Top Ten Laurie Halse Anderson Books by Carrie Cox

In preparation for this blog, I’ve had a stack of Laurie Halse Anderson books on my desk all week. Talk about over-whelming! I’m awe-struck by the scope of Laurie’s talent and subject matter. The diversity among her novels and picture books is varied in such a way that ranking would purely be based on personal taste rather than literary merit. So, I’ve ranked ten books (yes, my ten favorites—so far) beginning with the youngest reader/listener level to the oldest.

  • The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School

Zoe’s hair rocks! This is the longest-running favorite bedtime story for my three kids. I recently met editor Kevin Lewis at a SCBWI conference (yes, I fangirled) and heard some fun stories about the process of bringing Zoe’s hair to life. Picture books take a dynamic team, and LHA, Ard Hoyt, and Kevin Lewis perfected this story experience.

  • Thank You, Sarah

Illustrated by Matt Faulkner, this is a stunning example of engaging non-fiction. The text about Sarah Hale’s quest to save Thanksgiving is easy for young listeners to follow and the “Feast of Facts” in the back gives older readers more information to chew on.

  • Independent Dames

The second historical pairing of Laurie and Matt Faulkner blends narrative with comic book like illustrations plus historical bios and a running timeline on each page. Yes—it has to be seen to be fully appreciated. There is enough information to tailor the read to each level of maturity plus it appeals to both boys and girls. (Side note: These are the only picture books by Laurie I’ve seen, but there are several more from earlier in her writing career that are currently out of print.)


  • Vet Volunteers (series)

The Vet Volunteers books are a middle grade collection about a group of friends that help others while helping animals. Currently there are ten titles—with two more “coming soon.” I’ve only read one, but will definitely be reading the others.

  • Fever 1793

Marketed for ages ten and up, this “historical thriller” has the means to create a history fan out of reluctant readers. Mattie Cook’s life and death plight is poignant for readers young and old. This is an excellent choice for those looking for a novel to utilize alongside early American history lessons.

  • Chains

Laurie shines in historical fiction! Her research is seamless and deep.  Isabel is a believable character who readers readily attach to. Another Nerdy Book Clubber Brian Wyzlic posted a Retro Review for Chains in August. 

  • Forge

This is the sequel to Chains, and every bit as good as its award-winning counterpart. Curzon takes the lead in this installment and readers get to experience Valley Forge from the eyes of the lowest ranks in the patriots’ camps. The world is awaiting the final piece of this trilogy.  I’m sure I’ll have to bump something off this Top Ten List to make room for Ashes when it comes out.

  • Speak

This is the book most readers think of when they hear Laurie Halse Anderson—there’s even an imprint at Penguin named after it! Melinda’s situation unfolds like a horror story for readers who don’t know the circumstances about the phone call to the cops, so I won’t list any spoilers. I’m happy I was able to read without knowing the reasons, but even if readers know what the key event is, it’s still a beautifully told narrative and an excellent conversation starter on a serious topic for parents/teachers to discuss with their teens.

  • Catalyst

I actually reread this one in preparation for the blog post. Not counting the Wonderland references, I believe this nudges Wintergirls out for a top spot because it potentially has a larger reach. Kate Malone—one of many great character names—deals with the stress of her senior year and college acceptance. Besides her own inner turmoil, Kate has the “Bad Kate”/guilt of not living life fully in-tune with the teachings of her preacher father. It’s a heart-aching story of judgment, community and redemption.  Pass the tissues, please!

  • Twisted

This one is listed last because it comes complete with a warning page. “NOTE: THIS IS NOT A BOOK FOR CHILDREN” It’s been several years since I’ve read it, but it still haunts me. Tyler’s fight to reach manhood—from the bullying of his best friend at school to stresses at home—are gut wrenching but there are several laugh-out-loud moments, too. I’m going to have to suck it up and reread it one day, but I’m not ready yet. I list this book as one of the top three factors in choosing to homeschool my children. Powerful!

And there it is, the Top Ten Laurie Halse Anderson List from a fellow book geek. For those looking for more in-depth information on the books or the lady herself—including a nifty section for teachers—check out

Happy reading!

Carrie Cox is a homeschooling mother of three as well as a budding writer in Mobile, Alabama. Previously, the California native dabbled in substitute teaching and ran the children’s department at the local bookstore. You may follow her literary journey at and on Twitter @wonderwegian.