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!

At a Crossroads November 19, 2018

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:55 am

Garvey is struggling to connect with his father who only seems to want Garvey to dodownload-1 something athletic. But that is his older sister’s area of expertise. Garvey is more into music and reading than running around! It hurts him to hear his dad complain to his mom about him not being the kind of kid he wanted. Garvey finds himself slipping farther away from his dad and he isn’t sure how anything he likes will ever find favor with his dad.

One day Garvey starts talking with a new kid at school. A kid who has people making fun of him… a lot! The new kid happens to be albino and he tells Garvey you have to let the bad words people say go unheard. Garvey has been having trouble with this since he’s been gaining weight and that appears to be all anyone sees about him these days. But when a friend tells him he should try out for the Chorus, Garvey feels like he has finally found a place to call home. The only problem is, what will his dad think?

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes is a quick, sweet story about a boy looking for approval from his dad and his learning to live in his own skin.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


When is Enough, Enough? November 12, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:12 am

Jake is coming home as a hero. At least that is what others are saying. In fact, he’s in line to get a silver star for his bravery and conduct in battle in the Middle East. He comes from a military family. His grandfather is an actual retired General from the Army, and his father has made a career in the military as well, although he never saw active duty.

Jake, however, doesn’t feel like a hero. He saw horrible things while serving. And did horrible things. Things he can’t forget about. How do you justify killing young children who are armed? Jake was injured in the line of duty and has a short visit home before heading off to rehabilitation at an army hospital. But he still has more time to serve on his tour. He’s beginning to wonder if he can actually go back into the combat zone.

While he’s home, he is confronted by a girl from his old school who points out all the issues with JROTC programs and how it seems to be a recruitment program for young people to go right into the Army. Jake knows that there were things that his own recruiter lied about when he signed up and so that adds to his conflicts. Plus, even though his girlfriend Aurora waited for him while he was deployed, is it really fair to ask her to continue waiting for him if he goes back? What if he comes back even more damaged, emotionally and physically, than he already is?

Price of Duty by Todd Strasser does an amazing job of showing the grim realities of war adownloadnd how we send over people who, in many cases, are completely unprepared for the mental and physical possible ramifications of the job. It also shows how even though the army is a volunteer army, it is mostly made up of those groups in society that already have limited options, like minorities and people on the lower socio-economic ladder.

Highly recommended book for 8th graders and up. Really powerful, accessible read and shines a spotlight on many of the issues facing veterans and those who are looking to join their ranks.


Reconstruction Reimagined! November 5, 2018

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 10:49 am

The war sort of came to an end, when both the Confederates and the Union decided it downloadwas more important to fight the UNdead (or shamblers they are popularly called) than each other. Of course, the country is still in a state of chaos and disorder, which means it is just right for new groups of politicians to rise. No longer are the Democrats or Republicans in power, but rather the Survivalists and the Egalitarians.

All this seems to be too lofty for Jane – she just wants to get back to her home, Rose Hill, where her mother and all her Aunties live. But Jane, along with all the other able bodied young Negros, have been sent to combat schools. It is believed that by training young black children in the art of fighting the shamblers, the whites will then be protected. Jane is a black child born to a white southern woman, a plantation owner no less. Jane was born just days before the shamblers began walking and killing in the United States, and while the Major – her mother’s husband – was off fighting for the Confederates. After the war, even though the enslaved were technically freed, not much seems to have changed.

Jane has been at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Maryland for three years now, and is learning all she needs to be an Attendant – someone trained to be a personal bodyguard for young white society girls. While she doesn’t really plan to become an Attendant, the skills she is learning she knows will help her back home at Rose Hill. However, as she gets closer to graduation, strange things begin happening. First, she hasn’t heard from her mother in year and she’s terribly worried something awful has happened at Rose Hill. Also, supposedly, most of the shamblers have been killed or driven away from the large cities, but Jane isn’t so sure this is actually true. One night when she and some other girls go to see a lecture, Jane sees something the makes her blood run cold. And it also brings her to the attention of the mayor of Baltimore, which in turn completely changes the trajectory of her life.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland is a fabulous book, and I’m not into zombies! This book had me not wanting to put it down because of the originality of the premise as well as the awesome character of Jane. While some of the events and things are based in history, Ireland’s reimagined possible past makes this a stand out read. While the book is set in Reconstruction, many of the same issues are still relevant today.

Highly recommended read for 8th grade and up.


To Touch the Moon October 23, 2018

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 9:04 am

Moving from Berkeley, CA to Vermont is enough of a shock for anyone, but for Mimi and her mother, joining Mimi’s dad at his new college professor position, Mimi finds herself being the only student at school who isn’t white. Mimi is biracial – a mix of her Japanese mother and her black father, and to many, she is a mystery. The most common question she gets, “What are you?”

downloadMimi isn’t sure the cold weather of Vermont hasn’t hardened the hearts of everyone who lives there – because at school the teachers look at her strangely, the students look at her strangely and their neighbor acts like he can’t even see them. Mimi isn’t sure how long she wants to stay in Vermont.

But as the year goes on, she makes one friend, whose mother isn’t sure she wants her daughter hanging out with a black girl, and there is a boy who sometimes is next door with their surly neighbor who appears to want to be friends. What will it take for people to change their minds about Mimi and her family, and does she want to put in the effort if no one else will? Then there is the fact that Mimi wants to be an astronaut, like John Glen, who has just touched the moon. But how can she if girls are only allowed to take classes like home economics and learn how to cook and sew, but never how to build anything?

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton looks at a time in our country when we were going through growing pains, in painful ways. Women and minorities were reaching beyond the limits that had been put upon them, and began to, like Mimi, reach for the stars. This is a wonderful book.

Highly recommended for grades 6th and up.



Fastest on a Bike in the World! October 17, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 11:58 am

As a young boy in the late 1880s, Marshall didn’t see himself becoming a world championdownload at anything. Growing up one of eight children to parents whose own parents had been enslaved in Kentucky before the Civil War, he didn’t have much chance for opportunity, even living just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. That all changed when his father took a job with a white family as their coachman. Marshall came along to help exercise the horses and met the family’s only child, a boy named Daniel. The boys were both eight, and Daniel’s parents encouraged a friendship between the boys. So much so, that they even invited Marshall to live with them for a time. Marshall got a taste of life that not many poor blacks got – good food, nice clothes and Marshall also played with Daniel’s white friends as well. Because the white family was very well off, they bought both boys bicycles – the new rage that was sweeping all of America.

Marshall took to riding a bicycle right away. Soon, he was coming up with tricks to perform as well as riding it all over. When the Southards left Indianapolis and moved to Chicago four years later, Marshall’s mother wouldn’t let him move with them. The Southards gifted Marshall with the bike they had purchased for him. Because of that bike, he was able to get a job as a paper delivery boy and it was during one of his rides his life changed again. He needed a repair on his bike and so took it to a shop where he then showed some of his tricks. The owner was so impressed, he told Marshall he would pay him to do tricks outside his store to bring in customers. It worked! It was that store owner who started him on the road to success as a bicycle racer and world fame at a time when it was difficult for many African Americans to even find decent paying jobs.

Marshall “Major” Taylor: World Champion Bicyclist, 1899-1901 by Marlene Targ Brill shines a light on a little known story in American history. Taylor rose to the height of his sport, even though many in America didn’t want him to succeed and worked hard to keep him from winning races, sometimes through politics and other times through actual physical violence. All because of the color of his skin.

Recommended for 6th grade and up. A really fascinating and fast read.


Dancing in a Temple October 8, 2018

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 6:08 pm

downloadWhen Veda, as a young girl, sees the God Shiva depicted dancing in a temple, she becomes captivated. Something in that moment connects her to the world and she begins to hear music everywhere and wants nothing more than to dance. In India, the classic form of dance is Bharatanatyam, and Veda is a star. She lives, breaths and thinks about dance, all the time. While her father and Paati (grandmother), her mother wants her to study hard and become an engineer. Veda can only see dance in her future.

When she wins a big competition, she thinks her way is clear – until a car accident on the way home from the event causes her to lose part of her right leg – her foot and calf. Her goal of dancing for life seems to be out of reach forever, especially when she tries to go back to dancing with her former teacher, only to have him reject her from class when she falls.

When her Paati suggests another teacher, one who focuses on the spiritual aspect of dancing, rather than competition, Veda isn’t sure that teacher will take her on either. Her dreams of dancing seem to be at a stand still.

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman is a touching look at one girl attempts to overcome what life has given her, and how even in the darkest moments, one can learn compassion for others. A great look at another country and shows how everyone around the world has dreams and hopes and struggles.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


Girl in the Game! September 25, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 2:40 pm

downloadTessa and Caleb have been friends for a while. They live on the same street, play on the same flag football team, and next year will be going to the same high school. Tessa is a possible rising star for the cross country team, and Caleb is hoping to get onto the high school football team.

But at the end of their last flag football game – a game that Tessa feels she lost because she didn’t catch a pass – she feels like she isn’t quite done with football. The only game that is left for her would be tackle football and the tryouts for the high school team will be coming up. Before that happens though, there is a football camp over the summer to get players ready. Tessa starts thinking maybe she’d like to be one of those players.

Caleb has realized that he likes Tessa as more than a friend, and she reciprocates his feelings. However when Tessa starts talking about playing tackle football, Caleb worries. Not only how it might impact his new relationship with Tessa, but the reactions he gets from his guy friends are troubling.

The Football Girl by Thatcher Heldring takes an issue and looks at it from all sides. Tessa struggles with figuring out the “empty feeling” she had after her last flag football game and wonders if it is because she isn’t done with the game. Caleb thinks Tessa is a great football player, but isn’t sure he wants her on his tackle high school team. As a reader you will feel the struggle of both teens and wonder where it will all go.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.