World War II YA Novels

code name verity


Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Disney-Hyperion, 2012. 352 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1423152194

During World War II a British spy is captured and held by the gestapo in France.

Historical Fiction

Age Range 14-18

5 out of 5 for quality

School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, 2012; Agatha Award Nominee for YA, 2012; Edgar Award for YA, 2013; Printz Honor, 2013; Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor for Fiction, 2012; YALSA Best Fiction for YA (Top 10), 2013; ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 2013.

This is an exciting mystery, with confusing perspectives of two young women who work in the military in England during World War II. One is a spy, captured by the gestapo in France, and it is she who tells the story of their friendship. This is one of those books where the less said, the better. The writing is excellent, the tension holds, the mystery interesting all the way through. Also, I cried.

Other reading:

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

B for Buster by Iain Lawrence

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Author Website



Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Flash Point, 2012. 272 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1596434875

A nonfiction thrilling story of the development of the first atomic bomb.


Age Range 12-17

5 out of 5 for quality

National Book Award Nominee, 2012; Newbery Honor Book, 2012; ALA Notable book for middle readers, 2013; YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, 2013; Silbert medal, 2013.

Bomb is an exceptional kind of nonfiction that draws the reader along to find out what happens next. It follows many narratives: spies working to undermine the German atomic program, scientists working in the United States building the bomb, and spies in the US sending secrets of these weapons to the USSR. Each storyline looks at the different historical figures who worked on the frontlines of science and espionage. Slowly the story develops as the bomb develops; the writing is clear and the science behind the work explained in enough detail for the reader to understand some of the problems, success and turmoil that surrounded this project. Amidst all the discussion of the bomb, Shenkin looks into the lives and actions of the spies who worked on behalf of the USSR, and gives the context of why American scientists would choose to send plans of the atomic bomb to the country that would become America’s #1 enemy in the years following World War II.

This book was a surprise, as it was a subject matter I was wary of and I had concerns about the potential glorification of the atomic weapons program. I came away very impressed with the discussion of the perceived need for the development of the weapon as well as the horror of the weapon completion. Despite being a book intended for teens, Shenkin is willing to lay out all the hard choices and shades of grey that enter into discussions like this. I certainly came away with better insight and greater appreciation for the complexity of the atomic weapon issue.

Other books of interest:

Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr and Ronald Himler


Author Website


The Mythopoeic Award


The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature honors books for younger readers (from “Young Adults” to picture books for beginning readers), in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia. Website



Pratchett, Terry. Nation. Harper Collins, 2008. 400 pages.  $16.99 ISBN-10: 0061433012

Mau finds himself on alone on his island after a storm, but as survivors trickle in, he becomes a Tribe Leader.

Speculative Fiction

Age Range: 13 and up

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry, 2009

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature, 2009.

ALA Notable Children’s Book for Older Readers, 2009

Printz Honor, 2009

This book has probably the most depressing start of any novel I have ever read. Everybody dies. Mau is left alone on his Nation island while returning home to his manhood ceremony. Also on the island is Daphne, heir to the English throne (although she doesn’t know it), and the two being to communicate and help each other survive intense loss and grief.  Slowly, more island people arrive from neighboring islands in the hopes of help from the once strong, but now nearly extinct Nation. Mau and Daphne must work to help the people and create a new way of identifying themselves. This book is rich with questions of self, of God and of society. It is unusual in that it is an alternative history, set in Victorian times, but having the royal line all died in a plague. The Nation are an imagined people, but having an alternative history set somewhere other than Europe is refreshing. This book is strange in that it deals with issues of God and fate, and the author takes the reader through his own questions that have likely led him to his agnostisism. It is a very well written book, and even though some of the plot points are a stretch, absolutely worth a read.  I was familiar with the other works by Pratchett, and while this one maintains some of his humor, it is clearly a more serious piece.


Raider’s Ransom by Emily Diamand

Troubling A Star by Madeleine L’Engle

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Discussion Questions

  1. What did you think the author was trying to do by having a lost civilization under the Island?
  2. Was there any other way for Pratchett to finish the novel? Why can’t Daphne choose to stay with Mau?


Here is Mau, almost alone on a beautiful tropical islands with a lovely girl and gods that boss him around, but can’t seem to help him figure out how to become a chief without having become first a man.


Author website

Author Interview about the Novel



mountain meets the moon


Lin, Grace. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. 282 pages. $17.00 ISBN-13: 978-0316114271

Young Minli goes on a journey to find the man in the moon to change her family’s fortune, befriending a dragon along the way.


Age Range 8-12

5 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Honor, 2010

Mythopeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, 2010

ALA Notable Book for Middle Readers, 2010

Minli lives in a poor village with incredibly poor parents. Her father shares stories about magical and wonderful things, but her mother’s bitterness about their life causes Minli to decide to travel to the Man in the Moon to change the family fortune. She finds a tangled dragon and sets him free, giving her a traveling companion. She makes friends with peasants and kings, and a village of people who are always happy. Finally she makes it to the Man in the Moon to ask her question so she can return to her family, who have also been on a kind of a journey waiting and trusting that Minli will come home.

The book has beautiful, simple drawings throughout, and it is an engaging read, full of folklore and magic, but without too much scariness. The read-aloud quality is regularly mentioned by other reviewers, and I think that is because it can be hard to find books that are interesting to listen to without having some mature themes or action. Here is a book that should have won more awards, I think, for its classic feel and wonderful emotional content wrapped up in an exciting story. The cover is appealing as is the illustrative design inside.


Odd and the Frost Giant by Neil Gaiman

Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did Minli change her question at the end when she got to the Man in the Moon?
  2. What helped her mother lose her bitterness?


Here is a classic read aloud adventure. There are dragons, magical books of fate, evil green tigers, talking goldfish and an old man who controls the red strings of fate.


Author Website

Interview with author


Alex Awards


‘The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year’s publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002.” From the YALSA Website


night circus

Morgenstern, Erin. The Night Circus.  Doubleday,  2011. 400 pages. $28.95 ISBN-13: 978-0385534635

A mysterious circus travels the world at the end of the 1800’s and is the venue of a magical competition between Marco and Celia.

Fantasy Fiction

Age Range: 15 and up

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity

Locus Award for Best First Novel, 2012

ALA Alex Award, 2012

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Adult Literature, 2012

Celia is sent to her father the magician at age 6 and almost immediately is signed up for a competition of magic and illusion as her father’s player. When or how the competition will begin is unknown, as is the identity of her competitor.  The story follows her competitor, Marco and soon the competition begins, the venue a travelling circus that opens only at night and follows no set schedule. Celia works there as an illusionist, but Marco must set up his feats of magic and illusion from afar. The descriptions are beautiful  and rich, the plot slow and meandering. This book is lovely and a perfect autumnal read. It won an Alex award because while the characters are adults, the appeal to a teen audience is obvious with its dark, mysterious setting and the forbidden love of the two competitors. The Cover art is appealing, but I have wanted to read this circus book since it came out, and was so excited to have it be a book I could read for a class on award winning books. It also won an award by an organization devoted to promoting literature and the study of the works of the Inklings, which makes it even more appealing to me.


Jonathan strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Book Discussion Questions

  1. How does the author create such a magical environment, how does the circus make it more mysterious?
  2. It seems like the death of the characters was inevitable, did they escape it? What do you think happens to them?


There is magic in this book, Illusions and fantastical gardens held together in a circus that is a goth dream. Everything is in black and white, magic and mystery is everywhere.


Author Website

Article about author in the StarTribune



Knisley, Lucy. Relish: my life in the kitchen. Turtleback, 2013. 176 pages.  $30.60. ISBN-13: 978-0606324311

Lucy tells the story of her life through her foodie experience in this series of comics.

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Age Range: 14 and up

Rating: 5 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 for popularity.

Alex Award, 2014

Lucy Knisley was raised by foodies, her mother an excellent chef and caterer, her father a lover of all things fine.  She writes these fun comic chapters to illustrate the importance of food in her life, and to give omage to her mother, especially. Raised first in New York City and then in Upstate New York, Lucy developed tastes for both complex, rich, unusual foods, as well as the McDonald’s French fry. Her stories are sweet and funny, the illustrations perfect for the lighthearted and earnestness of her voice. Each chapter has an illustrated recipe at the end which add to the design and complete feeling of the book: she is trying to pass on her love of food to the reader. Although written for adults, this memoir is perfectly suited to young adults and even children (my 5 year old is enjoying it and requesting it over and over).


Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Calling Dr. Laura: A graphic memoir by Nicole J. Georges

They Draw and Cook: 107 Recipes Illustrates by Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell

Book Discussion

  1. How effective is the life story through food stories? How does it help you get to know the character?

Book Talking.

Here is a book for food lovers and comic book fans. Also, learn how to make chai.

Author website

Interview with the Graphic Novel Reporter

Castles and Cooks Interview

Book Battle: The Revolutionary War

Both Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson and he Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party. by M. T. Anderson look at the Revolutionary War from the perspective of a black slave. To view this moment in American history, one traditionally full of discussions about independence and representation in government through this lens takes us away from clearly defined views of history into the grey zone of complicated moral quandaries. I see these books as challenging the way our more conservative society is working to canonize the founding fathers, and honoring the fact that all people in all parts of history are flawed. Chains wins this battle, being the more exciting and having better characters. Octavian Nothing spends too much time setting the scene for the ultimate betrayal, but is less gripping and did not keep my interest as well.


Anderson, Laurie Halse. Chains. Atheneum, 2010. 320 pages. $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-1416905851

Isabel and her sister Ruth are sold to a loyalist family in New York at the brink of the Revolutionary War.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Ages 10-16

Rating: 5 out of 5 for quality, 5 out of 5 for popularity.

Scott O’Dell Award, 2009

National Book Award Nominee for Yong People’s Literature, 2008

YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008

When Isabel’s master dies the will said she and her sister would be freed, but the nephew who inherits has other ideas and quickly sells of Isabel, aged 13, and Ruth, aged 5, to a mean loyalist couple from New York. Isabel’s life is hard, full of kitchen drudgery and cleaning, bossed by a nasty woman who is afraid of Ruth’s epilepsy. Isabel is constantly watching out for her little sister and trying to keep from being in trouble with the owners, but because the Revolutionary War is underway, she is also asked to spy on the owners by the rebel army.  This book explores the deep irony of revolutionaries demanding liberty from England, but who cannot even imagine giving the slaves they own freedom. It is an exciting narrative with complex characters, interesting and tragic situations. Isabel is a wonderful character who deals with moral questions and situations in an authentic way. This book is well reviewed by librarians and young people are clearly drawn to this author for her willingness to be honest.

Read Alikes

Flygirl by Sherri L Smith

Sophia’s War by Avi

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Book Discussion Questions

  1.        Anderson does not shy away from the problems of a call for liberty for only some people. Have your thoughts about the revolutionary war changed after reading this book?
  2.        Curzon believes in the fight for independence, why doesn’t Isabel?

Book Talking

Isabel wants to be free, as do many of the colonists around her, but because of the color of her skin, she is less likely to benefit from the push for liberty.


Author website

Interview with author about historical accuracy

Author talks about censorship



octavian nothing

Anderson, M.T. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party. Candlewick, 2006. 368 pages.  $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-0763624026

Octavian, a slave raised as a prince in a philosophical society, finds trouble and increasing tensions at the start of the Revolutionary War.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Age: 15 and up

Rating: 3 out of 5 for quality, 5 out of 5 for popularity.

National Book Award Winner, 2006

Printz Honor Book, 2006

Boston Globe-Horn Book award for Fiction and Poetry, 2006

YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2007

Octavian and his mother live in decadence and wealth in a philosophical society run by Mr. Gitney. Secluded and well educated, it is only with the onset of the Revolutionary War and the changes in finances that cause Octavian to realize the realities of his enslavement, and of the conditions of slavery in the colonies. After Mr. Gitney hosts a pox party in an attempt to inoculate his friends and relatives with the small pox, Octavian runs away and joins a rebel militia. Told in beautiful, rich language as a testimony by Octavian, it is also filled in with letters and other documents to give it the feel of a court case. It has the unique perspective of a slave evaluating the complications of the colonists demanding liberty for themselves but refusing it for the enslaved blacks. It looks at the brink of a war from a perspective of militia men, slaves, and philosophers. It is a fascinating mix of characters. That all being said, it was a very hard book to get through. It starts slow, building up the strangeness of Octavian’s upbringing and the odd characters he is surrounded by. The excitement of the plot point lasts only briefly before the author changes voices and tells the story through letters sent from a militia man to his family as he befriends Octavian and prepares to fight battles. This section is hard to understand because of the language, and of less interest because to get the story about Octavian, the reader has to read through other tidbits about characters that are not fleshed out or interesting. I can absolutely see why this won awards for young adult literature, for it is literature, but it is not fun, in fact it can be quite gruesome.


Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Day of Tears by Julius Lester

47 by Walter Mosley

Book Discussion Questions:

  1.        Why does the nature of Octavian’s experiment change? How does this change Octavian?
  2.        Why didn’t Octavian try to make it into Boston to try to fight for the British?


This is the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Boston is unsettled, and the Novanglian College of Lucidity is trying to determine the classification of Africans by experimenting on the intellect and psyche of Octavian, who was raised by the College since infancy. Things are changing and this book has runaway slaves, war battles and a party of upper class intellectuals and merchants who all willingly submit themselves to smallpox.


Author Website

Acceptance Speech for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award

NPR Interview


Best Books for Young Adults

The Young Adult Library Services Association puts together a yearly list of best books for young adults. The list includes both fiction and nonfiction and is chosen by committee to identify and annotate a list of significant works for this age group. The committee also identifies the top 10 books of the list, which often runs to as many as 90 books a year. These two books were both identified in the 2004 list, although only East made it into the top 10. Since 2010 this has become Best Fiction for Young Adults list, leaving the nonfiction behind.



Pattou, Edith. East. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2005. 528 pages. $8.95 ISBN-13: 978-0152052218

Rose goes to live in the castle of a magical white bear, but after breaking the rules of his spell must try to save him from the Troll Queen.


Age Range: 11 and up

Best Books for Young Adults, 2004

4 out 5 for quality, 2 out of 5 for popularity.

This is a fairy tale that is part Beauty and the Beast, part East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Rose is the wild child of her family, a family run by their mother’s superstitions, especially concerning the direction of their birth born. As Rose grows up she finds the white bear of her dreams is real, and when he asks her to come live with him, she agrees although she finds the cavern castle to be beautiful, but lonely. She makes friends with the White Bear, but also finds  that a stranger joins her to sleep in her room every night. Once the bear prince is taken away after she breaks the rules of the spell, she follows him across the arctic to save him from the troll Queen.  This is a fairy tale love story, but with enough depth of characters to make it more deep and interesting than a simple “Beauty and the Beast” retelling. It is unsurprising to see a book with a spirited, adventurous female lead paired with a quiet, mysterious man, and that is probably the greatest weakness of the book, that this love pairing seems obvious, but not really understandable. I enjoy fairy tale retellings, it is always interesting to see where the author is going to take a simple story to make it last 500 pages, and except for a little bit of dragging in the middle, this was a fun and entertaining read.

Read alikes:

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Beauty: A retelling of beauty and the beast by Robin McKinley

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Book Discussion Questions:

1.Why was it important for Rose to find out she was North born, and how did that change her relationship with her mother?

2. Why can’t Rose and the Bear prince just talk to each other about their feelings?

Book Talking

There is a white bear stalking you, but instead of being afraid, you are excited. Who knew that following the bear could lead to an arctic journey and a battle with a Troll Queen?


Author Website

Author Interview at iglobe

Interview at booktrust


mortal engines


Reeve, Philip. Mortal Engines. Scholastic, 2012, 2001. 269 pages. $14.91 FollettBound ISBN-13: 978-0-329-82272-9

Tom finds himself outside of his roaming city of London, following Hester, a girl trying to kill his hero for revenge.

Science Fiction

Age Range: 12 and up

5 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Best Books for Young Adults, 2004

Tom lives in a London of the future that roams the European wasteland centuries after the sixty minute war destroyed the cities there. Tom is a member of the historians guild, but it is the engineering guild and the mayor who run the city. After a disturbing assassination attempt of the city’s historian hero, Valentine, Tom and Hester are both pushed off the roaming city and must make their way through the outside world trying to avoid slavery, assassination attempts and the anti-traction league. Inside the city of London, Katherine is trying to understand her father Valentine’s secret and gets the help of an apprentice engineer and the Historian’s Guild. This is an exciting science fiction novel with, rich with social commentary and anti-armament messages. The characters are all multi-faceted and interesting, with a willingness to change their minds in the cause of truth. There are some obvious plot points that make it clear it is a first book, but overall a fun, thought-provoking read.  I have read other novels by this author and have enjoyed them all, which is why they make it onto the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list.


Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Worldshaker by Richard Harland

Book Discussion :

  1. What finally makes Tom change his mind about Valentine and the Anti-Traction League?
  2. Why does Hester change her mind about her mission?

Book Talking

Tom has just been pushed of his giant moving city of London by his hero. Now he is stuck in the mud with a disfigured, angry assassin and no clear way to get home. Can he get home? Can he uncover the evil plot before it is too late?


Author Website

Mortal Engines Website

Interview with author on Tall tales and Short Stories Blog

Interview with author

2 Newbery Award Winners

Newbery Medal“The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” From the ALA website

the giver 2

Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Delacourte Press, 1993. 179 pages. $13.51. FollettBound ISBN-13: 978-1-41565-110-0

Living in a small, sheltered community, Jonas begins to understand the secrets of the protection and rules upon his twelvth birthday when he becomes apprentice to The Giver.

Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction

Age Range: 11-16

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 5 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Award, 1994

When Jonas reaches age 12, he and all the other 12 year old’s are assigned their career aprentiships, but Jonas is assigned an unusual position as apprentice to the Giver, the man who carries the memories of the community. In order to protect themselves from unpleasantness, the community is strictly organized, but the more Jonas learns about the past, the more unsettled he becomes with the present. This book is well known for exploring the confusing coming of age of a 12 year old, faced with the rules of a society that are confusing and mysterious.

This book has long been recommended to me by friends and young adults, and was well worth the read. It plays into all the strangeness of our society, questions our choices and looks at possible futures, just like good science fiction should. The characters are interesting and believable, and the mystery unfolds beautifully.


The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does the community define family? How is that different from how we define families?
  2. What is Jonas’ last straw for being able to live happily in his community?

Book Talking

What would you give up for a world that was perfect and smooth and orderly? What if someone else decided who your parents are, what your job would be, who you are going to marry? Would that make your life easier? But at what cost?


School Library Journal Interview

New York Times Interview




out of the dust

Hesse, Karen. Out of the Dust. Scholastic Press, 1997. 227 pages. $15.99 ISBN-13: 978-1439526866

Billie Jo lives in Oklahoma when the dust storms and depression hit and tells of her daily life in a series of poems.

Genre: Fiction, Poetry

Age Range 11-17

Rating: 4 out of 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Award, 1998

Scott O’Dell Award, 1998

Living in the dust bowl of depression era Oklahoma, Billie Jo tries to live up to her mother’s expectations. She plays the piano and helps out on her family’s farm, but as the years continue to fail to bring rain enough to water the crops, the family is finding it harder and harder to have hope. Billie Jo loses her mother to fire and has to find a way to continue on with just her quiet, withdrawn father, and without the music that used to comfort her, since her hands are horribly scarred and damaged. The emotional heaviness of the story is balanced by the poems that give little glimpses and small stories. The poems also give the experience of living through the dryness and horror of the dust storms that ravaged the Midwest in the 1930’s.

This book is a popular title among adults, and was a very sad, intense read. Many websites list its lower age range to be 9, but I think some of the events and themes are clearly for older youth. It is clear why it is an award winner, the poems are well written, the story within them compelling and well constructed.


Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why doesn’t Billie Jo go see a doctor about her hands once they start healing? How does that relate to the way she feels about her father failing to go to the doctor?
  2. Why does Billie Jo come home?



What does it feel like to live during a dust storm? Billie Jo can tell you. She finds solace in family and music, but what will happen if that is all taken away?


Author Website

Author Biography

2 Classic Award Winners

mixed up files

Konigsburg, E.L. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1967 162 pages. $15.34 ISBN-13: 978-0-689-20586-6

A sister and a brother run away to the Metropolitan Museum of art and try to solve the mystery of the artist of an angel sculpture.

Genre: Fiction

Age range: 8-13


Newbery Medal, 1968


When Claudia decides to run away, she wants to do it with adventure in mind; so plans carefully, takes her frugal brother, and rides the train to New York City to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Together she and Jamie hide carefully to avoid being caught while they spend the night in the exhibits, bathe in the fountain and learn by following tour groups around. What they find is a mystery, a new angel statue has been bought inexpensively by the museum but may be a Michelangelo. The only person with an answer is Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and her files.

I loved this book as a child and was delighted to find that it was just as enjoyable and charming as I remembered. It has the perspective of some precocious but interesting children setting out on their own in a big city, and this makes it appealing to its young audience.

 Book Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did Claudia run away?
  2. Jamie accuses Claudia of running away and still being too much of an adult? Do you think that is true? Do you  think that she should not have?

Booktalking Points:

Runaways hide out in a museum for over a week, while tring to solve a mystery!


Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

The sixty-eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin


Interview With author

 make way for ducklings

McClosky, Robert. Make Way for Ducklings. Viking, 1969. 65 pages. $16.19 ISBN-13: 978-0-670-45149-4

A family of ducks makes a home in Boston, first in the Charles River, then through a journey to the Boston Garden.

Genre: Picture Book Fiction

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 5 out of 5 for Quality. 5 out of 5 for Popularity.


Caldecott Medal, 1942


This is a classic of children’s literature that has stood the test of time and remained popular for 72 years. It starts with Mr. and Mrs. Duck looking for a place to nest in Boston. After finding delicious peanuts in the pond at the Boston Garden, they almost settle down, until Mr. Duck is nearly run over by a bike. Traveling further they find a small island in the Charles River just in time to hatch their 8 ducklings. Finally, Mrs. Duck travels with the ducklings to the Boston Garden, with the help of the friendly police. The illustrations are in brown pencil, and though the images are simple, they impart lovely details and emotional content. This book still manages to entertain and delight small children and the parents who were raised on this book.

This book is just an excellent book, with beautiful illustrations and fun text that is engaging and warmhearted. I chose this book to focus on because I have loved it since I was a child, and my son loves it as well. There are plenty of medal winners that fail to stand the test of time, that get lost in the stacks and never looked back on, but Make Way for Ducklings seems to always be a book that parents will pick up for their children.


Swimmy by Leo Lionni

Have You Seen My Ducklings by Nancy Tafuri

Booktalking Points:

Funny duckling names! Ducks vs. cars! Police stop traffic for duck family.


Interview with Author from Horn Book Review