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!

War In Pictures November 19, 2015

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 5:36 pm

The Civil War in the United States was one of the first wars to be captured withimgres photography. Up until then, images were in paintings or drawings often years after the events or battles themselves had taken place. With the invention of the camera, everything changed. The book Photo By Brady: A Picture of the Civil War by Jennifer Armstrong shows how important this work was at the time.

Two men were primarily responsible for the photographic documentation of the Civil War. The one most widely known is Mathew B. Brady who was a well known photographer of the day and had become known for doing portrait work. He was trying to make photography into an art form to give it legitimacy. The second person was Alexander Gardner who became a business partner with Brady for a time. During the Civil War they ended up splitting away from each other and Gardner created his own studio.

Both men were instrumental in giving the public at the time and all the generations afterwards a true glimpse into the horrors of the Civil War.

Recommended for grades 7th and up.



Two Ships, Cracked in HALF! October 16, 2015

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 10:00 am

In February of 1952 one of the worst winter storms to hit the Northeast also lead to one of the greatest Coast Guard rescues of all time.

With terrible weather pounding the coast and the high seas, two oil tankers, the Pendelton and Fort Mercer, both trying to ride out the horrible weather before heading into port, broke literally in half! Only one of the ships was able to get out an S.O.S. before it cracked in half, which was the Fort Mercer. The Fort Mercer knew things were bad and that they had sprung a leak in the middle of their ship, so they radioed the Coast Guard and ships were on their way to help them. However, the seas had 60 to 70 feet high waves,imgres-2 so any kind of rescue was going to be near impossible.

However, the Pendelton broke up in the night, and there wasn’t any warning so no S.O.S. was sent out. They were found purely by accident by a plane that was looking for parts of the Fort Mercer! This meant there were FOUR parts of ships that were floating in high seas and no one knew how long each section could stay afloat, especially in the horrible storm that was raging.

Into this nightmare, men were sent out to try to rescue them, knowing all the while, they might never return themselves.

The Finest Hours: The true story of a heroic sea rescue by Michael Tougias and Casey Sherman is a fast paced, edge of your seat adventure story about the real dangers of the sea, and the real people who venture out to save people. An amazing story.

Recommended for students in 6th grade and up.


There Was a Killer in the Kitchen September 30, 2015

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 12:04 pm

Everybody loves ice cream, and especially, HER ice cream. She made really great ice creamimgres and at the turn of the 20th century, ice cream sure was a luxury item. One that a wealthy family that employed a cook could afford. What the Warren family didn’t know, was that when Mary Mallon made their wonderful peach ice cream in August of 1906 as their recently hired cook for their summer rented house, she gave them something that no one wanted. Typhoid Fever.

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A true story of the deadliest cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti peels back the myths and legends that surround this well known, but little known about, character who shaped much of American lore.

This book gives great insight not only into the time period at the turn of the 20th century, but also how Americans viewed science at the time, the idea of germs and how then, as in now, the rights of a person versus society’s good are hard to determine.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


Slavery….Alive and Well August 6, 2015

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 1:24 pm
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Unfortunately, slavery is not a problem from the past, but very much something  that concerns nations around the world,imgres including the United States, today. This isn’t slavery that is sanctioned by the state or by governments, but rather done illegally by either deceiving people, or outright kidnapping them. Most of the time, people are transported to another country, one where they don’t speak the language or even understand the customs. This is intentional, because if a kidnapped victim were to escape, who could they turn to? Some are afraid that the country they have been brought into will send them back since they are there illegally.

The horrors of being a slave today are often overlooked because so many people think that slavery is over. Little do they know, that the person in the back of the restaurant might be a slave. Up for Sale: Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery by Alison Marie Behnke gives the reader much to think about.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.


Are Zombies Real????? July 17, 2015

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 3:54 pm
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Lots of books, movies and TV shows are focusing on Zombies these days, and while we know they are fantasy, some people think that zombies really could come about. So is there any truth to that? Are there any “zombies” in nature right now?

Zombie Makers: True stories of Nature’s Undead by Rebecca Johnson takes this question very seriously. Could something “take over” an animal or insect and control them? Could something invade an animal or insect and change its nature? This book is chalk full of examples where either another insect, fungus or virus is able to alter the animal or insect it comes into contact with. imgres

Read how an ant becomes the perfect host for a fungus that eventually grows out the top of the dead ant’s head. Or how a worm takes over crickets and forces them to drown themselves. Or how a caterpillar becomes a zombie like bodyguard wasp protector and starves rather than let the little wasp cocoons be eaten, and then the caterpillar dies.

Yes, nature is already providing us with some examples of how animals and insects can be taken over but nothing so far shows how something can die and then come back to life. Those are still in the realm of fantasy, and let’s hope it stays there!

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


Children Always Suffer in War July 14, 2015

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 5:51 pm
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As a young boy, growing up in rural southern Sudan, John only knew the good things in life. He enjoyed hearing stories of his relatives, braving the lions that roamed close to their village, and at 13 was looking forward to the day when he, too, would complete the ritual that would recognize him has a man in his community. However, one day, his village was attacked by the government forces. While there had been rumblings for years of possible war coming, until it arrived at his door step, John was able to push his fears aside. After the attack, he and a group of other boys and some adults, were forced to move from place to place, trying to survive.imgres

While John was going through this in the countryside, the major cities in the south were not safe either. Martha was only six years old, and her younger sister only three, when their parents decided it was too dangerous to stay in the main southern city and moved the family to the country. Martha was surprised by life in the country. It was very different than what she was used to. However, not long after this move, the village Martha and her family were in was also attacked. Her parents were in a neighboring village at the time, so Martha and her sister, along with other children were taken by a woman and they ran from the village.

What neither Martha nor John knew that first night, was this was not going to be something that would end quickly and they would be re united with their families. Both John and Martha found themselves traveling long distances, often without food or water, only to encounter hostilities at every turn. John found himself in a massive refuge camp, in charge of hundreds of younger boys, and in the position of trying to keep everyone going, while Martha struggled to find a place for herself and her sister.

Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping Civil War in Sudan by John Dau and Martha Akech is an amazing true story of how these children used their wits and ingenuity when things were at their worst.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


How They Croaked! May 7, 2015

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — lpitrak @ 3:41 pm

How They Croaked

This fascinating nonfiction book tells the totally true stories behind the deaths of nineteen famous people.  Historical figures like Cleopatra, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Beethoven did not always die in the way their legends say they did.  For example… Was Cleopatra really bitten and killed by an asp?  Read more to find out!! :-)


Written  and recommended by the staff of the Downers Grove Public Library.



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