The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Secrets - February 2009

Selected and annotated by Sarah Okner



Blundell, Judy. What I Saw and How I Lied. Scholastic, 2008 (288p.) Grades 8-10
Moving to Florida after the return of her stepfather from WWII seems like a dream to 15 year old Evie. At the hotel where her family is staying, Evie becomes smitten with Peter, an older veteran who knows her stepfather from the war. But she soon realizes that the relationship between Peter and her stepfather goes beyond war buddies. In a story involving anti-semitism, stolen Nazi treasure, and murder Evie quickly learns that Florida isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Carlton, Susan. Lobsterland. New York : Henry Holt 2007. (224p.) Grades 9-12.
Sixteen-year-old Charlotte wants nothing more than to escape the tiny island off the Maine coast where she has spent her life. As she secretly works on applications to boarding schools, she wonders if her parents and young siblings are ready for her to leave, or if she is ready to leave her life-long boyfriend.

Choldenko, Gennifer. If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period. Harcourt, 2007. (216p.) Grades 7-10
For Kristen, seventh grade is hard enough without overbearing parents and your best friend's abandonment for the popular clique. Things are just as bad for Walk, who has left his inner-city school for an expensive private school. As Kristen and Walk's friendship grows, they come upon a secret that will change their school's dynamic forever. Narration alternates between Kristen and Walk as they both plan to exact their revenge against Brianna.

Coombs, Kate. paintings by Heather M. Solomon. The Secret-Keeper. New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006. (32p.) Grades 2-5.
The people of Maldinga and the surrounding area bring their deep, dark secrets to Kalli, the secret keeper. These secrets are transformed into objects that Kalli stores in drawers in her cottage, but soon these secrets become too much for her to bear.

Couvillon, Jacques.
The Chicken Dance. New York: Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2007. (326p.) Grade 6-9
When eleven-year-old Don Schmidt becomes the youngest winner of a chicken-judging contest in his small town of Horse Island , Louisiana and goes from outcast to instant celebrity. eEven his neglectful mother occasionally takes notice of him. But with this new relationship, he unearths some shocking family secrets.

Ellis, Sarah. Odd Man Out. Groundwood Books, 2006 (162p.) Grades 5-8.
When Kip's mother remarries, Kip is sent to stay the summer at his grandmother's house during the honeymoon. Here he discovers a binder made by his father as a teenager, and becomes entranced with the story of a young man recruited to stop a plot to infect all teenagers with a dangerous virus. The binder's story leads Kip to discover the long-kept secret of his father's mental illness and forge connections with his cousins, grandmother, and new step-father.

Gates, Susan.
Beyond the Billboard. Orlando : Harcourt, 2007. (210p.) Grades 6-9.
Firebird's twin brother Ford has always accepted their father's isolated way of life and secluded home in a desolate swamp. Firebird however yearns to see the outside world and live the life she sees portrayed on the billboard that hides their home. Her desire intensifies at the discovery of an old family secrets that changes everything. 

Giles, Gail.
Right Behind You. New York : Little,Brown, and Co., 2007. (304p.) Grades 7-12.
On the afternoon of Bobby Clarke's seventh birthday, nine year old Kip douses the boy in gasoline and ignites the boy. The next three years of Kip's life are spend in an Alaskan lock-up for teen delinquents. At his release, Kip and his family assume new identities and move to Indiana to start over. There he falls in love with a girl who has her own dark secrets, but can he trust her with the truth about his past?

Gilliland, Judith Heide. Strange Birds. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. (232p.) Grades 4-7.
Anna's privileged life comes apart the night her parents are lost at sea. She finds comfort in an old diary found behind the stable and a tree with magical properties which suddenly becomes home to some amazing creatures who may need her help.

Hall , Barbara .
The Noah Confessions. New York : Delacorte Press, 2007. (215p.) Grades 7-10.
Instead of a car for her 16th birthday, Lynne Russo is given a battered charm bracelet and tattered journal, both of which belonged to her deceased mother when she was sixteen. The journal, written to a boy named Noah, plunges Lynn into her family's dark Southern past. A past that involves social climbing, arson, and murder.

Higgins, F.E. The Black Book of Secrets. New York: Fiewel and Friends, 2007. (288p.) Grade 5-9
When Ludlow Fitch runs away from his thieving parents in the City, he meets up with the mysterious Joe Zabbidou, a man who calls himself a secret pawnbroker. Zabbidou takes Ludlow as an apprentice to record the confessions of the townspeople of Pagus Parvus, where resentments are many and trust is rare.

McMann, Lisa. Wake. Simon Pulse, 2008. (210p.) Grades 9-12.
Since Janie was a child, she's wandered into other people's dreams. But now that she's 17 and surrounded by her dozing peers at school, this ability has become more of a burden. Though the most disturbing dreams come from a classmate Cabel, she finds herself drawn to him in his waking life. But what would happen if he discovers Janie in his dreams?

McMullan, Kate. Pearl and Wagner: Three Secrets. illus by R.W. Alley. 2004, (48p.) Grades 1-2.
This early reader consists of three short stories featuring Pearl and her friend Wagner. When Pearl sees a friend whispering to Wagner, the class trip to the ice cream factory is nearly ruined as Pearl pushes him to tell this secret. In the second and third stories, both friends help each other overcome their not-so-secret fear of roller coasters.

Moriarty, Jaclyn. The Spell Book of Listen Taylor . New York :Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007. (496p.) Grade 9 and up.
Twelve-year-old Listen Taylor learns a great deal from the eccentric and secretive Zing family, as she fumbles her way through a new school, problems with old friends, and a spell book she finds soon after she and her father move in with Marbie Zing, her dad's new girlfriend.

Russo, Marisabina.
A Portrait of Pia. Orlando : Harcourt, 2007. (221p.) Grades 5-8.
As her friendship with childhood friend Anita fades, her older brother's schizophrenia worsens, and her mother's latest boyfriend seems likely to become her stepfather, twelve-year old artist Pia Crossley tries to gain control of her life by contacting her father who returned home to Italy before she was born.

Vrettos, Adrienne.
Sight. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007. (727p.) Grades 7-10.
Sixteen-year-old Dylan is haunted by the unsolved murder of her kindergarten classmate Clarence, quite literally. Dylan's psychic abilities allow her to see dead children, witness their final moments and help the police solve the crimes by locating their bodies. But how long will she be able to keep her extracurricular activities secret from her friends?

Warren, Frank. My Secret: a PostSecret Book. New York: N.Y.Reagan, 2006. (unpaged) Grades 9 and up
PostSecret is a wildly popular website/blog that invites people to confess their deepest secrets via artistically crafted postcards. This collection contains earnest and eye-opening postcards from teens and twentysomethings from across the country. Suitable for a variety of reading levels, this work will provide inspiration for discussion and creativity.

Wilson , N.D. 100 Cupboards. Random House, 2007. (304) Grades 5-8.
Henry York lived a relatively sheltered life until his parents' kidnapping. But now that he's living with his Aunt Dotty and Uncle Frank, there's plenty of time to explore which is a good thing because beneath the plaster in his bedroom wall are small doors leading to other worlds. As the cupboards reveal their secrets, a few of Henry's family secrets are revealed as well.

Wynne-Jones, Tim.  A Thief in the House of Memory. Kroup/Farrar, 2005 (224p.) Grades 7-12
Before his mother disappeared, before his father built a house for his girlfriend, Dec lived in the "Big House" on the hill. He and his sister visit often, but the memories of his boyhood home are a blur. But all of that changes the day a body is found under a bookcase, and Dec as he struggles to uncover the mystery of this man, he instead rediscovers the memories of his childhood.  

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