Students Voices: Book Recommendations from Sai B., Kyan V., Liam Z., and Gabi C., 8th Graders


Book Recommendations

“5 Books with Indian Rep” by Sai B., 2022-23 8th grade

India being one of the biggest countries in the world as well as one of the most populous countries is still very unknown to people who haven’t been to the country. There are so many cultures, languages, food, and people that have come from different parts of the country and there is so much to explore. As an Indian person myself, the country is so beautiful and fun to visit. Moving on, many people continue don’t know the true beauty of this country as they haven’t visited the country or have a stereotypical ideology about the country. However, these 5 books can help people understand the cultural and beautiful aspects of the country.

Book 1: Aru Shah Book Series (Pandava Series) by Roshani Chokshi(Presented by Rick Riordan)

I am so happy I read this series as it was written by an Indian author and it was presented by my favorite author Rick Riordan. These books explore one of the biggest stories in Indian mythology called the Mahabharata. This event was about these two groups called the Pandavas and Kauravas in which they fought over the destiny of a  Kingdom. Many important gods took part in this event and are very important to the cultural part of India. These books go over a girl named Aruh Shah who learns she is a reincarnation of a Pandava who was the son of a god. She has to stop many evil spirits and demons through these books. These books do a great job in exploring the cultural part of India and explain a lot of the morals and values we learn from Indian mythology.

Book 2: The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

This is another great book with representation of India but it digs deeper into the lifestyle of how Indian people live. Even though the scenario of Rukku and her brother Viji leaving their house after being violently hurt by their parents, this event is somewhat common to the poorer part of the country. Many families depend on their children to give them financial support and since in the book Rukku the older sister has intellectual problems, it is hard for the family to accept that type of child. Nevertheless, this book was an emotional rollercoaster as it did a really good job of depicting how poorer people live to survive in the country and also expresses the importance of family throughout the book.

Book 3: Save Me a Seat by Gita Varadajan and Sarah Weeks

This book is another great book with Indian representation. Even though it takes place in an American society it represents the adaptations Indian’s have to take after moving to a new country in order to have a better future. However, the lesson learned from the book does not just apply to Indians and is more of a broader moral. The book is about a character named Ravi who tries to adapt to a new way of experiencing things. He has to adapt to school and life in general. Throughout the book he meets Joe, an American, who is also struggling with fitting in and life. They both have the same problems and both try to fix them together. This book does a great job in depicting the values of friendship and the hardship it is for adaptation in a new society. 

Book 4: Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca

This book is very similar to Save Me a Seat as it also explores a girl named Reha who is the only Indian-American in her school. However, this digs deeper into the way Indian homes are like. It shows how many kids have strict interpretations from their parents and feel disconnected from their parents. This is very common in Indian households as parents were raised to work hard and achieve success but they put these expectations on their kids. The kids feel very pressured by this expectation and feel distant from their parents. In the book Riha’s mom starts to feel really sick and this event allows Riha to be closer to her mom. This book does a great job in explaining the difficulties of fitting in and the importance of family.

Book 5: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond Series by Sayanti DasGupta

This book is another cultural representation of India. It is about a girl named Kiranmala who lived in New Jersey. One day her parents disappear and a demon appears. We later learn she is a long lost Indian princess and goes on a journey to fight demons and save her family. Even though this book is somewhat fictional there are many cultural aspects included in the book and develops a lot of morals and values related to Indian culture. Overall, this book does a great job in representing Indian culture and is definitely a must read.

“5 Mystery Books You Need to Read Right Now” by Kyon V., 2022-23 8th grade

Within fiction, 12.5% of adult books are in the thriller genre. That is estimated to be about 23.6 million mystery books a year in the US alone.

So why are these books so popular? Everyone loves to read about a great mystery for several reasons. Some like to try and solve the mystery before someone in the books does. Some like the suspension and action the book brings. Some like imagining all sorts of things, like what they would do in the characters’ situations. For all these reasons, mystery books are one of the most popular genres. Here are my top 5 favorites for the year.

Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Chrstina Diaz Gonzalez is an Edgar winning author from The US with heritage in Cuba. Concealed is part of the 2022-2023 SSYRA ( Sunshine State Young Readers awards books.) With its release just over 2 and a half years ago, this book has been very popular with all kinds of ages, but especially middle schoolers. It has a plot like no other book that keeps the reader glued to the pages of the book, wondering what will happen next.

Framed! And its sequels by James Ponti

This book is the first of a series of 3 thrilling mystery books by James Ponti. The main character is a 12 year old boy with a new technique to help solve mysteries. He, alongside the FBI, solve mysteries together. Each book has its own unique plot. The reader can try to solve the mystery before the characters, therefore providing a reason to keep reading.

City Spies and its sequels by James Ponti

This book, just like Framed!, is the first of a three book series by James Ponti. In these books, a group of young students work together to thwart evil. It provides a vision into the characters and is totally immersive. The characters all come from different backgrounds and countries, and have to figure out a way to become a team in beating evil.

All Fall Down and its sequels by Ally Carter

This book by Ally Carter is highly underrated. This book does not receive the credit it deserves. What is your next step of action when your mom gets murdered? Of course go for revenge and make the killer pay. Who can you trust is on your side? This Mystery series by Ally Carter is just as good as the most popular mystery books out there to date. 

One of us is Lying and its sequels by Karen McManus

5 kids from different backgrounds and social groups walk into a classroom. Only 4 make it out. This mystery book between 4 kids to find out which one is the killer is electrifying. I love this book because it relates to me as a middle schooler and different kids being forced to work together on something.

In conclusion, next time you want to find an exciting mystery book, come back to this blog post for 5 top mystery book recommendations that are sure to leave you excited and delighted.

“Favorite Between Two Favorites” by Gabi C., 2022-23 8th grade

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen vs Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch

It’s gonna be so hard to choose a favorite because I love both of these books. However, Love & Olives wins by a margin, and here’s why.

Love & Olives had a better slow-burn plot, but the character development prize goes to Flipped. Both books had an amazing plot with nice pacing especially for their varying lengths. The major difference between the books was the boys. The girls were easily confident in themselves, loving, nurturing, and overall good role models. The boys however, couldn’t have been more different. In Flipped, Bryce was a terrible guy. While he became a “good guy” in the end, in the beginning and end, he was a jerk! His whole persona was bullying Julie and being mean to her at every chance he got. In Love & Olives, Theo is an angel who does everything in his power to make sure Liv is comfortable and happy in her new environment. This makes such a good difference in a book! But Bryce did redeem himself in the end. Love & Olives wins.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes vs AGGGTM by Holly Jackson

This may surprise some of you who know me in real life but I actually prefer AGGGTM by Holly Jackson.

Both books have creative mysteries with fun characters and unique plots. However, the way I am deciding these books is the small little details. I’m talking Romance, Sequels, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love both but they each excel in different ways. AGGGTM did it a bit better… The romance won in the Inheritance Games, even though it was a bigger focus. I love the romance between Jameson and Avery in The Inheritance Games. Pip and Ravi were a bit plain but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt given that they were only getting together at the end of book. When it comes to sequels I also prefer AGGGTM. But both books were amazing.

Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martins vs Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park wins by default.

As many of you know Like a Love Song wasn’t one of my favorite books, especially compared to Eleanor & Park. Park was one of my favorite book boys! He was so sweet. Everything he did, he did for Eleanor. He introduced her to his mom. He defended her in front of her dad and provided such a safe space for her, no questions asked. He knew when to let go. As you can see, I put a lot of weight into how much romance my books have. So Eleanor & Park wins.

Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzales & Gabriela Epstein vs Starfish by Lisa Flipps

These Books. I LOVE these books. I have no complaints. The representation of Latino kids and Plus-size kids is exceptional. Both of these books make a safe space for kids who may feel a little different from everything else. Invisible made me see a little bit of myself in every character. Starfish made me see the perspective of someone different. Starfish was written so beautifully. It feels impossible for me to put these books against each other, So… I choose to break make an exception to my own rules. I have decided to make a tie between these two books!

“5 Underrated Books” by Liam Z., 2022-23 8th grade

Some books don’t get the credit they deserve. There are many good books but they are just not very heard of. While some books are lesser known, they are still extremely good and entertaining . Instead of searching for more known books, search for less popular books as they can be just as good or even better. Smaller books should get the credit that they deserve.

Rebel By Marie Lu

Rebel is an excellent book that not a lot of people read. This book is the 4th book of Legend but is normally outshined by the first three books. This is because this story took place many years later after the third book and it doesn’t contain June’s POV anymore. Despite that, the story is still incredibly good and contains Eden’s story of joining the republic. And also how Day reunites with June. I definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys fast paced action books.

Restart By Gordon Korman

This book is super unique and different from other books. It is about a kid in 8th grade who had an accident and banged his head on the ground. This caused him severe amnesia which made him forget all about his life and had to try and regain it. In my opinion, this has one of the best plots and stories but more people should know about it. Overall, this book is wonderful but not enough people read.

Slacker by Gordon Korman

This is an extremely funny book about a kid named Cameron. Cameron is an extremely lazy kid who slacks off and causes many problems, including almost burning down his house. I really liked it because it has tons of funny parts and it’s entertaining. recommend this book to everyone.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This is an interesting story about a boy who has these nightmares of a monster in the shape of a tree. This is not all he has to deal with because he deals with death and grief and struggles to overcome it. This story can be emotional or sad but the ending is very happy and he finally overcomes all the things that have happened. I really enjoyed this book because of the good story and plot.

Framed (Swindle#3) By Gordan Korman

Framed is a really good book that contains the search of a very expensive ring. Griffin Bing was getting framed by who he thought was his bully.  But in the end, he discovered it was rats who ate the ring and coincidentally all evidence led to Griffin. This is not only a mystery book but also a comedy book. This book is better than it looks and should be more well known.

Thank you so much to my students for their book recommendations!

Student Voices: Book Recommendations from Ava G., Ana T., Aaron D., 8th Graders, & Shantal G., 7th Grader


Book Recommendations

Top 8 Reads by Ava G., 2022-23 8th grader

17-year-old Avery inherits billions from an old man that she has never met. This series has been my favorite YA series i have ever read. First of all, the mysteries and riddles are totally not predictable and the romance is AMAZING. Also all the characters are so well-written (my favorite is Max), especially their character development.

Two high school boys meet, they both have feelings for each other but are too scared to say anything. . I loved this series because it’s so adorable! The character development that goes on with the main character and the side characters are realistic and heartwarming. This  definitely deserves to be in my top 8 reads.

Kids around the world get recruited into MI6 into a secret project to save the world. Together… they are City Spies.  I love this series! It was an amazing read and I love all the characters. The twists were really good and the action was great. I would highly recommend it!

A boy and a girl who have totally different lifestyles meet. One on a mission to kill the other, the other just wanting to keep his family safe. But they may not be as different as they think. This series is AMAZING. The twists, the romance, and the characters are all so excellent ! I loved the entire series, and I would totally recommend this series.

Pip is about to graduate high school but for her end-of-the-year project, she investigates a case that closed 5 years ago.In the process, she finds out something that might change the case forever. This book is so good! The amount of twists and turns this series has is crazy! The development of the mystery is extremely well written. I loved this book,  I would recommend it to fellow mystery lovers a million times over.

Christine meets her new neighbors, Moon and her family. Christine is unsure about Moon because Moon is different from the other kids. Maybe Moon is more than meets the eye. The book is so adorable and the character development is amazing. I loved how it talked about how differences aren’t a bad thing. This book was honestly so heartwarming.

Kid randomly gets invited to attend a spy school that trains kids for a future in the CIA but why would they pick him out of all the others that were probably way better than him. This is a great series too! I like how the stories all connect in some way or another. The characters are also amazing.

Allie releases a new app and she finally has a chance to win a coding competition with it, but a glitch might ruin it all… The plot of this book is so good! The pace was really good and the characters were so well written. So I would totally recommend this book and its sequel.

Books to Get out of a Reading Slump by Ana T., 2022-23 8th grader

This book follows the story of Anna, who is from Atlanta. When Anna enters her senior year of high school, she is unexpectedly sent to a boarding school in Paris. Anna is not thrilled at all to be leaving behind her high school, her best friend and this boy who’s she’s had a crush on for the longest time.

This book is perfect for getting out of a reading slump because it is fast-paced and entertaining. You may get scared by the number of pages but once you read it, it’s such a quick read and a great rom-com when you read it it feels like you’re watching a movie.

This book follows the story of sixteen-year-old girl Belly Conklin, who spends every summer with her mother and brother at her mom’s best friend’s beach house. But this summer Belly is all grown up and is excited to go back to the beach where her longtime crush Conrad aka Susanna’s son is there along with his brother Jeremiah. 

This is one of my favorite trilogies. It’s such a quick read and a great summer read. This is the type of book that once you  start reading you can stop and you’re imagining yourself in the book.

Princess Alosa, daughter of the pirate king, intentionally gets herself kidnapped by pirates aboard the Night Farer. While she’s their “prisoner,” Alosa uses her extra time to explore the Night Farer searching for a missing piece of an ancient map. But first-mate Riden isn’t making things easy for Alosa. He seems to understand her better than most, and he quickly suspects Alosa may be more than she appears.

This is such a good fast-paced read it’s an enemies-to-lovers trope which is great for those who like that! But besides that, it’s just such a great book to get back your love for reading.

When 17-year-old Lina loses her mom to cancer, she honors her mom’s dying wish that she spend a summer in Tuscany. Lina travels halfway around the world to meet and stay with her mother’s friend, Howard, who is the caretaker of an American WWII cemetery just outside Florence.

Love a Gelato is one of my favorite summer books it’s such a fun an amazing book it’s like watching a movie because you get so in the book that you actually forget you’re reading.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself and that was everyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town and people are still scared. But something is telling her there was more that happened that day…

Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a great thriller book for people who like mystery and suspense. I LOVE THIS BOOK. It’s such an entertaining and fast-paced book, and I love the huge plot twist it has!

Top 5 Books I Read This Year by Aaron D., 2022-23 8th grader

This is the first book in the Young Elites trilogy and introduces the protagonist and also antagonist, Adelina Amouteru, a girl who was affected by the blood fever when she was little and was given the special power of illusions. She lives in a world where she and other people who were affected by the blood fever are hated because of their powers. She is then founded by the Dagger Society, a group of young elites that were also affected by the blood fever and are out to overthrow the king of Kennetra to give people who were affected by the blood fever the good treatment they deserved. She is invited into it and throughout the book she goes through all sorts of problems and hardships with the group and meets enemies and friends along the way, making the book very interesting and unpredictable. This book is filled with all sorts of twists and turns and is perfect for people who love fantasy and a bit of romance.

This is the second book in the Young Elites trilogy and continues the story of Adelina Amouteru, a girl who has the power to control illusions. She is out for vengeance after getting kicked out of the Dagger Society and is aiming for the crown of Kennetra. She created her own society of elites to help her called the Rose Society and goes through all sorts of hardships to get what she wants. The characters are all unique and have very interesting backstories that will surely make you fall in love with them. This book is filled with all kinds of twists and turns and has a very unique and interesting plot that makes it unpredictable and a very good read and is perfect for people who love fantasy and a bit of romance.

This is the second book of the Legend series and continues the story of June and Day where they are now on a mission to rescue Day’s brother, Eden, from the Republic. On their mission, they made the decision to go to the Patriots for help, but in order for them to help them they made a deal with June and Day to have them help them assassinate the elector of the Republic to make a change in the nation for the greater good. In exchange, the Patriots will agree to help them rescue Eden from the Republic. Both sides agree and they carry out the mission together with a plan, but throughout the book, some unexpected things happen that make the plan not go the way they planned. This book is perfect for people who love dystopian fiction and romance that is filled with twists and turns that make it a very good read.

This is the first book in the Magisterium series and introduces the character, Callum Hunt, a boy whose father hates magic and the Magisterium, the magic school he went to, because of a dark past there with terrible memories. Even though Callum’s father hates the Magisterium and magic, Callum was still admitted into it and went. There Callum met a lot of friends, but also people he didn’t like, and started learning magic with his friends. As he continues through the school year and feels more acquainted with it some unexpected things happen that completely change Callum’s life and reveal that he isn’t who he really thinks he is. This book is full of unexpected twists and turns that make it very interesting to read and is perfect for people who like to read fantasy books. 

This book introduces the protagonist, Katrina, a girl who changes her name constantly and doesn’t know anything about her past besides that she is part of the Witness Protection Program. She and her parents are constantly on the run from the people who want her and her family dead because of her dad’s secret past, but when her location was accidentally leaked her mom got kidnapped and her dad mysteriously disappeared. Now she is on an unexpected rescue mission to save her parents, and along the way she meets Parker, a young computer hacking genius, who decides to help her, and together they go and meet Agent X, a mysterious guy that is allegedly an ally to Katrina’s parents who can help her save them. As they continue on the mission and get closer to her saving her parents she uncovers some dark secrets about her and her past that change everything. This book is filled with unexpected twists and turns that make it a great book and is perfect for people who love a good mystery and thriller book.

Favorite Reads This Year by Shantal G., 2022-23 7th grader

This book is so relatable. It’s about a girl that goes to Honduras with their mom, dad and two sisters to visit their other family. There’s not much internet though, so it means no phone or communication through the phone. Sue’s mother wants to make a party for her for her quinces, but Sue doesn’t want that. It’s very entertaining to read this book and a lot of Hispanic readers will relate (including me).

I loved this book so much I took the time to read it in both English and Spanish and it was great! Twelve-year-old Malú violates the school’s dress code with her punk-rock look and disappoints her mom. Her dad, who lives really far away, says that everything will get better for her if she follows the first rule of punk, which is to be herself. Malú loves rock music and starts her own band and finally feels like she belongs somewhere and she will do anything to keep her rock band and stand up for herself.

This book is very entertaining. It is about a teenage Hispanic girl that lives in Chicago and is discovering herself, her family, and her culture. I won’t say more about it because I don’t want to spoil the whole book.

This book is about a girl named Callie who loves the theater. Even though she can’t wait to be in the musical Moon Over the Mississippi to be performed at her high school, she sings terribly. But when the students of the drama club offer her a position as a set designer, she doesn’t hesitate to accept. Her mission will be to create sets worthy of Broadway, but she doesn’t know anything about carpentry. To top it off, when two cute brothers enter the scene, things get even more complicated

This is my favorite book ever; it is so fun to read the different characters point of view. This book is about five very different kids who have to try and get along so they can complete the school community services and at the end they have more things in common than they thought. All of the characters are Hispanic and the characters speak Spanish in some situations.

Thank you so much to my students for their recommendations!

The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla


The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn
Author: Sally J. Pla
Published July 11th, 2023 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: Neurodivergent Maudie is ready to spend an amazing summer with her dad, but will she find the courage to tell him a terrible secret about life with her mom and new stepdad? This contemporary novel by the award-winning author of The Someday Birds is a must-read for fans of Leslie Connor and Ali Standish.

Maudie always looks forward to the summers she spends in California with her dad. But this year, she must keep a troubling secret about her home life–one that her mom warned her never to tell. Maudie wants to confide in her dad about her stepdad’s anger, but she’s scared.

When a wildfire strikes, Maudie and her dad are forced to evacuate to the beach town where he grew up. It’s another turbulent wave of change. But now, every morning, from their camper, Maudie can see surfers bobbing in the water. She desperately wants to learn, but could she ever be brave enough?

As Maudie navigates unfamiliar waters, she makes friends–and her autism no longer feels like the big deal her mom makes it out to be. But her secret is still threatening to sink her. Will Maudie find the strength to reveal the awful truth–and maybe even find some way to stay with Dad–before summer is over?


“A vulnerable portrait of one girl seeking to empower and redefine herself outside of her personal traumas.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Through Maudie’s earnest, occasionally poetic narration, Pla vividly explores the ways that physical and verbal abuse can distort self-perception. A perceptive, poignant tale of self-discovery.” — Kirkus Reviews

“A heartfelt story of courage and hope about Maudie, who navigates the world in her own unique divergent way, even while struggling with challenging family dynamics and loss. Readers will cry, cheer, and celebrate, and not soon forget, Maudie McGinn.”  — Pam Muñoz Ryan, Newbery Honor-winning author

“A gorgeous, bighearted, beautiful book. I loved it.”   — Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of A Boy Called Bat

“A powerful and deeply affecting story that will carry readers along like the perfect wave.” — Barbara Dee, author of Maybe He Just Likes You 

“A breathtakingly beautiful ride of a story about an unforgettable, neurodivergent heroine.” — Jess Redman, award-winning author of The Miraculous

About the Author: Sally J. Pla writes stories for young people. Her books have been translated into many languages, garnered starred reviews, appeared on many ‘best book’ and state lists, and picked up a few awards, but the best thing they’ve done has been to connect her to readers like you. The Someday Birds; Stanley Will Probably Be Fine; Benji, The Bad Day, And Me; and her latest, The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn, all portray characters who see the world a bit differently. Because we are all stars shining with different lights.

Sally has English degrees from Colgate and Penn State, and has worked as a journalist and in public education. You can find her at

Review: This book, y’all. I am so glad that it was put on my radar because it is more than I could have guessed from the summary–I am so glad that I read it. It was a one-sitting read; I couldn’t put it down.

Sally J. Pla has crafted a book that pulls at heartstrings; has moments written in prose AND verse that are mentor texts in craft; will be a window, mirror, or sliding glass door (Sims-Bishop, 1990) for so many readers; touches on a tough subject that I truly think will help some readers with talking about their own situation; and has an amazing cast of characters!

Teaching Tools for Navigation: This book will be loved by so many readers. It is a must buy for middle school libraries and classrooms and may even be a good book club choice, just make sure to discuss the content triggers before choosing. Help the right readers find this book, help the right ones talk about it, and help the book get the love it deserves.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think the author chose not to tell Maudie’s secret from the beginning?
  • How does surfing both help and hurt Maudie’s situation?
  • How is Maudie treated differently with her mom versus her dad?
  • Why does her dad seem to understand her better than her mom?
  • Why did the author include sections in verse throughout the book?
  • Why do you think Etta helps Maudie?
  • Why does Maudie begin to find her voice more now that she is with her dad?
  • How is Paddi’s school different than Maudie’s school in Texas?
  • Masks are talked about figuratively within the book. Why does Maudie and her mom feel like they have to wear a mask?
  • What type of character traits does Maudie and her dad show by starting over after the fire?

Flagged Passage:

Chapter 2 Wowowowowowowowow

The Molinas emergency shelter is packed with stressed-out neighbors, grim-looking police, and frantic aid workers handing out things like bottles of water and crinkly silver blankets.

It’s not cold, but I can’t stop shivering.

There’s an old clipboard perched on a table under a stale copy cup–leftover from some meeting. I take it with me to one of the cots the volunteers have set up. Its thing blue mattress crunches underneath me; it feels like it’s filled with plastic pellets.

I unclip an old paper from the clipboard and turn it over. And just like Mr. Parris taught me, back at that noisy dance, I do his calm-down trick. I start to catalog the too-muchness.

stale coffee
stale soup
industrial carpeting
body odor
fabric softener

kids crying
a couple arguing in staccato Spanish
an old man coughing and hacking up something wet and gross into a Kleenex, ugh
some lady shouting “Who took my phone? Who took my phone?” over and over
distant sirens: wowowowo-wowowowowo-wowwwwwwww

this silver emergency blanket, which feels like slippery aluminum foil
this sweaty plastic-pellet mattress under my butt and legs
burning eyes, like my lashes are gunked with hot grit
headache, blaring and pounding at my temples like a vise
a strange iron-band feeling around my chest, keeping me breathless

The curve of my dad’s back

Read This If You Love: A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner; Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught; Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit; The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean; Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy of review!**

Student Voices: Book Recommendations from Laura L., Anna Liz R., Mai B., & Brielle P., 8th Graders


Book Recommendations from 2022-23 8th Graders

“Books I Would Love to Live In” by Laura L., 2022-23 8th grader

This book is about Belly who every summer goes to her mom’s best friend beach house. Every summer she’s excited to be there and see everyone, but especially to see Conrad Fisher, the older son of her mom’s best friends.

I would love to live in this book because every summer Belly goes every summer to a beach house, and it seems fun to have something to look forward to every summer. I would also like to meet the characters, especially Belly because she seems like a great friend and fun to hang out with.

This book series is about the boy who lived, Harry Potter, every year since he was 11 where he was sent to magic school, but he also has fight for his life and run away from Voldemort.

Who wouldn’t want to live there? You go to a magic school every year and learn spells and see something interesting every day. I would also like to be friends with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and especially Luna. And if I get to live in the book I would get to see the whole school and see the Ravenclaw dorms.

This book is about Jenny, a girl who plays violin. One day her mom tells her they have to live in Korea for a time because her grandma is sick, and she starts attending a school of arts. 

I would like to live in this book because the school of the main character seems interesting and fun–it’s a school of art and can choose very different types of art. Plus , it is in South Korea because I’m really interested in their culture, and I might get to know the country and get to know the South Korean culture. Also, in the school there are celebrities, so I can meet them.

This book is about Mia who gets into summer ballet summer camp. Originally, her mind is only focused on ballet until she meets a boy and gets distracted.

This book was fun! If I danced ballet, I would like to live in this book. This book is about a girl that goes to summer camp in France. Apart from doing ballet in France, I would like to get to know the country. Like go to the museums, see the Eifel tower, meet new people and eat the food. I would also like to see the Eifel tower at night 

After her mom died, Lina goes to Florence to make her mom’s wishes come true. When she arrives at Florence she meets a man who now she thinks is her dad, but also meets new people and new love.

The whole time I read the book I was like, “I want to go there!” After reading this book, I was interested in going to Florence and seeing the city.

“Books I Read That Were Out of my Comfort Zone and Ended Up Being Some of my Favorites” by Anna Liz R., 2022-23 8th grader

At first, I was completely scared to read this book. Not because of the storyline, but only because of it being a classic old book, with big, complex words that I would not understand. It was on my bookshelf, waiting to be picked up. However, one day, after wanting something completely different from what I was reading (romance books), I decided to pick this one. If you read this book, you would know that this book starts with letters a man wrote from an expedition to his sister, and just by that I was so invested. I wanted to know how Frankenstein’s life escalated, and his motives. This book for me was written so well, and I loved every second of it. And before I knew it, I was done with this book in about a day. 

This book is so talked about on BookTok, so many varying reviews where people would absolutely love this book, or hate it. Not to mention the books get progressively big in terms of pages, and so you are committing to that when you start reading this series.  However, one day I was in a big need of a fantasy world, something with two opposing worlds, where it takes one person to change it all, and with a romance subplot. So of course, ACOTAR was the chosen one for me. I loved this book, it was definitely the book I was looking for. Without hesitation I needed to pick up the second book (A Court of Mist and Fury) which was even better. Cannot wait to continue the series! 

I never read a book that is 200-300 pages long divided in stanzas. And honestly I never thought I would. Yes, I do love poems, but they usually last a few pages. Now this book does not have rhyming words, or any complex hidden meaning. The word choices, the plot, the setting, literally just like any fiction chapter book, except the stanzas. I thought that was weird at first, I mean it’s not very common for me, but I was definitely willing to try it. As soon as I read the first page, I knew I had to continue. The meaning of this book was amazing. The character development, family hardships, friends standing up for you. I loved it, and I’m sure many people did too.

I definitely wouldn’t call myself the biggest graphic novel fan out there. For me, I prefer words rather than illustrations because then I get to picture the story myself, and that’s where I get to be creative. But due to the author’s visit at our school, I wanted to read more of her books, and so I decided to pick up this one. As I was reading, I loved the characters’ representation, how they have their own home problems, their difficulties in being familiar with the place and the language. The characters were so diverse! And not to mention the amazing ending that made me so happy! 🙂 

When I read romance, I usually go for enemies to lovers. It’s just so amazing, and something I would never get tired of. But this book is a cutesy romance…so why did I read it since it’s not my cup of tea? Well, besides the title/main character having the same first name as me, and it taking place in Paris, I wanted to read something different. I wanted to discover the new concept of falling in love in a different way, not just daggers-pointed-to-the-throat type of enemies to lovers. If it was me last year, I would not believe I read this book. However, I’m certainly glad I did! The setting of Paris was described so well, and you see the main character discovering Paris while being new to the school and language, new to everything basically, all without her parents. And her slowly falling for Etienne St. Clair. This book overall was so sweet and amazing, and I loved it!

“Books I Could Talk About for Hours” by Mai B., 2022-23 8th grader

This book talks about the story of Morgan, a girl who has a complicated relationship with her friends and family, as she is hiding lots of stuff from them. She meets a mysterious girl, who saved her from drowning, eventually they become closer and everything starts to change for Morgan. 

I’m so passionate about this book that I could talk about it for hours. I love the story so much and I find it kinda relatable. I love the characters and the way they develop their relationship with each other. I find the ending very sweet and even a little sad. What makes me the most passionate about the book is the story and how I find it relatable. 

This book talks about Lucia, a girl who lives happily in Cuba with her family. She’s caught up in a communist revolution and forced to immigrate to Nebraska, where everything changes for her, in both positive and negative ways. 

I find this book very relatable, as an immigrant. I loved the way the book developed and how it accurately portrayed the experiences of an immigrant, especially one that has to see their own country be ruined by its own people. I loved the ending and I don’t think it could’ve ended better, I absolutely adore it.

This book shows the story of Link, Hyrule’s famous hero, who’s looking for his dear friend, Navi. As he’s traveling on his horse, he is attacked by Skull kid who steals his ocarina and creates chaos upon Termina. Link has to get Majora’s mask back from Skull kid and save the town.

I love this book so much, the ending is perfect and the characters are very likable. Their personalities, backstories and the way they show it is something I love about this book. I love the art style too; it’s very cute. In my opinion, it shows what happened very well.

This book talks about the story of Giorno Giovanna, a young boy who joins the mafia so he can stop the dealing of drugs to minors. He enters a gang where he makes friends and is assigned an important mission, which he’s going to take advantage of and try to kill the headmaster.

This manga is honestly one of my favorites, but I specifically love part 5. I adore the characters and the way the story is narrated and developed, it honestly has a special place in my heart. The ending made me cry so much, and I still loved it.

This book talks about the story of Shoko and Shoya, two high-schoolers who have been bullied and caused them to have issues with themselves. They become friends, even after not having a great relationship as kids. And help each other be better, see things differently and change the way they think. It helps them have better relationships and react to things better.

I like this book so much because of the way it shows how social anxiety and self esteem issues can affect your relationships and the way you react to others, it’s a really sweet story too and I like the way the characters are shown. It made me cry a little, but it’s still really good. I also like how it realistically shows how having a disability can affect the ways others see you, and how different people can react to a disability. 

“Summer Recommendations” by Brielle P., 2022-23 8th grader

This series is perfect for summer. It has exciting romance and is overall a perfect summer book.

This book is perfect for that Outer Banks vibe this summer. It reminds so much of Outer Banks if it was in the keys.

The reason I added this book is because it gives me such summer vibes, even though the book isn’t by the ocean, it’s just the layout and colors of the book give me summer serotonin.

This book is perfect for the summer, reading by the beach or pool!

If you want to read a summer romance, this is the one for you.

This is sad, but it’s also heart warming.

This book is amazing–it shows the hardships of her life and what she wants to be/do.

This is such a cute summer book; you will love it!

This book follows four women and their POVs for their summer. It is really interesting and a nice light read.

Thank you so much to my student voices today and their book recommendations!

Author Guest Post: “Middle Graders are Unpredictable–and the Characters we Create for Them Should be, too!” by Linda B. Davis, Author of Food Fight


“Middle Graders are Unpredictable–and the Characters we Create for Them Should be, too!”

As adults, we understand that an individual’s personality cannot be defined with one word. People are complicated and inconsistent—that’s what makes us interesting. Our neighbor yells at the kids who play on his lawn but later gushes over puppies and kittens. A happy-go-lucky waitress cries in the walk-in refrigerator where no one will notice. Kids can sometimes have difficulties recognizing and understanding these inconsistencies in themselves and others.

Recent research has shown that helping children become more aware of their own multifaceted identities and the ability to see themselves from multiple angles can promote flexible thinking and improve problem solving (Gaither, et al). Their findings suggest that learning to see ourselves from many perspectives helps to reduce rigid thinking, which can potentially promote open-mindedness and inclusiveness in a diverse society.

A quick glance at my debut middle grade novel, Food Fight, might suggest that several characters risk being reduced to stereotypes—a quirky loner, a social-climber, a pushy father, and a bully and the kid he is targeting. However, my intention was to create nuanced characters who behave inconsistently and a main character whose conflicting feelings and observations about himself, his parents, and his peers cause him great distress.

Food Fight is the story of eleven-year-old Ben Snyder who is starting middle school. Things go sideways for him right away because his extreme picky eating, which no one has been too concerned with in the past, is suddenly drawing a lot of attention—from his old friends, his weird lab partner, the girl he’s crushing on, and a bully. Before he knows it, Ben finds himself in social free fall, sliding toward the bottom of the middle school food chain. And if that’s not bad enough, he’s facing an upcoming class trip featuring three days and two nights of authentic colonial living—and authentic colonial food that Ben cannot eat.

In preparation for the trip, Ben sees a therapist who suggests that Ben may actually have an eating disorder called ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). ARFID, a relatively new diagnosis, is often characterized as extreme picky eating, but the reality is actually quite serious and can cause significant medical, social, and self-esteem issues. It is described as a lack of interest in eating and/or a complete avoidance of eating particular foods based on sensory characteristics including texture, smell, and color. ARFID is often associated with other sensory disturbances, fears of choking or vomiting, and neurodivergence (although neurotypical kids and adults may also have ARFID).

People living with this condition generally say that most foods don’t seem like something they could even put in their mouth, let alone eat, which results in very restrictive diets limited to foods that feel “safe”—often processed or fast foods, which taste the same every time. And although the clinical definitions are descriptive and accurate, they often do not adequately convey the sheer psychological terror involved with ARFID—some call it a food phobia. People with ARFID do not limit themselves to foods they choose to eat—but to the only foods they can eat.

Although ARFID is a relatively rare condition, estimated to affect between three and five percent of kids, the types of obstacles it presents are universal in the world of middle graders as they confront the age-old question of How do I fit in? The bodies and minds of early adolescents are developing more rapidly than during any other stage of human development except between birth and age two. Even without significant medical or mental health issues, middle schoolers are navigating momentous social and academic challenges as well as shifting power dynamics in relationships with peers and parents—and their feelings and strategies for coping are nuanced and evolving, too.

It would be tempting to portray Ben’s bully as unilaterally bad, but he’s not. Other kids actually find him hilarious, and Ben watches on with surprise as the bully walks away from an opportunity to take revenge on another boy. Ben’s quirky lab partner carries herself with an arrogance that pushes others away, but she is loyal to Ben in ways that his own best friends are not. Ben’s father uses friendly language to shame him about his eating. Ben’s best buddy is intent on building up his own popularity but in the process has forgotten how to be a friend. And Ben himself, who could be easily portrayed as a great kid facing unfair circumstances, makes several bad decisions including lying, breaking rules, and responding to an accusation impulsively.

In a 2019 interview, Mayra Cruz, principal of a public school in Washington, DC, described middle schoolers as “consistently inconsistent” (Wong, 2019). It seems fitting that the characters in the fiction they read should be, too.

  1. Sarah E. Gaither, Samantha P. Fan, Katherine D. Kinzler. Thinking about multiple identities boosts children’s flexible thinking. Developmental Science, 2019: DOI:10.111/desc.12871
  2. Wong, A. Why is Middle School So Hard for So Many People? The Atlantic, October 7, 2019.

Published June 27th, 2023 by Fitzroy Books/Regal House

About the Book: Food Fight is the story of an overnight class trip that becomes a survival mission for an eleven-year-old boy who is learning that his super picky eating is actually an eating disorder called ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder).

Smart and athletic, Ben Snyder is ready to start middle school. But his super picky eating, which has never been a big deal before, is about to take him down. Suddenly everybody’s on his case about what he’s eating and what he’s not—his old friends, his new friends, his weird lab partner, the girl he’s crushing on, and a bully—and Ben finds himself in a social free fall, sliding toward the bottom of the middle school food chain.

Even worse, there’s an upcoming three-day class trip to a colonial farm. Knowing there’s no way he can handle the gag-worthy menu, Ben plans for the trip like a survival mission. Armed with new information about his eating habits, he sets out with three tactical goals: impress the girl, outsmart the bully, and avoid every single meal. But when things go sideways and epic hunger threatens to push him over the edge, Ben must decide how far he will go to fit in and if he has the courage to stand out.

About the Author: Linda B. Davis has always been curious about why we do the things we do. As a social worker in a community mental health setting, Linda became passionate about the need for accurate and accessible mental health information in children’s literature. She is a member of SCBWI and active in the Chicago writing community. She enjoys traveling, gardening, and buying more books than she can possibly read. Food Fight is her first novel.

Thank you, Linda, for honoring the complexity of middle graders!

Author Guest Post: “Notice What You Feel” by Christie Matheson, Author of Select


“Notice What You Feel”

There’s a short scene in my book Select during which the main character, Alex, notices a woman across a crowded city street running to catch a bus. She’s carrying heavy bags and moving as fast as she can. A man waiting at the bus stop sees her, and Alex assumes he will alert the bus driver so the bus can wait a few seconds for her to get on. But the man doesn’t do that, and the bus speeds away, leaving the woman alone and distressed on the sidewalk.

Alex feels sad and frustrated that she couldn’t do anything to help—and that the man chose not to help when he could have. She pays attention to her feelings, and thinks about the people in this world who choose to help when they can, and those who choose not to help.

This scene was inspired by reality. Not too long before I wrote that scene, I saw this exact thing happen from a distance. It made my heart hurt for the woman who was left on the sidewalk with her heavy bags. I wished I could have done something to help. And as soon as I had the chance, I wrote about it quickly in my notebook and later wrote the scene. Is it critical to the plot of the book? No, not really. Does it help us understand how Alex sees people and the world? I hope so.

Every day, we will witness and experience things that make us feel something. It might be sadness, or a glimmer of joy, or full-blown excitement, or a sense of unexpected calm. It might happen while we are out and about, or at home, or while reading. When we are struck by noticeable feelings, I think it’s important that we take the time to notice them. Pay attention to them. Wonder about them. (What was it that caused the feeling? Why?) Feel them fully. And maybe write about them.

Noticing our feelings and what sparks them can help us be more present and aware of what’s happening in the world, and possibly deepen our understanding of ourselves and others.

It can also help us to think more clearly about books. After reading a chapter or a whole book, we can ask ourselves: Which scenes made me feel something? What did they make me feel? Why? Do I want to read more books that make me feel this way?

And finally, if you write down the tiny details of something you saw or experienced, and how it made you feel, that just might go into a book you write!

Published May 9th, 2023 by Random House Books for Young Readers

About the Book: One girl and her soccer team take a stand against the bullies who push them too far in this brave, inspiring novel that celebrates girl power and the true spirit of sports. Perfect for readers who love The Crossover and Fighting Words.

“A tale of terrific girl power and athleticism.” —Kirkus Reviews

Twelve-year-old Alex loves playing soccer, and she’s good at it, too. Very good. When her skills land her a free ride to play for Select, an elite soccer club, it feels like a huge opportunity. Joining Select could be the key to a college scholarship and a bright future—one that Alex’s family can’t promise her.

But as the team gets better and better, her new coach pushes the players harder and harder, until soccer starts to feel more like punishment than fun. And then there comes a point where enough is enough, and Alex and her teammates must take a stand to find a better way to make their soccer dreams come true.

Powerful and inspiring, Select explores the important difference between positive and negative coaching and celebrates the true spirit of sports.

About the Author: Christie Matheson is the author of Shelter and is also the author-illustrator of many picture books, including Tap the Magic TreeTouch the Brightest Star, and Bird Watch. She lives in San Francisco with her family.

Thank you, Christie, for this wonderful writing tip!

Educators’ Guide for A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai


A Match Made in Mehendi
Author: Nandini Bajpai
Published: September 10th, 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative Kitchen:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about A Match Made in Mehendi by visiting Cake Creative Kitchen’s Library.

Recommended For: 

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