Some things I considered before commenting:
- How relevant are the themes of the book to the lives of my students?
- Is the reading level of the book too high for my students?
- Has there been (or will there be) a movie done on the book?
- Does the book appeal to both girls and boys
|5||The Giver (The Giver #1) by Lois Lowry – I like the fact that it is a science fiction tale taking place in the future. Science fiction is a great platform to use when introducing students to societal issues. Similarly, I also like the fact that it explores the idea of a utopian society, and as a result, exposes some of the flaws in the world we live in (e.g. the environment, medicine, laws, etc.). I currently teach this book as part of a unit on peer pressure. With that said, I do not love this book, and feel that there are other books on this list that are better. I found the diction that the author uses to be forced and over-thought in some areas. I found the main character Jonas to be forgettable. In my opinion, the book loses momentum when it should gain it. This occurs while Jonas is in training with the Giver, and learns about pain, love, and happiness. I would recommend watching the film, Pleasantville to help gain back some of that momentum, and flesh out some of the themes in The Giver.|
|9||To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – I have to admit that the vocabulary in the book still scares me. I find the reading level to be too high for middle school students. I also feel like reading the whole book would take too much time. I would recommend using this book for a book club, and with students who express interest in reading it. With that said, I would be in favor of using this book with 10th-12th grade students. The character development is top-notch. Atticus, Scout and Boo Radley are immortal. There are so many memorable scenes. The issues are relevant and enduring, and there are so many directions you can take with the book. It is a classic, and for good reason.|
|13||The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – I loved reading The Hobbit as a child, and still do. However, this book does not contain any strong female characters. Yes, there are giant spiders, giant wolf-like creature, goblins, and a dragon, but I fear that my students would lose interest among all the tall trees and muddy swamps and rustic settings of Middle Earth. Many of them have never even been outside of New York City. Tolkien’s writing resists being Victorian in style, but just by a few decades.|
|32||Stargirl (Stargirl, #1) by Jerry Spinelli – I would put Spinelli up there with Walter Dean Myers in his ability to communicate to a modern audience. Students literally tear through books written by these authors. Stargirl, the character, is unforgettable. Spinelli is a special talent. I would definitely use his book with middle school as well as high school students. His language is very accessible, both boys and girls would enjoy reading this book.|
|39||Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – Read this book for the first time this semester. There is much to keep my students interested from this book. They will like the fact that the protagonist is a girl, and that she is put in the middle of a survival tale. In my opinion, Karana’s connection to the natural world will appeal to students in a way that The Hobbit probably will not.|
|49||Lord of the Flies by William Golding – In the same way that the vocabulary of To Kill A Mockingbird might be too advanced for my population, the same might apply to Lord of the Flies. However, the plot of the story is so compelling, and the story is short enough, that I believe the students will be able to manage the vocabulary. Yes, there are no female characters in the book, but the book would work just as well if the males were substituted with females. The reason for this is that the conflicts in the story applies universally to both sexes. How will kids behave when adults aren’t watching? How will people behave, when there is no one around to police them? Girl or boy, it makes no difference. I might not try this book with 6th, or even 7th grade readers, but I would definitely use with 8th grade and above.|
|50||Hatchet (Brian’s Saga, #1) by Gary Paulsen – In terms of being a survival story, I preferred Island of the Blue Dolphins and Lord of the Flies. With that said, Hatchet is more accessible to 6th and 7th graders because of its vocabulary. In addition to being stranded in the Canadian wilderness, the main character of the story, Brian, also struggles emotionally with his parents’ divorce. Divorce is definitely a relevant topic for my students. It is a simple and straightforward tale that students should have little trouble analyzing and discussing, especially when trying to consider the heroic qualities that Brian possesses.|
|73||Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech – This is easily an important book because it deals with the loss of a family member. It is also valuable because it is successful in creating a sense of wonder about the vastness of America. The characters are well-developed. The language that Grams uses is memorable and quotable. The reader learns a little about Indian history and culture. The book is sophisticated and modern in the way that it successfully and cohesively interweaves three plotlines. This book is good and solid literature for people of all ages.|
|90||The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – This book was a revelation. It was easily the funniest book I have read maybe in the last few years. It was funny often in a tragi-comic way, which I like. This is a book that students will flock to not only for its humor but because they will be able to identify with the Indian plight. The reservation is a prison without bars, and the same can be said of the “hood.” The hero of the story, Junior, has so many shortcomings, but overcomes those shortcomings like a champion. This is the one book I would recommend without exception to everyone I know. It is an inspiration.|
|92||The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Vintage Gaiman. I was reminded of three books while reading this: Books of Magic, Sandman: The Doll’s House, Sandman: Seasons of Mist. Similar to the Harry Potter story, the hero of Books of Magic is identified as potentially being a messianic figure in the world of magic. He could be the next Merlin. However, he could also turn out to be the anti-Christ. A number of powerful wizards and sorcerers are sent to protect and guide him. He faces many dangers and makes mistakes along the way. Many of the same things can be said of the main character of The Graveyard Book, Bod. Bod is also a messianic figure as well. His guardians however are ghosts, vampires and werewolves. Much of Sandman: The Doll’s House takes place at a convention for serial killers. One of the serial killers is a non-human killer called the Corinthian who wants the main character, Morpheus, dead. The villains of The Graveyard Book are part of a mysterious organization called the Jacks of All Trades. They often meet at conventions that seem benign on the surface, but are sinister in nature. Finally, Sandman: Seasons of Mist is a tale about how Lucifer, aka Satan, abdicates his dominion over hell. Lucifer chooses to leave ownership of hell to the main character, Morpheus. In Graveyard Book, Bod is tricked into traveling into the underworld of Ghulheim. His escape from Ghulheim depends on the assistance of one of his guardians, Miss Lupescu. Beyond this, students would love the story because even though Bod has plenty of helpers along the way, he must confront and defeat very dangerous men who are trying to kill him. In order to defeat the Jacks of All Trades, Bod must use his smarts, and some very unique abilities.|