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!

5 Stars for The Fault In Our Stars December 30, 2012

I am a pretty tough book critic. It takes a lot for me to rate a book 5 out of 5 stars. At first, I wasn’t even sure if I would like The Fault In Our Stars by John Green so I didn’t read it right away. I was hearing a lot of buzz about the book from students, other teachers, and online. I saw this book on several top 10 book lists. It was calling my name just like Twilight and The Hunger Games. When I hear a book title over and over again, I have to read it.

There’s a pretty good reason why I was hearing about The Fault In Our Stars (TFIOS) so much…it’s an awesome story!!!! This book is getting 5 out of 5 stars from me! I am even going to go as far as to buy my own copy (the one I read was from the library) and read it again. I may even highlight my favorite quotes or parts.

Hazel Grace Lancaster, 17, has cancer. She doesn’t go to school and has to push around an oxygen tank to help her breathe. She wants to sit at home and watch TV but her mom nags her to be a teenager and go out. The only place Hazel usually goes to is a cancer support group to make her mom happy. At a meeting, Hazel meets Augustus Waters. Once you meet Augustus, you will fall in love with this character, just like Hazel does. Augustus changes Hazel’s life – that’s all I can say because I don’t want to give away any spoilers. As a matter of fact, I knew nothing about the book when I began reading it. I think that made me appreciate the story so much more.

I will tell you this: you will laugh as Hazel, Isaac, and Augustus sarcastically take on cancer and being sick. You will also cry – this story is beautifully tragic. This book is about friendship, love, heroes, and overcoming challenges in life. There are some mature parts so I recommend this book for mature readers.


A Heavenly Book December 29, 2012

Filed under: Science Fiction Books — kbradley123 @ 11:12 am
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Devine Intervention by Martha Brockenbrough is a look into what a life for a guardian angel might be like. Jerome was killed in a freak archery accident. With his past ( especially what happened with the cat), he was not allowed into heaven. He is in heaven’s soul rehabilitation program for wayward teenagers. To get to the next level of his existence, Jerome must keep Heidi safe her entire life! Seems like a big task to me.

When Heidi is 16, Jerome lets her down. Now they have only 24 hours to work together before her soul dissolves into nothingness forever. This quirky book is funny and full of unbelievable happenings and rules from The Guardian Angel’s Handbook: Soul Rehab Edition. Jerome is no teen angel but if he can help Heidi in her time of need maybe- just maybe- he can make it out of Soul Rehab. This book is a great read about second ( and third) chances. Image


Two Reviews In One! December 24, 2012

Filed under: Novels in Verse — bhomel @ 4:04 pm
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Love That Dog by Sharon Creech was the first novel in verse I ever read. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know what novels in verse were when I read it many years ago. I went back and read it again because I also wanted to read Hate that Cat, which is the follow up novel to Love That Dog. I figured the story would make more sense if I went back and reread the first book.


In Love That Dog, Jack’s class is reading and writing poetry. Jack thinks he can’t write poems because he is a boy and he’s not good at writing poetry. He can’t even make sense of the poems his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, is making his class read! As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. The more Jack practices reading and writing poetry, the better he gets at it and he actually starts to like it! Jack becomes a fan of the author, Walter Dean Myers, who visits Jack’s class. Jack is inspired to continue writing poetry from Walter Dean Myers and his teacher encouraging him. I don’t usually give spoiler alerts to books but for this one I must: there is a sad part in the book. It made me very sad so I feel I must let readers know, you might feel teary eyed during a part of this book.



Hate That Cat continues Jack’s story. Jack is back for another year with Miss Stretchberry and his class is reading and writing poetry again. This time around, he is trying to avoid a mean cat in his neighborhood who he does not like! Jack learns about new poets in this book. He begins to write poems inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and a few other poets. Jack also learns a very valuable lesson about cats from that fat, black cat he hates so much.

If you are looking for a quick, easy, and GOOD read – these books are the right fit!


Historical Fiction That Hits Home December 18, 2012

I found out the setting of My Life With The Lincolns was Downers Grove, Illinois and I had to read it! The author, Gayle Brandeis, is not from Downers Grove but she researched the town and what it was like in 1966 to write this story.

My Life With The Lincolns stars Mina Edeman. Mina is spending her summer after sixth grade in her hometown of Downers Grove with her family. By the way, she is convinced her dad is Abraham Lincoln reincarnated and her family is the Lincoln family! She even convinces her dad to name his downtown Downers Grove furniture store Honest ABE’s.

The only thing Mina’s father and Abe Lincoln have in common is that they both believe in equality for all people. Mina’s father Albert begins going to civil rights speeches and meetings. He’s interested in helping African Americans move to and live in Downers Grove but not all the residents agree. Some trouble stirs up for the Edelman family. Later that summer, Mina tags along with her dad as they head to Chicago to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak! At a march in the city, protesters get out of hand. Mina and her father are stuck in the middle of the danger. That danger comes to Downers Grove as some people become angry with Albert’s work to help promote civil rights for all.

It was very cool reading a book that mentioned places I know and have visited – the Tivoli Theater, Main Street, Lincoln Park Zoo, and Soldier Field to name a few. I could imagine these places as I read. Mina is a hilarious character and I laughed out loud several times at some of her antics. I recommend this book for all O’Neill Middle School students because they know Downers Grove and all other middle school students because it is an interesting look at a turbulent time in our history.


Only the Future Exists

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 2:27 pm
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imgresWhat if everything you remembered was something in the future? And you have no recollection of the past, even what happened the day before? How could you live your life, always knowing what is coming, but never knowing what has happened? Such is London’s life, in the book Forgotten by Cat Patrick. I was so intrigued by this book because it has a premise I haven’t read before. London is a regular teen in that she worries about her friendships and who this cute guy is that she can’t “remember”in her future. So she believes that she must not have a “future” with him. And what do you do when you know your friend is going to make a terrible mistake, because you can see her future as clearly as your friend can see your past? London is caught in an upside down world, one in which only two people, her mom and a friend, know about London’s peculiar memories.  Follow London as she struggles to use the future to help unravel her past.

Recommending for grade 7 and up.




A Holocaust Survivor Story

Four Perfect Pebbles by Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan is the true story of Marion Blumenthal and her family. 

Marion, her parents, and her brother Albert (the four perfect pebbles) are Jewish. Her story begins in Hoya, Germany in the 1930s. Things started to change as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power. Marion’s family is forced to leave their hometown because Hitler was working on making Germany free of Jews.
The Blumenthal family moved around to stay safe from Hitler. They hoped to make it to the United States of America. Coming to America wasn’t an easy task. The family was tricked into thinking they were traveling to Palestine to be finally be free and were returned to Germany to live as prisoners in a camp for Jewish people.
Marion’s experience at camp is nothing short of unbelievable and shocking. Many Jewish people were crowded into rooms with no bathrooms or showers in sight. It was dirty and lice were everywhere. There wasn’t enough food or water. People were getting sick and dying from lack of food or the conditions that were around them. Getting on a train to leave was often a death sentence for Jewish people at camp.

Marion and her family are called to board a cattle car of a train. Not knowing where they are headed, Marion can only assume the worst. Find out what happened to Marion and her family by reading Four Perfect Pebbles!


Titanic: Voices From the Disaster December 15, 2012

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — kbradley123 @ 12:27 pm
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Already on this blog is a book about the Titanic, so why should there be another one? Because this book would make a wonderful nonfiction companion to The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf! That book showed the Titanic through many verses written in different voices. This book, Titanic: Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson, highlights actual people that were on the Titanic and through intense research shows how they survived- or did not survive- the most legendary ship sinking of all time.

The author of this book, Deborah Hopkinson, includes over 50 pages of research, articles, pictures and timelines of Titanic. Each person that she includes was real and a great amount of digging into each person’s past must have been done to write this book. Deborah Hopkinson does a great job of including everyone that was on the Titanic; from the rich in first class to the poor workers in the boiler room that did not survive. Each person’s story was different so each person had to be written about differently. This book is well written and a well researched, adding a layer of understanding about the Titanic’s history that a reader might not get otherwise.

If you liked the movie, The Watch That Ends the Night, or any other fictional work about the Titanic, this nonfiction book would be a great way to expand your knowledge of the Titanic and the people who really were on that ship that horrible night.