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Topic: need some good book suggestions for middle school kids

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Subject: need some good book suggestions for middle school kids
Date Posted: 3/10/2008 6:47 PM ET
Member Since: 11/11/2007
Posts: 48
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I teach Special Ed, middle school. In homeroom we have 30 minutes sustained silent reading, but as a special ed teacher I am allowed to do what I want so I read to them and they follow along. It helps develop skills.

Anyways, I am looking for somee suggestions. My homeroom is all boys, 7th and 8th grade. There are only 4 of them :) They love stories about underdogs and the like. 

Here is a list of books we've done this year that they like: Holes by Louis Sachar, Freak the Mighty by Philburn?, and Because of Winn Dixie (they begged to read this one, which was kind of weird because to be honest you don't expect 8th grade boys to be begging you to read that book, but I obliged).

I am looking for any suggestions for the next books to read.  The librarian gave me some Magic Tree House books and I really think they will like them and they can take turns reading them outloud but it looks like we will get through those fast.

So suggestions please? The books can't be too complicated because these kids don't have a lot of background knowledge, but I am working on building it. I don't want them to be confused the whole time. I am thinking that they may like Roald Dahl but it might be too "not real" for them. Also, I am thinking Tuck Everlasting.  I will be happy to hear what you suggest.

(Oh yes, I don't want disturbing content, like murder, or swearing, please)

Last Edited on: 3/10/08 6:55 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/11/2008 12:43 AM ET
Member Since: 10/26/2005
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Last Edited on: 12/10/08 1:14 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/11/2008 6:14 AM ET
Member Since: 11/11/2007
Posts: 48
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Wow, I really think they will like Summer of the Monkeys...they love dog books! I wonder if its available on tape (because my kids can't read at grade level, I have to read everything, all day, and sometimes my voice needs a little break!)  Thanks for the warning about the scene. I will look into it and get the opinions of some other teachers.

It sounds like they might like the story about the one acre farm. It would be great to find something they can read independently, and the boys also like stories about farms and such. We are from a rural community so I think they relate well to farms and dogs.

I am really happy that I got some suggestions that I've never heard of! I am very familiar with a lot of books but not these. I am so excited to check into them. Thank you.

Still open for more suggestions!

Date Posted: 3/11/2008 8:13 AM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
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The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford might work. Great story. But my son has always loved the funnier side of historical fiction like The Great Horned Spoon - also by Sid Fleischman ( I see above) and The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr. This one is about a 15 year old trying to make a fortune in the 1860's by herding one thousand turkeys through the Wild West! A lot of fun. I'll keep looking!
Date Posted: 3/11/2008 8:23 AM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
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Follow my Leader by James B. Garfield perhaps? A teenage boy loses his sight in a fire works accident and has to learn to rely on his guide dog. It's been awhile but I remember being very moved by this - it's fiction, by the way. Great love story of a boy and his dog. Detectives in Togas and Mystery of the Roman Ransom (sequel) by Henry Winterfeld were also a lot of fun. Really interesting, fun historical fiction. We used them as read alouds in earlier grades but I think they'd be fine for older kids as well. The characters are a bit younger - I just don't think it makes a big difference with these novels. Anyway, I'm curious about what you decide to use in your classroom. Let us know what works!
Date Posted: 3/11/2008 1:56 PM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2007
Posts: 163
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Bandit's Moon is another book by Sid Fleischman that is very good.  It is about a Mexican outlaw in California.  It is historical and very interesting.  I can see boys liking it.  Some of the other suggestions I am familiar with and sound great too!

Date Posted: 3/11/2008 4:39 PM ET
Member Since: 2/13/2008
Posts: 662
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Ooh.  I love book suggestion questions because I get to go back and remember books we liked.  Here are some suggestions:

Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson (very funny read-alouds--Hank considers himself "head of security" on his ranch, and takes his job a little too seriously.)

Dogs Don't Tell Jokes by Louis Sachar (same author as "Holes"--great book)

Wayside School series by Louis Sachar (really aimed at younger kids--but still great fun to read aloud; quite silly)

Time Stops for No Mouse and The Sands of Time by Michael Hoeye (Two mysteries in which all the characters are animals--but surprisingly sophisticated.)

The Mouse and the Motorcyle and Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary  (A mouse manages to make a toy motorcyle work for him....)

The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis (Cool tie-in:  The second movie--Prince Caspian--comes out in theaters on May 16.)

The BFG by Roald Dahl

The Redwall series by Brian Jacques  (Again--don't be fooled by the all-animal cast.  These books are surprisingly sophisticated--I like them myself.)  BTW--our local library here carries wonderful unabridged audio versions of these books recorded by Brian Jacques himself with a full cast performing each character.  That could be a very cool thing to read along with.  Some of our favorites from the series are: Martin the Warrior, Taggerung, Rakkety Tam, and High Rhulain.

Date Posted: 3/11/2008 10:05 PM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2007
Posts: 163
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My family loves Redwall!  The audiobooks are great.  The author has a wonderful storytelling voice.

Alot of Roald Dahl's books would be good.  BFG, Matilda, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are all excellent.

Date Posted: 3/13/2008 12:21 AM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2006
Posts: 457
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The Redwall series is GREAT, but I definitely recommend the audio for that.  The dialogue is written with different accents, and some of them are hard for young readers to understand when they see it in print.  Hearing it, however, would REALLY make these stories come alive for your students!


Date Posted: 3/19/2008 8:44 PM ET
Member Since: 2/11/2008
Posts: 24
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My son read many of the Gary Paulsen books. The stories are about a teenage boy named Brian. The adventures are set in the outdoors. The books are pretty short in length and easy reading ability. My sons favorite was Brian's Winter.


Last Edited on: 3/19/08 8:45 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
patticom - ,
Date Posted: 3/21/2008 12:30 PM ET
Member Since: 11/3/2007
Posts: 416
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How about the Little House series?  My son loved them, though he said to not tell anyone he did since they were mostly about girls LOL.  If you think your boys will care about this you could stick to just Farmer Boy, the one about Almonzo as a boy.  :)

We've started a series now called Wally McDoogle that all 3 of my boys are enjoying (the main character is a middle-school age boy). 

My eldest (high schooler) is currently reading the Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  When I was 4th or 5th grade I read the entire Black Stallion series.  :)

Date Posted: 3/25/2008 10:04 AM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2008
Posts: 2
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I want to second Follow My Leader. It is a wonderful book that I, as a girl, read several times. I had my son read it last year when he was in 7th grade and he really liked it as well. As an interesting add on to the book, we raise puppies for the Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Often we've been asked to do a presentation for local groups. You could contact your local organization and see if they could arrange to have someone visit for when you're done reading the book. (The guide puppies need lots of socialization and exposure and meet and greets are always fun for everyone!)

My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, is another one I read as a girl and loved. This story is about a boy who goes off by himself into the wilderness and how he survives.

Other books that might be interesting...my son LOVES LOVES LOVES the Horrible Science books. These are written in a semi-comic book format but are full of interesting stuff. He also loves the Horrible History books (but maybe the reality behind the facts there might be disturbing to them?)

Other books:

Johnny Tremain (a totally amazing book. It's about a boy their age who grows as a person, overcomes adversity and does something wonderful.)

Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Gray (this one had him laughing)

The Squire's Tale, by Gerald Morris (also VERY funny)

Mr. Popper's Penguins (yes, this is a younger read book, but my son just read it to his little sister and both were laughing constantly)

The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner (he said this started the best of all books he's read...the main character is in a dungeon...)

Date Posted: 3/25/2008 10:08 AM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2008
Posts: 2
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Oh! I forgot one of our favorites! The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. The great thing about this (besides the book itself) is that afterwards, you can show them the movie. Both are excellent.

Date Posted: 3/25/2008 5:52 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2006
Posts: 181
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If you think they would like realistic fiction then the Andrew Clements books are good. I'd start with Frindle. These are written on about a 4th grade independent reading level and are often read by 4th and 5th graders. My son loved them all.


A note on Redwall, no offense to the person who suggested it but it is long and tons of battle scenes. If the kids like Magic Tree House, which is a 2nd grade independent reading level, then Redwall will be too hard, and long. IMO.


You have many great suggestions here. I echo Little House on the Prairie series, my sons love that. 


If you can find Red Sails to Capri it was fantastic and engaged my son too.


Something else you may try is the journal style books such as Dragonology, Egyptology, and others in that series.


My son loves also Dinotopia by James Gurney, the first two books which are thick and full of full color drawings. The books are different and better than the movie. Also I am not talking about the other books which are chapter books that came after the first two. Go for the first two!!

Subject: Here are some favorite animal stories
Date Posted: 4/14/2008 2:02 PM ET
Member Since: 3/30/2008
Posts: 349
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ABEL'S ISLAND Steig, William
Castaway on an uninhabited island, Abel, a very civilized mouse, finds his resourcefulness and endurance tested to the limit as he struggles to survive and return home

A piglet destined to be butchered arrives at the farmyard, is adopted by an old sheep dog, and discovers a special secret to success.

BUNNICULA Howe, Deborah
Though scoffed at Harold the dog, Chester the cat tries to warn his human family that their foundling baby bunny is a vampire

A fast-talking mouse and a city-wise cat welcome a country cricket to a new home in a NYC subway station

Two dogs and a cat support each other through hardships, hunger, and danger as they travel two hundred and fifty miles across Canada to reach home

In need of help for her children, a widowed mouse visits the rats whose former imprisonment in a laboratory has given them wisdom. 1972 Newbery Award

A courageous girl mouse embarks on a journey to save her family and defeat the tyrannical horned owl who rules the forest. 

SHILOH Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds
When he finds a lost beagle in the hills behind his West Virginia home, Marty tries to hide it from his family and the dog's real owner, a mean-spirited man who shoots deer out of season and mistreats his dogs.1992 Newbery Award

SOUNDER Armstrong, William
Angry and humiliated when his sharecropper father is jailed for stealing food for his family, a young black boy grows in courage and understanding with the help of his devoted dog Sounder. 1970 Newbery Award

A sensitive but heroic young weasel finds a way to save his seaside community on Long Island. Beautifully illustrated

Subject: good book suggestions for middle school kids
Date Posted: 4/16/2008 9:44 PM ET
Member Since: 9/1/2007
Posts: 8
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Kenneth Thomasma has a whole series of books about Indian children from long ago.  OM-KAS-TOE of the Blackfeet would be a very good one for boys.

Some of the Landmarks are being re-published.  They are just wonderful books!  I recommend:

Ghengis Khan and the Mongol Hordes Available in paperback through Sonlight.  A great read!

The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway (Leif Ericksson, Greenland, and the discovery of America)

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry (A Polynesian boy has to conquer his fear of the water.)

The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck (A Japanese boy must face life after a tsunami destroys his family.)

Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (12 year old Colonial boy stays alone in the Maine wilderness)

Snow Treasure McSwegan (Norwegian children save a treasure in gold from the Nazis)

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths This is just wonderful. 

Any books from the Bethlehem Books Living History Library

If you are trying to help the boys put their reading into context, why not put mark-on (laminated) maps on the wall and also list the books on a timeline?

Sandra in Chamblee