Tween book recommendations

All posts tagged Tween book recommendations

Dork Diaries, by Rachel Renee Russell

Published June 30, 2015 by Dagmar

This fiction series is always in demand in my school library.  I finally sat down to read the first book in the series this summer, right after I replaced all the missing copies from my library shelves and pre-ordered the 9th book in the series, due out on June 2, 2015dork diaries. Dork Diaries has that magic that began with Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Humor + drawings = appeal to just about every kind of reader.  I didn’t think I’d like it, but I loved it.

Dork Diaries is the story of Nikki Maxwell, eighth grader at Westchester Country Day.  She is the daughter of the school’s exterminator, there on scholarship. Nikki is having a tough time. New to the school, she is trying to fit in with the “CCP” (Cute, Cool & Popular) group at school.  The group, led by the impossibly mean and snobby Mackenzie Hollister, has all the best clothes, cell phones and get invited to the best parties.

At first, I worried that I wouldn’t like Dork Diaries.  In the beginning, as Russell sets the scene, the CCP’s mean girl talk is a little much for me.  It is actually really mean.  I didn’t want to read a book where the humor was all self-deprecating and the mean girl has all the power.  Russell seems to know just how far to go, because then Nikki’s humor kicks in.

There are lots of funny parts in the book.  I thought it was funny when Nikki’s parents try to cheer her up by putting positive messages around the house, saying things like “Be you OWN best friend.” and “Invite YOURSELF for a sleepover.”  Unfortunately, those two notes were put in the toaster slot and ended up starting a small kitchen fire. The best part of the book, I think, is when Nikki writes about her interactions with people in her diary. As she describes a scene, she’ll “say” something that makes you say to yourself…”OMG, she did NOT just say that out loud…”. Then, it’s followed immediately by “But I just said that inside my head, so no one else heard it but me.” Those moments totally cracked me up, because even though they happened throughout the book, they always surprised me.

Nikki goes through a lot of trials during her first year at Westchester, but ends up ending the year with grace and with Mackenzie jealous of her.  Go Nikki.

This book is most popular with my tweens and so could fit in an elementary school or middle school library.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Published April 12, 2014 by Dagmar

giverThe Giver, is a book that has stayed with me since I first read it years ago.  It made an equally big impact on my son when I read it to him.  The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal.

I read aloud to my sixth graders each week and decided to read them The Giver. I wondered what our students would make of the society Lois Lowry created.  In the Giver, Jonas is a boy living in a society that protects its people from all pain, horror, sadness and loneliness, but also doesn’t allow them to feel happiness, love or excitement.  Everyone exists in a comfortable, unchanging environment. There is one person, however, who is able to feel everything.  His name is the Giver, and he serves the community by holding all of its memories for them, both painful and joyful.  He alone knows the history of the community before it changed to protect its citizens.  When issues arise in the community, the Giver is called upon for advice on how to address the issue, using his knowledge of the past.

Jonas, as a 12 year old, is ready to receive his life’s assignment in the community.  Some children are assigned to care for the elderly, some become lawyers or teachers. Jonas receives the most prestigious job of all, Receiver.  Every day, Jonas goes to meet with The Giver, to receive the memories of the community.  He learns about war, sickness and disappointment but also about colors, the warmth of sunshine, the cold of snow and the excitement of riding a sled.  He is told that he cannot speak of his experiences with everyone.  He soon feels isolated from his former life and his community.

Jonas’ father is a Nurturer.  His job is to care for infants and toddlers before they are assigned to their family units.  Jonas’ father is troubled by a baby, Newchild 36, who doesn’t seem to be able to fit in.  The baby cries at night and is not adjusting to his environment as the other children are.  As a result, 36 is not able to be assigned to a family unit.  Jonas’ father convinces his bosses to let him bring the child home at night, thinking that it might help him.  Although they are only supposed to know the child’s birth number, Jonas’ family learn that the child’s name is Gabriel.  Despite all Jonas’ family’s efforts, Gabriel doesn’t improve.  Jonas’ father informs Jonas that Gabriel will be “released”.  When he discovers what will happen to Gabriel, Jonas makes a fateful decision that will change not only his own destiny, but the destiny of his community.

This book is perfect for tweens and middle school readers.  My students loved the book and many went on to read the entire Giver series.  The entire series, in order: The Giver, Gathering Blue, The Messenger, and Son, published in 2012.

In case you’re interested in sharing this book with students, here is a link to Lois Lowry’s interview, on Scholastic.com, answering questions submitted by students about The Giver.

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/lois-lowry-interview-transcript

Here’s another link I found that with interesting discussion questions:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDUQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.christina.k12.de.us%2FLiteracyLinks%2F2008%2520Units%2FUnit%25208_Appendix%2520E_Journal%2520Topics_The%2520Giver.doc&ei=RxiqUoKYDs32oASJ34CgAg&usg=AFQjCNFxHhCFTB3wSAsxRnOg_FeCcGDhbQ&bvm=bv.57967247,d.cGU

 

Legend, by Marie Lu

Published August 27, 2013 by Dagmar

legendLegend is my favorite dystopian novel.  My students agree.

Legend moves quickly between chapters written by June and Day.  June is a brilliant 15 year old girl who got a perfect score on the Republic’s trial and is being trained to be one of the Republic’s top soldiers.  Day is 15 year old boy who failed the trial, escaped a labor camp, has become a criminal and the Republic’s number one enemy.

Day and June live in Los Angeles where the rich live alongside the poor in different sectors.  The rich live in beautiful modern buildings and have plenty of food.  The poor live in broken down buildings and and fear the plagues that spread regularly throughout their neighborhoods.  Day and June have never met, but June knows that the most important mission in the military is catching Day.

Their lives intersect when Day’s little brother contracts the plague.  Day, desperate to find vaccines to save his family, breaks into a hospital.  As he tries to escape, June’s brother, a Republic soldier is killed.  Day is accused of killing him, and June is consumed with the need to find and arrest Day.  In her quest to caputure Day, June uncovers things that shake her belief in the Republic and make her wonder if Day is really the enemy at all.

This book combines fast-pacing, mystery, action, suspense and a little romance into a great novel.  Highly recommended for tweens and middle school.

I’m looking forward to reading Marie Lu’s sequel to Legend, Prodigy.