Tween Fiction

All posts tagged Tween Fiction

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper

Published December 21, 2014 by Dagmar

Of all the books my students read in our 4th and 5th grade book club this fall, Out of My Mind was their favorite.  Sharon Draper, who has a disabled daughter herself, tells a story of a disabled girl who is constantly underestimated and misunderstood but who is extraordinarily smart and determined.

outofmymindMelody is 10 years old and has cerebral palsy.  Her disability affects her in many ways. Melody is unable to walk and cannot balance when she sits up.  She sits, strapped into a wheel chair. She can’t feed herself, cloth herself or go the bathroom by herself.  Sometimes, she can’t control her body movements.  Far more frustrating for Melody, though, is the fact that she can’t talk.  But, don’t feel sorry for Melody.  Melody is brilliant.  In fact, she has a photographic memory.  If people knew how smart she was, they might not underestimate her so much.

Imagine knowing what’s happening around you and wanting to speak, but being unable to speak.  No one around her, not even her parents, fully understand how much Melody knows or what she thinks about.  It might make you go out of your mind, like a fish in a tiny fish bowl who just can’t stand those glass walls anymore.

At school, Melody is placed in a room for children with disabilities.  Unfortunately, there, having disabilities means that people also think you’re stupid and try to teach you the alphabet in third grade.

Luckily, Melody has champions who fight for her.  Her parents are constantly trying to explain that Melody is an intelligent child who needs people to teach her.  Ms. V., Melody’s neighbor who has taken care of her since she was a baby, while Melody’s parents work, needs no convincing about Melody’s intelligence.  She works with Melody, developing word cards so that Melody can communicate.  Catherine, Melody’s aide at school, works with Melody to find a machine that can help her speak.

When Melody gets her machine, she finds her voice.  It is an amazing gift.  Everyone learns just how incredibly bright Melody is.  Melody has opportunities that she couldn’t have dreamed of the year before, including joining mainstream classrooms.

This book does such a wonderful job of explaining Melody’s condition and limitations in away that doesn’t let you feel sorry for Melody.  Draper’s writing gives Melody an authentic voice that really speaks to students.  Melody’s disappointments and frustrations are easy to imagine.  Her victories make you feel great.

With great characters and plot twists right until the end, this book will really draw you in.  Don’t miss it!  For more information, please check out this interview with Sharon Draper about this book on her web-site. http://sharondraper.com/bookdetail.asp?id=35

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman

Published December 9, 2014 by Dagmar

goldencompassI’ve had The Golden Compass on my school library shelf for three years.  I’ve wanted to read it and never had the opportunity.  With so many students all eager for fiction recommendations, my reading list can be long and scattered – science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, realistic fiction.  I’m often reading several books at one time.  One or my fourth grade students simply tore through this series this fall.  I’m grateful to her for putting this book and series back on my radar.  The beginning of this book really grabbed my attention.  I didn’t stop reading until I’d finished the book.

The Golden Compass is the first book in the “His Dark Materials” series (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass).  Lyra is the main character.  Her world resembles the current world with recognizable countries and geography.   Every human being has a daemon, an animal that acts as an expression of each person’s soul, and is their closest friend.  Daemons change form as a child grows and eventually settle into one animal form when the child becomes an adult.  Lyra is being raised by the Scholars at Jordan College.  Lord Ariel, her uncle, visits Lyra occasionally, but she is largely left to her own devices.  She spends most of her time with her best friend, Roger, a kitchen boy. Together, they get into a lot of mischief, battling with other children, climbing onto the roof of the College and discovering all that tunnels and rooms that lie beneath the College.

The story begins as Lyra, a girl, and her daemon, Pantalaimon hide in a wardrobe in the Retiring Room at Jordan College.  Hidden, she sees the Master of the College walk into the room and put poison in the wine glass of the visiting Lord Asriel, who is soon to arrive. Lord Asriel enters the Retiring Room only to catch Lyra, hiding in the wardrobe.  Lyra tells him of the poisoned wine. Grateful to know about the plot to kill him, Lord Asriel allows her to crawl back in the wardrobe so that she can see the slideshow he is presenting to Scholars at Jordan College.  The slideshow shows the Aurora in the North and an image of a city in the sky.  Lord Asriel speaks to the group of Scholars about a mysterious substance called “dust”.  Lyra is fascinated by the images Lord Asriel has shown the group.  She is curious about everything she has heard and wants to visit the North to learn more about “dust” and the City in the sky.

From that day forward, Lyra’s life changes completely.  She and Roger begin to hear rumors that children are being stolen from Oxford and surrounding areas.  Then, Roger is abducted.  Lyra also learns that Lord Asriel is being held prisoner in the North. Then, the Master of the College tells Lyra that she must leave Jordan College and go live with Mrs. Coulter, a beautiful and charming, but mysterious, woman.  Before she leaves the College, the Master gives her a strange device called an alethiometer, that looks like a compass.  She is told to keep it safe from others.

Lyra soon finds out that she has a special gift that allows her to “read” the alethiometer.  She learns more about her family and the evil that exists in her world.  She is forced to run away from Mrs. Coulter’s house and is found and protected by Gyptians, a nomadic people who move from place to place on their boats.  Together with the Gyptians and an armored bear called Iorek Byrnison, Lyra heads north to free her friend Roger, the other lost children and Lord Asriel.

This is a fast-paced book’s unfolding mystery will hold you in suspense until the final pages.  There are truly evil characters and smart, loyal characters that you’ll come to love.  Lyra is brave and determined to fight the evil she sees.

I highly recommend this book to fourth grade-middle school readers who love mystery and fantasy.

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McCann

Published May 10, 2014 by Dagmar

theunwantedsMy students really loved The Unwanteds.  In fact, 28 students of mine from 3rd-5th grade read this and two other books for the 2014 California Young Readers’ Medal, a Medal awarded to the book that receives the most votes in a category from students throughout the state.  The Unwanteds was the winner at our school and in the state.

When children in Quill turn 13, they wait to hear their judgement.  Will they be Wanted, Necessary or Unwanted?  Wanteds are the strongest in society and train to defend Quill from those outside.  Necessarys provide the services needed by Wanteds.  And the Unwanteds?  Each year, the Unwanteds of Quill disappeear forever.

Expecting to be put to death, the Unwanteds actually enter a magical world very different from the decrepit and bleak world of Quill.  Artime is a beautiful world full of color, where creativity is revered.  Magical spells and creatures keep Artime safe from those in Quill who would destroy it, but those magic spells are wearing thin.  Now, the residents of Artime must learn to use their talents to prepare for battle to save their world.

Will Artime survive?  Read and find out.  This series has captivated my students who are now reading the other two books in the series.  I couldn’t put the book down myself.

 

Amelia’s Notebook series, by Marissa Moss

Published July 29, 2013 by Dagmar

Amelia's NotebookIf you’re looking for a fun read for tweens and middle school girls, here’s a great choice.  Marissa Moss’ Amelia Notebooks are written like diaries that look like composition books full of Amelia’s writing and her many drawings.   Amelia is 10 and has an older sister named Cleo.  They act a lot like you’d imagine an annoying younger sister and a more annoying older sister might act.

In Oh Boy, Amelia, Amelia can’t believe how her sister Cleo changes when she’s around a boy she likes. Amelia tells it like it is. “I know why Cleo’s suddenly so polite.  She’s eating lunch at school with Oliver now, and she doesn’t want him to htink she’s a rude slob…If Oliver saw the real Cleo, there’s no way he’s ask her to go out with him.” and “Today when Oliver came over, Cleo actually fluttered her eyelashes at him – I thought that only happened in cartoons!  I thought I’d see big pink hearts pop up over her head.”

As Amelia tries to make sense of the way Cleo is acting, she has her own struggles in “Life Skills” class.  Amelia has to sew, something and that does not come naturally to her.  Amelia talks about “The Truth Behind Boy and Girl Things”  Her truth?  “All girls aren’t the same, and neither are all boys.  And even if most girls like something, I don’t have to like it, too.”

Amelia’s sewing project is a disaster, and she’s really nervous about her teacher’s suggestion that they have a fashion show with everyone modeling their projects.  Her big challenge though, is making a science project that will impress Oliver enough that he’ll invite her to go the state science fair.  Amelia loves science and is dying to go to science fair.

Will Amelia get through the fashion show and get to go to the science fair?  Will Cleo figure out that it’s better to be yourself than to try to change yourself to get someone to like you?

Read this fun book to find out and enjoy the entire series of Amelia’s notebooks!

As a note, our school was lucky enough to receive an author visit from Marissa Moss.  She did a great presentation and writing workshop for our sixth grade.  Yay, Marissa!

Flight, edited by Kazu Kibuishi

Published June 18, 2013 by Dagmar

flightFinally, something to satisfy the many Amulet fans in my library.  As I mentioned in my blog article about Amulet, my students are so sad that the series only has five volumes.  Many of my students have read each book of Amulet multiple times.  Kibuishi’s Copper book also circulated like crazy until our copy was lost.

So, when I found out that Kazu Kibuishi created a collection of graphic short stories, I thought I’d give these books a try in my library.  I was not disappointed.  While the work is not entirely that of Kazu Kibuishi exclusively, it is a really nice collection.  It contains short stories from 21 authors, including one story from Kibuishi.  I ordered the first three books, and they immediately started circulating.  There are eight books in all, and I’ve already been asked by my students to add to our collection.  While most of these stories can be understood by younger students, I would recommend them for a tween and older audience.

Shooting Kabul, by N.H. Senzai

Published May 1, 2013 by Dagmar

shooting kabulMiddle schoolers barely remember a time when the United States didn’t have troops in Afghanistan.  Shooting Kabul takes place in Kabul and in Fremont, CA.  The book starts as 12 year old Fadi and his family, afraid of the way Kabul has changed under the rule of the Taliban, make a dangerous nighttime escape from Afghanistan.  Fadi loses hold of his six year old sister’s hand in the escape.  Broken-hearted, the family is forced to save themselves and leave little Mariam behind in Afghanistan.

Shooting Kabul is the incredible story of an immigrant family adjusting to life in Fremont in a large Afghani community.  The family moves in with relatives and has to live in cramped quarters and the hospitality of their relatives until Fadi’s father can find work.  Fadi has to transition to an American middle school and his father finds work as a taxi driver.  It is difficult to support the family as a taxi driver and particularly difficult, because his father was a university professor in Kabul.  Fadi cannot forget his little sister, alone in Afghanistan, or maybe even Pakistan.  He is determined to find her and bring her to America.  He enters a photo competition with his new friend, a girl named Anh.  First prize is a photographic journey to anywhere in the world.  Fadi thinks this is his way to get back to Pakistan, where he thinks his sister might be.

Then, 9/11 happens, and it’s hard being at school where kids only see you as Afghani and someone who might be responsible for the attacks.  Fadi concentrates harder on winning the photo competition and finding Mariam.

This book kept me and my students in suspense. I had to keep turning the pages to see if Fadi could find his little sister. A great read.

Mike Lupica’s Sports books

Published April 27, 2013 by Dagmar

My malMike Lupicae 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.