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Reading Matters

Doug Wilhelm is a full-time writer and an independent publisher in Weybridge, Vemont. His newest book is the novel STREET OF STORYTELLERS (Rootstock, 2019). His 15 previous novels for young adults include THE REVEALERS (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), which has been the focus of reading-and-discussion projects in well over 1,000 middle schools.

With my thanks, here’s our list of the most inspiring middle-school and YA novels

Last week I asked for your help in building a list of the most inspiring middle-school and YA novels, noting that, to me, an inspiring story is one that enters into difficulty and challenge and finds the energy we call resilience. I offered my own three nominations — Holes by Louis Sachar, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, and The Goats by Brock Cole — and invited yours.

Here are the titles you recommended, with your notes when you included them:

From Jolene Bullis, District Librarian, Carlisle (Iowa) Community Schools:
The Seventh Most Important Thing, by Shelley Pearsall, and Restart by Gordon Korman

“Here are a few of my favorites,” from Diana Greenleaf, Media Specialist, Windham (N.H.) Center School:
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, by Leslie Connor
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, by Dan Gemeinhart — or “any of his books — each one has made me cry, and that is hard to do.”
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling
Fighting Words, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

From Janet Kanady, Library Media Specialist, Dover (Arizona) High School:
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. “The story of a gorilla who lives in a mall and befriends a girl.”
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. “The story of a girl with cerebral palsy who defies what everyone thinks about her.”
No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman. “Hilarious tale of a football player who NEVER lies.”
Schooled, also by Gordon Korman. “This one is about a young man who goes from living in a commune with his grandmother to going to a public middle school after an accident befalls Grandma.”

From Joanna Rudge Long, a former Kirkus Reviews editor in Pomfret, Vermont who writes (in Horn Book, The New York Times, The LA Times, and elsewhere) and lectures about children’s books:
Katherine Paterson, The Great Gilly Hopkins (or The Same Stuff as Stars)
Jill Paton Walsh, Fireweed (or A Chance Child)
Susan Cooper, The Dark Is Rising (“Not to mention her last book [The Boggart Fights Back], in which a Trump character is roundly defeated in his attempt to build an environment-defacing golf course in Scotland.”)

And finally, from Deb Fogg, former faculty member at the Lancaster (N.H.) School, and 2009 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year:
“I would add Wonder [R.J. Palacio] to your list, and of course The Revealers!”

That last one’s by ... me ... so thank you Deb! And thanks to Jolene, Diana, Janet and Joanna.

At this time when we share our gratitude, I’d like to offer mine to everyone who has read Reading Matters this challenging summer and fall. My best wishes for a safely secure and yet still happy Thanksgiving! We’re all in this together, never more so than now.

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