There has been a great response to my blog post ‘Upper Elementary Book Recommendations; Recommended by Students for Students’ that I wrote as a Grade 4 teacher a few years ago. Now, as a PYP coordinator I enjoy reading as much as I did as a Homeroom teacher, and still value the conversations I have with students of all ages about the books that they are reading. I make the effort to read any books that I am recommended, especially for the upper grades in elementary as I want the students to see that I care for books, that I value what they read, and the hopes that we can have a conversation about how we connect over a book. Connections build relationships, and stronger relationships make learning more retainable, and I think books are a fantastic foundation to this.
Here are the recent books that I have read that I have been recommended by students.
The Boy at the Back of the Class
Onjali Q. Rauf
Age group – G3 and above
A heart wrenching tale of a young boy (Ahmet) whose family was displaced in Syria due to the internal war and makes his way to London, England. The story is told by his classmate Alexa and his/her (never exactly fully explained which makes the story even more interesting) own interest in making Ahmet his/her friend. Alexa and his/her friend’s are incredibly kind and caring and would be great role models for any student who is reading this book, and can focus on inclusion. There are moments where characters voice their opinion that may be counter-inclusive which would be great to have as a class discussion.
Great quote from the quote: ‘Sometimes words hang around longer than people, even when you don’t want them to.’ pg. 125
Age Group – G4 and above
A beautiful story written by a horse’s (Joey) narrative during the Second World War. This book focuses on the importance of relationships between humans to animals, humans to humans and animals to animals. A great book for a class or small group book club to inspire discussions on personal inquiries on the war, treatment of animals, and the importance of animals in daily lives. It is creatively written from the horse’s perspective and would offer a great way to take another story and write it from an animal’s perspective.
The Girl Mechanic of Wanzhou
Age group – G6 and above
In this narrative story, set in Wanzhou city at the beginning of the 20th century and follows a young girl named Zun, a family tragedy, and then her journey to free her Mother and seek revenge. Zun and her Father have a special relationship, and she traces back many of her characteristics (curiosity, intelligence, adventure) to her Father. The story starts where they are both riding around Wanzhou on a special 2 wheel bicycle that seemed innovative at this time and was from Shanghai. The story then takes a dark turn where she witnesses her Father’s supposed murder and her Mother being maimed. Characters are then introduced to help Zun find answers to the tragedy and to then find her Mother (who was taken into jail) and free her.
The story would be a great adventure story for any student that is looking for an Asian hero figure, and particularly a female hero.
Age group – Grade 4 and above
A narrative tale by a young boy named Peak who has mountaineering in his genetics. Written in an exciting way, it brings the reader in to learn about his own family history and his voyage up Mount Everest. Different characters come in to help or hinder Peak’s expedition, but they are all just as exciting as him, and a twist at the end allows a great discussion on altruism and teamwork. I would highly recommend this book to any young boy (or girl) in your class that is hesitant about reading chapter books, but has exciting hobbies that he/she can relate to.
Age group – parts of the story not suitable to students in middle or high school
A story that is advertised with a target market of middle to high school students but the content and vocabulary (at times) is far more mature for that age bracket. The story is a mesh of topics such as rape, racism and economic injustices, however they seem to be superficially introduced and not in depth explored. The writing (in parts) can be used as mentor texts for students to either embellish or make stronger. I would really caution any school to have this on their shelves due to the mature language and scenes, however if it is, please make sure students have a teacher (who has read the story) to speak to, or a counselor in order to talk through some of the scenes.
Have any other upper elementary books that you or your students recommend? Please drop the titles in the comments below!