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!

A Life She Doesn’t Want February 18, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 3:49 pm

download-1.jpgMattie is struggling to see how she can find a way out of her life. Her mother is gone, leaving her as the “mother” figure in the house with an angry father, and an absent brother. Mattie longs to leave her humble home and go to the big city…New York City to be exact. But the year is 1906, and young women living by themselves anywhere, let alone a big city is still fairly new, and Mattie’s father wants no part of it. Mattie is desperate to earn money of her own so she can have some choices.

She finally convinces her father to let her work at a nearby hotel for the summer, the Glenmore, where she meets a young woman named Grace Brown. Over a few days, Mattie comes to realize that Grace isn’t on a happy vacation with her young man, but rather seems distraught about something. When Grace gives Mattie a packet of letters and asks her to burn them, Mattie isn’t sure what to think.

But then Grace and her beau turn up missing – on a calm lake after going for a boat ride. Only Grace’s body is recovered and after Mattie begins reading Grace’s letter to her beau, she begins to suspect that the young man wasn’t as committed to Grace as appearances would have others believe.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly show just how limited women and girls lives were at the turn of the century, and how everything they wanted became a fight. Mattie has to reach inside herself for the strength to let go so she doesn’t meet the same fate as Grace, or remain trapped in her beginnings with her family.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.

If you’d like to listen to a podcast of this book (and others), click here.


Mass Exodus January 31, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:44 am

Nisha and Amil are turning twelve. The twelfth year without their mother. She died giving birth to them. So Nisha has no memory of her – only what she has gleaned from her reticent father over the years, and stories that come out once in a while from their cook, Kazi, who was working for her parents when they were born. The year is 1947, and for Nisha the only big thing happening is she is getting older. But the world around them has other plans. Nisha lives in India and the British are about to turn over the country to the people for them to govern themselves after years of being under colonial control. What Nisha doesn’t realize is that this means her entire life is about to change.

Many different religious groups made up India in 1947 (and today), including three large ones – Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Nisha’s mother was muslim and her father is Hindu, and they had what was called a mixed marriage. However, the politicians have decided that the new India will actually be split into two countries. Nisha’s family, because her father is Hindu, now find themselves living in what will become the Muslim state of Pakistan. Nisha wonders why they can’t just stay where they are. Who cares if their father is Hindu? He’s a respected doctor in the town and they have friends who are Muslim, including their own dear Kazi. And doesn’t the fact that their mother was Muslim make them part Muslim too? It is all very confusing to Nisha. But then acts of violence start being reported between Muslims and Hindus and their father decides they can no longer stay. Secretly they begin planning to leave and head south.

Nisha has no idea the struggles that lie ahead as she and her father, brother and grandmother head off to begin their long and arduous journey to a new home. The walk is filled with danger along the way and the likelihood of all of them surviving the trek becomes slim.

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani is a quick and powerful tale of a young girl, still struggling with the loss of her mother, and trying to understand the new world she finds herself growing up in. This book sheds light on a little discussed and told part in world history when millions of people essentially packed up and moved to another place. It is the largest mass migration in history to date with around 14 million people making this journey – either into India or into Pakistan. Close to 1 million people died during this turbulent time.

Highly recommended for 7th grade and up.


Literacy for All January 21, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 7:59 am

Lora is thirteen years old when her country of Cuba undergoes a major political Fidel Castro comes to power after he, along with other rebels, overthrow the dictator Batista. One of the first things Castro does is to create the Cuban Literacy Campaign. The goal is for the island of Cuba to be literate in one year.

Lora is fascinated with this idea, and after seeing posters at school looking for volunteers who can journey far from home, into the mountains to teach families to read and write, she begs her parents to let her go. They, however, are not as excited as she is. They know of the dangers and that there are still forces loyal to Batista out there, promising to hurt and maybe even kill the people going out to teach. Still, when Lora’s grandmother hears of her passion, she persuades Lora’s parents of the importance of this work.

Thus begins a year of discovery for Lora as she is tested beyond what she thinks she can endure. She has training to become a brigadista, and moves into the mountains to live and work with a family. She also has goals for each of the family members to get them to a specific point to read and write. Hanging over all the heads of the brigadistas’ is the constant threat of violence, to the families and to the teachers.

My Brigadista Year by Katherine Patterson looks at a little known event in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba became illiteracy- free in 1961 due to this push by the government to create an educated populace. It continues today to have close to 100% literacy.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.



It’s a Game, But Who’s Playing? January 13, 2019

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 5:57 pm

For almost as long as Scarlett can remember, her father has been a beast. He is ruthless in his treatment of both Scarlett and her sister, Tella. After their mother disappeared years before, their father became intolerable. The girls have little to no freedom and spend their days trying to avoid their father. Scarlett has spent most of the years since her mother left dreaming of escaping to the fantastical world of Caraval. Rumor says that magical things can happen during the event of Caraval, created by the amazing Legend and all his performers. Scarlett has written a letter each year to Legend, in the hopes that he will invite them to his magical event. However, years have gone by, and Scarlett has given up all hope. The only way she thinks she can escape her father is to marry and she’s hoping she’ll be able to take her sister, Tella with her to live with her and her new husband.

download.jpgWith the wedding approaching rapidly, Scarlett gets news that she can hardly fathom. A letter arrives from Legend himself, inviting her to this years Caraval, on his special island, along with her sister and her fiance. Scarlett is floored. But she knows to leave will jeopardize her marriage, and her freedom through that marriage, if she goes to Caraval. Tella decides to take the matter out of Scarlet’s hands when she has Scarlett kidnapped from their father’s island and off on a boat, heading to Caraval.

Caraval turns out to be everything and nothing like Scarlett imagined. But when the game becomes serious quickly, and Scarlett realizes that Tella is to be the prize for the game, Scarlett finds herself spinning in a world she can’t tell up from down.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a book for those who love all the figurative language that can be packed into a book, and then some! The writing at times gets in the way of the story, but if you like a book that spends more time on imagery than on moving the story forward, this is the book for you.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.


Polar Opposites January 7, 2019

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 12:23 pm

When Linc and Holly were little, it seemed nothing could pull them apart. But, now that they are in high school, it feels like nothing can bring them back together. Linc struggles with school, while Holly excels. Holly has many friends, while Linc has one. Being in the same grade doesn’t help matters out since it is easy to compare the two of them and their downloadmother does that all the time. Holly is adopted, Linc is not. And yet, Linc feels she doesn’t fit with the family. She sees the world in a very different light than her mother does, and it seems no mater what she does, her mother never believes it is enough. Linc finally thinks she has found a way to make her parents and Holly see that she has different strengths, and they don’t lie following the traditional path in school. However, the closer she gets to making her own dreams come true, the farther away everyone else seems.

The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen looks at a family and shows how little cracks in the foundation can shift the entire house. Linc wonders if she and Holly can ever regain the closeness they had a children, now that life and expectations – both internal and external – seem determined to keep them apart. Plus, Linc begins to imagine she’ll never be good enough for her mother.

Recommended for 8th grade readers and up due to some mature content.


It Came From the Sky January 2, 2019

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 11:56 am

She was average and “normal” until she was eight. Then, she was struck by lightning. Yeah, really! At that point, Lucy’s life changed. Suddenly, numbers made a whole lot of sense to her, so much so, that they become just about the only thing that does make sense. After being struck by lightning, part of her brain goes into overdrive and pretty much over night Lucy becomes a genius – at least in math. She’s so good that she’s ready to go to college at the age of 12. Because she’s been so far ahead, her grandmother pulled her out of public school and let her do online courses. But for some reason that Lucy can’t fathom, her grandmother has it in her head that Lucy needs to complete at least one year of middle school before she’ll let Lucy enroll in college. Lucy can’t imagine what on earth she could possibly learn in 7th grade, but her grandmother is determined.

So Lucy heads off to 7th grade with no idea what is in store for her. All she knows is she wants to hide what she is – so people won’t treat her differently. The only problem is Lucy has a hard time hiding her aptitude with math. Seems she can’t even fake notdownload knowing math! When she has to do a community service project with two other students in her class, Lucy’s world starts to get larger – in ways she never anticipated.

The Miscalculations of Lighting Girl by Stacy McAnulty is a book that a student recommended I buy for the school library and read. I’m really glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed this title. Read this book – you won’t be disappointed!

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


To Make A Monster December 18, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 1:05 pm

We’ve all heard or seen or listened to something about Frankenstein. But do we reallydownload know much about the woman who created one of the most enduring creatures in the last two hundred years? Mary was the daughter of a famous writer, Mary Wollstonecraft, who is often linked as being one of the first writers to examine the rights of women, or the lack of rights for women. Unfortunately, just ten days after Mary was born, her famous mother died. Mary grew up with her older sister and her father, listening to famous poets and writers of the late 1700s and early 1800s talk about all kinds of interesting and thought provoking ideas. It wasn’t until her father remarried that Mary’s life took a dramatic change. No longer was it acceptable for Mary to listen to the conversations her father had, and the step-mother moved the family to the city and had Mary’s father run a bookstore that never did well. When Mary was a teenager, she was sent to live for two years with another family in Scotland, whom she grew to love and adore. Then her father demanded she return home to help work in the book shop.

Even though Mary wasn’t happy working in the city in her father’s book shop and to be back living with her step-mother and step-siblings, Mary was excited to meet a new young poet who had come by to speak to her father. Percy Bysshe Shelley was a married man of 21, and Mary was just 16, but their attraction to each other was instantaneous. They ended up running away together with Mary’s step-sister Claire.

Thus began years of Mary running with Shelley in an attempt to find a place where they could be accepted. In the process, Mary wrote one of the most famous books ever, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, which was published in 1818.

Mary’s Monster: Love Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge is a novel in verse with amazingly haunting black and white illustrations depicting the life of Mary until just after Shelley’s death. A fascinating read about one of the worlds most famous authors.

Recommended for mature 8th graders due to content.