Recommended Reading ~ by kids for kids

Every term, as part of my workshops at CWC, my students and I read and discuss a selection of middle-grade books.

This particular list is actually from the Spring term of 2014. I never ended up posting my students’ ranking of the titles, but I figured now would be a good time, in case anyone is looking for some suggestions for holiday gifts.

I picked the books, so I personally recommend all of them—but the ranking below (from least preferred to favorite) comes from my students, aged 8-13. There were fourteen books in total, one for each week of our class.


14. The Borrowers
By Mary Norton
Average rating: 6.64

This was one of my favorite books as a child, but my students found it too old-fashioned and slow-moving. Still, if you have a student that likes a classical book, then this is a good one!


13. The End of the Beginning
By Avi
Average rating: 6.65

This is a sweet book, probably best for younger kids. It reminds me of Winnie-the-Pooh.


12. Hate That Cat
By Sharon Creech
Average rating: 6.75

I absolutely LOVE this book, a novel written in poetic format. I wish my students would have appreciated it as much as me. There are a few scenes in this book that will tease the tears from your eyes. It’s a sequel to Love That Dog.


11. A Dog Called Homeless
By Sara Lean
Average rating: 7.59

Usually books about dog run away with the ratings! Not that 7.59 isn’t anywhere remotely near bad, as I always encourage my students to be critical in their reviews. Still, I was surprised this one didn’t inch up towards 9!


10. The Sandman and the Turtles
By Michael Morpurgo
Average rating: 7.75

Michael Morpurgo is one of my favorite authors and I always try to teach one of his books. I’ve taught so many of his titles, that I had to dig a little deeper into his catalogue to do this one, which is a short and sweet fairytale story. It rated higher than I expected, as this actually isn’t my favorite of Morpurgo’s titles. (I highly recommend checking out The Butterfly Lion, Running Wild, and Kaspar, Prince of Cats).


9. A Nest for Celeste
By Henry Cole
Average rating: 8.02

This is a beautifully illustrated book (by the author) that follows the adventures of a little mouse who observes the famous naturalist John James Audubon. This is a perfect book for animal lovers.


8. Fake Mustache
By Tom Angleberger
Average rating: 8.43

Mr. Angleberger is better known for his Origami Yoda series, but this is a humorous book. One of my students thanked me profusely for putting this (in his words) beautiful book on our reading list.


7. The Sixty-Eight Rooms
By Marianne Malone
Average rating: 8.49/10

My goddaughter recommended this book to me, and I loved it so much, I decided to teach it. It draws inspiration from the miniature rooms that actually exist in the Chicago Art Institute.


6. The Castle in the Attic
By Elizabeth Winthrop
Average rating: 8.74

This is another classic book, but the students loved it more than The Borrowers. This is a great book for fans of books like The Indian in the Cupboard.


5. The Bad Beginning
By Lemony Snicket
Average rating: 8.87

What can you say about this one? It’s the first book in my goddaughter’s all time favorite series. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting Lemony Snickett a few times at different book presentations. He just oozes funny.


4. Flora & Ulysses
By Kate DiCamillo
Average rating: 9.19

This book recently won the Newberry award (though I had put it on my list before that happened). My students absolutely loved this book, especially the comic page inserts.


3. The Familiars
By Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
Average rating: 9.25

I guess I should be happy that this book rated so high, as it is sometimes compared to my own Kendra Kandlestar book (I guess it’s all the animals and magic). This has become a popular series, but if you haven’t heard of it yet, then it’s a great book for those who love animals and magic.


2. Keepers of the School: We the Children
By Andrew Clements
Average rating: 9.26

This one barely edges out The Familiars. It has some great illustrations done with classic spot color. My biggest disappointment is that is has no resolution for the main problem introduced; you have to read the sequel for that one. (Many of my students did).


1. Tuesdays at the Castle
By Jessica Day George
Average rating: 9.69

This book has a great premise: a magical castle that has moving rooms. My only complaint is that it doesn’t have any illustrations. But fans of fantasy will love this book.

* * *

There you have it! Please check out the titles from your favorite local bookstore or etailer.

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