The Sign of the Beaver is a book based on real events that I read in sixth grade. It revolves around a twelve-year-old early settler named Matt who is left alone in his cabin while his father travels back to retrieve the rest of his family. While alone, Matt befriends a Native American boy named Attean, who, along with the rest of his tribe, help Matt to survive in the wilderness. When his family doesn’t return for quite some time, Matt must decide between waiting for his family, or joining the Beaver tribe and following them on their journey north.
6. Guns for General Washington: A Story of the American Revolution by Seymour Reit
Another sixth grade read, “Guns for G. Wash,” as my teacher liked to call it, is a story of the bravery of 19-year-old Will Knox, as he travels from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston in the dead of winter, hauling 183 cannons with him. It’s an action-packed book, and a favorite of mine because of the revolutionary time period. Other famous appearances include Paul Revere, Henry Knox, and, of course, George Washington himself.
5. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
A very well-known book by a well-known author, Maniac Magee is a fantastic book about Jeffrey Lionel (“Maniac”) Magee, a boy who just can’t stop running. Ever since he first ran away, he’s traversed the racially divided town of Two Mills with complete disregard for every social rule in the whole city, living in the homes of black and white people alike. It’s a great story with lots of multifaceted side characters, and even the bullies are explored in detail. I read this one in the summer of sixth grade, and this year I got to watch my brother read it and found myself enchanted all over again. Some may find it tiring to have an overly popular book recommended to them over and over again, but this one is popular for a reason.
4. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
My favorite book of seventh grade, Touching Spirit Bear follows Cole Matthews, a teenage delinquent from a troubled home, and his path to peace after he severely injures a classmate of his. As punishment, he is sent to a remote Alaskan island to live in isolation, as an alternative to prison. At first, Cole is ungrateful as ever, resisting his parole officer’s every attempt to befriend him. However, after attempting to escape his isolation, an encounter with a mythical spirit bear changes the way he sees the world forever.
3. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
This is a book I read very recently, and I found that my favorite characters unfortunately met the worst fates. Nevertheless, the Outsiders is a great read about class differences and how they affected the friendships of people in the 50’s. Centering around a boy named Ponyboy, it tells the story of him and his gang, the Greasers, and how Ponyboy longs to break the barrier between the Greasers and the rival group, the rich kids, also known as the Socs.
2. The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
This book comes from my elementary school years, but the story really stuck to me and still is dear to my heart today. From the author of such books as Thank You, Mr. Falker and Mr. Lincoln’s Way, this story is about a girl named Trisha and how she handles being put in a class known as “the junkyard.” At first she is terribly embarrassed and a little worried, but soon comes to find that she and all of her special needs classmates are all “junkyard wonders.”
1. Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Following young teenager Mattie Cook as she struggles to survive in the midst of a massive epidemic, Fever, 1793 may seem like a zombie horror movie. But it’s anchored firmly in historical fact. Philadelphia in the summer of 1793 was pretty much the absolute worst place to be. Children were being orphaned left and right, homes were abandoned, and pretty much every smart person in the city fled the scene. Mattie has to leave her mother behind and travel across the countryside with her war veteran grandpa, and somehow find a way when the fever finds its way into her own life. It’s a fantastic suspense novel, and fantastically written. There are references to the time period left and right, to make sure you as the reader know that the yellow fever epidemic really did leave Philadelphia a shell of what it used to be. Mattie and the city both come out stronger due to the fever, and I really love the ending chapter. That’s what makes it my favorite school-required book that I’ve ever read.