It’s that time of year again – when new texts for the English booklist need to be chosen. It can be difficult to know where to begin when choosing new books, so we have put together a list of our most popular “class text” titles for lower secondary, along with some new titles that have potential. You will also find links to their associated resources. A list for middle secondary will be available soon.
Do you have a specific question about books for your classroom? Perhaps you have a group of reluctant boys, or students who need to be extended? Ask us and we will answer on the blog.
This is your new home. Forget your past lives. All that remains is to learn how to fight and survive.
Rome, 61 BC
Recruited as a gladiator, young Marcus Cornelius Primus faces a new life of brutal training, governed by strict rules, as he learns the skills of an elite warrior.
But Marcus cannot simply forget his past. His father lies murdered by soldiers and his mother has been kidnapped and forced into slavery. Marcus is determined to find his father’s old commander, Pompeius the Great, to seek justice for his family and set his mother free.
Yet, unbeknown to him, Marcus is hiding a life-threatening secret. And if the Romans discover it, there will be no escape…
Recommended for: lower secondary, reluctant readers, great for boys.
Themes: AncientRome, slavery, fear, family, secrets and lies, violence, hope.
www.gladiatorbooks.co.uk for teachers’ notes and resources.
As the Scout sails fromEngland, Kit Lovell cries for the life she is leaving and the life she could have had. Her father was a sea captain who went down with his ship before she was born. Now her mother is to marry a stranger, a lighthouse keeper in the remote colony of South Australia.
But it soon becomes clear to Kit that this voyage across the world’s vast oceans is setting something loose inside her, something she doesn’t understand. Her secret encounters with Angel, a mysterious young sailor, seem at one moment completely bewildering and at another crystal clear. And her friendship with the bold and brash young Clarissa is opening her eyes in ways she never thought possible.
Yet Kit’s internal turmoil is nothing compared to the power of the sea in all its moods as the Scout’s melting pot of passengers and crew sail into an adventure that will change all their lives forever.
Themes: society, bravery, hope, danger, family, choices and consequences, journeys, family secrets, wealth, Australian history, migration.
Recommended for: lower to middle secondary, girls, class text.
The Life of a Teenage Bodysnatcher
Thomas Timewell is sixteen and a gentleman. When he meets a body-snatcher called Plenitude, his whole life changes. He is pursued by cutthroats, a gypsy with a meat cleaver, and even the Grim Reaper. More disturbing still, Thomas has to spend an evening with the worst novelist in the world.
A very black comedy set inEnglandin 1828, The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher shows what terrible events can occur when you try to do the right thing. ‘Never a good idea,’ as Thomas’s mother would say.
Recommended for: lower to middle secondary, boys and girls, literature circles, wide reading.
Themes: humour, 19th century, class structure, behaviour, family secrets, honouring the dead, love, friendship.
Albert (Lengy) Lengviriyakul, is fed up with being Thai. His parents own a Thai restaurant with the cheesy name of Thai-riffic! and Lengy is sick of being his father’s curry guinea pig, longing to just eat pizza! At school he is a bit of a troublemaker, going to any lengths to hide his background. But when his best friend decides to become Thai for a day for a school project, Lengy stubbornly comes to the realisation that there may just be some pretty cool things about his culture.
Themes: fitting in, culture, family heritage, life outside school, friendship, diversity.
Recommended for: lower secondary, class text, reluctant and low level readers.
Abel Jackson has lived by the sea at LongboatBayever since he could remember. He helps his mother each day and loves to dive. One day he meets Blueback, the biggest and most beautiful fish he’s ever seen.
When Abel’s mother is approached by developers she decides she must do something to protect their fragile piece of coastline, But can Abel and his mother save Blueback andLongboatBay in time?
Themes: family, conservation, growing up, the sea, journeys, mother-son relationships.
Recommended for: lower secondary, low level students in middle secondary, class text.
Dancing in the Dark
He tossed her into the air as if she were weightless, and just for a moment she seemed suspended there, defying gravity. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I knew what she was feeling. It was in every movement of every limb.
Here was a power I had never seen before, a kind of haunting loveliness I had never imagined. Seeing it made me long for something, I didn’t know what . . .
Ditty was born to dance, but she was also born Jewish. When her strictly religious parents won’t let her take ballet lessons, Ditty starts to dance in secret. But for how long can she keep her two worlds apart? And at what cost?
A dramatic and moving story about a girl who follows her dream, and finds herself questioning everything she believes in.
Themes: Judaism, living within a closed community, secrets and lies, religion vs secularism, family, friendship, parent-child relationships.
Recommended for: lower secondary, low level middle secondary students, great for girls, class text.
‘It was fun at first, playing house. Nothing to think about but TV and cheese. A perfect world.’
She’s determined to hide away and take care of herself, because facing the truth is too much to bear.
‘I couldn’t let anyone know that I was alone. I was staying right here.’
But with the love of her grandmother and the letters she writes, can Aubrey begin to see that even though she’s lost everything – all is not lost?
Themes of: grief, love, loss of a family member, forgiveness, hope.
Recommended for: lower secondary, great for girls, class text.