If you're looking for a great book for a Grade 8 student, look no further. Alexandria of Africa is a perfect book for introducing compare and contrast essays. It compares the concept of wanting versus needing and poverty versus wealth. It compares the injustices of Ruth's world to the 'injustices' in Alexandria's. It also introduces pre-teens to socially and politically challenging topics.
Brief synopsis: Alexandria lives in Beverly Hills, California and has everything she could ever dream of. Much like her friends, she is a spoiled only child who gets everything she asks for. After she is caught shoplifting (for the second time), the judge is less than sympathetic. Her options are juvenile detention or therapy, of sorts. Before she knows what's going on, she is whisked off on a plane to Kenya to help build a school with an international charity. During the course of the novel, Alexandria comes to many personal realizations, as well as realizations about the world outside of her own.
My notes: The student I assigned this to LOVED this book. She read it really quickly and thoroughly enjoyed the story. During our session we completed a literary analysis table. Together we studied the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and discussed which rights the Maasai children had, but were being violated. We also compared needs versus wants, making a list of things that were necessary for survival.
The sequel, Beverly Hills Maasai, is next on the list.