Modern Classics for Middle Grades?



Like many libraries we keep lists around the library to help students find books, make selections and generally try to encourage independence with reading choices. One of the lists is a “classics” list for our 4th through 6th graders and it includes titles such as Charlotte’s Web, The Book of Three, The Phantom Tollbooth, James and the Giant Peach, etc… you get the idea.

Over the past few days I’ve been talking with my 6th graders about many of the “classics” and how many of them they have actually read cover to cover, or had read to them. Most of the books listed had at least one or two readers, but very few kids had read more than five or so on the list. It was kind of surprising, but it did lead to a few kids checking out a classic or two, which was gratifying. However, that was not the particularly interesting part of the discussion. I asked them what books would be considered modern classics, phrasing it something along the lines of “what books are you reading now, or have read recently, that you think have staying power, that will end up on ‘classics’ lists in the future?”

This lead to some really great conversation about books and the difference between books they love to read and books they know are really well-written. Some excellent suggestions came up including Holes, Harry Potter, The One and Only Ivan, Wonder, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (!). All great choices. A few kids tentatively threw out ideas such as Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games, both of which got some naysayers from the group saying that while they “were great stories, they weren’t particularly brilliant in the actual writing department”. I tried not to steer the conversation in any way, but I have my own thoughts about some more recent titles and wanted to see where the kids landed. It was a fun and surprisingly thoughtful discussion. And lively! Those kids have some strong opinions.

Anyway, it got me wondering what librarians would put on that list. What would you include, or exclude, and why?