Our seventh grade students read Where the Red Fern Grows. Most of them enjoy it and the teacher does a good job with the book and activities to go with it.
I like the previous post's discussion of textbooks. I would like to suggest that along with the use of a text, it might be really interesting to engage in a study of poetry with seventh grade students. I have yet to see a comprehensive study of poetry integrated into the curriculum as something more than "a unit of a couple of weeks." I am sure that part of this reticence is NCLB and other Standards Based measures. However, I think that teaching poetry in a complementary manner to a reading curriculum might enhance much of student understanding at the seventh grade level, where abstraction of thought is beginning to emerge in their minds. This makes poetry a developmentally sound component of any lesson. For example, in reading a story about a conflict between individual and society, why not read a poem that highlights such a conflict? It might take some time to briefly give background knowledge about a poet, but I think it forges the connection. In teaching history, I try my best to identify a poem that hits on major themes that I am highlighting and students are taken aback by abstraction of though in poetry. It is difficult to start up, but if consistent, it is something that students respond to as they begin to see connections between content in a new and innovative way.
I am most familiar with the Prentice Hall Literature collection. This book is well organized and contains every genre of literature, thought provoking questions, a "reader's notebook" workbook for extended reading activities, and a comprehensive glossary. It is a text-book, but it is the series my county has chosen for grades 1-12. Of course there is lots of support on the web, and the book is available on CD-rom as well.
McGraw Hill offers the Reader's Choice series which again is a survey of literature with a focus on building vocabulary.
Holt McDougal offers McDougal Littell Literature which is a comprehensive survey tied to media presentations. The blurb states it invites students to explore art, literature and life's big questions.
Any publisher of textbooks will have access to the standards and the requirements of the NCLB, so that will help you in your decision making process. The only thing I would recommend is remember that you want to actually do some of the exercises from the reading text as well as from the companion workbook. The publishers normally put colorful pictures on the left so that while you are flipping through the book, you see the "pretty pictures". You want more than that in a literature series that will be adopted for 3-5 years.
For new literary classics I would choose either A Year Down Yonder or It's a Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck for 7th grade reading. These are realistic fiction and hillariously funny books. Youngsters might relate to a great-grandmother who is still living.
Next as a literary classic I would choose Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson or Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. These are fairly easy reading with an exciting story of adventure and survival. Young people can relate to Treasure Island with the recent Pirates of the Carribean films.
You might want to check with your school district's requirements as to what the selections already are for your class.
Books that are often covered in 7th grade English are:
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Those are a few that I would recommend that would be quality literature for seventh graders. Hope this helps!
I recommend the following books:
When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt Toby Wilson is having the toughest summer of his life. It's the summer his mother leaves for good; the summer his best friend's brother returns from Vietnam in a coffin; and the summer that Zachary Beaver, the "fattest boy in the world," arrives. There are heartaches, friendships gained, and old friendships renewed. And it's Zachary Beaver who turns the town of Antler upside down and leaves everyone, especially Toby, changed forever. Themes: fitting in, 1970s, friendship
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton Three brothers struggle to stay together after their parents' death, as they search for an identity among the conflicting values of their adolescent society in which they find themselves "outsiders." Themes: action, families, gangs, identity
Holes **or** Small Steps by Louis Sachar As further evidence of his family's bad fortune (which they attribute to a curse on a distant relative), Stanley Yelnats is sent to a hideous correctional camp in the Texas desert where he finds his first real friend, a treasure, and a new sense of himself.
Small Steps continues the story of Armpit 3 years after his release from Camp Green Lake. Themes: juvenile delinquency, homelessness, friendship
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine In this novel based on the story of Cinderella, Ella struggles against the childhood curse that forces her to obey any order given to her. Themes: fairy tales, fantasy
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy's attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site. Themes: owls, environmental protection, Florida, friendships
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman Accompanied by her daemon, Lyra Belacqua sets out to prevent her best friend and other kidnapped children from becoming the subject of gruesome experiments in the Far North. Themes: fantasy, science fiction, adventure
Slam! by Walter Dean Myers Sixteen-year-old "Slam" Harris is counting on his noteworthy basketball talents to get him out of the inner city and give him a chance to succeed in life, but his coach sees things differently. Themes: basketball, prejudice, adolescence
A Break With Charity by Ann Rinaldi While waiting for a church meeting in 1706, Susanna English, daughter of a wealthy Salem merchant, recalls the malice, fear, and accusations of witchcraft that tore her village apart in 1692. Themes: Salem Witch Trials
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi As the lone "young lady" on a transatlantic voyage in 1832, Charlotte learns that the captain is murderous and the crew rebellious. But a mere girl couldn't do anything about that, could she? Themes: Sea stories, adventure, pirates, survival
The Lost Years of Merlin **and series** by TA Barron A young boy who has no identity nor memory of his past washes ashore on the coast of Wales and finds his true name after a series of fantastic adventures. Themes: fantasy, wizards, Merlin, adventure
Witness by Karen Hesse A series of poems express the views of various people in a small Vermont town, including a young black girl and a young Jewish girl, during the early 1920s when the Ku Klux Klan is trying to infiltrate the town. Themes: racism, prejudice, poetry, historic fiction