Six Memoirs Kids Will Love

By Cindy Hudson

Memoir, a popular genre for adults, is less thought of for children. Yet good memoirs written for kids can hook young readers, especially reluctant ones, with stories about things that happened to other children at different times in history and different parts of the world.

Life stories aimed at the younger set may be scarcer than those written for adults, but there are some great ones. The list below highlights some of the best to check out at your local library or bookstore.

A Girl from Yamhill

by Beverly Cleary (Author)

The beloved writer of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and The Mouse and the Motorcycle writes about her own childhood growing up in the small town of Yamhill, Oregon, before moving to the city of Portland. Her tales of childhood in the 1920s and the early years of The Great Depression are full of rich details sure to fascinate young readers. Cleary’s memories of school and teachers should provide insight about what education was like in the early part of the last century versus what kids today encounter. Cleary’s relationship with her parents also provides a look at how parents communicated with children then and now. (HarperCollins Publishers, October 28, 1996)

Age: 10-14

Boy: Tales of Childhood

by Roald Dahl (Author), Quentin Blake (Illustrator)

Many kids are already familiar with Roald Dahl through his fictional books, which include Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The BFG. This memoir of his years growing up will have your kids laughing out loud as they read about young Roald’s antics. With his signature story-telling style, Dahl recounts stories such as hiding a dead rat in a candy jar, getting his tonsils out at his kitchen table, and more. Kids will have fun learning how real people inspired some of Dahl’s bizarre fictional characters. (Penguin Young Readers Group, January 22, 2009)

Age: 8+

Marshfield Dreams: When I Was a Kid

by Ralph Fletcher (Author)

Young readers will be charmed by Fletcher’s stories of roaming the woods near his small town in Massachusetts, raising chickens, and playing games with his brothers and neighbors. Kids of today are likely to marvel at the relative freedom children had growing up in the 1960s and the amount of time many of them spent outdoors. It’s also fun to look at the family photos that appear at the start of each short and accessible chapter. (Square Fish, September 9, 2012)

Age: 8-12

Looking Back: A Book of Memories

by Lois Lowry (Author)

With The Giver being made into a movie, Lowry and her books have been in the spotlight. In her memoir, she gives readers direct insight into the inspiration for some of the stories by opening each section with an excerpt from one of her novels. What kid wouldn’t be fascinated to read about the frozen rat she tried to revive in her oven or the embarrassing clothes her mother made her wear? (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 28, 1998)

Age: 8+

Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution

by Ji-li Jiang, David Henry Hwang (Foreword by)

Filled with patriotic fervor for the Chinese communist government, Ji-li is at first ashamed to be part of her family, which is persecuted because of her grandfather’s political beliefs. But as she sees injustices heaped onto the heads of many people around her, she gradually becomes disillusioned and no longer believes government propaganda. Ji-li’s authentic voice inspires discussion about family loyalties, government betrayals, and China’s history. (HarperCollins Publishers, July 28, 2004)

Age: 10-14

Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo

by Zlata Filipovic, Christina Pribichevich-Zoric (Translator), Janine Di Giovanni (Introduction)

When Zlata Filipovic started her diary she was simply an 11-year-old girl living in Sarajevo concerned about things like birthday parties, her cat, and piano lessons. But when conflict broke out in her city, suddenly she was part of a war zone. Confined mostly to her home, she endured food shortages and worried for the safety of everyone she knew. This depiction of a somewhat modern war especially resonates with children when they discover that Zlata and her parents escaped, and that Zlata is now a young woman living in Ireland. (Penguin Publishing Group, February 28, 2006)

Age: 10-13