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!

Escape Across the Mountains June 26, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 11:43 am

One morning, Tenzin woke up to find that his older brother, Pasang, had returned to their home in Tibet. He had been gone for five long years, having run away from the monastery where he had been studying to become a monk. Tenzin was beside himself with excitement, but he was quickly hushed by their mother. Pasang could get into a lot of trouble for leaving in the first place, since the Chinese, who controlled Tibet, wouldn’t be happy someone had gotten out. In a small village though, it’s hard to keep anything a secret and that night when Tenzin got home from school, the Chinese police were already there, giving Pasang a hard time.

Pasang said that he wasn’t going to leave and for a time, Tenzin believed him. But then, he sawdownload-2 his mother talking with Pasang late into the night and he began to realize that all was not well. One day on his way to school, Pasang and their mother insist that he ride the family donkey cart to school – which he never did. At that point, Pasang told him that he has been chosen to leave Tibet with Pasang and go to India for a better future and more opportunities. At first Tenzin was excited but then the realities of the huge undertaking quickly took over. Would he ever see his other two brothers again? Would he ever see his mother?

Pasang and Tenzin, who was only eleven at the time of their journey, had to overcome huge obstacles, including running out of money and food, as well as being captured by the Chinese police and beaten. Most daunting was when they realized in order to get out of Tibet they must cross the Death Pass – the highest mountain pass in the world, without the proper clothes, equipment or food.

Escape from Tibet by Nick Gray and Laura Scandiffio details the story of these two brothers as they strive to make it out of Tibet and into the new world of India. Told from Tenzin’s perspective, this story gives readers a clearer understanding of the desperation others around the world feel to be free.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


What Could Possibly Go Wrong? June 22, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:59 pm

We’ve all had those moments, when we either think everything will be just fine, and thendownload-1 it all falls apart, or conversely, we keep waiting for what looks like an inevitable tragedy lurking on the horizon.

What about your plane breaking apart over a jungle and you falling through the air in your seat, only to survive but have no idea where you are and if you have the skills to make it out alive? Or being trapped at your job – because you work in a mine and there has been a cave in? Or someone on your ship thinks there is a fire, and most of the crew jump out onto floating icebergs including your family, only to watch your ship sail away, NOT on fire?

All of the above harrowing stories really happened to young people. When the Worst Happens: Extraordinary Stories of Survival by Tanya Lloyd Kyi will give you story after story of some amazing feats that humans have done to survive the precarious situations they have found themselves in – sometimes through no fault of their own.

If you like any kind of survival or adventure stories, this is the nonfiction read for you. Packed full of stories you’ve never heard of before and a few you might have, it will give you insight into what to do if you were to ever find yourself in such a position and how you might be able to actually survive!

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


The Mad Boy June 15, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 5:13 pm

When he started going through the junk yard across the street from the school he’d been kicked out of because his family couldn’t pay the tuition, kids started saying he was crazy. And while there were times when William got discouraged, he never lost sight of his vision – to bring electricity to his home in Malawi, Africa and to eventually build a windmill that would bring water up from the ground.

For William, it all started in fits and leaps. He became interested in how some bikes that people rode around his town had a light come on when the rider peddled and then it went out when they stopped. How was this possible? Since he could no longer attend school, he went to visit the library at his old school and found some amazing books that he poured over until he was able to figure out how to create electricity.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamb and Bryan Mealer is an AMAZING read and will give many people more perspective on their own lives as well as how much we can take for granted. The discussion of what life was like to live through a famine and to have to make so many sacrifices was incredibly poignant and heartbreaking. This is a great look at the will of the human spirit to find a way toward fulfilling a dream.

Highly recommended for all 7th grade social studies students and a great read for science classes as well. Overall, just a wonderful and inspiring read!


Locked Up as a Madwoman April 17, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:17 pm

As a young girl growing up in Pennsylvania, not many would have guessed Elizabeth imgresJane “Pink” Cochran would become one of the most famous journalists of her time. The was even more impressive because up until that time and even for long after, journalism was considered to be a man’s world – one that women didn’t belong in and certainly weren’t welcome in. However, this didn’t stop Elizabeth, who quickly took up a new name – Nellie Bly. After working in some small newspapers in Pittsburg, at the age of 23, Bly decided to try New York City. However, no editors seemed willing to take on a young woman as an investigative reporter. After all, you couldn’t ask a woman to go to the morgue to follow up on a story, or stay up all night chasing down a lead. At least that was the conventional thought of the day.

Nellie Bly however, was set to turn that conventional thought upside down. Finally, one editor decided that if she could get herself locked up in an insane asylum, he would get her out after a week and she could write up her story. If it was good enough, she’d have a job. That was all Nellie needed to hear. Off she went to begin making herself appear unstable. It didn’t take much. Just acting depressed was what got her taken in front of a judge who said that she could be committed.

Ten Days a Madwoman by Deborah Noyes is a great look into one of the United States first truly investigative reporters and how she had to overcome many hurdles to get to the place where she could write about the stories she wanted. However, things didn’t always work out for Nellie as she would have liked, and the road she picked wasn’t an easy one.

Recommended for anyone looking for a quick biography about an interesting person. Recommended for mature 6th graders and up.


Football and Indians March 28, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 12:42 pm

As many, MANY people in my school can attest (and my family as well), I’m not  a fan of football…at all. In fact after reading a book called Fourth Down and Inches (reviewed here in October of 2014) I’ve been on a one woman crusade to try to get the students in my school to understand the inherent dangers of the sport. Clearly, I’m fighting a loosing game.

However, I’ve long heard of Jim Thorpe, the Native American who was an amazing athlete, yet I’ve never read a book about him. So I was interested to see this new title Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian Football Team by Steve Sheinkin. I had no idea how Thorpe got his start and was very surprised to learn all that I did about the beginnings of football and how we, as Americans, have a lot to thank the Carlisle Indian team for not only saving the sport of football, but making it into the sport that many love today. Not myself, mind you!

Jim Thorpe began his life in Oklahoma living with his father and his mother, his father’s third wife. Of Potawatomi and Sac and Fox ancestry, Thorpe never was one to like school. In fact, when his parents decided he should attend an Indian school, he ran away from it at least three times. It was 23 miles from his home. He simply ran back home! Thorpe’s young life was filled with tragedies and he would cope by removing himself to the woods. He was a wanderer, who often just took off because the confines of rules were not something he liked. However, when his father finally felt he could do nothing with him, he sent him off to the most famous of Indian schools of the time, Carlisle Indian Industrial School, located all the way across the country in Carlisle,Pennsylvania.

These Indian schools were not designed to support the children of Indians – rather they were designed to force children to give up their language, clothing, stories and history to be assimilated into the white world. Thousands of Indian children were sent to these schools by well meaning parents, while the vast majority of the children suffered terribly. In fact, one student at Carlisle was so miserable he refused to eat. Rather than sending him home, the superintendent tried to force him to eat and when that didn’t work, the boy starved to death. A cemetery remains to this day of the close to 200 students who died there.

It was to this school that Thorpe’s father sent him as a teenager and where Thorpe eventually meet Pop Warner, who was the coach of the already famous Carlisle Indian football team. Together, they would go on to make history.

This book is an honest look at the beginnings of football and follows the lives of not only Jim Thorpe, but Pop Warner as well as other Indians who played this sport in its infancy and who changed the game forever.

Recommended for 6th grade and up for any students interested in football, Native American history, Jim Thorpe, Pop Warner or a really good read…even if you hate football like I do!


Woman For Humane Treatment of Animals March 23, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:46 pm

As a young child, nothing made sense for Temple Grandin. She couldn’t understand people talking to her, she couldn’t look people in the eye, and sounds and clothing could make her very uncomfortable. She wasn’t able to express any of this to the people around her, which led her to throw tantrums which further confused everyone. At the age of three she was diagnosed with Autism, a hardly known disorder at the time, which maimgresde many things others took for granted, very difficult for Temple. She worked hard and with the help of her mother, she was able to begin to understand the world around her, although some things still are a mystery to her to this day.

As she grew, she realized she had an affinity for understanding animals and what could provoke fear in them.  She spent time on her aunt and uncle’s farm in Arizona, riding horses, working with cattle, and designing and fixing things for them. In time, she became very interested in how she could improve the lives of animals heading to slaughter and began working with places to make the end of the lives of animals better.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery is an honest look at how Grandin impacted the world of farm animals and in the process changed how we look at the end of life for them.

Recommended for any animal lovers and anyone who consumes meat, to see how our life decisions impact others. Grades 7th and up.



A Life In Poems March 3, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 12:43 pm

Born a slave in 1864, his mother and he were stolen from the white couple who owned them. Little George was recovered but not his mother, so he and his older brother were raised for a time by the white couple who clearly cared deeply for them. Later they sent George and his brother to get an education.

For many years George worked hard and traveled far to learn as much as he could about life and many living things. He was amazing at laundry, because he’d figured out how to clean things well! He was able to tell people huge amounts of information about many plants and what they could be used for.

imgres-1Eventually, he was able to get his master’s degree and began working as a professor at Tuskegee Institute where he made incredible works of art as well as improved the lives of farmers over and over again with his techniques. His introduction of the peanut as a way to improve the lives of former slaves and the soil in the south was a brilliant stroke to better the lives of many.

Carver: a life in poems by Marilyn Nelson is a difficult read at times and at turns very poignant as we get a glimpse into the private and often lonely life of George Washington Carver, undeniably one of America’s greatest scientific minds.

Recommended for 8th grade and up due to high level of inferencing and vocabulary.