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!

Giants Among Us? August 25, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:08 pm

imgresHe simply needed a new well. At least that is what William Newell told the men that had come on the morning of October 16, 1869 to work for him. He took the men to a specific location and told them that he figured digging down about four or so feet should get them to water. What none of the workers expected was to find what appeared to be a stone man, or maybe even a petrified man. Could this be proof that giants once roamed the earth, as the Bible said? Could this be proof of Giants that the native Onondaga Indian tribe described in their legends?

Or could it actually be one of the most successful hoaxes played on Americans in the 1800s? The Giant: And How He Humbugged America by Jim Murphy looks at a little known, but largely impactful hoax that was imagined and perpetrated by a man named George Hull, along with many accomplices. This Cardiff Giant, as it was later named, captivated the minds of Americans for several months before the truth finally came out.

This is a quick and interesting read about a little known part of American history. Recommended for 6th grade and up.


She Took an Ax, Or did She? August 20, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:42 pm

One of the most looked at, mulled over, and inconclusive murder mysteries in America are the Borden murders of 1892. Two people were brutally murdered, probably by an ax or some other sharp object on the morning of August 4th in the small town of Fall River, Massachusetts.

The body of Andrew Borden was the first discovered, by his daughter, Lizzie. After she called for the maid and others in the area heard her distress and came to see what was going on, his gruesomely hacked head was seen lying on a sofa in the front parlor. It took some time before Abby Borden, Lizzie’s step-mother for most of her life, was found also brutally murdered in an upstairs guest bedroom, half hidden due to the fact she was partially under the bed.

With this double murder, the sleepy town of Fall River woke up, in a big way. The story soon was being carried all over the East coast. Who could have done these horrible deeds? The police soon began to suspect Lizzie, the spinster daughter living at home with her father and step-mother. The eldest daughter, Emma, had been off visiting friends.

imgresThe Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller is a fascinating look at the events of the day of the murders as well as all the things that led to the eventual trial of Lizzie Borden for the murders of her parents.  Many of the myths and stories surrounding Lizzie Borden are delved into by the author and most of them come up empty. Miller looks at the transcripts from the trail, reviewed the newspapers and searched out every lead she could for this book. Having read a book not long ago called Sweet Madness – a fictional account of the murders as told by the maid in the house – I realize that the authors of that book relied heavily on the myths and legends surrounding the case, rather than seeking out the facts. Of course, that can make it much more interesting reading for a fiction book, however, because the Borden case still confounds most who make a study of it, the reality is quite exciting enough for me.

Truly, this is a book that will keep you engrossed from the beginning to the end, and will leave with many more questions. If Lizzie did kill her parents, how on earth did she do it, and if she didn’t, then who did? The world may never know for sure.

Recommended for mature 7th graders and up.


The Last Place on Earth August 18, 2016

Have you ever thought about what you would do if there was a plague in the United States?  Would you run?  Try to escape it?  Just give in?

Daisy and Henry are best friends.  They do everything together and hang out ever51SOWRv9jWL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_y day.  Then one day Henry is gone- just gone.  Daisy goes to Henry’s house to investigate and no one is there, but she finds a note that says, “Save me.”  Daisy convinces her brother to help her follow the clues on a rescue mission into the mountains where everything gets even crazier.  Daisy unknowingly falls into Henry’s biggest secret- a fallout shelter.  Daisy always knew Henry’s family liked camping on weekends, but it turns out they are full out survivalists who have prepared for the end of the world.    People have started getting sick at home and Henry’s mom has decided that THIS is the big one, so they have gone off the grid.

The Last Place on Earth by Carol Snow is a fun novel that takes a different take on the end of the world theme.  Daisy is a sarcastic story teller who the reader really connects with as she describes this alternate life style.  There are a lot of interesting characters, a little bit of romance, and just enough twists and turns to keep the story moving.


Blood Will Tell August 16, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 1:48 pm

Willa knows she should feel lucky. She has a mother and step-father who love her – two step-sisters who she gets along with, and well, a pretty normal life. Except that himgreser step-sisters’ mother has a ton of money and her daughters get the benefit of that, while Willa doesn’t seem to see any of it. Still, things are good right? But how “good” can they be if Willa feels the need sometimes to sneak down into the basement to her secret area where she hides a razor blade and bandages for when things get a little too much for her.

She thinks of that place in the basement one afternoon when she gets home from school. There are four messages from her mom’s best friend, Faye, looking for Willa’s mom. The messages mention a missing twin and a person named Budge. At first, Willa isn’t too concerned but when police show up at her door and tell her that her biological father is wanted in the possible murder of his current wife, and two of his children (siblings Willa didn’t even know she had) things get anything but normal really fast.

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer is a book that will make you want to keep reading until you see where Willa’s families will end up.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Leaking Secrets August 8, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 1:34 pm

When does the duty to your country supersede your duty to your government? Are they theimgres same? For Daniel Ellsberg, growing up after the end of WWII, the threat of Communism was always at the forefront of things. So he decided to pursue a military career and when he got out, wanted to go into how the government makes public policy on things, especially regarding military actions.

Ellsberg ended up working in Washington, D.C. under the Lyndon Johnson administration and learned some things quickly, as the involvement in Vietnam began to gather momentum. He firmly believed that the United States had an obligation to prevent the spread of Communism and if that meant putting boots on the ground in that country, then so be it.

At one point, Ellsberg went to Vietnam just to see what the situation was for himself. He spent two years living in the country, going out with U.S. soldiers and seeing for himself what was happening in the country of Vietnam. After that, he realized that he could no longer support the war as he once had.

Upon his return to the United States however, it wasn’t until some time later, after reading a 7,000 page secret government study detailing the escalation of the conflict and showing how many times things were mishandled by four presidents that Ellsberg realized he could no longer remain silent. He decided to share these top secret 7,000 pages with the press and therefore, the American people.

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin reads in parts like a spy novel or perhaps how NOT to be a spy! What is interesting about this case, is that because of Ellsberg’s actions, and the steps taken to “take him down” a president became embroiled in one of our nation’s biggest scandals- Watergate.

Recommended for any student who is interested in the Vietnam War or wanting to know more about the 1960s, Nixon or Johnson. Fascinating read.


Living in a Pit August 4, 2016

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 8:24 am

imgresNo one knows how or why the new baby boys show up – they just do. Life in the Ikkuma Pit is hard for the boys who are left there to grow up. All the boys have a Little Brother they must care for until they, themselves, are around the age of 16 or so, when they leave the Pit for the greater world. At that point their Little Brother becomes a Big Brother and gets his own abandoned baby boy to raise.

For Urgle, his Little Brother, Cubby, has been a pain since he first showed up. However, as much as Cubby might drive him crazy, what Urgle worries about the most is that he won’t be able to prepare Cubby by teaching him all the skills he needs. Because Urgle’s nickname is Useless. All the other boys view Urgle as pretty much worthless. Urgle doesn’t think he’ll ever have all the skills needed to leave the Pit, let alone be able to train Cubby.

Once day a stranger shows up at the Pit with some creatures behind him. He takes refuge in the Pit and it is soon discovered that he was a former Brother from the Pit. With this man, Blaze’s, arrival, the Brothers become divided. Some think that Blaze should be welcomed back, but Urgle wonders why he has returned when no other Brothers ever have.

In the midst of this, Cubby and another Little Brother are taken by the creatures that were hunting Blaze, and Urgle realizes nothing else matters but to get Cubby back, alive.

The Boys of Fire and Ash by Meaghan McIsaac feels like the start of a new fantasy series with lots of adventure and world building happening in the first book. Where the author will go with it remains to be seen. If it isn’t a start for a series, the reader will be left with an incomplete feeling.

Recommended for grades 7th and up because of the world building aspects of the book which might be confusing to younger readers.


Alone, Together July 31, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 2:17 pm

imgresAfter his father died, Chris felt adrift. Not that he had been terribly close with his father. It always seemed complicated with his dad. Like maybe he was letting him down, but maybe not. Hard to tell. But now it was too late, after all, because his father was dead.

His Uncle Jack thinks that Chris should come with him and take his boat and sail it down from Alaska to Washington. At first Chris’ mom doesn’t like the idea, but then Uncle Jack wins out. Soon Chris finds himself aboard the Puff. However, it isn’t just Chris and his Uncle Jack. There is someone else on board, and his name is Frank. Frank is a boy about three years older than Chris, and Frank has nothing pleasant to say to well, anyone. Chris has no idea who Frank is or why he’s on the boat with them.

Before Chris can find out, he becomes seriously seasick, and the pills his uncle give him send him into the twilight zone. However, at some point he comes to, and realizes that the boat is sinking. Chris barely makes it up to the little life boat where Frank is already sitting before his Uncle Jack races back down for the radio, but the boat is sinking too fast for him to get out. He makes a last frantic effort to save the boys by tossing the radio to Chris, who drops it.

Chris does make it into the life raft with Frank, who seems to not be able to process what is happening to them. After some really scary moments, they make it to a deserted shoreline. However that is just the beginning of their troubles.

Fairly quickly they discover an abandoned shack, however, there is a radio with a dead battery and no way to call for help. Where are they, and just how long can they survive on their own? Frank continues to be incredibly hostile toward Chris, who struggles to understand why. After befriending a raven, who Chris names Thursday, Frank alternates between seeming to be nice and wanting to kill Chris and the raven. Winter is coming and the boys have to decide what their course of action should be.

The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence is one of the best survival books that I’ve read in a long time, and one of the best books I’ve read this summer. It kept me interested from the beginning to the end, and I appreciate that in a book. The dynamics between the boys and the wildlife around them will  keep you on the edge of your seat. If you like adventure and survival stories, don’t miss this one!

Recommended for 6th grade and up.




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