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!

How far can love take you? April 28, 2013

Falling for You

By: Lisa Schroeder

imgresI could not have been more excited when this book came out. I have read all of Lisa Schroeder’s fabulous novels in verse and could not wait to get my hands on her newest installment. First and foremost, I was plenty surprised by the book’s format. Though not a traditional  novel in verse told only through poetry, there were indeed sporadic poems from the main character spread throughout. These poems really help you get a deeper understanding of the main character’s complexities, her struggles, her triumphs, her feelings and how she is dealing with everything around her.

Our main character Rae always seems to run away from opportunities that are presented before her, especially when it comes to relationships. When Nathan comes into the picture, everything seems to good to be true and finally, with help from her friends, she is urged to break through the walls she’s had up for so long. But usually when things seem too good to be true, they probably are. It doesn’t take long for Rae to see some different sides of Nathan and begin questioning herself and her relationship. All the while, she is struggling with the constant battle of her stepfather taking her money, treating her like garbage, and stealing her mother’s love away. When will all of this be too much for Rae? Will she ever actually fall for someone worth falling for? This book keeps you wanting to read more and captures Rae’s story, character, and realness flawlessly! I would recommend it definitely to all my students looking for a nontraditional and triumphant love story!


Fantasy, or Reality? April 23, 2013

Ever think it would be cool to have a clone? Someone who could do all the things you don’t want to do? What if that person was your identical twin? Would you consider that person a clone? What makes you an individual if another person in the world shares your exact DNA? Brendan is struggling with finding his own identity in The Shadowed Unicorn by Sheila Kelly Welch. Being a twin is hard enough, but being the responsible twin gets old at times. Nick never seems to care what others think, and it’s Brendan who feels he needs to worry about everything. When the family moves to a small farm in the countryside of Pennsylvania after their father is killed, Brendan’s sister Ami seems to be coming apart at the seams. Brendan begins to question her grasp on reality as she becomes swept away in a fantasy world.

imgres-1As Brendan moves through his life, worrying about his sister, his mother, and even his twin brother at times, the reader is drawn into his world. How can he keep everyone safe and moving forward after the devastation of losing their father? And what will happen if he can’t control everything and everyone around him. The Shadow Unicorn gives you a fantastic look at a family trying to survive and move beyond a crisis and shows how each member of a family can deal with pain and loss in their own personal way.

Highly Recommended for grades 6 and up.


A True Survival Story April 22, 2013

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — bhomel @ 1:29 pm
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Written by Kathy Kacer, Hiding Edith, is a true story about Edith Schwalb.

Edith Schwalb was a young Jewish girl living in Vienna, Austria in 1938. Life in Vienna was changing because Hitler began targeting Jewish people. Hitler and the Nazis made life difficult for many Jewish people in Germany and the countries surrounding. To ensure their safety, Edith’s family had to leave their home in Vienna and move to Belgium.

It wasn’t long before Edith was then forced to leave Belgium. Separated from her family, Edith was sent to a school in France. This school took in Jewish children secretly and kept them safe. Edith had to learn how to live without her family. Eventually no countries were safe from Hitler and his invading army – the school got news that the Nazis would be coming to look for Jewish children! With nowhere left to run, Edith was forced to change her identity and forget her Jewish heritage.

Written by Kathy Kacer, Hiding Edith, is a true story about Edith Schw


A Mighty Friend

Three words that come to mind when I describe the book The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate are: friendship, art, and promises.

Cover of The One and Only Ivan

Ivan is a gorilla living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall. He is the only gorilla there and grew up around humans after his owner Mack bought him for the Big Top Mall. The billboard posted at the mall’s exit advertises the main attraction – “The One and Only Ivan, The Mighty Silverback!” Unfortunately Ivan and the other animals are not attracting visitors.

Besides showing off his gorilla moves for the visitors, Ivan has a talent – he draws. Mack sells Ivan’s drawings in the gift shop to help make some extra money. When the visitors and Mack are gone, Ivan spend his time with Stella, an older elephant, and Bob, a stray dog.

Because business is slow at the Big Top Mall, Mack adds Ruby, a baby elephant, to the show. Ruby was separated from her family and bonds with Stella. Stella gets sick and asks Ivan to promise to take care of Ruby and help Ruby escape the mall -aka prison. Ivan knows there are zoos out there that take care of animals instead of making them work and be away from others like them. Ivan, with the help of Julia, another artist, try to keep that promise to Stella.

This book is a good read for anyone. It a heart warming story of what true friends will do for each other.

Author Katherine Applegate based this story on a real gorilla named Ivan who now lives at Zoo Atlanta. Read about the real Ivan on the authors web site:


Book Two in His Fair Assassin Series April 18, 2013

DarkTriumphA few weeks ago, I posted about how amazing Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is.  I am now about halfway through Dark Triumph, the second book in her His Fair Assassin series, and I am so thrilled that the second book is just as good as the first!!!  Dark Triumph is also concerned with d’Albret’s malicious plotting against the young Dutchess of Britony.  Instead of Ismae’s perspective however, we are now getting the story from her Sister in Death, Sybella.  Sybella, who was half crazy and suicidal when first sent to the convent of Saint Mortain to train as an assassin, has now been sent to shadow d’Albret and foil any plans of his to assassinate the Dutchess or aid France in overthrowing her kingdom.

But as we soon learn, Sybella’s fragile emotional state was the result of her mental and physical as a daughter of d’Albret.  Will this mission prove to be too difficult, causing one of Death’s handmaidens to take her own life instead of the life of her target?  I can’t wait to find out!!

Coming soon will be Mortal Heart, from the point of view of Annith, stuck like a prisoner in the convent awaiting her role as next Seer.  What an awesome, addicting new series!!!!


The War Within April 12, 2013

imgresA lot of war books are action packed with guns, bombs and general mayhem abounding. While Eddie’s War by Carol Fisher Saller is certainly, without a doubt a war book, it focuses on the home front, rather than the war front. And as such it is more of what I call a quiet book, but a book with a lot of punch nonetheless.

Eddie is a young boy when talk of a possible war begins. He first encounters the idea when he goes to the local library and begins – pretending at first since he can barely read- to peruse the newspapers. A man sits with him and reads them as well, and Eddie and the man talk once in awhile about the man’s home country. You see, Josef is considered a Gypsy by people in Eddie’s small town in Illinois, and as such isn’t someone many trust easily. However, Eddie sees another side to Josef as the older man searches for news of his small village in Poland.

In the meantime Eddie is trying to grow up. He sees his older brother, Thomas, think about what the coming war means to him and Eddie begins to realize all the fan fair hides some really serious issues. Eddie struggles to understand some complex relationships he didn’t have a grasp of before he got older, and when faced with a potential life altering situation for his friends, it is up to Eddie to decide what he believes and and what he is willing to put on the line for those beliefs.

Written in a verse style and taking place over many years, we as readers get to see Eddie emerge and realize the people who surround him aren’t as perfect as he once believed and he needs to decide what to do with that knowledge.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


7th Grade Guest Blogger – Jami L. April 7, 2013

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Student Book Reviews — bhomel @ 5:48 pm
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What would you do if there was a serial killer on the loose in your own town? How scared would you be if you knew you had to walk home all alone? Would you take the safe, but long way home, or would you take the shortcut through the field?

Well, 16 year old Stephanie didn’t seem to care about any serial killer when she took the shortcut. While walking through the field, she felt a tingly sensation on her neck. Before she knew it, she blacked out and later woke up in an old cabin with rope tied around her, lying on the ground! Stephanie needs to first find out a way to somehow break free of the ropes and then find her way home. Of course, the important question is… Who did this to her?

I picked the book Taken by Norah McClintock because, it looked like a page-turner. I really enjoyed the suspense of it, and how it always kept me on my feet. This book is perfect for any gender. My favorite part was when she felt the tingly sensation on her neck. That part really had me wanting to know what was going to happen next. Taken is a mystery. Even if you don’t like mystery novels, you should definitely give this book a chance. I liked that it wasn’t slow-paced, and it got straight to the point.