15+ Classic Novels for Middle Grade Readers

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh 50th anniversary edition

These classic novels for middle grade readers, written by women authors of the distant and recent past, spark curiosity and take the reader on grand adventures. They also impart wisdom that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Books provide guidance, exploration, and companionship among so many other things – this is especially true for young readers. A good novel can expand our knowledge of the world; when the world feels overwhelming, a novel provides a comforting and familiar companion. Read More→


J. California Cooper, a Unique Voice in Three Genres

J._California_Cooper

J. California Cooper (November 10, 1931 – September 20, 2014) author of plays, novels, and short stories, was admired for her unique voice in all three genres.

Warmth, pathos, and humor blended with pain are her trademarks. Her seven collections of short stories feature the use of dialogue and vernacular, and an unwavering commitment to portraying a diverse array of Black female characters. Read More→


Film and Stage Adaptations of 84 Charing Cross Road

84 charing cross road

In the decades after 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff was published, it was adapted for the stage, film, and radio. The adaptations brought the book to new audiences and were incredibly popular, although they received mixed critical reviews. 

Written by American author and playwright Helene Hanff, 84 Charing Cross Road is an eclectic, endearing collection of her twenty-year trans-Atlantic correspondence with London antiquarian bookshop Marks & Co. on Charing Cross Road. The book was a cult success in both America and the UK.

Today, the film is still available to watch on major streaming channels, and the play is regularly performed by theatre companies on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Samira Azzam, Journalist, Broadcaster, and Short Story Writer

Samira Azzam

Samira Azzam (September 13, 1927 – August 8, 1967) was a journalist and broadcaster who left her mark on Palestinian literature. Her numerous short stories reflected the Palestinian experience of the 1950s and 1960s.

She was born in Acre (in what was then the Palestinian Mandate and today is Israel). Acre is located on the Mediterranean coast, often known locally as Akko.

Had she lived today, she might have been a social media influencer, as she started writing reviews and essays for the newspaper Filistin, signing them “A Girl from the Coast” while still a teen. Azzam was apparently a dedicated student: she became a teacher at the age of sixteen. Read More→


Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (1944), the Banned Bestseller

Forever Amber with forward by Barbara Taylor Bradford

Forever Amber  by Kathleen Winsor (1944) tells the sprawling story of Amber St. Clair, a beauty who cunningly ascends the class structure of Restoration-era England. After a humble upbringing, sixteen-year-old Amber’s encounter with a troupe of traveling soldiers turns into her ticket out of the countryside – and her journey of social advancement begins.

Amber’s fictional narrative is interwoven with true historic facts of the English Restoration; she is born of circumstances resulting from the English Civil War, becomes a survivor of the plague, and witnesses the Great Fire of London.

Amber meets a vast array of characters from all the English classes, her adopted farmer parents, the mischievous highwayman Black Jack Mallard, her true love royalist Lord Bruce Carlton, and King Charles II. These encounters amount to a sweeping portrait of the English Restoration. Read More→


Alice Childress, Author of Trouble in Mind

Alice Childress

Playwright and novelist Alice Childress (October 12, 1916 – August 14, 1994) was a prolific and influential contributor to American theater and letters throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Her first full-length play, Trouble in Mindpremiered in 1955 and won an Obie.

Another play, Wedding Band, was shown on network television in 1974 (though network affiliates in several southern states refused to carry it).  

None of this would have mattered to Childress who said, “I never was ever interested in being the first woman to do anything. I always felt that I should be the 50th or the 100th. Women were kept out of everything.”

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8 Essential Novels by South African Author Nadine Gordimer

Burgers Daughter Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer (November 20, 1923 – July 13, 2013) was a South African activist and Nobel Prize-winning author. Following is a compilation of 8 essential novels by Gordimer, a good place to start when getting acquainted with her work.

Nadine Gordimer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, three years before South Africa’s first free elections. Her work was especially relevant during the first free elections in 1994 – they remain relevant as the country moved into its next election date in March 2024.

She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, three years before South Africa’s first free elections. Read More→


Helene Hanff – Author of 84, Charing Cross Road

Helene Hanff (April 15, 1916 – April 9, 1997) was an American author and playwright. She is best known for her book 84, Charing Cross Road, an endearing collection of her twenty-year correspondence with the owner of the London antiquarian bookshop, Marks & Co., on the eponymous street.

This book was written at a low point in her career, but later went on to gain a cult following and to be adapted for film and stage.

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