Vacation reads for 6th graders
Listening for Lions
by: Gloria Whelan - (HarperTrophy, 2006) 194 pages.
Thirteen-year-old Rachel Sheridan is living in British East Africa in 1918 when she loses her missionary parents to influenza. She’s taken in by unscrupulous neighbors who cook up a plot to send her, because of her likeness to their deceased daughter, back to England to collect an inheritance from an ailing relative. The post-WWI setting, the animals, and the Masai people are what make Gloria Whelan’s story come to life. Readers will root for Rachel as she bonds with the grandfather she was sent to dupe and triumphs over evil. Award-winning author Whelan has penned a rich, historical coming-of-age adventure.
Perfect for: Kids who likes historical fiction.
Find Listening for Lions at your local library.
by: James Howe - (Aladdin, 2007) 208 pages.
The topic of sexual orientation seems to be reaching into ever-lower grade levels these days — this book is a perfect jumping-off point for discussion. With a deft hand, James Howe intertwines the subject of coming out into Joe’s struggles with common adolescent issues, creating a wonderful story about self-discovery. Joe’s teacher asks his seventh-grade class to write an “alpha-biography” throughout the year, presenting themselves from A to Z. Joe’s essays begin and end with friends — from Addie, a longtime pal and confidant, to Zachary, a new student who, like Joe, has a unique approach to life. It’s a hip tale of what it means to discover who you are in your community, in your family, and within yourself. Highly recommended.
Perfect for: Tweens and teens struggle with adolescent issues.
Find Totally Joe at your local library.
by: Scott Westerfeld - (Simon Pulse, 2011) 432 pages.
The hook: A clever conceit that challenges society’s obsession with physical beauty. This four-book series takes place in a future world where looks are prized above all. When Tally Youngblood turned 12, she became an Ugly. Living in an ugly dorm, she and the other uglies are educated on their despicability. But on their sweet 16, each one will be rewarded with an operation to be made Pretty, thus beginning a life of constant pleasure. But even young Tally can see the downsides to conformity.
Perfect for: Tweens who understand that beauty’s not skin-deep.
by: Roland Smith - (Harcourt, 2007) 246 pages.
When 14-year-old Peak Marcello is caught scaling a skyscraper to place his signature graffiti tag, he is offered a choice: spend three years in juvenile detention or climb Mt. Everest with his long-absent father. Though the choice might be easy, the journey is not. Peak is physically and emotionally challenged by the grueling climb, the weather, and the politics and drama of climbing culture. And the pressure is on, because if Peak can reach the summit before his 15th birthday, he’ll break a world record and gain glory and money. Peak is gripping and surprising, and though it’s written for a middle-grade audience, readers young and old will be sucked in by the sharp writing and memorable characters.
Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.
Find Peak at your local library.
The Unwanteds series
by: Lisa McMann - (Aladdin, 2011) 400 pages.
The hook: Every year in Quill, 13-year-olds are sorted into wanted, necessary, and unwanted. Wanteds will be educated and trained to join the highest levels of society. Necessaries will be trained for menial jobs. Unwanteds will be eliminated. When Alex is deemed Unwanted because of his creativity, he says goodbye to his family and prepares to die — and then discovers that there’s a magical parallel world where his abilities are valued. The first book in a series, this mildly dystopian, Harry-Potter-meets-The-Hunger-Games tale has lots of fun magical details and friendship drama to lighten the mood.
Perfect for: Kids who didn’t get into Hogwarts.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by: Jacqueline Kelly - (Henry Holt and Co., 2009) 352 pages.
A prize-winning book that explores the unconventional life of a brash young naturalist.
She’s a turn-of-the-century Texas girl, but 11-year-old Calpurnia Tate is more interested in becoming a scientist than in knitting or cooking. With the help of her grandfather, an amateur naturalist, and Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, she starts doing fieldwork. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is the critically acclaimed story of an outsider who has to forge her own way in the world as she discovers her unique identity.
Perfect for: Kids who like historical fiction.
Find The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate at your local library.
His Dark Materials Trilogy
by: Philip Pullman - (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1996) 368 pages.
The hook: The main heroine, Lyra Belacqua, along with Pantalaimon, Will, and a band of other brave souls, have been entrusted to save the universe. It’s nearly impossible to put down each of the trilogy’s three books that create a fantastical alternate reality your child won’t forget.
Perfect for: Older readers drawn to an epic (and eccentric) story of good and evil.
Keeper of the Lost Cities
by: Shannon Messenger - (Aladdin, 2013) 512 pages.
The hook: Twelve-year-old Sophie has always felt out of place. One day she meets a mysterious blue-eyed boy named Fritz who tells her why: She’s not human. Sophie is whisked away to live with the elves in a remarkable parallel world, and discovers that she is special in that world too. In fact, the details surrounding her very existence are at the center of a dangerous mystery. This story of Sophie’s magical education and her struggles with friendship and fitting in is the first in a series.
Perfect for: Tweens who’ve ever felt they don’t belong.
The Five Ancestors series
by: Jeff Stone - (Random House, 2005)
The hook: In this adventure series, we meet five foster brothers who were raised in a temple by warrior monks. When their temple is destroyed by one of their former brothers, the grandmaster orders them to uncover the secrets of their past. Now, each brother must use his skills and training to discover his own destiny and the truth behind their betrayal. Young martial arts fans will love the kung-fu-filled action in this fast-paced series, which nicely balances fighting with slapstick humor. When the boys split up, each book in the series follows a different brother’s adventures. A great series that is sure to lure kids away from video games.
Perfect for: Tweens who think they’d rather be gaming than read.
Just as Long as We’re Together
by: Judy Blume - (Orchard Books, 1987) 290 pages.
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.
Perfect for: Delving into what it means to be a good friend.
Find Just as Long as We’re Together at your local library.