Reading New England: Children’s and YA


As a child, I always welcomed summer because I could finally enjoy lots of uninterrupted reading time — so August seemed to be the perfect month to celebrate books for children and young adults in the Reading New England challenge.

Poster from a 1910 stage production

And there are plenty of books to celebrate. New England has long been a favored setting for children’s literature, often in a pastoral or farm-based mode: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Charlotte’s Web, and Understood Betsy spring to mind. The American Revolution is a perpetually popular subject, from classics like Johnny Tremain to the brilliantly revisionist The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, but there are many other aspects of history to explore: the Lowell mills in Lyddie, for example, or maritime pursuits in Carry On, Mister Bowditch.

For those looking for books with a more fantastical flavor, how about The Diamond in the Window, Nick of Time, Magic or Not, or Centaur Rising? On the other hand, more contemporary and realistic stories can be found in books like Homecoming, Anastasia Krupnik, and Maybe a Fox.

So there’s absolutely no excuse not to grab one or more of these terrific books, find a couch or a hammock or a tree house to curl up in, and lose yourself in the wonder of reading.

Besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, I’d really like to sample the following (all of which can be found on the New England Book List):


  • New Hampshire: Absolutely Truly
  • Maine: Small as an Elephant
  • Vermont: Faraway Summer
  • Massachusetts: The Penderwicks
  • Rhode Island: The Art of Keeping Cool
  • Connecticut: Strawberry Hill


Have you read any of these, or do you have any other childhood favorites to recommend? Do please share them with us.

In order to get plenty of reading done, I’m taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks. I’ll be back around August 16. Enjoy the rest of your summer!


15 thoughts on “Reading New England: Children’s and YA

  1. I have two wonderful books to add.
    MAINE: C/HF – Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt. about a coastal Maine town and an island off the coast inhabited by former slaves. Newbery Honor (2005), Michael L. Printz Award Nominee (2005)
    MASS. YA/HF – The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart, (2014) A historical novel set in 1840s, about a runaway who is taken in by a Shaker community. Beautifully written and well-researched. Reviews by the NYTimes, NPR, Washington Post online. Was originally in the ADULT market, but the main character is a teen.


  2. MASS: YA/F — My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger (takes place in Boston) IT’S EXCELLENT!
    NH: YA/F — See you at Harry’s by Jo Knowles • Family who own a restaurant in NHampshire
    MA: YA/F — The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
    New England boarding school


  3. I read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm as a child. I know I liked it but can’t honestly remember much about it nowadays.
    And I think Pollyanna was set in New England too but I stand to be corrected on that! I loved that book and looking back it’s ‘positive thinking vibe’ was way ahead of it’s time.


    1. Yes, Pollyanna was set in Vermont. But the author was from Littleton, New Hampshire — coincidentally, I just drove through there on the way home from Canada. They’re pretty proud of their heritage, with banners everywhere proclaiming themselves the “glad town.” There’s even a statue of Pollyanna in front of the town library!


  4. I always have such a hard time remembering where books are set – I’d forgotten that Charlotte’s Web was set in New England, even though I can now hear the New England twang in my head from some version or other that I watched of the book. 🙂

    Carry on, Mr. Bowditch is one I didn’t read as a child, but I read it a couple of years ago with my son for school.


    1. I don’t think Charlotte’s Web is ever identified as located in a specific state, but it seems clearly to be in the New England farm country that E.B. White knew well.

      I’m interested in Carry On, Mister Bowditch now. Some of those old Newbery winners do not hold up, but that one seems to have a lot of fans.


  5. I always loved the Little Maid books by Alice Turner Curtis growing up; we had a whole shelf of them that we bought at a library book sale. There’s one set in Maine, one in Old Philadelphia, another set in Bunker Hill … I think she must have written at least twenty of them. And you get a little Revolutionary War history as seen through the eyes of a very spunky little maid. 🙂


  6. Charlotte’s Web is the only book I’ve read from this list. I like the idealized pastoral setting of children’s books, so I should check out some of these. Have fun on your blogging break! I’m sure you’ll get a ton of reading done. 🙂


  7. I’m reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm this month for RNE. Looking forward to it.

    I read Charlotte’s Web a few years ago and it sure was a different book to read as an adult. I was so emotionally invested in the story and really sobbed. I don’t think I had quite that reaction when it was read to me as a fifth grader 🙂


    1. That’s interesting — I felt less emotional when I read it as an adult. Maybe because I already knew the ending and could brace myself!


  8. I love The Penderwicks and Understood Betsy and Charlotte’s Web. But why no Alcott? I must have read Little Women and Eight Cousins at least five times each when I was growing up. I was also rather fond of Pollyanna, which I contend is better than people who haven’t read it think it is (and not nearly as saccharine.) Also, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years is partly set in New England, so it may not count, but even once she begins to travel the world, she’s with a New England ship captain’s family for a bit.


    1. Alcott, of course! I was sort of trying not to mention books/authors twice in these monthly overviews, and I believe that Little Women and Pollyanna were both mentioned under their respective states (Massachusetts and Vermont). There are other children’s books scattered among the state posts I’ve done so far. Hitty is an interesting suggestion too; sailing the sea was an important vocation for many New Englanders, after all.


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