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!

Based on True Events November 30, 2016

On March 11, 2011, a catastrophic earthquake hit Japan. Minutes later, a wall of the Pacific Ocean came slamming into the coast of Japan from a massive tsunami.

Leza Lowitz, the author of Up From the Sea, noted, “15,889 people died, 6,152 were injured, and 2,601 people are still missing.” She was inspired to write this story because she was in Tokyo when this happened – she saw the devastation and death first hand.

Up from the Sea is a novel in verse. Kai, a fictional character, tells his story of survival and loss. At school, Kai thinks he’s part of just another routine earthquake drill Japan often has. This time the drill is real! After the earthquake, Kai seeks higher ground b2Q==.jpgecause a tsunami is coming. The tsunami destroys everything in Kai’s life – his home, his school, and his family. Kai’s story portrays the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan and how many people’s lives were changed.

If you like reading novels in verse, easy books, books about natural disasters, stories about survival, or just good stories – I recommend Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz



Hijacked! November 29, 2016

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 2:39 pm

She was having a hard enough time leaving her family and going back to boarding schoolimgres after Winter Break, without having to worry about all the news of hijacked planes. Not that it would happen to her, right? What were the chances after all?

Turns out, the chances were pretty good. Anna is fifteen years old and traveling back to England from Bahrain where her father has been stationed as a soldier. When she gets on board the plane, nothing seems out of the ordinary. However, not long into the flight a hijacker with a gun emerges and it turns out there are three hijackers on the plane, with one of them strapped to a brief case filled with explosives. They are Palestinians who are trying to raise awareness of their situation in the Middle East. Of course Anna and the two boys sitting on either side of her know nothing about this and are just terrified.

The plane is diverted to a remote airstrip in the Jordan desert where two other hijacked planes are also sitting. There is a deadline. A Palestinian hijacker who is being held by the British must be released in four days time, or the plane with everyone on board will be blown up.

Anna goes through a range of emotions and finds herself at times struggling to comprehend that these might be the last days of her life.

Girl on a Plane by Miriam Moss is a fast paced, intense read and even more impactful when you read the author’s note and find out that the author was on a plane that was hijacked when she was fifteen.

Recommended for mature 6th graders and up.


An Escape to Space: Starflight November 22, 2016

Filed under: Science Fiction Books — ghahn2012 @ 11:23 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Have you ever wanted to escape your problems?  Solara Brooks has the perfect solution.  Her life on earth is nothing worth keeping- so she plans to escape to the fringes of space where she can start over working as a mechanic.  In the fringe she will be valued for her skills and it won’t 9781484723241_p0_v8_s192x300matter that she has no family, no money, and a criminal conviction.  The only problem is that she can’t afford to get there.  Solara decides to indenture herself to someone for the length of the journey and unfortunately, the only person willing to take her is her tormentor from school.  Solara is a survivor though and through some brilliant twists and turns in the plot, she shows just how strong she is.

Starflight by Melissa Landers is science fiction at its best.  Space pirates, new frontier, and adventure all help make this story memorable.  But the part that will leave you wanting more is the characters.  Luckily, this is the first of a series.


Tommy, the Gun November 18, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 1:55 pm

It shocked the nation, over and over again. At one point though, it became so prevalent that people startedimgresbecoming immune to the shootings. When it stopped being criminals killing each other and turning toward civilians and police officers, the public did begin to get more concerned. Of course, there were always those who thought the criminals were justified. After all, they were robbing the very banks that had robbed many Americans when the great crash happened in 1929 and so many lost their entire life savings. Many things had a part in the growing violence of the 1920s and the 1930s. Of course prohibition was a main driver of the emergence of gangs both in Chicago and other large cities on the East coast. The Great Depression made many people desperate as well.

Something brought fire power to the gangsters that hadn’t been there before though. That was the Tommy gun. Originally, it had be created as a weapon that could be used to help American troops in war, however it wasn’t picked up by the military at first.  When World War I ended, they didn’t see a need for the submachine gun that could fire up to 800 rounds in a minute. So the manufacturers turned to law enforcement as a place to sell their guns. However, police were concerned about having a weapon that sprayed bullets and could just as easily hurt innocent bystanders as take out a gangster.  Gangsters on the other hand saw the great potential of the Tommy gun and used it freely.

Tommy: the gun that changed America  by Karen Blumenthal is a fascinating look at how a gun changed the landscape, not only of how gangsters operated, but also gave the FBI, which was just starting out, the beginnings of its reputation, as well as changed how law enforcement worked with each other. It also saw the beginnings of specific gun laws, and how even in the 1930s, the long arm of the NRA was exerting itself.

Recommended for any true crime buffs, lovers of the 1930s, gangsters and early law enforcement. A great read. Good for mature 6th graders and up – warning it is a little dry at the beginning as it describes how the gun came to be.


As She Was Drowning…She Heard A Voice November 11, 2016

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 9:18 am

Eighty years ago, Kahlen was traveling with her family on a plush steam liner on the ocean, when her ship began to sink. Not only that, but people were pulled by an unseen force into the water, happily! However, Kahlen, who heard the “call” to come to the Ocean, also began to fight the pull and begged to live. A beautiful woman heard her cries and asked her if she would be willing to serve the Ocean for 100 years in exchange for her life. She agreed.

What Kahlen didn’t realize was she was committing herself to the Ocean to be a killer for Her. The Ocean feeds off thimgrese deaths of humans, and if enough don’t die each year to sustain Her, her Sirens must call people to their deaths. Kahlen becomes Her most beloved siren. Kahlen loves the Ocean but at the same time despises what she is called to do – kill people. As the end of her sentence approaches, Kahlen finds herself spiraling into a depression she can’t seem to shake. And that is when she meets Akinli – a boy at a college she and the other sirens are living near.  While Kahlen can’t speak to anyone other than the sirens, Akinli doesn’t seem to mind and proceeds to charm Kahlen with his sweet spirit. She even agrees to go on a date with him. However, on the date, she realizes she feels too strongly for him, and knows there can be no future. Forcing herself to leave him is the hardest and most painful thing Kahlen has ever had to do. Until she is asked to take down an entire cruise ship by Her.

The Siren by Kiera Cass is a stand alone novel (which I thank her for!) and has a sweet romance that many will enjoy plus lots of lore about sirens – or at least the ones that Cass has created.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr November 4, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — elinsenmeyer @ 2:25 pm


Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were the American Revolution’s version of frenemies. They were both orphaned at a young age, went to college young and were at the top of their classes, fought together during the American Revolution, worked together as lawyers, and helped shape the 13 colonies into the United States of America. Though they had similar backgrounds, the two men were very different: Alexander Hamilton was hot-tempered and impatient, while Aaron Burr was calm and patient, which meant that the two didn’t see eye to eye on how things should be handled.

And then one day, on July 11th, 1804, they meet for one last fight.

The Duel is a great supplement to read after you’ve finished the musical Hamilton because it talks about a lot of the events that the musical just briefly touched. The fact that many people know how the duel will end before it even begins makes this all the more interesting. Pick it up, and try not to sing along!



The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — elinsenmeyer @ 2:14 pm

In 1940, the Nazi army invaded Denmark and the Danish government signed an agreement for Germany to occupy the country and take over the government. Angered by this, 15 year old Knud Pedersen and his friends form a secretive organization known Churchill Club. Their goal? To stop the Nazis, even when the adults couldn’t and wouldn’t.

22718705The members of the Churchill Club start small–they paint graffiti and remove and switch around signs to make things difficult for the Nazis. But soon they’re not content with these small acts of rebellion and move on to larger actions, including cutting communication lines, stealing weapons, and raiding Nazi buildings. Considering they were doing this on all on their bikes? It’s pretty impressive.

This is a true story of a small group of teenagers who do great things. In fact, the Churchill Club is often credited as inspiring the rest of Denmark to stand up to the Nazis. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler is a fast read full of twists and turns that will have every reader cheering for these awesome teens.