Upper Elementary to Middle School Books

Theme: Physical Challenges

A Face First - (ISBN: 978-0142302477)

by Priscilla Cummings

Kelley retreats into herself after an accident leaves her severely burned and disfigured. Unable to even recall what happened to her, Kelley suffers physically from the burn treatments and emotionally from her thoughts that her mother may have caused the fire. Although her return to communication is halting, the many people who care for Kelley push her toward normalcy.

After Ever After - (ISBN: 978-0439837064)

by Jordan Sonnenblick

Five-year-old Jeffrey Alper survives chemo for leukemia but is left with temporary and permanent side effects. Fast forward to his eighth grade year when he faces the difficulties of his brother’s choices, learning how to accommodate a girlfriend, and watching a cancer-survivor buddy act like a confused teen. What kind of personal qualities do you see in Jeff that help him to triumph over difficulties?

Firegirl - (ISBN: 978-0316011709)

by Tony Abbott

Tom tries to hide his overweight body and avoid the cruel taunts of his classmates, but he meets a girl severely disfigured by burn injuries who cannot escape how she looks. Although she is only at his school for a short time, Tom begins to see her as more like other girls than different. When other students ignore the burned girl, Tom senses a kinship between the two of them and tries to help. What other difficulties of middle and high school life have solutions through friendships?

The Skin I’m In - (ISBN: 978-1423103851)

by Sharon Flake

Maleeka finds an answer to her problems when an African American teacher with a large white birthmark comes to work at her school. Finally, the relentless teasing she experiences about her own dark skin, her lack of fashion, and her braininess find an outlet as she begins to write, guided by the new teacher. Think and/or write about that special teacher or other youth leader who has made a big difference for you.

What Katy Did - (ISBN: 978-1421913933)

by Susan Coolidge

After Katy falls from a swing, she seems to lose focus on her goals. As she recovers, she uses her cousin Helen as a model. Helen’s sense of humor and enthusiasm help Katy regain her equilibrium. Have you ever had a friend you wished to emulate?

Holes - (ISBN: 978-0374332662)

by Louis Sachar

Skellig - (ISBN: 978-0385326537)

by David Almond

The Amazing Secret - (ISBN: 978-1581341973)

by Joni Tada

Tree By Leaf - (ISBN: 978-0689835278)

by Cynthia Voight

Activities for this Theme

Visit an elderly friend or relative, and ask to look through their picture albums together.


Make a list of things you can do to help when someone in your family gets sick. Make “promise squares” or pledges to help based on your list, and give them to your parents or siblings for future use when they are not feeling great.


Make some chicken soup for a sick friend