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!

Locked Up as a Madwoman April 17, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:17 pm

As a young girl growing up in Pennsylvania, not many would have guessed Elizabeth imgresJane “Pink” Cochran would become one of the most famous journalists of her time. The was even more impressive because up until that time and even for long after, journalism was considered to be a man’s world – one that women didn’t belong in and certainly weren’t welcome in. However, this didn’t stop Elizabeth, who quickly took up a new name – Nellie Bly. After working in some small newspapers in Pittsburg, at the age of 23, Bly decided to try New York City. However, no editors seemed willing to take on a young woman as an investigative reporter. After all, you couldn’t ask a woman to go to the morgue to follow up on a story, or stay up all night chasing down a lead. At least that was the conventional thought of the day.

Nellie Bly however, was set to turn that conventional thought upside down. Finally, one editor decided that if she could get herself locked up in an insane asylum, he would get her out after a week and she could write up her story. If it was good enough, she’d have a job. That was all Nellie needed to hear. Off she went to begin making herself appear unstable. It didn’t take much. Just acting depressed was what got her taken in front of a judge who said that she could be committed.

Ten Days a Madwoman by Deborah Noyes is a great look into one of the United States first truly investigative reporters and how she had to overcome many hurdles to get to the place where she could write about the stories she wanted. However, things didn’t always work out for Nellie as she would have liked, and the road she picked wasn’t an easy one.

Recommended for anyone looking for a quick biography about an interesting person. Recommended for mature 6th graders and up.


Spirits Attracted to Art? April 11, 2017

Sierra is an artist, and looking forward to a summer break of painting and parties in her New York City neighborhood. Sierra doesn’t paint on canvas or paper though; she creates fantastic, huge murals on the walls of the city. Her latest creation is a five-story fire breathing dragon that towers over the local junk lot, as well as the new luxury condo development. But, right as Sierra is about to kick summer break off with a huge party with all her classmates, strange things begin to happen. Her grandfather Lazaro, a very recent stroke victim, begins speaking again… but just very short fragments, saying he is sorry and mentioning a woman named Lucera. Then, her grandfather’s friends come to visit her, urging her to finish her dragon mural quickly, but won’t say what the rush is. Then, other neighborhood murals, once so brightly colored and vibrant, seem to wash out and fade overnight. Finally, a zombie-like creature chases Sierra and her crush through the neighborhood asking for Lucera– the same name her grandfather mentioned. What is going on in Brooklyn? Is it possible that rumors of spirits who have died there– some innocent and some intent on evil– have stayed around? And is it further possible that they are drawn to art, murals, music, and stories, that are connected to the city? And if all of these things are possible, what do they have to do with a highschool girl who just wants a fun summer?


Chocolate Has a Dark Side April 3, 2017

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 5:05 am

Amadou thought that he was leaving Mali to hopefully be able to earn some money for his family. Drought over the years had left his area of the country badly impoverished, and he hoped to be like other children who had left and returned with money in their pockets. His little brother, Seydou comes with him. What Amadou can’t know is that the farm he lands on, isn’t one that will pay him. Instead, he’s been sold to a family that can’t afford to pay workers a wage, so they rely on children to work their cacao trees and repay them with harsh working conditions, beatings if the daily quota isn’t met and a miserable existence. Quickly, Amadou realizes that he isn’t going home at the end of the season with money is his pocket. In fact, he’s never seen a boy leave the farm…alive.

Amadou has spent the last two years of his life in this terrible situation, trying each day to keep his much younger brother alive and safe, with no end in sight or a way out that he can see. Until one day something strange happens. A girl shows up at the farm. No other girls have ever come to the farm and no other girls work with them currently. Wimgreshy would a girl show up and by herself, with no other new boys to work with the cacao pods?

Right away, the girl causes trouble, and somehow Seydou and Amadou are always right in the middle when it comes to her.

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan takes a subject about a little known event that is happening currently in the world and something that many of us take for granted. How does chocolate end up in our stores and in our lives? What is the price that others are paying for us to have that moment of sweetness in our mouths? Is it worth it?

Recommended for mature 7th graders and up. Very insightful story and important read.


Football and Indians March 28, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 12:42 pm

As many, MANY people in my school can attest (and my family as well), I’m not  a fan of football…at all. In fact after reading a book called Fourth Down and Inches (reviewed here in October of 2014) I’ve been on a one woman crusade to try to get the students in my school to understand the inherent dangers of the sport. Clearly, I’m fighting a loosing game.

However, I’ve long heard of Jim Thorpe, the Native American who was an amazing athlete, yet I’ve never read a book about him. So I was interested to see this new title Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian Football Team by Steve Sheinkin. I had no idea how Thorpe got his start and was very surprised to learn all that I did about the beginnings of football and how we, as Americans, have a lot to thank the Carlisle Indian team for not only saving the sport of football, but making it into the sport that many love today. Not myself, mind you!

Jim Thorpe began his life in Oklahoma living with his father and his mother, his father’s third wife. Of Potawatomi and Sac and Fox ancestry, Thorpe never was one to like school. In fact, when his parents decided he should attend an Indian school, he ran away from it at least three times. It was 23 miles from his home. He simply ran back home! Thorpe’s young life was filled with tragedies and he would cope by removing himself to the woods. He was a wanderer, who often just took off because the confines of rules were not something he liked. However, when his father finally felt he could do nothing with him, he sent him off to the most famous of Indian schools of the time, Carlisle Indian Industrial School, located all the way across the country in Carlisle,Pennsylvania.

These Indian schools were not designed to support the children of Indians – rather they were designed to force children to give up their language, clothing, stories and history to be assimilated into the white world. Thousands of Indian children were sent to these schools by well meaning parents, while the vast majority of the children suffered terribly. In fact, one student at Carlisle was so miserable he refused to eat. Rather than sending him home, the superintendent tried to force him to eat and when that didn’t work, the boy starved to death. A cemetery remains to this day of the close to 200 students who died there.

It was to this school that Thorpe’s father sent him as a teenager and where Thorpe eventually meet Pop Warner, who was the coach of the already famous Carlisle Indian football team. Together, they would go on to make history.

This book is an honest look at the beginnings of football and follows the lives of not only Jim Thorpe, but Pop Warner as well as other Indians who played this sport in its infancy and who changed the game forever.

Recommended for 6th grade and up for any students interested in football, Native American history, Jim Thorpe, Pop Warner or a really good read…even if you hate football like I do!


Woman For Humane Treatment of Animals March 23, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:46 pm

As a young child, nothing made sense for Temple Grandin. She couldn’t understand people talking to her, she couldn’t look people in the eye, and sounds and clothing could make her very uncomfortable. She wasn’t able to express any of this to the people around her, which led her to throw tantrums which further confused everyone. At the age of three she was diagnosed with Autism, a hardly known disorder at the time, which maimgresde many things others took for granted, very difficult for Temple. She worked hard and with the help of her mother, she was able to begin to understand the world around her, although some things still are a mystery to her to this day.

As she grew, she realized she had an affinity for understanding animals and what could provoke fear in them.  She spent time on her aunt and uncle’s farm in Arizona, riding horses, working with cattle, and designing and fixing things for them. In time, she became very interested in how she could improve the lives of animals heading to slaughter and began working with places to make the end of the lives of animals better.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery is an honest look at how Grandin impacted the world of farm animals and in the process changed how we look at the end of life for them.

Recommended for any animal lovers and anyone who consumes meat, to see how our life decisions impact others. Grades 7th and up.



See You in the Cosmos March 20, 2017

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng is an AMAZING novel told from the perspective of a space-loving eleven year old (who explains he is thirteen in maturity years :)). Alex Petroski loves space, and his idol is Carl Sagan. Just as Carl Sagan launched the Voyager Golden Records, which contain sounds and pictures of life on Earth, into space, Alex plans to lauSee You in the Cosmosnch his Golden iPod. This iPod contains Alex’s narration of his daily life, and he searches for people to interview who can explain the beauties and intricacies of what it means to be human for the alien life forms who will find his iPod after he launches it. This book follows Alex’s determination to build a rocket which will launch his iPod, his quest to find a “man in love” to interview, and his desire to unravel the mystery of why there is a record of a man with his deceased father’s same name and birthday living in Las Vegas. What follows is a roadtrip of epic proportions that will stay with you long after you close this book’s pages. Highly, highly recommended for any fans of realistic fiction!!!



A Life In Poems March 3, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 12:43 pm

Born a slave in 1864, his mother and he were stolen from the white couple who owned them. Little George was recovered but not his mother, so he and his older brother were raised for a time by the white couple who clearly cared deeply for them. Later they sent George and his brother to get an education.

For many years George worked hard and traveled far to learn as much as he could about life and many living things. He was amazing at laundry, because he’d figured out how to clean things well! He was able to tell people huge amounts of information about many plants and what they could be used for.

imgres-1Eventually, he was able to get his master’s degree and began working as a professor at Tuskegee Institute where he made incredible works of art as well as improved the lives of farmers over and over again with his techniques. His introduction of the peanut as a way to improve the lives of former slaves and the soil in the south was a brilliant stroke to better the lives of many.

Carver: a life in poems by Marilyn Nelson is a difficult read at times and at turns very poignant as we get a glimpse into the private and often lonely life of George Washington Carver, undeniably one of America’s greatest scientific minds.

Recommended for 8th grade and up due to high level of inferencing and vocabulary.