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The Top Ten Titles in Middle School Literature


Share What are the top ten titles in middle school literature? Education World makes ten suggestions -- and invites your reactions!

Which titles would appear on your list of the Top Ten Titles in Middle School Literature? Which of those titles would be your all-time, Number One, favorite -- the one that stands out as a favorite among your students and a favorite of yours to teach?

Education World offers its Top Ten Titles in Middle School Literature (a completely unscientific sampling, we might add!) Is your favorite on the list? Or is it among the missing? Drop us an email telling us about your favorite -- on the list or off it! Send only

  • the title and author
  • your reason(s) for choosing it as your Number One book to teach, and,
  • (if you'd like to include it) a favorite follow-up activity related to the book.

Send that email to ghopkins@educationworld.com ! We'll do an update to this story, sharing the results of this informal survey for all middle school teachers to consider.

AND THE NOMINEES ARE...

The Cay by Theodore Taylor
When the freighter on which they are traveling is torpedoed by a German submarine during World War II, an adolescent white boy, blinded by a blow on the head, and an old West Indian sailor are stranded on a tiny Caribbean island.

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
Around the narrative of Ruth McBride Jordan, a.k.a. Rachel Deborah Shilsky, the daughter of an angry, failed Orthodox Jewish rabbi in the South, her son James writes of the inner confusions he felt as a black child of a white mother and of the love and faith with which his mother surrounded their large family. The result is a powerful portrait of growing up, a meditation on race and identity, and a poignant, beautifully crafted hymn from a son to his mother.

The Diary of Anne Frank
The classic text of the diary Anne Frank kept during the two years she and her family hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic is a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.

Note: One reader, Emily B., took time to comment on The Giver. When she was asked to recommend books to the head of a Quaker middle school, she could not recommend this book. The Giver is too dark for middle school, she said. "The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg is, in my opinion, the best read for middle school, hands down," she said. "The story is involving, as it has modern kids in modern situations, without being dark. In fact, students often laugh out loud when they are reading it. It is a great book for introducing or developing knowledge of literary devices. No book does a better job of showing the impact of point of view than this one. Characterizations are very well done. It touches on so many themes; it is a fantastic launching point for writing a paper. Themes include the environment, intergenerational relationships, change... It has subtle touches of fantasy, but most students dont catch on right away, which is a fun element. It leads to good discussions. If you havent read it, it is an enjoyable read no matter your age."

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Haunted by his parents' divorce and the secret that caused it, thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is the sole survivor of a plane crash, with only the clothes he has on and a hatchet to help him shape a life for himself in the wilderness.

Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
An American Indian girl is left on her tribe's abandoned Pacific island. Her survival and courage are gripping.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It's now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are "relocated," Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen's life.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Fifteen-year-old Billie Jo has a great deal to forgive -- her father for causing the accident that killed her mother; her mother for leaving when Billie Jo needed her most; and herself for being the cause of her own sorrow. In a series of poems, Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family's wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Until the day his father returns to their cabin in the Maine wilderness, 12-year-old Matt must try to survive on his own. During an attack by swarming bees, Matt is astonished when he's rescued by an Indian chief and his grandson, Attean. As the boys come to know each other, many months pass without a sign of Matt's family. Then Attean asks Matt to join the Beaver tribe.

Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
It was a dark and stormy night when Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and her mother came down to the kitchen for a midnight snack and were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. The unearthly stranger spoke to them and told them there was such a thing as a tesseract, a wrinkle in time . . . The story tells of the adventures of Meg, Charles, and Calvin OKeefe as they search for Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while trying to solve the tesseract problem.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2008 Education World

Originaly posted 10/19/1998
Last updated 04/14/2008

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