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!

Football and Indians March 28, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 12:42 pm

As many, MANY people in my school can attest (and my family as well), I’m not  a fan of football…at all. In fact after reading a book called Fourth Down and Inches (reviewed here in October of 2014) I’ve been on a one woman crusade to try to get the students in my school to understand the inherent dangers of the sport. Clearly, I’m fighting a losing game.

However, I’ve long heard of Jim Thorpe, the Native American who was an amazing athlete, yet I’ve never read a book about him. So I was interested to see this new title Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian Football Team by Steve Sheinkin. I had no idea how Thorpe got his start and was very surprised to learn all that I did about the beginnings of football and how we, as Americans, have a lot to thank the Carlisle Indian team for not only saving the sport of football, but making it into the sport that many love today. Not myself, mind you!

Jim Thorpe began his life in Oklahoma living with his father and his mother, his father’s third wife. Of Potawatomi and Sac and Fox ancestry, Thorpe never was one to like school. In fact, when his parents decided he should attend an Indian school, he ran away from it at least three times. It was 23 miles from his home. He simply ran back home! Thorpe’s young life was filled with tragedies and he would cope by removing himself to the woods. He was a wanderer, who often just took off because the confines of rules were not something he liked. However, when his father finally felt he could do nothing with him, he sent him off to the most famous of Indian schools of the time, Carlisle Indian Industrial School, located all the way across the country in Carlisle,Pennsylvania.

These Indian schools were not designed to support the children of Indians – rather they were designed to force children to give up their language, clothing, stories and history to be assimilated into the white world. Thousands of Indian children were sent to these schools by well meaning parents, while the vast majority of the children suffered terribly. In fact, one student at Carlisle was so miserable he refused to eat. Rather than sending him home, the superintendent tried to force him to eat and when that didn’t work, the boy starved to death. A cemetery remains to this day of the close to 200 students who died there.

It was to this school that Thorpe’s father sent him as a teenager and where Thorpe eventually meet Pop Warner, who was the coach of the already famous Carlisle Indian football team. Together, they would go on to make history.

This book is an honest look at the beginnings of football and follows the lives of not only Jim Thorpe, but Pop Warner as well as other Indians who played this sport in its infancy and who changed the game forever.

Recommended for 6th grade and up for any students interested in football, Native American history, Jim Thorpe, Pop Warner or a really good read…even if you hate football like I do!


Woman For Humane Treatment of Animals March 23, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:46 pm

As a young child, nothing made sense for Temple Grandin. She couldn’t understand people talking to her, she couldn’t look people in the eye, and sounds and clothing could make her very uncomfortable. She wasn’t able to express any of this to the people around her, which led her to throw tantrums which further confused everyone. At the age of three she was diagnosed with Autism, a hardly known disorder at the time, which maimgresde many things others took for granted, very difficult for Temple. She worked hard and with the help of her mother, she was able to begin to understand the world around her, although some things still are a mystery to her to this day.

As she grew, she realized she had an affinity for understanding animals and what could provoke fear in them.  She spent time on her aunt and uncle’s farm in Arizona, riding horses, working with cattle, and designing and fixing things for them. In time, she became very interested in how she could improve the lives of animals heading to slaughter and began working with places to make the end of the lives of animals better.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery is an honest look at how Grandin impacted the world of farm animals and in the process changed how we look at the end of life for them.

Recommended for any animal lovers and anyone who consumes meat, to see how our life decisions impact others. Grades 7th and up.



See You in the Cosmos March 20, 2017

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng is an AMAZING novel told from the perspective of a space-loving eleven year old (who explains he is thirteen in maturity years :)). Alex Petroski loves space, and his idol is Carl Sagan. Just as Carl Sagan launched the Voyager Golden Records, which contain sounds and pictures of life on Earth, into space, Alex plans to lauSee You in the Cosmosnch his Golden iPod. This iPod contains Alex’s narration of his daily life, and he searches for people to interview who can explain the beauties and intricacies of what it means to be human for the alien life forms who will find his iPod after he launches it. This book follows Alex’s determination to build a rocket which will launch his iPod, his quest to find a “man in love” to interview, and his desire to unravel the mystery of why there is a record of a man with his deceased father’s same name and birthday living in Las Vegas. What follows is a roadtrip of epic proportions that will stay with you long after you close this book’s pages. Highly, highly recommended for any fans of realistic fiction!!!



A Life In Poems March 3, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 12:43 pm

Born a slave in 1864, his mother and he were stolen from the white couple who owned them. Little George was recovered but not his mother, so he and his older brother were raised for a time by the white couple who clearly cared deeply for them. Later they sent George and his brother to get an education.

For many years George worked hard and traveled far to learn as much as he could about life and many living things. He was amazing at laundry, because he’d figured out how to clean things well! He was able to tell people huge amounts of information about many plants and what they could be used for.

imgres-1Eventually, he was able to get his master’s degree and began working as a professor at Tuskegee Institute where he made incredible works of art as well as improved the lives of farmers over and over again with his techniques. His introduction of the peanut as a way to improve the lives of former slaves and the soil in the south was a brilliant stroke to better the lives of many.

Carver: a life in poems by Marilyn Nelson is a difficult read at times and at turns very poignant as we get a glimpse into the private and often lonely life of George Washington Carver, undeniably one of America’s greatest scientific minds.

Recommended for 8th grade and up due to high level of inferencing and vocabulary.