Middle School to Young Adult Books

Theme: Giving to Make a Difference

Be the Change! Change the World. Change Yourself. - (ISBN: 978-1933512006)

by Michelle Nunn Hundreds of Heads, ed.

Based on interviews done with a wide variety of people who have volunteered to help others, this book’s gritty reality appeals to our human instinct to reach out to people in need. Read a few short excerpts every week, and talk with your family about which people’s actions really speak to you.

Staying Fat for Sarah Burns - (ISBN: 978-0060094898)

by Chris Crutcher

Eric, an obese boy, befriends Sarah, a girl with severe disfigurements. They remain friends after he loses a lot of weight and she is confined to a mental hospital. He collects other friends to help Sarah get free, and he learns that things are not always as they seem.

The Book Thief - (ISBN: 978-0375842207)

by Markus Zusac

Liesel steals her first book at a young age, just as she goes to live with a foster family. Although her actions put her in danger, Liesel continues to steal and save books from the enemy in this unusual tale, narrated by Death himself. Liesel shares her books with bomb shelter companions and her dear friends as the Nazis snatch more and more people from their rightful homes. Try reading books together as a family in a time of crisis. Why does this simple act hold people together?

The Cellist of Sarajevo - (ISBN: 1594489866)

by Steven Galloway

In this book suitable for older teens, a professional musician plays his cello in the streets of a Sarajevo under siege, playing each day for over three weeks in remembrance of the twenty-two people killed in the city by a mortar explosion. Each of four main characters crosses the square where the cellist sits and plays, including a man guarding the life of the string player. Another man makes perilous trips to get food and water for his family and his neighbors. All this occurs as snipers control the outskirts of the city, snipers who look down on the valley where the drama of the besieged continues. Talk about times when friends and neighbors pulled together to help, such as during raging storms or after the death of a family member.

The Lost Hero - (ISBN: 978-1423113393)

by Rick Riordan

Jason, Piper, and Leo try to use their semi-supernatural powers, brains, and companionship to remove the evil gods. The self-made heroes battle worldwide and become examples for their grateful peers. If you enjoy fantasy and complicated plotting that moves at a fast pace, try this new series by the author of the Percy Jackson books.

Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet - (ISBN: 978-0811867795)

by Harriet Rohmer

The Chocolate War - (ISBN: 978-0375829871)

by Robert Cormier

The Whale Rider - (ISBN: 978-0143204381)

by Witi Ihimaera

Activities for this Theme

Make a smile book. Get together with your siblings or best friends to do one kind thing a week for someone in your neighborhood or community. Take pictures of the smiles you receive and collect them in a book.


Check out the volunteer opportunities in your community. How can you put your talents to work helping others?


Read about how one teen helped others make a big difference in his community.


Join or organize a service club at your school, and donate your time and talents to help others.


Explore the My Hero website for up to date information on heroes visible today in politics and artistic expressions.


Learn about ways to give back through volunteerism