Read With Me: Page 99’s top 3 books to read before 18

The Village By The Sea, Wonder and Faces In The Water.

[Entry to the 3 Books Before 18 Contest]

Share with us the top 3 books that you think children should read before turning adults. One featured selection that was your rite of passage to the world of grown ups will be gifted to the winner of ‘The book without a picture’ and also win you a favourite book from Page 99.

Here’s a list from our contest partner, Page 99.

1) Wonder by RJ Palacio

“Stories about unusual children who long to fit in can be particularly wrenching. At their core lurks a kind of loneliness that stirs primal fears of abandonment and isolation. But Palacio gives Auggie a counterweight to his problems: He has the kind of warm and loving family many “normal” children lack. Among their ­— and the book’s — many strengths, the Pullmans share the, um, earthy sense of humor that all kids love… And we see the vicious politics of fifth-grade popularity played out as the class bully targets Auggie and starts a campaign to shun him” From the NY Times

Wonder can easily be read by a child of 9 or 16 or a parent. It’s a very accessible, very touching read. It definitely might make you cry in the process, but it carries with it a strong positive message, and certainly does not “beg for sympathy” which a lot of book in this genre might tend to do.

In an author interview, RJ tells us that the idea for the book came from an evening with her children in the park, where next to her she saw a little girl sitting with her mother. This girl’s face was disfigured. RJ was scared that her kids would see this girl and start crying, and when they saw the girl, they did. The mother took her little girl and left. Incidentally, on her guilt-ridden drive home, RJ heard a song by Madeline Merchant called Wonder, which talks about this issue. This led to her writing Wonder, which has won numerous awards and is possibly on its way to being made into a film.

2) The Village by the Sea by Anita Desai

The story’s core is survival and family solidarity. Desai talks about the facts of such a life where alcoholism and illness grip the parents, and the children take life by the horns and make things happen for themselves, and their survival. Hari (aged 14) and Lila (13) both make sacrifices to keep life going, to ensure survival in a situation where no one knew where their next meal was going to come from. Again, this book deals with these realities without crying for help. The hope is not something from a fantasy movie, and somehow seems real and relatable, making it applicable to situations in our own lives (and possibly not so dire). Read for inspiration.

3) Faces in the water by Ranjit Lal

Broadly put, this book is about a boy unearthing female infanticide occurring in his own family, and how he deals with it. The writing is beautiful and gentle, and the subject matter is dealt with delicately – which is not equivalent to ‘beating around the bush’. There is even a bit of humor, and a certain innocence with which the protagonist, Gurmeet, not only comes to terms with this phenomenon, but also brings about change. The book is a balanced mix of harsh reality (about Indian systems, families, practices, education, gender politics and of course female infanticide), and the hope that small actions can inspire to bring about a larger change.

Check out other entries to the 3 Books Before 18 contest run by The Alternative and Page99.

This piece is published as part of Read With Me – August Special on The Alternative. 

As parents, educators, readers and writers, we know how important it is to get children – from infants to young adults – to be readers, and readers for life. Read With Me all this month looks to encourage children to read more. We are also talking about reading that goes much beyond a good tale – as vibrant, fun and effective ways to get children to connect to themselves, their roots, accept difference, understand people and places and be more sensitive.

Mail us your entries at Let’s read with our children for a better world.

Page99 is a web-based bookstore that handpicks and recommends books you will love, and brings them to you in eco-friendly packaging and thoughtful gifting options. Visit them at more


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Page99 is a web-based bookstore that handpicks and recommends books you will love, and brings them to you in eco-friendly packaging and thoughtful gifting options. Visit them at more

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