What to Read During Social Distancing

What interesting times we live in! For those of you who are looking for book titles for kiddos in junior and senior high, I’ve compiled a list of books I’ve read and recommend and a few titles I haven’t read but were recommended by various publishing houses and educational websites. Weblinks for more information concerning each included. Just click on the title!  Enjoy!

Books I’ve read

  1. “Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy.   LOVE this novel! A great story about a plump high school girl with THE most positive body image.  Love Willowdean’s voice. She’s funny and smart and a warrior princess at heart. There is a follow-up novel “Puddin’ that I haven’t read. (jr/sr high)
  2. “Sorcerer and the Crown” by Zen Cho. Who doesn’t like magic and British folklore? Another book with a strong young female character who, although is not our protagonist, is one of my favourite characters that I’ve met this year.(jr/sr high)
  3. “The Nest” by Kenneth Oppel. I’d describe this as a “supernatural allegory”. Creepy but beautiful at the same time. A story about the love of family told from the perspective of a young boy.(jr high)
  4. Belzhar” by Meg Wolitzer Literary summer school for troubled youth where the author for discussion is Sylvia Plath.  A book that possesses enchanted journals as a plot device.(jr/sr high)
  5. The “Unwind” series by Neal Shusterman series…all four of them. You want to generate a great discussion with your kid?  Read the series with him/her. Seriously one of my favourite series EVER! (jr/sr high)
  6. Lumber Janes” graphic novel series by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Shannon Waters and Brooke Allen.  A group of “kick-ass” girls who go to summer camp and fight supernatural creatures. LOVE the art, love the story with a diverse cast of characters.(elem/jr high)
  7. “Nimona” by Noelle Stevenson. a graphic novel that again possesses a VERY strong (and hilarious) character that can morph into other beings. So funny and sarcastic.(jr high)
  8. Bridge of Clay” by Markus Zusak. A gaggle of rough and tumble brothers who have to raise themselves after their mother dies and their father abandons them. They beat each other up every chance they get but they also love each other beyond belief. (jr/sr high)
  9. The Boy the Mouse the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Makes me cry everytime I read it. Short, sweet, and hugely profound. (ages 8-80)
  10. 142 Ostriches” by April Davila. Why are the ostriches dying? Truly a mystery. Tallulah has to deal with the unexpected death of her grandmother and successfully manage the ostrich farm she has thereby inherited. Things don’t go well. (sr high)
  11. “When We Were Vikings” by Andrew David MacDonald. A young woman who struggles developmentally is the narrator of this novel. She loves Vikings, in fact, she believes she is one! Can her warrior spirit help her navigate the world of adulthood especially when her only family is her brother and he has substance abuse issues. I LOVED this novel. More appropriate for high school students. (sr high)
  12. The Martian” by Andy Weir. I bought 6 copies for my classroom…they went missing right away. My 10th-grade boys LOVED this novel. I stayed up all night reading it (even though math was involved). My students say the book is better than the movie. (jr/sr high)
  13. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Seriously, I shouldn’t have to tell you why this is a good one. (elementary/jr high)
  14. Creatures by Crissy Van Meter. The story about a failure of a father trying to convince his daughter (or himself) that they are fortunate to live and “adventure of being homeless and selling drugs for food because facing reality would be devastating. This daughter feels it is her duty to keep her father together long enough to see herself into adulthood.(sr high)
  15. Island by Johanna Skibsrud. Skibsrud’s reimagining of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” is a timely novel in the age of “us”  and “them” a mentality that seems exacerbated by the current political situation. This novel forces us to contemplate our role in the various structures that form our identity be it political, historical or societal. It reminds us that governments can be built on precarious scaffolds that strive more towards power than people. (sr high)
  16. The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh. When the outside world suddenly infringes upon your “haven” making you question the only life you’ve ever known, do you fight against it? Or do you let it consume you? Love this book. It would make for an amazing discussion. (sr high)
  17. Women Talking by Miriam Toews. This is an important book. This is a disturbing book. This is a book where the voices of women who can no longer be silenced by tradition and fear. Horrifyingly based on a true story, Miriam Toews tells a story of a group of Mennonite women, members of a traditional colony in Bolivia who are forced to meet in the hayloft of a barn and determine whether or not they will break from the colony, the only home they’ve ever known. (sr high)
  18. The Girl With All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey. “Zombie literature” at its best. A story about a gifted little girl who just happens to be “hungry”. Turns out, humans are more terrifying than the “hungries”. I had our High School librarian buy 6 copies for students. Like “Unwind” it is a novel that conjures some deep topics of discussion. (jr/sr high)
  19. Far From the Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy. A good classic. (sr. high)
  20. The Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff Vandermeer. I taught “Annihilation” the first of this trilogy to my 10th grade English class. It was a tough read BUT students loved it. Environmental Dystopian Literature. (sr. high)
  21. “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante. Easy enough to read but deep in theme especially regarding relationships” (sr. high)
  22. The Sparrow by Doria Russell. Science Fiction. Theological. Heartbreaking. Jesuits in space. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? (sr. high)
  23. The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder. Have you ever wanted to be a spy? Tracy Walder gives a first-person account of what it was like to work for the CIA during 911. It is more than just a story about tracking terrorists though, it is also a story of how she was treated as a woman in a patriarchal society, it is a reflection of her insecurities as an adolescent and how she learned to overcome them. Non-fiction. (jr/sr high)
  24. I am Afraid of Men Vivek Shraya (I’ve read this one. It is awesome but definitely for high school students. Deals with issues of gender identity, homophobia, bullying). (Sr high).
  25. Smoke by Dan Vyleta. When you sin your body emits smoke. Only the “dregs” of society (the poor and oppressed) smoke. Upper class goes through life without nary a stain on their pristine white collars. Themes of social class, discrimination. Dan Vyleta has come out with a second in the series called “Soot” (jr/sr high)
  26. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. The story of a young boy, a slave from a sugar plantation in Barbados, who travels with his “master”, an adventurer and inventor, to the Arctic and then to Eastern Canada. Washington is a gifted artist who is asked to illustrate academic texts from the various eccentrics he meets. (sr. high)

Titles I haven’t read but were recommended by various educational/publishing sites: (be sure to read them before handing them out to the kiddos)

Turtles all the way Down  John Green

All The Bright Places  Jennifer Niven

Chicken Girl Heather Smith

Frankly in Love   David Yoon

Darius the Great is Not Ok Adib Khorram

Of Curses and Kisses Sandhya Menon

Chain of Gold Cassandra Clare 

We Are the Wildcats  Siobhan Vivian

Winterwood Shea Ernshaw

Don’t Call the Wolf Aleksandra Ross

The Grace Year Kim Liggett

Feed M. T. Anderson

Swim the fly Don Calame

For reluctant male readers

Random Tom Leeven

Trapped Michael Northrop

Long Way Down Jason Reynolds

Orbiting Jupiter  Gary Schmidt

Noggin John Corey Whaley

Dear Martin Nic Stone

Gym Candy Carl Deuker

Ghost Boy  Jewel Parker Rhodes

The Wilder Boys Brandon Wallace


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