Five books your 6th (and 7th and 8th) graders will love! | Mentoring in the Middle

Five books your 6th (and 7th and 8th) graders will love!

"Noooo!  Don't stop!" 

Music to my ears.  

I try to make time - about ten minutes - at the end of every class to read aloud to my students.  I mix up genres, read different books to each of my three classes, and sometimes, when I don't get to read a book aloud, I talk about it so that it gets read and passed around by some of my 6th graders.

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

I had to smile when the younger brother of one of my former students came into my classroom on the first day of school and asked, "When can I check out Michael Vey?  My brother said that was the best book ever!"

I've read this book for the last three or four years and it never fails to engage even the most reluctant readers.  Michael has electric powers, which he needs to keep secret.  But he's small, and he gets bullied a fair amount, and so it's hard to keep his temper under wraps.  One particularly fateful day, he blows up when some bullies try to pants him and he shocks them.  That should keep them from bothering him again, right?  True.  Except that someone saw him do it.

A very popular girl.  Who might have some secrets of her own.

The first few chapters take place at a high school in Idaho, but from there, Michael, Taylor, Ostin, Jack, and Wade take on the impossible.  This is pure David and Goliath with some good science fiction thrown in.  With both male and female protagonists and antagonists, this fast-paced ride will be greatly enjoyed!  This book is the first in a series of seven.

The Truth as Told By Mason Buttle

I found this book in the library a few weeks ago and was drawn in by the title.  Before I knew it, still standing where I found it, I was several chapters in.

Mason Buttle is a kid who struggles mightily in school and thinks of himself as pretty stupid.  He had a best friend, Benny Kilmartin, but Benny died a year ago.

In Mason's family's apple orchard.  Climbing out of the tree fort that he and Mason had built.

Lieutenant Bird shows up at Mason's house on a regular basis, but Mason's already told him everything he knows.  And he doesn't understand why the police officer keeps stopping by for more information.  Mason's already told him everything that happened.

A new boy moves into the neighborhood (shades of Freak the Mighty here.) Calvin is tiny, smart, and curious.  As he and Mason become friends and endure the bullying of neighborhood boys, they decide to create their own safe space, in an old root cellar.

But one day, Calvin goes missing.  And Mason finds himself in more hot water than he'd every imagined.

I think what I loved most about this book was how honest and true Mason's voice was.  Written in first person, I felt like I could see and understand everything Mason was trying to come to grips with.  This is a heartbreaking, lovely book about a resilient kid with more talents than he realizes!


I had seen movie trailers for this book a few years ago, and while it sounded really interesting, I just wasn't sure I could stomach the visuals.  

The book grabs you in the gut!  A defiant child, Louie Zamperini stole, broke into houses, and got into regular fights.  Upon the advice of his brother, he channels his energy into something more positive, and begins to run.  He was fast enough to compete in the 1940 Olympics in Berlin.  When the United States entered World War II, Louie joined the Air Force, becoming a bombadier flying missions over the Pacific Ocean.  On the day his plane had mechanical failure and crashed into the ocean, only he and two others survived, on a raft.  A raft that floated in the ocean for a month and a half.  Dealing with leaping sharks, starvation, and thirst, he was beside himself when he eventually drifted toward a nearby island.

Where the worst horror he could imagine came true.  

Zamperini became a Prisoner of War at  several Japanese war camps; at the final one, an evil prison guard especially seemed bent on breaking him.  With guts, a strength that he pulled up from somewhere, and a sense of humor, he survived.

This book is not an easy read, although it is hard to put down!  (I read the Young Adult version.)


I loved that this book was told in verse.  And that it was told in first person, so you could get into Grace's head.  It is eye-opening for students to read, as they learn about how Missus and Master treat Grace, who begins working in the big house.  

Grace knows the difference between right and wrong, and she knows their treatment is wrong.  But she's promised Uncle Jim and Mama that she'll keep her head down and do her job.  That gets increasingly harder to do, until one day, Grace speaks up.

And puts herself and her family into great danger.

So great that they need to run away that night.  Facing wild animals and slave traders is only part of the battle.  Not knowing whether they will get to safety is the other.  Based on true stories of slaves who fled into the Great Dismal Swamp between Virginia and North Carolina, this was another book that was hard to put down!  I bought it, and it hasn't sat on my shelves for more than a day or two before another student begins reading it.


This book, like Unbroken, has a movie tie-in, and is a Young Reader's Edition.  I saw trailers for this one, too, and found it interesting, but just never got around to watching it.  When I saw the book at the bookstore one day, I decided to give it a try.

Oh my!  

Saroo is a five-year old boy growing up in poverty in India, with his mother, two other brothers and a younger sister.  It wasn't uncommon there for children to play alone, or for him to be left at home to watch his younger sister while his mother worked.

One day, wanting to be around his older brother more, the two go to a neighboring town, where Guddu tells Saroo to wait for him at the train station.  Nothing about this was unusual.  Saroo had done this many times before.  Tired, he fell asleep, but when he woke up later in the day, he had no idea where his brother was.  Thinking he might have boarded the train, Saroo got on, and inadvertently traveled across the country, ending up in Calcutta.  

Barely able to speak, at age five, he survived for several weeks before he was taken to an orphanage where, after several months, he was adopted by an Australian couple.  He grew up in a wonderful home, but never lost the desire to find his family.

And so he does, 25 years later; studying Google Maps satellite images for hours at a time for months and years, he eventually finds familiar scenery.  And learns that his name was really Sheru, and the area he thought he was from, Ginestlay, was actually Ganesh Talai.

You get so caught up in Saroo's quest, and as a mom, I had my heart in my throat as he navigated his way around the country.  As a five year old!  His adoptive parents are wonderful, and with mixed feelings, support Saroo's journey to India to reconnect with his biological family.

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