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!

To Touch the Moon October 23, 2018

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 9:04 am

Moving from Berkeley, CA to Vermont is enough of a shock for anyone, but for Mimi and her mother, joining Mimi’s dad at his new college professor position, Mimi finds herself being the only student at school who isn’t white. Mimi is biracial – a mix of her Japanese mother and her black father, and to many, she is a mystery. The most common question she gets, “What are you?”

downloadMimi isn’t sure the cold weather of Vermont hasn’t hardened the hearts of everyone who lives there – because at school the teachers look at her strangely, the students look at her strangely and their neighbor acts like he can’t even see them. Mimi isn’t sure how long she wants to stay in Vermont.

But as the year goes on, she makes one friend, whose mother isn’t sure she wants her daughter hanging out with a black girl, and there is a boy who sometimes is next door with their surly neighbor who appears to want to be friends. What will it take for people to change their minds about Mimi and her family, and does she want to put in the effort if no one else will? Then there is the fact that Mimi wants to be an astronaut, like John Glen, who has just touched the moon. But how can she if girls are only allowed to take classes like home economics and learn how to cook and sew, but never how to build anything?

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton looks at a time in our country when we were going through growing pains, in painful ways. Women and minorities were reaching beyond the limits that had been put upon them, and began to, like Mimi, reach for the stars. This is a wonderful book.

Highly recommended for grades 6th and up.

 

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Can You Escape Your Life? August 28, 2018

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:45 am

downloadXing Xing is the unwanted daughter from her father’s first marriage. Her father’s second wife had a daughter named Wei Ping and when her father dies, Xing Xing becomes a servant to the second wife. When her father was alive, he shunned the idea of binding young girls feet, in the common tradition. He felt women should be able to walk and move about, but once he is dead, the second wife can only think of making a fine marriage for her daughter Wei Ping. So even though she is much older than normal to bind feet, the mother does it.

Xing Xing is left to do all the work, since Wei Ping can no longer walk with her feet, and the Stepmother continues to treat Xing Xing horribly. Xing Xing’s only solace is escaping and talking with a fish she believes is her mother reincarnated and practicing her calligraphy when she can.

Then comes the cave festival in their town, but this year it will be different. For a local prince will be attending since he has yet to take a wife. Xing Xing only cares there will be a chance to recite a poem she creates. Yet, even with something exciting coming, it looks like she might not make it to the festival after all.

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli will become familiar to readers as a telling of another country’s Cinderella. Set in China at an indeterminate time, readers will understand Xing Xing’s frustrations with her limited world and root for an ending that will prove as wonderful as she is.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.

 

Across the Years July 22, 2018

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:01 am

Two sisters who couldn’t be more different, a mother who never seems satisfied, and a father just trying to make his way in this big wide world. Sonia and Tara are used to moving – from India, to Ghana to Britain and finally to America.  It is there that many changes happen in their family. Sonia is finally able to confront their mother about how she treats their father, and Tara fully gets into her characters to help her fit in and realizes she can act like no one has ever seen before and well, life goes on.

downloadYou Bring the Distance Near by Mitali Perkins looks at a family in transition from their initial roots in India to their final settling place of America and all the trauma and triumphs that go with it. How do you fit in, and still feel like yourself? Is it even possible? And not only are the girls having their own issues, but their mother must find her own way to be herself in all these new and strange countries. And when the girls grow up and have their own girls, what challenges do the children of immigrants face that are different from their own mothers?

This book can be confusing at times and I would recommend sitting down and reading it for long periods of time, otherwise you will loose the thread of the story. There are a lot of nicknames for each of the characters in the book, which can also be daunting if you stop and start the story. As a reader, I was able to connect mostly with the last part of the book, which I enjoyed immensely. The book encompasses many years and as a result does jump in time so be prepared for that to happen.

Recommended for 8th grade and up because of the complexity of the story, not due to content. Really interesting look at the immigrant experience from many different perspectives.

 

Blood in Kansas May 22, 2018

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 11:36 am

Not much in Kansas, except for wind and cows. Yet this is where Carly’s family has moved, three years ago, when her father felt that life out East had become too complicated. He was a defense lawyer and too many people thought he shouldn’t be representing people they felt were clearly guilty.

Carly has struggled to make friends and not feel like the complete outsider that everyone in the small town of Holcomb treats her as. She desperately wants to be friends,

downloadbest friends, with Nancy Clutter, a popular vivacious girl with an adorable boyfriend. But Nancy has made it pretty clear that Carly isn’t best friend material. Still, Carly holds out hope when Nancy asks her to secretly tutor her in Math. Carly keeps her fingers crossed that soon, Nancy will see her as a good friend.

Before that can happen though, tragedy strikes the small town of Holcomb. All members of the Clutter family still living at home, including Nancy’s younger brother and both parents, are found brutally murdered in their home on a November Sunday morning in 1959. Now Carly has lost all chance of becoming better friends with Nancy, and she grieves for what could have been. Everyone in town begins to suspect everyone, but especially Nancy’s boyfriend, Bobby. Carly can’t believe Bobby could have done such a horrible act, and decides she will set out to clear his name. Only nothing goes as hoped or planned.

No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear is a fictionalized account of a real murder that happened in 1959 of a family in Holcomb, KS. While the reader can feel for Carly as the outsider, the story tends to jump around and it is often unclear why Carly has such a strong motivation for doing what she does. It would have been nice for the author to include a more detailed author’s note – with more about the crime rather than focusing on why the author felt compelled to write about the incident. It could have been an interesting read for students beginning to get into the genre of True Crime or other fictionalized accounts of real events. Still, some students might be drawn to it simply because of the topic.

Recommended for students in 7th grade and up.

 

Soldier Boys Book Review by 7th Grader Brodey May 10, 2018

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Student Book Reviews — bhomel @ 8:07 am
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SBSoldier Boys by Dean Hughes is a book about two boys on the opposite sides of WWII. Spence is an American boy that struggles with school. After Pearl Harbor was bombed, his brother went into the Navy and Spence wants to become a paratrooper. He did and he meets Ted in training camp. Ted was much like Spence and they were the same age. They went into Germany to fight the Germans after they both passed basic training. On the other side, Deiter is a german boy who is 15 and is a leader in the Hitler Youth. He catches other Hitler Youth messing around and decides to let them go free. Soon after one of the boys gets shot by a French spitfire and dies. Then Deiter goes and meets Hitler and wants to go fight on the front lines. When he gets sent, he is extremely excited and meets Schaefer who guides Deiter through the war. At the bottom of a hill, the Americans run down and most get killed. The next day the Germans run up the hill and most die from artillery or gun fire. In the mists of the chaos, Deiter gets hit. Later that night Spence puts his life on the line even when he had strict orders not to.

I loved the book but the end is very sad. I liked it for the suspense and the reality of it. I would recommend this to someone who wants a good book on WWII.

 

Lions of Little Rock Review by 7th Grader Litzy May 9, 2018

LIn the book The Lions Of Little Rock By Kristin Levine, Marlee is at school when a new student named Elizabeth comes to her school. Elizabeth is African American but everyone thinks that she is white because her skin was lighter. Then Sally, one of their classmates, tells everyone Elizabeth’s secret that she is not white. Now almost everyone does not like Elizabeth except Marlee and Little Jimmy. They can’t hang out together because their parents won’t let them and it could be dangerous. They send letters to each other and hide being friends.

In honesty I liked the book –  it is very good and it has good parts and sad parts. At times when the good parts happen, it gets boring. So it goes on and off so it is good at times and boring at parts for me. But over all the book is very good. What I liked about this book is that no matter what got between them or what tried to separate Marlee and Elizabeth, they still are friends.

 

Dogs of War Book Review by 7th Grader Juan April 13, 2018

DogDog’s of War by Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox is a graphic novel with three different stories about three dogs – Boots, Loki, and Sheba. These dogs are based on real dogs that were used in war against the Nazis or other threats.

My favorite story was about Loki and Cooper. They were in a base during World War II. Cooper would share his food with Loki and stay with him. Another part I liked was when Cooper and Loki fought off three Nazis and end up overpowering them and meet up with the sarge. They all head to the base greeting each other.

People should read this book. I recommend this to people who like dogs or are really interested in history.