Our incoming Grade 6-8 students of The Upper School are challenged each summer to enrich their lives through reading. To help them, our Language Arts Faculty members assemble suggested reading lists aligned with the classroom instruction students can expect to receive in the upcoming academic year.
Students may choose any two books to read — either of their own choosing or from our teachers’ recommendations — within these program requirements:
- Students must read an appropriate number of pages. Students in Grade 6 must read a total of at least 300 pages. Students in Grade 7 must read a total of at least 400 pages. Students in Grade 8 must read two books, each of which must be at least 200 pages.
- Students must choose books at their reading level.
- Students must have a parent confirm in writing that they completed their reading.
- Students must be prepared to answer questions and complete an assignment related to their summer reading during the first week of the new academic year.
To help students be thoughtful about their reading and complete their back-to-school reading assignment, we recommend that they take a few notes about the books they have selected. Here are some ideas for note-taking:
- The author’s name
- The title of the book
- The genre
- The number of pages in the book
- The main characters in the book (their personality, challenges, friends, how they change, etc.)
- The book’s strengths/weaknesses
- The setting, including the year/era of history
- The main conflict
- The mood
- The theme (lesson)
- Literary elements in the book (imagery, personification, symbolism, etc.)
- Word choice/vocabulary level of difficulty
Reading suggestions for Grade 6 students
Books written by the following authors:
- Madeline L’Engle
- Jerry Spinelli
- C.S. Lewis
- Gary Paulson
- Eoin Colfer
- Louisa May Alcott
- Andrew Clements
- Lynne Reid Banks
- Gordon Korman
- Brian Jacques
- L.M. Montgomery
- Mark Twain
Reading suggestions for Grade 7 students
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Riley Giff. Artistic 12-year-old Hollis Woods has a habit of running away from foster homes. Now she is staying with Josie, an elderly artist, who wants her and needs her, and Hollis thinks she’ll stay for a while. But Hollis worries about Josie’s forgetfulness, while also remembering the only other time she was happy in a foster home, with a family that truly seemed to care about her.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan in medieval Korea, lives under a bridge near a potters’ village, and longs to learn how to throw the delicate celadon ceramics himself.
The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg. This novel tells the story of a sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Eva Marie Olinski, and her winning Academic Bowl team in Epiphany, N.Y. The team is made up of four students: Noah Gershom, Nadia Diamondstein, Ethan Potter, and Julian Singh. The students meet and become friends before being chosen for Mrs. Olinski’s team through a series of Saturday afternoon teas hosted by Julian. The students come together after each one of them has gone on a journey, in which he or she comes to recognize and value kindness.
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Billie Jo is a 13-year-old girl living in Oklahoma during the dust bowl era. She lives with Ma and Daddy, and, so far, she is their only child. She has red hair like Daddy and long legs and freckles. She loves the piano. In this touching coming of age story, Billie Jo deals with hard times. First, there’s the dust. In 1934 and 1935, the time frame of this novel, dust storms cover Oklahoma in a great cloud of despair. Drought, overgrazing and erosion make life here unbearable for Billie Jo. Then there’s the fact that her best friend’s family moves away to California. Throughout the book, people leave in one way or another, and Billie Jo wishes she were the one leaving.
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. Holling, the only Protestant in his seventh grade, is unhappy to learn that he will be studying Shakespeare with his English teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class is excused for religious instruction. This sets the stage for a battle of wills, since Mrs. Baker, although not pleased to be saddled with one more responsibility, is grimly determined to see it through. Funny, poignant, and lighthearted, this look at life in the 1970s on Long Island is perfectly drawn.
A Wrinkle in Time (Series) by Madeleine L’Engle. One stormy night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and fantastic journey that will threaten their lives and our universe.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. The Witch of Blackbird Pond follows one character, Katherine Tyler (known throughout the novel as “Kit”), through one year in Connecticut Colony. It opens when she is sailing into the mouth of the Connecticut River aboard the Dolphin in mid-April 1687, and it ends with her making plans to leave the colony in early May of the following year. The novel follows a chronological order and focuses on three general topics: Kit’s entry into the life of Connecticut Colony and her attempts to fit in, the relationships she and others form during her year there, and, most dramatically, a witchcraft scare involving Kit and the old woman who becomes her friend, Hannah Tupper. This all plays out against a backdrop of political tumult, as the colonists are concerned with the English crown’s attempts to change their charter.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Karana, a Native American girl, is accidentally left alone when her people abandon their island home off the coast of California. After a failed attempt to leave the island in a leaky canoe, Karana decides to build a house and learn to hunt while waiting to be rescued. Her isolation from humans teaches her how to co-exist peacefully with the local wildlife, even the wild dog she considers her worst enemy. After many years, missionaries come to the island, and Karana, yearning for human companionship, goes with them to the mainland. A fictional reconstruction of a true story, Island of the Blue Dolphins depicts a character whose courage and determination help her survive against nearly impossible odds.
Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out. Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie’s world upside down. At her feverish mother’s insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.
Tangerine by Edward Bloor. The Fisher family has just moved to Tangerine County, Florida, where the father has a new civil engineering job with the county government. The real reason for their move is an opportunity for the oldest son, Erik, to further his college athletic appeal by becoming the star of the local high school football team. All the family attention is directed toward Erik. Meanwhile, the youngest son, Paul, whose sight is impaired, sees all that is wrong with their family and Tangerine County.
The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood. A young orphan boy is ordered by his master to infiltrate Shakespeare’s acting troupe in order to steal the script of “Hamlet,” but he discovers instead the meaning of friendship and loyalty
Books by Gary Paulsen
Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz
Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
Classics, such as The Secret Garden, The Call of the Wild, Where the Red Fern Grows
Reading suggestions for Grade 8 students
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko – A 12-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards’ families were housed there. He has to contend with his extraordinary new environment and life with his autistic sister.
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick – At the beginning of 8th grade, learning-disabled Max and his new friend, Freak, whose birth defect has affected his body but not his brilliant mind, find they make a powerful team when they combine forces.
Driver’s Ed by Caroline B. Cooney – A group of teenagers take the step towards independence by getting their driver’s licenses. But their lives change when they take part in a prank that turns deadly, and they have to face up to their part in the tragedy.
Hello, My Name is Scrambled Eggs by Jamie Gilson – An Illinois church sponsors a Vietnamese immigrant family, and Harvey, a 7th grade member of the church, is at first proud to help the new boy, Tuan Nguyen. But trouble arises when Tuan fails to understand American customs, and Harvey must choose between his old friends and his new friend.
Children of the River by Linda Crew – This book explores a modern-day immigrant family who escapes Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge killings. Teenaged Sundara and her family land in Oregon and struggle to adjust to a new culture while maintaining their own cultural identity.
Stargirl or Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – “She was homeschooling gone amok.” “She was an alien.” “Her parents were circus acrobats.” These are only a few of the theories concocted to explain Stargirl Caraway, a new 10th grader at Arizona’s Mica Area High School who wears pioneer dresses and kimonos to school, strums a ukulele in the cafeteria, laughs when there are no jokes, and dances when there is no music. The whole school, not exactly a “hotbed of nonconformity,” is stunned by her, including our 16-year-old narrator, Leo Borlock. As he gets to know her, he realizes that conformity and popularity are overrated.
The Wanderer by Sharon Creech – Thirteen-year-old Sophie, skipping between “dreamland or earthland or muleland,” hears the sea calling her. Much to the concern of her adopted parents, she decides to join her uncles and male cousins on a sailing voyage from Connecticut across the Atlantic to England (and to her grandfather Bompie) on a 45-foot sailboat. Not only does she want to make the trip, she feels she has to. This perilous cross-Atlantic journey will make young readers feel the wind in their hair and the salt spray on their face.
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke – Twelve-year-old Prosper and 5-year-old Bo run away when their aunt decides she wants to adopt Bo, but not his brother. Refusing to split up, they escape to Venice, a city their deceased mother always described in great detail. Right away they hook up with a long-haired runaway named Hornet and various other ruffians who hole up in an abandoned movie theater. They await the elusive Thief Lord, a young boy named Scipio who steals jewels from fancy Venetian homes so his new friends can get the food and warm clothes they need. This cast of characters will win the hearts of readers young and old. Their adventures are as labyrinthine and magical as the streets of Venice.
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. “This beautifully written (Civil War) novel … is set in southern Illinois, where Jethro Creighton, an intelligent, hardworking boy, is growing into manhood as his brothers and a beloved teacher leave to fight in the Union and Confederate armies. Hunt presents a balanced look at both sides of the conflict, and includes interesting information on lesser- known leaders and battles.” (Barbara Wysocki)
Letters from a Slave Girl:The Story of Harriet Jacobs by Mary Lyon. Based on Harriet Jacobs’ autobiography, these so- called letters, written to lost relatives and friends, provide a microscopic look at what slavery meant for a young black female in the mid 1800s. The hope of freedom opens Harriet’s story, as a dying mistress pledges to set the young slave free in her will. But broken promises abound, and Harriet endures many hardships at the hands of her new owners and more struggles when she flees North.
Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall. This is the exciting story of the Underground Railroad in 1859. Samuel, the 11-year-old slave who narrates the story, is awakened by 70-year-old Harrison, who has decided to flee their tyrannical Kentucky master. Harrison is mindful of the dangers and wary of trusting even the strangers who might offer help. Samuel, an impulsive boy who seems prone to trouble, is grudgingly accustomed to his life of servitude and reluctant to leave it. As days of hiding and nights of stealthy movement take them farther away from their former lives, Harrison and Samuel forge a bond that strengthens their resolve. Faith, luck, and perseverance see the man and boy safely into Canada, where a new journey of self-discovery and self-healing begins.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book — although she has not yet learned how to read. Her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when she is roused by regular nightmares about her younger brother’s death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books and a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents (School Library Journal).
The Color of Fire by Ann Rinaldi. Burnings of homes and warehouses and fears of a slave uprising fuel massacres of black people in New York during the mid 1700s. Phoebe’s master, an assemblyman, is kind to the young teen and has done much to help and protect her and his other slaves from any finger-pointing by neighbors and the local magistrates. But when Cuffee, Phoebe’s fellow servant and dear friend, is accused and arrested for treason, the girl’s world begins to crumble around her. Portraying a tragic tale of historical significance, this book is charged with heated politics, suspenseful intrigue, and murder.
With Every Drop of Blood by Collier and Collier. When Pa is wounded in action in the Civil War and comes home to die, he extracts a promise from Johnny, the book’s 14-year-old narrator, to stay on their farm in Virginia and look after the family. But a few months after Pa’s death, Johnny undertakes a dangerous mission to bring food into besieged Richmond–and maybe avenge his father’s honor. Instead, he and the family’s team of mules are captured by Blue Coats; even worse (to him), the soldiers are black, and the youth suffers the shame of taking orders from a former slave his own age, Cush Turner. At first Johnny takes advantage of his captor’s kindliness, but ultimately he becomes friends with Cush and even saves his life.
Dragon’s Gate by Laurence Yep. This story focuses on the Chinese immigrants who helped build the railroads in America during the 1860s. The story focuses on Otter, a boy who longs to return to China.
Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi. After the Civil war, 13-year-old Eulinda, daughter of a slave and a slave owner, goes to the Andersonville Prison with Clara Barton to help bury dead soldiers. Yankee soldiers were kept in this prison, and died daily from disease and hunger. Eulinda believes her older brother is in this prison. While taking care of dead soldiers, she looks for him — or at least for the red ruby ring he stole from her and wore.
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. This is the story of one African American family, fighting to stay together and strong in the face of brutal racist attacks, illness, poverty, and betrayal in the Deep South of the 1930s. Taylor’s vivid portrayal of ugly racism and the poignancy of Cassie’s bewilderment and gradual toughening against social injustice and the men and women who perpetuate it, will remain with readers forever. This is a great book to prepare students for reading To Kill a Mockingbird.
The Heather Hills of Stonewycke by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella. The story begins in Scotland during the mid 19th century with a 13-year-old girl struggling with the pains of growing up. There is a secret excavation, an evil conspiracy, an unannounced wedding, and an unsolved murder! This is the first in a captivating series of Christian novels.
The Gates of Zion by Bodie Thoene. Ellie, a young American photojournalist, finds herself in the Jerusalem of 1947. She unwittingly becomes a pawn in a political chess game when she photographs some ancient scrolls discovered by Bedouins. Through it all, Ellie discovers a people, a spirit, and a person who profoundly change the direction of her life. This is also the first in a captivating series of Christian novels.
Code Talker’s Story by Joseph Bruchac. After being taught in a boarding school run by whites that Navajo is a useless language, Ned Begay and other Navajo men are recruited by the United States Marines to become Code Talkers, sending messages during World War II in their native tongue.
Night by Elie Wiesel. This winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize is based on the true story of Wiesel’s Holocaust experiences. It is a terrifying account of the horrors experienced by a teenage Jewish boy as he and his family are sent to Nazi death camps.
Run, Boy, Run by Uri Orley. This is based on the true story of a boy who escapes the Warsaw Ghetto and must survive throughout the war in the Nazi-occupied Polish countryside.
Daniel’s Story by Carol Matas. Daniel is a young Jewish boy who uses photographs to tell the story of his family’s experience when they were captured by Germans during the Holocaust.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. Modern-day Hannah suddenly finds herself transported to Poland in the 1940s where she experiences what her relatives went through as Holocaust survivors.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke -Twelve-year-old Meggie learns her father Mo, a bookbinder, can “read” fictional characters to life. She makes this discovery when an evil ruler named Capricorn, freed from the novel “Inkheart,” tries to force her father to release an immortal monster from the story.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini – In Aagaesia, a 15-year-old boy of unknown lineage called Eragon finds a mysterious stone that weaves his life into an intricate tapestry of destiny, magic, and power, peopled with dragons, elves, and monsters.
Eldest by Christopher Paolini – This sequel to Eragon shows growing maturity and skill on the part of its very young author, who was only 17 years old when the first volume was published in 2003. The land of Alagaesia is suffering under the Empire of the wicked Galbatorix, and Eragon and his dragon Saphira, last of the Riders, are the only hope.
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke – After learning humans are headed toward his hidden home, Firedrake, a silver dragon, is joined by a brownie and an orphan boy in a quest to find the legendary valley known as the Rim of Heaven. They encounter friendly and unfriendly creatures along the way, struggling to evade the relentless pursuit of an old enemy.
Redwall by Brian Jacques (or any book in the Redwall series). Only the lost sword of Martin the Warrior can save Redwall Abbey from the evil rat Cluny and his greedy horde. The young mouse Matthias (formerly Redwall’s most awkward novice) vows to recover the legendary weapon. In the course of his quest, Matthias forges strong ties with various local animals. As much as the magic of the sword, it is the help of these new friends that enables Matthias to defeat Cluny once and for all. Jacques’s clever use of detail creates an animal world as compelling as that of The Wind in the Willows.
90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. Don Piper recounts the dramatic story of his 90-minute journey to heaven. When a truck crushed his Ford Escort in a head-on collision, he was declared dead on the scene. But a passing minister sensed God wanted him to stop and pray, so he reached through the wreckage to clasp Piper’s bloody hand as he did so. This incredible story is one of faith and inspiration. G.D.W. (AudioFile 2006).
Castaway Kid by R.B. Mitchell. What happens when God gets hold of a hopeless past? Castaway Kid is the true story of Rob Mitchell, an orphan whose life took a dramatic turn toward a future more promising than he ever imagined. Abandoned by his family when he was just a boy, Rob spent many years feeling angry, rejected and alone. But God had a different plan. See how God can transform life’s most discouraging circumstances into the adventure of a lifetime (Focus on the Family).
Marooned: The Strange But True Adventures of Alexander Selkirk, the Real Robinson Crusoe by Robert Kraske. This is the story of Scottish mariner Alexander Selkirk and his experiences marooned on a South Pacific island for four years. It might remind you a bit of the movie Castaway, too.
Good Brother, Bad Brother by James Giblin. This book tells the life stories of 19-century actor Edwin Booth and his actor brother John Wilkes Booth. It describes the differences between the two men, chronicling John’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and examining the impact of John’s crime on the Booth family for decades afterward.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie and her Christian family risk their lives to hide Jews in Holland during the Holocaust. They are caught and sent to concentration camps. This is a true story and shows Ten Boom’s incredible faith in God. It is an EXCELLENT book!
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. “John Maxwell’s book is by far the best leadership book I have read in the past few years. I wish I had this material available to me years ago, so that I was better prepared for the leadership challenges would face as an officer in the U.S. Army. I have read many leadership books the past decade in order to better develop my own skills, but none of them has put together all the pieces like John Maxwell does in this book.” (D. Keating).
Rescue: The Story of How Gentiles Saved Jews in the Holocaust by Milton Meltzer. This book tells the true stories of those who refused to give in to evil or look the other way as if nothing was happening. They risked their lives to save the Jews from the Nazi regime. From kings to students, the daring accounts of brave men and women who choose not to turn their backs on the Jews are inspiring examples of true courage.
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Bartoletti. This is a photo-illustrated look at the youth organizations Adolf Hitler founded and used to meet his sociopolitical and military ends. It includes profiles of individual Hitler Youth members and young people who opposed the Nazis, such as Hans and Sophie Scholl.
Understanding the Holy Land by Mitch Frank. This book presents a series of questions and answers that seeks to explain the origins and strife behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, failed attempts at peace, and its significance to the rest of the world.
Guts by Gary Paulsen. Here are the real events that inspired Gary Paulsen to write Hatchet, The River, Brian’s Winter, and Brian’s Return. He takes the reader on his adventures as a volunteer emergency worker and on hunting trips. All along the way, he shows the wonder and solace of nature, along with hilarious mishaps and mistakes.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. The author recounts his harrowing experiences of being trapped for six days in Blue John Canyon in Utah and having to amputate his own right arm to save his life. Please note: Although this is a compelling and true account of Mr. Ralston’s experience, the author does include some inappropriate language.
Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. This is a re-telling of one of how one gunshot changed the course of American history forever. In the spring of 1865, the bloody saga of America’s Civil War finally comes to an end after a series of increasingly harrowing battles. President Abraham Lincoln’s generous terms for Robert E. Lee’s surrender are devised to fulfill Lincoln’s dream of healing a divided nation, with the former Confederates allowed to reintegrate into American society. But one man and his band of murderous accomplices, perhaps reaching into the highest ranks of the U.S. government, are not appeased.
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was pastor and author Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In this New York Times best-selling biography, Eric Metaxas takes both strands of Bonhoeffer’s life — the theologian and the spy — and draws them together to tell a searing story of incredible moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. Metaxas presents the fullest accounting of Bonhoeffer’s heart-wrenching decision to leave the safe haven of America to return to Hitler’s Germany, and sheds new light on Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the famous Valkyrie plot and in “Operation 7,” the effort to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Please make sure you pick up a copy of Kenneth Grahame’s book, not an adaptation. The story centers around the animal citizens of an English riverbank. Each animal has a different personality, from easy- going Mole to the wise and wily Badger; the spoiling-for-a-fight Weasels; and, of course, boastful Toad, the owner of splendid Toad Hall who has too much money and too little sense to know what to do with it.
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. A classic story of growing up, an enchanting story of a gentle orphan discovering life and love in an indifferent adult world. In David Copperfield—the novel he described as his “favorite child”—Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of his most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure.
Emma by Jane Austen. Perhaps the out-and-out funniest of Jane Austen’s books, this is the story of the classic spoiled rich kid. Since Emma knows what’s best for everybody, she sets about trying to straighten the world out. It doesn’t work. Fortunately, before completely ruining everyone else’s life, she gets her head screwed on straight and for the first time sees what life is all about.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. This is the classic novel of revenge, complete with a mysterious hero who will stop at nothing to punish the men who betrayed him and brought about his unjust imprisonment. It is a tale of non-stop adventure, intrigue, and excitement.
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper. Tragic, fast-paced, and stocked with the elements of a classic Western adventure, this novel takes Natty Bumppo and his Indian friend Chingachgook through hostile Indian territory during the French and Indian War.
Uncle Toms’ Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. “This is one of those books that…deserves to be read…because it is one of the bestselling books of all time. This is a book that changed history. Harriet Beecher Stowe was appalled by slavery, and she took one of the few options open to nineteenth century women who wanted to affect public opinion: she wrote a novel, a huge, enthralling narrative that claimed the heart, soul, and politics of pre-Civil War Americans. …In a time when many whites claimed slavery had “good effects” on blacks, Uncle Tom’s Cabin paints pictures of three plantations, each worse than the other, where even the best plantation leaves a slave at the mercy of fate or debt.” (Erica Bauermeister)