As a librarian I am constantly encouraging other readers to try some of the popular stories from my childhood. The ones that I still have in my personal collection that I pick up when I want to revisit the familiar worlds and favorite people.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Alien Secrets | Annette Curtis Klaus | 1999
Alien Secrets was one of my favorite science fiction adventures. It featured a young independent girl, Puck, who craved adventure, but also missed her parents. She had spirit and a lonely soul that allowed her to show kindness to another person who remained the ‘outsider’.
Puck meets a young alien on board of a space ship and decides to help him in his mission of finding his stolen property. It soon escalates into a dangerous adventure that touches upon slavery and appropriation of cultures.
Of course the adults can’t be trusted, but that’s part of what makes it a great novel for tweens and teens. I enjoy going back to re-read Puck’s adventure (and I still want a sequel).
Heir Apparent | Vivian Vande Velde | 2002
I will admit that a lot of my childhood reading was focused on Vivian Vande Velde. She was able to capture the strong female character that I wanted to be. They were always witty, vulnerable, and strong enough to reach their goals.
Heir Apparent is more comedy laced with science fiction. Giannine has parents that are more wrapped in their own drama than their daughter so that’s how she ends up alone in a virtual reality arcade playing a game via that gift certificate her father had his secretary mail to her. It turns out that the protestors outside of the arcade have caused damage to the servers and now she has to beat the game or suffer brain damage due to overheating.
It’s fun. She deals with the situations with a dry humor, but the frustration is there. I still find myself laughing at the jokes no matter how many times I re-read the book.
Dragon’s Bait | Vivian Vande Velde | 1997
I mentioned my love for Velde right? Dragon’s Bait was one of the books that first instilled my love for dragons. And really became the book that I compare all other dragon books to.
Alys is a teen who just wants her father to get better, their local village has been inflicted with a coughing sickness that has been a cause of recent deaths. She remains optimistic that their situation will improve. Of course that’s when a rival businessman calls a priest in to discredit Alys and make her to be a witch. Which is how she ends up tied to a stake and left out for a dragon to eat.
That’s when things get interesting. Alys makes a bargain with the dragon, who can shift shapes into all beasts (including humans), for revenge against those who have wronged her. It’s a short book, but fabulous.
Howl’s Moving Castle | Diana Wynne Jones | 2001
This is the book that I stayed in the car to finish reading as my parents went into the restaurant to eat. This is the book that when it was over I immediately sighed with pleasure and went back to page one. I loved everything about this novel, from the sarcastic protagonist to the demon bound in the fireplace.
Which makes it all the worse by the horrible anime that happened. I felt like the anime just took tiny pieces of the book and then made it about anti-war. When I read the book I felt that the characters were the story. And how while me might think that because we are the oldest we have to take care of everyone, that those places that society has in mind for us aren’t true. And we can break social constraints to find our own paths. That’s what made me love the book and that’s why I still recommend it to people.
Companions of the Night | Vivian Vande Velde | 1996
When people ask me about good vampire books I always point them to this novel. It has a vampire that fully admits to killing people and enjoying it. While he is almost the anti-hero, the romance is secondary to what is happening in the story.
Kerry lives with her little brother and her dad. Her mother just left the family and took the washer and dryer which is how Kerry ends up the laundromat in the middle of the night, her young brother leaves his favorite stuffed animal there and though she just got her learner’s permit she goes to the laundromat to fetch the animal.
What should have been a simple task ends up with her being held hostage with a tied up college boy by people who think they are vampire hunters. Turns out the boy is actually a vampire and by helping him escape Kerry has put herself and her family into extreme danger. She pairs up with the vampire to help rescue her family.
Again short story, but beautiful. I wish Vivian Vande Velde wrote sequels!