Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Middle School Book Club Books: difficulties

This post provides an overview of books to use for book club group discussions around the theme of difficulties or tough times. The previous Middle School Book Club Book post was about books featuring a character with a disability. Click the "Book Club" tag for other posts about great books for book club discussions, as well as generic questions to use for discussions.

Middle School Book Club Books: difficulties

Middle schoolers love reading books about kids with problems. Probably because everyone feels like they have so many of their own. In addition to our book club set about characters with disabilities, I included these titles where characters are facing other difficult issues.

Counting Thyme (2016) by Melanie Conklin p. 320. 11-year old Thyme’s world is upended when her family moves to NY on short notice so her younger brother can enter a cancer trial.

Thyme is frustrated by living in limbo - her parents have just moved the whole family cross-country so that her younger brother can participate in a clinical trial for his neuroblastoma cancer. She is trying to juggle being new and fitting in with the hope that they will be leaving and moving back in a few short months. This is a cute and enjoyable story, and one that does a good job of laying bare the impact a severe illness can have on a family.

Paper Things (2015) by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, p. 384. This is a story of the costs and unseen difficulties of homelessness, told from the perspective of fifth grade Arianna (Ari) and her older brother, Gage.

This is such a powerful and important story and one that so rarely is told. Orphans may be over-represented in children's literature, but homeless kids are often invisible. This is a tug-at-the-heartstrings story, for sure, but I appreciate that the author also kept in real, especially moving towards the end of the book. Well worth the read.

One for the Murphys (2012) by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, p. 256. 12-year old Carley finds herself in foster care after a domestic incident with her stepfather. How will she adjust to this new place and what does her future hold?

One for the Murphys is the story of a girl named Carley who finds herself in foster care after she is beaten by her stepfather. This is a tear-jerker of a tale about family, friendship, and finding your own way. I have read some negative criticism about the depiction of social workers in the book, but I still think there is a lot to value in this story.

Additional Tough Times Books

The following titles were not ones I used this year but would be great books to consider adding when making your own lists.

Wonder (2012) by R.J. Palacio. This charming story of understanding differences and learning to accept people for who they are will make everyone think again what it truly means to "Choose Kind."

Firegirl (2006) by Tony Abbott [a Golden Kite Award winner]. This story about acceptance is about a girl who is terribly disfigured in a fire and is narrated by a boy in the classroom she moves to when she has to change towns to be closer to her doctors. The focus is on the meaning and responsibility of being a bystander, but I think it might have been a more interesting and more powerful book if the girl herself had been given more of a voice.

Do you have any suggestions for books that I missed? Click the "Book Club" tag for other posts about great books for book club discussions, as well as generic questions to use for discussions.

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