Last year, Entertainment Weekly or EW.com, made a list of 55 Essential Movies kids should see before turning 13. The movies they listed ranged from the Princess Bride to Toy Story.
Movies aren’t the only form of entertainment that let people experience other worlds, so in response to the list of movies, I’ve compiled a list of books everyone should read before 15.
1) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Plot: A young boy, Max, dresses in his wolf suit and is sent to his room without supper after yelling at his mother. As he sits in his room, it starts to transform, and he is transported to a new land, where he rules the wild things. As time goes on, he gets homesick and leaves, only to find his supper still hot waiting for him.
Why you should read it: It’s a short read, perfect for younger kids. Max’s imagination runs wild, and kids can take from this book that your imagination can take you anywhere. In the book, Max fearlessly rules the wild things, no matter how scary they are described, which teaches kids to be courageous. At the very end, when Max returns home due to wanting “to be where someone loved him best of all”. Even though he had fought with his mom, she still made him his supper, showing kids that their parents love them no matter what they do.
2) The Sneetches and other Stories by Dr. Seuss
Plot: The Sneetches are divided into two groups: those with stars on their bellies and those without stars on their bellies. The bare-bellied sneetches are treated poorly by the star-bellied sneetches. One day, a god-send allows those without stars to pay to get stars. Those with stars no longer feel special, and soon everyone is stuck racing to remove and add stars to their bellies until they are all broke and no one remembers who had what to begin with.
Why you should read it: Any Dr. Seuss book is a good read, no matter the age. Many of his books are combined into one book, so readers can get a multitude of his works in one book. The Sneetches lets kids see segregation, but in the end teaches them that it doesn’t matter what you look like. The book ends with everyone treating everyone fairly, no matter who has what on their bellies. It’s an amusing story, as well as the other stories included in the book.
3) Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne
Plot: The series follows brother and sister Jack and Annie as they go on different adventures to help people. With the help of Morgan le Fay and Merlin, the duo use books from a magical treehouse to travel throughout time and space. Many times, Morgan has missions of sorts for them to go on. Every book has a different mission, as well as the Merlin Missions, which are missions from Merlin.
Why you should read it: Every book in the series is set at a different place and time in history. Some books have historical events or characters, such as the sinking of the Titanic, or meeting Shakespeare. Jack, the more orderly of the two, tending to keep notes of information about the time period they are in as they journey through it. This helps kids learn more about history in an entertaining way as they follow Jack and Annie. The chapters are also short and easy to read, so this book is helpful for kids starting to read chapter books.
4) Holes by Louis Sachar
Plot: Upon being framed for stealing Clyde “Sweetfeet” Livingston’s basketball shoes from a charity auction, Stanley Yelnats is given the choice: jail or Camp Green Lake. Stanley chooses camp, and quickly finds out it is not green, nor is there a lake. In fact, it’s a large expanse of desert, and all the boys are required to dig a hole each day to ‘build character’. As the story continues, Stanley starts to question whether he’s been digging for character, or something else.
Why you should read it: In the book, the boys at the camp are all different sorts of races, and no one is discriminated for that. It’s not like the white kids are treated nicer than the other boys because of their race. The book also consists of flashbacks from hundreds of years ago, where a black man was shot for kissing a white woman, and the woman was then cast out by the town. Aside from that, the amount of times Stanley and his family blame their misfortune on their no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather is enough to make anyone want to read it.
5) Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Plot: The Harry Potter series is seven books all about Harry Potter, obviously. Harry discovers he is a wizard at age eleven. He’s taken to Hogwarts, school of witchcraft and wizardry, where he learns spells, plays Quidditch, and finds his two best friends, Hermione and Ron. Harry quickly learns that the most feared wizard wants him dead. Each book deals with Voldemort trying to kill Harry, and Harry trying to defeat him.
Why you should read it: Aside from being extremely popular all around the world, readers can pull things from the books. The books have a recurring themes of sacrifice and chosen family. It shows how family doesn’t end with blood. The sacrifices aren’t something simple like sacrificing time to help a friend, but rather big things that could risk their lives. As the books go on, the idea that the media and government aren’t trustworthy is explored. Not everyone is just and kind, and they don’t always think of what’s best for kids.
6) The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Plot: This post-apocalyptic book is told through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen. After a war between the government and the people, where the people lost, the government, or the Capitol, sets up the Hunger Games. Every year, a girl and a boy are selected from each of the twelve districts. They must fight to the death, and the last person standing is declared victor. Katniss finds herself in the Hunger Games, and after a rash decision, must fight against the government throughout the three books.
Why you should read it: The way the Capitol functions and reacts to certain situations is oddly like our society right now. Katniss is an amazingly brave and intelligent girl, even though she’s only around 17 or 18 in the books. The books show defiance to a higher power, mental illnesses in the main characters and other disabilities. However, the only thing the media seems to care about is, “Team Gale or Team Peeta?” The books show how corrupt society can be, and how our society is almost as bad as the Capitol.
7) The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Plot: Denny Swift is a race car driver, customer rep at an auto dealership and owner of Enzo, the narrator of this story. Enzo is very smart dog who is preparing himself so that when he dies, he can be reincarnated as a human. Enzo and Denny help each other in their own ways. Enzo is there to comfort Denny as he deals with the many problems in his life, including a child-custody battle. Denny, in return, unintentionally helps Enzo prepare for his next life through watching race car driving.
Why you should read it: First off, the fact that the narrator is a dog should be enough to make anyone want to read the book, just out of curiosity. Secondly, anyone can glean some sort of enlightenment through the teachings of Enzo. Enzo gives advice about life, a lot of it in race car analogies, but helpful nonetheless. The main themes are living your life to its full potential and doing what you were meant to do here on earth before the next life.
8) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Plot: In future dystopian America, books are now banned. Everything is electronic, and if you’re found with a book in your possession, your house is ransacked and then burned down by firemen. The main character, Guy Montag, is one of those firemen. For the most part, he’s never been curious to peek at books, until one old woman burns herself alive along with her house full of books. Guy Montag steals a book, just to see why a woman would kill herself for a trivial thing. The one book eventually causes huge problems with Guy and everyone he thought he was close to.
Why you should read it: Fahrenheit 451 was written so long ago, and the possibility of banning and burning books has come true. ISIS has attacked many libraries, and churches have burned books thought unholy. It makes readers think about how parts of the world believe books are such a threat they need to be burned. The government banned books because people may start to get minds of their own and not obey the way of the world. People burn books now as an attack on certain cultures and beliefs, or because they think the book is an attack on their lives.
9) To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Plot: Set in Alabama in the 1930s, this book follows the narrator Scout, her brother Jem, her father Atticus, and her friend Dill. Atticus, a lawyer and main protagonist of the story, defends Tom Robinson, a black man, against a very racist family, the Ewells. Atticus has to deal with the backlash from the community as he defends Tom. The backlash is passed on to Jem and Scout, but a silent guardian watches them and keeps them safe.
Why you should read it: Harper Lee openly explores problems such as prejudices and racism in To Kill a Mockingbird. Set in the 1930s, written in the 1960s and still read in the 2010s, the problems are still relevant today. Topics involving individualism, group think, progress, and prejudices are often swept under the rug.
10) The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Plot: After Bruno’s father is promoted to Commandant, Bruno and his family have to move from their house in Berlin to Out-With, or Auschwitz. Bruno is devastated by the move because he had to leave all his friends behind. In the new house, Bruno is without friends and without entertainment, so he decides to journey past the house. He finds a wire fence, with a young kid named Shmuel on the other side. Bruno is unaware of the problems surrounding Hitler and the Holocaust, and thus, his naïvety causes problems for everyone.
Why you should read it: Bruno gives readers a perspective of the Holocaust from an innocent point of view. It shows how awful the Holocaust was without blatantly saying it. The theme of human nature is conveyed in story. The contrast between Bruno’s father and sister, strong followers of Hitler and Nazi propaganda, and Bruno, an innocent kid opposed to violence, shows the difference in human nature. The conflict between good and evil is portrayed through Bruno and his family.