Best books ~ as picked by my students

Every term, as part of my workshops at CWC, my students and I read and discuss a series of books. This list is from my home learner’s class, which consisted of kids aged 8-13. The books are rated out of 10, and I have presented them here, ranked from their least favourite to their most favourite. Thanks to Janna for keeping track of our scores each week.

Lunch Money

14. Lunch Money
Written by Brian Clements / Illustrated by Brian Selznik
Average rating: 4.85

Greg has had a long-time feud with his neighbour, Maura, but when the two decide to work together to start their own comic book business, they start an unlikely friendship and learn a few lessons about community, capitalism, and censorship.

* * *

The Tiger Rising

13: Tiger Rising
Written by Kate DiCamillo
One of my favourite authors delivers a compelling tale about a boy with a fascinating secret. I’m disappointed that this one didn’t rate higher with my students, but I think it didn’t quite grab the attention of the younger members of this particular class.
Average score: 4.9

* * *

Meeting MIss 405

12: Meeting Miss 405
Written by Lois Peterson
This is a beautiful book that, despite its short length, is able to tackle a number of issues including friendship, mental depression, and the power of observation. It’s a book that matches well with any discussion on writing.
Average score: 5.10

* * *

Time Cat

11: Time Cat
Written by Lloyd Alexander
I absolutely adore this book, in which a boy discovers a very special time-travelling device: his cat. Together Gareth and Jason travel through history, visiting various time periods. It’s a great fantasy adventure that teaches more than just a little about history.
Average score: 5.47

* * *

Mr. Karp's Last Glass

10: Mr. Karp’s Last Glass
Written by Cary Fagan
This book goes very well with a show-and-tell class as it’s all about collecting . . . in particular, it’s about one of the strangest collections you’ve ever heard of: water!
Average score: 5.55

* * *

The Magic Thief

9: The Magic Thief
Written by Sarah Prineas
I really love this book—and so did most of my students, so I’m surprised it didn’t rate higher. It has distinctive characters, an interesting setting, and and a well-constructed plot. But what puts this book over the top for me is the beautiful, literary language. I was hooked from the first chapter!
Average score: 6.10

* * *

Mr. Gum and the Goblins

8: Mr. Gum and the Goblins
Written by Andy Stanton
There’s many books in the Mr. Gum series, but I think this is my favourite. Author Andy Stanton makes gentle fun of the fantasy-adventure genre to produce a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.
Average score: 6.15

* * *

City of Ember

7: City of Ember
Written by Jeanne DuPrau
This book usually scores well with my students. It combines adventure and mystery against a dystopian backdrop to deliver a compelling tale about two children who are finding a way to save their world. As always, the book is better than the movie version!
Average score: 6.38

* * *

Close to Famous

6: Close to Famous
Written by Joan Bauer
Probably the most “modern” book on our list, this book seemed to connect with everyone in the class. It tells the story of twelve-year-old Foster as she and her mother move to a town and try to adjust to life after fleeing an abusive situation. They start many new friendships with the various characters in their new community.
Average score: 6.70

* * *

The Lemonade Crime

5: The Lemonade Crime
Written by Jacqueline Davies
This is the thought-provoking sequel to The Lemonade War. It’s generally for the Grade 4 set, but my older kids obviously liked it well enough, as it ranked high on our list. It’s a great doorway for a discussion on ethics, crime, and punishment.
Average score: 6.90

* * *

An Elephant in the Garden

4: An Elephant in the Garden
Written by Michael Morpurgo
One of my favourite authors tells a story with his two go-to subjects: animals and war. It is inspired by the real-life bombing of Dresden during World War II.
Average score: 7.33

* * *

Masterpiece

3. Masterpiece
Written by Elise Broach / Illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Average rating: 7.75

A boy and a bug try to solve an art heist of miniature paintings by Albrecht Durër.  In many ways, this is the perfect sort of middle-grade read, full of strong, well-developed characters. It’s a great book to connect to art history.

 * * *

Liesl & Po

2: Liesl & Po
Written by Lauren Oliver
This book is told in a classical style, and deals with the delicate subject of death—but in a beautiful way. When an alchemist’s apprentice named Will accidentally loses a box holding great magic, he is forced to flee his wicked master. He soon finds himself in the company of a peculiar pair, the grieving girl Liesl and the mysterious ghost named Po.
Average score: 8.75

* * *

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

1: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Written by C.S. Lewis
The classic holds up with this class! We all love Narnia. In fact, I like to call us the Narnia Nerds!
Average score: 9.0

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