Unmissable 6th Grade Novels That Every Student Should Dive Into | Mentoring in the Middle

Unmissable 6th Grade Novels That Every Student Should Dive Into

Here are four novels that I think are worth considering for your upper elementary and middle school students.  I read them a few years ago and they still have stayed with me.  Don't miss letting your students read them!

The Skin I'm In

This book was written more than 20 years ago and it's still every bit as relevant today.   

I found it hard to put down.  Maleeka is a dark-skinned, smart, poor girl.  She wears clothes her mom makes (poorly) for her.  When her best friend lends her clothes to wear, she's thrilled.  Until Char asks her to give them back.  In front of a group of kids.  

Into that mix walks a new teacher, Miss Saunders, a well-traveled, intelligent teacher with a big blotch of white on her face.  But she's comfortable in the skin she's in.  And slowly, she teaches her students to accept who they are, too.  Enough so that Maleeka finally decides to be who she is and confront the bullies in her life.

I created a resource for this book here.

The Thing About Jellyfish

Ali Benjamin wrote this book in 2015 and it was a National Book Award Finalist.

Imagine a book told from Suzy's point of view, that includes conversations she has with her deceased friend, Franny.  Mix in some wisdom from Mrs. Turston, Suzy's 7th grade Science teacher, in the form of the stages of a science experiment.  Which are metaphors for Suzy's life.  

Throw in a lot of scientific facts about jellyfish.  And a kid - Suzy - who decides to stop talking.  Add a divorced mom and dad, and a brother with his boyfriend, and you have the makings of a novel that is an interesting read.  

You can read a fuller review of the book here.  And you can find the resource I made for it here.

Finding Langston

"Never really thought much about Alabama's red dirt roads, but now, all I can think about is kicking up their dust.  I miss the hot sun on the back of my neck and how now the racket of cicadas, seems like no sound at all.  At the end of a school day. 'fore I had to get home and do my chores, I could take my time walking just as slow as I pleased without someone pushing past and cutting their eyes like I was a stray dog come asking for scraps." 

You meet the protagonist, grieving his mother after he moved to Chicago in 1946 with his father. Chicago holds nothing for him as far as he's concerned.  School is okay, but there are bullies and lots of kids who call him "Country Boy" for the way he speaks and dresses.

It is only when he runs from those bullies and gets lost that he discovers a branch of the Chicago Public Library.  And his world opens up in a way he never imagined.

You can read the rest of the review here.  And see the resource I created here.

The War that Saved My Life

When England first realized that London would face bombings by the Nazis in 1939, the government made an effort to move women and children, and later, just children out to the country where it was safer.  Teachers were recruited to "do their duty to country" by escorting classes as though they were going on a field trip, and staying with them until they were all taken in by new families.

Ada - born with a club foot and hated by her mother for it - runs away with her brother Jamie to be part of the evacuation.  Standing in the room waiting to be chosen, she and Jamie end up not being selected.  So they are taken to a home where Susan Smith is told to do her civic duty by taking them in.

But Susan knows nothing about raising children.

And yet, somehow, she sees in Ada what no one else did.  And slowly, but surely, Ada learns to give herself the grace to live into who she was meant to be.

You can read the full review of that book here.  The resource for this book is here.

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