This week I’m going to give you a little Top 5 List of sorts. Here are the Top 5 books you should have in your middle grades (5th-8th) library! I’m going to tell you about one book from each of the 4 main fiction novel genres (realistic, historical, science, and fantasy) and one nonfiction.
Before I get started, know that I chose these books based on *student interest* and not quality of literature. These are my most-checked out books and most beloved books – by my STUDENTS in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.
Coming in at #5 is my nonfiction pick – I Am a Seal Team Six Warrior by Howard Wasdin.
This little gem of a book is perfect for any young man ages 11-up. Of course it’s good for your girls too, if they’re interested (I sure was!). This is an absolutely fascinating autobiography detailing this Navy Seal’s climb through the US military and culminates in his involvement in the Battle of Mogadishu. Have you heard of this actual battle that was fought in Somalia in the early 1990’s? I hadn’t (gasp!) until I read this book. It was featured in the movie Blackhawk Down, which I watched and loved after reading this book. It was so, so good and since it’s written for a young adult audience, I didn’t get bogged down with the military lingo. They could call it the YA or Chick version! Anyway, I can’t keep it on my shelves and I’ve got 5 copies of it. You can read my entire review of the book here.
Number 4 is my fantasy must-have: Maximum Ride – The Angel Experiment by James Patterson.
I’ll start this one by saying that I am *not* a James Patterson fan and I really don’t like how he doesn’t even write his own books. He calls himself a “brand” rather than an author. Adding to that is the fact that I really, really, REALLY don’t like fantasy. I just don’t. I read this one and lived through it to tell you that it’s clean and I *seriously* do not enjoy fantasy. But my kids sure do enjoy it, and they enjoy the heck out of this one! It’s a series with I think 7 books now, so once they get hooked they’ll be busy for a while. As far as the plot goes – teenagers who are almost human, but they’re avian (angels). I’m including this because it isn’t MY top 5, but the most popular books for my students.
For #3 I’m going to tell you about I Survived the Attacks of September 11th by Lauren Tarshis.
Really, I could write this about the entire I Survived series, but I’m picking the one that’s probably the most popular. These are short little books (3 AR points I believe) that my kids absolutely love. While the reading level is definitely below middle school, I don’t restrict my kids during SSR (sustained silent reading) since they are ideally reading for pleasure. This one’s great for reluctant readers as well as a student who’s looking for something light and simple. I’ve read most of these and they’re definitely action-packed and high interest. These are definitely the most checked-out books on my historical fiction shelf. While they look nonfiction, they are fictional. There’s I Survived Titanic, I Survived Hurricane Katrina, I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1912, and at least a couple of others.
For #2, I’m going to cheat a little bit and give you two for my realistic fiction category – one for boys and one for girls. I’m *not* saying that these are ONLY for boys or girls, nor am I endorsing stereotypes here – just letting you know what my students are checking out. My #2 picks are The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han and Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz.
What can I say about The Summer I Turned Pretty? I’ve already blogged about it here. To wrap it up, it’s Fifty Shades of Gray for tween girls. I know, I know. I apologize if I made you cringe. And please don’t associate this innocent tween book with the dirty stuff in the other – but that’s seriously the best way I can describe the way the tween (and teen) girls SWOON for this book – just like housewives and that OTHER book. Yes, it’s clean – nothing beyond kissing. Basically, a girl is staying at her summer beach home and sharing it with a family with two boys a little older than her. Conrad is the popular, die-for cute, hard to get type and Jeremiah is the solid, smart, friendly brother. She’s got a crush on them both. As soon as the girls in my class start talking about this book, you’ll hear lots of giggles and high-pitched swoons. There are 3 books in the series and I can’t keep my 5 copies in stock.
Stormbreaker – this book is very popular for my boys in all three grades, and there are several books in this series (maybe 8 now?) so it sure keeps them busy. Plot – teenage boy’s British-spy uncle dies, and now he’s become a spy, tracking down his uncle’s killer and completing his uncle’s final mission. There’s action galore in this one, and your boys are sure to love it!
And the definite #1 for my students is Legend by Marie Lu.
This science fiction is my #1 must-have for your middle grades bookshelf because it truly has something for everyone. Following the success of The Hunger Games, dystopian fiction is definitely hot right now, but there are sooooo many bad ones out there – I’ve read most of them. While Legend is dystopian, it’s completely different from The Hunger Games and is an awesome read for tweens, teens, AND adults. I always hand this book to other teachers when they wander into my room looking for book recommendations, and they always love it. It’s about two teenagers living in a future society. Day is the Republic’s most wanted criminal, but he’s a good boy who’s trying to take care of his family under a terribly repressive government. June is a decorated military prodigy and is given the task of hunting down Day, who allegedly killed her brother. Do I even need to tell you that there is chemistry between these two? Seriously. Girls love this book. Boys love this book. Adults love this book. And what’s not to love? It’s one of my favorites too.
Ahh.. I hope you’ve learned about some new books and have found some new recommendations for your students. I just spent a $300 school check at Books a Million on new books for my classroom library, so I’ll have to show you those soon.