To a point, they're right. Their development and needs are different than younger kids, but they're also different than teens, so what works for them won't work for other groups. The humor and sarcasm that works with teens won't work with a lot of tweens, and the smoothing that you do with younger kids won't work with them either. Their reading habits differ as well- they need to be pushed into that world of inbetween books (whether you have it as junior high or juvenile or tween or chapter books) before they jump from picture to teen books. This is the time where a lot of kids will loose that love of reading- often times because they struggle in making the transition from picture book to "grown up", and don't have the encouragement.
So what do you do? I like pulling my hybrid books- those books that still have the graphics and illustrations throughout the book to keep their interest, but have the story and characters that build depth and encourage their thought process and critical thinking. While they're a relatively new genre (think Captain Underpants), they're still mostly found under juvenile fiction, and can get lost between copies of Wonder, The Giver, and Mark of Athena.
I've pulled together the TOP TEN books that my "tweens" are DEVOURING that have a twist- they're books, but are illustrated or graphic novels without delving into the world of manga. And they can easily be turned into a book program- take leftover notebooks or journals and have them create their own illustrated journals. Have an origami program and create characters from the books. Draw yourself in the style of the books and see who has the best character!
If you know of titles that fit but didn't make the list, share in the comments below!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. I cannot keep these on the shelves, in English or in Spanish. They are constantly moving, and the request list is always long. And with the movies continuing to be popular, I don't think my list is leaving any time soon.
Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke. Zita is a kick-butt heroine who doesn't blink when her best friend is abducted by aliens. So far there are two books in the series, but I'm hopeful more are on the way.
Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell. My tween girls are IN LOVE with these books- these are Nikki's diaries as she goes through moving to a new school fighting for an iPhone with her mom, and other 8th grade struggles.
The Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger. Tying into the popularity of the Star Wars franchise, Angleberger puts these characters into tweens mindsets and humorous situations, and gives instructions for how to create the origami versions both in the back of the books and on his website.
NERDS series by Michael Buckley. The unpopular 5th graders aren't what they seem- they're actually running a secret spy ring within the school itself. Transforming themselves into amazing super spy heroes, the outcomes are hilarious and keep my tweens laughing.
Bone series by Jeff Smith. First published in 2005, New York Times Bestseller, still extremely popular. Just fair warning, however, that there may be "inappropriate subjects" (smoking and other issues do appear throughout the books)
Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel. This one actually surprised me, because I hadn't had anyone asking for the books, but they've really been asking for the graphic novel. I think it's great, and I've actually been able to turn some of the graphic novel readers into series readers while waiting for the read of the graphic novels to come out. And it doesn't help that I have the author's page bookmarked where he does all eight books in eight minutes...
Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Babymouse can skew young, but my tweens can't get enough. The schoolhouse drama between Babymouse and her nemesis Felicia Furrypaws goes on and on and on, and the adventures seem endless!
Lunch Lady series by Jarrell J. Krosoczka. Taking her Breakfast Brunch through a series of ongoing adventures is the brave Lunch Lady, fighting with weapons like the spatu-copter, the spork phone, GPS gum, ziti microscopes, and carrot thumb drives. Like Babymouse, this series does skew on the younger side.
Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon. Danny is unique, the only dragon, and is constantly getting into situations eerily similar to the ones that tweens face (having to watch a younger sibling and things go wrong, being bullied, etc.) The humor laced throughout the books, as well as the as-is-well endings, gives this series' off beat humor a home in tweens' hearts.
What are your tweens reading?