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NPR'S Backseat Book Club

  • A chance encounter with a little girl in an ice cream store inspired R.J. Palacio to write a novel about a boy born with distorted facial features. She says it got her thinking about what it's like to "have to face a world every day that doesn't know how to face you back."
  • Rachel Renee Russell's very popular series stars a not-so-popular protagonist. The Dork Diariesare written by Nikki Maxwell, a misfit at a new school. Russell was inspired to write the books after seeing her own daughters struggle with the "dork" label during their teenage years.
  • It's the summer of 1964, and everything's changing for 11-year-old Glory. She was looking forward to celebrating her 12th birthday at the local pool, but the town has shut it down to avoid integration. Members of NPR's Backseat Book Club share their questions with author Augusta Scattergood.
  • Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan was inspired by a real-life gorilla who lived in a mall in Tacoma, Wash. The author says humans have "a real obligation" to care responsibly for animals in captivity.
  • Our latest pick for NPR's Backseat Book Club is The Red Pyramid, a tale of two kids who must rescue the world from Egyptian gods. Author Rick Riordan, a former schoolteacher, combined his obsession with books with his passion for mythology to write this book about ordinary kids doing heroic things.
  • Heart of a Samurai tells the true story of 14-year-old Manjiro, a boy who was shipwrecked, rescued by whalers and taken to America. It was the late 1800s, when Japan was cut off from the outside world — until Manjiro returned and influenced the shogun to open the country to diplomacy.
  • A road trip from Michigan to Alabama places the Watson family in Birmingham in 1963, just as racial tensions are roiling. Christopher Paul Curtis draws upon his own experiences growing up in the 1960s for this Newbery Honor-winning novel.
  • The pun-filled Phantom Tollboothturns 50 this year. Author Norton Juster takes questions from young readers about the story of Milo, a bored little boy who finds adventure in a very strange land full of riddles and wordplay.