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!

The Start of a Movement January 2, 2023

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

download-9On the evening of June 19, 1982, Vincent Chin was beaten in the middle of a street in Detroit, Michigan after going to a club for the evening. He was going to be married in a little over a week.  Instead of people attending his wedding, they went to his funeral.  The question is raised was Vincent killed because he was Asian? At this time in America, there was a lot of anti-Asian sentiment in part due to the fact that the United States car industry was beginning to face stiff competition from countries like Japan. Of course, the United States has had a long history of having racist tendencies toward immigrants and citizens of Asian ancestry, including going back to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which was the first time the country put immigration limits on who could enter based on race.

For the first time, across America, Asian Americans were unified in wanting to make sure justice was served. However, there were many obstacles in the way to making this happen. The fact that Vincent Chin was of Chinese ancestry led the government beginning to question if Chin’s civil rights had been violated because of his race.

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry by Paula Yoo is a remarkable book focusing on another Civil Rights movement in the United States and one that many probably have never heard about.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


Throw Away the Key September 19, 2022

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

As a young boy growing up in Florida from 1900 until 2011, it was possible to be sentenced to the Dozier School for Boys if you committed a crime, or just skipped school a lot. Boys as young as six could be found at the Dozier school, and while many came in, it was hard to get out, at least in the time that was indownload-2 accordance to their sentence. Many boys stayed well after the time they were supposed to be released.

The Dozier school was supposed to educate the boys in jobs and in school, but often inmates who were black were simply given menial jobs such as working the farm, in the slaughter house, and doing all the daily chores whereas the white inmates were able to learn actual trades. To the outside world, the school was doing its job. But for many of the boys living within its grounds, it became a place of torture and terror. Many boys, as they grew into men, told stories of abuse at the hands of the administrators of the school, often when they were finally released. However, many families chose not to believe the boys returning, or felt they must be exaggerating. It wouldn’t be until years later that the truth of much of what occurred at the school finally was revealed.

The Dozier School for Boys: Forensics, Survivors, and a Painful Past by Elizabeth Murray tells a little known story of incarceration for children and how it went on for over a century. This is a fascinating, quick nonfiction read.

Recommended for 8th grade and up due to some of the abuse that occurred.


Pain, Inside and Out September 5, 2022

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

Growing up, Rex was used to pain. Hunger pains, pains from bruises left from being hit either by hisdownload-5 mom, or his mom’s boyfriend, and the pain of feeling like he had to hide his family’s situation from the world. In fact, at times, it feels like to Rex, there will never be a time when he doesn’t have some kind of pain.

Heading into 6th grade, Rex is worried about the pain of humiliation that he will feel each time he gets free lunch at school. See, his mom signed him up for the program because they don’t have enough money for him to buy lunch and really not enough food at home for him to bring it each day. Which means Rex has to say each day to the lunch lady that he gets a free lunch and she has to look it up, each day, in the red folder. In front of everyone. Not only does Rex have to contend with this each day, but he never knows what is going to set off his mom at home. Will she be okay, or will she get into a fight with Sam, her boyfriend, or Rex will say or do something that sets her off. And money. Money is what will get her going more than anything. And Rex is expected to take care of his younger brother Ford a lot of the time, sometimes for days at a time. 

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle is a stark and illuminating book showing how abuse comes in many forms and how each and every day, kids are living situations they are trying to navigate to the best of their abilities. While this book is nonfiction and documenting Ogle’s life starting in 6th grade, there are some very mature references in the book and that needs to be understand before embarking on reading it. That said, this is such a great book, readers will fly through it, wanting to know what will happen to Rex next, and always, always hoping for something good among all the bad. 

Recommended for mature 8th graders and up. 


When They Fell… January 10, 2022

Filed under: graphic novel,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.