Books in the Middle: Reading for Middle School

Our focus is on books middle school students might like to read and topics pertaining to books for these students, and we are giving recommendations. Teachers, librarians and middle school students are the contributors to this blog. Enjoy!

Wanted by No One May 20, 2019

Filed under: graphic novel,Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 11:46 am

As the war in Syria began in 2011, many thought that the ruler, president Bashar Al-downloadAssad’s government would fall as other muslim countries had in the Arab Spring uprising that had been sweeping the region in North Africa. But many underestimated Assad’s grip on the country and that he would get military and political support from Russia.  As always it is the civilians who are caught up in any war, and in a civil war, as the country divides, it can be doubly so.

After days of rioting by civilians asking for their rights, Assad’s military forces went after Syrians and began a war that is still raging today (in 2019). Executions and massacres became common and many people were scared. At that point, civilians began leaving their homes in the hopes of a chance to get away from the war. At first, people went to Jordan and Lebanon and others went to Turkey.

To make matters worse, Islamic jihadists began to join the fight against Assad and brought with them their own brand of terror as they forced the communities they invaded to adhere to strict Islamic law. The people of Syria felt they were caught between two forces with no end in sight. By this point, millions of people were forced from their homes by violence or the threat of violence.

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian refugees by Don Brown is a stark look at what happens when a country falls into utter chaos and who ultimately always pays the highest price. The book also looks at how a country falling to pieces has a ripple effect on the whole world as others try to help, or turn away, the victims of the war.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


Walking the Walk May 10, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:52 am

Lolly feels like nothing will be right again. His older brother Jermaine was killed – shot- and died a few months ago and Lolly just can’t seem to move beyond it. Now he’s got guys in the neighborhood that are harassing him, his best friend doesn’t understand what he’s going through, and the only peace he seems to feel is when he’s working on his Legos. Lolly feels that he might be teetering on the edge of something, but he isn’t sure just what.

Then his mom’s girlfriend brings him a huge bag of legos for Christmas and Lolly finally has something to concentrate on. He begins to take over the apartment with his Lego city and building them helps him to forget. When his mom says he can no longer build them in the house (or at least all over the apartment) he gets a chance to continue building his city at the after school center that he goes to each day. There, a storage room becomes his special refuge. However, one girl named Rose, who is a strange one, decides that she wants to build too. At first, this drives Lolly crazy, but it soon becomes apparent that Rose is just as talented as he is.

When something happens to Lolly and his best friend, Vega, though Lolly isn’t sure if building his city will be enough to keep the darkness at bay.

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore is a great examination of how events in our lives can begin to take over and consume us, even to shaping our direction and changing the trajectory in sometimes subtle and sometimes profound ways.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


To Get OUT at Any Cost May 7, 2019

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 3:23 pm

downloadCaptured. Probably one of the most dreaded words or events that could befall a World War I soldier or pilot. After all, it meant time away from the war effort, time away from family and the ability to communicate regularly with them, time away from life in general. The waiting and wondering and the petty and overt cruelties suffered by the Allied captured men by the Germans day in and day out, took its tole on the most hardened souls.

The Grand Escape: The greatest prison breakout of the 20th Century by Neal Bascomb describes what life was like for the thousands who were kept behind enemy lines, but he focuses on a few that were kept at a place called Holzminden. This camp was where many of the Allied pilots were housed, and most of them had already tried to escape from other camps. One made it as far as what he thought was neutral Netherlands, only to realize that there was a German town with the same name, just before the border.

At Holzminden, the men were obsessed with escaping. Finally, a group of men decided they were going to try to dig a tunnel out of the camp and get to freedom by walking over 100 miles to the  border with the Netherlands. A man named David Gray was the official ring leader and champion of the endeavor. However, much planning and ingenuity went into the effort. Not only did they have to dig a tunnel under the camp commander’s nose, they had to gather provisions, equipment, special clothes, money, information regarding the surrounding countryside, and many other things including speaking a language that most didn’t know to try to escape. The odds were stacked against them.

This is an amazing book about an amazing adventure and because it is a true story, it makes the results all the more astonishing.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


After the Towers Came Down April 29, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 3:41 pm

Things were rough for Shirin after the Twin Towers fell in New York City. A year later, when her family has moved yet again, things are still very unsettled. In fact, she thinks nothing will ever change. There will always be the whispers, the stares, the outright hostility, so what is the point in even trying to get to know anyone. They always turn out to be a disappointment.

Shirin and her family are muslim – her parents from Iran – and she chooses to wear a hijab. Navid, her older brother, never seems to have any problem making friends and fitting in. Any adversity she and her brother face however is met with a story from their parents about how horrible they had it and how lucky their children are to be in a place of opportunity. Shirin doesn’t see it that way.

So she finds herself once again, starting at a new school – because her parents are always moving, getting better jobs for a better future (not thinking that moving around makes things harder for their children) and this time it is her sophomore year of high school. Shirin plans to behave like always – ignore the world and hope the world will ignore her. Because when the world isn’t ignoring her – it typically isn’t good.

When her lab partner, a guy named Ocean, starts actually talking with her, she isn’t sure why. Ndownloadormally boys don’t talk to her at all, but this guy seems to maybe want to. She doesn’t get it. Then her brother forms a break dancing group and decides they should try to make it into the school talent show and Shirin isn’t sure that she can get up on stage and perform in front of the entire school. With Ocean acting weird and her brother driving her crazy it is little wonder she feels like her world is spiraling out of control. Especially when she discovers the reason Ocean is acting strange is because he likes her.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taheren Mafi is a great look at a person who has walled themselves off to protect themselves from the large and small hurts of the world, only to realize that some of those hurts, aren’t really hurts after all.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Back to the GRISHAVERSE! April 8, 2019

Filed under: Fantasy Books — lpitrakbromiel @ 10:16 am
Tags: , , , , ,

King of Scars.jpg

Leigh Bardugo returns to her magical Grishaverse world in her latest book King of Scars. Fan-favorites Nikolai (aka Sturmhund and King of Scars), Genya (the First Tailor), and Zoya (the Little Witch and the General) are still fiercely loyal to one another and to Ravka as the Triumvirate. They will protect their country and its citizens using any means necessary, but this is becoming increasingly difficult as Ravka is surrounded by enemies. Shu mercenaries have been hired to take out the Triumvirate and kidnap Ravkan Grisha in order to further their twisted experiments with parem. Ketterdam merchants want the monetary debt owed to them from the Ravkan crown. And, as always, Fjerdan druskelle are on the hunt for Grisha, whom they view as abominations instead of as magical beings connected to the making at the center of the world. Meanwhile, Nina Zenik, still heartbroken over the events the occurred at the end of Crooked Kingdom, accepts a mission to infiltrate Fjerdan ranks as a spy. What she finds, however, is a horrible conspiracy involving the druskelle, parem, and the mysterious Springmaidens who are loyal followers of Diel. Lovers of Bardugo’s books will be immediately transported into her intense world full of adventure, magic, bravery, loyalty, and harrowing close calls. Readers who are new to the Grishaverse should begin with Shadow and Bone.


Little Known Disaster

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:43 am

Joana, Florian, Emilia all have something in common. They are all fleeing from memories, ghosts and the advancing Russian army during the last few months of World War II. Joana is traveling with a group of displaced people and while she has some medical experience as a nurse, she can’t stop some of the more horrific things she sees along the way.

Florian is running. He has many secrets and one of them is that he can’t get caught by the downloadNazis. If he is, it will mean certain death for him. Emilia is struggling to stay alive and not get caught by the Russian army. When she and Florian meet by chance, she decides she will follow him no matter where he goes because of a good deed he has done for her.

The path these three souls are on, as well as thousands of others, is captured in stark language in Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Each of the characters in this book is striving and looking for a better tomorrow, without much hope for the eventuality. One blind girl must pass inspection by the Nazis in order to continue on the journey, but anyone with a disability is summarily executed. A little boy wanders out of the forest and says his grandmother won’t wake up. A shoemaker knows that a person’s shoes could mean the difference between life and death.

This book, in addition to highlighting the many Germany civilians who were fleeing at the end of the war, shows how others became refugees during this traumatic time in world history. And it sheds light onto a little known tragedy that occurred in the Baltic Sea as thousands and thousands were trying to flee.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


In the Desert April 3, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 12:32 pm

Wren hates her name. Hates that her family moved to a new house, new town, new state. Hates her new school. Hates to make friends. Do you see a pattern here? Even though she is in 6th grade when they move to the new school, Wren just can’t seem to make friends. Until one day she meets a girl named Meadow in a bathroom and they seem to click. Or do they really? Or is Wren just so happy to have someone, anyone who seems to be paying attention to her. After all, her parents are both too busy with work, her younger brother is always involved in some after school activity and her older sister, Anabella (whom she used to feel close with) is off making her own friends in 8th grade – leaving her little sister behind.

Never mind that Meadow introduces Wren to smoking weed, stealing and some interesting other people that are operating on the wrong side of the law. Even when things with Meadow start to fall apart, Wren can’t seem to pull herself together.

Then, one morning in the middle of 9th grade, Wren gets a rude awakening. She is taken from her home, driven to the airport and put on a plane with a bodyguard. Then she is dropped in the middle of nowhere (after being blindfolded) to be in what feels like an outdoor prison! Wren can’t believe it when she learns her parents have sent her to this horrible place.

Wild Bird by Wendelin VAn Draanen looks at what happens when you hit rock bottom and you don’t like the person you see there. Wren is forced to finally take a moment to just breathe and realize that there are some things that are within her own control.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.