Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer Reading Lists for Middle School Readers

Watership Down
Watership Down
by Richard Adams
I'm not a fan of rabbits. They eat my garden and live under my front bushes. On a hot day the smell of rabbit urine can be strong (gross but true). I've never once given much thought to their lives, who has? Upon reading Watership Down I can promise you all of that will change. This book is wonderfully written, I'm sure it is full of rich symbolism and other such things, but it's so evocative that you won't even give it a thought until maybe after you finish reading the book.
The story of a rabbit who foretells the destruction of their warren and their quest and travels to find a new home. Rich with adventure, dangerous obstacles and some of the most well-written characters of literature.

by Luis Sachar
1999 Newbery Award
No matter what school I've worked at, no matter the type of kid, they always seem to love this book. It is truly one of the most well-liked books I've ever seen read.
It is a  suspenseful adventure. Stanley gets sent to juvenile detention camp for a crime (theft) he didn't commit. While there the juveniles are all forced to mindlessly dig holes each day in the desert. What is the hidden agenda?


by Gary Paulsen
1988 Newbery Honor Award
Gary Paulsen (another Minnesota writer) writes wonderful books. Most are outdoorsy boy stories.
Most everyone knows of Hatchet which is a must read. It is also part of a series in which many of the other books are less read.

Brian is stranded in the wilderness with only his survival instinct and a small hatchet. This is a classic harrowing story of survival.

The River (Brian's Saga, #2)
The River (book #2)

Brian's Winter (Brian's Saga, #3)
Brian's Winter (book #3)
This one is interesting, it is the story of Hatchet without the rescue and answers the question of how would Brian have fared in the winter?

Brian's Return (Brian's Saga, #4)
Brian's Return (book #4)

Lawn Boy
Lawn Boy
Another Gary Paulsen book
A fun read of a 12-year old boy who inherits his grandfather's riding lawnmower and starts his own lawn mowing business. This is a fast, fun read about what happens when the wealth starts rolling in. It also has some fun lessons on investments and the stock market.
There is also a sequel: Lawn Boy Returns.

The Haymeadow
The Haymeadow
by Gary Paulsen
A different kind of survival story. This is the story of 14-year old John and his summer tending to his families flock of sheep in the haymeadow. He is all alone except for the sheep, two horses and four dogs. Adventure after adventure, all the while John just hopes to please his father by tending to the sheep.

Incident at Hawk's Hill
Incident at Hawk's Hill
by Allan W. Eckhert
1972 Newbery Honor Medal
Another survival story. This story is a young boy, 6-year old Ben, who wanders away from home, gets lost in the Canadian prairie and yet survives thanks to a mother badger. This story is based on a true story.

Because of Winn-Dixie
Because of Winn Dixie
by Kate DiCamillo
2001 Newbery Honor Award
The story of a young preacher's daughter and the mangy old dog she finds and befriends. This is heartwarming story of friendship and love. It's also pretty funny at times.

The Summer of the Swans
by Betsy Byars
1971 Newbery Medal Award
Sara is 14 and feels awkward in herself and her changes into teen-hood. Her brother is Charlie, a young mentally-handicapped boy, and her sister is Wanda, a 19-year old beauty. Charlie is obsessed with the swans that come to town, when he goes missing Sara has the connection with him to help find him.

1971 was about swans because that year E.B. White wrote:
The Trumpet of the Swan
The Trumpet of the Swan
This is a love-story extraordinaire!

The Yearling
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Oh how I love this story. I've written about it before as it was (and still is) one of my son's favorite stories. He was crazy for deer and this story, of a young boy who finds an orphaned fawn and raises it, held such magic for him. It is a beautifully written story. A wonderful coming-of-age story of young Jody and the year of his life with his pet fawn.

(note: my child's theory that any book with an animal on the cover will make you cry at some point really applies to this book. )

There is an awful lot of retold fairy tales being written, some are very poor and some are pretty fun, and some are quite good.

I like Beauty by Robin McKinley. A retelling of the Beauty and the Beast tale.

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
by Robin McKinley

My favorite genre as a middle school reader was mysteries.
I read every single Nancy Drew, Hardy Boy, and Trixie Belden book. I then began to dabble in Agatha Christie. I particularly loved the character of Miss Jane Marple.

Old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books are fun summer reads! Over the years these stories have been revised to accommodate changes in racial and cultural tastes. It is interesting to note that most of the criminals were "dark" in the earliest books.
I do love those old books though. I've read a more recent Nancy Drew story and all I can say is "bluuuchk".


It's fun to take a walk into St. Mary Mead and visit the old spinster, Miss Marple.

The Body in the Library
by Agatha Christie

The Enchanted Castle
The Enchanted Castle
by E. Nesbit
Three children find an enchanted castle and wake the sleeping princess inside. They all know that the "princess" is really the housekeepers daughter, but yet play along with her "magic". But soon realize that the garden of the castle really is magical and so is a mysterious ring they find.

Five Children and It
by E. Nesbit
Another old classic by E. Nesbit. Five children find a sand fairy which they keep as a pet. Sand fairies are able to grant one wish each day. It seems like a dream come true, but easily having wishes granted is never as good as it sounds.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
by Mildred Taylor
1977 Newbery Medal
I only read this book for the first time this winter. I believe each child should read this book. It places you right amidst the unrest of the deep south during the Great Depression. Cassie Logan tells the story of living as a poor young black girl in the Jim-Crow era.

Penny from Heaven
Penny From Heaven
by Jennifer L. Holm
2007 Newbery Honor Award
The 1953 summer of Penny, a young Italian-American. This captures a slice of ethnic life in the 1950's.

Turtle in Paradise
Turtle in Paradise
by Jennifer L. Holm
2011 Newbery Honor Award
A coming-of-age story of a young girl named Turtle, sent to live with cousins she has never met in Key West, Florida, in 1935. A cute, fun story.

Tuck Everlasting
Tuck Everlasting
by Natalie Babbitt
Young Winnie stumbles across the Tuck family who have a secret spring which flows with water that causes one to live forever. Having a true fountain of youth is either a blessing or a curse. An interesting read.


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