7th Grade Literature SelectionsI am looking to add a new novel to my 7th grade curriculum.  Currently we teach The Outsiders, Cheaper By the Dozen, The Devil's Arithemetic, My Brother Sam is...

7th Grade Literature Selections

I am looking to add a new novel to my 7th grade curriculum.  Currently we teach The Outsiders, Cheaper By the Dozen, The Devil's Arithemetic, My Brother Sam is Dead. 

 I am looking for a more up-to-date novel that deals with some issues that today's teens face but needs to be free of foul language and graphic sexual reference.  (No small task, I know.)

Thanks.

Asked on by clyonslf

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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This is an old gem, but my lowest level freshmen really like Where the Red Fern Grows.  I am fairly sure it would be assessible to 7th graders, and it is certainly appropriate.  Another suggestion, especially in light of the very recent movie release, would the novel True Grit.  It is a great novel for girls as well as boys, even though it is the Western tradition.

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mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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My suggestion for another book for 7th grade would be Four Miles to Pinecone by Jon Hassler.  The story is short, about 116 pages, and is about friendship, that not everyone is who they appear to be, and  personal responsibility.  The language is clean and the protaganonist, a 16 year old sophomore, likeable and realistic.  The story is well written as most books by Jon Hassler are and is set in Minnesota, both in St. Paul and a cabin up north. Tom Barry, the main character, must  face what many 7th graders face which is friends who are changing towards a different path in life and what to do about the friendship.  He also faces danger at his uncle's cabin up north for which he is responsible while they are gone.  This is an older book, but well written and addresses issues students face today.  Good luck with your choices.

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clyonslf | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Thanks for all your help - Flowers for Algernon & The Giver are both done at the high school so they've asked us not to use them.  Our 6th grade does Boy in the Striped PJ.  And we use Nothing but the Truth with our 8th grade. 

I thought both Monster and Sold were excellent books, and I often recommend them as independent reading selections.  I'm not so sure the language and topics would get approval in my district. 

It's been a while since I read Flipped - I will have to revisit it.  Another book I am considering is SCAT by Hiaasan.

I have read so many wonderful YA novels but I guess it just seems that so many of them wouldn't be usable in the classroom because fo the language and/or content.  Another trend that I see that "invalidates" a novel for classroom use is they all seem to be part of a larger series.  I find that students want closure at the end of a story.

Some great YA reads I've come across for independent reads: The Compound, Leviathan, The Alchemyst series, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Bad Girls Don't Die, and Scat.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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It is certainly not new, but Flowers for Algernon is an excellent novel for seventh-graders. The role of science in the story brings it into our time, also, with the issues of scientific research and its effects upon human life. When I taught the novel years ago to seventh-grade students, their awareness of the feelings and the struggles of other people was definitely impacted. They became much more appreciative of those in society who are dismissed or abused by "normal" people. Very important lessons can be learned from that little book, many of them above and beyond literature.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I just read the book MONSTER by Walter Dean Myers.  It's interesting, and I think would suit your purposes well.  A young filmmaker is tried for felony murder, and the book is written in both narrative form and screenplay form.  It's a quick read, and without the vulgarity that most books these days seem to have a tough time avoiding.  Themes include hopelessness, being an outcast, fear of the unknown, etc.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Lois Lowry's "The Giver" is almost timeless in its treatment of individual vs. society conflicts, the notion of the "perfect" society, and how to reconcile the objective and subjective realities.  I think that the idea of being able to explore such concepts in 7th grade has been powerful.  I have experienced students really enjoying the novel and being freaked out at some of the elements present and making connections to their own lives.

I agree with this.  Widely applicable.

Another book I had in mind, especially if you teach in a school with multiple nationalities represented is Sold, by Patricia McCormick.

It is the story of slavery in India - although it is definitely written at a middle school level and does not contain any graphic description.

I've seen it used in high school ESL classes (as it is a relatively quick/easy read) because it draws in a very personal look at a different culture.  It is pretty well received by girls - but if done well, can be just as applicable for boys.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Lois Lowry's "The Giver" is almost timeless in its treatment of individual vs. society conflicts, the notion of the "perfect" society, and how to reconcile the objective and subjective realities.  I think that the idea of being able to explore such concepts in 7th grade has been powerful.  I have experienced students really enjoying the novel and being freaked out at some of the elements present and making connections to their own lives.

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sboeman | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne discusses the Holocaust through the eyes of a young (and somewhat naive) German boy and is a pretty simple read that could easily tie in to a social studies unit.  There's also a movie version.

Also, Flipped by Wendelyn VanDraanen is a story set in the late '50s and early '60s about the relationship between a somewhat "normal" boy and an odd girl that moves in across the street.  These two characters take turns narrating each chapter, so it provides great insight into others' viewpoints and motivations.  There's also a movie coming to theaters in August (I'm in the film, by the way!).

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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I absolutely loved Nothing But the Truth by Avi. It is written using multiple genres. It addresses the personal perspectives, choices, and consequences of several individuals. It is written in the guise of a conflict between a teacher and a student, but the issues go so much deeper. I think 7th graders would love it.

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amyspitzer | eNotes Newbie

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Totally Joe is the second book in the Misfits series by James Howe.  It tells the story of Joe “JoDan” Bunch, a seventh grader struggling with friends, family, and, most importantly, his sexual identity.  Joe finally accepted his sexual orientation in the previous book, The Misfits, with the support of his close friends; it is in this story that Joe comes out to both his family and to his schoolmates.  Written as an “Alphabiography” in response to the assignment Joe received from his English teacher, Joe’s voice is loud and clear as he tells the story of first love (and loss) amidst the turbulent world of middle school. 

This issues that James Howe highlights within this book are many, but they are realistic and important to address.  While many may be concerned with a book that presents an openly gay, thirteen year old protagonist, it is critical to acknowledge that most (if not all) gay and lesbian kids have a deep-seeded understanding of who they are by the time they reach early adolescence.  Additionally, the bullying and power plays that the adults in the novel engage in are equally honest and enlightening.  This is a book that will force conversations around not only sexuality, but also first love, power and the importance of finding safety within close relationships.  

Other books that address similar issues include Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.  

Totally Joe is a book that has become the cornerstone of my 7th grade ELA classroom.  We not only model our entire writing program on the “Alphabiography” (the format of the book), but I read the book aloud to the students in the spring.  What I have found is that while students initially react to the fact that Joe is gay (within the first few chapters it becomes clear that he has a crush on Colin, the new boy at school), the conversation quickly turns to concerns about young love, parents, bullying and other pertinent topics of middle school.  In fact, James Howe’s book has “normalized” homosexuality through the story of Joe in such a way that it becomes secondary to the story that is being told.

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thewanderlust878 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 3) Salutatorian

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The Middle-School age is a great time to get kids involved in reading. If it is possible to instill in them the importance and fun of reading, they will become life-long readers and learners. 

Some books that I recommend that are age appropriate and up to date include The Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games series, as well as the Homecoming series by Cynthia Voigt. 

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krcavnar | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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I know at our school we have had much success in getting our students to read Give a Boy a Gun and Monster.  My school is an alternative school and our primary student is young minority males.  Anytime I see them with a book in their hands it is a victory.  These two books deal with violence and its impact on the offender and victims. Both are pretty easy reads for the middle school level.

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