Great Books A-Z slide show

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Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (A-Z letter A)

With their nation plagued by drought and food shortages, their government has made it illegal for families to have more than 2 children. Yet thousands of “thirds” exist without identification cards or rights of any kind. As these shadow children begin to discover and communicate with each other their worldviews broaden.

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Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin (A-Z letter B)

This is the true story of John Howard Griffin, a white man who artificially darkened his skin to pass as a black man, and then spent 6 weeks hitchhiking and travelling on buses through several states in the Deep South in 1959. The 188 page diary that Griffin kept during the experience was the genesis of this book.

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Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (A-Z letter C)

Against all odds Katniss has survived the Hunger Games. But what will happen when she is forced to compete again? And how will she deal with her conflicting feelings for Gale and Peeta? Anger and resentment against the Capitol push the Districts to the brink of rebellion in the 2nd book of The Hunger Games trilogy.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (A-Z letter D)

Gregory Heffley receives a diary from his mother and uses it to chronicle his 1st year of middle school including his experiences in gym class, his adventures on Halloween, and his relationships with his older brother Rodrick and his best friend Rowley. This 2007 “novel in cartoons” began as a popular web comic in 2004.

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Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (A-Z letter E)

15 year old Elizabeth dies in a bicycle accident and wakes up to find herself travelling on a boat called the SS Nile. Soon afterwards she and the other passengers arrive in a place known as Elsewhere where everyone ages backwards from the day they died until the day when they were born and then they are sent back to Earth to be reincarnated as a baby.

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Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (A-Z letter F)

After successfully increasing the intelligence of a laboratory mouse named Algernon through a special type of surgery, scientists decide to try the experiment on a human subject named Charlie. Author Daniel Keyes drew many of the characters and themes of the story from his personal experiences as a pre-med student and a special education teacher.

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Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (A-Z letter G)

Written in 1726 this classic work is meant to be a satire on human nature and a parody of adventure stories. The most famous part of the story occurs when Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck and finds himself a prisoner of a race of tiny people no more than 6 inches tall. Other lesser known parts of the book include encounters with giants and a race of intelligent horses.

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Half-Magic by Edward Eager (A-Z letter H)

A dull summer takes a dramatic turn when 4 children find a magic coin that grants wishes. But they soon learn that there is a catch - the coin only grants half of any wish, forcing them to carefully and logically think through every situation before opening their mouths. Good advice under any circumstances.

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (A-Z letter I)

This 1969 autobiography chronicles the formative years of African-American writer and poet Maya Angelou. The story begins when 3 year old Maya is sent to live with her grandmother in Arkansas and ends when Maya becomes a mother at the age of 17. Over this time period Maya is transformed from a child with an inferiority complex into a proud and dignified young woman.

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Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (A-Z letter J)

Sara is sick and tired of her beautiful twin sister Caroline who has always been more talented and more loved. For once in her life Sara wants to be special but in order to do that she has to figure out who she really is. The title of the book refers to the sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau in the Bible.

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Kiss My Math by Danica McKellar (A-Z letter K)

Author Danica McKellar is best known for her role as Winnie Cooper on the TV show The Wonder Years, but she also studied mathematics at UCLA and graduated in 1998 with the highest honors and even co-authored a scientific paper. She wrote this book to show girls that math is accessible, relevant, and even a little glamorous.

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Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson (A-Z letter L)

A young man’s world is turned upside-down when he is diagnosed with leprosy. He separates from his family and moves into seclusion. On a rare trip into town he is struck by a car and knocked unconscious. He awakes to find himself in a fantasy world known as ‘the Land’ where he is thought to be the reincarnation of an ancient Lord who saved ‘the Land’ from the evil Lord Foul during a war in the distant past.

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Mockinjay by Suzanne Collins (A-Z letter M)

In the final book of The Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss agrees to become the Mockingjay - a symbol of rebellion against the Capitol. Author Suzanne Collins says that the inspiration for the story was the Greek myth where Athens had to sacrifice 7 youths and 7 maidens each year to Crete, who put them in the Labyrinth to be killed by the Minotaur.

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (A-Z letter N)

Born on a plantation in Maryland in 1818, Frederick Douglass was sent to live in Baltimore as a boy where he learned to read. As an adolescent he was sent back to the plantation to work as a slave and was forced to suffer the cruel abuse of the overseers. Literacy had awaked in him the powerful urge for freedom and he managed to escape from slavery in 1838 and went on to became a leader of the abolitionist movement and a powerful public speaker.

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One Great Game by Don Wallace (A-Z letter O)

On Oct 6, 2001, the 2 top ranked high school football teams in the country played each other. The De La Salle Spartans, a Catholic school from northern California, entered the game with a 113 game winning streak. Their opponent was Long Beach Poly, an inner-city school. The Spartans won the game 27-15. Their winning streak would eventually reach 151 games before coming to an end in 2004.

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Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle (A-Z letter P)

This 1963 science fiction novel was the basis for a series of popular movies in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Because of time dilation effects, several astronauts return to Earth hundreds of years after they take off and are startled to find that the planet is ruled by intelligent apes and humans are treated as animals. One of the astronauts is captured and locked in a cage where he struggles to convince the apes that he possesses intelligence and reason.

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Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (A-Z letter Q)

This is another in the series of alphabet mystery books (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, etc) featuring female private investigator Kinsey Millhone. In this book she tackles the mystery of a decomposed body found in a nearby quarry. Author Sue Grafton's father also wrote detective novels. The next book in the series (V is for Vengeance) is scheduled for release on Nov 21, 2011.

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Redwall by Brian Jacques (A-Z letter R)

In a magical land inhabited by talking animals, Redwall Abbey is attacked by a rat known as Cluny the Scourge. The inhabitants of the Abbey rise up in defense, and a young mouse known as Matthias embarks on a quest to recover the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior. Clues to the location of Martin's sword, as well as his shield and the sword's scabbard, have been built into the Abbey.

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Scorpio by Anthony Horowitz (A-Z letter S)

This is the 5th in a series of 9 books following the adventures of a teenage spy named Alex Rider who works for a secret government agency known as MI6 that was formed to battle the a criminal organization known as Scorpio. Author Anthony Horowitz’s father, a wealthy politician confronted with a scandal, removed all his money from his bank account and hid it. He then died and his family has been unable to locate his fortune.

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Tunnels by Roderick Gordon & Brian Williams (A-Z letter T)

14 year old Will Burroughs sets off to find his father, a famous archaeologist who has disappeared. Following a series of clues, Will stumbles onto an underground civilization known as ‘the Colony.’ After being captured by the police of the underground community, Will learns that he was actually born in ‘the Colony’ and that his father has traveled down into ‘the Deeps,’ a place even further underground than ‘the Colony.’

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Utopia by Sir Thomas More (A-Z letter U)

This 1516 novel describes a fictional, perfect island in the Mediterranean. The Greek word ‘utopia’ can be interpreted as ‘good place’ or ‘no place.’ The vague, double meaning is significant in this book and the entire genre it has inspired. Thousand of works of utopian fiction about perfect worlds and dystopian fiction about nightmare worlds have been written in the centuries following this seminal work.

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Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (A-Z letter V)

Lucy, Edmund, and their rude cousin Eustace are drawn into the magical world of Narnia through a picture of a ship at sea in the 3rd book of The Chronicles of Narnia. They join Caspian, the King of Narnia, aboard his ship the Dawn Treader as he searches for the 7 lost lords of Narnia.

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Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (A-Z letter W)

Lia and Cassie are high school girls who both suffer from eating disorders. They were best friends in elementary school but have grown apart over the years. Despite their estrangement, Cassie called Lia 33 times on the night of her death but Lia never answered. Lia's guilt, her need to be thin, and her fight for acceptance all add up to a recipe for disaster.

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X by J.D. Glass (A-Z letter X)

This modern cyber-thriller follows a brilliant, female computer hacker known on-line as ‘CharliX.’ In an attempt to reform from her mischievous adolescence, she takes a job at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. But when someone modifies one of her programs to divert millions of dollars to an unknown location she is the obvious suspect.

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Y by Bonnie Rozanski (A-Z letter Y)

An infectious microbe infects women and makes it impossible for them to have male offspring. As the years and decades pass the female to male ration drops to 25 to 1. Author Bonnie Rozanski’s degrees in psychology and artificial intelligence allow her to accurately and intelligently discuss the numerous topics that are explored in this novel.

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Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien (A-Z letter Z)

16 year old Ann survives a nuclear war and lives alone in a remote valley whose geography shelters her from radioactive fallout. She thinks she is the only person left alive in the world until one day a stranger comes to her valley. Is he the answer to her prayers or something more sinister? Author Robert C. O’Brien died while writing the book so his family finished the final chapter.