Summer is the perfect time for catching up on reading, and there have been so many amazing books recently published for middle grades. Plus, I share with my teachers that reading the same books that their students read is a form of professional development. Summer is a great time to sit back and read! Learn more in my blog Reading Middle Grade Novels for Professional Development. The books below invite readers to step into the lives of middle school kids in different times, places, and circumstances.
This book continues Petra Luna's story, which was introduced in the book Barefoot Dreams. It captures the reader’s attention as she fights for her family’s survival, works towards achieving her dream of learning to read and write, and rejects the stereotype that girls don’t need an education. Set in the early 1900s, the story showcases the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution while also highlighting immigrant experiences that are still relevant in our world today.
The award-winning and neurodivergent author Elle McNicoll tells the inspirational story of 11-year-old Addie, who is autistic and has the insight to embrace her differences from a young age. Addie learns about the history of women in her small town who were accused of being witches and were then murdered. She realizes that being different was dangerous at that time and works to get her community to honor and remember these women.
Maggie’s stutter hinders her friendships, ability to function in school, and relationship with her father. In an attempt to help her, Maggie’s parents send her to spend time with her grandfather in the country, where she befriends a snow leopard cub that was abandoned in the forest by someone who thought they could keep it as a pet. This book highlights the social, emotional, and educational challenges of having a stutter and provides hope as readers see Maggie find the courage to speak up for those who are voiceless.
This bilingual graphic novel depicts Christine’s first solo trip to Mexico to visit her grandparents. During her visit, she struggles to connect with her family, who primarily speak Spanish while her first language is English. However, as she visits places from her mother’s childhood and explores her own identity and heritage, she becomes more comfortable communicating with them.
This novel in verse alternates between the perspectives of twin sisters Maya and Chaya, whose individual voices are captured through poetry. Maya struggles with anxiety, and Chaya, who is more outgoing, is worried about her sister. The sisters end up switching places based on a bet and learn a lot about each other as they experience the world through each other’s eyes. This book tackles mental health, family dynamics, identity, and the complexity of friendship.
This book continues Zoe Washington’s story from the novel The Desk of Zoe Washington but can easily be read as a standalone novel. Zoe builds a relationship with her father, who was recently exonerated and released from prison, through their love of cooking and their dream of opening a restaurant together. As she watches her father navigate life after being falsely convicted of a crime, she decides to use her voice to create a podcast where other exonerees can share their story.
This book tells the story of Amos, a volunteer at Living History Park, who participates in historical reenactments. As he delves into historical records of LGBTQ+ people during the Civil War, Amos discovers someone who may have identified as a trans man. He wants to share this history with his community but faces resistance. The book portrays how a young person can use their voice to bring about change. It also includes humor, along with typical middle school situations involving friends, crushes, and family.
This engaging and heartwarming story follows Lawrence as he navigates many new challenges after his family moves from a big city to a small mountain town in North Carolina. He must learn to live with his grandmother, who has her own set of strict rules, while also navigating a new school where he is singled out and eventually expelled. Without his father around, he finds a place to belong at a local community center where he learns to play chess with other neighborhood kids. Along the way, Lawrence experiences his first crush, competes in a regional chess tournament, and begins navigating complex family dynamics. Watch here as Chrystal reads the first chapter in our First Chapter Friday series.
This original and relatable book is perfect for anyone who loves interesting facts, has been separated from a parent, or is figuring out how to fit in. The main character, Ginny, has a passion for geography facts and is missing her father, who is deployed for six months. She is also struggling to find her place in a new town. When Ginny’s scheduled geography camp is canceled, she decides to create her own geography camp for kids in her neighborhood. This allows her to distract herself from her father being gone and share her love of geography with others.
Finally Seen is an incredible book that captures young readers’ attention while imparting valuable lessons about human nature. The story revolves around Lina, who is trying to adjust to life in America while also reconciling with her family after being separated from them for five years. She lived with her grandmother in China during that time, and now she’s struggling to learn a new language and adapt to her new surroundings, particularly in school. Her sister’s fluent English skills make Lina feel even more discouraged and anxious about speaking. However, Lina summons her courage and finds her voice to protect a book she identifies with from being banned in her school.
Global By Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin Illustrated by Giovanni Rigano
This graphic novel alternates between two stories that illustrate the frightening realities of climate change. Sami lives in a village near the Indian Ocean where rising sea levels result in fewer fish, floods that destroy the community, and an influx of climate refugees. Yuki lives in Northern Canada, where the melting ice is causing polar bears to find new ways to get food. The book is full of action and adventure as both characters find themselves in danger, and everything in the book is based on current climate issues.
When school resumes, you can share these books or others you’ve read with your students. Connecting with them through books is a great way to continue building relationships with your students. Consider these ways to share what you’ve read:
Quote Connections: Share a quote that you connected with from the book. Give a brief explanation of the context of the quote within the story, and then explain how the quote connects to you. Then have students brainstorm in pairs or small groups a connection they can make to the quote about themselves and then have a few students share out with the class. This activity helps students to learn a little bit about their teacher, encourages students to collaborate with peers, can serve as a getting-to-know-you activity, and gets students interested in reading the book without a traditional book talk. This activity can also be done where connections are made with current events or other books they have read.
Adjectives Times Three: Share three adjectives that you think the main character in the book would use to describe themselves, three adjectives you would use to describe the character, and then three adjectives to describe yourself. Talk with students about how and why you gave the character similar or different adjectives than you think they would give themselves, and then invite students to share adjectives they think people would use to describe them versus ones they would use to describe themselves.
Favorite Fridays: Create a tradition where students and the teacher share their favorite recently read book with the class for a few minutes on Friday. Use some of your favorite summer reads to model this activity for students and to provide recommendations for them to read. First Chapter Fridays (FCF) are also a great option. Students and teachers can listen to authors read the first chapter of their books. Learn more about FCF here.
#AmReading Board: Create a space in the classroom to display book covers of books you are currently reading. Start the year by adding books you read over the summer that you would recommend to students.
Sticky Note Recommendations: As you read books, write a few words on a sticky note that describe the books along with how many stars you would give it. Put the sticky in the front cover of the books so that students can look at them, and then as students read throughout the year, they can add in their own recommendations.
Kasey Short Director of Studies and Eighth Grade English Teacher Charlotte Country Day School
Kasey Short enjoys sharing her ideas from the classroom and writes frequently for various educational outlets. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned a Bachelor of Arts in middle school education with a concentration in English and history. She went on to earn a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University. She is currently the Director of Studies and eighth grade English teacher at Charlotte Country Day School.
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