Sometimes it feels like a tall order to find titles that excite my three kids. The just-finished-second-grade reader still judges a book's merit based on the cover and how many weapons are on it. The newly minted middle-schooler flips to the back of the book to see how many pages, then decides whether he's up for tackling it. And the 13-year-old holds out for exclusively dystopian YA, turning her nose up at the classics or other titles that do not threaten global annihilation.
So when I come across recommended reading lists, I'm grateful. Some wonderful librarian somewhere has taken the time to compile a list of books that have pleased her readers, thus saving me having to slog through stacks of titles to find the right covers, the right number of pages, and the right end-of-the-world scenarios!
Over the next few weeks, I'll share a few lists that feature fun titles for these lazy days of summer reading. Happy hunting!
First up from the fabulous librarians at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools comes a vast list of titles for fiction and non-fiction, picture books and more. Here is a partial rundown of their middle-grade novel recommendations:
Books marked with an * are easier; those with a # are more challenging.
This lovely book chronicles three separate visits by Becca to her Gran’s house on a remote Canadian island. Becca fears being lonely with no one her age on the island, but various adventures and a multitude of quirky relatives and neighbors keep life interesting.
#Corder, Zizou. Lion Boy (first book in a trilogy)
His ability to speak to cats in their own language proves very useful when Charlie Ashanti’s parents are kidnapped. Helped by cats of all kinds, Charlie manages to escape the unpleasant Rafi who is sent out to capture him. When he ends up on a circus boat, Charlie and the circus lions make a pact to help each other.
#Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton
The first freeborn child in a Canadian town populated by runaway slaves, Elijah is in many ways an ordinary kid. He is helpful to his neighbors, throws rocks with amazing accuracy, and is often confounded by the adults around him. Things take a dramatic turn when he embarks on a dangerous journey to the United States, where runaway slaves are hunted down.
Dyer, Heather. The Fish in Room 11
An orphan of mysterious parentage (Toby), good guys, bad guys, unexpected changes of heart, mermaids and treasure all in one book!
*Grimes, Nikki. Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel (first book in a series)
Dyamonde just moved to a new neighborhood with her mom after her parents’ divorce. She’s funny, smart, speaks her mind, and loves math. She doesn’t have a best friend yet but, as she’ll tell you, she’s a gem waiting to be discovered!
#Horvath, Polly. My One Hundred Adventures
Twelve-year-old Jane, who lives in a house on the beach with her three younger siblings and her dreamy single mother, longs for something different to happen this summer and prays for a hundred adventures. Like Horvath’s other fine books (Everything on a Waffle, The Trolls), this is quirky, sad, funny, and wise.
Three mice brothers, ignoring the class system of rodents in their farmhouse, befriend a lower class mouse and form a team to fight cats. King-Smith has written many wonderful books for animal lovers.
*Mills, Claudia. 7 X 9=Trouble
Third grader Wilson is having a hard time learning the times tables, and it definitely doesn’t help when his 5-year old brother learns them without even trying.
*Osborne, Mary Pope. Tales From the Odyssey. Book 1: The One-Eyed Giant
The first in a series of short, accessible chapter books relating the adventures and misadventures of Odysseus trying to find his way home to Ithaca following the Trojan War. Begins with the brief explanation of the war and the story of the Trojan horse. Includes a map of his journey.
Pinkwater, Daniel Manus. Fat Men From Space
William is able to receive radio signals on his tooth, a useless annoyance until he starts receiving bulletins from outer space. Now he is the only one who knows that thousands of fat spacemen in plaid sport jackets, knitted neckties and two toned shoes are confiscating and eating all the junk food on Earth.
Robinson, Barbara. The Best School Year Ever
School has started, and that means the six Herdman kids are back and creating their inimitable brand of destruction and mayhem. This classic series begins with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and continues with The Best Halloween Ever.
*Segal, Lore. More Mole Stories, and Little Gopher, Too
Warm, funny stories about the adventures of Mole and his grandmother, who are perfectly happy together–most of the time. If you like it, try their first book, Why Mole Shouted.
From Town School for Boys in San Francisco comes another list, this one more focused on dystopian middle-grade. And please note that as this is a BOYS school, the titles are geared toward getting the young fellas reading.
Unwind, by Neil Shustermann
Gone, by Michael Grant
The Other Side of the Island, by Allegra Goodman
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
The Sky Inside, by Clare B. Dunkle
The Dead and the Gone, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau
Winter's End, by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
Lockdown: Escape from Furnace, by Alexander Gordon Smith
Truancy, by Isamu Fukui
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary Pearson
The Carbon Diaries 2015, by Saci Lloyd
The Compound, by S.A. Bodeen
Candor, by Pam Bachorz
Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083, by Andrea White
The Roar, by Emma Clayton