Home Best of the Decade Kids & Teen Books

The Best of Kids & Teens Books

Gossip Girl #1 by Cecily von Ziegesar

Book Cover Image. Title: Gossip Girl (Gossip Girl Series #1), Author: by Cecily  von Ziegesar
See Inside!

10. No list of influential YA reads would be complete without some mention of Gossip Girl, Cecily von Ziegesar's juicy, controversial behind-the-scenes look at the "real" lives of a small clique of wealthy, precocious, and impossibly privileged Manhattan teens. Narrated by an unnamed blogger with intimate insider information, the storyline flits from conniving queen bees to cheating boyfriends, illuminating a lifestyle filled with every sort of excess. Although the book was criticized for its blasé depiction of sex, drugs, and crass materialism, its sardonic tone and pitch-perfect voice proved utterly irresistible to teens. With Gossip Girl, Von Ziegesar launched not just a bestselling series but the entire YA chick-lit genre.

Olivia by Ian Falconer

Book Cover Image. Title: Olivia, Author: by Ian  Falconer

9. In 2000, Ian Falconer's irrepressible Olivia burst on the picture book scene with porcine panache, scooping a Caldecott Honor and capturing the hearts of children and parents everywhere. Spunky and strong-willed with personality to spare, Olivia epitomized childish enthusiasm and energy as she tore through a day's activities like a miniature whirlwind, leaving everyone exhausted in her wake. The true genius of this charming debut lies in its subtlety. The sweet and simple storyline unfolds in spare, minimal text, letting Falconer's illustrations -- delightfully detailed charcoal drawings enlivened with judicious splashes of red -- capture Olivia's outsize personality. All we can say (to borrow a phrase from the great E. B. White) is "Some pig!"

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Book Cover Image. Title: The House of the Scorpion, Author: by Nancy  Farmer

8. Nancy Farmer garnered three major awards for this superb futuristic novel, a deft coming-of-age tale that gathers disparate elements and controversial themes into a chilling, thought-provoking sci-fi thriller. Young Mateo Alacràn lives in semi-captivity on the compound of a notorious drug kingpin who rules a strip of land between the U.S. and the former Mexico. When he learns that he is a clone, feared and despised by society but mysteriously protected by his infamous overlord, his circumstances change radically. Matt's very existence is threatened, and he is faced with an important decision that will surely change his life and may even alter the course of history. Shot through with controversial social, ethical, and scientific issues, The House of the Scorpion is an action-packed cautionary tale that has already achieved the status of a classic.

Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Book Cover Image. Title: The Tale of Despereaux, Author: by Kate  DiCamillo
See Inside!

7. Kate DiCamillo is one of a handful of children's authors who writes up, not down, to kids. Her books treat big themes (hope, loss, redemption) and win big awards (the Newbery Medal). They are also big bestsellers, resonating mightily with young readers. This 2004 Newbery winner is an offbeat fairy tale that intertwines the fates of four unforgettable characters: a chivalrous mouse with a literary bent, the human princess he loves, a dungeon rat desperate to see the light of day, and a slow-witted servant girl with royal aspirations of her own. With her uncanny storytelling skill, DiCamillo turns the fairy tale on its ear, taking readers through unexpected twists and turns to an ending as surprising as it is satisfying. Recounted by an omniscient narrator who occasionally steps outside the story to address the reader directly, The Tale of Despereaux has set the bar for great children's literature at an all-time high.

Gallop by Rufus Butler Seder

Book Cover Image. Title: Gallop!: A Scanimation Picture Book, Author: by Rufus Butler  Seder

6. In 2008, optical artist Rufus Butler Seder caused a stir with Gallop!, the first children's picture book to employ Scanimation, a patented technology that virtually brings images to life. Recalling the earliest days of motion photography, Scanimation creates the illusion of movement on the page with a realism that has to be seen to be believed. Simply by turning the page, enthralled readers are able to see a horse in full gallop, a rooster strutting his stuff, a leaping cat, and a chimp swinging from vine to vine. Since its publication, Gallop! has spawned a raft of look-alikes. But this wonderful, wow-inducing book, a groundbreaking blend of art and science, richly deserves recognition as the original that began the "moving picture" craze.

Book Cover Image. Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #1), Author: by Jeff  Kinney

5. In this first installment of a phenomenally successful children's book series, youngsters were introduced to self-described wimpy kid Greg Heffley. Cartoonist Jeff Kinney follows his hapless protagonist through a year filled with the typical problems of growing up -- schoolyard bullies, fair-weather friends, clueless parents, and a spectacularly annoying older brother. But what sets Wimpy Kid apart is its innovative format. Recounting his most private thoughts in a journal that his parents have sworn not to read, Greg provides a stream of unfiltered observations that are truly laugh-out-loud hilarious, and expressive stick figure drawings on every page provide additional appeal, especially for reluctant readers. A winning combination of realistic situations and appealing characters made this entertaining graphic novel the start of a true publishing phenomenon.

Book Cover Image. Title: On the Night You Were Born, Author: by Nancy  Tillman

4. A little sleeper that took the online picture book community by storm in 2006, Nancy Tillman's joyful celebration of a baby's birth is one of those true publishing rarities -- an instant classic. The simple message (a child arrives and all the earth rejoices) unfolds in spare, poetic language and gorgeous, color-drenched paintings that depict a natural world of extraordinary beauty. Charming without a hint of mawkishness, On the Night You Were Born announces the specialness of each child with quiet conviction and palpable sweetness rather than the strident fanfare of some other "yay you" books. Small wonder it has become one of the most popular gifts of the decade.

Book Cover Image. Title: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series #1), Author: by Rick  Riordan

3. One can hardly envision a more enticing premise for a children's book than this: A trouble-prone 12-year-old with learning disabilities discovers that he is really a demigod -- specifically the half-blood son of Poseidon! Inspired by a series of bedtime stories Rick Riordan invented for his ADHD-afflicted, mythology-loving son, Percy Jackson made his print debut in 2005's The Lightning Thief and became an instant hit with young readers everywhere. Despite its obvious debt to Harry Potter, Riordan's novel puts an original spin on the fantasy genre. The Greek gods are incorrigible mischief makers who manage to muck things up as thoroughly in 21st-century America as they did in ancient Greece. And wisecracking Everykid Percy grapples with typical pre-adolescent issues while attempting to come to grips with his newfound powers. Breakneck pacing, snappy dialogue, and a singularly appealing protagonist made this novel -- the start of a bestselling five-book series -- one of the decade's most engaging reads.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Book Cover Image. Title: Twilight, Author: by Stephenie  Meyer
See Inside!

2. Inspired by a dream, Stephenie Meyer's sensational debut novel captivated millions of readers, ignited a bona fide cultural frenzy, and launched a literary genre all its own -- the teen vampire romance. Borrowing the time-honored theme of star-crossed lovers, Twilight recounts the spellbinding story of Bella, a smart, savvy 17-year-old girl who moves to a small town in Washington State and falls -- hook, line, and sinker -- for Edward Cullen, a mysterious stranger descended from a long line of vampires. Meyer blends brooding sensuality, adolescent yearning, danger, and suspense into a tantalizing confection young readers found predictably irresistible, but Twilight proved to have powerful crossover appeal as well. In a tide of sexually provocative YA novels, this squeaky-clean, contemporary gothic fantasy scored high marks with parents -- especially moms, who devoured the book as avidly as their daughters!

Book Cover Image. Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5), Author: by J. K. Rowling

1. J. K. Rowling made literary history with her Harry Potter books, a splendid series of young reader fantasies centered on an orphaned boy wizard and his struggles to conquer the powerful magic within him. The first four novels are essentially coming-of-age stories set in a richly imagined universe separate from yet connected to the non-magical world. But with this fifth installment, the story arc takes a decidedly dark and dangerous turn, as Harry discovers the fallibility of the adults around him, wrestles with the complicated mystery of his identity, and confronts (with the help of his friends) the terrifying power of the evil wizard who murdered his parents. While it's difficult to pick a single standout from this uniformly excellent series, we believe HP5 merits special mention for its psychological complexity, suspenseful tension, and sheer, compulsive readability.

nook by Barnes & Noble - The world's most advanced eBook reader. Shop Now
Top 10 Books for Kids - Handpicked by Our Experts - Shop Now