Middle School to Young Adult Books

Theme: People Just Like You?

Hole in My Life - (ISBN: 978-0099475873)

by Jack Gantos

The writer Jack Gantos goes back to his prison time when he wrote his own thoughts between the lines of The Brothers Karamazov. His observations of the harsh realities of prison life read side-by-side with his awakening as a writer. He pulls these observations on life together with his previous journals into book format. Try to imagine another title for this wrenching book.

Life is So Good - (ISBN: 978-0141001685)

by George Dawson

This unique memoir details the life of an African American man who learned to read and write at the age of 98. His observations bring back the world of separation between the races, and his personal recollections reveal a surprising strength of character learned in large part from his father. Which of his experiences surprised you the most?

My Father’s Summers: A Daughter’s Memoir - (ISBN: 0805073620)

by Kathi Appelt

Appelt presents her longings for her absent father in slices of poetry-like pieces, focused on her feelings and memories of times together. She remembers heart-wrenching but vivid details of times past when her father was on assignment in the Arab world or in another city. Try writing a vignette of a memory, using only the choicest words to recreate a scene from your past.

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood - (ISBN: 978-0374357337)

by Ibtisam Barakat

Letters written to herself by a young Palestinian woman reveal the difficulties of her life during the 6-day war with Israel in the 60’s. As she attends school and lives in occupied land, her life presents challenges unknown to most Western children. Readers will come to appreciate her part of the world and her triumphs coping with everyday life in a war zone. What do you have in common with her? What questions would you like to ask her?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - (ISBN: 978-0316013697)

by Sherman Alexie

In this zany, humorous, semi-autobiographical tome, a Native American guy switches from a reservation school to a rich white school with expected consequences. Although he experiences some acceptance in his new setting and makes new friends, his home situation deteriorates, and his educational choice is misunderstood. Think about how humor sometimes disguises real pain such as what the hero of this book experiences.

All Over But the Shoutin’ - (ISBN: 978-0679774020)

by Rick Bragg

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith - (ISBN: 978-0805087215)

by Deborah Heiligman

Zlata’s Diary - (ISBN: 978-0143036876 )

by Zlata Filipovic

Activities for this Theme

If you like using computers, upload photos and have your child narrate them using Voicethread.


Look and listen to stories of many every-day Americans as part of National Public Radio’s Story Corps Collection. Try to think of an interesting person you know whom NPR might like to feature in their collection.


Write some letters or postcards and mail them to yourself when you are away from home. When you return home, collect them in a scrap book and add a few words to the pages.


To start keeping records for your own biography start your own online diary or blog.