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!

Orbiting Jupiter August 31, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 11:39 am

When Jack sat down with his parents and Mrs. Stroud, from the State of Maine * imgresDepartment of Health and Human Services, he knew his parents wanted to foster a teenager named Joseph. What he didn’t know what just how much Joseph would impact them all.

Joseph, at 14, has already lived more than others have by the age of 80. He’s a father to a little girl that he’s never seen, named Jupiter, and comes from a troubling home situation. After being removed from his father’s custody Joseph was sent to a few homes and eventually a juvenile facility where things went from bad to worse, as in he tried to kill a teacher.

Jack’s parents know all of this, and they still want to offer a place for Joseph. What Jack doesn’t realize is how much he will end up wanting Joseph to stay as well. Even though people around him tell him Joseph is a bad example for him to follow, since he is two years younger than Joseph, Jack finds himself time and again believing in Joseph and his desire to find his little girl, Jupiter.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt will haunt you after you have read this book. Be ready to read this book in one sitting because once you start it you won’t want to put it down. While it is a quick read, it packs a poignant punch.

Recommended for mature 7th graders and up due to subject matter.


In a World of Heroes, an Antihero is Very Welcome! August 30, 2016

Filed under: Fantasy Books — lpitrak @ 12:01 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Coming in October is the release of Goldenhand, Garth Nix’s chronological continuation of his beloved Old Kingdom series. In anticipation of this dive back into the intoxicating realms of magic, duty, and sacrifice, I would like to recommend my personal favorite of this series. Clariel is the only book in the Old Kingdom series which is not a continuation of the storyline, but rather a journey into the origins of elemental magic.

Clariel is set 600 years before Sabriel, and the Old Kingdom is very different from what it will come to be in the future. Due to generations of prosperity and relative safety from Free Magic creatures, members of the Charter have grown lax. King Orrikan shirks all royal duties, hiding in his palace, while the Abhorsen is rumored to fear his connection and rightful control over the realms of Death. Seventeen-year-old Clariel, who is capable and brave, is utterly uninterested in politics, material possessions, and the intricacies of the Charter. She lives for the wild solitude of the Great Forest. However, due to blood ties to both the King and the Abhorsen, many conspire to use her for their own purposes. Clariel as constantly torn between a sense of duty, a desire to forge her own path, and a raw “berserk” nature. In contrast, Free Magic entities are presented not as villains, but ethereal, elemental beings whose understanding of morality differs greatly from humans. Savvy readers will figure out what Clariel is to become long before the change occurs in the novel. However, this sensitive rendition gives readers a greater understanding as to how a strong force such as Clariel is ultimately drawn to the untamable power of Free Magic and necromancy.


Giants Among Us? August 25, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:08 pm

imgresHe simply needed a new well. At least that is what William Newell told the men that had come on the morning of October 16, 1869 to work for him. He took the men to a specific location and told them that he figured digging down about four or so feet should get them to water. What none of the workers expected was to find what appeared to be a stone man, or maybe even a petrified man. Could this be proof that giants once roamed the earth, as the Bible said? Could this be proof of Giants that the native Onondaga Indian tribe described in their legends?

Or could it actually be one of the most successful hoaxes played on Americans in the 1800s? The Giant: And How He Humbugged America by Jim Murphy looks at a little known, but largely impactful hoax that was imagined and perpetrated by a man named George Hull, along with many accomplices. This Cardiff Giant, as it was later named, captivated the minds of Americans for several months before the truth finally came out.

This is a quick and interesting read about a little known part of American history. Recommended for 6th grade and up.


She Took an Ax, Or did She? August 20, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:42 pm

One of the most looked at, mulled over, and inconclusive murder mysteries in America are the Borden murders of 1892. Two people were brutally murdered, probably by an ax or some other sharp object on the morning of August 4th in the small town of Fall River, Massachusetts.

The body of Andrew Borden was the first discovered, by his daughter, Lizzie. After she called for the maid and others in the area heard her distress and came to see what was going on, his gruesomely hacked head was seen lying on a sofa in the front parlor. It took some time before Abby Borden, Lizzie’s step-mother for most of her life, was found also brutally murdered in an upstairs guest bedroom, half hidden due to the fact she was partially under the bed.

With this double murder, the sleepy town of Fall River woke up, in a big way. The story soon was being carried all over the East coast. Who could have done these horrible deeds? The police soon began to suspect Lizzie, the spinster daughter living at home with her father and step-mother. The eldest daughter, Emma, had been off visiting friends.

imgresThe Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller is a fascinating look at the events of the day of the murders as well as all the things that led to the eventual trial of Lizzie Borden for the murders of her parents.  Many of the myths and stories surrounding Lizzie Borden are delved into by the author and most of them come up empty. Miller looks at the transcripts from the trial, reviewed the newspapers and searched out every lead she could for this book. Having read a book not long ago called Sweet Madness – a fictional account of the murders as told by the maid in the house – I realize that the authors of that book relied heavily on the myths and legends surrounding the case, rather than seeking out the facts. Of course, that can make it much more interesting reading for a fiction book, however, because the Borden case still confounds most who make a study of it, the reality is quite exciting enough for me.

Truly, this is a book that will keep you engrossed from the beginning to the end, and will leave with many more questions. If Lizzie did kill her parents, how on earth did she do it, and if she didn’t, then who did? The world may never know for sure.

Recommended for mature 7th graders and up.


The Last Place on Earth August 18, 2016

Have you ever thought about what you would do if there was a plague in the United States?  Would you run?  Try to escape it?  Just give in?

Daisy and Henry are best friends.  They do everything together and hang out ever51SOWRv9jWL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_y day.  Then one day Henry is gone- just gone.  Daisy goes to Henry’s house to investigate and no one is there, but she finds a note that says, “Save me.”  Daisy convinces her brother to help her follow the clues on a rescue mission into the mountains where everything gets even crazier.  Daisy unknowingly falls into Henry’s biggest secret- a fallout shelter.  Daisy always knew Henry’s family liked camping on weekends, but it turns out they are full out survivalists who have prepared for the end of the world.    People have started getting sick at home and Henry’s mom has decided that THIS is the big one, so they have gone off the grid.

The Last Place on Earth by Carol Snow is a fun novel that takes a different take on the end of the world theme.  Daisy is a sarcastic story teller who the reader really connects with as she describes this alternate life style.  There are a lot of interesting characters, a little bit of romance, and just enough twists and turns to keep the story moving.


Blood Will Tell August 16, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 1:48 pm

Willa knows she should feel lucky. She has a mother and step-father who love her – two step-sisters who she gets along with, and well, a pretty normal life. Except that himgreser step-sisters’ mother has a ton of money and her daughters get the benefit of that, while Willa doesn’t seem to see any of it. Still, things are good right? But how “good” can they be if Willa feels the need sometimes to sneak down into the basement to her secret area where she hides a razor blade and bandages for when things get a little too much for her.

She thinks of that place in the basement one afternoon when she gets home from school. There are four messages from her mom’s best friend, Faye, looking for Willa’s mom. The messages mention a missing twin and a person named Budge. At first, Willa isn’t too concerned but when police show up at her door and tell her that her biological father is wanted in the possible murder of his current wife, and two of his children (siblings Willa didn’t even know she had) things get anything but normal really fast.

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer is a book that will make you want to keep reading until you see where Willa’s families will end up.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Leaking Secrets August 8, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 1:34 pm

When does the duty to your country supersede your duty to your government? Are they theimgres same? For Daniel Ellsberg, growing up after the end of WWII, the threat of Communism was always at the forefront of things. So he decided to pursue a military career and when he got out, wanted to go into how the government makes public policy on things, especially regarding military actions.

Ellsberg ended up working in Washington, D.C. under the Lyndon Johnson administration and learned some things quickly, as the involvement in Vietnam began to gather momentum. He firmly believed that the United States had an obligation to prevent the spread of Communism and if that meant putting boots on the ground in that country, then so be it.

At one point, Ellsberg went to Vietnam just to see what the situation was for himself. He spent two years living in the country, going out with U.S. soldiers and seeing for himself what was happening in the country of Vietnam. After that, he realized that he could no longer support the war as he once had.

Upon his return to the United States however, it wasn’t until some time later, after reading a 7,000 page secret government study detailing the escalation of the conflict and showing how many times things were mishandled by four presidents that Ellsberg realized he could no longer remain silent. He decided to share these top secret 7,000 pages with the press and therefore, the American people.

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin reads in parts like a spy novel or perhaps how NOT to be a spy! What is interesting about this case, is that because of Ellsberg’s actions, and the steps taken to “take him down” a president became embroiled in one of our nation’s biggest scandals- Watergate.

Recommended for any student who is interested in the Vietnam War or wanting to know more about the 1960s, Nixon or Johnson. Fascinating read.