Are you looking for great books to read alone – or out-loud? Here are some of the best of the year and that are good for ages nine and up.

Count Down, by Deborah Wiles, is an historical fiction about the 1960’s. This riveting story includes all of the major facets that evoked, involved and deeply affected our lives during that decade. Eleven-year-old Franny is living near Andrews Air Force Base where her pilot father is stationed. She thinks her older sister is a spy and her younger brother greatly desires to become an astronaut. Her struggles with her best friend, her father (who is often away on missions), and the rest of the family show life deeply rooted in the ‘60’s. Her story intersects history by connecting air-raid sirens and drills, President Kennedy’s TV speech about the Cuban missile crisis and bomb shelters.  There are also many photographs, newspaper clippings, quotes and more that depict the era. Be sure to read the author’s notes at the back of the book. The cover is a perfect setting for the book: a picture of a 45 rpm record. This book is a definite Newbery candidate.

Born to Fly, by Michael Ferrari, is another historical fiction set during World War II and eleven-year-old Bird feels like she was born to fly. Her friendship with a Japanese American, along with the turmoil of the day, set the stage for this page-turner as the coming adventures and suspense will thrill the reader. Also check out the author’s notes located in the back of the book.

White Crane, (first book in the Samurai Kids Series), by Sandy Fussell, and with illustrations sprinkled throughout by Rhian Nest James, shows how a young boy with only one leg can become a samurai warrior. The story is exciting and draws upon the feuds Japan has had throughout history.  The ink and pencil drawings give a definite Japanese flair.

I Fooled You: 10 Stories of Tricks, Jokes and Switcheroos, collected and edited by Johanna Hurwitz, has a compilation of ten short stories with the theme: “I Fooled You”.  Some of the stories promote honesty with a twist to a familiar fairy tale as demonstrated in the take off of “The Billy Goats Gruff”, others have familiar characters attempting to fool each other as in the Judy Moody story that includes her brother Stink. There’s even a comic style wordless story that was my favorite.

Operation Yes!, by Sara Lewis Holmes, is one of a kind because it uplifts, rejuvenates good-will and promotes kindness and helping others. The story takes place on an old run-down school near a North Carolina Air Force Base. The difficulties and hardships of these military families are addressed as these sixth graders deal constantly with moving from school to school. The real core and heart of this story lies with the teacher who lifts them up with her positive spirit. But it’s the kids who become the bearer of goodness when their teacher’s brother is seriously injured in Afghanistan.

Rules to Rock By, by Josh Farrar, has sixth grader Annabelle evolving with her beloved music as she moves with her family to a new state. Her musician parents are very involved in recording and somewhat neglecting their family. Annabelle now has to form a new band, deal with new school bullies and keep her family together.

War Games, by Audrey and Akila Couloumbis, is a novel based on true events. Greece is home to young Petra as he plays and works around his rural farm prior to the breakout of World War II. His family grew up in America but when the Germans invade their country, the commander comes and lives at Petro’s house. The family must keep secret that they know English and lived in America. This exciting and insightful story sheds light on the difficulties and courage of the resistance effort during the war.

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, is a story much like the classic story of the “Country Mouse and the City Mouse”. Ivy June lives in a poor rural Kentucky dwelling and Catherine lives in Lexington in an affluent part of the city. When they exchange places and spend two weeks in the other’s family house, they learn much, appreciate much more and respect the differences of others by story’s end.

The Princess Plot, by Kirsten Boie, has recently been translated from German into English and is the first in this new series.  Fourteen-year-old Jenna has just tried out for a movie role and is surprised when she is selected.  When the movie company flies her to be on location in a distant country, she soon discovers that she is actually sitting in for a princess whom she looks like and whom also has run away. She soon discovers that this country is at civil unrest and she is about to put her life on the line.