A list of kids’ books rated by kids

Each term of my creative writing class, we study ten to fifteen books. I’m not big on analyzing a book to death (as a kid, those weeks of intensive study of a single book eventually sapped all the intrinsic joy out of it), but we do have lengthy discussion about a different title each week.

One of the main things I get my students to do is to rate the book out of ten and to explain their reasonings. I thought I would post the results of one my recent classes. This class consisted of nine kids ranging in age from ten to fourteen years old, and I’ve put the books with their average ratings, starting from the lowest and finishing with the highest.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect science. Different times of year (read busy times) can impact how a student engages with a book. Nonetheless . . . here are some great recommendations, and given the fact that the lowest scoring book received a 6.8/10 tells me they are all kid-approved!



Liar & Spy
By Rebecca Stead
Average rating: 6.8

This book features an unreliable narrator, something which my students didn’t have a lot of experience with. This confused some of them, but by and large, they enjoyed this twist. This book also sparked great conversations—just who exactly is the liar and who is the spy?

* * *


The Cabinet of Wonders
By Marie Rutoski
Average rating: 7.0

I have long loved this book, which is sort of a fictional retelling of the myth of the famous clock in the old town square in Prague. Of course, the real story about the clock doesn’t feature a very cool book-reading mechanical spider—which, no surprise, turned out to be most students’ favorite character.

* * *



Young Houdini: The Magician’s Fire
By Simon Nicholson
Average rating: 7.2

This is another story that riffs off something real—this time a real person, and imagines what Harry Houdini’s early years were like. This book features interesting characters and a  great, action-packed beginning. (If there’s one thing my students complain about, it’s slow beginnings; but this book delivered on that front.)

* * *



Hate That Cat
By Sharon Creech
Average rating: 7.3

This is another long-time favorite of mine, and I wish my students had liked it more. It’s a novel told in poetic format, so a bit of a challenge if you are not in a certain frame of mind. It’s an absolutely beautiful story.

* * *


By Scott Westerfeld
Average rating: 7.4

Action, drama, sumptuous illustrations, and a deliciously-conceived world, this book imagines what World War I would have been like if history had gone a bit differently. As the awesome book trailer states: “Do you oil your war machines . . . or feed them?” I had the chance to meet Scott Westerfeld in person, and really loved hearing about his creative process.

* * *


How To Catch a Bogle
By Catherine Jinks
Average rating: 7.5

This book is a recent favorite of mine. Author Catherine Jinks really captures Victorian era London and has a lot of fun playing with bogle mythology. The lingo and setting details make this story pop.

* * *


The Boundless
By Kenneth Oppel
Average rating: 7.6

It seems we read a lot of books this term that took historical situations and applied a fantastical element. In this tale, author Kenneth Oppel imagines that the Titanic of trains is whisking across Canada. Along the way the characters encounter staples of Canadian mythology, such as the Sasquatch. A lot of fun and action, and told in a compelling present tense style.

* * *


How To Steal A Dog
By Barabar O’Connor
Average rating: 7.7

There is a distinctive and easy-going voice in this book that invites you in and doesn’t let you go. This book sparked interesting conversations about different issues regarding homelessness and ethical dilemmas.

* * *


Inside Out & Back Again
By Thanhha Lai
Average rating: 8.0

I suppose the other thing we read a lot of this year were books told in poetry format. My students loved the way author Thanhha Lai played with language and many of them could relate to the experience of immigrating to a different country.

* * *


The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale
By Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright
Average rating: 8.1

This book is based on the London pub (which is still there—I’ve been to it several times) where the likes of Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson used to frequent. In fact, Dickens is a character in the story, though the main characters are the cats, mice, and ravens. Similar to How to Catch a Bogle, the Victorian dialect really help make this story feel like you are stepping into the world. The illustrations are also gorgeous.

* * *


By Paul Fleischman
Average rating: 8.2

I love this book, but am a little surprised that it rated so high, because in the past I’ve had classes who were turned off by the multiple points of view. Truth be told, some students in this class weren’t crazy about these different voices either—but they loved the symbolism of the community garden and each could relate to different characters.

* * *


The Gospel Truth
by Caroline Pignat
Average rating: 8.3

I picked this book off the shelf long before it was nominated for—and won—the Governor-General’s award, so felt pretty smug about it afterwards for my good instincts. Of course, my students really care if a book is award-winning unless they already like it. This is another book told in poetic form, drawing on the power of different character perspectives and voices. My students adored this book.

* * *


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s library
By Chris Grabenstein
Average rating out of 10: 9.2

I’ve yet to find a student who didn’t love this book. Inevitably, it grabs you with its fascinating concept, celebration of literature, and fast-moving fun-filled action. You’ve probably heard of this book already, but think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets books. I had the opportunity to meet Chris Grabenstein earlier this year, and he was one of the kindest authors I’ve ever met.

* * *

The Tiger Rising

The Tiger Rising
By Kate DiCammillo
Average rating: 9.4

Well, what can you say? It’s hard to beat Newbery award-winning Kate DiCamillo. I actually thought no book would top Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, but this was the last book we read for the season and it swooped in with its powerful symbolism, poetic language, and snatched away the crown (though just barely). This book sometimes is overshadowed by DiCamillo’s other successful book (Because of Winn-Dixie, Flora & Ulysses, The Tale of Despereaux), but it is beautifully told.







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