Best Books for Kids Set in Florida
There’s a glamour to Florida set back in time that rivals Hollywood in California and maybe that is why these talented children’s book authors firmly set their books here. To be sure, some are from Florida and/or from the South and seem to know every nook and cranny of their small towns. But even more interesting are the characters they create; characters who have lived hard and stoic lives but never really told their stories to anyone, except now, in these books.
There must be something in the waters of Florida that makes almost all these books award-winning, from Newbery to National Book Awards. And I feel strongly that the books on this list that don’t have a special sticker on the cover are all deserving of one!!
What about you? Have you or your child read any of these books and what did you think? And are there other books you’d care to add to this list? Thank you!
10. The Last Egret by Harvey E. Oyer, III
This is probably the best self published book I’ve ever read. It’s an exciting and well written TRUE story about Harvey Oyer III’s ancestor about how the birds were hunted almost to extinction to satisfy a huge demand for exotic feather used to decorate women’s hats. It’s the story of greed and speculation that is relevant today! [chapter book, ages 8-14]
She’s Wearing A Dead Bird on Her Hat by Kathryn Lasky
For more background on the demand for birds to decorate hats, this picture book is the story about how The Audubon Society was formed in Boston in reaction to the near extinction of many bird species. [picture book, ages 6-12]
9. Shadows in the Water: A Starbuck Twins Mystery, Book Two (Starbuck Twins Mysteries) by Kathryn Lasky
Shadows in the water is basically about four twins called the starbuck twins.These twins can teleflash-which is to talk to each other without saying a word out loud.The family then moves to the Florida Keys,Liberty and July begin to get mysterious, strange messages from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.They then begin to worry about what is going on.The faint clicks in their minds begin to grow stronger as the starbuck twins watch the dolphins weave through the waters and leap through the waves. Review by Ashlyn Green [chapter book, ages 9-12]
8. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Fighting off a pack of starving wolves, wrestling alligators in the swamp, romping with bear cubs, drawing off the venom of a giant rattlesnake bite with the heart of a fresh-killed deer–it’s all in a day’s work for the Baxter family of the Florida scrublands. But young Jody Baxter is not content with these electrifying escapades, or even with the cozy comfort of home with Pa and Ma. He wants a pet, a friend with whom he can share his quiet cogitations and his corn pone. Jody gets his pet, a frisky fawn he calls Flag, but that’s not all. With Flag comes a year of life lessons, frolicking times, and achingly hard decisions. This powerful book is as compelling now as when it was written over 60 years ago. Read simply as a naturalist study of the Florida interior, it fascinates and entices. Add the heart-stopping adventure and heart-wrenching human elements, and this is a classic well worth its Pulitzer Prize. Earthy dialect and homespun wisdom season the story, giving it a unique and unforgettable flavor, and N.C. Wyeth’s warm, soft illustrations capture an era of rough subsistence and sweet survival. (Ages 12 and older) –Emilie Coulter [young adult]
7. Kidnapped in Key West by Edwina Raffa and Annelle Rigsby
Historical fiction set in 1912. Twelve-year-old Eddie Malone is living a carefree life in the Florida Keys when his father, a worker on Henry Flagler’s Over-Sea Railroad, is thrown into jail. Eddie sets out for Key West with his faithful dog, Rex. Will he be in time to foil the thieves’ next plot and prove his pa’s innocence? [chapter book, ages 8-12)
6. Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
An old-fashioned classic set at the turn of the century that I loved as a child about the challenges of farming strawberries in rural Florida particularly when you have ornery neighbors. The illustrations are deceiving as the story is more gritty than the saccharine drawing suggest. It also won a Newbery Medal. The southern dialog can be difficult to decipher so it makes this a tougher book for younger kids though the story is appropriate for grades 3 and up. [chapter book, ages 10-14]
5. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
This award-winning young adult novel (National Book Award Winner, A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and An ALA Best Book for Young Adults) is a coming of age novel that oozes with “Mad Men” glamor and ambiance. Fifteen-year-old Evie’s stepfather returns from WWII and the family heads off to Palm Beach. It is here that layers of secrets and lies are revealed bit by bit. A young and handsome ex-GI soldier, Peter Coleridge, shows up who catches both Evie and her beautiful mother’s eye. A couple at their hotel, The Graysons, become important friends of her step-father’s but have their own secret they are hiding. And Evie’s step-father has a secret that threatens to destroy them all. Murder, plundered Nazi treasure stolen from European Jews, and anti-Jewish prejudice in America, and redemption, are all interwoven into the plot. This is a page-turner that is impossible to put down. [young adult]
4. Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightening by Danette Haworth
11-year-old Violet Raines spends the summer dealing with the transition from childhood to adolescence. It’s complicated because there’s a new girl who moves in and seemingly takes over her best friend next door. Her friendship with her other best friend, Eddie, is also now confusing. Is he just a friend? Violet wishes things could just stay the same but middle school is just around the corner. [chapter book, ages 9-12]
3. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
It was difficult not to make this the top pick on any list it appears as it’s my all time favorite book ever. A Newbery winner, it captivated both my girls. For a Newbery book, it’s accessible to younger children because it’s short with short chapters that read almost as short stories. An amazing book that you must read! [chapter book, ages 7-12]
2. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen and also Scat and Flush (and anything else by him!)
Hiaasen is the quintessential Florida author and his background as print journalist contributes to the appeal of his stories. I read and loved Hoot but still need to track down the other two but I’ve found that boys in grades three through six will happily read all three books and wish for more. [ chapter book, ages 8-14]
1. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
My fifth grader read this book and loved it and though it sat around the house, it took me months to read it. When it won a Newbury honor this year, I still did not manage to read it but I finally did last week and it was so good, it inspired me to finish this list I’ve been working on for six months. It’s set in Key West during the Great Depression when Key West wasn’t a resort town and most of the people living there were on welfare and reminds me of Because of Winn Dixie meets the TV show, Little Rascals. This is based on the true story of the author’s grandparents and is accurately portrayed down to the inclusion of Papa Hemingway. Meet 11-year-old Turtle, who is sent to live with her relatives while her mother tries to find a father for her, and prepare to lose your heart to her. [chapter book, ages 8-14]
To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.