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!

When They Fell… January 10, 2022

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

downloadThe twentieth anniversary of the Twin Towers falling and the attack on the Pentagon and the flight that went down in Pennsylvania just happened. This book In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers by Don Brown is a graphic novel that takes the reader onto the front lines of the disaster as it was happening, moment by moment, and then also looks at the aftermath for many of the first responders.

Some don’t know that a film crew was documenting the work of firefighters when the Twin Towers were first hit and so there is actual footage of the first moments when personnel learned of the crashes and the confusion as to what was happening. The book shows how some people were able to survive the falling of the towers and how many – most – did not.

If you are looking for a quick, powerful read, this is the book for you.

Recommended for grades 7 and up due to subject matter.


A Meeting Gone Very Wrong November 29, 2021

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

downloadWhen the sharecroppers got together to discuss how to unionize, they knew they were doing something dangerous. After all, black people in the United States didn’t just decide they wanted to get a fair shake of things. After all, historically speaking, why would they think that was even possible? And in 1919, especially in the South, there was no way they were going to get fair prices for the cotton they had spent months growing and cultivating, unless they worked together. Even as they headed into the meeting at the church, they were nervous. Nervous enough to hire guards to be on the look out. But what happened was beyond their worst imaginings.

A white mob of law enforcement as well as other members of the town of Elaine, Arkansas began shooting into the church and ran off the people in it – including women and children. Many fled for their lives into the surrounding woods and fields and many more were gunned down as they tried to run. It is estimated around 250 blacks were killed over that night and the next few days.

Many black men were arrested and falsely charged with inciting a race riot. The white citizens of Elaine demanded that the black men be executed and if they didn’t get their way, they planned to storm the jail and lynch them all. A panel of white men decided they would hold trials quickly and find them all guilty of murder. It looked completely hopeless for twelve men in particular.

Enter Scipio Africanus Jones, a man who had been born into slavery and through perseverance and determination, became a self taught lawyer. Scipio Jones, by 1919 was a well known lawyer from Little Rock, and had gained the respect of quite a few white lawyers and judges in that area because he was just that impressive in his knowledge and his eloquence. Jones began what became one of the most important fights of his life, the fight to save the Elaine 12 from certain execution in the electric chair. His journey would be at a huge personal cost and would eventually lead him to the Supreme Court of the nation, and ultimately change the course of constitutional law and the application of the 14th amendment of the Constitution to black Americans.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


And So it Began July 26, 2021

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Race, in America, is a complicated and divisive subject. How can we talk about it, if we don’t exactly know how it alldownload-1 came about, and where so many of the ideas we still believe today actually had their origins?  When we look back at the history of enslaved people in our country, how is it that so many beliefs that were started hundreds of years ago to justify this horrific economic machine are still around, over 150 years after the abolition of the official practice?

Hopefully, you’ve heard of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, but what about W.E.B. Du Bois and Angela Davis? And did you know that the guy who played a big part in the Salem Witch Trials, also played a huge role in shaping how people who lived in the colonies viewed people who were black and the ideas about enslaving people? My guess is you didn’t, and neither did I – at least about Cotton Mather – the Salem Witch guy. Even the movies you might have grown up with helped to reinforce many of the ideas that are centuries old, and still have tremendous power to this very day.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi says it isn’t a history book, but it certainly does give you a history of how ideas and people have shaped the institutions and systems that we have in place today which keep racism alive in America.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


They Came By Submarine April 27, 2020

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

We often hear about saboteurs during World War II in Europe or in the Pacific Theater (the war as it was fought in the Pacific Ocean) but rarely do we hear about it happening on U.S. soil. But in fact, Hitler was very much interested in stopping the large manufacturing machine that the United States had in place. He realized that the U.S. could help win the war simply by producing all the things that were needed to win a war – airplanes, guns, bombs, tanks, etc. It became a goal of the Nazis to place saboteurs in the United States with the sole purpose of disrupting the manufacturing of goods that were important to war.

Enter a man named George Dasch. He was a man who was born in Germany but left downloadwhen he couldn’t find a good job. He came to America and stayed for many years, mostly working as a waiter. He even married an American woman. However, he never felt he was doing anything really important. So when his mother came for a visit from Germany and saw that he wasn’t doing anything super special, he decided to move back to Germany. What George didn’t realize was that Germany under Hitler had become a very repressive country and he was even more limited in what he could do. He did have one skill though and that was that he had lived in America for many years and could speak English and knew about America life and culture. He was just the sort of man that Hitler and the Nazis were looking for to infiltrate the U.S. and start taking out the manufacturing structure.

Nazi Saboteurs: Hitlers Secret Attack on American by Samantha Seiple is a really interesting look at a little known event and about group of men, all with connections to the United States who were tapped to influence the outcome of the war. However, as a reader, you realize the impacts of what these men did continues to play out in our world today.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Between Two Worlds April 13, 2020

Filed under: graphic novel,Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Her mother had it hard, being a single mother in South Korea. When Chuna was little she didn’t understand just how bad the sigma was, however as she was going to school and got older, it became apparent quickly that to be a child without a dad at home was considered very strange. This made things really hard for both of them living in South Korea.

downloadWhen Chuna and her mother decided to go on a trip to American and to the state of Alabama, Chuna didn’t think much of it. After all, she and her mother were always going on trips outside of South Korea. However, when her mother tells her she is going to marry a man and they are now going to live in America, Chuna’s world falls apart. She knows hardly any English, and her new “cousins” and stepsister are distant and not open to helping her at all navigate this new world.

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha is a coming of age story where a girl struggles to find herself in two worlds that she doesn’t seem to fit in. How do you find your place when you have no place? This is a graphic novel and based on the author’s real life experiences of living in two different countries.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Gotcha! March 23, 2020

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

What do Joan of Arc, Caravaggio, Blackbeard and Rasputin all have in common? They downloadwere all CAUGHT! All of these people were famous for something and they all got too “caught” up in what they were doing, and it led to their downfall.

Caught: Nabbing history’s most wanted by Georgia Bragg is a fun, fast read, just like her other books, How They Croaked and How They Choked. If you enjoyed one of those, or both, this book will be a nice addition to your nonfiction knowledge.

For instance, did you know that for all Blackbeard was feared, he didn’t actually kill anyone? And what did finally bring Al Capone down? Could it be he never paid his taxes? And who the heck was Caravaggio, and why do we care how he ended up caught? Not to mention, some people were “caught” for doing things that they didn’t even do! Or they claimed to be someone they actually weren’t! This read will keep you interested from the beginning page to the last.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


Missing Treasure February 10, 2020

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Before and during World War II, when Germany was marching across the continent and downloadbringing terror to civilians and military leaders alike, they had a list of things they wanted. Specific things. Art things. Hitler, who had started out trying to get into art school, considered himself a lover of art and an artist, and as such, he wanted to get certain pieces and keep them in a new museum, in his former hometown of Linz, Austria. It would be called Gemaldegalerie Linz, but soon, it became known as the Fuhrermuseum – of course nicknamed after the Fuhrer himself, Hitler. The problem was, where would he get all these masterpieces to put in this amazing museum? Most of them were already in other museums and private collections. So it was determined that as Germany and the Nazis went into areas and occupied them, they would work from a list and gather as many of the pieces Hitler wanted as possible. And so it began.

Thousands of pieces of priceless artwork, including the Mona Lisa, and important works of cultural importance for many areas were stolen and then moved, often hidden to be retrieved later for the museum.

However, as the tide of the war turned, and Hitler and Nazis were fighting a defensive battle rather than an offensive one, they were forced to move things several times. Many people knew about these thefts and when new areas were taken back over by the allied, a small group of dedicated art historians, museum curators, and others were determined to find these stolen treasures and return them to their original owners. Little did they know the huge undertaking they were about to embark upon.

The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History by Robert M. Edsel is a meticulous recounting of the adventures, risks, and down right dangerous situations these Monuments Men (as they were later dubbed) faced in their race to save some of the world’s most precious work from war torn lands.

Recommended for serious history junkies and for 8th grade and up only because of the complexity of the story.


To Make A Difference February 3, 2020

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

When you talk about the Holocaust, many names will come to mind. Such as Hitler, Anne Frank, Oskar Schindler, and Adolf Eichmann, but most people probably haven’t heard of someone named Raoul Wallenberg. And yet, we should all know his name as well.

Raoul grew up in Sweden with a loving mother who was widowed just before Raoul was born. For many years after, his grandfather on his fatherdownload‘s side was a major influence on him – sending him around the world to learn languages as well as people. When it was time for college, Raoul came to the United States and earned a degree in architecture from the University of Michigan.

After that, he traveled around the world more, and landed in South Africa. Later, he made his way back home to Sweden, just as the world was about to explode with World War II. Things became difficult in Sweden even though they were a neutral country during the war. Food became scarce and work was difficult to find at times as well. Still Raoul made friends wherever he went, which was why late in the war, his name came up for a special mission.

Hungary had been able to protect their Jewish population for the most part during the war, however, toward the end, the general who had been keeping them out of the Nazis line of fire, was replaced and lost a lot of his power. As a result, thousands and thousands of Hungarian Jews were to be relocated to concentration camps, or simply killed before even leaving Hungary. Many organizations in the world by this time realized something horrible was happening with Jews in Europe. Sweden wanted to help save Jews by claiming them as Swedish citizens, or having some ties to Sweden. However, they needed someone to go who could navigate through all the craziness that was happening there to try to save them. Raoul Wallenberg’s name came up.

Raoul agreed to go on this mission because he was driven by a deep belief that he wanted to do something good in the world. Now seemed his chance, but the odds were stacked against him. Would he be able to actually help stop the killings of the Jewish people, long enough for the war to end?

His Name was Raoul Wallenberg by Louise Borden is a really quick read about a very important person during WWII. It is set up like a novel in verse which makes for an accessible nonfiction work as well as lots of photographs and primary source pieces of documentation.

Highly recommended for grades 6th and up.


Arrested as a Child January 27, 2020

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

By the time she was 15, she had been jailed 9 times. And one of those times, she was put in the sweatbox and passed out. Lynda Lowery was devoted to her cause and to the cause of many others. That cause was freedom. Freedom to vote, to use any restroom and to be able to be herself without any shame, or stigma, or being arrested because of the color of her skin.

download-2Lynda grew up in Alabama during the height of the Civil Rights Movement and she was determined to be a part of it. Her mother had died because of the color of her skin. She was ill and wasn’t able to get treatment at the whites only hospital where they probably could have saved her. From then on and even early, Lynda believed in the idea of equal rights. When Martin Luther King, Jr. came to her church and she heard him ask for volunteers to help with the struggle, she was ready to answer the call.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery is a super fast read, and a first hand account of the march in Selma to get the right to vote in the south for all.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


1963 – Year of Change December 23, 2019

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 7:18 am

download-2As a child of an incredibly famous person, Sharon Robinson had to figure out a way to find her own way in the world. In 1963, Sharon turned 13 years old. Little did she know that not only was she entering her teenage years, but it would be a year that would impact her in profound ways.

Sharon Robinson was/is the only daughter of the famous Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier in baseball as the first black player ever to be on a team in the National Baseball League in the United States. When Sharon was growing up, she knew her father would raise money for causes to help support equality for all in the country, but it wasn’t until the Children Marches in Birmingham, AL in 1963 that she realized what an influential person her father really was to the cause. Sharon struggled with typical teenage issues, like her first school dance, and trying to figure out how to fit in as one of only three black students at her wealthy school, when to remain quiet and when to speak out. How do you compare your trials of a school dance to children being attacked by police dogs and firehoses? On top of that, Sharon’s older brother was drawing further and further away from the family and she didn’t know how to make it stop.

Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963 by Sharon Robinson is a powerful glimpse into the private world of a public figure and what it was like one year as his daughter. Not only that, but the book gives readers a real sense of the true issues of racism in our country in 1963 and unfortunately, how we can still see many of the parallels in modern times today.

Recommended for grades 6th and up, and especially for an introduction to the Civil Rights movement.