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Best Bridge Books of 2012

It seems only fitting on the last day of 2012 to post about the best Bridge books that I have read in 2012. The intent of the blog is to help classroom educators figure out which books best lend themselves to use in the English Language Arts classroom, as pairings with classical canonical novels, and in other disciplines. So, what better way to close out the year than by picking a few of my favorites that lend themselves to easy use in middle and high school classrooms. By no means have I read all the MG and YA books that have come out this year and neither were were the books mentioned here all published in 2012.  I would love to hear suggestions for other books that were published this year or that you have read this year that would also work well in the classroom. Without further ado, here is my list in a thematic order.

  • BOOKS THAT TEACH COMPASSION AND KINDNESS – Two of the best books I read this year were Wonder by R.J. Palacio and The One and Only Ivanby Katherine Applegate. If there’s one thing that most middle grade and high school teachers would agree on, it’s that adolescents need a healthy dose of compassion and reality in their lives. These students seem so self-centered and all of their very minor and sometimes petty problems seem so big to them. These books help bring perspective to that mindset and teach students that kindness and compassion are sometimes the only things that can overcome what seem like insurmountable odds.
  • BOOKS THAT CROSS DISCIPLINES – Across the Universe by Beth Revis and BZRK by Michael Grant offer so many cross-curricular teaching opportunities. While a Language Arts teacher can certainly focus on literary themes and motifs, of which there are plenty in both texts, there are myriad applications for science and mathematics. Researching the science behind both of these science fiction books would be incredibly enlightening and encompass quite a few sub-disciplines within the science family. There are also computations to be done in relation to time and space travel in Revis’s novel as well as size and distance calculations for the nanobots in Grant’s novel.
  • BOOKS THAT FEED NEW READERS – YA writers and their works come under constant attack for lack of “good writing”. To read a much better well-written discussion than any rant I could provide (with which I whole-heartedly agree), read Sarah Rees Brennan’s Rants About Rants About YA. The fact remains that all readers, YA or not, enjoy a variety of texts. No one wants to read easy, simplistic literature all the time whereas constant ingestion of existential and complex books would wear readers out. So, after reading what I like to term “Gateway Books” which are usually series like Twilight, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or Pretty Little Liars, developing readers need better writers and richer texts to continue developing once they’ve caught the reading bug. I like to send these kids to other series so they don’t read one more complex title/author and then have nowhere to go. Some of the best titles I’ve read this year are Cinder by Marissa Meyer,  Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, or The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer. All of these authors continue with the themes and humor that engage young readers while infusing their stories with character and plot complexity that will challenge and develop these budding readers.
  • BOOKS THAT PROMOTE VISUAL LITERACY AND INFERENCING – Graphic novels and books that use multi-modal text to engage readers are becoming more and more common in the YA consumer base. Some of the best visually engaging books that I read this year are Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick and Why We Broke Up Daniel Handler. The text paired with the illustrations make readers infer connections and connotations that are not explicitly discussed in the text. In addition, the artwork is just beautiful.
  • NONFICTION BOOKS THAT INSPIRE – I don’t read enough nonfiction. This is one of my weaknesses and I know it. But two that I read that were FANTASTIC and made me want to read more nonfiction were The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf and How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg. Both books made me want to do more research and read more about the subjects of the writing. In addition, both books are extremely well-written and engaging with emotion, humor, and intelligence. These titles are perfect for reluctant nonfiction readers like me.

Lastly I’d like to leave you with the book that made the most impact on me as a reader and teacher this past year. Once again, I have to go back to Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I’ve already posted it about it here on the blog twice and I recommend it to everyone who asks me for a good book suggestion. Once again, I must say that Wein is a master craftsman and I am indebted to her for her gifts of Queenie and Maddie. And with that, I anxiously await all that is to come from Wein, Clare, and others in 2013.

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