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Sense of Place, Sense of Self

Compiled by Tessa Michaelson
© 2009 Cooperative Children's Book Center

This bibliography explores fiction for older elementary through high school readers in which the modern-day setting plays a critical role. Beyond descriptions of frigid tundras, vibrant neighborhoods, and moody coastlines, the external surroundings depicted in these titles provide perspective on the internal landscape of the protagonists. In each of these novels, the personal terrain traversed by the characters mirrors the physical terrain of the setting. Whether selecting books for an immersing reading experience or as inspiration for writing activities, the highly discussable titles below are rife with unforgettable scenes and situations.


Click on underlined book titles to see the CCBC review of the book, and/or the cover image.
Complete list of CCBC bibliographies


Older Elementary (Grades 3-5)

    Appelt, Kathi. The Underneath . Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008. 311 pages. Ages 9-14

    Bruchac, Joseph. Eagle Song. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Dial, 1997. 80 pages. Ages 9 - 11

    DiCamillo, Kate . Because of Winn-Dixie. Candlewick Press, 2000. 182 pages. Ages 9 - 12

    Henkes, Kevin. Bird Lake Moon. Greenwillow, 2008. 179 pages. Ages 9-12

    Patron, Susan. The Higher Power of Lucky. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. A Richard Jackson Book / Atheneum, 2006. 134 pages. Ages 9-12

    Philbrick, Rodman. The Young Man and the Sea. Blue Sky Press / Scholastic, 2004. 191 pages. Ages 9-12

    Reeve, Kirk . Lolo and Red-Legs . Rising Moon/Northland, 1998. 111 pages. Ages 9-12

    Spinelli, Eileen . Where I Live. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. Dial, 112 pages. Ages 8-12


Middle School (Grades 6-8)

    Frost, Helen. Diamond Willow. Frances Foster Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. 111 pages. Ages 10-14

    Applegate, Katherine. Home of the Brave. Feiwel and Friends, 2007. 249 pages. Ages 10-14

    Creech, Sharon. The Wanderer. Joanna Cotler / HarperCollins, 2000. 305 pages. Ages 11 - 14

    Hamilton, Virginia . Plain City. Scholastic, 1993. 194 pages. Ages 11 - 14

    Mass, Wendy. Every Soul a Star. Little, Brown, 2008. 322 pages. Ages 10-14

    Nye, Naomi Shihab. Habibi. Simon & Schuster, 1997. 259 pages. Ages 11 - 14

    Sachar, Louis. Holes. Frances Foster / Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998. 233 pages. Ages 10 - 14

    Sheth, Kashmira. Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet. Hyperion, 2006. 25 pages. Age 12 and older


High School (Grades 9-12)

    Brooks, Martha . Mistik Lake. Melanie Kroupa Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007. 207 pages. Ages 13 and older

    Carter, Anne Laurel. The Shepherd's Granddaughter. Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2008. 224 pages. Age 13 and older

    Casey, Maude . Over the Water. An Edge Book / Henry Holt, 1994. 246 pages. Age 14 and older

    Jaramillo, Ann. La Línea. Deborah Brodie Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2006. 131 pages. Age 13 and older

    McCaughrean, Geraldine . The White Darkness. HarperTempest / HarperCollins, 2007. 373 pages. Age 14 and older

    Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as We Knew It. Harcourt, 2006. 337 pages. Age 13 and older

    Reinhardt, Dana . How to Build a House. Wendy Lamb Books / Random House, 2008. 227 pages. Age 14 and older

    Resau, Laura. Red Glass. Delacorte, 2007. 275 pages. Ages 11-15

    Tan, Shaun. Tales from Outer Suburbia. U.S. edition: Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2009. 92 pages. Ages 12 and older



This list may be reproduced and distributed by educational and/or nonprofit organizations so long as credit is given to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.



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