Looking for something for kids to read besides Harry Potter? Award-winning Bay Area children’s writer Karen English recommends some of her all-time favorites.

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Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse’s award-winning 1999 debut novel was made into a film of the same name a few years later. Teens are drawn to the mature subject matter of this novel that explores the pain o<f isolation. Halse weaves the story about a teenager named Melinda Sordino who is an outcast in high school. Later in the book, we learn why: she was a victim of date rape.

Bull Run, by Paul Fleischman

Paul Fleischman knows American history, and his books often include odd but meaningful details about past events. Bull Run is chock full of such details. A Civil War drama told in sixteen voices, this ‘is a heartbreaking and remarkably vivid portrait of a war that remains our nation’s bloodiest conflict.… Fleischman’s artistry is nothing short of astounding,’ according to Publishers Weekly. Recommended for age 10 and up, Bull Run will make a history buff out of almost any fifth grader.

Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis

Christopher Paul Curtis’ 1999 novel by won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature, as well as the Coretta Scott King Award given in recognition of outstanding African-American authors. Curtis follows the adventures of a 10-year old African American orphan in Depression-era Michigan. Bud decides to run away to find the man he believes is his father. Kids 10 to 14 will relate to a boy with such a strong will.

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Matilda, by Roald Dahl

Any of Roald Dahl’s books are sure to please the 7 to 11 crowd, and Matilda reflects Dahl’s gift of creating characters that jump off the page. Matilda is a genius. By the age of 4 she has read every book in the kid’s section of the library. She can even solve advanced math problems in her head. Unfortunately her crooked car-dealer of a dad and bingo-holic mom don’t appreciate her at all.

The Whipping Boy, Sid Fleischman

Sid Fleischman won a Newbery medal for this 1987 adventure tale. Think Mark Twain, circa 18th century. The title refers to the character who must receive the prince’s beatings when he misbehaves. It is a crime worse than murder to hit the heir to the throne, so when the prince’s behavior warrants corporal punishment, another boy must be beaten in his stead. The prince flees the castle with his whipping boy. Kids 7 to 10 will appreciate the humor in this tale of friendship and adventure.

Henry and Beezus, by Beverly Cleary

Now that Beverly Cleary’s ‘Ramona’ is a popular film, kids aged 6 to 10 can make friends with Henry Huggins. Cleary always wrote about real kids, who played outside and got into all sorts of predicaments in the neighborhood. All Henry wants is his very own shiny, red bike to ride up and down Klickitat Street. No matter how he tries to raise money to buy one, he always ends up with more trouble than money.

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I Met A Man, by John Ciardi

The late poet who translated Dante, John Ciardi wrote ‘I Met A Man’ because he wanted to play and read with his own children. Ciardi used about 400 words and a vocabulary easy enough for a first grade reader to tackle. His clever riddles will keep any 5 to 8 year old entertained, because the poems in ‘I Met A Man’ become progressively more difficult, and keep up with the skills of the growing reader.

Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes

All of Kevin Henkes’s books are sure to please the 4 to 7 crowd, and Wemberly Worried is no exception. Wemberly worried about everything — big things, little things, and everything in-between. School was about to start, and Wemberly worried even more. After finishing this delightful read-aloud book, try Henkes’ ‘Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse’.

Where the Sidewalk Ends & The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein

Three-year-olds and the grownups who read them aloud love these two. Shel Silverstein sold millions of copies of his 1974 book, Where the Sidewalk Ends – a collection of children’s poetry for the dreamer in all of us. His book, ‘The Giving Tree’ is a touching tale about a relationship between a young boy and a tree in a forest. It has been published in 30 languages. Read either one, or better yet, read both.

-Janice Mabry, Red Carpet Bay Area