Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Poetry

In honor of Poetry Friday, here are some of the most popular poetry anthologies in my class this year!

Where the Sidewalk Ends 30th Anniversary Edition: Poems and Drawings- Shel Silverstein is always a winner with my 6th graders! Where the Sidewalk Ends is his most popular book with my students year in and year out. Inevitably, I end up with a few students who can recite some of the poems word for word.

During our poetry study I always use Poetry Speaks to Children (Book & CD) during our listening center. The anthology includes a variety of poems from poets like Nikki Grimes, Langston Hughes. Robert Frost, Roald Dahl, and many more. The CD includes the poets reading many of the poems and it is beautiful to listen to.

Another popular poet is Jack Prelutsky. I don’t think I have seen my copy of A Pizza the Size of the Sun in months! Every so often I catch a glimpse of it being moved from one student’s backpack to another.

And while it is not strictly a poetry book, I have a soft spot for William Carlos Williams. Jen Bryant’s A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams is one of my favorite picture books. The illustrations by Melissa Sweet are gorgeous and Bryant’s text is lyrical!  I love reading this one aloud.  It’s perfect for all ages.

Do you have any favorite poetry books?

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Gift Ideas

I am not the only blogger who is creating a holiday book gift-giving guide. There are many talented bloggers out there sharing their favorite books and ideas. Looking for some more ideas? Check out these great lists from my blogging friends!

Please link to any of your favorite blogger lists in the comments!

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?

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Verse Novels

My students love verse novels.  Whether they are dormant readers or voracious ones, my students pick them up and sing their praises.  It’s one of the easiest ways to get my students to read some of their least favorite genres.  If it’s a verse novel, they will read it!

Sonya Sones writes fantastic verse novels, and One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies is one of the most popular among my girls. I’ve already had a few run out and buy their own copies of her other novels after reading this first.

Another popular author in my classes is Wendy Mass, and her Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall is never on the shelf anymore. Many of my girls read this novel first and then fall in love with Mass, moving on to her numerous other (non-verse) novels. I refer to Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall as a “gateway book”.

Historical fiction can sometimes be a tough sell for 6th graders. Thank goodness for Jen Bryant and her The Trial. Set in NJ, this verse novel follows the story of the Lindbergh baby trial and my readers usually set off to research even more about Lindbergh after reading this novel.

The Holocaust and WWII are two topics with no end of novels written about them. However, they can be heavy and overwhelming topics for some of my students. For those who are interested in the time period but don’t want the burden of a long, prose novel there is T4 a novel. Paula, a deaf 13-year-old, learns about Hitler’s T4 program, which states that doctors euthanize the mentally ill and the disabled. Because her deafness means she is a target, Paula is forced into hiding. This is a portion of history that most social studies books do not touch on and it always hits home with my students.

Brushing Mom’s Hair (a Cybils nominee this year) also focuses on a tough topic- breast cancer. Ann’s mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her recovery from surgery and her chemo treatments are by Ann, her youngest daughter. It’s a heartbreaking book but my students love it.

One of my most successful read alouds last year was Diamond Willow. This novel is an exciting mix of survival adventure and tween girl’s discovery of family roots and secrets. Willow loves her dogs and when an accident means one of them might have to be put down, she is determined to make sure that doesn’t happen.

What great verse novels do you and your students love?

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Sports Fanatics

Do you have a sports fan in your life? Check out some of these recommendations from my sixth graders!

The Contender sat on the shelf in my classroom library collecting dust for the last few years. In the early part of this school year one of my boys picked it up and it still hasn’t made its way back to the shelf. I see a different student reading it every few weeks and then they pass it to someone else. All of them are raving about this classic novel that tells the story of a seventeen year old boy from Harlem who dreams of becoming a champion boxer.

Every sports fan should pick up Mike Lupica’s books. Lupica is a sportswriter and his children’s novels are an inside look at sports and families. His latest novel, Million-Dollar Throw, was released last month.

Mention that a children’s author also played in the NFL and you’ll see any middle schooler’s eyes light up. For that reason, Tim Green’s books are always popular with my students. When I shared an ARC of Baseball Great last spring, I had a waiting list a page long. Now, all of my Tim Green novels are constantly moving off the shelf.

Finally, Dairy Queen has found a few new fans among my students this year. This story about a high school girl who decides to tryout for her high school football team brings laughter and tears to its readers!

What sports books do you recommend?

Tween Book Buying Guide- Adventure Seekers

Action. Survival. Danger. All three traits my students are always looking for in their books.  I can never have enough adventure books in our classroom library!

Escape Under the Forever Sky is the newest addition to our class and the waiting list is a page long. My students are tearing through this story of an American teenager kidnapped in Ethiopia. It’s a great mix of survival, action, and interesting information about Ethiopia.

Last year’s Newbery Award winner has plenty of new fans in my class. The Graveyard Book attracts readers looking for a fantastic adventure that involves stretching their imagination. Bod, or Nobody Owens, lives in the graveyard. He has been raised by ghosts since the night his parents and sister were murdered in their beds, and he has learned a few tricks of the trade. He can walk through walls in the graveyard, Fade so that humans can’t see him, and even dreamwalk. But he can’t leave the graveyard because the man who killed his family is still looking for him.

Sometimes my students want an adventure that’s real- something that actually happened. After browsing our non-fiction books they usually come back with The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir. When Cylin Busby, now a a writer for young readers and former Teen editor, was nine years old she lived a normal live on Cape Cod. Then, overnight, her family’s life changed forever. A policeman in smalltown Falmouth, Massachusetts, her father is shot in the face on his way to work the overnight shift for the local department. The point-blank shots tear off John’s jaw, leaving it laying on the passenger seat of his car. While John is fighting for his life, he is also fighting to bring the perpetrators to justice. He knows that local small town arsonist Raymond Meyer is to blame. However, Meyer holds the town and police department in the palm of his hand, and the investigation goes nowhere. Meanwhile, the family is placed under 24-hr surveillance while doctors struggle to repair his face. He can no longer speak or eat and is forced to spend months in the hopsital. Cylin and her brothers must live with constant police presence, including escorts to school, police officers guarding their classrooms, and a high-tech security system. This eventually leads to no contact with friends, as most of them are too scared to even speak to the family anymore. Worst of all, the shooter is still on the loose.

Do you have your own little Alex Rider? Be sure to get them a copy of the newest book in the series- Crocodile Tears: An Alex Rider Novel.  This one has been making its way around the classroom and it is getting rave reviews from Alex Rider fans.

Finally, if you have readers desperately awaiting the release of the next Hunger Games book (August 24, 2010!), hand them a copy of The Maze Runner . is an action-packed story about a group of teenage boys who are trapped in a strange and mysterious place called The Glade. Just outside The Glade is a massive maze that seems to be impossible to solve. Thomas has just arrived, with no memories other than his name. While he is trying to adjust to his predicament he discovers that there are horrifying creatures that attack the boys in the maze at night. This one will keep you on the edge of your seat!

What are some of your favorite adventure novels?

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Romantics

So many of my girls are romantics at heart. They love reading love stories and I spend a lot of time finding appropriate teen romance novels.

Shug is a perennial favorite. Annemarie, nicknamed Shug, has a pretty tough life. She has a beautiful, popular older sister who gets all the attention, an alcoholic mother, and a father who’s always on business trips. On top of all of that, she has developed a huge crush on Mark, her best friend. My girls have fallen in love with this one!

Stargirl is another popular choice (and one of my personal favorites!) Stargirl reminds me a lot of Spinelli’s Maniac Magee. More than just a first love story, it deals with nonconformity and the perils of popularity. There’s even a Stargirl Journal!

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows has slowly been gaining ground with my girls. The story of three lifelong best friends who are beginning to grow apart in 8th grade, they are spending the summer apart dealing with divorce, new surroundings, and, of course, boys!

Sarah Dessen is practically sacred among my girls. One of her most popular novels is The Truth About Forever. Macy has suddenly turned into the good girl- straight A’s, punctual, helpful. She’s trying to convince herself and the world that she ok even though her Dad died. Then she gets a job at Wish Catering. It’s run by pregnant, forgetful Delia with help from her nephews, Bert and Wes, and her neighbors Kristy and Monica. Macy falls in love with gorgeous Wes…..and her perfect life is changed forever.

The Indigo Notebook is part adventure, part romance. Zeeta’s mother loves moving and they have lived all over the world. When she moves the family to Ecuador, Zeeta is determined to make her settle down. She enlists the help of some vendors in the market to set her mother up on dates but ends up meeting an intriguing boy herself.

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