Can watching the movie version make you smarter? You bet! Under the Common Core Standards, comparing a written story to an audio, film, or staged version and analyzing the effects of techniques such as lighting, color, and camera angles is a key reading skill for seventh graders. After your child has read a book and seen the movie, talk about how the two compare. For example, How are the characters different in the movie than you imagined while reading the book? What parts of the book did the filmmaker omit and why? If you were reviewing this movie for a magazine, what would you write?
7th grade books so great, they made a movie
by: Judy Blume - (Bradbury Press, 1981) 256 pages.
After 15-year-old Davey’s father is killed in an armed robbery, her mother moves the family to New Mexico. Overwhelmed with grief over her father’s violent death, Davey feels lonely and disconnected until she meets an older boy, Wolf, while hiking in a canyon. With his help, she finally begins to rebuild her life, even as her family falls apart around her. This hauntingly beautiful book has resonated with tween and teen readers since it was first published in 1981. Parents should note that there are scenes of violence and teens drinking.
Want to see the movie? The 2013 adaptation, which was directed by Blume’s son, stays very true to the book.
Perfect for: Tweens who like realistic dramas.
Find Tiger Eyes at your local library.
by: Neil Gaiman - (Spike, 1999) 288 pages.
In an effort to convince his sweetheart Victoria to marry him, Tristran Thorn promises her a shooting star that they saw land just outside the wall that separates their small English town from the world of Faerie. But what Tristran doesn’t realize is that the star is actually a beautiful Faerie woman named Yvaine. On his journey to retrieve the star, Tristran encounters a dizzying array of magical creatures from gnomes to witches to talking trees. He finds new love and a surprising secret about his own history. Parents should note there is some sexual content in this book.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2007 adaptation featuring Claire Danes and Robert De Niro, which cuts out the sex scenes from the book but is a bit more violent.
Perfect for: Tweens who like elaborate fantasy stories.
Find Stardust at your local library.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
by: Ann Brashares - (Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books, 2001) 336 pages.
The hook: Soon-to-be high school sophomores Bridget, Carmen, Lena, and Tibby have been best friends forever. Just as they’re about to spend their first summer apart, the four girls come upon a pair of jeans that somehow fits all four of them perfectly and makes each girl look and feel amazing. The friends vow to share the pants and send them back and forth to each other throughout the summer. The first in a series of five books, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants sweetly captures the high school experience in way that will be especially compelling to tween readers.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2005 adaptation starring Blake Lively, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel, and Amber Tamblyn.
Perfect for: Tweens who like stories about high school.
Find our favorites at your local library: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood.
by: W.P. Kinsella - (Houghton Mifflin, 1982) 272 pages.
Ray is obsessed with baseball and, in particular, with Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was kicked out of baseball in disgrace after the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. So when a voice tells Ray to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn field so that Shoeless Joe can play again, he listens. Even those who don’t like baseball will be drawn into this bizarre but engaging story, which is a wonderful introduction to magical realism for tween and teen readers.
Want to see the movie? Check out Field of Dreams (1989) starring Kevin Costner, which mostly follows the plot of the book, but changes some details.
Perfect for: Baseball lovers and tweens who pursue their dreams.
Find Shoeless Joe at your local library.
The Princess Bride
by: William Goldman - (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973) 512 pages.
After her true love Westley’s boat is sunk by pirates, the beautiful Buttercup agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck, even though she doesn’t love him. But before the wedding can take place, Buttercup is kidnapped by three outlaws: cunning Vizzini, revenge-obsessed Inigo, and Fezzik the giant. When a mysterious masked man rescues her from their clutches, Buttercup discovers that her beloved Westley is very much alive and ready to do whatever it takes to win her back. The fanciful story and funny, tongue-in-cheek writing will charm tween readers.
Want to see the movie? The 1987 film version, also written by Goldman, closely follows the book but simplifies some plot points.
Perfect for: Tweens and teens who appreciate the fantastic and the absurd.
Find The Princess Bride at your local library.
The Hunger Games series
by: Suzanne Collins - (Scholastic Press, 2008) 384 pages.
The hook: Beginning with The Hunger Games, this three-book series follows Katniss Everdeen, a reluctant hero in a post-apocalyptic future. Each year, as penance for past rebellion against the Capital, citizens of the 12 districts of Panem must choose two children to fight to the death in the televised Hunger Games. When Katniss’s little sister, Prim, is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Her bravery sets off a chain of events that will determine the future of Panem. A taut storyline and engaging characters make this series hard to put down for tween and teen readers, though parents should know the books contain mature themes and violence.
Want to see the movie? Check out the four film adaptations, starting with The Hunger Games, which closely follow the plot of the trilogy.
Perfect for: Tweens and teens who admire strong female characters.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
by: Fannie Flagg - (Random House, 1987) 448 pages.
Evelyn is wrapped up in her own midlife troubles and just trying to kill time when she meets the elderly Mrs. Threadgoode at a senior citizen’s home. But when Mrs. Threadgoode starts spinning a tale about tomboy Idgie and her soft-spoken friend Ruth, who ran the Whistle Stop Café in 1930s Alabama, Evelyn is mesmerized. Many details later, including talk of barbecue, southern hospitality, and a mysterious murder, Evelyn finds that her life has changed — for the better — forever. Parents should note that the book explores mature themes and has references to spousal abuse, racism, and murder.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1991 adaptation starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, and Mary-Louise Parker.
Perfect for: Tweens who appreciate the life-changing power of a good story.
Find Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café at your local library.
The Ender quintet
by: Orson Scott Card - (Tor Books, 1985) 384 pages.
The hook: In a desperate attempt to win a century-long war with an alien race, Earth breeds genetically modified geniuses to train as child soldiers. Ten-year-old Ender Wiggins excels at the simulated tactical war games used in military training. But when he resists his role in saving the human race, the adults must decide how far to push him. This riveting series raises compelling questions about empathy and morality and is a good gateway to reading for pleasure, particularly for older tween boys who would rather be playing video games. Parents should note that the books contain violence, bullying, and some mild profanity.
Want to see the movie? The 2013 film starring Harrison Ford adapts the futuristic sci-fi plot of the first book to the big screen.
Perfect for: Video game lovers.
by: J.R.R. Tolkien - (Houghton Mifflin, 1966) 300 pages.
Bilbo Baggins wasn’t looking for adventure — it arrived on his doorstep in the form of 13 dwarves and the wizard Gandalf, who ask him to join their quest to reclaim a stolen treasure. The reluctant hobbit goes on a thrilling journey to confront the dragon Smaug, and in the process encounters hungry trolls, killer spiders, and an ancient magical ring. Readers may recognize some of the characters from The Lord of the Rings trilogy in this prequel, which is a more approachable read for tweens.
Want to see the movie? Try the live-action trilogy inspired by the book, beginning with The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey from 2012.
Perfect for: Kids who like epic adventure stories.
Find The Hobbit 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: Louisa May Alcott - (Roberts Brothers, 1868) 816 pages.
The hook: It’s the Civil War and the four March sisters are struggling to grow up to be well-bred young ladies after their family has fallen on hard times. Pretty Meg, the oldest, finds it the hardest to be poor. Tomboy Jo has big dreams of becoming a writer. Kind Beth just wants a quiet life at home with her sisters. And impish Amy struggles with being impulsive and a bit vain. Holding them all together is Marmie, their wise and independent mother, who lovingly guides them as they change from girls to women while their father is away at war. This family story is a great read-aloud book for younger kids and a good challenge for tweens who want to tackle a longer read.
Want to see the movie? There are several versions to choose from, including the classic 1949 adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Perfect for: Tweens and teens who like stories about family dynamics.
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.