Six Great Middle Grades Books for Your Classroom

Every now and then I find myself reading a lot more than usual. Recently I found myself devouring a whole range of new-to-me middle-grades books and I thought I should share them with you here!

6 Great Middle School Books for Your Classroom. A look at 6 books perfect for 5th, 6th and 7th grade students. A Galarious Goods blog post

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

What does it mean to be a friend? What do we do for our friends? How do our friends influence our behaviours? How do we feel when we can't find the right friends.

These are some of the questions sitting within this autobiographical graphic novel by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. Looking at how friendships grow and change as we do, this book raises a whole lot of possible discussion questions which would be great to explore with our students.

This would be a particularly good book to introduce at the beginning of the school year as students are building a classroom community. It would also fit beautifully into a discussion of graphic novels and whether some stories are told better in a graphic novel form.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson 

This is another graphic novel which deals with the issue of friendship and how people grow apart and change. However, Astrid is also dealing with her own growing up and how she fits into the world in this coming-of-age story. 

Astrid falls in love with roller derby after her mother takes her and her friend Nicole to a bout. However, although Astrid is excited about roller derby camp, Nicole signs up for ballet camp. And then Astrid discovers that roller derby is hard.

One of my favourite things about this graphic novel is that Astrid doesn't find roller derby easy. She feels out of place and uncoordinated among girls who have experience in the sport and she has to dig in and find perseverance to keep going. This would be a great book to include if you're promoting a growth mindset in your classroom.

Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan

This novel had two of my favourite things - a cast of interesting and individual characters and a protagonist with an interesting hobby. Naomi lives with her younger brother and her great-grandmother who took them in. But when her mother returns and wants to take her away, the trio find themselves travelling to Mexico on a quest to find their father - and more about their history.

One thing which really stands out here is that Naomi carves soap - making intricate animal figurines out of bars of regular soap. It's this skill - which she knows is connected to her father - which allows her to play a pivotal role towards the end of the book.

There's a lot of scope for research with this book as well as a lot of possible discussions about what makes a family and how family can be built by the people we invite into our lives. 

6 Great Middle School Books for Your Classroom. A look at 6 books perfect for 5th, 6th and 7th grade students. A Galarious Goods blog post

As Simple as it Seems by Sarah Weeks

This is a relatively short book, but there's a fair amount in it for discussion and consideration. Verbena has recently discovered that her life isn't really what she thought it was and is feeling completely out of sorts in her own skin - especially as her best friend starts drifting towards other people.

Then Pooch comes along and has his own set of differences and difficulties. Verbena sees his arrival as an opportunity to be someone else - to sit in someone else's 'skin' for a little while - until things go completely wrong and she has to be herself again.

This is another book which examines friendship, but it also looks at identity and truth - there's a lot of ideas to explore around names and who we are in this one.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

After Suzy's best friend drowns - despite being an excellent swimmer - Suzy finds herself retreating into a world of silence and looking for answers. She thinks she's found them in jellyfish - and she sets out to find all the answers she'll need.

Yet another book about friendship - there's definitely a theme going on in all these books! But also about how we react to external events, pressures and even medications. How people impact on our lives and how we need to accept our own responsibility in the events around us.

Like the next book, this is probably better for the slightly older (or more able to work with mature themes) middle-grades reader. This would be an ideal book for a classroom library and I could see students finding a lot to respond to in it.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

Although I thoroughly enjoyed all the books here, this is the book which kept me awake until after 1am so I could finish reading it. Lewis lives on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975 - living a life where he's surrounded by family and traditions which mean everything to him and a house which is falling down around his family. Additionally he's living a school life where he's the only non-white student in his class, there's a vicious bully who no one will confront and he's got a new friend who's willing to share a lot, but can't ever know about Lewis's home life - even as he makes Lewis less invisible at school.

This is a relatively complex book with a lot of strings to hold together and it's probably better for a more mature reader. There's an awful lot to get out of it though, from the nature of friendship (again!), to the idea of moving or being stuck in one place, to the strength of music and songs running throughout the book.

This would make an excellent small group book study in the classroom. In a secure and safe setting, students could get a lot of personal reflection out of it, as well as looking at how the author uses words, plot and character to create such an engaging story.

6 Great Middle School Books for Your Classroom. A look at 6 books perfect for 5th, 6th and 7th grade students. A Galarious Goods blog post

What Was New in June 2017?

We're halfway through 2017! I'm a little amazed at how quickly the last 6 months has gone - I'm pretty sure we only just got through Christmas!

So what happened in June 2017?

What was new at Galarious Goods in June 2017

June was all about law making in Australia - where do the ideas for them come from and how are they passed through Parliament and applied? As well as the two mini units, there's a lesson excerpt (perfect if you just want to concentrate on the passage of a bill through parliament), a mini-unit bundle, word wall and posters and assessment resources, as well as a complete bundle. It was a real learning experience putting these together - I never thought I'd read a parliamentary handbook before this!

Galarious Goods Creating Laws (Year 6 Civics and Citizenship)

I also updated the Ranger's Apprentice resources - comprehension and vocabulary, research tasks, character tasks and whole novel activities - as well as the US Bundle and the UK Bundle. These are so much more comprehensive, with a greater range of activities for the classroom. It's also been a great excuse to dip back into the Ranger's Apprentice books.

Ranger's Apprentice Novel Study by Galarious Goods

Another update was the Classroom Library Explorations Activities. These three activities now have new options, task cards and a cleaner look as well as a US Letter Paper option.


In the blogging world, I've looked at activities which allow you to explore Nim's Island out of the classroom, 9 books to read if you like Nim's Island, 3 ways to investigate stereotypes using the Nim's Island movie, and I've shared a post about Galarious Goods' first birthday and celebrating learning in the classroom. I've also created my first video talking about fitting in celebrations in the library - I shared it on the Galarious Goods facebook page first, then uploaded it onto YouTube - so it's easy to find! I'm really looking forward to making more videos in the future.



Behind the Scenes

We're enjoying school holidays here at the moment - with park visits and lots of library time. We're also planning for a 5 year old birthday party early next month - with a Go-Jetters, all around the world theme!

I've been working on a book study for Mem Fox's I'm Australian Too - it's a picture book, but there's a huge amount for middle grade students to explore. It also connects nicely with Australian and Global citizenship - the next Year 6 civics and citizenship unit.

Keep an eye on Instagram for more updates!

Hope you have had a great June and you've got a great July on the way!