1. Columbine by Dave Cullen – This is a nonfiction piece that reads like fiction. It was ten years in development and research by journalist Dave Cullen. In it, he dispels the myths that surrounded the tragedy with facts, evidence, and quotes – all while maintaining a safe distance from giving Eric and Dylan the credit and accolades they craved. Its detailed characterization draws my students in from page one, and its complex structure challenges them while keeping students engaged from beginning to end. My unit guide for a high school English class is available in my store.
3. Mergers by Steven Layne – This science fiction flick would be perfect for 7th-9th graders who are obsessed with everything dystopian. Inspired by a visit to a school one day where he saw a couple of kids picking on another kid because of skin color, Layne explores the idea of what it would be like if all races were erased. I don’t think this text could be any timelier given current events, and a fellow teacher of mine is paring it this year with the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. A complete unit guide is on my to-do list, and the author provides a short free one on his website. You could pair that with my literature analysis task cards and have some very interesting book clubs!
my students. Perfect for grades 7th-9th, The Children of Willesden Lane is the true story of Lisa Jura, a young girl who escapes Nazi persecution on the eve of World War II. Mona Golabek, in authentic voice, tells the story of her mother’s real-life struggles through this time in history, and your students will immediately identify with the protagonist. Music and relationships weave together this beautiful plot. A complete unit guide is on my to-do list as well, and the author provides some music clips and teaching tips on the book’s website. I love to pair it with my no-prep, modern Making Literature Come Alive Creative Activities Pack for some fun work with this text, too!
5. Peeled by Joan Bauer – I used this novel with my high school yearbook class once our book was finished. It’s perfect for piquing their interested in mystery, and it ties perfectly in with our journalism class. A reporter for her high school newspaper, Hildy Biddle is just waiting for a chance to prove herself as a real journalist. Not content just covering school issues, Hildy’s drawn to the town’s big story–the haunted old Ludlow house. It’s a fun, quick tale that you won’t have to beg your students to read. I’ll be putting together some of the materials I used for it soon!
… And a couple of other excellent picks that my students love with movies that are so bad, they might as well be in the category of those without movies because there’s no way they’d be worth giving class time for them are Macbeth and Fahrenheit 451. I have complete, modern unit plans for both of these in my store now!
What can you add to the list? Comment below.