Top Ten Books the Kids in My Book Club Would Not Shut Up About

Top Ten Tuesday is a brilliant meme created by  The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Tuesday is a brilliant meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Ah, Middle Schoolers.  I run a weekly book club for middle schoolers.  They come to me instead of going to lunch.  The commitment is strong with these kids.  I have never had as much fun in my life as watching 12 year old swoon over books.  You know how people are constantly moaning about the state of children and the future.  Let me tell you that we are in good hands my friends.  

Because I teach in an international school in China almost all of my students are bilingual and many are trilingual or more.  They have come up with the idea of reading the same book in two different languages and then comparing the reading experiences.  I cannot even explain how much I love this idea.  #TheseKidsAreAmazing

One thing that I find particularly interesting is the amount of older books that the kids read.  Sometimes the covers are fresh and they don't even know.  This week alone I have seen someone reading Tigereyes,  We were talking about realistic fiction the other day and all of them told me that they are sick to death of MG books about bullying.  

But they do get fixated.  There were more than a few books that got brought up (by the same kids mind you) over and over and over again.  Seriously, it was like Groundhog day.  Here are the books that they wouldn't shut up about. 

Every Soul a Star
by Wendy Mass

I finally had to read it to see if it lived up to the book club hype.  It pretty much did.  It is a story about an eclipse and three middle school children whose lives are changing.  Adorable and uplifting. See my full review here.


The Maze Runner
James Dashner

This book was so popular with the students that the Design teacher made a whole unit about it.  Basically, all the kids are making digital 3D mazes.  That they will be able to  use VR goggles to navigate.  I know. I want to make one too.  


Divergent Series
by Veronica Roth

It is interesting that this is the series that caught their interest.  They aren't anti Hunger Hunger Games by any means but this is the series that they want to talk about.  I actually like the writing in this series much more.


Harry Potter Series
by J.K Rowling

Harry is in no danger of being abandoned any time soon.  They once spent an entire hour sorting themselves into houses. Of course it made this list.  At least one of the Harry Potter books is an answer to any Top Ten Tuesday.  By the way has anyone read the illustrated versions?  I have the first one and it was gorgeous.  Almost like getting to read the book for the first time again.

The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater

I have to approve this addition to the list as I am a fan of all things Maggie Stiefvater.  I am rereading it at the moment because it was such a perfect Halloween book.  Atmospheric and with incredibly creepy horses.  I love this author with all of my heart.


The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak

This book gets brought up and all the kids chime in with variations of, "Yes". So do I.  This book is amazing.  Death is the narrator and it is set in Germany during WWII.  Some of the phrases in the book are almost poetry. Just Beautiful.  Just be prepared to cry all the tears.


By Morris Gleitzman

I feel as if the main characters total denial of what is happening to him even as his life before more and more dangerous is a valid response to being swept up in the Holocaust.  



I, Funny
By James Patterson

Middle School boys.  What else can I say?  I could do with not hearing about this book for a week.


Stay Where you are and then Leave
By John Boyne

This books get extra points for the title.  I love it.  This is by the same author as The Boy with the Striped Pajamas.  This book is about WWI and a boy being left behind by his father.  It wasn't terrible but wasn't my favorite book either.

by Svetlana Chmakova 

A Graphic novel about the art of getting through middle school and figuring out how to fit in.  This is also a story about a girl who is new to school which is something that these international school kids know all about.  Much identification with the characters.


So there is my list for all of you who want your books #MiddleSchoolerApproved.  What do you mean that that isn't something that is in demand? *sigh

What kinds of books do you remember reading in middle school?

Book Review: Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

Every Soul a Star cover

Every Soul a Star
by Wendy Mass
Goodreads Amazon
Series: no
Release date: October 1st 2008
Rating: my students were right

"Now, in five hours, barring the end of the world, the moon will obliterate the sun. On the one hand I am so excited I can barely think straight. On the other, the eclipse means that everything will start happening really quickly."

I teach seventh grade and during lunch on Wednesdays I run a Middle School Book Club, which may be the most awesome activity ever.  Two of the girls in the group relentlessly mentioned this book every week.  "Have you read it yet? Have you read it yet?  Have you read it yet?" It took me awhile to get to but I finally did read it. There is something exciting about seeing books resonate with the age group with which it is intended so I had pretty high expectations for this book which for the most part it lived up to.

It is the story, told in three alternate voices, of three middle school students whose lives intersect with a solar eclipse. The main characters Ally, Bree, and Jack all have clear and separate voices.  This is important to me because I find almost nothing more annoying then losing track of who is narrating because the author doesn't vary the voice.  The character also acted age appropriately. 

"I am not plain or average or -god forbid- vanilla.  I am peanut butter rocky road with multicolored sprinkles, hot fudge, and a cherry on top. Not that I would ever eat such a thing, because it would go right to my thighs."

Let's take a moment to talk about Bree.  I found her to be the most challenging character to care about and root for.  She is "that girl" in middle school and high school who has embraced and been entrapped by the ideals of popularity and the social norms that we hold ourself to at that age.  It is a realistic depiction but honestly making someone who is shallow (and proud of it) sympathetic is difficult.  I felt as if I was holding myself back from the character almost the whole time that I was reading. 

The science aspect of the story seemed well researched (not my area of expertise but there is a bibliography at the end of the book so sources are cited) but was not at all heavy handed. 

"My heart is pounding so fast I bet everyone can hear it, even over the din of voices. There's not sign of the approaching moon in the bright sky. An eclipse can only happen when the moon is in the new moon phase, when we can't see the sun reflecting off of it. So it's like looking for something invisible."

I really appreciated the nuanced examination of what we can change about ourselves and our life situations and what we should we should accept.  Pretty big themes for middle schoolers and yet Wendy Mass managed make the point delicately without being preachy or losing the fun.

All in all I found this book sweet, satisfying, and compulsively readable (read it in one sitting). And I love the last lines of the book.

From Goodreads:
And as streams of light fan out behind the darkened sun like the wings of a butterfly, I realize that I never saw real beauty until now.

At Moon Shadow, an isolated campground, thousands have gathered to catch a glimpse of a rare and extraordinary total eclipse of the sun. It's also where three lives are about to be changed forever:

Ally likes the simple things in life--labyrinths, star-gazing, and comet-hunting. Her home, the Moon Shadow campground, is a part of who she is, and she refuses to imagine it any other way.

Popular and gorgeous (everybody says so), Bree is a future homecoming queen for sure. Bree wears her beauty like a suit of armor. But what is she trying to hide?

Overweight and awkward, Jack is used to spending a lot of time alone. But when opportunity knocks, he finds himself in situations he never would have imagined and making friends in the most unexpected situations.

Told from three distinct voices and perspectives, Wendy Mass weaves an intricate and compelling story about strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one's place in the universe.