Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Recommendations for 2nd Grade to Middle Schoolers

We're having a book buying night and our lovely librarian ( has posted a list of book recommendations thought some of you might like. Next up, I need the Spanish language ones. My kids come from a line of avid readers, but have not really picked up that bug themselves, so I am always looking for recommendations.

2nd – 4th grade kids who like to laugh:

My Weird School series by Dan Gutman – kids and teachers misbehave just enough to make the books feel slightly naughty, but with lessons learned.  Can’t keep these on the shelf at school.

Time Warp Trio series by Jon Sciescza – similar concept to Magic Treehouse, only with dry humor  and mild sarcasm that budding ironists will enjoy.

Justin Case series (2 books so far) by Rachel Vail – Justin is a school-nervous worrywart who manages to be engaging and hilarious as he survives recognizable situations at school and with his quirky, loving family.  A great read-aloud for families.

The Riot Brothers series by Mary Amato—two brothers live out their motto of “make something exciting happen every day,” with mischief, a modicum of booger humor, and truly good intentions. 

Moving on to middle school soon?  As the mom of boys ages 10 and 12, she has serious concerns about books that emphasize the crass and cruel side of the tween years, and don’t honor the tender hearts we’ve cultivated in our own kids.  Here are some titles that introduce the middle-school years with respect, humor, and a reasonable dose of reality, best for grades 4 & up:

Origami series by Todd Angleberger – kids trying to navigate confusing friendships and crushes in age-appropriate ways.  I love how these books model self-reflection and show respect for kids’ feelings without appearing to teach a lesson.  

Aldo Zelnick series by Karla Oceanak—Aldo is a talented artist, but can’t decide whether he’s willing to let his non-standard talent shine.   His diverse group of family and friends are featured in his journal-style books that feature text and graphic sections.

The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt.  Set during and just after the Vietnam wars at two different middle & high schools, this pair of titles would be appropriate for 5th grade and up readers ready for the next level of poignancy and cultural literacy in humorous episodic novels.

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass.  (California Young Reader Medal, 2011).  Narrated in turns by an appearance-obsessed aspiring model and an isolated, home-schooled astronomy enthusiast, this story of weathering life’s changes is thoughtful and captivating.

Different century, same kids:  historical fiction for accomplished readers.

The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald.  First published beginning in 1967, these books have stood the test of time.  Harkening back to days when expectations for boys were both rougher (pocketknives, fistfights, never tattling) and stricter (rigorous chores, respect for adults, scrupulous honesty) these tales of two brothers growing up in a small town Utah feature Tom Fitzgerald, a trickster for the ages.  Grades 3 – 5.

The Grandma Dowdell series by Richard Peck—A Long Way from Chicago (1999 Newberry Honor), A Year Down Yonder (2001 Newberry Medal), and A Season of Gifts compose a trilogy set in a veeeery small town in downstate Illinois, where the indefatigable and always unexpected Grandma Dowdel marches to her own drummer, with adventures narrated by the series of young relatives and neighbors who come under her influence.  Best for grades 5 – 8.  

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.  Eleven-year-old Calpurnia balances the competing influences of a tradition-bound, ladylike mother who worries about her future, and a gender-blind, intellectual grandfather who recognizes her intelligence.   It’ll be hard for our girls to believe there was a time when aspiring to a college education was considered a crazy idea for a girl…this book will highlight how far things have come.

Chains and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson—these two titles, with the upcoming Ashes, make up the Seeds of America trilogy.  These are usually recommended for grades 6 or 7 and up, but mature 5th-graders who can handle the dark side of American history will also benefit.  Unsparing detail and meticulous research support Anderson’s tales of African teens, both enslaved and free, finding their way through the tumultuous times of the American Revolution.   May be too intense for sensitive readers, but are well worth the time for kids who want to know more about less-famous aspects of our history.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nicole! I had a question for you about possibly collaborating on something and was hoping you could email me back to discuss? Thanks so much!

    - Carolyn