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!

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.


Dreams of Gold August 15, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 3:14 pm

When Joe was little, he had a really rough time of it. His mother died when he was very young and then his father shipped him across the country to live with his aunt for two years. When his dad remarried, he sent for Joe to come back. However, Thula, Joe’s new step-mother, never seemed to take to him. Joe found himself set aside when he was fifteen years old and had to survive on his own while his father and stepmom left with the four younger siblings.

This made Joe leery of trusting others, but he was determined to go to college. He started at the University of Washington in Seattle in the fall of 1933. This was a rough time in the United States. The stock market crash of 1929 had cascaded down into all walks of life, and so Joe had a hard time finding jobs so he could pay to attend school. That was mostly the reason he found himself at the rowing try outs. Because each freshman that made the rowing team was guaranteed a part time job on campus – which might bring in enough money to keep him from having to drop out of school.

The rowing team was not easy though. There were close to 200 new freshman that wanted a spot on the boats, and already upper class teams in place. So competition was fierce. But there was something special about the boys that showed up to row that year, and even the year after as well. Something that made the coach of the University of Washington believe that he could put together a shell (as the boats are called) that could take Washington to the Olympics in Berlin in 1936. And it was possible, that Joe just might be in that shell, rowing it!

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is a fast and interesting read about the United States rowing team that entered the Berlin Olympics. This is a wonderful story about a boy finding his inner strength and how it is possible to move beyond your past.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


The Saboteurs July 5, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 9:23 am

After the Nazis invaded Norway, many of the citizens wanted to fight back. Some began small scale sabotage against the occupiers, while others fled to Britain to get trained in becoming serious spies as well as soldiers who could do real damage to the Nazi operations in their country.

In Sabotage by Neal Bascomb, we are introduced to a group of serious and committed men who wanted to take down the Germans in their country of Norway. At the same time there was a race on – a race to see who could take what had been learned in physics download-4about the power of splitting atoms and the energy that could be generated as a result. Whoever could harness this process in a way that would allow for a massive and destructive bomb could win World War II. The Germans were experimenting with a process that needed something called heavy water in which the hydrogen molecule carried a neutron in its nucleus as well as a proton. This is very rare in nature. However, a hydro power plant in Vermork, Norway created some of this water during the process of making electricity. At first, no one could really find a use for it, but with World War II and the Germans realizing heavy water could help them with their process for developing a bomb, the need for heavy water became intense. So did the Allies desire to stop the Nazis from getting this water because it could mean they would get a bomb before the Manhattan Project in the United States could be successful.

Thus begins a series of events that cost the lives of quite a few soldiers as well as civilians in an attempt to change the course of the war, all in a remote part of Norway.

This is a fascinating book, and anyone interested in World War II, or the creation of the first atomic bomb must read. Recommended for 8th grade and up due to scientific terms and historical context.


Dating Can be HARD! June 29, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:11 pm

It was when a friend told Josh that the girl Josh thought was his girlfriend was actuallydownload-3 the girlfriend of another guy that Josh realized he needed to figure somethings out. Because all that time, he’d thought he was the boyfriend! His friends however, knew the truth. Josh had been a friend, not the boyfriend! Complicated right?

So in his early 20s, Josh realized that he’d never actually had a girlfriend and with that realization comes the fact that he has no idea why. He wonders, secretly, if it has something to do with the fact that he had one of his legs amputated when he was a child because of cancer.

He decides to revisit all the girls that he thought had the potential to be his girlfriends, but something just didn’t work out. He wants to figure out what it was so he asks them!

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist is a heartwarming story for anyone who has ever struggled with finding that first perfect someone!

Recommended for 8th grade and up.


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.