My Favorite Books and Why

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Plot Summary: A stunning and brilliantly realized future world in which individuality has been crushed is the theme of Ayn Rand's bestselling masterpiece, "Anthem". Rand presents her tale of a man who dares to make individual choices, to seek knowledge in a dark age, to love the woman of his choice. In a society in which people have no name, no independence, and no values, he is hunted for the unpardonable crime: having the courage to stand above the crowd.

Why It's A Favorite: The thought that "I" could be a foreign concept never occurred to me. Until I read this book, I had taken my individuality for granted. I was a typical disgruntled teenager wanting to be just like everyone else. Then, I began to think of people as individuals, with different traits and different choices. I looked at my own individuality, and began to see the beauty behind it.

Beauty by Robin McKinley
Plot Summary: A retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

Why It's A Favorite: This is the first fairy tale retelling I'd read that looked at things from a more grown-up perspective. I found it intriguing, and it opened up a new world of fairy tale retellings, and new ways of thinking about old ideas.

Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
Plot Summary: London is poised on the brink of World War 11. Timid, scrawny Willie Beech -- the abused child of a single mother -- is evacuated to the English countryside. At first, he is terrified of everything, of the country sounds and sights, even of Mr. Tom, the gruff, kindly old man who has taken him in. But gradually Willie forgets the hate and despair of his past. He learns to love a world he never knew existed, a world of friendship and affection in which harsh words and daily beatings have no place. Then a telegram comes. Willie must return to his mother in London. When weeks pass by with no word from Willie, Mr. Tom sets out for London to look for the young boy he has come to love as a son.

Why It's A Favorite: This was the first story I'd read where the main character had been abused. The two main adults in this story, the mother and Mr. Tom, seem to be so similar in the beginning. Yet they are completely different in the end. What really hit home was this: hard times can make hard people, but one's true colors shine through when faced with others in need. Are you a strong soul who reaches out to them? Or do you turn away and care only for yourself?

The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks
Plot Summary: Jerome Foxworthy -- the Jayfox to his friends -- likes to think he can handle anything. He handled growing up without a father. He handled being the first black kid in school. And he sure can handle a basketball. Then Jerome meets Bix Rivers -- mysterious and moody, but a great athlete. So Jerome decides to teach Bix his game. He can tell that Bix has the talent. All he's got to do is learn the right moves.

Why It's A Favorite: Life requires so many things in order to get through it without too much struggle. So many people tell children that they should always tell the truth, no matter what. But is that how things really are? There's truth, and there's diplomacy. How much of truth is in diplomacy, and vice versa? What if a child isn't taught diplomacy? Does this make the world black and white? That seems to be the case for Bix Rivers, since he went from complete honesty to complete dishonesty after realizing that complete honesty doesn't always work. Sometimes you have to fumble through the gray areas in order to get to where you're going. I admire Bruce Brooks for bringing such intriguing questions to kids.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Plot Summary: Tree-ear is an orphan boy in a 12th-century Korean potters’ village. When he accidentally breaks a pot, he must work for the master to pay for the damage by setting off on a difficult and dangerous journey that will change his life forever.

Why It's A Favorite: What struck me the most in this story is Tree-ear's ability to salvage. More than just the salvaged shard of pottery at the end, though. His way of life was full of salvage: getting what he needs to survive, saving food for his companion by the river, but mostly finding more out of working with clay than the throwing. He constantly looks at new angles - an ability that probably arose from survival, but that he kept using in order to make his life better. Very admirable.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Plot Summary: Meg Murray, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. He claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a "tesseract," which, if you didn't know, is a wrinkle in time. Meg's father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father.

Why It's A Favorite: Before reading this story, it never occurred to me that my faults could also be strengths. I grew up constantly hearing how stubborn I was, like it's a bad thing. But this story showed me that I could redirect it to something more constructive. So I did, and probably accomplished ten times more in my life than I would have otherwise. For this, I profusely thank Madeleine L'Engle.