Could you recommend some very high quality literature for a 7th grader? She has a particular interest in historical fiction.
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How about some nonfiction? The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida relates a young Japanese-American girl's experiences in the internment camps during WWII. The writing style is light, yet deeply heartfelt, and at 133 pages, it's a fast read. I think a 7th grade girl would very much like this book, as she could probably relate to Uchida, as her desires represent those of any American girl; only she experienced them in the midst of a captive situation imposed by the very government she grew up believing in.
Reaching back into some older titles, these are excellent novels with American historical backgrounds that young readers generally enjoy: Johnny Tremain, Rifles for Watie, and Across Five Aprils. The first two won NewberyAwards; I'm not sure about the third, although it is a wonderful novel. Johnny Tremain is set during the American revolution, and Rifles for Watie and Across Five Aprils have Civil War settings.
Some of my favorite novels when I was thirteen were the Anne of Green Gables series. Set in Canada at the turn of the 20th century, I loved learning about the schools, social events, and chores of that era, as well as about Canada itself. Anne is an a-typical protagonist: she is not attractive and finds herself constantly getting into "scrapes" with her best friend, Diana. It's a coming-of-age novel (and series) that grew with me as I grew.
For a more contemporary read, I enjoy the writing style of Elizabeth George Speare, particularly her novel The Bronze Bow, set during the time of Jesus and his persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. Sounds rather grim, but is actually an uplifting read and Speare is able to recreate, in my mind at least, what it would have been like to live in those times.
While the following two suggestions science fiction are not strictly historical, both deal with moral questions that I think teens of this age are wrestling with and interested in. Consider Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.
I taught Frankenstein with my seventh graders last year, and they absolutely loved it. While it's not historical fiction per se, it does reflect some of the main concerns of the novel's historical era, such as the tension between scientific advances and the power/beauty of the natural world. For my seventh graders, Frankenstein provided them with a text that was challenging but achievable, and which raised many interesting ethical questions many of them had never considered before. They also found it fascinating that the Frankenstein's monster that most of us associate with horrible green rubber masks and Boris Karloff is actually way off from the actual creature that Shelley created--they found the humanity of the monster appealing. They also liked the notorious mystique surrounding how Shelley was inspired to write the story on a dark and stormy camping trip with other literary folk. Especially for a gifted young reader, this classic is a win in my book!
I would second the suggestions for the Hunger Games trilogy and for Animal Farm. Other interesting historical fiction for students is Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. She writes a lot of good historical fiction written for teens but that can be appreciated for adults too. The Boy Who Dared is an interesting perspective about the Holocaust.
I really enjoyed Speak and 13 Reasons Why as interesting teen issue books.
Some interesting science fiction for teens that I have found success with for my students was Feed and Enders Game.
If you are thinking more on the classic side of things rather than high interest, than I definitely agree with bullgatortail's recommendations.
The Book Thief is an excellent contemporary novel. Night by Elie Wiesel is an excellent historical account of Wiesel's personal experience in concentration camps. The Hiding Place by Corie Ten Boom is also an excellent historical account of the holocaust and life in concentration camps. It, however, is an older publication, so I'm not sure if a copy will be readily available in libraries.
You've got some great suggestions here already, I see. Although more historical nonfiction than fiction, I would like to add a two with a very specific bit of historical significance. Has your seventh-grader learned a bit about the Holocaust yet? (I am asking because, of course, some children are more disturbed than others by particular horrors. Some are afraid of monsters, some of violence, some of death, some of blood, etc. You know your child better than we do, so you know if a subject such as this would be too painful for her.)
So, ... what about The Diary of Anne Frank? She was about your daughter's age when she wrote her diary. It is a wonderfully readable account of her experience in hiding. I'm sure you know of it already. There are many documentaries about Anne Frank you could couple with the book. Also, depending on how strong her stomach is in seventh grade, you could even preview and edit Schindler's List for her to watch at the end.
If The Diary of Anne Frank has already been read by your daughter and she can handle this difficult subject well, then I would suggest Night. It's a higher reading level, of course, but a similar subject matter. The focus here is on reliving the nightmare of the Holocaust through memory, ... instead of Anne's experience in hiding. Life is Beautiful would be a wonderful movie to couple with this book. Again, it's a tear-jerker, albeit a wonderful one, ... so be sure to preview and edit if needed.
Another tiny request to compliment your "summer curriculum" here could be to take a trip to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington DC (if you live in the United States, of course), ... or another Holocaust museum near where you live. It's always good to get some "living history" in with our literature. The two subjects are intimately connected anyway. : )
Good luck to you on your quest! I'm sure other fun recommendations will follow!
If you are after some "high-quality" literature, I wonder whether you might want her to experiment with some of the more accessible classics. Silas Marner, for example, is not too complicated and can be understood by an advanced student at that age. In addition, you might want to think about something like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Both of these raise a number of historical and contextual issues that are very interesting.
I would recommend the entire Hunger Games series. It's a wonderful example of dystopian literature with children, adventure, difficult life decisions, and unfortunately, some violence (but that's part of living in the real world).
If she likes the Medieval period, you might also direct her to anything by Phillippa Gregory. She writes historical fiction about the royals and their lives...some subplots involve love affairs, so you might want to check it out yourself first to see if you would pass it.
I also love the sci-fi series by Michael Scott. They are fun and fictional, bull of magic and mythology, time travel, and true historical events. It's a wonderful series which cleverly entertwines fact and fiction with just the right balance of imagination. The Magician, The Alchemist, The Sorceress,and The Necromancer are the books in the series so far.
Good Luck! Oops...I just re-read the question and see that you are asking for high-quality literature. While these are well-written, they probably won't ever be considered for the canon or in most circles "high-quality". They are, however, well worth her time.
There are many classic novels that come to mind that would probably fit your student's interests. Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies immediately come to mind, though they are well-known and she may already have read them; they do fit the approximate grade level. Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and Oliver Twist would also be appropriate. Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island is probably of more interest to male readers (ditto Oliver Twist). More modern suggestions that are World War II related would be The Diary of Anne Frank and Bette Greene's Summer of My German Soldier; both feature young teens as the main characters. If her reading level is well above seventh grade, she would probably enjoy both of Khaled Hosseini's novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both have become popular in 9th-10th grade classes, and Splendid Suns features young girls as the main characters.
I would highly recommend The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The novel is set in World War II Germany and is the story of a young teenage Aryan girl who learns, not only to read, but the power of friendships and relationships through the hardships of surviving the war. An interesting aspect of the novel is that Death is the narrator and he/she has a very unique voice in the novel -- not what might stereotypically be expected.
Another recommendation would be To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It is such a classic, but great for a younger reader in that the narrator is a child herself (or at least the adult remembering her child-like reactions) to a very adult world. The lessons of the novel in regards to the humanity of all people are powerful and enduring.
i would recommend oliver twist by charles dickens
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