The Middle School Book That Made Me Love Reading: James Ramsey Ullman’s Banner in the Sky

It was a real pleasure to see the library had recently ordered a copy of James Ramsey Ullman's Banner in the Sky because, frankly, I don't know if I'd be working here if it wasn't for that book.

Banner in the Sky is great for kids between 5th and 8th grade to read on their own (although it's also great for reading aloud), but it's especially good for reluctant readers. I know because I used to be one myself. Sure, I'd read books before I came across Banner in the Sky. But this was the first time I really found myself immersed in an author's world and totally invested in a character's journey.

The story centers around the young mountain climber, Rudi Matt, who has spent his life yearning to conquer The Citadel, a colossal mountain overlooking his hometown. The same mountain where his father, the town's greatest and most famous climber, met his tragic end. Since then, Rudi's mother and uncle have done everything they can to dissuade Rudi from following in his father's dangerous footsteps. However, a fateful encounter changes Rudi's life forever and puts him on a collision course with The Citadel. Will he be able to conquer a mountain no one has ever conquered before?

Besides being a timeless adventure story, the reason I always recommend Banner in the Sky is that it's a perfect for kids ready to experience more complex and nuanced books. Rudi isn't a perfect hero - he has to grow up before he has any chance of becoming a serious mountain climber, let alone one that could reach the summit of The Citadel. Nor are the people he meets along the way easily labeled "good" or "bad," including those who stand in Rudi's way. And without spoiling anything, I'll just say that the ending is...actually, I'll just let you find out for yourself.

So if you're a reluctant reader, do yourself a favor and give Banner in the Sky a chance. I guarantee you'll walk away hungry for more great stories. And if you already love to read, well, you should read it, too.