During my recent stint as a middle grades first round reader for Cybils, I read many great books for kids in grades 5-8. The thing that impressed me most about them was how helpful they were for kids who were facing today’s world, dealing with issues I never even knew about growing up in the fifties.
Here are a few books that dealt with such issues:
Up for Air by Laurie Morrison depicts problems specific to eighth graders looking forward to high school and all of its changes and challenges. Because of her outstanding swimming abilities, the girl protagonist must face older teens’ problems when she is asked to swim with them on a city team. She has had her own issues with ADHD and focusing, but has been supported by her adoptive parents from the beginning. When her biological father once again enters her life, the problems and confusion she faces are overwhelming. Add to that the tension and excitement of the swimming matches, and you have a fine, page-turner for older middle-schoolers.
For somewhat younger kids, the 12 year old protagonist in Out of My Shell by Jenny Goebel is a sure bet. A common problem, divorcing parents, compound the anxiety of the young girl, who is passionately invested in saving sea turtles and saving her family as well.
For boys, Camp Average by Craig Battle deals with team spirit, competitive urges, and boys’ friendships. The lesson, “Losers can become winners,” is a major theme of this sports-directed, basketball-focused read.
Finally, a favorite of several of the first-round readers was Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen, a historical fiction novel aimed at middle schoolers. Dealing with the time period when Lithuania was invaded by the Cossacks, we meet Audra, whose name means “storm.” She is a budding author who becomes involved with book smuggling when books are banned and burned. A well-drawn character, a passion for books, and adventure and perilous trips–what’s not to like in this kid’s novel that many parents would enjoy as well?
Until next Saturday, that’s it for kids’ books. Happy reading!