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!

Nothing But a Man March 12, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:29 am

Much legend and mystery surrounds John Henry – the man that raced an engine and won. How do you separate fact from fiction? Many songs were written about John Henry over the years and how he was able to dig out more rock than a machine.

downloadAin’t Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson tries to dig beneath the surface and reexamines old documents and ideas to determine if the current thinking on who John Henry was, is based more on legend than on reality. Could the real John Henry have actually been in prison and part of a work gang hired out to work for the railroad company? And if so, how did he die? Was it really right after winning against the machine? Looking at the many songs that were written about this man, the author is able to uncover some possible truths about who John Henry really was, and what happened to him.

This was a super fast read, but I wish more description had been given to the actual method for going through the rock and also how the machine worked. It was a short book and I wanted more!

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


And Then She Was Gone… February 28, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 12:36 pm

So much mystery has surrounded the disappearance of Amelia Earhart that it is hard to believe she was as famous in life as she has been in death, or presumed death. Amelia had an interesting life growing up in the early 1900s in the United States. She and her younger sister had an unconventional upbringing to a certain degree, and her childhood was happy until her father’s alcohol use got out of control and cost him several jobs downloadwhich forced the family to move many times. This made Ameila less trusting of marriage in general and a conventional life even more. She was a risk taker and got involved in planes early on. Mostly because she enjoyed being aloft in the sky and daydreaming.

While Amelia did set records for flying, and for being a woman who was flying, many times she seems to have lucked out. She wasn’t completely immersed in the machinery and knowing all the ins and outs of the actual airplane as many pilots are and need to be. She was more interested in just getting up there, even though she was very intelligent.

Which could be why she never learned how to properly use the radio, even though she would need it to make her attempt to circumnavigate the world at the equator.

Amelia Lost: The life and disappearance of Ameila Earhart by Candace Fleming is a fascinating read about one of America’s biggest unsolved mysteries. While the book doesn’t say what happened, it does present enough evidence through witnesses that she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, probably did crash land somewhere, but where has always and still today, remains the question.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


The Klan Is Coming January 29, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 4:32 am

After the Civil War, the hope was for the country to come back together and become united. However, there were many from the Southern states who felt their entire way of life was gone and didn’t know how to rebuild it. The South was in a terrible state, in terms of how much of the area had been devastated by the war years. Many cities and towns were in shambles, much of the countryside had been pillaged by troops and crops and livestock had either not been kept up or were simply gone.  Add to this millions of freed people, most with little to no education or place to go, other than the plantations they had lived their lives on up until emancipation.

After Lincoln was assassination, President Johnson was sworn in. And though he was a Republican, he had sympathy for the Democratic South and halted much of the plans for reconstruction that the Republican congress had laid out. Into this mix came a group of Southern men who decided to start a “club.” At first it appeared the club might just be a lark, and a chance for them to get dressed up, ride around the countryside, and supposedly enforcing any laws that weren’t with the upheaval in the Southern states. Early on though, there were shaded of what it would become. downloadHowever, when Nathan Bedford Forrest took an interest in the Ku Klux Klan (which loosely translates to circle circle) the main focus of the group became keeping the newly freed people in the same position they had basically occupied during slavery. This meant massive terror for people who supported any Republican candidates – leading to disenfranchisement in voting, school teachers who were beaten and sometimes killed, churches burned and average citizens driven from their lands by force and brutality.

Finally, the U.S. government realized that the state governments either wouldn’t or couldn’t control the members of the Klan and stepped in.

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The birth of an American terrorist group  by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is an amazing read about this organization which is still with us today. Knowing the history behind this group, and understanding all that they have done to many citizens of this country is plainly presented in easy to read nonfiction work.

Recommended for students in 7th grade and up.


Famous Fakes January 22, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:37 pm

We’ve all heard about Washington, Shakespeare and Confucius! But do we know the real Screenshot 2018-01-02 at 10.33.22 AMstory behind them, or only the legends that have grown up around them? Famous Phonies: Legends fakes and frauds who changed history by Brianna DuMont looks at all the stories we think we know, and pokes holes right through them.

For example, did William Shakespeare really write everything, or was it someone else? How can we find out? Or did Pythagoras really come up with the theorem we learn in school? This book will have you looking at all those stories, and thinking, maybe you should do some research for yourself and not believe the legend just because!

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


And They Ran and Ran and Ran January 8, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 10:30 am

Fugitive. What does the word mean? Someone who typically is fleeing from something. Screenshot 2018-01-02 at 10.33.02 AMMaybe the law, maybe a relative, maybe a conflict? This book, Fantastic Fugitives: criminals, cutthroats, and rebels who changed history  by Brianna DuMont takes the reader on a romping adventure through time to look at many of the individuals that you might have heard about, and others you never have.

For instance, you’ve probably heard of Spartacus, but do you know what he did that made a mark on history? Or Harriet Tubman who is famous for her work with the underground railroad, but do you know what she did during and after the Civil War? Ever heard of Emmeline Pankhurst? Probably not, but she had a huge impact on the Women’s Suffrage movement. Even John Dillinger gets his place in this book as one of America’s most wanted men, ever, and how he unwittingly helped make the F.B.I. what it is today.

If you are looking for an interesting, fact filled, informative and often times funny book about some well known and some not so well known famous fugitives in history, then this is the book for you.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


Rats!!!!! September 1, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 9:08 am

I’m a huge lover of animals so when I selected this book, Misunderstood: Why the Humble Rat May Be Your Best Pet Ever by Rachel Toor, I was excited to read it. If you aren’t a rat person, you will be after reading this book. And after seeing the rat on the cover of this book. Seriously, couldn’t be cuter!

downloadMisunderstood gives the reader an admittedly biased view of rats. The author clearly adores rats, but does a review of other literature that is out there on these little creatures, which lend toward negative almost exclusively. Most people have a decidedly poor view of rats without really knowing about them. Toor does a great job of showing all sides of rats, what they need and the many different people who love them. Did you know that rats are litter trained, are incredibly clean and very social? These are just a few of the surprising facts you’ll learn if you give this book a chance.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone thinking about rats and wanting to know more about them, and also for those out there who only think of rats in a negative light. To know them is to love them, according to many!

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


Terrible But True August 18, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 10:39 am

I live not far from Chicago, but I’d never heard about the over eight hundred men, women and children who died in in the Chicago River, ten feet from the dock, when the ship they were on for a fun excursion day literally rolled over! There were 2,500 people on board and many were trapped below deck, and died in the hull of the ship. People broke holes in the hull to try to help people escape. A temporary morgue was created in Chicago’s Second Regiment Armory which years later, Oprah Winfrey built her Harpo Studios in.


Or what about the molasses flood of Boston? Seriously, a huge container of molasses broke and flooded streets with over two million gallons of the sticky stuff. Twenty-one people died and lots of animals were trapped and smothered to death.

Terrible But True: Awful Events in American History by Dinah Williams looks back at our history and finds those truly horrific events that shaped our laws, how we looked at child labor and even how we put people to death.

Fascinating read for anyone who wants a quick nonfiction look at some of the most pivotal moments in American history.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.