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Local reading professionals share top book suggestions

While being quarantined at home might come with the advantages of time to focus on family and catch up on home projects, it can also mean an unusual amount of free time. To help fill the time, librarians and other reading education professionals have a number of book suggestions for every age to add to the reading list.


Tharptown High School librarian Melissa Harrison said her two favorite children’s books are “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith and “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kaye DiCamillo.

Harrison said “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” provides a different perspective on a familiar children’s story, and “Because of Winn-Dixie” tells the story of how a dog helps a young girl adjust to a new town.

“I love (Because of Winn-Dixie) because it is the story of how love can change someone’s life,” Harrison said.

Russellville Elementary reading teacher Cortney Green said her favorite children’s book, which she reads to her students every year, is “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli.

“This story is a beautiful description of love, tolerance and friendship,” Green said.

Russellville Public Library director Ashley Cummins said her favorite children’s picture books are “You are New” by Lucy Knisley, “Tomorrow I’ll by Kind” by Jessica Hische, “Just Like Me” by Vanessa Newton, “The Box Turtle” by Vanessa Roeder, “To the Moon and Back For You” by Emelia Bechrakis Serhant, “Who Will You Be” by Andrea Pippins and “The Little Engine that Could” by Watty Piper.

Tharptown Elementary School reading specialist Susie Stockton said her book recommendations for children are all based around love, kindness, endurance, nature and friendship.

“If there is ever a time to grow closer to those you love, it is now,” Stockton added.

Stockton said she recommends:

  • “Little Mole Finds Hope” by Glenys Nellist
  • “My Friend Earth” by Patricia MacLachlan
  • “Cezanne’s Parrot” by Amy Guglielmo
  • “Tomorrow I’ll be Kind” by Jessica Hische
  • “Sequin and Stitch” by Laura Dockrill
  • “Nameless Queen” by Rebecaa McLaughlin

Vina library media specialist Patti Swinney said her favorite children’s stories are “I Want My Hat Back” by Jon Klassen – “a funny story about a bear looking for his hat. The illustrations have subtle clues as to where his hat is,” Swinney noted. She also suggests “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin Jr., “a fun, rhythmic story in which the alphabet comes to life to climb a coconut tree.”

Tharptown Elementary School librarian Laura Stockton said for children, her favorite books are “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney, “Big Nate” by Lincoln Pierce, “Dog Man” by Dav Pilkey, “Dork Diaries” by Rachel Renee Russell, “The Babysitters Club” by Ann M. Martin and “Heidi Hecklebeck” by Wanda Coven.


For older readers, Cummins said she recommends “Look Both Ways” by Jason Reynolds, “Sweeping up the Heart” by Kevin Henkes, “When You Trap a Tiger” by Tae Keller, “Confessions of a Dork Lord” by Mike Johnston, “In a Jar” by Deborah Marcero and the “Magic Treehouse” series by Mary Pope Osborne.

Harrison said she recommends Harper Lee’s classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

For slightly older readers, Swinney said she recommends “The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963” by Christopher Paul Curtis and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J. K. Rowling.

Swinney called “The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963” a “modern classic.”

“It is the story of 10-year-old Kenny and his family, ‘The Weird Watsons,’” Swinney said. “I would highly recommend it to every student in Alabama because it explains some of our most important history using characters who are multidimensional.”

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” of course, is the first book in a beloved series. “The characters are very relatable,” Swinney said. “Rowling is a master at weaving a story. It’s a good feeling to know that when you finish the first book, there are many more in the series to look forward to.”

Stockton also recommends the “Harry Potter” series for young adults, along with the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series by Ricky Riordan and “The Mortal Instruments” series by Cassandra Clare.

These, along with her recommendations for children, are titles she has seen firsthand that children at Tharptown enjoy.

For young adults interested in dystopian novels, Cummins said she recommends the “Divergent” trilogy by Veronica Roth, “Uglies” series by Scott Westerfield, “The Giver” series by Lois Lowry, the “Matched” trilogy by Allie Condie, “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins, “Legend” series by Marie Lu, “Selection” novels by Kiera Cass, “Maze Runner” series by James Dashner and, her own personal favorite, the “Delirium” trilogy by Lauren Oliver.


David McCullough’s “1776” is Harrison’s choice for adults.

Swinney said one of her recommendations for adults is a book by one of her very favorite writers, Alabama native Fannie Flagg. Welcome to the World, Baby Girl,” is a story about a girl growing up in Mississippi. Swinney’s other choice for adults is “Little Bee” by Chris Cleave, “a harrowing tale of a Nigerian immigrant,” Swinney said. “It is intense and tough and beautiful.”

For adults who enjoy escapist reading, Cummins said she recommends “My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite, “I Feel Bad About My Neck” by Nora Ephron, “IQ series” by Joe Ide and “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid.

For adults interested in reading books that involve a pandemic theme, as a nod to the current situation, Cummins recommends:

  • “The Passage” trilogy by Justin Cronin
  • “The Broken Earth” trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
  • “Severance” by Ling Ma
  • “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel
  • “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • “The Stand” by Stephen King
  • “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood

Cummins suggestions for adult books with a solitude theme include “Wave” by Somali Deraniyagala, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles and “The Martian” by Andy Weir.

Cummins encouraged all library patrons to remember that even though the public library is closed because of the coronavirus, they can access titles like these and more through Russellville Public Library’s catalogue of e-books and audiobooks. Visit; select Russellville Public Library; and enter the barcode from your library card as your username and password.