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!

Ghosts in the Graveyard… November 29, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Mystery and Ghost Stories — oneilllibrary @ 2:47 pm

It can be difficult moving to a new house and a new school. So Annie is worried when she starts school in September of 1918 that she might not make any friends right away. It turns out, she makes a friend too fast and that creates problems. After all, have you ever had someone want to be your friend and you don’t think you want to be theirs? A girl named Elsie immediately grabs Annie for herself and won’t let Annie go on the very first day. Annie doesn’t know quite what to think, only that the other girls in the class clearly don’t like Elsie and Elsie despises them right back.

When Elsie invites herself to Annie’s house the first night after school, Annie is horrified to realize that her new “friend” is very mean spirited, even without the other girls from school around. Elsie continues to dog her at school, and won’t let Annie have a moment free to chat with anyone until one week Elsie is sick and Annie is able to break free and forge new friendships. Much to Elsie’s dismay when she returns to school. When tragedy strikes, Annie feels shame in her role but it isn’t until one terrifying night in the graveyard that she realizes just how truly sorry Elsie will make her.

One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn is set during the horrible fall of 1918 when just as the Great War was ending, a terribly plague was racing around the world – the Spanish flu – which killed millions of people world wide, and took a huge toll on the United States as well.

This book is great for anyone who is a fan of ghost stories and of Mary Downing Hahn, who is true to form in this work.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.

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A Thousand Regrets October 23, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 11:12 am

He was a newer kid in town, but even though he was different, it was different in a way everyone liked download. Everyone thought Christopher Goodman was a cool guy, because he was just so nice and helpful to everyone, all the time. Some of the teenagers knew him better than others, and some didn’t know him at all. Still, when he’s killed the night of the local festival, everyone takes a moment to think of what could have been.

Doc, Lenny, Squib, Hunger, Hazel and Mildred all have dealings with Christopher – some more than others. But when he dies, each of them can’t help but think – what if? Could they individually have stopped the murder from happening? Could they collectively have done something?

Who Killed Christopher Goodman  by Allan Wolf is based on an event that actually happened to the author when he was in high school. To this day he still wonders if anything he did or didn’t do could have prevented the murder of the boy from his town. It haunts him decades later and this book will leave the reader thinking of all the “what ifs” we have in our lives, monumental and infinitesimal.

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

 

Sisters In Misery October 11, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 3:56 pm

downloadFor decades, American Indian children were sent off to boarding schools that were supposed to educate them in the white man’s world. Often these children were sent by well intended parents who thought this was in the best interests of the children.

Mattie and Sarah are sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School after their mother dies. Some of their other siblings have already gone to other Indian schools, so this isn’t something new for the family. Mattie – the oldest of the two girls, and Sarah, both have reservations right away about their new school. The people in charge seem cold, distant and often just plain mean and cruel. However, Mattie quickly gains a friend and begins to like one of her teachers. Sarah struggles to do both. Yet it is the outspoken Mattie who finds herself a target of the head teacher.

Mattie is accused of stealing a pin from the head teacher, Mrs. Dwyer. Even though she says she didn’t, the other students begin to look at her as if she is guilty. Mattie feels that her only recourse is to run away from the school.

Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell looks at a troubling and often terrible time in our history. Readers will understand the longing and nostalgia both Mattie and Sarah feel for home, even as they try in vain to make the best of their situation.

Recommended for grades 6th 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.

 

Lightning Made Her, Or Did It? July 20, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 7:05 am

Nothing much happens on the The Hill of Dust, the name of Teo’s town in Mexico. His family of indigenous people, the Mexteco, are used to being marginalized in all areas of their life. So when a caravan of roaming Romani (more commonly known as Gypsies) download-1show up, it is cause for everyone in Teo’s town to sit up and take notice. Everyone except for his mother however, who has been lost in her own world ever since Teo’s twin sister died the year before. Teo understands. After seeing his father killed years before, and not being able to save his sister, Teo feels like being sucked under with grief as well. Only his grandfather seems to be able to keep him afloat.

Until he meets Esma. Esma is a force unto herself. She is a Romani girl with a personality to light up the night sky! She has the most amazing voice and Teo finds his life linked with hers over a fortune read one night.

Teo and Esma know theirs is an improbable friendship. The Romani doesn’t trust outsiders and Teo’s people don’t understand the Gypsy way of life. However, something draws Esma and Teo together, despite these differences. The only question is, how can their friendship thrive in such a difficult world?

The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau is a powerful read on life beyond our borders and a glimpse into a time and way of life almost lost.

Recommended for anyone who likes powerful, quiet reads. Appropriate for grades 6th and up.

 

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.