Stay At Home Family Book Club Picks

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Stay At Home Family Book Club Picks

Great Books for the Whole Family to Read & Discuss During Self-Quarantine

Being cooped up at home with your family 24/7 can be stressful, no matter how much you love them. Everyone needs entertainment and intellectual stimulation, and a bit of quiet time to themselves. During this self-quarantine period, it can be hard to find enough of the first two, and any of the third. So I’ve put together this list of 10 excellent middle grade books that the entire family can read and discuss. If you're seeking something that is educational, quiet, and promotes family bonding, then look no further!

All the books on this list had to meet four simple criteria:
  • Be appropriate for kids ages 8 and up
  • Be interesting enough to hold the attention of teens and adults
  • Provide families with plenty to discuss after reading
  • Be available in digital format through DC Public Library
Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin
When Della’s mama starts showing signs of the schizophrenia that previously left her in the hospital for months, Della knows she needs to find a way to fix her. All she needs is the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has been fixing things for the women of her small North Carolina town for generations. However, the Bee Lady doesn’t think her honey will help mama the way Della needs it to, and she thinks Della’s heart needs healing more than mama’s brain. This book might make you cry, but it ends on an uplifting note about family and love.

Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank
Armstrong isn’t looking forward to starting the 6th grade, now that he’ll have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to be bused into the all-white school now being desegregated in 1970s Los Angeles. And Charlie isn’t looking forward to 6th grade either, because once he finishes it he’ll be older than his older brother ever got to be. When the two boys are assigned to sit next to each other in class, what starts as a rivalry turns into a deep friendship. This book uses a healthy dose of humor to discuss a difficult time in US history.

Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter
Flora and her brother have lived in so many foster homes that they don’t remember where they came from. For Flora, that means she doesn’t believe she was ever born, and she can’t believe her new adoptive home is forever. With the help of her teacher, Flora’s new mother takes her and Julian on a journey to discover their history, in order to help build their future. Though the premise might seem a bit odd, this is an incredibly moving book.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
The ARTT Room provides six middle-schoolers with “A Room to Talk” about their lives, without any adults listening in. It’s a safe space to discuss one father’s deportation, and another’s incarceration, as well as fears of racial profiling, being the odd one out, and all the other difficulties in these students’ lives. And while talking about it doesn’t magically make any of these problems go away, it does make them easier to face. Woodson writes books for kids, teens, and adults, and this book shows why her many, many accolades are well deserved.

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya
Being six feet tall in the eighth grade makes students and teachers alike consider Marcus Vega both a threat and a target. But Marcus is a devoted older brother, and a loving son, trying his best to contribute to a family that is struggling ten years after his father walked out. When Marcus is suspended from school after a fight, his mother decides to take the whole family to Puerto Rico for a week to see their extended family and regroup. For Marcus, this is the perfect chance to find his elusive father. But as the search takes him all over the island, Marcus gets to see many other faces of fatherhood.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
Candice Miller isn’t excited to be stuck in Lambert, South Carolina, the town her grandmother left years ago in a cloud of shame. But then she finds a mysterious letter about a decades-old injustice and a puzzle her grandmother failed to solve. With the help of her neighbor Brandon, Candice sets out to solve the mystery, which brings the duo face to face with Lambert’s ugly past. This is a great pick for any child or adult who loved The Westing Game. We also have this title as an audiobook.

We Will Not be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman
If you’re looking for non-fiction, Freedman’s book tells the story of the siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, whose White Rose student campaign actively opposed Hitler and the Nazis. Though they risked execution for their actions, the White Rose member secretly distributed leaflets urging Germans to defy the Nazis. This book uses old photos and documents to bring to life the story of the White Rose in a way that is immersive and gripping.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
Every year a boat arrives at the island to drop off a new young child, and to take away the oldest of its 9 child occupants. Aside from that, the island provides the children with an ideal life, including food, shelter, and enough adventure to keep them entertained. But when Jinny refuses to leave the island during her Changing, everything changes. Can she find a way to fix it without leaving the only home she remembers?

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake
After two years cooped up at home waiting for a new heart, Sunny St. James is finally ready to start her “New Life Plan.” But the reappearance of her estranged mother complicates things, as does a new friendship, and some old secrets. But Sunny’s new heart is up for the challenge, even if it breaks a little in the process. Note: I cried while reading this one.

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
In the early 1800s, Martha’s Vineyard was home to a thriving community, going back over a hundred years. Nearly everyone on the island could communicate in sign language, regardless of their hearing. When a young scientist arrives on the island to discover the origin of its widespread deafness, he turns Mary into a “live specimen” in a horrible experiment that she must battle to free herself from. To learn more about the Deaf community on Martha's Vineyard, check out this episode, from the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast.