Middle School to Young Adult Books

Theme: Real People: True stories of the famous and not so famous

Hank Aaron and the Home Run That Changed America - (ISBN: 0060722908)

by Tom Stanton

Not only did Hank Aaron hit 715 home runs and break Babe Ruth’s record, he also excelled in playing more games, being at-bat the most, knocking in more runs, getting more total bases, and knocking everyone out with his many extra-base hits. Aaron’s effect on game watchers was great too, encouraging fewer to just listen to the game on the radio and more to come to the stadium. Of course, his promotion of the African American player was beyond imagining.

Something out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium - (ISBN: 978-0374380366)

by Carla Killough McClafferty

Although Marie Curie is remembered for her persistence in refining and using radium and her subsequent death from exposure to it, she also piloted using portable x-ray machines for soldiers hit on the battlefield. Always maintaining her focus on her research, she failed to patent the uses of radioactivity; the world’s views of the use of radium changed, and she died a horrible death from its effects. Make a timeline showing the significant events of her living days and her dying. Use a tool such as <a href="/http://www.timetoast.com/">TimeToast</a> .

The Burn Journals - (ISBN: 978-1400096428)

by Brent Runyon

After Runyon tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire after a day at high school, his long recovery causes him to look back at his motives and illness. This journal details the year he spent recovering from the burns that covered 85 percent of his body. What questions would you like to ask Brent about his thoughts today?

The Soloist - (ISBN: 978-0425238363)

by Steve Lopez

Lopez becomes curious after he hears startlingly beautiful music coming from the violin of a street musician, obviously homeless. His discovery that Nathaniel had been a student at Julliard leads him to enlist help for his lost training, his schizophrenia, and his being an African-American musician among typically classically trained whites. Follow along with Lopez’ struggle and many challenges to give assistance to this talented man.

Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo - (ISBN: 978-0756968199)

by Zlata Filipovic

Zlata began her diary before the devastating war in her country changed everything for her. Throughout her memoir, as things got worse, she details the vast shortages of everything, the daily bombings and sniper attacks, and her own adolescence. Compare this account to that of Anne Frank in "The Diary of a Young Girl."

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier - (ISBN: 978-0374531263)

by Ishmael Beah

Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon - (ISBN: 978-0520271180)

by Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa

The Jump: Sebastian Telfair and the High Stakes Business of High School Ball - (ISBN: 978-1594864476)

by Ian O’Connor

Activities for this Theme

Create a family tree for your immediate family, adding graphics and pictures to create interest.


For an upcoming family birthday party, make a “This is Your Life” show. Collect photos and items of interest that are important to the person who is celebrating the birthday.


Listen to some stories of real but ordinary American people at Story Corps. Encourage family members with interesting stories to tell to record their stories there too!!!


Read two biographies or articles about the same person. Make a Venn diagram to indicate what qualities both books point out. In outside parts of the diagram, show what qualities each book describes differently.


For an upcoming family birthday party, make a “This is Your Life” show. Collect photos and items of interest that are important to the person who is celebrating the birthday.


With a group of your friends, have each write a 6-word description of your life so far. See examples below.


Take old family photos and arrange them in chronological order. Add captions and you have a photo-biography! Use an online scrapbooking tool to share your biography.


Write a pretend obituary for one of your favorite people. What highlights would you include?