(August 2, 2012)

"From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E.L. Konigsburg

Every child fantasizes about running away from home to teach his or her parents a lesson. One summer, 12-year-old Claudia showed me exactly how it could be done, in comfort and elegance. Claudia and her brother Jaime hop a train to New York City, enter the Metropolitan Museum of Art and live there for several days. They sleep on historical furniture, fish pennies out of the fountain and research a beautiful statue of unknown origin. Soon, the children set out to visit the mysterious Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, previous owner of the statute and the only one who can unlock its secret.

— Anne Riddick, Manning branch

"Miss Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney

"Miss Rumphius" is the story of a girl with three goals: go to faraway places, live beside the sea and do something to make the world more beautiful. When Alice Rumphius becomes an old woman, she reflects on her life and realizes that she has yet to make the world more beautiful. She decides to plant seeds everywhere she goes, leaving a trail of flowers behind her. It's a simple story with beautiful illustrations for kids who want to leave their mark on the world.

Jessie Hotaling, Rogers Park branch

"The Borrowers" by Mary Norton

Whenever I see dollhouse furniture, I still wonder how it might be useful to those tiny people who borrow what they need from giant "human beans." Fourteen-year-old Arrietty was my kind of girl: impetuous, curious and adventurous. I loved her for being so brave and such a faithful friend. Norton certainly must have known some borrowers herself, perhaps a girl like Arrietty, to write about them so well.

Janet Thompson, West Belmont branch

"A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle

I recently revisited this childhood favorite for a family book club program at the library. As a kid, I was enchanted by the fantastical creatures (Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, The Black Thing, IT) and faraway places of this book. My interests during this recent reading gravitated more toward the human characters and relationships. In particular, I was struck by Meg Murry's struggle to accept herself and her idealization of her father and subsequent disillusionment with him. Also, the book's themes of love and family struck me as being quite real and remarkably well-drawn. L'Engle's seamless layering of elements from multiple genres and her incorporation of varied themes from science and individualism to love and family make this a genuine classic.

Andy Cross, Merlo branch

"The Shrinking of Treehorn" by Florence Parry Heide

Treehorn has a problem: He's shrinking and he can't get anyone to believe him! His parents ask him to stop slouching at the dinner table, his bus driver is convinced that he is his younger brother and his teacher doesn't understand why he can't reach the water fountain. This sly picture book captures a feeling every kid knows: when adults just don't get it. Great for second- and third-graders, this book also resonates with older kids on days they feel a little bit small.

Shelley Hughes, Austin branch

"The Witch of Blackbird Pond" by Elizabeth George Speare

When I was 11, I read a book I still love and recommend to kids today. "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" tells the story of Kit, a teenager who must leave her beloved tropical home in Barbados and travel by sea to cold, gray, puritanical Connecticut, where she's seen as an outsider. When she finally makes friends with a special woman, she is brandished as an outcast during the dangerous era of witchcraft trials. Kit is forced to choose between heart and duty in this memorable tale of friendship and bravery that's still relevant today.

Elizabeth McChesney, Chicago Public Library, children and young adult services department

"The Wheel on the School" by Meindert DeJong

I always was (and am) drawn to shiny Newbery Medal stickers on books. One summer during elementary school, I discovered "The Wheel on the School" by Meindert DeJong. I really loved (and still do) that it was set in the Netherlands and told the story of six kids who saved the day for their entire community by finding a way to bring the lucky storks back. And what does a wheel have to do with it? You'll have to read to find out.