These absorbing middle-grade reads have a timeless, almost old-fashioned appeal, with stories sure to be classics. And with Newbery award-winners in the mix, this lineup gets 5 stars.

The Boy on the Porch

By Sharon Creech; HarperCollins; 151 pages; $16.99

Just seeing the name Sharon Creech cemented to me how good this little book, The Boy on the Porch, would be. The heartwarming tale of a young farm couple who discover a sleeping little boy on their porch, Creech’s beautiful story is a calm, reassuring story for 8- to 11-year-olds, and is a rare timeless tale that will appeal to boys and girls alike.

Jacob can’t speak, and is with John and Marta for quite awhile, and they learn to love him and care for him as their own. Then Jacob’s harsh, stern father comes to take him back. It’s then that they decide to care for needy foster children in their home, though they are always pining for Jacob and wondering how he’s doing.

With a vintage farmland setting, loving old beagle pet and country accents, The Boy on the Porch is a quick page-turner sure to hook youngsters. At the end of the lovely book, Jacob returns for a visit, sure to wrap up Creech’s heart-tugging winner with a smile.


By Ellie Rollins; Razorbill/Penguin; 309 pages; $16.99

The author of Zip returns with Snap, a zesty tale of a girl and her best friend, who take pet pony Sancho on a high-stakes journey down the Mississippi River.

Danya Quixote and her friend, Pia, are guided by a list of heroic tasks taken from one of her estranged author grandmother’s books; they encounter alligators and Louisiana casinos on their way to Florida, where her abuelita lives.

Some of their tasks? Receive supernatural aid, speak to a prophet, rescue someone suffering an injustice and give chase to the enemy.

With a lively, often funny way of storytelling, Rollins has created a pair of friends who learn a lot along their journey, especially that real treasure isn’t in a box of money, but inside each of them.

Adventurous girls will especially be thrilled by this exciting read.

One Year in Coal Harbor

By Polly Horvath; Schwartz & Wade; 216 pages; $16.99

Polly Horvath’s 2008 book, Everything on a Waffle, was a Newbery Honor Book, and this sequel, One Year in Coal Harbor, is also award-winning.

Primrose Squarp, the invincible heroine of the first book, returns to Coal Harbor to try to fix everything — Uncle Jack’s and Miss Bowzer’s relationship, the logging of the local mountains, and especially Ked, a local foster child turned best friend.

Horvath’s down-home way of writing is hilariously endearing (she calls some tangly-haired, nonmeat eaters “vegetarian war orphans”), and incredibly witty and clever. Readers will fall in love (or awe) with everybody they encounter in this amazing tale.

Part Pippi Longstocking, part To Kill a Mockingbird’s Scout, Horvath’s Primrose is a young female character readers will never forget.

Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green

By Helen Phillips; Delacorte Press; 298 pages; $17.99

Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green, another quirky, fabulous adventure starring girls, Helen Phillips’ new tale introduces a pair of sisters with no fear but tons of smarts and heart. Mad and Roo brave the Amazon jungle to search for their father, missing after taking a job to track birds in Central America.

Prompted to action by “the Very Strange and Incredibly Creepy Letter” (which doesn’t sound like their father at all), the girls journey to Lava Bird Volcano to find their dad on their own. Along the way they make some unusual friends, face lots of trouble and get closer to each other.

With mystery, high-energy action and tons of adventure, this jungle cruise brings to mind a sort of Raiders of the Lost Ark, this time starring feisty sisters.

— Lee Littlewood writes the Kids’ Home Library column for Creators. The San Diego wife and mom’s pure love of children’s literature helps her stay interested in words and pictures meant for tots to teens. Click here to contact her, or click here to read more columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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