Books that Should be Required Reading
1. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
2. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
I think this novel lines up well with a lot of the anti-bullying rules that schools are now (hopefully) enforcing. The multi-perspective novel shines a light on what people may experience on account of being different and how "normal" people react to said different people.
3. The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
Okay, this is just one of my favorite books ever, so I'm being biased. But I read this in school and it was the best unit ever. It's a great book for putting clues together, searching for foreshadowing, and examining character motives. Plus, it is amazing.
4. Monster, by Walter Dean Myers
Some students don't respond to novels, so it's useful to bring other formats to the table. Monster offers a lot of literary techniques, and it could be the source of a classroom debate over who is guilty.
Contemporary Books Paired With Classic Required Readings
5-6. Unwind, by Neal Shusterman and Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
If there was ever a dystopia that I would recommend for school assignments, Unwind would be it and I think it would pair well with Frankenstein.The Gothic classic deals with the questions of who is to blame for crime (the creator or the creation?) and what happens when man plays God (bad things)? Unwind tackles similar problems through the ownership over a person's life and organs.
7-8. Dodger, by Terry Pratchett and Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
It makes sense because Dodger comes from Oliver Twist and Dickens himself is a character in Pratchett's novel. It would make for fun classroom activities to note the connections between the two novels.
9-10. When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead and A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle
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