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The Library-(book suggestions) > YA for Classroom Libraries

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message 1: by Ken (new)

Ken Hi. I teach 8th grade and maintain a sizable classroom library (bought of my own money). The daily HW is to read for 1/2 hr. My problem? Finding a site that can give me an idea about the "rating" for new YA titles. Sure, I can handle some profanity, but certain YA books cross the line with adult themes -- the sort of thing that might raise the eyebrows of parents and school board members.

Two questions for this thread: Do you have un-put-downable book suggestions for my 8th grade library (esp. new stuff)? And can you also recommend YA titles that are no worse than PG-13 (so to speak), in lieu of no help from the Internet or the publishers on this count? Thanks!

message 2: by Alexandra (last edited Jan 08, 2008 03:24AM) (new)

Alexandra I can recommend these, no sex or language:

The Perilous Gard by Pope, Elizabeth Marie - one character comes close to being the victim of a pagan fairy sacrifice, if that's bothersome.

Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour by Westerfeld, Scott

Midnight Pearls by Viguié, Debbie

Anne of Green Gables by Montgomery, Lucy Maud

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel - some violence (good guys fighting bad guys).

message 3: by Ken (new)

Ken Thanks, Janis. I've never heard tell of Ms. Pope. Fantasy, I take it. As for pagan fairy sacrifices, no problem at all. We read Shakespeare, too -- plenty of sacrificing there as well.

Speaking of fantasy, one I read but stocked in the library (against my better judgment) was Neil Gaiman's STARDUST. Oddly, he added a mating scene between human and fairy (and a few other semi-randy scenes). Done somewhat tastefully, but still quite clear what's going on (ahem).

Scott Westerfield my kids love (PRETTIES, EXTRAS, etc.). Is THE SECRET HOUR the beginning of a new series for him? Good news, if so, as most of the kids are finishing up the PRETTY thing.

Viguié? News to me (frontpage news, in fact).

I'm surprised you suggested ANN OF GREEN GABLES for 8th grade. Personally, I've had no inclination to read it, but always felt it was for a "younger" audience. Do you think?

And we have Oppel's series in the school library but it's not getting much circulation. Kids are a tough nut to crack, book-wise, eh?

message 4: by Katy (new)

Katy K. (twilightlover) | 2 comments Being in 8th grade my self I happen to know a lot of great teen books but the problem is than most of the greatest teen books do, as you put it, "cross the line" a bit. I do very much understand your dilemma with getting kids interested in reading, I myself have no problem with that since my mother is an avid reader, however I understand that most students aren't. Try listening to books on tape while following along. Especially ones where the reader changes voices with the characters It really helps me get into a story even better. As with good books try doing a holocaust series. Most are great historical books without the vivid adult themes. I hope this helps.

message 5: by Ken (last edited Jan 08, 2008 06:21PM) (new)

Ken Thanks, Katy. Your ideas do help. And I agree with you about the "crossing the line" bit. That's half the fun when you're a young reader in a world with so many non-reading temptations.

Luckily, I haven't heard anything from anyone re: dicey books in the classroom, and some of them I know could be challenged. Like Zusak's I AM THE MESSENGER. Lots of profanity in it. But I looked the other way (what, ME, notice?). I hear his BOOK THIEF is great stuff (speaking of Holocaust) but mature stuff. Looking forward to reading that one on my own.

Books I decided against stocking after buying are titles like LOOKING FOR ALASKA, Ned Vizinni's BE MORE CHILL, and Frank's AMERICA. I guess sex and drugs and drinking scare me off more than commonplace cussing (esp. if it's not the f-bomb).

You see, the new crop of YA writers giveth and they taketh away -- they giveth more interesting books, but they taketh away market due to playing the "racy card."

If you have any good Holocaust titles suggestions, I'm happy to hear them. We read NIGHT as a class and have in the classroom a few other ones, too (titles eluding me at the moment). I did not care for THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS at all, however.

Haven't considered books on tape. Thanks for that suggestion!

message 6: by Ken (last edited Jan 09, 2008 02:26AM) (new)

Ken Thanks, Abigail, for the report from the bookstore (hey, I once worked at a Waldenbooks wa-a-a-ay back in a country -- OK, Maine -- far, far away). I will check out the "Further Tales" series next time I'm in the local Barnes & Ignoble (closest of the giant bookstores -- we have no indies around here anymore, sadly).

Riordan's series on the Greek Gods (again, set in modern times) is favored by many of the boys. And I bought a copy of GOOSE GIRL by Shannon Hale, an author who is also reinventing fairy tales for modern YA readers. The one girl who has read it loved it, but no one else has picked up on it as of press time.

Thanks for the YA list -- esp. non-fiction. We are rightly chastised as teachers for not teaching enough (or stocking enough, classroom-library-wise) non-fiction titles. It's as important as poetry, novels, short stories, and drama (all of which seem to get the lion's share of attention in American schools).

message 7: by Alexandra (last edited Jan 09, 2008 05:03AM) (new)

Alexandra Yes, The Perilous Gard is a fantasy, but set in our world. Actually it also a bit of a romance and historical fiction. Definately a girl story.

I know what you mean about Stardust, LOVED it, but that's why I didn't recommend it for your needs. It's a shame too because it is mostly quite clean.

I haven't read Pretties yet. Yes, Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour is the first book in a different series by the same author.

Midnight Pearls isn't a fantastic story, but it's ok, a retelling of the "Little Mermaid" tale. I agree this is mostly a girl story.

The Anne of Green Gables series follows Anne from childhood to a young married woman. Certianly the books are good for younger readers. But it's clean and good, and if your female students haven't read it yet they should. :)

Airborn is so good. It's promoted as a fantasy, but it isn't really. It's an adventure, including pirates! Takes place on an airship. And it's clean. Even though the protagonist is a young man, there is a main character that is a young lady. I think this would be good for both girls and boys. I listened to the audio version, which was well done. I think if you could get your boy students (in particular) talked into giving it a try they may like it. I haven't read Kenneth Opel's other series. Although it's gotten good reviews it doesn't look all that interesting to me.

The Book Thief is excellent, only problem there is some language, one character in particular uses it habitually.

message 8: by Boyd (new)

Boyd | 17 comments Your school librarians should have access to some publications that "rate" books in a variety of ways. I teach 11th Grade English, so the "racy" factor isn't as much of a concern.

I do have some YA recommended book lists with some grade appropriate labels in spreadsheets that I can pass on to you, if you send me a private message with your email.

Take care,

message 9: by Boyd (last edited Jan 09, 2008 10:41AM) (new)

Boyd | 17 comments I actually found the site that has some of the lists I was referring to:

Under the "Book Recommendations" topic, there are links to a bunch of .doc files for download. Those have the "best" YA books (in this guy's opinion) from that year, rated according to grade appropriateness.

Edit: It looks like only the most recent year is rated for grade level. The rest are just lists for 6-12. I do know the guy who puts the lists together, and he's pretty conservative and wholesome. I don't think you'll find anything like Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist on there.

message 10: by Ken (new)

Ken Appreciate the added comments, Janis. I'm taking notes. Some titles I buy, and some I let the school librarian order with her library budget. We share lots of info on this reading initiative we're doing (trying to get each kid to read 24 independent reading books on his or her own over the course of the school year).

I had to chuckle over your STARDUST comment. Random is right! What was Gaiman thinking? I posted a 2-star review of this book at amazon and the Gaiman groupies have lambasted me. (You know how it goes over there, posters tend to vote "helpful" or "not helpful" not on the quality of your book review but on whether or not they agree with you.)

Speaking of, is there any rule (spoken or unspoken) about copy and pasting reviews you already wrote THERE over HERE? Not that I'd do all of them -- maybe just some. Trouble is, I use a different nom de plume there, so I suppose it might look "lifted" (as if anyone would track it down).

Boyd (fellow warrior in the academic jungles!) -- thanks for that guy's list. It looks like he actually READS those books each year. Whoa. Especially if all the reading is done in the summer.

I once taught high school, too. At this point, I have experience from a low of Grade 7 to a high of Grade 12 (and, in the spring, just coasting...!). It's a great profession, I tell you. Maddeningly rewarding (or rewardingly maddening, maybe).

message 11: by Alexandra (last edited Jan 09, 2008 04:59PM) (new)

Alexandra You're welcome.

I read a lot of YA fiction, but mostly sci-fi/fantasy. As I sometimes recommend books to kids I know I'm trying to make note of things that might be problematic. Don't want to goof up and recommend something that didn't bother me as an adult, but wouldn't be appropriate for them (or approved of by their parents).

If I run across anything else that might be good for you I'll let you know.

Just my opinion, but I think as long as they are your reviews there shouldn't be a problem repeating them here. Personally I like it when reviewers "catch up" on Goodreads with their Amazon reviews, saves me the trouble of checking both :)

message 12: by Amy (new)

Amy (ldtchr) | 10 comments I work with many kids who do not like reading and one that seems to catch all of their attention is Dr. Franklin's Island by ann halam. It's a little Lost meets and explores the ethics of scientific experimentation on human beings. The main characters are teenagers who become the transgenetic experiments of a mad scientist.

Enjoyed the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson recently also. Again teenagers who were mutated with avian dna and are fighting for their lives.

message 13: by Trina (new)

Trina (trieb) | 7 comments The Lightning Thief (and it's sequels) are a little young for the audience, but a large clump of my seventh and eighth graders enjoy them.

Garth Nix's series that starts with Mister Monday is pretty good.

I really like David Lubar's books, but Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie might be problematic, however, probably very helpful. I keep it around, but only recommend for those readers who I know are able to handle it. (Same thing goes for Ender's Game - I recommended to the alien-loving smart-mouth.)

For girls, the S.A.S.S. books are good. They have some smooching, but little else -- and the storyline about high school girls going off on summer adventurers is fun.

I do think most of L.M. Montgomery's book would be great if you can convince the kids to read them.

A student recommended Diary of a Wimpy Kid to me and I enjoyed it. Also, The Wednesday Wars was one of my favorite new books, but I haven't picked it up for my library yet because it's still in hardback.

It's funny -- certain books will get picked up immediately by kids and passed around from student to student. Lois Duncan books (as much as I dislike them) are very popular. Avi seems to be growing in popularity, especially a couple of his older books. Caroline Cooney is also popular.

I'm also a middle school teacher (6,7, 8) and I have a hard time balancing the books that are too mature for some students with books that are mature enough and interesting to them.

message 14: by elissa (new)

elissa (librarianbodyworkerelissa) | 16 comments Newengland,

Here's a very active yahoogroup of middle school lit discussions that you might want to look in to:

And a link to a list of "Gentle" YA reads by DC Public Library (in Washington, DC), where I'm a librarian:

And another list of 24 "Books that Don't Make you Blush" from YALSA, the YA division of ALA:

A few of the books on the lists have already been mentioned above, but I hope some of that is helpful!


message 15: by bjneary (new)

bjneary | 36 comments Another good "war" book and the effect on people and animals (can be done with Holocasut books) is Faithful Elephants---have your kleenex ready.

message 16: by Ken (last edited Jan 10, 2008 05:41PM) (new)

Ken Thanks, Janis. No need to apologize about the "mostly sci-fi/fantasy" pedigree. Heck. As you know and I know, fantasy is the favored genre of YA readers (think back to the days when we devoured Tolkien's books... remember?). Speaking of You Know and I Know, did you know that Mark Twain once named his dogs by those names (and he had a third, Don't Know). I remember some pretty worthless stuff, I fear.

Ldtchr -- Lead Teacher? I'll take a look-see at DR. FRANKLIN'S ISLAND. I think of Ben Franklin (who probably would've enjoyed an island for all his experiments, French ladies, and other sundries).

Boyd -- Appreciate the e-mail. I'll get back to you soon (when I figure out how to do that sort of thing... I'm not the brightest internet bulb in the house... usually get a kid to help me). Tonight I'm crashing early, though. Fighting a humdinger cold from Germ Central (should be my school's name -- cough, hack, etc.).

Hi Trina. Cool to find another "In the Middle" school teacher here. I have Lubar's SLEEPING FRESHMEN NEVER LIE in my library. I thought it was "cute" and pretty clean. Favorite part? The Tom Swifties. I'm a sucker for puns. When I say 'em, people roll their eyes. When Shakespeare said 'em, people called it literature.

Also have read MISTER MONDAY (I usually only read the first in series, just so I know enough to be dangerous when reading kids' journals). The DIARY OF A WIMPY KID guy came to our school for a Scholastic Fair and signed his book. And I'm heartened to see OBG's like Avi, Cooney, and Duncan resurrected at your school (here, not so much...).

elissa -- Thanks so much for the links. I will Bookmark 'Em, Dan-O (as they used to say on HAWAII 5-0). If you get that, you're as old as me. Well, almost. No one's as old as me (or so the little kiddies love to remind me). Look up "retro" in your Webster's New Collegiate and I'm there.

mia -- Links don't look stupid to me. If they beam you up, Scotty, they're good. One click and it's into the rabbit hole. Speaking of, I just read INTO THE RABBIT HOLE by yet another adult author (Peter Abrahams) crossing over to YA (where the moolah is). Pretty good mystery. Bought the sequel (title eludes me) but just threw it in th e mix (OK, on the shelf) this week. I'll let you know if there are any nibbles. RABBIT HOLE was snatched up and the girl is enjoying it (oh, how I love to hear those words).

bj -- FAITHFUL ELEPHANTS. Every good Republican's dream. Kidding. I'll look it up on amazon and such.

Thanks all. I'm crashing and getting up at the usual 4:45 a.m. for another tilt at the academic windmill.

Ciao for niao....

message 17: by Alexandra (last edited Jan 12, 2008 06:04AM) (new)

Alexandra A couple more,

The Cay by Theodore Taylor, might be a bit young for your students, but a good story.

And, probably obvious, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

message 18: by Ken (new)

Ken How do you do that linking thing for book titles in your posts? Do you type in the HTML for a link (I know the code) or does Goodreads have a helper/shortcut button somewhere?

I'm still exploring the woods in these parts...

message 19: by Amy (new)

Amy (ldtchr) | 10 comments Argh - thought I'd figured out some of the shortcuts for bold, etc. and apparently not! (I'm new in these woods too!) Sorry they ended up posted so funny.

Ldteacher - lead teacher? Nope, LD teacher - learning disabilities teacher :).

I saw a posting about kids picking up Avi and I've had great success with some of those too - last year's fave was CRISPIN. We also used THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster and SEA OF TROLLS by Nancy Farmer last year and the boys really liked those too - though some parts of Tollbooth dragged for some of them. They created 3-d projects from that one though that were tons of fun!

Ummmm, other series that the boys have been cool with and the girls enjoyed too were Dive and Island which I think are both written by Korman and Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.

After seeing the 100+ Challenge in another group, I've challenged my classes to read 100 books this year (I have around 16 students grades 4-8). We created a profile (LMA Reads) to shelf our books and keep track. They love that they can see the covers and are amazed that we are doing so much reading. Anyway, I don't know if it would give you any ideas, but you can check our their shelves and see what's being read and what they've had to say about them. I know some of them right now are into graphic novels and we're balancing the variety of those with the fact that they're reading - and I shelf books that they read at home too which is where most of those come from.......

message 20: by Amy (new)

Amy (ldtchr) | 10 comments Just checked - yes, they are Gordon Korman.

Oh, last year I also read selections from GUYS WRITE FOR GUYS READ which was put together by Jon Scieszka and is hilarious in many parts. It features essays from male authors like Stephen King, Jerry Spinelli, Brain Jacques and others about being a guy and my 8th grade boys liked listening to the thoughts of many of their favorite authors - and I found it funny too. We sometimes then talked about how that might be different if it was written by a girl...... It's also a good source of writers that boys will enjoy.

message 21: by Ken (new)

Ken Thanks, leading learning disabled teacher (how's that... I'll throw that compliment your way). I do have GUYS WRITE FOR GUYS in my classroom library, but it's seldom touched. I've thought about reading parts of it aloud, though. Thanks for that encouragement!

As I've said before, boys in my class are snapping up sports books like SLAM! and HOOPS (Walter Dean Myers), CRACKBACK (John Coy), and GYM CANDY (Carl Deuker). The other red-hot genre among them is war books like SOLDIER BOYS (Dean Hughes), SOLDIER X (Don Wulffson), and UNDER A WAR-TORN SKY (Author's Name MIA... sorry).

message 22: by Alexandra (last edited Jan 17, 2008 02:08PM) (new)

Alexandra to create a link to a book type [book: then the title of the book after that close it with the opposite [ (if I used the correctly facing one it'd make just display as a link instead of displaying this example - so just flip that last one around). An example of this displays when you're in adding/editing review mode.

message 23: by Ken (new)

Ken Abigail -- Frightening, isn't it, to see "Reading Level: Grades 1-3, Interest Level: Grades 3-8"? Talk about all-inclusive (a third grader and an eighth grader, I mean). Thanks for the link.

OK, Janis, I'll try it:

Soldier X

message 24: by Ken (new)

Ken Works! (Ohhhh... the power!)

message 25: by Alexandra (last edited Jan 17, 2008 06:00PM) (new)

Alexandra Good job Newengland! Abigail, I bookmarked that site. Definately worth checking into. I had a student a few years ago that was reading at about 1st grade level in the 4th grade. It really is a challenge to find books that he wouldn't think were silly, but were within his ability. Made me remember the days I was trying to learn piano in Jr. High and I had to learn things like "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Boooring!

Pricey is bad though. Certainly would limit what I could purchase, but I am glad someone is trying to deal with the issue of a difference between reading level and age/interest level.

message 26: by Boyd (new)

Boyd | 17 comments One warning on Orca books: they have very mature content. Lots of sex and drugs in these books. My high school kids love them, but I'm not sure they'd be appropriate for the lower levels.

message 27: by Boyd (new)

Boyd | 17 comments You might also check out [url= Press[/url] Their TP Library and Bluford Series are a dollar a piece.

message 28: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (engl-teach-524) Newengland - The Midnighters ARE the beginning of a new series from Scott Westerfeld. I even have all of his books on my "to-read" list! I've read The Uglies and The Pretties, but have not read Specials or Extras yet. I believe there are 3 books in the Midnighters series so far. Check out Scott Westerfeld's website though!

message 29: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (engl-teach-524) One suggestion for getting students to look at, and get exposed, to other books in your own classroom library - spend a class period doing book talks. Have students get in small groups and each group would have about 3 or 4 books. After they spend about 20 minutes checking out the books, go around the room and have each group report on the books they looked at. If students are judging my the covers, or only tend to read books by authors they are familiar with, this would be a good way to expose them to move ideas! Personally, I haven't tried this with my own students and class library, but in theory it sounds like a great plan! I'll have to try it myself soon!

My students have also started enjoying the Bluford series as well. I'm not famliar with them, but it's true ... they are only $1 a piece - and with 13 in the series, that's 13 books for $13 - there's also a teacher's guide to go along with them!

message 30: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (engl-teach-524) Now that I'm on a roll looking at these discussion boards and trying to think of ideas, here's a website you might want to check out in regards to new YA lit ...

On the website there are listings of new releases in paperback, information about authors, books into movies, ultimate reading lists, series, plus so much more! I'm going to bookmark it and see if I can come up with some great ideas to share with my students!!

message 31: by Boyd (new)

Boyd | 17 comments Re: Book Talks

These are pretty much a vital aspect of my class. We usually spend the first few minutes of class doing some sort of book talk. All of my students must book talk at least two of the books they read in a 9 weeks. I vary the elements of the book talk to echo the normal curriculum of the class. So for one 9 weeks, they might have to talk about some aspect of the author's life. The next 9 weeks, they might discuss the affect of the POV on the book. If a student isn't scheduled for that day, I'll usually book talk a book or give a book tease (read a short excerpt that might attract readers).

It's pretty effective and painless, though it's important to instruct them on how to give a good book talk. Otherwise, the other students will just sort of tune out. I will say that just about every book that I book talk is checked out by the end of the day, which is an awesome feeling.

message 32: by Ken (new)

Ken My book talks are voluntary -- thus meaning the same kids talk. But I have kids write a journal entry every 3 weeks on any book they've finished in that time span.

I may try the "required book talk" because that looks interesting (esp. the shifting focus idea).

As with you, when I book talk a book, it's snapped up immediately. To make the reading initiative effective, a teacher has to be willing to read YA -- lots of it -- and all while doing his normal teaching duties.

Of course, it makes one long for his own "adult" books once in a while. I'm sneaking one in now, and it's quite entertaining (and up my alley): Breakfast with Buddha.

message 33: by Kim (new)

Kim | 35 comments Hi there,
I've been touring with my young adult novel, Songs for a Teenage Nomad throughout some schools in Hawaii, California and Washington and have been getting some good feedback from teachers and librarians. I've been a high school teacher for ten years and wanted to write a book that I knew middle and high school teachers could use in class without worrying about the angry phone call home. It was selected as a book of the month by and as the feature book at the 2007 Personalized Learning Conference in California and I have free curriculum for teachers on my website at I really relate to what you're going through with finding titles because I am always looking for books to recommend that are literary and interesting and don't talk down to the readers but that won't be offensive for some families. I loved Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now but there is the questionable relationship with her cousin. And I love Joy Nicholson's The Tribes of Palos Verdes but the main character smokes pot and has some serious sexual interactions. Carol Plum Ucci's What Happened to Lani Garver is amazing but does have some adult themes especially around the issue of gender - I've recommended that one a lot to my freshman students without too much issue. I'll be returning to this site to hopefully find more titles!

message 34: by Kim (new)

Kim | 35 comments is also a great reference as is (this is a great site for alternative YA titles!)

message 35: by J-Lynn Van Pelt (new)

J-Lynn Van Pelt | 25 comments Mod

Don't forget Graphic Novels!

The Runaways series and Earthlight series are both fantastic. They both center around a multicultural group of teens and are favorite check outs in my classroom library.

Also, Ellen Hopkins books (like Crank, Burned, Impulse, etc.) which are written in poetry are popular.

Some of my faves that deal with tough issues, but don't cross the line are:
Esperanza rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Incantation by Alice Hoffman
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
The Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper

message 36: by Boyd (new)

Boyd | 17 comments J-Lynn:

The First Part Last reference made me think of another book that our librarians always recommend in conjunction with that book:

Imani All Mine by Connie Rose Porter.

message 37: by Ken (new)

Ken Thanks for the recs. I had Ellen Hopkins in my hands at the store, but balked because it looked like mature material (and I didn't have time to check it more thoroughly). Is it pretty tame stuff?

The few kids of mine who have read Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie have loved it. Tough cover, though (rather drab/ boring), which puts some kids off.

I haven't read the above, but I did read Sonnenblick's Notes of a Midnight Driver. Cute. Sonnenblick was a middle school English teacher who just this year said farewell to his students forever to become a full-time writer.

Jealousy, thy name is Newengland.

message 38: by J-Lynn Van Pelt (new)

J-Lynn Van Pelt | 25 comments Mod

I have to admit that I have only read Hopkins' Burned and there was physical abuse by the father and the main character has sex. I am not sure about her others.

I thought of another suggestion:
The First Part Last by Jacqueline Woodson-- I have to rebuy it every year because it is so popular amongst the girls and it always disappears. It is about an interracial relationship and is beautifully written.

Thanks for the Porter recommendation, I will check it out.

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