My male students who are into sports are very particular about their sports, it’s either football, basketball or baseball. It is not a blend. So, what do I give students who want to read nothing but sports books and Sports Illustrated? I had a suspicion that I could pull them in with Mike Lupica’s books, and am happy to tell you that I have kids, many of them reluctant readers, grabbing his books off the shelves.
Mike Lupica is a syndicated sports writer for the New York Daily News. Most importantly, he writes realistic fiction about football, basketball and baseball. This is realistic fiction that has my tween and middle school boys excited about reading. I think these books could easily reach high school age students too.
Here’s a link to his web-site: http://www.mikelupicabooks.com/
Take a look. You can also check out my review of Heat, Mike Lupica’s book about a 12 year old boy trying to get to the Little League world series.
Is your tween or middle schooler looking for an edgy, sinister book? I’m asked every day for “scary” books and usually lead my students to my ghost story collections. But, for those kids who don’t mind dark books, read A Series of Unfortunate Events, tore through the Cirque du Freak series and are looking for more, Malice could be the answer. It is sinister, so I’d suggest middle school for this book.
I read Malice in one sitting. It was that good. This smart, but scary book is part novel, part graphic novel, part fantasy. Malice is about high school kids caught up in the mystique surrounding a comic book called Malice. It is said that kids who perform a ritual to call the main character, “Tall Jake” disappear, sometimes for months and sometimes forever. The pages of Malice, if you can get your hands on a copy, show the kids who have disappeared fighting for their lives in a strange fantasy world. Little do the kids who do the ritual know that Tall Jake is real, the world of Malice is real and as terrifying and deadly as the comic book makes out. Those that come back from having disappeared don’t remember a thing about the time they were away. Because no one remembers Malice after they return, no one can warn the other kids about Malice and the dangers of calling Tall Jake. Seth and his friends, once in Malice, fight for their lives and swear that they will find a way to stop Tall Jake.
This book has a sequel called Havoc which continues the story of Seth’s fight against Tall Jake.
If you know a child that is struggling with taking risks or overcoming a fear, this is an inspiring book. I share this with my grades, 2nd through 6th but think it works best with 2-4th graders. I had a great experience reading it to my third graders recently. They were drawn in by the words, written in verse, and the simple but beautiful illustrations of a yellow bird, green trees and a blue sky.
“If in all of forever, I never endeavor to fly, I won’t know if I can…I won’t know if I can’t. On the one wing, I could try and find that I flap and I flail, flounder and plummet, look foolish and fail. On the other wing, I could try and take flight…If I did endeavor, and found my wings clever, I could see the world! Or get lost in it.”
I think this book really works with kids, because it acknowledges the fears that come with taking risks but also explores the possibilities and opportunities if risks are taken. After I read this book, we had a great discussion as a class of times when students took risks. They also talked about risks they were still scared to take. I love this book, because it is thought-provoking at the same time it is comforting and uplifting.
Stargirl is magical, just like Stargirl herself. What happens when you meet someone completely different — someone who does things that no one would ever do, things that draw a lot of attention. What if that someone doesn’t even care that they’re different? Would you have the courage to be that person’s friend? I loved this book and so did my students.
Leo Burlock is in high school. He’s just like any other kid. He’s kind of popular, a nice guy. But, when a new girl, Stargirl, arrives at school, she changes things for him and for everyone. She brings her ukelele to the cafeteria and serenades people on their birthdays. She sits down in class and puts a curtain and a vase of flowers on her desk. She joins the cheerleading squad and cheers for both teams. Stargirl’s complete innocence catches him by surprise and makes him fall in love with her. For a time, the entire student body falls in love with her too. But, then, Stargirl makes a big mistake, and the penalty is huge. She is shunned by the entire school, and Leo, as her boyfriend, is shunned too. “And the shunning — it was clear now — had come to me. It was less absolute for me than for her, but it was there. I saw it in the eyes that shifted away from mine, the shoulders that turned, the chatter that seemed less loud around me now than before. I fought it. I tested its limits. In the courtyard, between classes, in the lunchroom, I called out to others just to see if they would respond. When someone turned and nodded, I felt grateful.” In desperation, Leo asks Stargirl to change, to be normal. “She constantly quizzed me about what other kids would do, would buy, would think.” Stargirl does her best to change for Leo. “In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.”