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!

Wandering, Lost May 25, 2020

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

downloadJerome has a tough time at school, mostly because of three boys who like to bully him on a daily basis. Still, he tries to put on a brave face for his parents and grandmother. Why worry them about something that they can’t change. But he has a plan for how to avoid them, most of the time. However, on this particular day, a new boy comes to school, named Carlos. Right away Jerome can tell, Carlos is going to be the bullies next victim. So, Jerome lets Carlos in on one of Jerome’s favorite hiding spots. It is in that hiding spot that something new happens. Jerome makes a friend.

But later on that same day, Jerome is shot, and killed by the police. Jerome never leaves though, he haunts his old apartment, seeing his family grieve and change, hoping he will be able to leave, but still he stays. Until one day he sees a boy like him, only from a different time. It turns out this ghost boy has something to share with Jerome. Only Jerome isn’t sure he wants to hear it.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes is a book about an all too common occurrence – black men and boys being shot and killed by the police.  It looks at the damage inflicted upon everyone involved in the horrible situation – including all the things that Jerome will now never be able to do – since he will never grow up. Thoughtful and thought provoking read.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Who are you, really? May 18, 2020

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

Remy thinks he has a good feel of who he is, until he is asked by his AP Literature teacher to write an essay on who he is! Suddenly, all the labels and boxes he thought he was comfortable with, seem to be all he is – or limiting himself somehow. Put on top of that the pressure to do well on the essay as he sees it as part of his ticket to the college he has been hoping to get into. Suddenly it all just seems like too much.

While he seems to have it all to his friends, Remy, the boy who came out during hisdownload-1 student council speech in front of the entire school wonders if he is who everyone thinks he is. After all, he has a lot of boxes he could fit in. Gay. Check. Adopted. Check. Black. Check. Is he only the leader of the Gay/Straight Alliance or is he defined by the fact that he doesn’t know anything about his birth family? What about heartbroken since his first relationship went down so badly, at least in his eyes.

As Remy tries to really figure himself out, he watches his best friends deal with their own situations and begins to wonder if they ever knew him and if he ever knew himself.

How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters is a reflective read on how we all question ourselves and our goals, and wonder sometimes, if we are truly ever enough just being who we are.

Recommended for mature 8th graders due to content.


An Empty Chair May 11, 2020

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

It all starts with an empty chair at the back of the room. It had been empty because one of the girls in the class had moved to another part of Great Britain. So when a boy comes in one day to fill the chair, Alexa and her three friends are intrigued. Especially when the boy doesn’t act like other new kids. He doesn’t seem to want to make friends at all and he doesn’t talk. In fact, during recess he goes off by himself and everyone begins to wonder just what his story is.

As Ahmet’s story begins to come out, Alexa and her friends realize that it is quite thedownload-2 story. It makes her want to be his friend more than anything, but it is hard since he doesn’t know much English. Still, Alexa persists and when everyone in the class learns that Ahmet has been separated from his mother and father, Alexa and her friends decide they must do something to help their new friend and a plan is hatched.

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf is a timely book looking at the refugee issues facing the world today. For anyone struggling to understand how a refugee might feel or some of the barriers they face, this would be a good place to start.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


An Island Torn Apart May 4, 2020

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

downloadOkinawa is a relatively small island off the southern tip of Japan, but at the end of World War II it was the place of the last and bloodiest battle of the whole Pacific Ocean war.

Ray is a young American marine trying to find his way on this lush green island that the United States is about to invade. His father tried to talk him out of joining the military, but he felt it was something he had to do, plus it also meant getting away from his dad. He isn’t prepared though for the true horrors of war.

Hideki is a native Okinawan and he and his family have been separated due to the war. His father and sister have been forced to help the Japanese who took over the island years before, and his mother and little brother were evacuated on a ship heading for Japan. Hideki has stayed behind with a bunch of other boys around his age of 14 to become part of the Blood and Iron Student Corps to fight for the Japanese Imperial Army. However, Hideki realizes very quickly that the JIA has no real intention of trying to help any of the Okinawan and in many cases will use them in horrible ways.

Both Ray and Hideki struggle to find footing in this new war torn world they both exist in.  The question is what toll will this take on both of them, and will they make it out alive?

Grenade by Alan Gratz is a really good World War II historical fiction read. It gives a clear picture of both sides of the conflict and how confusing things were on the island and just how terrifying and dangerous too.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


They Came By Submarine April 27, 2020

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

We often hear about saboteurs during World War II in Europe or in the Pacific Theater (the war as it was fought in the Pacific Ocean) but rarely do we hear about it happening on U.S. soil. But in fact, Hitler was very much interested in stopping the large manufacturing machine that the United States had in place. He realized that the U.S. could help win the war simply by producing all the things that were needed to win a war – airplanes, guns, bombs, tanks, etc. It became a goal of the Nazis to place saboteurs in the United States with the sole purpose of disrupting the manufacturing of goods that were important to war.

Enter a man named George Dasch. He was a man who was born in Germany but left downloadwhen he couldn’t find a good job. He came to America and stayed for many years, mostly working as a waiter. He even married an American woman. However, he never felt he was doing anything really important. So when his mother came for a visit from Germany and saw that he wasn’t doing anything super special, he decided to move back to Germany. What George didn’t realize was that Germany under Hitler had become a very repressive country and he was even more limited in what he could do. He did have one skill though and that was that he had lived in America for many years and could speak English and knew about America life and culture. He was just the sort of man that Hitler and the Nazis were looking for to infiltrate the U.S. and start taking out the manufacturing structure.

Nazi Saboteurs: Hitlers Secret Attack on American by Samantha Seiple is a really interesting look at a little known event and about group of men, all with connections to the United States who were tapped to influence the outcome of the war. However, as a reader, you realize the impacts of what these men did continues to play out in our world today.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Lightning and Umbrella = Magic? April 20, 2020

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

Claire has a lot to think about. She wants one of the lead roles in the play at school, shedownload-4 wants her mom and dad to officially call it quits, and she would love to finally understand math! Plus, there is this guy at school, Eric, who she thinks is pretty awesome…if only he’d stop looking at Lucy, another girl at school, long enough to see her!

On her way to the store one stormy afternoon to pick up another weird food item her mom has been craving, she finds an abandoned umbrella in a garbage can. It seems okay and she certainly needs one with the rain/snow pouring down from the sky. On her way back home, as she’s thinking of all her problems with no solutions, she feels a bolt of something go straight through her! She assumes she was just struck by lightning! But everyone around her acts like nothing big just happened. Strange. She doesn’t feel hurt by what just happened, but she can’t shake the feeling that something did.

When she gets home, her mom is off the couch for the first time in months and is actually acting like a mom again. When Claire goes to work on her math that night, it finally seems to click. And when she gets to school the next day, that is when she gets the biggest surprise. As all the things that Claire has been thinking about seem to change virtually overnight, she begins to wonder if there wasn’t something magical about the umbrella. But she quickly realizes the old adage – be careful what you wish for, because it might just come true!

Struck by Deb Loughead is a really quick read about a girl who wonders is it real life or magic???

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Between Two Worlds April 13, 2020

Filed under: graphic novel,Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Her mother had it hard, being a single mother in South Korea. When Chuna was little she didn’t understand just how bad the sigma was, however as she was going to school and got older, it became apparent quickly that to be a child without a dad at home was considered very strange. This made things really hard for both of them living in South Korea.

downloadWhen Chuna and her mother decided to go on a trip to American and to the state of Alabama, Chuna didn’t think much of it. After all, she and her mother were always going on trips outside of South Korea. However, when her mother tells her she is going to marry a man and they are now going to live in America, Chuna’s world falls apart. She knows hardly any English, and her new “cousins” and stepsister are distant and not open to helping her at all navigate this new world.

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha is a coming of age story where a girl struggles to find herself in two worlds that she doesn’t seem to fit in. How do you find your place when you have no place? This is a graphic novel and based on the author’s real life experiences of living in two different countries.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.