A good friend of mine is starting as a media specialist in upper elementary school (jealous!), and she wanted to know what to start forcing her students to read. So, here is my totally biased and not at all exhaustive list of what every fourth through sixth grader should be reading.
But first, if your third grader hasn't read Bunnicula by James Howe, make them read it today! I don't particularly know why I am so obsessed with this little vampire bunny, but he was vampire before vampire was cool.
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. After his father passes away, Jeremy is left with a box containing the meaning of life, but no keys, so now he must go on a search to find them. More engrossing than this blurb. Wendy Mass writes great books, so anything by her is recommended.
Schooled by Gordon Korman. Cap has been homeschooled all his life, but now has to navigate public school. Instead of school changing him, he changes the whole school. I have a huge literary crush on Gordon Korman. Everything he writes is amazing.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Always read the book before you see the movie, or just skip the movie entirely. This book takes 30 minutes to read but the pictures are incredible. See also, Wonderstruck by Selznick.
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. Not only is Homer hysterical, his story shows that war is not a game, but rather very serious. I really appreciated that this message was cleverly hidden in a truly funny book.
Masterpiece by Elise Broach. An art heist plus a painting cockroach, how can you go wrong?
Powerless by Matthew Cody. I actually like this book more because of the sequel, Super, but this is a series to watch. Every kid wants super powers, so this is an automatic win for boys and girls.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. How do you come of age when everyone around you is dead? Don't worry, Bod figures it out and banishes the Jacks that are hell bent on his downfall. Spooky with a message woven in there somewhere. It's like hiding cauliflower in spaghetti.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. I just couldn't pass this one by. This isn't the right book for every reader, but it is the kind of folktale that rarely comes along and it is beautiful. For any princess lovers, or fans of the Brave movie, it's a sure thing.
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver. The sun is gone and all is grey, but together Liesl and her ghost friend Po discover the rare magic that just might make everything okay. This is a beautiful story of coming through tragedy and discovering the light.
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. I told you Wendy Mass was great! Think Willy Wonka meets Cupcake Wars with a great cast of characters. This book will make you crave chocolate, but it is anything but pure sugar.
Now, let's check out the back list.
The Giver by Lois Lowry. A must. It's sci-fi, it's haunting, it asks extremely important questions. It's like a primer for A Brave New World.
Holes by Louis Sachar. If I could force everyone in my life to read one children's book, it would be Holes. Poor Stanley is always in the wrong place, but by the end of this story, he's the hands down hero.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Perfection in a book. How do all of these seemingly unconnected people end up living in the same apartment building and competing for the same prize? And how is it that at the end of it all, I always cry?
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer. Jump into the future for a glimpse at a very strange detective agency that is trying to solve a kidnapping. Amazing setting, writing, characters. Just wonderful.
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman. This book has three things going for it. It won a Newbery, it's short and it's funny. I love a well-written book that makes you laugh. This is a great case of mistaken identity.
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Again, skip the movie, read the book. You'll root for this little mouse and the unusual cast of characters. Like other authors on this list, anything Kate DiCamillo writes is gold, so try them all.
So, there you go. A completely biased and not at all exhaustive list of what every fourth through sixth grader should be reading this year. It's kinda like a quickie fashion review.
What would you recommend for the well-dressed and well-read elementary student this year?