Parent picks: What middle-schoolers are reading for the holidays

If you have a middle-schooler, chances are he or she is caught up in fantasy stories like Twilight, Shiver, or Cirque du Freak. These wintry recommendations are sure to keep your kid's nose buried in books.

By GreatSchools Staff

When the Snow Fell

When the Snow Fell

When the Snow Fell by Henning Mankell (translated from Swedish by Laurie Thompson)
Delacorte Books for Young Readers (August 2009), $16

Nearly 14, Joel Gustafsson makes three New Year’s resolutions: live to be 100, find the ocean, and see a woman naked. The third in a quartet focusing on Joel’s coming of age, this book was shortlisted for the 2009 Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation. Set in Sweden, it might be the perfect book to curl up with this winter.

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me

by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books (July 2009)
Ages 9-12, $16

Set in late-1970s New York City, When You Reach Me is the story of Miranda, a sixth grader who’s caught up in reading the classic children’s fantasy A Wrinkle in Time while negotiating the complexities of her friendships and reflecting on her life.

Bottom line: A nuanced book about a girl's life in the city and a surprising mystery.

Tales from Outer Suburbia

Tales From Outer Suburbia

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine Books (February 2009), $20

Tales From Outer Suburbia is a weird, mesmerizing book of illustrated stories about the intersection of the surreal and the suburban, where a dugong (a creature related to the manatee) appears on a lawn and a water buffalo occupies a vacant lot. Shaun Tan’s book is not only well written but also endlessly creative.



Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press (August 2009), $18

This is the story of a romance between a girl and a werewolf. Grace falls for a yellow-eyed werewolf named Sam, who was transformed after being bitten by another werewolf, but their love is threatened because soon Sam will lose the ability to become human. A shiver-worthy fantasy!


Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2006), $11

This is a fast-paced story about a group of "vegetarian" vampires secretly living among humans. When Isabella Swan moves to a small town, Edward (a vampire posing as a high school student) can't resist her, and soon they find themselves falling in love. A perfect pick for tween or teen girls.

Cirque du Freak

Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2002), $8

If your tween has already barreled through the Twilight books, these dark tales of a boy's journey into a mysterious world of vampires will leave him or her hungry for more. This series appeals to boys and girls alike.


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Aladdin (1987), $7

A gripping survival tale. Thirteen-year-old Brian, en route to visit his father in Canada, survives a plane crash and must find his way out of the Canadian wilderness. With underlying themes of divorce and family relationships, this book is a real page-turner.



Holes by Louis Sachar
Yearling (2000), $7

A magical tale of a young boy who believes he has inherited a curse from his great-great-grandfather. Wrongly sent to a juvenile detention center, he must dig holes all day to "build character." It's not long before a mystery unravels in this gem of a book. One GreatSchools parent, who also happens to be a middle school teacher, says, "The book more of my middle-schoolers loved than any other was Holes — and that was before the movie came out. Every year students come to me and say, 'I don't like to read, but I loved reading Holes.'"

The Five Ancestors

The Five Ancestors series by Jeff Stone
Random House Children's Books

An adventure series about five foster brothers who were raised in a temple by warrior monks. When the temple is destroyed, the grandmaster orders them to uncover the secrets of their past. The boys split up, and each book follows one brother’s adventures. A great series that is sure to lure kids away from video games.

The Clique

The Clique by Lisi Harrison
Poppy (2004), $10

This series will appeal to middle-school-age readers because it deals with many real-life experiences, from being the new kid at school to dealing with mean girls and learning how to maintain friendships.

Just As Long As We're Together

Just As Long As We’re Together by Judy Blume
Laurel Leaf Library (1991), $6

From celebrated author Judy Blume, this is the story of three friends and the trials and tribulations of being a tween. A great alternative to The Clique and Gossip Girl books.

Hotel for Dogs

Hotel for Dogs by Lois Duncan
Scholastic (2008), $6

A whimsical tale about a brother and sister who, out of their love for dogs, turn an abandoned house into a hotel for strays.