Historical Fiction Books Your Middle Grade Readers Can Learn From

Historical fiction is a great way to get younger readers interested in history while still being engaged with a creative plot. These are our 9 favorite historical fiction novels that any middle grade student would love!

Snow Treasure: This is a piece of fiction for history lovers. The story is set in Norway during the second world war and follows a group of Norwegian children and their beloved sleds transporting gold past the German sentries to be taken safely to America. Of course, they encounter many complications in their seemingly brilliant plan, but the kids continue to work together to elude the Nazis that have taken over their home country.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: Hugo is an orphan, a clock keeper, and a thief in this steampunk story set in 1930s Paris. He sets out to fix an automaton his father left behind, a task which leads him to a run-in with an irritable old toymaker and a friendship with the man’s goddaughter, Isabelle. By working together, the two friends discover the secrets of their parents and guardians, as well as the world of classic film. This hefty 533-page book won the Caldecott Medal, an award for picture books, because of its 284 pages of spell-binding illustrations.

The Great Brain: A quick-paced, funny, and sentimental read, “The Great Brain” is about Tom, a clever boy growing up in the early 1900’s. He is idolized by the narrator, his younger brother, J.D. The scrapes the boys get themselves into are laugh-out-loud funny, and the historical setting teaches kids about the past in a fun, smart way. Action-packed, Tom’s intelligence and quick-thinking keep the plot moving and make for an enjoyable read. The relationship between the brothers is sweet and well-portrayed, and the shenanigans they get themselves into are reminiscent of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. A great book for anyone who loves stories about brothers, fun historical time periods, and mischievous misadventures!

Esperanza Rising: Esperanza always lived a luxurious life: she had her own servants, beautiful dresses, and a big house. But when tragedy strikes during this Great Depression period tale, Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee to California to a camp for Mexican farm workers. Of course, Esperanza isn’t used to financial problems or hard labor, and the devastating change shocks her. Will she be able to rise above what has happened to her and her mother?

Rooftoppers: Sophie was a baby found floating in the English Channel in a cello case after a devastating shipwreck. Despite remembering her mother waving for help that day, her guardian assures her that her mother is almost positively dead. Sophie, however, holds on to that shred of hope and flees to Paris, using the address on the cello case to search for her mom, and befriending a group of helpful rooftoppers as Sophie races against time to find the truth.

The Mighty Miss Malone: Deza is incredibly brilliant. But when the Great Depression hits and no jobs are left for the African-American men in her town, her father leaves to find work and Deza’s whole family embarks on a search for him. As their family continues to separate, fall apart, and find themselves in unfortunate circumstances, Deza’s hope of finding her father and redeeming the life she had before the depression begins to fade.

One Came Home: One Came Home hold multiple awards for its incredible themes and story. In Wisconsin, 1871, Georgie says something she definitely shouldn’t have and her elder sister Agatha leaves her family. When an unidentifiable corpse shows up in Agatha’s clothes, everyone assumes it is she who is dead. But Georgia refuses to buy it. Leaving her family and the body behind, she sets out on a journey through the western frontier, stopping at nothing to find the truth–and, hopefully, her older sister alive.

Salt: Anikwa and James: just two boys in 1812, except one is an Indian and one is a colonist. Tensions are rising, trade has been put to a halt, and a war is brewing. The boys are caught between what matters most and where their loyalties lie. Will their friendship find a way to survive, and more importantly, will they?

The best Sci-Fi books of middle grade fiction

The sci-fi genre is perfect to get any kid’s imagination going—especially those that are reluctant to read! Check out these 7 new and well-loved stories that are gateways to new worlds for your kids to explore.

Eager: Eager takes place in a Jetsons-esque future, where intelligent robots serve society's elite class. Gavin Bell comes from a middle class family that decides to replace their old robot, Grumps, with a new, experimental robot named Eager. Eager turns out to be much more than they anticipated - he's able to learn, lie, and laugh! When other robots kidnap high-up officials, it's up to Gavin and Eager to save the day. This book delivers charm and chuckles, and, at times, makes us question what makes someone human.

The Giver: This sci-fi novel is an oldie but a goodie. Jonas lives in a utopian society that has eradicated all things that cause difference between people, in hopes of eliminating all conflict and pain. Jonas, however, is different from the rest. He is chosen to receive all knowledge of the world before everything was the same; a world with color, with love, but also with pain. As he realizes how much everyone in his world doesn’t know, he must decide what to do with his incredible knowledge and the restricted world he lives in.

When You Reach Me: Much deserving of its Newberry medal, When You Reach Me follows sixth grader Miranda Sinclair around 1970’s New York after she receives unusual notes requesting things of her. The story weaves in her personal life and struggles with this mystery, and even elements of science fiction and time travel. Kids love the suspense and relating to the common thoughts and feelings Miranda sees herself facing.

The Missing Series: There is a group of children far different than any others in the world. Some knew they were adopted; some didn’t. But none of them belonged in this time period. They were all stolen out of history by time travelers attempting to save them from an ill fate. Now, the kids must find where and when they were from and resume their true selves before all of time is destroyed. Historical, Adventurous and imaginative, these eight books are sure to keep you interested.

House of Robots: Sammy’s house really is full of robots. Unfortunately for him, his mother insists that he bring her most recent robot, E, to school with him. Sammy worries that E could be the death of his social life, but he never expected the incredibly secret the robot has that could change everything. The House of Robots series holds up James Patterson’s reputation as a creative, master storyteller.

A Wrinkle in Time: This Newberry medalist is sure to twist your mind. Meg is the child of two scientists, one of which has disappeared. Her father was working on fifth dimension time travel before he was gone without a trace; and now, it seems, the time has come for her and her friends to get the bottom of it all and rescue her father somewhere in the mysterious reaches of time and space.

The Keepers series: This is a sci-fi series full of mystery and excitement. Horace is a young boy who discovers a secret underground place called the House of Answers, which is filled with strange objects and stranger people. When he discovers he has his own astonishing talent and works to figure out his place in this new, upside-down world, things get very dangerous very fast. Will Horace use his mysterious abilities and objects of the House of Answers to save himself and his future?

Our Top 9 Realistic Fiction books

Reading realistic fiction is a great way for young readers to learn to relate to characters and really delve into the world that books create. Check out these 9 realistic fiction books that are packed with life lessons and emotional connections for middle grade readers.

counting by 7s book cover

Counting by 7s: This beautiful story is of Willow Chance, an unordinary twelve-year-old who doesn’t quite fit in. When her beloved adoptive parents die in a car crash, her whole world is shifted and she has to learn how to navigate this dramatically changed life. Willow’s tale is one of loss and pain, but more importantly, one of triumph, love, self-discovery, and individuality.

freak the mighty book cover

Freak the Mighty: These two boys are not who you would expect to have a powerful friendship. Alas, the giant outcast Maxwell, and Kevin, who suffers with Morquio syndrome, defy the odds. While fighting bullies and navigating the challenges of middle school, the dynamic duo finds themselves on a variety of adventures. The lessons, tales, and themes throughout the book are both incredibly important and incredibly emotional.

Jelly Belly:Poor Ned is just eleven years old, and gets made fun of by the other kids at school for being overweight. Taunted with the nickname “Jelly Belly,” Ned doesn’t want to let down his grandma, who shows her love for him by feeding him delicious treats. Concerned, Ned’s parents send him to Camp Lean-Too, a “diet camp,” where he has to make friends and conquer his fears around food. A sweet story of personal growth featuring some hilarious episodes, it has refreshingly “true to life” dialogue and a great protagonist any kid can relate to!

the crossover book cover

The Crossover: This popular Newberry Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winner is sure to be a hit for any young reader. The poetic pages send you into the world of two twin brothers navigating their love for basketball, the perils of junior high, and the problems within their relationship with each other. The Crossover’s overwhelmingly positive views attest to its relatable yet powerful themes, words, and plotline.

rules book cover

Rules: Full of themes surrounding family, mental disability, adolescence, bullying, and love, Rules has lessons that everyone needs to learn. It follows a young girl through her interactions with her little brother, who struggles with autism, and the impacts his disability has on her life. She struggles to find herself as well as accept her family members as who they are, and the readers get to watch her grow in character in this beautiful, coming-of-age story.

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Wonder: Auggie has been homeschooled his whole life because of the amount of surgeries he has gone through for his facial deformities. Now, starting middle school at a private school for the first time, Auggie encounters his own self-consciousness and the fear and hatred from other kids because of how he looks. He navigates self-love within the difficult environments he finds himself in, as well as teaching those around him the life lessons they didn’t know they needed to learn.

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Stargirl: Stargirl is a puzzling teenager with a quirky wardrobe and a quirkier personality who captures the attention of the narrator Leo and his entire high school. After years of homeschooling, Stargirl is faced with the changing whims of high school popularity and bullying, and she struggles with wanting to make other people happy while still being herself. Winner of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, this well-loved story about nonconformity and spreading kindness will provide avenues for great discussion with your children.

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Out of My Mind: In this novel, we get to hear the thoughts inside Melody’s mind, a girl who has cerebral palsy and can’t communicate anything to those around her. Some judge her, some think she’s stupid, and some think she has no ability to think on her own. She struggles with other’s opinions of her, including her parents, who were afraid Melody’s younger sister would be born with disabilities too. Through this unique perspective, we get to learn about those who we often judge without thinking, and perhaps get an opportunity to change our hurtful opinions.

Amina's Voice cover

Amina's Voice: This novel captures diversity, friendship, family, and growing up all in one. Amina is a Pakistani-American, and it is clear to her all the differences between her and those around her. She wrestles with decisions as to whether she should change herself in order to fit in in middle school, or cling to her family’s culture. When Amina’s mosque is vandalized, these anxieties are heightened, and this lovable protagonist works to discover who she is and who she needs to be.

The Best Fantasy Books for Imaginative Readers

Fantasy is one of the broadest, most exciting genres in middle grade fiction. Here are just a few of the best stories to enthrall any young reader in an out-of-this-world tale that still hits home with powerful emotions.

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The Girl Who Could Fly: This is an astounding New York Times bestseller and multi-award winner. Piper is not your average farm girl. In fact, despite the warnings of her parents and the fear of those in the neighborhood, Piper McCloud flies. Speculations arise of what is wrong with this strange girl, and soon enough, she is taken to a government facility filled with spectacular people just like her. She must navigate her own abilities, as well as make friends with others who have peculiarities all their own. But this place isn’t all that it seems, and Piper and her friends soon develop a plan to escape.

Savvy book cover

Savvy: This incredible fantasy keeps kids turning pages. Mibs is in a special family; they all have their own magic power, their “savvy”. It doesn’t come until their 13th birthday, which is coming up for Mibs real soon. She sees the incredible things her siblings, parents and family can do, and she just can’t wait until she knows what her savvy is, too. As grave circumstances arise and Mibs’ life catapults into one she didn’t expect, now more than ever, she needs her power.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon cover

The Girl Who Drank the Moon: Each year, one baby is offered to the witch in the woods to keep her away from the town. Unbeknownst to them, this witch, Xan, is a kind soul. She rescues the infants and finds them loving families to go to, feeding them starlight before she does. In a simple accident, she feeds one moonlight, giving her unexpected, magical powers. People of all ages enjoy this novel’s creativity, imagination, and heart.

Karina cover

Karina: This enchanting book weaves together relatable emotions and situations with elements of fantasy and mystery. Karina Morgan was left scarred from an accident when she was a baby, and the girls at school bully her relentlessly for it. Life seems bleak until she comes across a mysterious cave near her home, and its inhabitants change her life forever.

the book's cover

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: September is a 12-year-old girl from Omaha, Nebraska, who is whisked away to Fairyland one night by a gentlemanly Green Wind. She meets all sorts of fantastical beings, such as gnomes, witches, and wyverns who all need her help to appease the capricious Marquess of Fairyland. It’s a magically descriptive book with beautiful illustrations that is reminiscent of such classics as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Readers can return to Fairyland with the series’ other four books.

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The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell: For their twelfth birthday, Alex and Conner Bailey’s grandmother gives them a collection of fairy tales. The book turns out to be a portal to another world, however, where the twins encounter many beloved fairy tale characters. They soon realize, however, that they must find their way out of the Land of Stories before they get caught up in a war between villains and heroes. This story mixes classic tales with modern day kids in a six-book series that is like Once Upon a Timefor middle grade.

The Borrowers: “The Borrowers” is a charming classic story about the Clock family, who are completely normal except for one thing – they are miniature! Living inside the walls of an old English manor house, Arrietty Clock has a fairly boring existence with her family, “borrowing” items from the normal-sized humans who live in the house, until one day the unthinkable happens – she is seen by the boy upstairs! The wonderful strangeness of the Borrowers’ existence evokes the style of Roald Dahl. Kids will love to explore the lives of these mini-humans, and the determination and forthright Arrietty is a great female heroine for young girls!

7 Fun Books to Keep Your Kids Entertained

For those looking for a funny summer read, heartening adventure, or puzzling plot line to keep a young mind reeling, these books encompass a wide range of times, topics, tales for any reader!

Danny the Champion of the World cover

Danny the Champion of the World: While definitely not the most famous book by Roald Dahl, this book is a fantastic story of suspense, adventure, and excitement. It begins begins as a simple story about Danny who lives in a gypsy wagon with his eccentric and loving father who seems to be perfect in every way. The real the fun begins when Danny learns about his father's secret hobby — the illegal poaching of pheasants from the land of a rich obnoxious neighbor.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library cover

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library: Mr. Lemoncello is the best game-maker in the world, and he just built a new library in the town of one of his biggest fans, Kyle Keeley. Kyle is lucky enough to be one of 12 kids invited to the library first for a night of fun and games, but when the morning comes and they can’t get out, they realize they must play the ultimate game in order to escape. In an incredibly unique twist, the author has the reader participate in solving the crazy puzzles, riddles and clues of the game!

cover image of Book Scavenger

Book Scavenger: This series is undoubtedly playful and unique. Emily and James participate in Book Scavenger, a game in which you must solve puzzles to find Garrison Griswold’s famed novels hidden all over the country. But in an unfortunate turn of events, Griswold has been attacked, and Emily and James are in grave danger, They must solve the puzzles that Griswold had left before his attackers come for them, too. . . .

Book cover of The Candymakers.

The Candymakers: Four brilliant kids are chosen to compete in the ultimate candy making competition in this whimsical book that will be sure to satisfy young readers with a sweet tooth! Told from the perspective of each of the four contestants, this book is full of juicy twists that will keep the reader turning those pages. While some characters take a while to warm up to, young readers quickly learn that there is much more to everyone than meets the eye, and that even the nastiest people sometimes have the kindest hearts.

Fortunately, the Milk cover

Fortunately, the Milk: An odd title for an equally odd but impossibly hilarious tale. Dad forgot the milk again, and when he goes to the store to get it the next morning, it takes him a very long time to come back. When he finally does, he returns with the milk and a strange story of what happened to him. The story includes a time travelling dinosaur and the Queen of the Pirates, among other things. The book is a must-read for those who love to laugh and feed their imagination!

Chicken Trek cover

Chicken Trek: Like the best of Dr. Seuss, “Chicken Trek: The Third Strange Thing That Happened to Oscar Noodleman,” is a wonderfully weird and loopy journey revolving around young Oscar, who unfortunately breaks his inventor cousin Dr. Prechtwinkle’s prize camera. In order to earn the money to pay back his cousin, Oscar embarks on a rambunctious mission to win a nationwide chicken-eating contest. The task? To eat a "Bagful o' Chicken" at every single “Chicken in a Bag” fast food restaurant in America. The fun, cartoonish illustrations do a great job of highlighting the comedic moments in the story, as Oscar and Dr. Prechtwinkle race across the country in a Pickle-Car. A wacky road trip book that will have you laughing out loud!

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The Blackthorn Key: Christopher Rowe is happily apprenticed to the well-respected apothecary, Master Blackthorn, who loves to test Christopher’s skills with new recipes and puzzles. When a series of apothecaries are murdered in the name of a mysterious cult, however, Christopher is called upon to use his skills to solve a cryptic message from Master Blackthorn and protect his dangerous discovery. Set in 1660s London, this fast-paced, adventurous middle grade read balances light-hearted humor with heavier plot elements and a lot of page-turning action. For readers who can’t get enough, there are two more books in the series.

8 Great Books for Adventurous Kids

These books are sure to spark a sense of adventure in any young reader. From tales by Survivor host Jeff Probst to well-loved classics by Roald Dahl, adventure stories are great reads for anyone’s taste.

Stranded: This is the first book in an exciting series by Jeff Probst, the host of the Survivor TV show. Four kids are boating on a family vacation when they're caught in a huge storm. After being shipwrecked on a jungle island in the South Pacific, they must figure out how to survive. There's lots of action and your kids will love to think about what they would do in this situation. The book ends with a disaster, so be prepared to buy books 2 and 3 to get the rest of the story!

The League and the Lantern: Jake Herndon is an adventurous kid who has had some trouble fitting in and making friends. He's trying to get a fresh start at a new school and meets a couple of classmates who are smart and funny. Suddenly the 3 kids find themselves in the midst of a dangerous mystery that dates back to the Civil War. It's like a kids version of the movie National Treasure. Plenty of action, humor, and suspense with some American history thrown in.

Holes: This winner of the Newbery Medal is never boring. The story is about Stanley Yelnats, who has been sent to a boys' detention center where the boys are required to spend every day digging huge holes in a dried-up lake. The work is supposedly about building character in the kids, but Stanley soon realizes that the warden has another motive, and the mystery begins. It's a quirky book with great characters, funny scenes, and surprising plot twists.

The Hunt for the Well Hidden Treasure: Four seventh graders are thrilled when evidence of a legendary treasure is discovered. Their town is overrun with eager treasure hunters including some ruthless professional organizations. Facing long odds, the four kids decide to join the hunt. The mystery deepens as they hunt for clues, decipher historical landmarks, and match wits with their competitors. The ending is suspenseful and thrilling!

Danny the Champion of the World cover

Danny the Champion of the World: While definitely not the most famous book by Roald Dahl, this book is a fantastic story of suspense, adventure, and excitement. It begins begins as a simple story about Danny who lives in a gypsy wagon with his eccentric and loving father who seems to be perfect in every way. The real the fun begins when Danny learns about his father's secret hobby — the illegal poaching of pheasants from the land of a rich obnoxious neighbor.

Treasure Hunters: The Kidd Siblings have spent their whole lives hunting for treasure and traveling the world. When their parents mysteriously vanish they suddenly find themselves in the middle of a dangerous mystery. The characters are unique and silly, and the book includes a lot of funny illustrations which really help to keep younger readers engaged. A fun adventure story told in a humorous style!

My Side of the Mountain: This is the amazing story of a boy who runs away from his parent’s apartment in New York and hikes into the Catskill Mountains. He crafts an amazing home from a hollowed-out tree and hunts for his food while battling hunger, loneliness, and fierce winter storms. A classic story of adventure, survival, and incredible determination. A great choice for kids who love to explore the outdoors.

The Great Brain: A quick-paced, funny, and sentimental read, “The Great Brain” is about Tom, a clever boy growing up in the early 1900’s. He is idolized by the narrator, his younger brother, J.D. The scrapes the boys get themselves into are laugh-out-loud funny, and the historical setting teaches kids about the past in a fun, smart way. Action-packed, Tom’s intelligence and quick-thinking keep the plot moving and make for an enjoyable read. The relationship between the brothers is sweet and well-portrayed, and the shenanigans they get themselves into are reminiscent of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. A great book for anyone who loves stories about brothers, fun historical time periods, and mischievous misadventures!

Best Middle Grade Fiction Books for Animal Lovers

Does your child love animals? These are the perfect books to get any animal lover wrapped up in a story!

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh: A remarkably thoughtful and emotional book, “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh” revolves around poor Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with a sick baby, Timothy, who must leave her home before it is destroyed by plows. Worried, she turns to the mysterious Rats of Nimh for help, a group of 108 genetically-enhanced “super rats.” The adventurous escape of Mrs. Frisby with the help of the phenomenally clever Rats of Nimh is exhilarating, but it is the profound themes of heroism and morality that make this Newbery Award-winning story more thought-provoking than your average children’s book. Great for mystery lovers, animal lovers, and anyone looking for a story that can be both a thrilling read and the basis for a good discussion with your child!

Masterpiece: Winner of the 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year in Children’s Fiction, “Masterpiece” is a humorous mystery with a lot of heart narrated by Marvin the Beetle, who becomes unlikely friends with an eleven-year-old boy named James. James, caught up in his parents’ divorce, takes credit for a drawing done by the very-talented Marvin. Together, the two are caught up in an art forgery scheme. The mystery will hold your child’s attention, while the themes of divorce and friendship resonate. There’s also some fun information about art history thrown in that will delight kids who love drawing and painting. The writing style is quick-moving and witty, with an excellent use of vocabulary, and enough plot-twists to keep even a skeptical reader intrigued. The friendship between James and Marvin is truly special!

The One and Only Ivan: The One and Only Ivan is another Newbery winner. Inspired by a real event, this book tells the story of a gorilla named Ivan who lived behind a glass enclosure in a shopping mall for 27 years. The cool thing about this book is that it is told from Ivan’s point of view, which really draws readers into the story immediately. While the book is heartbreaking at times, the characters are wonderful and there is an unforgettable message of friendship, hope, and courage. This is an emotional and intelligent story that you and your kids will find very rewarding.

The Tale of Despereaux: A heartwarming story of unlikely heroes, this book is filled with great adventure and important life lessons. Desperaux is a tiny mouse with ears that are unusually large, who is rejected by his family. He falls in love with the young Princess who rules the castles in which he lives. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing, and every character is wonderfully written. The book has short chapters with pictures scattered throughout. It's scary enough to be thrilling, but not so scary that it will cause nightmares. Overall, it's a perfect bedtime book that the whole family will enjoy.

Where the Red Fern Grows: This is one of the most rewarding, deeply felt, and highly-recommended children’s books of all time. Where the Red Fern Grows is a beautiful coming-of-age story about the relationship between young Billy and his two puppies — Old Dan and Little Ann. The three best friends chase raccoons in the Ozark Mountains and grow up together, eventually becoming the best coon-hunting team in the state. This book will teach your child the value of hard work, loyalty, and friendship, and is an extremely worthwhile read, despite having a somewhat tragic ending. A must-read for anyone who loves powerful, emotional stories — there’s a reason there are over 7 million copies of it in print!

Stuart Little: This book by E.B. White is one of the all-time classic children's books. Although it was published way back in 1945, it remains a great book today. Stuart Little is a mouse who is born into a normal human family. His sophisticated and philosophical outlook make him one of the most beloved fictional characters of all time. The book follows Stuart on a quest across the American countryside where he encounters a wide variety engaging characters. He overcomes obstacles with a unique perspective and a joyful determination. A great blend of fantasy and reality, and a book that kids and adults will certainly love!

Mr. Popper's Penguins: This hilarious book is a must-read for animal lovers. Mr. Popper is an aficionado of all things South Pole-related, who writes a fan letter to explorer Admiral Drake, never expecting he will receive a penguin in the mail in return! Written in 1938, this remains one of the best children’s books of all time. As Mr. Popper’s penguin family grows and grows, he takes his penguins on the road. Hijinks ensue as the penguins and Mr. Popper must learn how to put on a traveling show to make money.

Welcome to MiddleGradeFiction.net

Thanks for visiting our brand new middle grade book blog! We are dedicated to bringing you recommendations and reviews of the best middle grade fiction on the shelves. Specifically, we are focused on great stories for 8–12 year old kids. Books that you will love to read to your kids and that your kids will love to read on their own. Books that are filled with action, adventure, mystery, drama, and suspense. Books that deal with timeless and important themes like friendship, loyalty, love, and perseverance.

Please stop by often and let us know in the comments if there are any books that you would like to see featured on our blog.

Thanks, and happy reading!