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. If you would like to listen to booktalks of some of these books, please check out this site and enjoy!

Hidden Darkness February 23, 2021

Filed under: graphic novel — lpitrakbromiel @ 7:29 pm
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Emma, Norman, and Ray are orphans, but they still have a seemingly-beautiful life. They live at Grace Field Orphanage, where they are protected, sheltered, and loved by the woman who runs the orphanage, whom all call “Mom.” Their only real rules are that they must never leave the gate surrounding the orphanage’s property– for their own safety, of course. All orphans are adopted by the time they reach the age of 12, and Emma, Norman, and Ray are 11. They cannot wait until they are adopted by kind and loving families! However, their story takes a dark turn when their friend Conny leaves her beloved stuffed bunny behind on the day she is adopted. The three friends break the rules and leave the orphanage gates in order to bring it back to her. What they find is horrifying, and makes them realize that none of the orphans have ever found a happy life. Rather, all who have been “adopted” have suffered a gruesome fate. Emma, Norma, and Ray are determined to get themselves, as well as all of their other friends, away from Grace Field Orphanage for good. To do, so, however, they will have to battle demons, witches, and their very scary “Mom.”

This amazing manga series has also been adapted as an exciting t.v. show, available on both Netflix and Hulu!


What Has Changed? February 22, 2021

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-1Ashley lives in her nice house in the Los Angeles suburbs where the most people worry about is when the wild fires come down and houses burn. Well, that is what people think. But just like most places and with most people, it doesn’t take too long looking under the surface to see issues. Like Ashley’s older sister, Jo. Jo has become a huge source of conversation at their household, and mostly because their parents don’t know what to do with her. Ashley feels like that has taken some of the pressure off of her, but really, how much pressure can be removed considering she’s a young black girl, growing up in Los Angels in 1992?

What Ashley doesn’t realize is that an event that happens not too far from her house (relatively speaking) is going to change how she views many things – her parents, her sister, her friends and most of all, herself. Rodney King was beaten savagely by police officers and it was caught on video tape. Ashley and her friends are shocked when riots break out across the city after the officers are acquitted of any wrongdoing at their trial. Ashley, who has been sheltered from some things because of her well to do parents and the life they gave their two daughters, often feels apart from the other black kids at her private school. Ashley has three close white girlfriends that she’s grown up with. Now, with the riots, Ashley, her friends and even her family are all coming up against ideas they have long held and are having to decide if they can still live with those thoughts.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed is like a look back in time and a look back to last week. Never does the author make the point of how little has changed when it comes to police brutality and people of color – or how this country, almost thirty years after the Rodney King event, are still grappling with issues of race. However, it is impossible as a reader to not see how little has changed. Children are still struggling with where they belong and who their friends are, really, and our society still hasn’t figured out how to move on from the legacy of slavery. This is a really great read.

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up due to content.


What if No One Sees You? February 8, 2021

Filed under: graphic novel,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-1Emmie used to talk, a lot, according to her family. But maybe having two much older siblings made her stop trying to talk because she couldn’t get a word in edgewise, or maybe when they went away to college and her parents were working so much, she had no one to talk to!

In any case, now that she’s in middle school, she doesn’t have much to say…to anyone, except her best friend Brianna. Thankfully they’ve been best friends since kindergarten. If it weren’t for Brianna, who would she talk to? This year though, Brianna is in hardly any of her classes, because she’s in the gifted classes and Emmie, well, isn’t! Still, they are able to have lunch together, thank goodness, and on this day they decide to write love notes to the boys they have been crushing hard on for years. After writing their true love on the notes, it is time to leave, but unfortunately for Emmie, her note goes astray.

Could there be anything worse in middle school than a love note finding its way into the hands of the person you like?

Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson is a fun, funny, and super honest look at what school is like for many students. Not everyone has tons of friends, is great at sports or anything specific, but they are still making it through too. This is a book that everyone can enjoy and find something to relate to.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


On the Way Home from School January 25, 2021

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-1A lot can happen on the way home from school. Just ask any of the kids that traverse the 10 blocks around their school – from the “Low Cuts” due to their hair styles to Fatima Moss – who records everything to Bryson Wills – who actually got to stay home from school the next day because of something that happened on the way home from school.

Look Both Ways: A Tale told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds lets us in on the often goofy, funny, tragic, exasperating, silly and just plain weird lives of middle schoolers. This book just goes to show, unless you know someone you never really KNOW what is going on in their life. 

If you are looking for a quick read, with some unforgettable characters, check out this book. It reads like a book of short stories with some connections between the stories

Recommended for grades 6 and up. 



Creepy Stories January 4, 2021

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Imagine walking home at night and seeing a little girl coming toward you. She’s lost and needs to be walked download-1home, but as you are walking her home, something seems off. Or what about finding someone to help you up your game of basketball, only to realize they aren’t all there. Or what happens if you “tease” the wrong woman and she turns out to be a witch.

The Puppet’s Payback and Other Chilling Tales by Mary Downing Hahn is a collection of creepy, strange and frightening tales of what can happen when you mess with the wrong people or put yourself in a bad situation! If you like ghost stories, creature stories or just the unexplained, this short quick read is for you!

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Time Is Ticking December 7, 2020

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-4Six students all walk into a high school, over a week before school is going to start for the year. Each one brings with them a backpack filled with important pieces that make up who they are. Or who they think they are.

Yet just after noon, the school is rocked by an explosion that shatters parts of the school. Diana, Frankie, Tad, Cas, Z and Rashid are all trapped in different parts of the school as explosion after explosion rips through their high school. Now, for some of them, their bags mean everything, and for others it will expose exactly who they are. As the students begin to pair up to help each other, it becomes known that one of them might be responsible for all the death and destruction. The question is who, and will the others be able to escape with their lives?

Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau is a quick and exciting read that will have many guessing until the end.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


A Very Long Walk November 30, 2020

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Misael and his family decide they can no longer live in the conditions thatdownload-1 are El Salvador. Either there are no jobs, or the kids will be taken in by the gangs. It is a hard choice to make, but one his parents don’t think they really have. They believe their only hope is to make the arduous and long trek North, toward America. But first they must traverse close to 2,500 miles – much of it on foot – to reach Tijuana, close to the Unites States border between Mexico and California.

Caravan to the North: Misael’s Long Walk by Jorge Argueta is a sparse and stark novel in verse about the trials of being an immigrant – moving through different countries, in search of a better life. The problem is, what if the other country doesn’t want the immigrant?

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


A Girl in Disguise November 23, 2020

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

downloadRain is an amazing Neshu fighter – but there is one problem. She is a girl, and girls aren’t allowed to fight for their kingdom. Only boys and men are allowed that privilege. Rain has lived with the knowledge that she is whole whereas her dear twin brother Storm, suffered from a fever they both had when they were just little children. Storm has never been the same. He seems stuck in a child like state, even though they are both now 17 years old. Their father is a master at teaching the style of fighting known as Neshu, but as much as he tries, Storm will never be the fighter that Rain has become.

Willow, Rain and Storm’s older sister, is eagerly waiting for her match for marriage. In their part of the kingdom, tradition dictates that the bride and groom don’t have any say in who they marry – only their parents – and they don’t even meet until a match has been made. But then word comes that the nomads are on the move and are threatening everything everyone holds dear, including their very lives. Every family must send a boy or man to help defend the lands of Ylanda. Their father says he will go with Storm to meet the demand of the kingdom. Rain knows though, that this will mean almost certain death for both her father and her brother. Storm can no way fight and be part of the army, and their father is older now and will try to protect Storm. Rain feels she has to do something.

Through her sister, Rain learns of a woman in the village who deals in dragon magic. Legend says that dragons once roamed the skies of Ylanda and even now, anything left from a dragon hold special power. Rain begins to have think she should run off to join the army and pretend to be Storm – a boy. Rain goes to the woman and asks for something that will help her from being discovered if she does go into the army. She knows if she is discovered, the penalty is death. She is hoping the powder she got from the woman that Rain takes each night will keep her secret safe. But the woman at the shop tells her she might to start having dreams about dragons.

Rain is able to make her way to the army, and she seems to be able to fool everyone. But as she takes the dragon powder, she does begin to dream of an ancient dragon, a dragon who begs Rain to set her free and help defeat the nomads. Rain has to decide if these visions and dreams are real, and if they are, can she make the ultimate sacrifice for her kingdom.

Stormrise by Jillian Boehme is a grand adventure story, with reimagined dragons, secrecy, and forbidden love. For anyone looking for a dragon tale, you are in luck!

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Too Young to Fight November 16, 2020

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Charlie wants to fight -even though he is only 15 years old. But he figures he has what it takes to be in the war – if only he were a little older. So, he decides that he’ll go register to fight away from his home town, where no one knows how old – or young- he really is. And that is just what he does. Charlie leaves his home state of Minnesota and joins the thousands of others who believe in preserving the Union of the states, and joins the Union army off to fight the Confederates.

Charlie has ideas of what war is like, but the reality is something he coulddownload never have dreamed of – moments of shear terror followed by hours and days of unbelievable boredom. To see the horrors of the Battle of Gettysburg, and to see friends get mowed down by bullets – to kill others – all things that Charlie realizes he wasn’t prepared for at all. How does someone survive something like that? Or do they?

Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen is a short, incredibly powerful look at how war impacts not only the body but the soul of a person. The character of Charlie is based on a real person who did live and fight during the Civil War and how he came back home a very different person than he left. As really everyone who has been involved in a war does. Highly recommended read for anyone interested in the Civil War.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Can Books Change Lives? November 9, 2020

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am
download-1       Clara is excited for the start of the school year – her last year – at Lupton Academy or LA as everyone calls it. She thinks it will be a great year and is excited for it to get started. But one quick glance at a computer screen changes everything when she reads an email meant only for the staff. Clara reads a confidential email listing 50 books that are not to be used in the curriculum of any classes and will not be allowed on the shelves of the school library. A library that Clara volunteers in and loves. When she sees the list of books, she is shocked that she has read many of the books. What could possibly be wrong with the books?
        Clara and the school librarian talk, and they come to the conclusion that Clara will remove the 50 books from the school library and put them in little libraries around the town – little libraries that she has already established and has up and running. Yet just as she’s thinking that will work, she decides to run an underground library with the banned books, from her school locker.
        At first, Clara is thinking she just wants to get revenge against the administration, or more specifically the principal of LA, because after all he’s the one that is saying they can’t have the books. However, as time goes by, Clara struggles to understand exactly why she is running the UnLib, and if ultimately, it is a force for good or bad.
        Suggested Reading by Dave Connis brings home the importance of knowing yourself, or being willing to look for yourself, and how we can find the answers in many places, including on the pages of books.
Recommended for 8th grade and up.