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. If you would like to listen to booktalks of some of these books, please check out this site and enjoy!

When the Water Came August 8, 2022

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-2Joe wants more for his life that what his father has. He thinks that by showing his dad he was able to save up and purchase a news stand on his own that his dad will respect him more. And then he can ask Maggie to begin planning their lives together. Or that is what he hopes as the country gets ready to celebrate Decoration Day, to honor all the soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Some of Joe’s friends just can’t wait for school to be over, so they can go sneak off to the forest, and to the lake that is high up above Johnstown, Lake Conemaugh, a man made lake owned by members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. Basically, rich people from Pittsburgh, PA. But people from the town aren’t really welcome at the hunting club, unless they are working there.

All little Gertrude Quinn wants to do is go to the big parade for Decoration Day! But with all this rain and the streets flooding, and her stick in the mud aunt, it looks like she might not get to have the fun time she is hoping for.

As the streets flood, and the rain keeps coming down, more and more people get worried about the dam that holds Lake Conemaugh in its banks. Because what will happen if the dam fails?

Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown by Ann Burg is based on true events in 1889 when an earthen dam collapsed and sent millions of gallons of water rushing down into the town of Johnson, where homes, businesses and people were in its path.

Recommended for 7th grade and up. If you enjoy this book, consider reading another novel in verse on the same subject called Three Rivers Rising by James Richards.


Finally Together May 30, 2022

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-1Richard and Millie had grown up together with their families in Central Point, Virginia. It was an unusual area for that time in Virginia – black and white families would often get together for events and to just hang out. The rest of the segregated South seemed to disappear in Central Point. When Millie was in high school, she and Richard started to date and in time fell in love.

But there was a problem. Richard was white, and Millie was black and Native American. In Virginia, people who were white could only marry other people who were white. Millie and Richard went to Washington, D.C. to get married since they knew they couldn’t in Virginia. But in the dead of night, the Sheriff arrested them for being together. They were tried and found guilty of breaking the law for living together because they were of different races. Their sentence was they could not return to Virginia for 25 years, or face the possibility of going to jail. Both of them wanted to live in Virginia – it was where their families were and where they wanted to raise their children.

Millie hated that they had to live in Washington, D.C. City life was not for her. She struggled to find someone who could help them and finally she did.

Loving VS. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell is a novel in verse look at the important Supreme Court case involving marriage in this country and how the United States was still dealing with segregation and racism years after the abolition of slavery.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Struggle to Survive August 9, 2021

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-2That summer was a hot one, just like all the others in Mississippi. Yet Rose Lee was used to the heat, even if she never got USED to it. It just was. But that July, she and her brother Fred Lee got bad news, news that they should have seen coming but didn’t. Their mother, who had married a man to take care of his younger children, was moving to Chicago, without them. Not that they had seen their mother much since she’d married Mr. Pete, but still, now she was moving to Chicago, without them, and didn’t seem to have any issues with it. Of course, she’d already left them with her parents, Papa and Ma Pearl, about seven years ago, so why should she start acting like a mother now? Still Rose is terribly hurt by the fact that her mother is showing she obviously doesn’t care about either her or Fred.

And after that big hit, they just keep coming. The summer turns out to be one shock after another, and all of them are unpleasant and show how different some of her own family feel about events happening in and around Mississippi. Ma Pearl never lets Rose forget she is NOT the favored grandchild, not even close and makes references to her dark skin as if it is something to be ashamed of, and makes Rose think bad things about herself.

When horror strikes close to home, Rose feels like her connection to Mississippi and home is slipping away, and all she wants is to get away as fast as possible because she can’t see herself surviving in such a place. Is it possible to be happy when she is surrounded by so much despair and horrible history, past and present?

Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson is a look at the south during the murder of Emmett Till and how many people were living with the constant battle between wanting to do what they knew was right, and being terrified of how it could come back down on them and their families. It shows how not everyone felt the same way about how to move forward and how that could and did create family conflict and how if things were going to change, it might just have to come from the younger generation.

Recommended for grades 7 and up due to authentic language usage.

“Find me on Twinkl’s TBR list of best books and bookish bloggers!”


What Has Changed? February 22, 2021

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-1Ashley lives in her nice house in the Los Angeles suburbs where the most people worry about is when the wild fires come down and houses burn. Well, that is what people think. But just like most places and with most people, it doesn’t take too long looking under the surface to see issues. Like Ashley’s older sister, Jo. Jo has become a huge source of conversation at their household, and mostly because their parents don’t know what to do with her. Ashley feels like that has taken some of the pressure off of her, but really, how much pressure can be removed considering she’s a young black girl, growing up in Los Angels in 1992?

What Ashley doesn’t realize is that an event that happens not too far from her house (relatively speaking) is going to change how she views many things – her parents, her sister, her friends and most of all, herself. Rodney King was beaten savagely by police officers and it was caught on video tape. Ashley and her friends are shocked when riots break out across the city after the officers are acquitted of any wrongdoing at their trial. Ashley, who has been sheltered from some things because of her well to do parents and the life they gave their two daughters, often feels apart from the other black kids at her private school. Ashley has three close white girlfriends that she’s grown up with. Now, with the riots, Ashley, her friends and even her family are all coming up against ideas they have long held and are having to decide if they can still live with those thoughts.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed is like a look back in time and a look back to last week. Never does the author make the point of how little has changed when it comes to police brutality and people of color – or how this country, almost thirty years after the Rodney King event, are still grappling with issues of race. However, it is impossible as a reader to not see how little has changed. Children are still struggling with where they belong and who their friends are, really, and our society still hasn’t figured out how to move on from the legacy of slavery. This is a really great read.

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up due to content.


Too Young to Fight November 16, 2020

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Charlie wants to fight -even though he is only 15 years old. But he figures he has what it takes to be in the war – if only he were a little older. So, he decides that he’ll go register to fight away from his home town, where no one knows how old – or young- he really is. And that is just what he does. Charlie leaves his home state of Minnesota and joins the thousands of others who believe in preserving the Union of the states, and joins the Union army off to fight the Confederates.

Charlie has ideas of what war is like, but the reality is something he coulddownload never have dreamed of – moments of shear terror followed by hours and days of unbelievable boredom. To see the horrors of the Battle of Gettysburg, and to see friends get mowed down by bullets – to kill others – all things that Charlie realizes he wasn’t prepared for at all. How does someone survive something like that? Or do they?

Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen is a short, incredibly powerful look at how war impacts not only the body but the soul of a person. The character of Charlie is based on a real person who did live and fight during the Civil War and how he came back home a very different person than he left. As really everyone who has been involved in a war does. Highly recommended read for anyone interested in the Civil War.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Running Away July 27, 2020

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

downloadWhen school is taken away from Joan, it seems like the worst thing ever. How can she convince her father that school is what her mom wanted for her? How can she convince him that her learning is important – as important as her work on the farm for him and her three older brothers? It isn’t until a visit from her former teacher that Joan gets an idea. If she can only earn enough money from selling eggs, she might be able to get back to school and her dream of leaving the farm and all the hard drudgery that it represents. Yet, quickly it becomes apparent, no matter what Joan says or how hard she works, her father expects her to live out her life in servitude to the farm and to him. After one horrible night of screaming and yelling, Joan makes a brave decision. She will run away and get a job in a larger city. After all, they pay girls in the city to do the work she’s doing for free on the farm. And they pay well! But she knows no one will hire a girl of only 14. So a plan forms. She will need to change her age and her name, just in case her father comes looking for her.

And so Joan, now Janet, embarks on the greatest adventure of her life, and also the scariest. Through the best of luck, she is able to find herself in a wealthy household working as their hired girl. Yet, this family isn’t the typical family, as Joan/Janet quickly realizes and she has her own beliefs stretched as a result.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz gives readers a detailed look at life in America on the farm and in the cities in 1911 and just how hard it was in both locations to get ahead if you start with little to nothing. Looking at a woman’s life, it also portrays the struggles for creating something meaningful in a world that often ignored or simply didn’t care about that entire gender. This was an incredible read and highly recommended.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


An Island Torn Apart May 4, 2020

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

downloadOkinawa is a relatively small island off the southern tip of Japan, but at the end of World War II it was the place of the last and bloodiest battle of the whole Pacific Ocean war.

Ray is a young American marine trying to find his way on this lush green island that the United States is about to invade. His father tried to talk him out of joining the military, but he felt it was something he had to do, plus it also meant getting away from his dad. He isn’t prepared though for the true horrors of war.

Hideki is a native Okinawan and he and his family have been separated due to the war. His father and sister have been forced to help the Japanese who took over the island years before, and his mother and little brother were evacuated on a ship heading for Japan. Hideki has stayed behind with a bunch of other boys around his age of 14 to become part of the Blood and Iron Student Corps to fight for the Japanese Imperial Army. However, Hideki realizes very quickly that the JIA has no real intention of trying to help any of the Okinawan and in many cases will use them in horrible ways.

Both Ray and Hideki struggle to find footing in this new war torn world they both exist in.  The question is what toll will this take on both of them, and will they make it out alive?

Grenade by Alan Gratz is a really good World War II historical fiction read. It gives a clear picture of both sides of the conflict and how confusing things were on the island and just how terrifying and dangerous too.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Covered in Snow and Ice April 6, 2020

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

John wasn’t excited about the move like his parents were. When the government offered United States citizens land for free if they moved west and farmed it for five years, it was like a dream come true for his parents. Not so much for John. He was a city boy, born and raised in Chicago. What did he know about the prairie? Nothing.

And it turns out to be pretty crazy. Storms come up out of no where, they have to live in adownload sod house – yes, a house made out of mud and grass! The snow got so deep their first winter, John’s dad had to make a tunnel through it just to get to the barn to take care of the animals! It’s super hot in the summer and super cold in the winter. John had to leave all of his city friends behind and he struggles to make new ones in this upside down land.

But just as John is starting to get used to this crazy place he is living in, something comes up that even the people who have lived there for years didn’t expect and it tears through the community!

I Survived the Children’s Blizzard, 1888 by Lauren Tarshis gives you a feeling of what it was like for those earlier settlers out in the Dakota Territory trying to make a living on land that was incredibly hostile. It also tells the story of a true event that shocked the nation with the brutality of the blizzard and why so many children died during the storm.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


World Gone Crazy March 30, 2020

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

downloadAt first, they didn’t realize just how horrible things would become. While their father had a feeling and voiced his disapproval of Hitler, Hans, and Sophie were not so sure. However, soon they began to see how things were falling apart, how they could not sit by and watch German soldiers killed, Jewish people killed, innocent civilians killed.

But what could two college students do to interrupt the largest killing machine in the world? Could the written word be mightier than the sword? Could they take their ideas and spread them throughout their college town, and maybe even beyond? And what would the consequence be to their actions, if they were ever found out, or caught?

White Rose by Kip Wilson tells the remarkable story of two siblings and a few of their friends who worked to defy the Nazis during World War II. This fictional account is based on real letters, pamphlets and information gathered from the time of these events. Hans and Sophie Scholl were real people trying to make a difference in a world that seemed to have gone insane.


In the Snow Come Wolves October 14, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:11 am

Feo lives with her mother, and Black, Gray and White, the wolves that never left her, even after she finished wilding them. You see, Feo, is a wolf wilder. A long time ago, in Russia when the tzar still ruled, aristocrats (rich people) used to have wolves for pets. But once the “pets” outgrew their captivity as all wolves will at some point, they needed a place to get rid of them. That is where Feo’s family came in. For generations, Feo’s family has been teaching these captive raised wolves what it means to be a wolf again, and then releasing them into the wild. Because she and her mother have wolves around all the time, most people stay away from them.

All that changes one night when the local general, Rakov, forces his way into Feo’s house and says that the wolves they have sent back to the wild are actually killing the animals in the tzar’s forests and as such he demands compensation for the loss. Of course, Feo and her mother don’t have the money he demands. He then tells them if he catches Feo near any wolves, he’ll kill the wolves and arrest them both.

Feo doesn’t really think that will happen, but when another wolf gets dropped off at their door for wilding, Feo has no idea the storm that is about to irrupt and change her life forever. download

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell is a non stop page turner. The wolves make the story as well as a host of other characters Feo encounters along the way. Although the story is set in pre revolutionary Russia, it is hard to know exactly which parts are historically accurate and which are just fun fiction. Still, the book is a quick and enjoyable read, one which this reader wishes had included an author’s note regarding the past or current practice of re-wilding animals.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.