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READALICIOUS! Books for Tweens

Rascal, A Memoir by Sterling North

Have you ever spotted a book that you read as a kid and glowed uncontrollably? That warm, fuzzy feeling is what I hope to capture in a time-release bottle every time I recommend a title to my sixth graders. I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m always surprised when it happens to me.

The most recent wave of tender nostalgia struck me at the sight of the 1963 memoir Rascal, by Sterling North. I was a little wary of rereading it, worried that the story and the characters hadn’t aged well and I’d be crushed. I wasn’t.

Rascal is refreshingly wholesome. It’s the perfect antidote to today’s relentless fervor for dystopian worlds, zombies, and vampires. Read More 

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Hooked on History: Going for the Small Story

I am a die-hard history fan—gobbling up nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, and historical fiction alike. Other than literature, it’s my favorite subject to teach, and I try hard to rub some of that passion off on my students.

Jim Murphy's An American Plague (a Newbery Honor Book! a Sibert award winner! a National Book Award finalist!) is an excellent nonfiction book that deserves all those accolades. It's about the deadly yellow fever epidemic of 1793 that struck Philadelphia, then the capitol city of the new United States of America.

I loved it and planned to use it to talk about current events and the science of staying healthy (the H1N1 flu epidemic was in full scare). But, I was having trouble getting kids to read it.

What they told me was, “We want to read a story.” How could I argue? They wanted to read!!!

Then, a student clued me in to a "y'gotta-read-this" book on the same historic epidemic.

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Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes

Before handing this middle grade novel to a student, I ask a few questions:

What things are you are willing to say, “Yes!” to? Cleaning your room? Going to church on Sunday? Babysitting young children? Digging for a lost ring in the kitchen garbage? These day-to-day tasks are easy to agree to, and sometimes, just as easy to say no to. (I'd love to hear from some kid about that!)

But what if your parents say, “Yes” to something big that affects you directly—like serving in the military? How would your life be different?

What if your mom or dad were deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan? What if you had to move every couple years to a new military base; new home, new school, new friends? Would you even have close friends?



Author Sara Lewis Holmes is married to an air force pilot and has raised two children. She wrote OPERATION YES based on her family’s experience in the military.

In an interview with author Kathy Erskine, she said, “Much of my family’s real life is in there—including air shows, FOD [foreign object debris] walks, 'remove before flight' key tags, the sound of flight suits in the dryer, living on base, moving often, dealing with deployments, bravery, fear, uncertainty, hope, and the kindness of all the communities we’ve been a part of.”

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