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!

Waiting Can Be the Worst Part October 31, 2012

Waiting can be the hardest part, especially if you are waiting to find out if your younger sister will come out of her coma. In Waiting to Forget by Sheila Kelly Welch, T.J. can’t believe that his life has brought him to just such a place, after all the times he and Angela survived living with their mother, and all her crazy boyfriends. To have Angela struggling to survive because of something he did, it is almost too much. When the book begins, T.J. and his sister have been adopted but T.J. has a hard time letting go of the past, specifically how he feels about his biological mother. This moving and fast paced book follows T.J. as he is forced to grow up long before he should, to protect his little sister and at times his mother, from herself and others she brings into their lives. Struggling to deal with the possible death of his sister, he relives everything that brought him to this moment in time, hoping for something positive in a life that has been short on happiness and security.

Why did I love this book? In a time when so many books are focused on dystopian/utopian societies, or fantasy and science fiction, this book is a nice addition because it is a contemporary fiction novel that appeals to both teen boys and girls. The situations T.J. finds himself in resonate for readers because it is so real, and you find yourself really hoping that things will work out for him. In my job as middle school librarian, I’ve recommended this book to both my 7th and 8th graders, in particular, those looking for realistic situations and traumatic family dynamics.
Highly Recommended for 6th and up.



New Favorite Book…from a Trilogy No Less! October 30, 2012

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 9:17 pm
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So my new favorite book right now is The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen. For the first time in a long time (well at least since the beginning of summer) I’m happy that this author is writing a trilogy. Not sure about some of you other readers out there, but I’m getting a tiny bit tired of all these trilogies! Can’t any author just write a nice story in ONE book!

Okay, back to The False Prince. Sage is on the run, with a roast (raw meat!), when we are introduced to him. From the very first moment he begins to interact with others, I LOVED him. He is witty, self-deprecating, unpredictable, laugh out loud funny and irreverent, all in one paragraph. I could not get enough of this guy! Sage finds out he is being sold to a nobleman named Conner. Sage is mistrustful right away, and when he finds out Conner means to place an imposter on the throne, using an orphan he picks from one of 2 other boys, Sage knows he must decide to either fight for the throne, or move aside. The only problem is, if he doesn’t win over Conner, he knows he’ll end up dead. There is a twist that many will see coming; but frankly, I enjoyed this book so much, I didn’t care!

Our classes are doing a lot of genre reading, and it is hard to peg this book. It reads like a medieval historical fiction, except it lacks a specific time and place. Also, and this is just for horse people like myself, the author mentions Sage riding away on a Quarter horse. Um, Quarter horses are an American horse breed that was developed in the late 1700s so kind of throws out the whole medieval thing. Best guess for the students at my school for their genre would be fantasy, even though nary a troll appears or spell is cast in this book.

Highly Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Read A-Likes for Rick Riordan Fans October 29, 2012

Currently, I’m involved in the new (well newer) series by Rick Riordan, The Kane Chronicles. I’m on the first book, The Red Pyramid. Now, I will confess, I’m not super into this book, except for Saddie, who is a hoot and holler. I know if I end up booktalking this book, she will be part of what I read out loud for sure! I felt the same way about The Lightning Thief. Just too much running around and peril all the time for me, I guess. But as I’m reading this book, which is really popular in our library, as well as Riordan’s other newer series – Heroes of Olympus – I realized I have a perfect recommendation for students who are looking for a completed series while waiting for the next installment from Riordan for either of his series.

Garth Nix has a series called Keys to the Kingdom which starts with the book Mister Monday. In it we meet Arthur Penhaligon, a sickly boy, who is late starting school – at a new school – because he has been ill with asthma. On the first day, he is asked to go running, which he knows will bring up his asthma again, but the gym teacher has no pity and makes him run anyway. As he is running he has an attack, and while he is lying on the ground in what he is sure will be his final moments, a strange being appears pushing a man in what appears to be some kind of old wheelchair. They give Arthur a key because,as he is listening to the 2 men argue, they believe he is moments away from death. But something happens when Arthur touches the key. He lives. And thus begins his strange journey to – what else – save the world.

Any fan of Riordan’s newest series’ should take time to explore author Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom. It will be a  worth while journey.


Scary Scary Stories

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories — herricklrc @ 7:20 pm
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Short stories are great, but scary short stories are the best! With Halloween just around the corner I always find myself reading a bunch of scary stories that never seem to get old. Some of my all time favorite books are collections of scary short stories.  They are highly detailed and can really grab your attention quickly.  As someone who doesn’t always have a ton of time to dive into the latest novel, short stories are the perfect solution. They hook you in and always leave you wanting more. So no matter if it’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark or Irish Tales of Terror, a good scary short story can always get you in the perfect mood for Halloween.


I Love Historical Fiction October 26, 2012

Historical fiction is not typically a genre that I run to, in fact I often forget how much I enjoy reading historical fiction until after I have been sucked into a great story.  Every year at Herrick, we organize a community intergenerational read in which senior citizens in the community are invited to read a common book with our students and have a book discussion with a small group.  It is a fantastic event and in the past we have been able to fill the entire cafeteria with readers.

One of my goals for this year is to read all of the books on the list so that I can really recommend them both to the students and seniors.  The first book from the list that I tackled was Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle.  

I started it unsure of how I would like it, but was quickly pulled into the story’s plot.  The story is told by Ruben as a flashback of  his childhood.  He was a young teen living in a small New England coastal town during prohibition.  Most of the locals made extra money by working on the side for the bootleggers.  Conflict arose when bigger gangs tried to edge out the smaller bootleggers.    The reader is pulled in when Ruben and his friend find a dead body.  When they try to report it, the body disappears. Ruben’s adventures with the gangsters and small time rum runners escalates as the story progresses.  I absolutely could not wait to find out what would happen to Ruben and you won’t either.

The thing that I really love about historical fiction is that the story keeps me turning the pages, but it also gives me specific knowledge about a time period.  When I finished, I wanted to read more about prohibition- and not fiction- the real stuff.  Historical fiction is a great way to get students interested in history and wanting to find out more.


So Read Me Maybe

Filed under: Novels in Verse — bhomel @ 3:10 pm
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I love novels in verse! If you haven’t read one yet, you must! Novels in verse are stories written through poems. When you crack open a novel in verse, it looks like there aren’t many words to read. (which is great if you don’t want to spend weeks reading the same book or if you are forced to read a book and don’t really want to) There is a whole entire story packed into those poems. The authors give you just enough information and description to figure out what’s going on in the story and to fall right in.

My favorite novel in verse is Exposed by Kimberly Marcus. In Exposed, sixteen year old Liz loves photography. Something unexpected happens to her BFF Kate. All of a sudden life isn’t picture perfect for Liz and she is forced to look at things and people close to her differently.Novels in verse are addictive. Once you read one, you may want to read them all!


Cold Read in the Snow

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 3:05 pm
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I’m a sucker for historical fiction. I majored in college in History, and enjoy it so much. So I was excited to read a new book that the O’Neill Library just received. Set during the end of World War II, Phantoms in the Snow follows Noah, a 15 year old boy who has just lost both his parents to small pox. He is forced to go find his uncle, who turns out to belong to a unit training in the mountains outside of Denver,CO. The unit focuses on skiing and rock climbing/rappelling and other branches of the military aren’t sure what exactly their purpose is. Noah doesn’t like his uncle who seems distant and cold. However, in order to stay with his uncle and avoid going into an orphanage, he must pretend he is old enough to enlist. Growing up with pacifist parents, Noah isn’t sure how he feels about being trained to kill others. What will Noah do when he is faced with a decision to either stay with his uncle or leave, and if he leaves, where could he go? Recommended for 6th and up.

Phantoms in the Snow by Kathleen Benner Duble was a nicely passed book and will be a great read for students interested in World War II. It is nice to have a book set mostly in America during this time. I’d recommend this book for students in 6th grade and up. Enjoy!