All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Helping Hands — Stories About Giving

Most kids really do want to be helpful and the transformative experience of helping others is a common theme in young adult fiction. Here's a selection of titles that focus on the altruism of fictional characters who, by giving of themselves and helping others, help themselves as well.

Dream Freedom

Dream Freedom

Age Level: 9-12

Dream Freedom is based on a real-life teacher and her students who worked to make a difference in the lives of Dinka slaves in modern day Africa. After reading a newspaper article to her class about atrocities in Sudan, Miss Hazel’s class wants to help. Their research uncovers a way to buy back slaves and the students work to raise money to purchase liberty for as many slaves as they can and to educate others about human rights and freedoms.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Age Level: 16-18

This novel is told mostly through a collection of short stories that feature the interactions of Eliot Rosewater, the primary trustee of the philanthropic Rosewater Foundation, and the people of Rosewater County, Indiana. Eliot, a drunk and a volunteer firefighter, has decided to actually give money to the needy, an action which calls into question his sanity by his family and their legal counsel.

Freak the Mighty

Freak the Mighty

Age Level: 9-12

They say opposites attract. That is very true in the case of Max and Kevin. Max, a self-described "butthead goon," is an extra large eighth grader labeled learning disabled. Kevin, known as Freak, is highly intelligent and suffers from a rare dwarfism syndrome. Literally put the two together — Freak rides on Max's shoulders — and you've got Freak the Mighty, brawn and brains out for adventure, fighting the good fight for good causes.

The Midnight Charter

The Midnight Charter

Age Level: 9-12

In this first of a series fantasy, there is no money-all transactions are bartered and anything can be traded, including people. Two children (children are possessions until their 12th birthday), Lily and Mark, cross paths when they both find themselves in the service of an astrologer, but they each have other plans: Mark outsmarts his master and learns how to thrive in barter system; Lily chooses to strike out on her own in an unheard of direction-she starts a charity.

How to Build a House

How to Build a House

Age Level: 14-16

Harper Evans wants to help. She's always been passionate about the planet, but also desires to help people who live on it. So when her father suggests she spend the summer with Homes from the Heart, she jumps at the chance to help build a new house for a family in a Tennessee community devastated by a tornado. She feels a little guilty though because it's not just an opportunity for her to help; it's her chance to run away from her dad's divorce, stepsister's hostility and her boyfriend situation.

Graceling

Graceling

Age Level: 14-16

In Katsa's world, those with a Grace, or special talent, such as singing or storytelling, are marked by eyes that are different colors. Katsa's Grace is killing, which she has tempered to fighting and been put to use by her manipulative uncle, one of the kings of the seven kingdoms, to torture people. Katsa despises her uncle and being forced to hurt people so she moonlights as a rescuer as part of a secret council she's formed to promote fairness and honesty over cruelty and abuses of power.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place

Age Level: 9-12

Margaret Rose Kane loves her uncles, their house and their garden, but holds especially dear the magnificent artistic towers that they've built and added to over the past forty years. After her Uncle Alex rescues her from summer camp and her cruel cabin mates, Margaret Rose discovers even crueler forces at work-the city council has ordered the demolition of the towers. Growing used to the idea of standing up for herself and what she believes in, Margaret Rose launches a plan to save the towers and art for art's sake.

Schooled

Schooled

Age Level: 9-12

Cap (short for Capricorn) Anderson is at a bit of a cultural disadvantage when he arrives at Claverage (aka C average) Middle School. He's been raised, homeschooled, and protected by his grandmother Rain at an isolated and deserted 1960s farm commune. But when Rain is hospitalized, Cap is sent to live in civilization (with his social worker) and to public school. At school, his innocence exposed to all the corruption Rain has been protecting from, Cap's flower power starts to blossom in others.

Hoot

Hoot

Age Level: 9-12

Mother Paula's newest (#469) All American Pancake House is about to be built in Coconut Grove, Florida, on a site where a colony of endangered burrowing owls live. Mullet Fingers, who has been quietly committing acts of sabotage at the construction site to save the owls, is befriended by Roy Eberhardt, the quiet, new kid in town. Together with Mullet's stepsister Beatrice, the three make it their mission to expose the restaurant company's wrongdoing.

Weeping Under This Same Moon

Weeping Under This Same Moon

Age Level: 14-16

Based on a true story, Weeping Under This Same Moon alternates between the different perspectives of Hannah, an American teen who feels herself at odds with her family and the world, and Mei, a young artist of Chinese origin forced to flee ethnic and political persecution in Vietnam. Hannah, passionate about saving the whales and the environment, turns her energy to helping refugees after learning about the plight of the "Boat People." Their stories come together as Hannah and Mei become friends and help each other heal and hope.

Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies

Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies

Age Level: 9-12

Even though she's a little on the small side, Termite can take care of herself-and has been through twelve foster homes. Her newest "home" in Forest Glen, California, is home to many other foster kids. As logging operations there have been suspended due to the discovery of a rare owl, many logging families have taken in foster kids to help ends meet. After coming to appreciate the beauty of the forest and getting attached to a giant redwood, Termite finds herself between those whose lives depend on trees and those who live to protect the trees and the wildlife that depends on them.

Hope Was Here

Hope Was Here

Age Level: 14-16

When 16-year-old Hope and the aunt who has raised her move from Brooklyn to Mulhoney, Wisconsin, to work as waitress and cook in the Welcome Stairways diner, they become involved with the diner owner's political campaign to oust the town's corrupt mayor. (from Penguin.com)

Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion

Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion

Age Level: 9-12

Trixie's summer is boring until she meets the new girl who moves into the area. Together Honey and Trixie meet a runaway boy and help him solve the mystery of his eccentric uncle. The first in a series of mysteries written more than 50 years ago has been reissued and reflects a less cynical era.