The New Classics

Recent titles worthy of joining your child’s permanent collection.


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Middle School & Young Adult

John Sexton’s Picks


By Laurie Halse Anderson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999)
Anderson’s first novel paints a heartbreaking portrait of an outcast high school freshman who isolates herself after her rape at a summer party. “No young-adult book grappling with topical issues has struck a chord more deeply or with as much acclaim,” Sexton says.


First Part Last

By Angela Johnson (Simon & Schuster, 2003)
“Johnson broke new ground in this lyrical tale of teen pregnancy,” he says, noting that the novel is unusual because it’s “told from the perspective of the teen father.”



The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party
By M.T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2006)
The book centers around Octavian, a slave whose adventures range from being
experimented on in a house of radicals to wearing an iron mask as a captive of the Revolutionary War. “In this startlingly original saga, Anderson created the first epic of young adult literature while exploring issues of intellect, freedom, loyalty, patriotism, and love,” Sexton says.


By Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins, 1999)
In this book, protagonist Steve is on trial for participating in the murder of a convenience-store clerk. “Uniquely framed as a screenplay inside a diary inside a novel, Monster works on many levels,” he says.

By David Almond (Delacorte, 1999)
The book’s main character seems to experience normal pre-teen struggles, but it all changes when he comes across Skellig, a fantastic being that is described as a cross between an angel and an owl. Says Sexton, “A seemingly simple tale of innocence, loss, and grief employs magical realism to shape the journey of a boy toward a deeper understanding of life.”


Emily Keating’s Picks

Edward Scissorhands
Directed by Tim Burton (20th Century Fox, 1990)
“Edward is the perfect outsider,” Keating says. And how: Poor Edward, in his black leather getup with long blades for fingers, sticks out miserably in Burton’s Technicolor suburbia. “Kids love this movie because they often feel like outsiders,” she says.

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Directed by Phillip Noyce (The Australian Film Commission, 2002)
This little Australian film, about the way the Australian government treats three Aboriginal girls, is a staple of the Jacob Burns educational curriculum. “It’s a look at racism outside the United States,” she says.

Spirited Away
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli, 2001)
Interest in anime, or Japanese animation, has exploded in the last decade, and there’s not a director in the field who’s more well-liked or respected than Hayao Miyazaki. “This film is vibrant, zany, and surreal,” she says.

Whale Rider
Directed by Niki Caro (ApolloMedia, 2002)
This film also takes place Down Under (New Zealand this time) and is about a tribe of indigenous people and their inherent stereotypes. This time, a young girl has to prove that she’s worthy of becoming the chief. “The main character stands up for herself,” Keating says, “and believes that girls aren’t second to boys.”



What To Read Next

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