Books in English or Spanish for your 6th grader
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
by: John Boyne - (David Fickling Books, 2007) 215 pages.
It’s 1942. Bruno is a naive 9-year-old raised in a privileged Berlin household. Bruno’s father is a commandant in Hitler’s army. When the family moves within 50 feet of Auschwitz, Bruno is curious about the fence he can see from his bedroom window. He doesn’t know what horrors are happening on the other side of the fence, or what his father’s role is. In his explorations, he befriends Shmuel, a boy in the camp, and their friendship comes to a tragic end. For sixth graders who are familiar with the historical details of the Holocaust, this book is a powerful addition to Holocaust fiction, and an example of the multiple perspectives a narrative can take — in this case, the perspective of a young bystander.
Want to see the movie? The 2008 adaptation merits its PG-13 rating for the mature content depicting life in a concentration camp.
Perfect for: Kids who like historical fiction.
Find The Boy in the Striped Pajamas at your local library.
The House on Mango Street
by: Sandra Cisneros - (Vintage, 1991) 110 pages.
A series of short, poetic vignettes offer glimpses into the life of 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero, a Latina girl growing up in a poor neighborhood in Chicago. The author, who has helped a generation of Latina poets and writers find their voices, draws on her own experience to describe Esperanza’s search for her identity as a strong woman.
Perfect for: Budding poets and songwriters.
Find The House on Mango Street at your local library.
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright
by: Christopher Edge - (Yearling, 2019) 192 pages.
Ten-year-old Stephen “Albie” Bright’s parents are famous scientists. So when his mom dies of cancer, and his dad tells Albie she’s still with them in a parallel universe, Albie decides to use quantum physics to try to find her. His time traveling machine takes him to multiple worlds, where sometimes-funny encounters with different versions of himself and his parents teach him about letting go and moving forward. The science in the book is solid and the treatment of grief and loss is sensitive.
Perfect for: Kids who have suffered a loss.
Find The Many Worlds of Albie Bright at your local library.
Before We Were Free
by: Julia Alvarez - (Laurel Leaf, 2004) 192 pages.
Twelve-year-old Anita de la Torre has normal adolescent worries about school and friends, crushes, and sibling rivalry. But some worries she erases from her diary, lest she implicate her family in a dangerous coup against the Dominican Republic’s dictator. When the resistance’s assassination attempt fails, Anita’s father and uncle are arrested and she and her mother must flee the secret police and go into hiding, eventually immigrating to the United States. Set in the Dominican Republic in the 1960’s during Trujillo’s regime, this historical novel is about family, perseverance, and the human spirit.
Perfect for: Kids who like historical fiction.
Find Before We Were Free at your local library.
by: Gary Paulsen - (Simon & Schuster, 1987) 192 pages.
The story is about Brian, 13, and how he manages to survive 54 days in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. Brian was flying to visit his father when the pilot dies of a heart attack in mid-flight. Brian crash lands the plane into a small lake and swims out of the wreckage. He has his clothing, a tattered windbreaker and a hatchet (a gift from his mother). The novel takes us through Brian’s days, how he learns patience through his experiences with failures and small successes: building a fire, fishing and hunting, making his shelter a safe one. He endures a porcupine attack, a tornado and being utterly alone for almost two months. This is a tale of adventure but, more importantly, it is a tale of character growth. This edition includes a new introduction and sidebar commentary by the author.
Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.
Find Hatchet at your local library.
The Name of this Book is Secret
by: Pseudonymous Bosch - (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2008) 400 pages.
Eleven-year-old besties Cass and Max-Ernest are in the middle of a mystery involving creepy villains, a mysterious magician, and a witty narrator who makes himself a main character. The first book in the Secret Series, this book has just the right amount of silly suspense, and also delivers warm lessons on friendship. It will appeal to kids and adults who liked Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Perfect for: Young sleuths.
Find The Name of this Book is Secret at your local library.
Magnus Chase and the gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer
by: Rick Riordan - (Disney-Hyperion, 2017) 544 pages.
Percy Jackson fans, meet 16-year-old Magnus Chase. Magnus is on the run in Boston when he finds out that he is the son of a Norse god and that the future of the world is in his hands. The first book in the Gods of Asgard series, this book reimagines the stories of Norse mythology from a tween/teen-friendly perspective. There are plenty of epic battles, snarky jokes, fire giants, and a few cameos from the Percy Jackson series. The weirdest part of the series? It takes place mostly in the afterlife.
Perfect for: Percy Jackson fans.
Find Magnus Chase and the gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer at your local library.
Eragon: The Inheritance Cycle, Book 1
by: Christopher Paolini - (Knopf, 2003) 528 pages.
The hook: On a hunting trip on the foreboding mountain range known as the Spine, 15-year-old Eragon finds a mysterious blue stone that turns out to be a dragon egg. The dragon hatches and brands his palm with the silver mark that signifies that the two are a bonded pair, the last dragon and dragon rider in all of Alagaesia. When terrifying visitors destroy Eragon’s farm, Eragon and Saphira set out with the town storyteller, Brom, to pursue their destiny — to defeat the evil king, Galbatorix. This is the first book in the four-book Inheritance Cycle series, which is reminiscent of Tolkien and full of ancient magic, elves, dwarves, and dragon lore. A map and glossary help kids keep track of the exotic place names and words in fantasy languages. And the fact that the author was 15 when he began writing the series may inspire young readers to get writing themselves.
Want to see the movie? The 2007 adaptation, Eragon, may help readers visualize creatures and events in the book.
Perfect for: Readers (and budding writers) of epic fantasy fiction.
by: Pam Muñoz Ryan - (Scholastic, 2016) 262 pages.
Esperanza is the privileged daughter of a wealthy landowner in Mexico. She has beautiful dresses and servants to take care of her. But after her father’s sudden death, she and her mother have to immigrate to the U.S. They end up as migrant farm laborers in California during the Great Depression. This historical novel tells the story of Esperanza’s struggles to adjust to her new life as her mother falls ill and the workers in the labor camp strike for better working conditions.
Perfect for: Kids interested in social justice.
Find Esperanza Rising at your local library.
Walk Two Moons
by: Susan Creech - (HarperTrophy, 1995) 288 pages.
In this Newbery-Medal-winning story from 1995, a young girl traveling with her grandparents entertains them by weaving tales about her imaginary friend. At the same time, she must confront her feelings about her estranged mother. Find Walk Two Moons at your local library.
by: Kwame Alexander - (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014) 240 pages.
Twins Josh and Jordan Bell are 12-year-old basketball stars. Josh, a.k.a. Filthy McNasty, executes way more than a slammerific shot. He’s creative, narrating his story using verse-style poetry that never skips a beat. When Jordan gets a girlfriend, Josh feels abandoned. With the brothers’ close relationship threatened by tension, Josh uses rhymes to share his take on sports, school, race, and, most importantly, a loving family.
Perfect for: Sports fanatics who can appreciate storytelling through poetry.
Find The Crossover at your local library.
The Land of Stories series
by: Chris Colfer - (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013) 464 pages.
The hook: On the night of their twelfth birthday, sixth grade twins Alex and Bailey are ready for something to change. It has been a year since their father was killed in a car accident. Their mom, a nurse, has been working extra hours to support them. Their grandmother gives them a special gift: a book of the fairy tales they grew up hearing. The book is magic, of course, and the twins fall in, entering a world of kings and queens, witches and trolls. So begins this kid-friendly series that follows the twins’ adventures as they travel through a fantasy world learning new lessons from old stories.
Perfect for: Kids with big imaginations.