Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian


I am a dystopian fiction fanatic.  Hand me a dystopian book or a post apocalyptic novel and I am forever in your debt. My students always fall in love with these dystopian/post apocalyptic novels!

Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone never fail to hook my most dormant readers. Both books tell the tale of two teens whose lives are forever altered when an asteroid crashes into the moon, moving it closer to the earth.  Because of this, every conceivable natural disaster occurs. Life as we knew it forever gone and the dead are piling up all over the world.  Soon, humanity begins turning on itself!

Maybe you know a tween who has read Lois Lowry’s The Giver? Did you know there are two companion novels? Gathering Blue and Messenger wrap up the story of Jonas and Gabe. They are a must-read for anyone who read The Giver and couldn’t wait to find out what really happened to both of them.

Hasn’t every teen and tween wished away their parents at some point? But what if everyone over the age of 14 disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving behind only kids to run the world? Gone explores this “dream” scenario with frightening results!

What if your parents lied to you, under the guise of protecting you? In a moment of panic over a nuclear attack, Eli, and his family rush into an underground bunker built by Eli’s eccentric father. Unfortunately, his grandmother and twin brother don’t make it into the bunker. For the past six years, life has been fairly routine. But with 9 years left, some things just aren’t adding up. Eli is starting to have doubts about his father’s motives, explanations, and sanity. The Compound is a fast-paced must read for dystopian/post apocalyptic fans!

Finally, what if all of the adults in your life were brainwashing you? Candor is a model community, but Oscar knows that parents bring their teenagers to Candor to make them “better”–through subliminal Messages that carefully control their behavior. Can he give up the girl of his dreams to escape the Messages?

Finally, there is the ever popular The Hunger Games. Talk about a page-turner!

What are some of your favorite dystopian or post apocalyptic tween/teen books?

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Mythology Buffs

Mythology is huge in my classroom.  I imagine it will only get crazier with the upcoming February release of Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief movie.  But there are lots of other mythology books out there for tween readers.  If you are looking for some great mythology-based books for your favorite tween, here are some of my favorites…..

We have to start with one of my all-time favorites- Percy Jackson.  I read the first book in the series aloud to my students each year and they love it.  Percy is funny, always getting in trouble, and easy to identify with.  I’m sure when the movie is released there will be a second wave of Percy Jackson fans running around my hallways at school.  The entire series has been released and there is an awesome boxed set available: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Hardcover Boxed Set: Books 1 – 5.

Maryrose Woods’s Why I Let My Hair Grow Out is a fantastic romp through Celtic mythology.  It’s a different culture and very different from the typical Greek and Roman mythology typically seen in middle grade/YA literature.  Plus, I’m Irish and I love seeing Irish mythology/literature in mainstream middle grade/YA books!

Irish mythology not what your tween is looking for?  How about some Egyptian mythology? Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos is the first book in a series that focuses on the ever-popular Egyptian mythology. Theo is like a combination of Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones. While not focused solely on Egyptian mythology, the story deals with ancient Egypt and evil curses. How can that not be fun?

The Seven Serpents Trilogy is a reissuing of Scott O’Dells fantastic epic based on Mayan culture and mythology. It includes all three books in the original series, repackaged into a single book.

Finally- I have many tweens who want to know every.single.thing. about Greek mythology. I’ve recently discovered the Mythlopedia series from Scholastic and I can not keep it on my library bookshelves. The books include: All in the Family: A Look-it-Up Guide to the In-laws, Outlaws, and Offspring of Mythology (Mythlopedia), Oh My Gods!: A Look-it-Up Guide to the Gods of Mythology (Mythlopedia), She’s All That!: A Look-it-Up Guide to the Goddesses of Mythology (Mythlopedia), and What a Beast!: A Look-it-Up Guide to the Monsters and Mutants of Mythology (Mythlopedia).  Each book is set-up like Facebook profiles which really appeals to my students.  Plus, I’ve even learned a lot while reading!

This is just a taste of some of the mythology books out there for tweens.  Do you have any favorites I forgot?  Please leave them in the comments!

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Pairing Fiction and Nonfiction

I find that a lot of my more reluctant readers love informational books, even if they do not consider themselves readers.  One of the ways that I help turn those students into readers is by finding fiction books that pair well with the informational books they enjoy reading.  It’s also a great way to get tweens to try out historical fiction, a genre many of my students avoid at all costs.  Here are some of my favorite pairings.

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. is a fantastic middle grade realistic fiction novel. It pairs well with Trees, Leaves & Bark (Take-Along Guide), an informational book that will help readers identify trees in their neighborhood and town. (And while it is not nonfiction, Swinger of Birches: Poems of Robert Frost for Young People is a great book to give with Gianna Z., too!).

Operation Redwood is a realistic eco-adventure that made me want to learn more about redwood trees. It would make a fantastic companion to The Ever-Living Tree: The Life and Times of a Coast Redwood.

Moon: Science, History, And Mystery is a popular nonfiction book in my classroom right now. I love to pair it with Shooting the Moon, a historical fiction novel that takes place during the Vietnam War. It also makes a great companion to Every Soul A Star. And all of these books work well with another popular nonfiction book, Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream.

Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 is a recent favorite of mine and I use it all the time in my “Journeys: The Monarch Butterfly” class when we talk about MesoAmerica. A few of my students have become very interested in ancient Mesoamerica and have gone on to read fiction set in that time period. Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow is a very popular companion to the book, as is The Seven Serpents Trilogy. Both deal with the Incan and Mayan cultures during the conquering of the New World.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer has slowly been building steam in my room. This narrative nonfiction book is being passed from student to student and they are raving about it. Many of those who finish it come to me looking for more books about Lincoln, before his death, and I have been handing them Lincoln and His Boys.

The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum is a fantastic biography of the legendary P.T. Barnum. I would pair this with Tony Abbott’s great middle grade/YA mystery The Postcard.

I love dolphins and so do many of my students. Thus, Face to Face with Dolphins (Face to Face with Animals) is always a popular choice when it comes to independent reading. Lately, I have had a lot of luck pairing it with A Ring of Endless Light, a personal favorite of mine.

These are just a few suggestions for nonfiction/fiction pairings. Really, you can find a fiction companion to almost any nonfiction middle grade/YA book.  (And it works just as well the other way around!)  Do you have any favorite fiction/nonfiction pairings?  Please share them in the comments!

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays

Last year was the first installment of my Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays.  I’m very excited to bring it back again, updated, for this year!  You can check out last year’s posts here.

Unfortunately, many tweens and middle schoolers are blank slates when it comes to reading.  For the next few weeks I will be posting lists to help you find that perfect book or book gift for the 10-13 year old in your life, whether they are an avid reader or dormant readers.  Lists will be categorized according to trends I see in my classroom, so you can count on the fact that the books I recommend will be kid-tested and approved.

Give the tweens in your life the gift of reading.  A book is a gift you can open again and again, and it does not have to be an expensive gift.  What other gift will take tweens to new places, back in time, or away from their world?  For approximately ten dollars, you can do all that for the tweens in your life by wrapping a book and giving it to them for the holidays.

Check back here starting December 1st for the first installment of  my Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays 2009!

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Graphic Novels

Only recently did I get into graphic novels.  However, they work wonders for reluctant and struggling middle grade readers!  Even better, they force readers to use different aspects of their brain because the have to interpret the pictures and the text in a way that is very different from novels.  Plus, graphic novels have plots that are intricate fun!

  • Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale- This is not your mother’s Rapunzel! Set on the Western Frontier, this Rapunzel is spunky and smart, far from the typical damsel in distress. Shannon Hale is a Newbery-winning author and this graphic novel is fun for boys and girls!

 

  • Laika by Nick Abadzis- This story broke my heart. It is a fictionalized account of the story of the dog Laika, the first living creature launched into outer space, aboard the USSR’s Sputnik 2 in 1957. Gorgeous and heart-breaking!

 

  • Into The Volcano by Don A. Wood- I just picked this one up at the last Scholastic Warehouse Sale. It’s quietly gaining steam in my classroom. Two brothers are told they have to travel to a volcanic island to help an aunt they have never met. When they arrive on the island, they are sent on an adventure that take them on a wild boat ride straight into an erupting volcano! Great for your adventure-lovers!

 

  • Bone Volume 1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith- This was the first graphic novel I bought for my classroom library, when I knew absolutely nothing about graphic novels. It’s always a popular choice in my class and the entire series is great (and always available from Scholastic- a huge bonus). The story follows three cousins who have been thrown out of their town for cheating the citizens. Shortly thereafter, they are separated. Each Bone stumbles into a mysterious valley full of odd creatures that reveal strange happenings.

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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Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- The Detective

Mystery books are always hot in my classroom.  The danger, intrigue, and suspense are enticing to tweens and there is an abundance of titles out there that keep tweens turning the pages.

  • The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1) by Rick Riordan and the second book, 39 Clues: One False Note by Gordan Korman are the most popular books in my classroom right now. Eventually a 10 book series, The 39 Clues, is the story of two orphans who are swept into a worldwide hunt for the story of their family.  When their Aunt Grace dies, they discover that her will is not the typical will.  Instead, she gives her descendants a choice- take 1 million dollars right now or take a clue.  Grace is the last matriarch of the Cahills, the world’s most powerful family. Everyone from Napoleon to Houdini is related to the Cahills, yet the source of the family power is lost. 39 clues hidden around the world can reveal the family’s secret, but no one has been able to assemble them. Whoever does find the 39 clues will win much more than 1 million dollars.

 

  • The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney- I still remember reading this when I was in middle school.  Man, did I love it.  A decade later, I wasn’t sure if my students would connect with it.  It turns out I didn’t need to worry at all- this is another series that never stays on my library shelves.  For those who haven’t read the book, it’s absolutely fascinating.  When Janie finds her own picture on the back of milk carton, labeled as a missing child, her entire world is turned upside down.  Who are her parents?  Are they really her parents?  Is her whole life a lie?  This is a page-turner that tweens don’t want to put down, and I haven’t had a single reader give up on the series after one book- they all read the entire series!

 

  • The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright-  This is a mystery that I see many of my students reading and rereading.  Many of them read it as a class novel in 5th grade and choose to reread it again at some point during 6th grade because they enjoyed it so much.  A quick summary (courtesy of Amazon)- The attic is always a great place to look for nuggets of one’s family history, but when 12-year-old Amy explores her great-grandparents’ attic, she uncovers clues to a chilling family secret. As Amy and her Aunt Claire sift through clothes, trinkets and other memorabilia, Amy comes across Aunt Claire’s long-forgotten dollhouse, a finely crafted replica of the house they are in. Aunt Claire seems unusually distressed about the dollhouse and Amy is determined to find out why. The real fun begins when Amy learns that the dolls in the dollhouse move of their own willAand that they seem to be trying to tell her something. After a little sleuthing at the local library, Amy learns that her great-grandparents were murdered years ago and that Aunt Claire’s fiance (who died in a car accident that same night) was the prime suspect in the unsolved case.  Chilling!

 

  • Silent to the Bone by E.L. Konigsburg- What happened on November 25, 2:43 P.M. to cause Branwell Zamborska to become stop speaking? All anyone knows is that he called 911 because his baby sister stopped breathing, and when he was unable to speak to the operator, Vivian, the English nanny, said that Branwell had dropped the baby and shaken her. Branwell’s best friend, Connor, begins visiting him at the juvenile hall, where he has been sent while Nikki remains in a coma at the hospital. Working out a code they both can use, Connor begins the long process of trying to communicate with his friend to find out what really happened. Connor knows that his best friend didn’t hurt the baby, but how can he prove it to everyone else if Branwell won’t speak. This is a realistic mystery that kids won’t want to put down.

 

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