Classroom Library Essentials

Top picks for grades 6-8

Just a peak!

Here are a selection of classroom favorites of all different genres. These titles are ideal for middle grades. Please keep in mind that we have many other options available for all grade levels in our library catalog.

Realistic Fiction:

The Outsiders (350080)

S. E. Hinton; Lexile: 750L; multiple books, JS

Ponyboy Curtis, his two brothers, and several of their friends are part of a young group called the Greasers. Conflict arises between Ponyboy and members of the elite group called the Socs when he spends some time with one of the Soc's friends. Events escalate until one of the Socs is killed. Scared, Ponyboy and Johnny leave town only to become heroes when they save several children from a burning church. Johnny dies from injuries suffered during the rescue and Ponyboy is eventually acquitted of the death of Bob, the Soc. Insights are provided throughout the story by Ponyboy into his feelings about being a Greaser, his relationships with his brothers and others, and others, and his handling of the emotional trauma brought on by the deaths of several friends.

Speak (350129)

Laurie Halse Anderson; Lexile: 690L; multiple books

"Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.

Wonder (350348)

R.J Palacio; Lexile: 790L; multiple books, IJS

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid— but his new classmates can't get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one communities struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Out Of My Mind (350242)

Sharon M. Draper; Lexile: 700L; multiple books, IJS

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.


Chasing Vermeer (350179)

Blue Balliett; Lexile: 770L; multiple books, IJ

When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: Seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal, where no one - neighbors, parents, teachers - is spared from suspicion. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth, they must draw on their powers of intuition, their problem-solving skills, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled?

A Northern Light (350259)

Jennifer Donnelly; Lexile: 700L; multiple books, I

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder. Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly's astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

The Maze Runner (350560)

James Dashner; Lexile: HL770; multiple books, JS

Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up with no memory in the middle of a maze and realizes he must work with the community in which he finds himself if he is to escape.

Paper Towns (350274)

John Green; Lexile: 850L; multiple books, JS

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Historical Fiction:

Number the Stars (350094)

Lois Lowry; Lexile: 670L; multiple books, IJ

Lois Lowry's touching story of two best friends, one Jewish, one Christian, living in Nazi-occupied Denmark gives young listeners a memorable introduction to the history of World War II and the moral courage of the Danish Resistance.

Chains (350592)

Laurie Halse Anderson; Lexile: 780L; multiple books, IJ

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.

The Book Thief (350311)

Markus Zusak; Lexile: 730L; multiple books, JS

It's just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . . Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham --1963 (350028)

Christopher Paul Curtis; Lexile: 1000L; multiple books, IJS

Enter the world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. When Momma and Dad decide it's time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons head South to Birmingham, Alabama...toward one of the darkest moments in America's history. A hilarious, touching, and tragic novel about civil rights and the impact of violence on one African American family.


Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (350053)

Anne Frank; Lexile: 1080L; multiple books, IJS

This, her story, relates how Anne, her family and friends lived in secret rooms - "The Annex" - in an Amsterdam warehouse for 25 months; how Anne, just 13 when the family moved in and only 15 when the Gestapo at last broke down the doors of her secret world. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. Introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution (350452)

Ji-li Jiang; Lexile: 780L; multiple books, IJ

It's 1966, and twelve-year-old Ji-li Jiang has everything a girl could want: brains, tons of friends, and a bright future in Communist China. But it's also the year that China's leader, Mao Ze-dong, launches the Cultural Revolution—and Ji-li's world begins to fall apart. Over the next few years, people who were once her friends and neighbors turn on her and her family, forcing them to live in constant terror of arrest. When Ji-li's father is finally imprisoned, she faces the most difficult dilemma of her life. This is the true story of one girl's determination to hold her family together during one of the most terrifying eras of the twentieth century.

Night (350148)

Elie Wiesel; Lexile: 570L; multiple books, S

A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family...the death of his innocence...and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, NIGHT awakens the shocking memory of evil at it absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed again.

Satchel Paige (350308)

Lesa Cline-Ransome; Lexile: 900L; multiple books, P

No one pitched like Leroy "Satchel" Paige. Fans packed the stands to see how many batters he could strike out in one game. He dazzled them with his unique pitching style, and he even gave nicknames to some of his trademark pitches -- there was the "hesitation," his magic slow ball, and the "bee ball," named because it would always "be" where he wanted it to be. Follow Satch's career through these beautiful illustrations as he begins playing in the semipros and goes on to become the first African American to pitch in a major League World Series, and the first Negro Leaguer to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Trouble Begins At 8: A Life of Mark Twain In The Wild, Wild, West (350412)

Sid Fleischman; Lexile: 1050L; multiple books, IJS

"Mark Twain was born fully grown, with a cheap cigar clamped between his teeth." So begins Sid Fleischman's ramble-scramble biography of the great American author and wit, who started life in a Missouri village as a barefoot boy named Samuel Clemens. Abandoning a career as a young steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, Sam took a bumpy stagecoach to the Far West. In the gold and silver fields, he expected to get rich quick. Instead, he got poor fast, digging in the wrong places. His stint as a sagebrush newspaperman led to a duel with pistols. Had he not survived, the world would never have heard of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn—or red-headed Mark Twain.

The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth (350532)

Kathleen Krull; Lexile: 860L; multiple books, IJ

Plowing a potato field in 1920, a 14-year-old farm boy from Idaho saw in the parallel rows of overturned earth a way to “make pictures fly through the air.” This boy was not a magician; he was a scientific genius and just eight years later he made his brainstorm in the potato field a reality by transmitting the world’s first television image. This fascinating picture-book biography of Philo Farnsworth covers his early interest in machines and electricity, leading up to how he put it all together in one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. The author’s afterword discusses the lawsuit Farnsworth waged and won against RCA when his high school science teacher testified that Philo’s invention of television was years before RCA’s.

A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (350182)

Matt De La Peña; Lexile: NP; multiple books, IJ

On the eve of World War II, African American boxer Joe Louis fought German Max Schmeling in a bout that had more at stake than just the world heavyweight title; for much of America their fight came to represent America's war with Germany. This elegant and powerful picture book biography centers around the historic fight in which Black and White America were able to put aside prejudice and come together to celebrate our nation's ideals.


The Diary of Anne Frank (Play) (350589)

Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett; multiple books, JS

The Diary of Anne Frank is a stage adaptation of the book The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. The play is a dramatization by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, and opened at the Cort Theatre on Broadway on October 5, 1955.

To Kill a Mockingbird (350261)

Harper Lee; Lexile: 870L; multiple books, JS

This book takes readers to the roots of human behavior to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into ten languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story.

Romeo and Juliet (GRAPHIC NOVEL) (350476)

William Shakespeare- retold by Martin Powell; Lexile: GN450L; multiple books, IJS

The tragic story of two star-crossed lovers from different worlds comes to life in graphic novel format. Romeo, from the Montague family, and Juliet, of the Capulet clan, fall deeply in love at first sight. Fearful of punishment from their respective factions, the two teens keep their love hidden from everyone. However, when their commitment to each other is exposed, it adds more fuel to the heated family feud between the Capulets and Montagues and puts their love and their lives at risk.

Monster (350144)

Walter Dean Myers; Lexile: 670L; multiple books, JS

While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course of his life has taken.

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