Hot Books

Now that the school year is back in full-swing, it’s time for a new edition of “Hot Books in My Middle School Classroom”!  It’s always interesting to start with a new class, because their tastes can be so different than those of my last class.  

These are the books that are making their way from student to student in my room so far this year:

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer- Always a popular choice, the waiting list for this one is huge in my classroom library!

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1) by Stephenie Meyer- Last year, I could not get my kids to read this. It just didn’t appeal to them for some reason. This year, it is the complete opposite! I have boys and girls reading the book and loaning copies to each other. Could it be related to the movie coming out next month? Who knows, but I’ll take it!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book by Jeff Kinney- While it isn’t a traditional book, I teach Language Arts, so anything that get my students reading and writing is a winner in my eyes! I have quite a few orders for this in our latest Scholastic book clubs order and the word of mouth has been great.

Falling Up by Shel Silverstein- It’s funny, but poetry has never been particularly popular in my room. But this year, I have a few boys who LOVE to read Shel Silverstein. Falling Up is a big favorite this year and I have a small handful of students who read this a few times a week during independent reading. It’s an interesting phenomenon!

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen- A popular book with my students who love survival stories. This one is slowly gaining ground in my afternoon class.

Hot Books in May

As a sixth grade teacher, with almost 50 students, I see all sorts of books throughout the day. We just finished our standardized testing, so my students have been keeping a few books piled beneath their desks, to relax with after testing. Here’s a peek into a few of those piles.

Underneath many desks, next to the glittery sneakers and ankle bracelets on my girls, are the brightly colored covers of The Clique novels by Lisi Harrison. While they are far form being great literature, my girls are devouring them as fast as they are published, passing a few copies around the class from one girl to the next. We had a great discussion the other day about the books and the way many adults view them—as a bad influence. The girls laughed and said, “We don’t take them seriously! We know these are characters. We would never act the way they do, but it’s fun to pretend we live the wealthy, fabulous lives they do!”

Moving around the room, it’s obvious that another popular series right now is Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the OlympiansThe Lightning Thief

There, on the floor, I see the covers of two graphic novels. The first is Amelia Rules! Volume 1: The Whole World’s Crazy (Amelia Rules). That one has definitely made the rounds in my room. Across the aisle is the second book, a new favorite for my graphic novel lovers. Amulet: Book 1 (Amulet) is a big hit and my students can’t wait for the next book to come out.

Some of my students prefer an old favorite during testing, to ensure they aren’t rushing through the test to get to their novels. The most popular choice? Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) by Jeff Kinney. The covers are bent, the pages dog-eared—these books are obviously well loved!

Up in the front of the room I can see a few ARCs being read. Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls: Moving Daythe dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (courtesy of the author herself, making it hallowed pages for my students). The waiting list is a mile long and I can see that this student will be passing it on very soon. On a side note, this one would definitely distract me from any kind of testing!

I can hear a muffled giggle on the far corner of the room. Shooting a glance I hope says, “I am so glad you are reading and loving your book but for heaven’s sake SHH! We can’t get in trouble!” When I see the book in her hand, I know why she is having trouble keeping a straight face. Her head is buried deep in Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper, a favorite of mine. She later told me it’s the best book she has ever read!

We may be taking our high-stakes standardized testing this week, but glancing around the room at my sixth-grade readers who are in the reading zone I know that those books in their hands say more than any test score ever will. These are readers, through and through. They may not all have been readers when they walked through my door in September, but they are all passionate, critical readers today! Each student has a favorite book or a favorite author. No one hesitates to pick up their novels when testing is completed, and they beg to continue reading when testing is completed and we begin classes for the day. That’s meeting AYP in my book!

Originally published in the May edition of The Edge of the Forest

Hot Books in March

I apologize…I am a few days late with this month’s installment of Hot Books in my classroom. For my new readers, a quick explanation: Every month I publish a list of the 5-6 books that are currently the most popular reads in my 6th grade classroom. To see previous lists, please click on the Hot Books tag under keywords.

Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls: Moving Day by Meg Cabot: I haven’t even had a chance to read this novel, Meg Cabot’s first foray into middle grade fiction. I received an ARC at ALA Midwinter and passed it on to one of my pickiest girls. She finished the book in one night and came in the next morning raving about it! She told me I needed to read it, but first she had a list of classmates to pass it on to. It’s been making it’s way around my classroom ever since and Cabot has been winning fans left and right. The same student also read my ARC of Airhead by Meg Cabot and passed it on to another friend (thankfully, I had time to read and review it first!

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt: I have loved “Wednesday Wars” since I first read and reviewed it back in December. I tried to handsell it to my students but rarely succeeded (historical fiction is always a hard sell to middle schoolers, I think). I finally succeeded when I used “The Wednesday Wars” as part of my historical fiction literature circles this past month. The lit circle who read “The Wednesday Wars” absolutely loved it and they have been recommending to their classmates. During conferences, one of their moms told me “I can’t believe my son. He sits down on the couch at night, pulls on a blanket, and opens that Wednesday book. All on his own! It’s amazing!” That some boy just finished it and told me it’s one of his favorite books of all time!

Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan: Our latest read-aloud is a huge hit. It’s the first time I have read a non-fiction novel aloud and my students are loving it. Marley is easy to relate to and my students are laughing and sharing their own stories throughout our shared reading time. Puppies and puppy stories are always fun and my students are relating to the Grogan family and Marley. Be careful, though…there are a few versions of Marley’s story. Marley: A Dog Like No Other is the middle grade version of the novel. Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog is the adult best-seller and deals with the Grogan family’s attempts to conceive, too. Just a caveat emptor. :)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis: Another choice in our recent literature circles, this was not a popular choice on the first day.  To be honest, I blame the cover.  It doesn’t exactly scream “read me!” to middle schoolers.  However, at the first meeting, the originally unhappy literature circle group was singing the praises of Curtis.  They thought the novel was funny and touching, but “not too touching!” they told me.  Heaven forbid it was too sensitive. :)  Both boys and girls alike enjoyed the novel and they learned a lot about life in the south and the Sixteenth St. church burning in 1963.  Now if only the publishers would give it a better cover…..

These are only a few of the novels currently making a splash in my 6th grade class.  I have promised my classes that after spring break I will have many more books for them.  I will actually have a chance to read and review so I can bring them in a handful of ARCS and other books I have in my to-be-read pile.  I’m sure next month’s list will include many of those new titles.

Hot Books in February

As I am frantically trying to pack and prepare for my fellowship (I leave for Mexico on Saturday morning!), I realized I better get my Hot Books list posted before I leave. Without further ado, here are the most popular books in my classroom over the last month.

Avalon High: Coronation Volume 1: The Merlin Prophecy by Meg Cabot: This graphic novel has been a huge hit. Interestingly, the majority of readers are boys. The book has been passed from one boy to the next since it arrived from Scholastic a few weeks ago, and the buzz is slowly building.

Gathering Blue and Messenger by Lois Lowry: We recently finished our science-fiction unit of study. As a class, we studied Lois Lowry’s The Giver and my students loved it. They were very excited to learn that Lowry had written more books in the “trilogy” (I’m never sure what to call it….It’s not technically a trilogy if all 3 books can stand alone!) and that the books included answers. A few have finished “Gathering Blue” already and are moving on to “Messenger”. Every day someone comes up to my desk to share their excitement. “We finally know what happened to Jonas and Gabe!”. Kids like answers- they hate books that leave them hanging. At least my kids do! They are very happy to find out the answers and I am thrilled to see them reading more and more.

Lush by Natasha Friend: Realistic fiction is the most popular genre in my library and my students love to read books about other kids who struggle with realistic problems. “Lush” has been making the rounds through my girls and they are all raving about it. Also popular, Natasha Friend’s Perfect: A Novel and Bounce.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer:  Since my booktalk, this has not been on my shelf at all.  My students, especially my reluctant readers, are loving this book.  At least once per day a student comes up to me in the hall saying, “It can’t get any worse.  Can it?!”  The students who have finished the book definitely have a new appreciation for running water, heat, and air conditioning!

So, what books are popular in your classroom or library right now?

Hot Books in the New Year

It’s time for my monthly installment of books that I currently can’t keep in my classroom library. Some of these I have booktalked, to get the ball rolling, while others are strictly gaining popularity based on 6th grade word of mouth!  

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rulesby Jeff Kinney: As I said in my review, this was the most hotly-anticipated new title of the year in my classroom. The waiting list is currently 25 students long (of my 42) and includes both boys and girls, advanced and reluctant readers. It has also kicked off a resurgence of popularity for the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as you must have read #1 to get on the waiting list. Hopefully, when I receive my next two copies from Scholastic this week, I can get this into the hands of more readers! 

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)by Stephenie Meyer: This one baffles me. I adore this entire series, and have plenty of coworkers who can’t keep it in their classroom library. For some reason, it wasn’t attracting readers in my room. But, right before the holidays one of my girls decided to give it a try. She came back this month begging for New Moon (Twilight, Book 2). Because she liked the novel, I saw a friend of hers take it out this past week. We shall see! 

Albino Animalsby Kelly Milner Halls: When I booktalked this book, 5 hands immediately shot into the air asking if they could have it first. I think it is a combination of the subject matter, the amazing pictures, and the fun facts. A definite must for any classroom library! 

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: I recommended this series to my students who enjoy Lois Duncan and other paranormal stories. So far, they like it better than some of Duncan’s weaker works. Bray writes wonderful historical fiction without slamming them over the head with information. Plus, who wouldn’t want to have visions and be in control of the realms? 

The Periodic Tableby Adrian Dingles: My students just finished a unit on chemistry in their science class, where they focused on the periodic table. They’ve been laughing over this great book ever since! I have caught them reading different elemental descriptions out loud to each other, or sharing them even after they have read the book. The information is funny and accurate, so they remember it! I found about this book through the Cybil nominations a few months ago and I can not recommend it enough. 

Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein: My sports enthusiasts love this novel. As one of my students said, “I won a writing contest once, like the main character. But I didn’t get a trip to the Final Four!”. It has everything- mystery, sports, platonic friendships, and a male and female main character.

Hot Gift Books for Middle Grade Students

About a month ago, I posted my first “Hot Books in My Classroom” list. For this months list, I will be making a list of books that are currently popular in my classroom, along with books that were popular earlier this year. These are books my 6th grade students love, and run the gamut of levels and genres.

For the Middle Grade Student Dreading Middle School:

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff: Told through a year of “stuff”- notes, 1C785909-3E2D-4FE4-A1BA-2C2F6FE28EB7.jpgassignments, lists, cards, receipts, postcards, articles, and comics, my students can’t put this book down. Over the past 2 weeks, I have seen my single copy in a different student’s hands each day. This novel appeals mostly to girls, who identify with Ginny’s desire to finally have a great year at school (and actually have a decent school picture, “for once!”). A great book for girls who are reluctant readers. This hardcover edition also makes a perfect present.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: I have not seen B2508F29-2851-468F-A870-2F4E2DA693C5.jpgany of my 3 copies of this book since October. Boys and girls alike are devouring this illustrated novel about Greg’s middle school adventures (and misadventures!). Perfect for reluctant readers of either gender, this is a must-have!

Shopaholics (and shopaholic wannabees!):

The Clique: Too young for Gossip Girl, but still love 73C2ECD8-B888-4F86-B5E1-7594EDB33604.jpgthe idea of wealth and unlimited shopping in a middle school age group? My girls are eating these books up. This is another series that is being passed around my classroom like candy. Series are a great way to hook a lot of kids into reading!

Wannabe Detectives:

The Face on the Milk Carton: I remember reading Caroline Cooney’s Janie series when I was in middle 537F76F7-FA83-4119-B296-DB297B0C9213.jpgschool. Scholastic began offering the books this year and my boys and girls alike are fascinated by Janie’s life. A good series for kids who are interested in mysteries and adventure. Janie’s story is exciting and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I have had more than one student who completed the first book in the series tell me that they have gone looking for their own baby pictures, “Just to make sure”!

Double Identity: If they love Haddix’s other books, “Double Identity” is a great mystery for middle grade readers. A quick read with a slight 4D786681-4A7E-4680-8D6E-ED7C98EC252D.jpgsci-fi overtone. 2 thumbs up from my class! Not unlike her The Shadow Children Boxed Set series, this novel is more realistic to many readers.

Fantastic Fantasy:

Tuck Everlasting: The DA49DC5F-F9FD-4071-AE0A-50F1CE0CBD39.jpggreatest children’s book ever written, my students have fallen in love with Babbitt’s beautiful story. Every child should have the opportunity to read this fantastic love, life, and family story.

Eragon (Inheritance, Book 1): My boys have started reading “Eragon” and “Eldest” over the last E16448AB-62BE-497B-AB43-70245DE2A9EF.jpgfew weeks. They have been reading them from cover to cover and comparing notes. Paolini draws a rich and vivid fantasy world that immediately draws in the reader. A nice addition to any fantasy collection.

Realistic Fiction for Realistic Kids:

Rules (Newbery Honor Book): Cynthia Lord’s story of a pre-teen girl and her struggle to come to terms with her brother’s autism is a story that will bring a tear to the eyes of many readers. This novel has quietly 0003E06B-0F4A-4BD4-8EFF-E78D0C4CD719.jpgbeen making waves in my classroom, rarely gathering dust on the bookshelf. Many of the same students who enjoy this book also enjoy Ida B: . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World.

This is by no means a complete list- hopefully, this list and my prior Hot Books list have given you some good ideas for your middle grade reader this holiday season!

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