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!

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.


Lives Destroyed September 16, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 6:05 am

downloadEstrella feels insulated from much of the trouble that is happening in her small Texas town of Monteseco. After all, she has loving parents who have a beautiful ranch and a younger brother, who at times, pretty much runs the household with his brattiness. The biggest issues she has are having to watch the afore mentioned little brat when she’d rather be reading and doing a few chores around the house. She does know that other families in her town don’t have it as good though. After all, the year is 1931 and the whole country is in the grip of the Great Depression. Many people are out of work and looking for someone to blame. And unfortunately, as with many times in the United States’ history, it is people of color who are blamed for everything.

Estrella sees the round ups of families and friends who happen to have Mexican ancestry. The government is allowing it, and sending all the people to Mexico and calling it repatriation. However, most of the people that were rounded up, weren’t even from Mexico! They were United States citizens, many who had been in the states for generations, as is the case with Estrella’s family.

When Estrella herself is almost caught in a round up, she encourages her parents and friends at school to step up and do something more than just write editorials in the newspaper. Unfortunately, the ramifications of such actions are not what Estrella or her family imagined and their lives are torn apart.

All the Stars Denied by Guadalupe Garcia McCall is a look at a bleak time in our history as a country. This is an important moment to remember and acknowledge the terrible injustice that happened to many of our citizens as well as other innocents who were caught up in an appalling situation.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Staying Close August 26, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:11 am

Sofia lives in her barrio surrounded by friends and family. Growing up, she hears fun downloadstories from the traveling storyteller, Dona Clara, and even her own mother and father add in their yarns and tales in everyday life. Growing up in the 1970s in Texas there are a few things you can count on. The heat and someone always being critical of those of Mexican ancestry. But Sofia has her close knit family and her best friend and cousin, Berta. Although some days Berta seems more like a frenemy, especially when it comes to sharing sweets! Still, her mother tells her she will always need her comadres (a group of close women friends.) Sofia wonders at that sometimes, though.

As Sofia grows, she learns more about her family and what it means to grow up in Texas as a child in a barrio. She faces many trials and one in particular threatens to pull her family and her close circle of friends apart. Is it possible to still be herself and connected to her way of life, even if she is no longer in the barrio every day?

The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales is a slow paced, quiet book about a girl struggling to keep her sense of family and the traditions that are important to those around her while she decides if they are important to her as well.


Life Was Perfect…Until it Wasn’t July 29, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 10:15 am

download-2In a small village in Armenia in 1914, people are just living their lives in the Ottoman Empire. There are Turks, Kurds, and Armenian Christians all living together, for the most part in harmony. But the world events are going to come crashing into their lives very soon.

Shahen and his twin sister Sosi couldn’t be more different. She’s tall and strong and loves living in her village, dreaming already of marrying one of the local boys. Shahen, at thirteen, is still waiting to have a growth spirt and catch up with his two older brothers and he wants to leave this place as soon as possible. He has an uncle in America who has invited him to come live there, but Shahen’s mother and father want him to stay with them. Shahen wants nothing more than to fly away and start a life away from all the turmoil he sees coming. The only one who doesn’t see anything coming seems to be their father, who believes that all their neighbors and their village will not fall prey to the horrors that are happening around them. Even as things begin to spiral out of control, and other families leave, Shahen and Sosi’s father believes in the inherent goodness of others and thinks they will be safe. Unfortunately, his belief is misplaced.

Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath is a look at the Armenian genocide that occurred in 1915 and lasted through 1917 under the Turks. Around three-quarters of the Armenia population were killed – about 1.5 million people and their lands lost. Families of young and old were transported to deserts and left to die, others taken to rivers and shot. As World War I raged on, most of the world was in the dark about this horror and for decades afterwards, it was officially denied by the Turkish government.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.



Little Known Disaster April 8, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:43 am

Joana, Florian, Emilia all have something in common. They are all fleeing from memories, ghosts and the advancing Russian army during the last few months of World War II. Joana is traveling with a group of displaced people and while she has some medical experience as a nurse, she can’t stop some of the more horrific things she sees along the way.

Florian is running. He has many secrets and one of them is that he can’t get caught by the downloadNazis. If he is, it will mean certain death for him. Emilia is struggling to stay alive and not get caught by the Russian army. When she and Florian meet by chance, she decides she will follow him no matter where he goes because of a good deed he has done for her.

The path these three souls are on, as well as thousands of others, is captured in stark language in Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Each of the characters in this book is striving and looking for a better tomorrow, without much hope for the eventuality. One blind girl must pass inspection by the Nazis in order to continue on the journey, but anyone with a disability is summarily executed. A little boy wanders out of the forest and says his grandmother won’t wake up. A shoemaker knows that a person’s shoes could mean the difference between life and death.

This book, in addition to highlighting the many Germany civilians who were fleeing at the end of the war, shows how others became refugees during this traumatic time in world history. And it sheds light onto a little known tragedy that occurred in the Baltic Sea as thousands and thousands were trying to flee.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Peace or Revolution? March 19, 2019

Set in 1968 Chicago, this beautiful coming-of-age novel highlights the rise of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party. Sam and Stick Childs are the son of Roland Childs, a devoted father and a Civil Rights Movement advocate for peaceful protest. Roland is a personal friend to Martin Luther King, Jr., and his sons have grown up attending marches and speeches for black equality. Recently, however, Stick has been spending

rockandrivermore time with the local Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party; he is inspired by the Party’s free breakfast program, support for impoverished neighborhood families, and rhetoric about fighting violence with violence. As the younger brother, Sam has always looked up to Stick and followed his lead in all things. However, joining up with the Black Panthers means directly opposing his father’s commitment to non-violence and peaceful protest. Sam feels caught between loyalty to his father and to his brother, or between “a rock and a river,” with any choice he makes seeming to be a loss. Can Sam find his own moral compass and voice as he struggles to grow up in one of the nation’s most turbulent periods in history?


A Life She Doesn’t Want February 18, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 3:49 pm

download-1.jpgMattie is struggling to see how she can find a way out of her life. Her mother is gone, leaving her as the “mother” figure in the house with an angry father, and an absent brother. Mattie longs to leave her humble home and go to the big city…New York City to be exact. But the year is 1906, and young women living by themselves anywhere, let alone a big city is still fairly new, and Mattie’s father wants no part of it. Mattie is desperate to earn money of her own so she can have some choices.

She finally convinces her father to let her work at a nearby hotel for the summer, the Glenmore, where she meets a young woman named Grace Brown. Over a few days, Mattie comes to realize that Grace isn’t on a happy vacation with her young man, but rather seems distraught about something. When Grace gives Mattie a packet of letters and asks her to burn them, Mattie isn’t sure what to think.

But then Grace and her beau turn up missing – on a calm lake after going for a boat ride. Only Grace’s body is recovered and after Mattie begins reading Grace’s letter to her beau, she begins to suspect that the young man wasn’t as committed to Grace as appearances would have others believe.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly show just how limited women and girls lives were at the turn of the century, and how everything they wanted became a fight. Mattie has to reach inside herself for the strength to let go so she doesn’t meet the same fate as Grace, or remain trapped in her beginnings with her family.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.

If you’d like to listen to a podcast of this book (and others), click here.