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!

Founding Fathers and Slaves January 12, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 10:17 am

Lots of political arguments begin and end with the phrase “our founding fathers…” and yet, while we know a lot about these founding fathers (who were also some of our first presidents) not much is mentioned about how the majority of them owned enslaved imgrespeople.

In fact, four out of the first five presidents of the United States owned people they considered their “property.” From George Washington to Andrew Jackson, these men we often revere thought that owning a person was okay for most of, if not all of their lives.

In the Shadow of Liberty: The hidden history of slavery, four presidents and five black lives by Kenneth C. Davis is a powerful look at a part of our history we are still trying to make sense of and come to terms with – often without any success.

Davis looks at what it was like to live with and be owned by these powerful men in American history, and how many enslaved people played a large, but silent role in contributing to that image. From Billy Lee Williams who served with Washington for his whole life and perhaps played a large role in Washington granting freedom to his enslaved people after Martha’s death to Alfred Jackson, who was owned by Andrew Jackson and later his son ,until Alfred was freed due to the Civil War. Andrew Jackson considered abolitionists to be “monsters” and what they wrote “unconstitutional and wicked,” yet when Alfred was brought up on murder charges, Andrew Jackson paid for his defense.

Contradictions between how these early presidents felt about the idea of liberty for themselves from Britain, yet couldn’t quite see it extend to people who lived and worked for them shows how complicated and intertwined slavery was in the fabric of American life.

Recommended for all 7th graders and up to read as it is an important part of our history and one we can’t afford to ignore.



Simeon’s Story – A Review by 8th Grader Paul B. December 15, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — bhomel @ 1:35 pm

In the summer of 1955, Emmett Till gets on a train and leaves Chicago and goes to visit his relatives in Mississippi for the summer. As he arrives in Mississippi, Emmett, Simeon, and the rest of their cousins are having fun and enjoying Emmett’s visit until one morning when they all go to a little market called Bryant’s Grocery. Emmett wanted to get some bubble gum and soda because it was so hot. So he went into the store by himself. Simeon and the other cousins were worried because there was a white lady named Carolyn Bryant who was working as the cashier for the market. Simeon went into the store and in the book he stated that Emmett did not have any physical contact with Mrs. Bryant nor talked to her. After Emmett and Simeon left the store, they were standing in the front of the store goofing around until Mrs. Bryant walked out a few minutes behind them. She headed to her car and then Emmett whistled at Mrs. Bryant. The cousins knew Emmett was in danger so they all fled back home before something happened.

Two days later. in the middle of the night when the family came back from downtown Mississippi, two white men knocked on the door and Emmett’s uncle answered the door. It was Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. They ordered to have Emmett Till come with them so they abducted Emmett. The family was so scared for Emmett and did not know what to do but call thImage result for simeon's storye cops. A week later, a detective came to the home where Emmett got abducted and told the uncle of Emmett Till that they found his body in the Tallahatchie River. The family saw the body. They said that they could not recognize the body because he was so beaten, they couldn’t tell it was him. They were mourning for days and had a funeral back in Chicago. Then the trial started.

In my opinion, I think Simeon’s Story  by Simeon Wright was very interesting and hard to put down. I learned a lot about how Emmett Till got abducted and murdered. And I learned more about how Emmett’s personality was before the abduction.


Wild Boy – A Review by 7th Grader Kamille E.

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Student Book Reviews — bhomel @ 11:02 am

Image result for wild boy book

The Wild Boy has been wild all his life in the forests. The Wild Boy was only like a human by walking like a regular person, but still acted like a animal. When he acted like an animal, he dug from the dirt and roots to get food. Then the Wild Boy would walk around naked. People from the Village of Lacaune saw him and tried to rescue him, because they wanted to know and get full knowledge of how he became wild. Whenever people from the village caught him, the wild boy ended up escaping again. Usually when people captured him, they put the Wild Boy on display for everyone to see. The Wild Boy gets put into an orphanage and Dr. Itard takes him. Dr.Itard tries to see if he had any family background and helped him talk and ask for things he wanted. Dr.Itard tried his best to teach him how to communicate, but the Wild Boy was not close to understanding on how to communicate. As the Wild Boy then grew up to be a full adult, he leaves back into the wild, and continues his life in the wild. They all knew he would try and come back to visit, and he lived in freedom his whole life.

In the book Wild Boy by Mary Losure, I thought the book had a great meaning to it. In my opinion, I liked the book a little bit, it wasn’t the best book I read, but the book had a terrific beginning to where you wanted to find out how he became wild. I had a great time enjoying the book Wild Boy.


Leon’s Story – a Review by 7th Grader Tony V December 12, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Student Book Reviews — bhomel @ 11:02 am
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In the book Leon’s Story by Leon Tillage, Leon Tillage talks about his life of how he is treated when he was a little boy. HImage result for leon's story booke was treated in a bad way. Leon was beat up and felt scared because he was African American. He was different from the White people and some Whites thought African Americans should not be there.

The book was really good. It told me about the past and how African Americans felt.

I hope there are more things or stories about Leon.



Survivor by 7th Grader Christopher M. December 9, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Student Book Reviews — bhomel @ 2:59 pm
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A man named Louie Zamperini, an Olympic runner that can run a mile in 4:06 seconds became a military Air Force pilot. He flew to the Atlantic Ocean on this B-24 called the Green HImage result for unbroken by laura hillenbrand young adult versionornet. The  Japanese military Air Force attacked the Green Hornet and his crew mates got stranded but some died in an accident in the Pacific Ocean. They tried to survive the several months and tried to get to land but the Japanese captured Louie and Phil. They took Louie and Phil to a POW prison camp. Louie survived and escaped the prison camps that made him suffer, the ones that tortured him and hit him and also the guards that kept him captive, so he can see His family again during the years he had been away.


Unbroken By Laura Hillenbrand is a good and adventurous book for anybody who like survival stories to read this book that was a really emotional story about history of World War II and Olympic Runners and I’ll rate it a 5 star book.


A Very Inspiring Story – Reviewed By 8th Grader Anjali C.

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Student Book Reviews — bhomel @ 2:33 pm

The Bite of the Mango is about a girl named Mariatu and she has a very happy life with no problems. She was living in a small town called Sierra Leone in Africa. One day rebels took over her town and she hid in bushes with her family. They hid in the buses for about  a month or two so they would not get caught. Everything was going well until they ran out of food. Her aunt and uncle  forced her to go back to her home and get some food with her cousins. While she was  walking, trying to reach home without getting caught, she was spotted by a rebel boy and was  forced to go with them and be punished for no reason. Her punishment was very dangerous, cruel, and unsanitary. When she was given her punishmImage result for the bite of the mangoent, her life changed a lot!

She was given a lot treatment in Freetown (a town where the rebels have not taken over yet) and it works. Some people thought her treatment could go farther,  and wanted the world to know about her and help her. She decides that she wants to go to Canada and stay there.


This Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland is a really good book to read because it is based on a true story and there is also a little bit of history in it that is included. There is also a little bit of suspense included that is going to make you want to know what is going to happen next. The text end by saying “you should look forward and  back without any regrets at the same time.”

Recommended for 8th grade and up.


Tommy, the Gun November 18, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 1:55 pm

It shocked the nation, over and over again. At one point though, it became so prevalent that people startedimgresbecoming immune to the shootings. When it stopped being criminals killing each other and turning toward civilians and police officers, the public did begin to get more concerned. Of course, there were always those who thought the criminals were justified. After all, they were robbing the very banks that had robbed many Americans when the great crash happened in 1929 and so many lost their entire life savings. Many things had a part in the growing violence of the 1920s and the 1930s. Of course prohibition was a main driver of the emergence of gangs both in Chicago and other large cities on the East coast. The Great Depression made many people desperate as well.

Something brought fire power to the gangsters that hadn’t been there before though. That was the Tommy gun. Originally, it had be created as a weapon that could be used to help American troops in war, however it wasn’t picked up by the military at first.  When World War I ended, they didn’t see a need for the submachine gun that could fire up to 800 rounds in a minute. So the manufacturers turned to law enforcement as a place to sell their guns. However, police were concerned about having a weapon that sprayed bullets and could just as easily hurt innocent bystanders as take out a gangster.  Gangsters on the other hand saw the great potential of the Tommy gun and used it freely.

Tommy: the gun that changed America  by Karen Blumenthal is a fascinating look at how a gun changed the landscape, not only of how gangsters operated, but also gave the FBI, which was just starting out, the beginnings of its reputation, as well as changed how law enforcement worked with each other. It also saw the beginnings of specific gun laws, and how even in the 1930s, the long arm of the NRA was exerting itself.

Recommended for any true crime buffs, lovers of the 1930s, gangsters and early law enforcement. A great read. Good for mature 6th graders and up – warning it is a little dry at the beginning as it describes how the gun came to be.