Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- The Science- Fiction and Fantasy Fan

The following are the most popular science-fiction and fantasy novels in my classroom this year.

  • Harry Potter- I have more than a few Potter-fanatics this year! What I love about the Harry Potter series is that the books lend themselves so easily to discussion. My fanatics are always coming up with theories and sharing them with each other, answering each other’s questions, and arguing about which book is the best in the series. I love it!

 

  • The Hunger Games by Suzane Collins- I wasn’t too sure how this would be received by my class this year once I added it to the library. Don’t get me wrong- I loved it! But the length of this novel really made me think my more reluctant readers would steer clear. Boy was I wrong! This is being passed around like hotcakes and I don’t think it has been back on the library shelf for more than a day at a time since September. Action-packed, this story is reminiscent of Survivor and American Idol, with a touch of love and friendship thrown in for good measure.

 

  • Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix- Haddix is like some type of elixir for reluctant readers. Even kids who hate reading can’t put her books down. This year, Turnabout has been extremely popular with my 6th graders. Dealing with the idea of living forever, Haddix keeps kids turning the pages, whether they are advanced readers or the most reluctant of readers. At age 100, Melly and a few other nursing home residents are injected with an experimental drug. The drug was supposed to make them age backwards until they reached a self-determined ideal age, at which point they would get another shot to stop the process. The second shot, however, proved fatal, and the participants of the project were doomed to continue unaging until they reached infancy and eventually zero. Now teenagers, Melly and her friend Anny Beth need to find parents who can care for them in their approaching infancy. But then a snooping journalist begins prying into their lives and they are forced to go underground.

 

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman- My kids love reading books right before a new movie opens. Lately, Coraline has been a popular choice for my horror and fantasy fans because the movie trailers and advertisements have started making their way into the mainstream media. Coraline and her family move to a new home where she discovers that there are 14 doors- 13 of which are unlocked. Late one night, the 14th door is unlocked and she steps through. On the other side is a world virtually identical to her own. At first, this appears to be perfect. There is even another mother and another father, who want Coraline to be their little girl. Then she learns that they want to change her and keep her there forever. And there are other lost children in this world, whose souls are trapped in a mirror. This is one creepy book and my 6th graders love it!

 

  • Into the Wild and Out of the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst- These hysterical romps through the lives of fairy tale characters living in the modern world will leave your tween in stitches. You see, Julie is a regular girl. Except for one thing. Her mom is sort of embarrassing. You would be embarrassed too, if your mom was Rapunzel! And if it was your job to keep “the wild” under your bed and under control. Because if it escapes, it will take over your town, your state, and maybe even the world. And anyone caught in it’s bath will become a part of the fairy tale world, doomed to live the same story over and over again….FOREVER!

 

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My Problems with Borders Bookstores

Last year, a Borders store opened up down the street.  Since then, I have had a few complaints from my students about them (see here and here).  But today, two of my students brought up separate events they had experienced at our local Borders which annoyed me a little.  Obviously, as a passionate language arts teacher I work extremely hard at getting my students to become readers (and hopefully lifelong readers).  So it really irks me when a sales associate who does not know my students makes a judgement about their reading. 

Case in point #1- One of my students is  having a hard time finding books that she likes.  We have been working very hard and she is being a really good sport about finding books and giving them a try.  She just hasn’t found that spark or connection yet.  Recently she went to Borders in search of some books, hoping to find that perfect book.  Apparently, a sales associate approached her and began giving some suggestions.  In theory, I LOVE this idea.  Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out for her.  When my student got up the nerve to say that she was interested in reading Twilight , the associate said no! According to my student, the associate said, “That’s not an appropriate book for you. That’s a book for girls who like romance. Why don’t you try and read that in a few years?”

Excuse me!? First of all, my student had her mother with her. I support telling the mother what the book is about, letting her make the final choice. But what right does a bookseller have to tell a tween that she shouldn’t read a book sold in the YA department? There is no sex, no cursing, and by all accounts Meyers wrote a pretty tame book by YA standards. And if a 12 year old wants to read a book, why discourage her?! My student was so upset she left without any books at all. The bookseller made her feel like she wasn’t mature enough to choose her own books. UGH.

 

Case in point #2- A different student is flying through the Cirque Du Freak series.  He is thrilled about the upcoming movie and comes in everyday to share news and tidbits with me.  I only have the first four books in the series in my classroom library, so he went to Borders to purchase the remaining 12 books.  When he couldn’t find them on the shelf, he asked for help from a sales associate.  The associate checked the computer and then told he, “No one reads those books so we don’t stock them.  We stock books that sell well and no one is interested in those”.  When he protested and explained that the movie would be coming out in 2009 and that a lot of kids in his class love them, the associate responded that the movie wasn’t going to do well and then turned away!  No offer to special order them, nothing!  Can you imagine?!  Who says that to a teenage boy who is reading?  And requesting books!  At a bookstore!

So he went to Barnes and Noble, who apologized that they were sold out and immediately placed a special order for him.  

 

It’s things like this that only further discourage tweens/teens from reading.  And it’s why I wish we had independent bookstores around here!

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