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Best learning gifts for middle schoolers

Smarts and fun all in one with 6 perfect presents for tweens.

By GreatSchools Staff

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The Cruisers: Checkmate

By Walter Dean Myers, read by Kevin R. Free

Ages: 10 and up

Winner of AudioFile magazine’s Earphones Award, The Cruisers: Checkmate, is the second book in Myers’ Cruisers series about a group of gifted middle school misfits in Harlem who bond over competitive chess. Myers has a subtle touch and is able to explore issues of peer pressure, drug use, and the power of the (school) press with grace. Narrator Kevin Free does a superb job of capturing the diversity of voices and personalities of the Cruisers kids, as well as the stern assistant principal, Mr. Culpepper.

Bottom line: An engrossing story that teaches significant life lessons without ever sermonizing.

Comments from readers

"With so many portable devices linked to the web, what kind of protections are available for our children? We have a housefull of teens and our home computer is in the family room where everyone gathers. We have parental controls so that our children and their visiting friends are blocked from content that is offensive &/or dangerous. Are the same kind of controls there for smart phones, iPhones, iPods & tablets? I cannot feel comfortable putting links to X-rated adult content in the pocket or backpack of my young high schoolers. Many thanks for any tips you may have! "