Essential Reads

To the Kids: Welcome to Essential Reads! Check out our reviews and/or add your own! We’ve removed our submit form for the moment as we were getting hit by spammers…if you want to submit, email us your review at After you submit your review, I will need to preview it and post it to the site — it will not show up immediately, but I will email when it is on-line. There is a large age range reflected here, in general between the ages of 6-14, so browse the full list, there is a little something for everyone! Have fun and thanks in advance for your opinions!

To the Parents: Below we’ll feature book picks from my favorite kids and if your children get so inspired, send us their picks too! We’ve removed our submit form for the moment as we were getting hit by spammers…if you want to submit, email us your review at Terms and conditions? By submitting content, you agree that we can use your child’s words, content, and opinions on EssentialMom. If you want to motivate YOUR kids to write — let them have at it here!

Author: Chris Rylander
Review by Essentialmom
An interesting twist on the topic of bullying — you cheer for Mac and Vince who are a modern day mafia — but one that takes care of people’s problems.  They exact a fee, and sometimes run afoul of the school rules, but their hearts are in the right place when it comes to protecting kids, doing people favors, and trying to run their school from a kids’ point of view.  Questions of allegiance, bending the rules, and friendship all come to play as well as life choices, gray areas, and interesting interpersonal consequences and challenges…all while making the reader laugh along with the snarky author’s voice.  A great Midde School read.
Rating 3 out of 5

Author: Jody Feldman
Review by Essentialmom (for ages 9+)
Gil Goodson’s father has been accused of stealing from the Golly Toy and Game Company and it is up to Gil to both prove his innocence and to win their recently announced competition so that the family can move away from the town where Gil believes his friends and neighbors have turned against them.  Gil competes and learns many lessons along the way.  The book is full of puzzles, rhymes, and brain teasers that you can attempt to decipher as you go along with Gil in the contest.  Although there is a moral to the story, it is generally just a fun read and a good interactive adventure.
Rating: 3 out of 5

Author: Jacqueline Davies
Review by Essentialmom (for ages 8+)
An interesting take on sibling rivalry and summer boredom.  Two siblings set out to create a lemonade stand and enter into a competition with one another over who will be the most successful.  Full of tips and trials adding a little something to the reading, this story may even inspire your own kids to get a little business going this summer.
Rating 3 out of 5

Author: Emily M. Danforth
Reviewed by Isabelle Pierce as a sneak preview for Little Joe’s Books
The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth, is about an orphaned lesbian growing up with her ultra homophobic aunt.  This book is very good because it is real.  It is not one of those books where love is always mutual and destroys all, because that is not how life works.  Cameron falls in love with a straight girl with a perfect boyfriend, who can not love her back because of her beliefs.  It is a story about being able to love yourself, despite all your flaws.  I recommend this book to lovers of realistic fiction, especially John Green readers.

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Review by Essentialmom (for ages 10+)
A new take on a historical time travel series leads a group of kids to find where they come from and where they are going and maybe save the world on the way.  Cliff hangers from the very beginning, these are great historical reads, but with a great new twist.
Rating 4 out of 5

Author: Wes Moore
Review by Essentialmom (for ages 12+)
This is a very intense book which we read in our mother-son book club.  It is best read in discussion and I would say that it is ages 12+ but with a more mature group.  It is an inspiring and educational story about two boys — one who ends up in jail for murder, one who becomes a White House Fellow and Rhodes Scholar.  Both boys start their lives in the same area of Baltimore, poor, disadvantaged, and with single mothers.  The story leads us through big life questions — what happens with the choices we make, what makes a success, how can you fight to earn your place in the world and what are some barriers that people face to this success.  A great book, but with the disclaimer that there are real life scenarios that are discussed as the boys make their choices — drug trade, poverty, and other roadblocks to these mens’ futures.  A great piece for discussion.
Rating 3 out of 5

Author: Rick Riordan
Review by Essentialmom (for ages 7+)
We LOVED this series — the writing was engaging, quick and interesting.  The story pulls you in and you can’t wait to get to the next book the minute you put down the first.  There are definitely some scarier parts (with mythical monsters, gods, etc as an integral part of the books) but this is even a great read-aloud for slightly younger kids.  I’d probably advise for kids 7+ in general though.  The basics are that the children in the book (modern day kids) are descended from the Gods on Olympus — and Riordan somehow perfectly integrates modern situations with historical Greek Gods.  Fantastical and fun.
Rating: 5 out of 5

Author: Bianca Turetsky
Reviewed by Holly Cambareri as a sneak preview for Little Joe’s Books
(Publish date:  September 18, 2012)
The book, The Time Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette, was a good book. It is about Louise Lambert, a twelve year old girl from Fairview, Connecticut.  Louise is a normal twelve year old girl.  Her only quirk is her vintage style.  Louise’s style is unique. Nobody understands it!  Her mother complains about how her style of wearing “used” clothes is weird and her father probably doesn’t know what vintage means!  She finds out someone does understand when she goes to the Traveling Fashionista sale.  Maria and Glenda run the Fashionista sale and Louise is certain she can find something to wear to her best friend, Brooke’s, thirteenth birthday party.  But, what happens when a dress takes Louise back to the times of Marie Antoinette in Versailles!  Louise explores the past as beautiful Gabrielle, also known as Duchesse de Polignac.  Louise finds the true story of the times and tries to change history.  She finds out who Marie Antoinette really is.  She goes around as Marie Antoinette’s best friend.  Louise also meets sweet Princesse de Lamballe who later is going to get killed and have her head paraded through Versailles!  Louise meets Adelaide, the King’s daughter.  Adelaide has a secret identity too!  Louise looks for her magical dress, hoping to get back to the 21st century before the revolution.  Louise finds her dress and goes back to Fairview but the memories still haunt her.  It was a great book with everything it needed:  fights between friends, creativity and quirks.  It was a good book, but some spots were a little boring.  If you powered though the boring parts you had a great part ahead of you.  The ending was great and I wanted more!!!   I’d give this book 4.5 stars.  I’d recommend it to anyone who always likes to learn something new and loves creativity.  Bianca Turetsky did a great job on the book.  I loved it!!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Author(s): Hena Khan, David Borgenicht, and Robert Zubrin
Review by
slsstorm268, age 12
This book is very unique, much like the Choose Your Own Adventure books. You are sent on a mission to Mars and you are to live in the Mars Base for a year and a half. But what is different about this book is that when you are faced with a decision, YOU get to decide what to do about it. Now, unlike the Choose Your Own Adventure books, where there is normally a happy ending, this book has only ONE route to survival and the ultimate goal. I may mention, that there are other books in this series that I have read, but this one was my favorite. This was because it was right along the lines of one of my favorite genres, futuristic space. It was not fatasy though, for there were no aliens or non-scientific being in the book, it was just a portrayal of what may happen in about 17 years or so. So, I would definitely recommend this to creative readers of all ages!
Rating: 4 out of 5

Author: Erin Hunter
Review by slsstorm268, age 12
This is a VERY large series and has a big number of characters, so it is definitely not a book to be read by a parent – BUT… These books are absolutely incredible! I have read about 40 of the Warriors books. These books are in fact all part of the same series, but you need to know one thing before you start reading these books. For one thing, they are broken up into four individual ‘series’. The order that it goes in is:  Warriors, The New Prophecy, Power of Three, and Omen of the Stars.  I tell you this because I learned from making the mistake of buying the first book of the wrong series. Okay… Back on topic. The plot is that there are 4 clans; ThunderClan, RiverClan, ShadowClan, and WindClan. In the first series, you meet a kittypet, or house cat, who goes from being a pampered kitten named Rusty to become one of the greatest Warriors ever, the great leader Firestar. The warriors are the cats who live within the Clans and fight against predators, other Clans, and evil cats outside of the Clans. These four series within the series are packed full of adventures, sadness, joy, and PLENTY of twists, turns, and just…cats.
Rating 6! out of 5

Author: R.J. Palacio
Review by EssentialMom (for 9-13 year olds)

A heart-breaking, uplifting, and amazing story about a boy with several facial deformities who faces going to school for the first time in fifth grade.  A must read for anyone entering middle school, fifth grade, or for those going through “transition” years.  Makes you remember how very lucky you are and helps the reader to think about the challenges that other people face every day.  There are definitely sad parts and tough parts, but many, many uplifting bits to help along the way.
Rating: 5 out of 5

Author:  R.J. Palacio
Review by tbfarm, age 9
This book is about a child named August Pullman. He has a few facial deformities and has never been to school. But this year thats all going to change. His mom and dad decide that hes ready for school. And while at school he has a bunch of exciting adventures.
Rating 5 out of 5