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(Sorry to anyone who saw this with a blank message - I accidently hit enter before I had a chance to even finish the topic.)
My mom is teaching 5th grade for the first time next year - she's taught 1st grade for the past 10 years - and she's looking for suggestions for books for 5th graders. I told her I would ask on here, since the people here are so good at giving suggestions.
If you have any suggestions, PLEASE include a summary, since she doesn't have time to read all the books this summer.
Edit: She's mostly looking for books for the kids to read by themselves, I think.
As your mum probably knows 5th Grade (I think that is what we call Year 6 ie. ages 10 - 11) is pretty hard. There is likely to be big differences between reading ability and ability to handle subject matter.
So I'm going to suggest a few and let others do most of the work.
Stig Of The Dump by Clive King. I remember reading this when I was 10 or so. Boy befriends caveman. Has adventures. Has a time-travel aspect near the end. A pretty episodic book - so easily digested.
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. A comic reversal of the normal Hamelin tale.
Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. A classic adventure tale in a slightly different 18th century England. Lots of strong (evil and good) female characters but not the kind of story that will put off the boys in the class.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. A scary gothic tale. Maybe a bit too strange and scary I would have thought but it seems to get good reviews from 10 and 11 year olds.
Sorry that they all have fantasy/gothic aspects - but that is what appeals to me. I am sure the others can come up with some other suggestions.
When my oldest son was about that age, he burned through those $2-3 "Great Illustrated Classics" by Baronet Books. They are the right size and length, with large font, ink drawings, captivating covers, but best of all (for my purposes) there are lots of titles that appeal to boys. He began with 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea (at 18, he's still interested in every new report of a giant squid), then devoured others by Jules Verne, then White Fang (that one led to an interest in wolves that persists even today), Dracula, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Dorian Gray, The Jungle Book, Kidnapped, The Red Badge of Courage, The Prince and the Pauper, Robinson Crusoe, David Copperfield, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty etc., etc. (He has since read originals of at least a few of these.)
I realize that the series isn't appropriate as source for the "class book", but it might be a useful, inexpensive addition to the class bookshelf, if objective is to instill the reading habit. It sure did the trick for #1 son!
My youngest son, a more difficult sell on the joys of reading, is more interested in nonfiction, especially science, rocks, animals, etc. I just checked, and the books most recently pulled from his (Gr 6) bookshelf--i.e., on his bedroom floor--are 50% illustration with explanatory text, e.g.,
a DK Eyewitness Book "Astronomy"
"Science Encyclopedia: Matter and Chemicals; Energy, Motion, and Machines; Electricity and Magnetism; Sound and Light; Space and Time; Science Experiments", a large Dempsey Parr book
"Black Holes: A Journey to the Heart of a Black Hole--and into One of the Greatest Mysteries of the Universe" by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest. (Both my boys had asked about black holes, and this is the only age-appropriate (but pretty technical) book that I was able to find. It was published in 1996 in Toronto, Canada by Stoddart Publishing, Co. and London, UK by Dorling Kindersley Ltd. It may since been published in the US.)
Hope your mom finds some of this helpful!
One of my favorite books in 5th grade was Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman. I don't know if it would make a good read-aloud-to-the-class book as it's a bit scary, but I really enjoyed the suspense. If the title didn't tip you off, it's about a boy left home alone with his younger siblings when a terrible storm strikes.
The best book the teacher read aloud to the class was The Cay by Theodore Taylor. It's the story of a pre-teen boy shipwrecked on an island with only a black man for a companion. Initially the boy is frightened and suspicious, but the man is patient and kind-hearted, so the two soon form a close bond. I found both the message of interracial friendship and the story of surviving by your wits very powerful.
The only books I remember from 5th grade (think early '60s :-) are those by Eleanor Cameron about 2 boys, their homemade spaceship and Mr. Bass, an alien from the Mushroom Planet Basidium, who lives in their neighborhoood. The Wonderful flight to the Mushroom Planet and its sequel Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet are still in print today. I believe these books were the beginning of my lifelong love of science fiction/fantasy. The reviews on Amazon say it all for me! There are three others in the series...2 are easy to find used and the last book is rare and pretty expensive. Some day I hope to find it at yard or book sale :-)
Now on to current days and the books my children have loved:
For just plain fun there is the current series of Hank the Cowdog books by John R. Erickson. In the audio version the author reads his own books and supplies all the voices of the characters, the main one being a ranch dog who styles himself "Head of Ranch Security". If your Mom's library has them she should try the first one out. It definitely spurred my reluctant readers to read more.
For historical fiction that would appeal to both girls and boys Gary Paulsen wrote a series taking place in the 1840's west about Francis Tucket. All five books are available in one inexpensive volume now called Tucket's Travels: Francis Tucket's Adventures in the West, 1847-1849. This is the story of a 14 year old boy kidnapped by Indians from a wagon train and his subsequent adventures with a one-armed mountain man, 2 orphaned (girl and boy) children he finds along the way and various trials they encounter as they make their way across the desert to the west coast. We could not stop until we reached the end of the last book! The audio version of these books is excellent, too.
aaahhh so many books, I could go on and on!
My daughter is 10 and is crazy about the Warrior's series by Erin Hunter. There are at least 8 books, and they're all about clans of feral cats.
She also liked Coraline by Neil Gaiman, but I think some kids will find it too freaky. She still really likes to reread all the Roald Dahl books, especially the BFG.
In her class this year they read Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson and Underground to Canada, by Barbara Smucker (about the underground railroad that smuggled slaves out of the US).
She recently had me read Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris, and I thought it was well written--very clever and fun use of language.
Hope that helps. I can give your reams more.
Just an addition to #4's recommendation of Night of the Twisters. Don't be misled by the made-for-TV movie of the same name. Some of the movie incidents came from this book, but this book is about a real set of 8 twisters that hit Grand Island, Nebraska in the 80's. Ivy Ruckman came to Grand Island and interviewed school kids about their experiences and put them in her narrative.
I'd also like to heartily second the recommendation of the Hank the Cowdog series. My 4th and 5th graders love them.
I'll third the Hank the Cowdog recommendation. I read every single one of these books when I was in fourth and fifth grade, and loved them. I'd also suggest Henry & Mudge, but they might be a little below fifth grade level, I don't remember them quite as well. Basically its a series about a little boy named Henry and his dog, Mudge, and all the little adventures they have.
I'd add Holes and Small Steps by Louis Sachar--especially to engage the 5th grade boys.
For fun nonfiction, "Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty by Joy Masoff and You Gotta Be Kidding! (A Would You Rather? Book)--can't remember author's name; both by Workman Press. Lots of gross science and body part facts that only preteen boys could love.
We have a class of 9-12 year students at the Montessori School where I work and Hank the Cowdog was the read-aloud book early last fall. The group of mostly 5th graders loved it. This teacher also reads Where the Red Fern Grows every few years but the ending is really sad and the reading level would make it an end of the year book.
Your mom might want to offer reluctant readers The Usborne Book of World History. For 6-12YO, with lots of illustrations, it was recommended in The Well-Trained Mind. A Guide to Classical Education at Home. My oldest son read the Usborne book for leisure when he was ~ Gr 5. (I enjoyed perusing it myself!)
Thanks for these great suggestions (and keep 'em coming :)! I really appreciate it. I'll be passing them all on to my mom.
My 6th-grade daughter recommends The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss, which is about a clique of girls and the fallout from their ostracizing one of the group. She read it as part of a 5th-grade book club in school. She also recommends Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (as well as any of her other books). Because of Winn-Dixie is about a girl's friendship with a dog. Lastly, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (again, she recommends anything by this author). Walk Two Moons is about a girl who tells the story of her life to her grandparents as they travel to see her mother.
(I haven't read any of these books, so these are her summaries. She and I did read and love Holes, which has already been mentioned above.)
My kid sister finished fifth grade a year ago. She's never been much of a reader, but during her fifth grade year, she read poetry in books by Shel Silverstein, as well as joke books (seriously humorous girl). She has ADHD, and until this year, it was hard for her to sit quietly enough to read anything beyond that. During her fifth grade year, she surprised me by picking up some of the Harry Potter books and trying to read them. She read the first one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, then skipped ahead to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire since one of her friends was reading it.
Some from my 5th grade year, some from my kids' . . .
The Phantom Tollbooth . . . a boy drives his electric car past the title structure (delivered to his house while he was at school) and finds himself in a topsy-turvy magical land. A delightful comic fantasy that's not quite like anything else I've ever read.
Carry On Mr. Bowditch . . . growing up in Salem, MA after the Revolution, Nat Bowditch is expected to go to sea like his father and brother. What he *really* wants to do, though, is go to Harvard and study mathematics. In time he does both, and revolutionizes the art of navigation. A Newberry-winning historical novel based on a true story.
Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Cay, Hatchet . . . all stories about young people having to use their wits to survive in the wilderness, and all excellent.
Have Spacesuit Will Travel, Red Planet, and Citizen of the Galaxy are all first-rate science fiction stories about young people on interplanetary adventures. They were written in the 1950s and are thus squeaky clean, but have (relatively) sophisticated plotting and characterization. "The Rolling Stones," also by Heinlein (I can't get the touchstone to work), is in the same vein but a bit more lightweight and comic . . . the twin heroes are precursors of Fred and George Weasley.
Fever 1793 a historical novel about a girl caught up in the yellow fever epidemic that hit Philadelphia in 1793. My daughter read and loved it, as did several of her historically minded friends.
The Bad Beginning and the other twelve books in "A Series of Unfortunate Events" were have been big hits with the fifth graders I know. The orphaned Baudelaire children struggle to stay one step ahead of the evil Count Olaf, who has designs on their inherited fortune. A great deal of the fun here is the mock-Victorian prose and illustrations combined with a distinctly modern sense of humor.
The House with a Clock in its Walls and others by John Bellairs are about boy heroes, often with adult mentors who know that All Is Not As It Seems, caught up in scary adventures involving the supernatural. My son devoured them when he was in 4th and 5th grade, and they'd probably appeal to Harry Potter fans.
Christy, a based-on-a-true-story tale of a 19-year old girl who becomes a school teacher in the backwoods of North Carolina c. 1905, is a good follow-up for girls who loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and are strong readers. It includes teenage marriage, death by disease, and a discussion of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy in one character's (not the heroine's) past, but virtually all the main characters are devoutly religious and behave accordingly.
Fans of the "Pirates of the Carribean" movies might enjoy Piratica by Tanith Lee (a bit more of a stretch) the early volumes in the Horatio Hornblower series, especially Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Lieutenant Hornblower and Hornblower and the Atropos. The former follows the adventures of the daughter of a Pirate Queen and the latter the career of a young man (about 12 when he starts) in the British navy of the late 1700s.
Roald Dahl's books, especially Danny the Champion of the World (about a boy who lives in the English countryside and helps his father take comic revenge on the pompous and obnoxious local landowner) are always favorites, though they'd be on the easy side for 5th graders.
Shiloh, about a rural boy who rescues a hunting dog from an irascable neighbor who treats the animal badly, is a well-done story in the general vein (for those of us of a certain age) of "Old Yeller" and "Big Red" and such.
One note about the Hornblower books. They are very historically accurate. Its pretty O'brianish from the little I remember reading, in terms of details about the ships, the names of the different sails, lines, etc, which could end up getting younger kids bogged down, so these are most likely books you're going to want to at least read with the kids if not use for read aloud. Other than that, I imagine they'd be extremely intriguing reads for kids that age. When kids were sent away on ships of the line at the time, they were essentially officers from the time they stepped onto the ship onwards. Thats not to say that they weren't finished with their education, they were taught navigation and command skills, etc, but they were also expected to act essentially as adults, and they participated in any fighting the ship was involved in.
The ones I remember from 5th grade that I would still recommend today are The Little Prince, Julie of the Wolves, A Wrinkle in Time, Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I think those were my favorites.
I also loved Jack London's Call of the Wild and White Fang and The Black Stallion books right around that time but I don't think we read them in school.
I would second A Wrinkle in Time as well as its sequels, and the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and its sequels, which together make up the Chronicles of Narnia. I've heard people claim that the whole thing is a Christian allegory, but as a kid I never picked up on any Christian undertones until I was told it was a christian allegory in my mid teens, so don't worry about it if your mom is a public school teacher.
I would second The Phantom Tollbooth.
Some others that might be worth mentioning are
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo a previous Children's Laureate in the UK. Private Peaceful is a WWI story.
Skellig by David Almond. A Carnegie Medal winning book.
The Carnegie Medal is the British equivalent to the US Newberry Medal and there seems to be remarkably little crossover. Of my previous suggestions the Pratchett won the Carnegie Medal.
As an aside I am sure all Britons reading this thread got flashes of Sid James and Kenneth Williams with 17's mention of Carry On Mr. Bowditch
Ah, the serendipity of LibraryThing!
One of my Sunday School students, who will be in the 5th grade this fall, broke her leg last week. I was just starting to think about what books she might like ... when, lo, I saw this thread. What perfect timing!
I had come up with The Phantom Tollbooth (because it's one of my all-time personal favorites), but you all have reminded me of others ... and pointed me towards some new ones.
I had thought of The Witch of Blackbird Pond, too, but wasn't sure about the grade level.
I also posted this question in Children's Literature and Children's Fiction and have a variety of responses :)
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