7-8 grades

Teacher Guide: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Johnny Tremain, a talented young silversmith, must learn humility when an injury to his hand forces him to leave his apprenticeship; in his new job delivering messages for the Boston Revolutionaries, he begins to learn that some things are more important than success. 

Teacher Guide: Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Living in a community of fierce fishermen on the island of Hikueru, young Mafatu struggles against a crippling fear of the sea. Though his name marks him as “Stout Heart,” his tribe has labeled him “The Boy Who Was Afraid” and shunned him for his cowardice. Determined to earn his father’s approval and to conquer this disability, Mafatu embarks on a dangerous trip into the heart of the sea to prove his courage.

Teacher Guide: At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

[Originally published in Ready Readers: Middle School Literature, Vol. 1]

A classic of juvenile literature from the author that inspired CS Lewis, At the Back of the North Wind is a fairy tale of the best kind.  Here myth and mystery conspire to deepen our understanding of reality, to animate it again with imagination. Though it remains as approachable and engaging as the purest fairy tale, this story is rich with insight into the most enduring human questions.  MacDonald leads the reader effortlessly into contemplation of the nature of God, the problem of evil, and the reality of the spiritual world.  MacDonald’s generous use of a host of literary devices will bountifully reward the Lit teacher looking for object lessons and examples. We have read this story with students as young as ten years old, though its most stirring themes (Childlike Faith, The Goodness of Providence) are probably best handled by students in junior high or above.  Perfectly appropriate for high school or adult reading groups as well.

Teacher Guide: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

[Originally published in Ready Readers: Middle School Literature, Vol. 1]

The original pirate story, and still the best!  Stevenson's classic tale of swashbuckling adventure set the standard for everything that followed, and your students will never regret joining Jim Hawkins and his mates in the search for Skeleton Island. Stevenson's clear themes of loyalty, deception and growing up make for a discussion that's accessible for younger students and teachers alike.

Teacher Guide: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

[Originally published in Ready Readers: Middle School Literature, Vol. 1]

J.R.R.Tolkien’s engrossing tale of Bilbo Baggins and his quest through Middle Earth is a rare literary phenomenon:  a book that has achieved true classic status less than a century after its publication.  But classic it is, by any definition of the term.  Bilbo’s journey from the safety of the Shire to unknown terrors under the Lonely Mountain captivates young readers whileexploring dozens of universal themes.   Fear and courage, greed and selflessness, pride and humility – all these ideas and more find eloquent treatment in Tolkien’s lyrical prose.  In the grand tradition of the Iliad, Hamlet, Great Expectations and Huckleberry Finn, The Hobbit presents a hero with whom all readers can identify. 

Teacher Guide: Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen

[Originally published in Ready Readers: Middle School Literature, Vol. 1]

This delightful tale of hope and healing won the Newbery medal in 1957.  It tells the story of 10 year old Marly, whose family moves to the country in search of a new start.  Marly's father, an ex-POW, has suffered deep emotional wounds at the hands of a heartless society and she hopes the new surroundings will provide a balm for his soul.  What she finds in the societyof Maple Hill is an answer to her prayers in more ways than one. This story provides a great opportunity to address themes like loss and redemption, mortality and resurrection and the healing power of relationships. 

Teacher Guide: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

When Winnie Foster tires of her life in the Touch-me-not Cottage, she runs away into Tree Gap Wood. There she discovers two mysteries: a secret spring that gives eternal life to all who drink from it and the Tuck family, who claim to have experienced the magic first hand. In an effort to protect both Winnie and the world from the powerful and dangerous water, the Tucks kidnap Winnie, who must decide what to believe.

Teacher Guide: The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings

In the “scrub” woods of central Florida, just south of Gainesville, Jody Baxter and his parents struggle to survive in a hostile wilderness. Jody’s father, Penny, has carved a little haven out of the marshland. Aptly named “Baxter’s Island,” their little home is perched precariously but offers Jody a sense of security. Yet for all that, Jody struggles with loneliness. Caught between childhood and manhood, Jody struggles to mature.