I LOVE READING nearly every genre, especially books that widen my world-view, touch my heart, & have one or more characters I can root for. Some of my favorite characters must fight prejudice, an outside evil, or their own fears to save themselves or others from danger. Others are anxious, lonely, overwhelmed, or sad, and need to find their way. Some are caught up in adventures that seem larger than life. Others lead ordinary lives but are trying to find where they fit in. All have extraordinary spirits. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to list every character I ever fell in love with, so here’s a sample.
Anne of Green Gables, (and the other Anne books) by Lucy Maud Montgomery – When quirky, romantic Anne joins a spinster and her unassuming brother who’d expected a boy orphan, not a girl, she’s determined to make the best of things in early 1900’s Prince Edward Island.
Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins – Chiko and Tu Reh, two brave boys fighting on opposite sides in modern day Burma, face tough decisions about friendship, family, and loyalty with strength and grace.
Beka Cooper – Terrier, first in a wonderful Tortall trilogy by Tamora Pierce – Magic abounds in the amazing land of Tortall and its capital city, Corus, where independant, observant Beka joins as a rookie in the law-enforcing Provost’s Guard and doggedly fights for justice and helps protect the small and weak, no matter how much danger she’s in.
Casilda of the Rising Moon, by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño – Casilda, a half-Berber/half-Moo rish princess and saintly mystic, reaches out to royalty and peasants of all religions in eleventh century Spain.
Crispin and the Cross of Lead, by Avi – Declared a fugitive in fourteenth century England, Crispin escapes in fear of his life and his friendship with the rough, kind and aptly named Bear, a traveling juggler, deepens as they try to clear Crispin’s name.
Dave at Night, by Gail Carson Levine – Gutsy Dave sneaks from his orphanage to explore the neighborhood, make new friends and meet Harlem Renaissance musicians in late 1920s New York City.
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens – Naïve David meets a fascinating, colorful cast of characters—good, bad, and in-between, as he grows up in Victorian England.
Dodger, by Terry Pratchett – Street-smart hero Dodger is an orphan who survives, and thrives, in the sewer systems of Dickensian London in this clever mystery-adventure, with side-characters including Charles Dickens and Sweeney Todd.
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green – Hazel, depressed after three years fighting Stage IV cancer, is sent to a cancer support group, finding love with a wonderful character in his own right, Augustus (Gus), along with impossible possibilities and hope in a novel that’s brilliant, honest, and heartbreaking.
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson – Thoughtful Frannie questions beliefs in early 1970s New York City when a new boy arrives in school from the other side of the tracks.
The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale – Sensitive, courageous Princess Ani struggles against her own weaknesses and her enemies’ evil plots to fight for her birthright in this beautiful, character-driven fantasy.
Holes, by Louis Sachar – In this witty fable, the hapless Stanley faces hard-times in a hot, dry, juvenile camp in the desert, avoiding poisonous lizards and mean guards while digging holes for a crime he didn’t commit.
Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain – Huck, a story-weaving huckster with a good heart, escapes his drunken father to travel the Mississippi River in 1870s Missouri, encountering nice people and tricky con-artists along the way.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte – Outwardly plain but inwardly a lovely and radiant spirit, Jane perseveres through a cruel, harsh early life only to face further challenges and twists of fate in this beautifully crafted gothic novel set in Victorian England.
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry – Only ten, brave Annemarie not only helps in the Danish resistance during World War II, she protects her best friend Ellen from the Nazis in this tense but fulfilling adventure.
Ranger’s Apprentice: Book 1, The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan – Great series for boys and girls, with strong supporting characters too. Smaller than the other boys, Will seeks his place in a richly-woven, medieval world despite bullies, insecurities, setbacks, and evil warlords.
Rules, by Cynthia Lord – Embarrassed by her autistic younger brother, insecure Catherine wishes for a normal life and finds normal is what you make it in this lovely family story, woven expertly through with humor and longing.
See You at Harry’s, by Jo Knowles – Middle-child Fern feels insecure and invisibile in a family filled with strong personalities when tragedy strikes and she must deal with her grief as well as with school and her family in a novel both hopeful and poignant.
Seraphina, Rachel Hartman – An inventive debut fantasy about logical, musical Seraphina, who aches with a hidden secret that may be her undoing as she tries to figure out which side is the right side after a member of the royal family is assassinated.
A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park – Orphan Tree-ear’s journey takes an unexpected turn when he becomes an apprentice potter in twelfth century Korea–but he never gives up.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson – After suffering a terrible trauma, talented artist Melinda is depressed and feels all-alone in a place you don’t want ever want to feel alone in–high school–in this deeply moving novel.
Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli – Stargirl arrives at dull Mica Area High School with her own brand of sunshiny uniqueness, sparking a first romance with ordinary Leo, along with hopes for change in the status-quo.
The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo – When cast from his castle home by his fellows into the dungeon, Despereaux, a scholarly, big-earred, misfit mouse, never gives up hope as he works to forge his destiny which is strangely intertwined with a simple girl, a princess, and a rat.
Wild Magic, The Immortals quartet, by Tamora Pierce – In another superbly-crafted fantasy series populated with interesting characters, animals, birds, and mythical gods, empathetic Daine’s ability to talk to wild creatures helps her fight evil rulers and mythical beings alike in a land that you’ll love dwelling in as you read.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare – Colorful, plain-spoken Kit, sent to live with her Aunt’s strict family in Puritan, 1787 Wethersfield, CT, stands up to prejudice to help a Quaker neighbor.
Wonder, by R. J. Palacio – After a number of surgeries and home-schooling, lovable Auggie joins a regular fifth grade class. His deepest wish is to not stand-out, but his face is so deformed many who meet him avoid him, or worse. Also told from the viewpoint of several friends and Auggie’s sister, this sad, funny, emotional, and beautiful story may change your life.