Gone From These Woods by Donny Seagraves

Eleven-year old Daniel, or D-man, doesn’t have the best dad.  In fact, his dad is pretty mean.  But that’s ok, because Daniel has his Uncle Clay.  Clay is only twelve years older than Daniel and they do everything together.  They fish, play cards, and hang out together all the time.  When his dad is angry and being mean, he can go to Clay’s house just down the road.

Clay can’t wait to take Daniel hunting for the first time in their Georgia woods.  But when Daniel tragically shoots his uncle after missing his first rabbit, his life is forever changed.  The fatal accident rocks his family and their small town, but Daniel is forever changed.  How can he possibly go on living when Clay will never laugh again, never hunt again, never make Daniel feel good again?

This is a heartbreaking book that I could not put down.  Daniel’s pain is palpable but realistic.  Obviously having never been in his situation, I still felt like I was right there with him.  How does an 11-year old deal with the overbearing guilt of fatally shooting his uncle? I found myself unable to stop reading because I needed to know that he would be ok, that he would be able to go on with his life.  There were times when I wasn’t sure he would do it.  The pain he experiences is too much for an adult, let alone a child.

I booktalked this one in my classes today and immediately had five or six students begging for it.  I also think this would make a great read aloud.  The themes of love and loss, sadness and hope, plus the ideas about gun ownership and children vs. adults would make for some great classroom discussions.

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher.  This is a Cybils nominee and all opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the panel as a whole.

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Series Books

I love when I can hook kids with a series.  That way, they always know what book they want to read next and can continue reading the series over an extended period of time.  Here are some of the big series in my classroom right now:

The 39 Clues Book 1:The Maze of Bones is the first book in the 39 Clues series. When their favorite Aunt Grace dies, Dan and Amy (along with all their relatives, near and far) are faced with an unusual choice: inherit one million dollars and walk away or join in a dangerous treasure hunt. No pressure or anything- the outcome will only effect all of humanity!

Many of my girls have fallen in love with Worst Enemies/Best Friends, the first book in the Beacon Street Girls series. Focused on four girls in middle school, this realistic fiction series hits all the right notes for my girls- middle school drama, friendship, and ambitious girls!

Within the past few weeks a new series has been making the rounds, one I don’t have on my shelves. I am hearing nothing but raves about Leven Thumps And The Gateway To Foo, the first book in the Leven Thumps series. Somehow, this one slipped under my radar but I have a persistent group of students who are begging me to read this one as soon as I am done my Cybils reading.

I adored Nancy Drew when I was a tween and it thrills me to see that Keene’s books are still popular. Many of my students read and love Nancy Drew, too and can’t believe she has been around since my own mother was a kid!

Finally, the most popular series in my room year in and year out is Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series.  Set in a dystopian society where families are only permitted to have two children, Luke is third child who is forced into hiding.  If he is found, the Population Police can and most likely will have him killed.  Full of suspense, this series hooks even my most dormant readers and has them begging to read the rest of the books!

What are some of your favorite series for middle schoolers?

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