of Communication and Information, contains more than 2,000 book titles representing some of the best works in children’s literature published in the last eighteen months in its noncirculating, examination collection. The center—the only one of its kind in the state of Tennessee—provides an academic and research resource for students and faculty and also offers outreach to teachers, librarians, parents, and children. The center is instrumental in bringing children’s and young adult authors to Knoxville to conduct workshops and speak.

For more information about the center, visit http://www.sis.utk.edu/ccyal.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely, (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)

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