Styling Librarian: Top 10+ Realistic Fiction Favorites that Touched My Heart
Realistic Fiction – Touching Books: Here’s my current top 10 (ok, I went to 15, I admit it) FAVORITE Realistic Fiction books that have touched me, rocked my reading world, and honestly changed me for the better. These characters caught me up and had me hooked from beginning to end. I adored the character voices, felt them come alive, and was heartbroken to complete each of these books:
1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
2. See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles
3. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
4. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
5. Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
6. When Life Gives You O.J. by Erica S. Perl
7. Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
8. Warp Speed by Lisa Yee
9. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
10. Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy
11. Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee
12. Rocky Road by Rose Kent
13. Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord
14. Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
15. Bluefish by Pat Schmatz **mature language at times, more middle school appropriate.
What are the realistic fiction books that rocked your world? PLEASE comment below! I’d put most of these in the middle reader category for students (and adults!!) 3rd grade and up. Some are quite sensitive addressing abuse, death, physical impairments, and other well addressed, worth the read and discussion.
Here are details for each book:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio – My favorite character ever. No one compares. In addition, I adored the changes in voice throughout portions of the book. My favorite book ranking up there still with the dream of making time to read it again and again, read it aloud to a class, and have the budget to purchase for every friend I chat with about it! I still have that strong memory of beginning to weep when I realized I was close to the end of the book, I just didn’t want to leave that world (plus it was one gorgeous ending). Goodreads Summary: I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse. August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles – Gorgeous, touching, upsetting new book about a large family impacted by the family restaurant business. Goodreads Summary: Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, “All will be well,” is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt – One of my favorite reads this past week. Focus on a foster child who has a very difficult time adjusting to her new temporary life and especially allowing other people in emotionally. Goodreads Summary: Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong–until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She’s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they’ve given her have opened up a new future.
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper – Powerful read aloud, I highly recommend. I had one fourth grade teacher this year come running into me so upset and angry during one portion of her read aloud and a whole class come to me and thank me for telling their teacher to read it aloud. I’m happy it was selected for Oregon Battle of the Books 3rd-5th grade level. Goodreads Summary: From a multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winning author comes the story of a brilliant girl that no one knows about because she cannot speak or write.
Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin – This is a very different book that I personally connected with and saw numerous students in a better light after reading. Goodreads Summary: Jason Blake is an autistic 12-year-old living in a neurotypical world.Most days it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong. But Jason finds a glimmer of understanding when he comes across PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. Jason can be himself when he writes and he thinks that PhoneixBird – her name is Rebecca – could be his first real friend. But as desperate as Jason is to met her, he’s terrified that if they do meet, Rebecca will only see his autism and not who Jason really is. By acclaimed writer Nora Raleigh Baskin, this is the breathtaking depiction of an autistic boy’s struggles-and a story for anyone who has ever worried about fitting in.
When Life Gives You O.J. by Erica S. Perl – I’ve mentioned before how much I love this book. It is hilarious, touching, and a great example for kids on persistence and how advice is sometimes helpful and other times can make life very complicated. Goodreads Summary: For years, 10-year-old Zelly Fried has tried to convince her parents to let her have a dog. After all, practically everyone in Vermont owns a dog, and it sure could go a long way helping Zelly fit in since moving there from Brooklyn. But when her eccentric grandfather Ace hatches a ridiculous plan involving a “practice dog” named OJ, Zelly’s not so sure how far she’s willing to go to win a dog of her own. Is Ace’s plan so crazy it just might work . . . or is it just plain crazy?
Hound Dog True by Linda Urban – This fantastic book should be read aloud at 3rd/4th grade level. The character’s development is beautiful and consistent. My favorite thing is that a custodian is a role model with some brilliant wisdom that helps Mattie adapt to life. Goodreads Summary: A story about small acts of courage from the author of A Crooked Kind of Perfect. Do not let a mop sit overnight in water. Fix things before they get too big for fixing. Custodial wisdom: Mattie Breen writes it all down. She has just one week to convince Uncle Potluck to take her on as his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. One week until school starts and she has to be the new girl again. But if she can be Uncle Potluck’s apprentice, she’ll have important work to do during lunch and recess. Work that will keep her safely away from the other fifth graders. But when her custodial wisdom goes all wrong, Mattie’s plan comes crashing down. And only then does she begin to see how one small, brave act can lead to a friend who is hound dog true.
Warp Speed by Lisa Yee – I adore Lisa Yee’s creations but this book especially stood out with the bullying and friendship developments. Goodreads Summary: Lisa Yee returns to her core strength in older middle-grade fiction and the characters that made her famous in this “Diary of a Wimpy Trekkie.” Entering 7th grade is no big deal for Marley Sandelski: Same old boring classes, same old boring life. The only thing he has to look forward to is the upcoming Star Trek convention. But when he inadvertently draws the attention of Digger Ronster, the biggest bully in school, his life has officially moved from boring to far too dramatic . . . from invisible to center stage.
Bluefish by Pat Schmatz **mature language at times, more middle school appropriate. This is a very touching, thoughtful book with a teacher who I adored in addition to the characters. Goodreads Summary: Travis is missing his old home in the country, and he’s missing his old hound, Rosco. Now there’s just the cramped place he shares with his alcoholic grandpa, a new school, and the dreaded routine of school. But that’s before Travis meets Mr. McQueen, who doesn’t take “pass” for an answer—a rare teacher whose savvy persistence has Travis slowly unlocking a book on the natural world. And it’s before Travis is noticed by Velveeta, a girl whose wry banter and colorful scarves belie some hard secrets of her own. With sympathy, humor, and disarming honesty, Pat Schmatz brings to life a cast of utterly believable characters—and captures the moments of trust and connection that make all the difference.
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy – I loved this story. Goodreads Summary: In the tradition of SHABANU, DAUGHTER OF THE WIND and THE BREADWINNER, a beautiful debut about a daughter of Afghanistan discovering new friends and opportunities after the defeat of the Taliban. Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven from Afghanistan; a good relationship with her hard stepmother; and one day even to go to school, or to have her cleft palate fixed. Zulaikha knows all will be provided for her–”Inshallah,” God willing. Then she meets Meena, who offers to teach her the Afghan poetry she taught her late mother. And the Americans come to her village, promising not just new opportunities and dangers, but surgery to fix her face. These changes could mean a whole new life for Zulaikha–but can she dare to hope they’ll come true?
Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee – Prepare yourself for a little upsetting topic- dog abuse/dog fighting. Goodreads Summary: 11-year-old Mackenzie has got one friend in the whole world: Cash, his brown-eyed pit bull. His dad won the runt after a long night of drinking and gambling–ever since Mac’s mom died, that’s all he seems to do, and soon he erupts in a rage at the innocent pup, takes her away in the trunk of his car, and dumps her in the middle of nowhere. Mac vows to find Cash and bring her back home–he has to: All strays are about to be outlawed! Little does he know that while he searches for Cash, she’s surviving her own adventures and proving in the process that all dogs–even pit bulls–are born good.
Rocky Road by Rose Kent – Fantastic setting and characters with some food that made me drool. Goodreads Summary: Ice cream warms the heart, no matter what the weather. That’s the Dobson family motto. Whenever things get tough, they break out the special heart-shaped bowls and make sundaes. The road has been especially rocky lately for Tess and her deaf little brother, Jordan. Their plucky Texan mother talks big, but her get-rich-quick business schemes have only landed them in serious financial hot water. Ma’s newest idea is drastic. She abruptly moves the family to snowy Schenectady, New York, where she will use the last of their savings to open her dream business: an ice cream shop. (Too bad the only place she could find an apartment is in a senior citizens’ complex.) Tess wants to be excited about this plan, but life in Schenectady is full of new worries. Who will buy ice cream in their shop’s run-down neighborhood? What will happen when their money runs out? Worst of all is Ma herself-she’s famous for her boundless energy and grandiose ideas, but only Tess and Jordan know about the dark days when she crashes and can’t get out of bed. And Tess can’t seem to find the right words to talk to Ma about it. This moving story of family, community, and ice cream proves that with a little help from the people around us, life really can be sweet-and a little nutty-just like Rocky Road.
Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord – Loved the community and the fight for a quality school with characters who find any way they can to maintain what they believe is important. Goodreads Summary: The state of Maine plans to shut down her island’s schoolhouse, which would force Tess’s family to move to the mainland–and Tess to leave the only home she has ever known. Fortunately, the islanders have a plan too: increase the numbers of students by having several families take in foster children. So now Tess and her family are taking a chance on Aaron, a thirteen-year-old trumpet player who has been bounced from home to home. And Tess needs a plan of her own–and all the luck she can muster. Will Tess’s wish come true or will her luck run out?
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis – I just loved reading every minute of Emma Jean Lazarus’s awkward, inquiring, outstanding personality. Goodreads Summary: Emma-Jean Lazarus is a lovable oddball who thinks she can use logic to solve the messy everyday problems of her seventh-grade peers. It’s easy, she just follows the example of her late father, a brilliant mathematician. Of course, the more Emma-Jean gets involved, the messier her own life gets. Suddenly she’s no longer the person standing on the outside of all social interactions. But perhaps that’s a good thing?
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – It has been many, many years since I had time to read this book, but when I reflect back on books that really impacted me with strong characters and touching story lines, I couldn’t miss mentioning this title. Goodreads Summary: In a moving and highly engaging tale about the vagaries of adolescent peer pressure, Newbery Medal winner Jerry Spinelli tells the story of Stargirl, a high school student who is startlingly different from everyone else. The need to conform — and unabashed curiosity about those who don’t — are at the heart of this touching tale, which aptly demonstrates the peaks and pitfalls of popularity. Sixteen-year-old high school student Leo Borlock knows how to fit in at Mica High School. He plays the game like everyone else but is more enthralled than most when a new girl comes to school. Stargirl Caraway is her name, or at least the name she is using for now. And after 15 years of homeschooling, she is decidedly different from even the oddest high school students at Mica High. First there’s her unusual name, one in a long line of odd names that she has chosen to go by, ignoring her given name of Susan. Then there’s the way she looks, shunning makeup and wearing long granny dresses. But all of that is small potatoes when compared to her behavior, which is as weird and bizarre as any of the students at Mica High have ever seen…
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green ***COMPLETELY YA, including because I could not skip this brilliant book! High School appropriate (and adult of course)
Coming soon… my favorite Historical Fiction and Fantasy books that I adore for the same reasons I listed for Realistic Fiction but held back from posting about!
Want more book ideas and reviews? – Yes, I’m quite brief, but a prolific reader! Please visit me at Goodreads:
Also, please follow this blog through email updates – (do so to the right of this blog post), my Facebook page, comment, or meet up with me on Twitter. I appreciate all of the support, makes my day! One more thing: I’m thrilled when people “reblog” my blog on WordPress and share with others! Honored by all the wonderful followers.