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!

Terrible But True August 18, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 10:39 am

I live not far from Chicago, but I’d never heard about the over eight hundred men, women and children who died in in the Chicago River, ten feet from the dock, when the ship they were on for a fun excursion day literally rolled over! There were 2,500 people on board and many were trapped below deck, and died in the hull of the ship. People broke holes in the hull to try to help people escape. A temporary morgue was created in Chicago’s Second Regiment Armory which years later, Oprah Winfrey built her Harpo Studios in.


Or what about the molasses flood of Boston? Seriously, a huge container of molasses broke and flooded streets with over two million gallons of the sticky stuff. Twenty-one people died and lots of animals were trapped and smothered to death.

Terrible But True: Awful Events in American History by Dinah Williams looks back at our history and finds those truly horrific events that shaped our laws, how we looked at child labor and even how we put people to death.

Fascinating read for anyone who wants a quick nonfiction look at some of the most pivotal moments in American history.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


Dreams of Gold August 15, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 3:14 pm

When Joe was little, he had a really rough time of it. His mother died when he was very young and then his father shipped him across the country to live with his aunt for two years. When his dad remarried, he sent for Joe to come back. However, Thula, Joe’s new step-mother, never seemed to take to him. Joe found himself set aside when he was fifteen years old and had to survive on his own while his father and stepmom left with the four younger siblings.

This made Joe leery of trusting others, but he was determined to go to college. He started at the University of Washington in Seattle in the fall of 1933. This was a rough time in the United States. The stock market crash of 1929 had cascaded down into all walks of life, and so Joe had a hard time finding jobs so he could pay to attend school. That was mostly the reason he found himself at the rowing try outs. Because each freshman that made the rowing team was guaranteed a part time job on campus – which might bring in enough money to keep him from having to drop out of school.

The rowing team was not easy though. There were close to 200 new freshman that wanted a spot on the boats, and already upper class teams in place. So competition was fierce. But there was something special about the boys that showed up to row that year, and even the year after as well. Something that made the coach of the University of Washington believe that he could put together a shell (as the boats are called) that could take Washington to the Olympics in Berlin in 1936. And it was possible, that Joe just might be in that shell, rowing it!

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is a fast and interesting read about the United States rowing team that entered the Berlin Olympics. This is a wonderful story about a boy finding his inner strength and how it is possible to move beyond your past.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


What Can Save Her? August 11, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 11:49 am

Orphaned after both Russia and Germany invade her country of Ukraine, Lida is hopeful that she and her sister can stay together, with their grandmother. But what Lida doesn’t know is that the Nazis are always looking for slave labor, and young people are perfect for that. Larrisa and Lida are rounded up by Germans one day, and their wonderful grandmother has surely been killed. Lida is determined to keep Larrisa with her, but during a medical examination by the Nazis, Larrisa is taken away as well. Lida is shoved with other Ukrainian children into a cattle car and taken to Germany.

There, a woman says to the children, be useful or they will die. Lida has no idea how she can be useful until she notices a loose button on a commander’s shirt. Lida is a seamstress and a good one at that. She is able to escape hard labor by workidownloadng in the laundry and cleaning sheets as well as mending clothing from the officers and others.

However, this time doesn’t last, and Lida knows that her life and the lives of all the other captured children are in danger all the time. The war is coming to an end, and the Allies are constantly bombing. When Lida gets taken from the laundry and sent to make bombs, she wonders if she’ll have the nerve to sabotage them in some way.

Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Skrypuch tells the story of a little known fact that civilian children and adults were taken from countries that the Germans invaded during WWII to work as slaves in their factories and in other locations. With so many people dying during the war, human labor became a premium needed to keep the war going. Very young children, generally under the age of 12, were often killed rather than put to work. It was believed they were too young to do much help. Many children lied about their ages to protect their lives.

Recommended for ages 6th grade and up.


Bad Business August 7, 2017

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:20 am

Lindy was super excited! She’d been accepted into an amazing summer program that took students to the Arctic to learn and do projects AND see polar bears in their natural environment.

The only problem is that it costs a huge amount of money. She was able to get a scholarship to cover part of the cost, and if she turns in her money early, that will knock off another $2,000, but the problem is the early bird date is approaching fast and while Lindy does work, she isn’t sure she’ll be able to make the deadline.

Lindy works for seniors in her neighborhood doing odd chores for them. One of her best clients, Mrs. Naulty, is wonderful, but Lindy has begun to notice that she’s getting confused sometimes and forgetful. The only thing that isn’t great about Mrs. Naulty is she download-1doesn’t pay very well. However, just when Lindy thinks she’ll never be able to make her money deadline, Mrs. Naulty gives her $200! Usually she only gets 10! Lindy knows this must be another time when Mrs. Naulty is confused but she doesn’t feel she can turn down the money.

Bad Business by Diane Dakers gives us a situation where we are rooting for Lindy and when a supposed friend puts Lindy in an even worst position we aren’t sure how it will come out.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


Short Life of a Shorty August 2, 2017

Filed under: graphic novel,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:03 am

downloadThey called him Yummy because he loved sweets. He slept with a teddy bear and stole kids’ lunch money, broke into houses, cars and anything he could get his hands on. He was eleven years old when he killed a girl. He was elven years old when a 14 and 16 year old killed him.

His real name was Robert Sandifer and he lived in Chicago in the mid 1990s. It was there that he got an education in the darker side of life. What is a boy to do when his father is locked in jail and he has been taken away from his mother because of abuse. His grandmother loved him, but she had up to 20 other grandkids to look after as well. Often Yummy would take off for days and only return when he wanted some love and a safe place to sleep.

The Black Disciples – a gang in Chicago – liked to recruit young kids. They couldn’t be tried as adults and as such could do a lot of things without being locked up for the rest of their lives. The gang used this to their advantage and had the younger kids, or shortys, do a lot of their dirty work.

One afternoon, Yummy came across some rival gang members and pulled out his gun. But instead of shooting the gang members, he killed a 14 year old girl named Shavon Dean. Thus began a huge manhunt in the city of Chicago for an eleven year old boy.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri is a powerful fictionalized graphic novel account of what went down in the hot summer of 1994. The reader is faced with the question, was Yummy the victimizer or the victim?

Highly recommended for grades 7th and up.