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.

Airhead by Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot’s newest series will debut in June 2008. The first title in the series is Airhead and I just finished reading the ARC.

It’s difficult to summarize the novel without giving away the elements of surprise in the plot. The story follows Emerson Watts, self-proclaimed outsider at Tribeca Alternative High School. A brainy tomboy, Em’s best friend is the video game loving Christopher. When Em and Christopher are forced to chaperone her younger sister’s day at a mega-story grand opening, tragedy strikes. After a horrible, tragic injury, Em wakes up in the hospital a full month after being hurt. As she begins to emerge from her coma, she comes to the realization that her worst nightmares have come true. Through a sci-fi-type surgery she has become Nikki- the seventeen-year old supermodel who has taken the world by storm.

The story started off a little slow, but picked up in the middle. I really enjoyed this book! Em is a character who is easy to relate to- she is very much like I was in high school. I also enjoyed the secondary character of Lulu. As the story moved forward she became less like a caricature of a society heiress and more like a sweet, fun-loving girl who just happens to have all the money in the world. The story was humorous and thought-provoking, which is not an easy combination to work with as a writer. However, Cabot makes it work! I am already dying for the sequel, because I want to know what happens next! The story isn’t left as a cliffhanger but it does leave you wanting more.

I would consider pairing this with The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. Both novels offer a glimpse at teenage girls struggling to figure out who they really are. They also have that slight sci-fi edge to them, adding more mystery and intrique to the story. I think the struggle to define “who they are” is something many teenage girls will relate to, so I plan to recommend Airhead to a few of my students when we get back from spring break.