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 Eat, or Not to Eat? June 19, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 2:41 pm

downloadMany know of the story of the doomed Donner party, a group of travelers who were trying to make it to California from the East, but were trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains when snowfalls kept them from moving on. As the supplies ran out, and people died, some began to look at the dead as a source of food. While many wagon trains West all had their own sources of torment and tragedy, the Donner group remains in the mythology of these travels and is told in hushed tones as the ultimate horror story of what can happen when time runs out…and you are still in the mountains.

Mary Ann Graves, who was nineteen when her parents packed up the family and headed West for the promise of California with her eight siblings, had no true understanding of the sacrifices she and her fellow companions were going to make in the months to come. Part of the Graves’ misfortune was to join with the wagon train that included the Reed family. John Reed had heard of a supposed short cut, called the Hastings cutoff, which was to reduce the amount of time they had to travel. However, it turned out the cutoff was passable on horseback, but for a wagon train, it was horrible. Much time was wasted trying to make a trail and as a result, it put them weeks behind where they should have been heading into the mountains.

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown is a novel in verse that shows the gritty, boring, horrifying and desperate journey of these hopeful settlers and reveals in those awful moments what it really takes to stay alive.

Recommended for mature 6th graders and up.


When is the Right Time to Leave? May 15, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:05 am

Grace has been told a thousand times to keep her mouth shut around white folks. And typically it isn’t hard, but when she leaves her family’s slave cabin for the “big house,” she finds that while she always knew things were unjust for her family, the contrast with how the white folks live is too much for her. Grace is told she must work in the kitchens with a woman named Aunt Tempie. The work is hard in the kitchen and Gracdownloade can’t understand why the Master and Missus need so many people to clean up after them and even dress them!

As Grace settles into life at the big house, she misses her two younger brothers and her parents. Grace often curses her lighter skin, from the father she never knew and her mother won’t talk about, because it seems it is her lighter skin that has gotten her placed in the Missus’s crosshairs. When another enslaved person runs away, Grace is forced to serve in the dinning room where she overhears something that makes her blood run cold.

Unbound by Ann E. Burg tells of a complex story between wanting to just go along for the sake of safety and realizing that when you can’t.

Recommended for any students 6th grade and up interested in events leaving up to the Civil War, slavery, or just a really good story.


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.


Fighting to be Free November 1, 2016

Filed under: Historical Fiction — lpitrak @ 4:22 pm
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This novel begins in 1776, at the start of the Revolutionary War. Although the novel opens with a funeral, this actually seems to be a positive occurrence for two sisters named Isabel and Ruth. Isabel and Ruth are slaves, owned by Miss Mary Finch, who long ago confided in them that she was sick, and close to death… and planning to free both of them in her will. Their hope, however, is destroyed because Miss Finch’s lawyer is in Boston, trying to calm an uprising that will eventually blow up into the Revolutionary War. With no documents and no one to support their claim that they were to be freed, Isabel and Ruth are sold to a cruel, heartless couple in New York who pretend to be American Patriots but who truly are loyal to Britain. When Isabel overhears them plotting with other local families to assassinate George Washington, she decides to risk her life to become a Patriot spy. She is hopeful that she will eventually trade enough secrets to buy her and her sister’s freedom… until the unthinkable happens to Ruth. Read this amazing book, and the sequel Forge, to find out what happens to this brave young woman fighting for control of her life.


WWI Steampunk Style



This alternate history, steampunk novel is set when the world is about to plunge into World War I. The Austro-Hungarian and German forces have manufactured war machines they call Clankers. These giant machines are powered entirely by steam, and are fitted with giant machine guns and reloadable ammunition—the world has seen nothing like them before! In retaliation, British forces having been breeding animals to become machines. The pride of their air force is a giant machine called the Leviathan—it is a whale crossed with a plane, deadly and with a mind of its own.

The prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Aleksander Ferdinand, who has no royal blood on his mother’s side, has been forcibly removed from his palace and is on the run from being murdered by members of his own court. At the same time, British Devyn Sharp, a young woman with a passion for flying, has disguised herself as a boy to join the British Air Service. With war looming, the two should be enemies, but when their paths cross, they might decide to become heroes together.


Lies We Tell Ourselves

Filed under: Historical Fiction — debrawisch @ 1:21 pm
lwto-high-resIn February 1959, Sarah and 9 of her friends brace themselves for their first day of high school at a new school in Virginia. Rule #1: Ignore anything the white people say to you and keep walking. Rule #2: Always sit at the front of the classroom, near the door, so you can make a quick getaway if you need to. And Rule #3: Stay together whenever you possibly can. Why do they need these rules? Because they’re the first black students to ever attend this high school, and are about to be endure a year of harassment, violence, and hatred simply because of the color of their skin. This fictional work is told through the eyes of Sarah as well as Linda, a popular white teen who doesn’t want her school to be integrated and wants nothing to do with Sarah or the other new students. Forced into the same classes and to work on a project together, Sarah and Linda butt heads with each other and each other’s opinions. But as the year goes on, they realize they may have more in common than they first thought. 
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley is a heart-wrenching look at the fight for integration in the late 1950s and the bravery it took to soldier on amidst extreme racism and hate.

If She Only Knew October 12, 2016

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 9:08 pm

imgresWhen the Benevolent Home for Necessitous Girls burns down, Katie is sent off into the world, with little more than the clothes on her back, and a few small possessions.  She is also given an old newspaper clipping of a photograph taken at least fifteen years before by the woman who runs the orphanage in Canada. Katie knows nothing about the parents who gave her up when she was an infant, but she is sure this newspaper clipping can’t have anything to do with her. In fact, she almost throws it away.

Katie dreams of becoming a big time newspaper journalist. Her only problem – it is the 1960s and making it as a woman journalist is a difficult proposition. When Katie gets turned down and told she would need to have a great story to get a good job, she decides to investigate the newspaper clipping – hoping it will lead her to a great story. It leads her to an old murder, and to the grave of the supposed murderer. However, as Katie begins to question events of the past in this sleepy little Indiana town, people get worried Katie is turning over secrets best left alone.

My Life Before Me by Norah McClintock is some of her finest writing. As always, McClintock is a master at drawing the reader in and weaving complex themes and ideas into a fabulous, accessible story that will have you turning pages as fast as you can. While the story is set close to sixty years in the past, current events will show you how much and how little has changed.

Recommended for 7th grade and up. A truly remarkable book and a great mystery.