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!

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.


The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr November 4, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — elinsenmeyer @ 2:25 pm


Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were the American Revolution’s version of frenemies. They were both orphaned at a young age, went to college young and were at the top of their classes, fought together during the American Revolution, worked together as lawyers, and helped shape the 13 colonies into the United States of America. Though they had similar backgrounds, the two men were very different: Alexander Hamilton was hot-tempered and impatient, while Aaron Burr was calm and patient, which meant that the two didn’t see eye to eye on how things should be handled.

And then one day, on July 11th, 1804, they meet for one last fight.

The Duel is a great supplement to read after you’ve finished the musical Hamilton because it talks about a lot of the events that the musical just briefly touched. The fact that many people know how the duel will end before it even begins makes this all the more interesting. Pick it up, and try not to sing along!



The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — elinsenmeyer @ 2:14 pm

In 1940, the Nazi army invaded Denmark and the Danish government signed an agreement for Germany to occupy the country and take over the government. Angered by this, 15 year old Knud Pedersen and his friends form a secretive organization known Churchill Club. Their goal? To stop the Nazis, even when the adults couldn’t and wouldn’t.

22718705The members of the Churchill Club start small–they paint graffiti and remove and switch around signs to make things difficult for the Nazis. But soon they’re not content with these small acts of rebellion and move on to larger actions, including cutting communication lines, stealing weapons, and raiding Nazi buildings. Considering they were doing this on all on their bikes? It’s pretty impressive.

This is a true story of a small group of teenagers who do great things. In fact, the Churchill Club is often credited as inspiring the rest of Denmark to stand up to the Nazis. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler is a fast read full of twists and turns that will have every reader cheering for these awesome teens.


The Lost Family November 1, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — lpitrak @ 4:09 pm
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This is a rare nonfiction book, which is COMPLETELY true, but crazier than fiction! Beginning in 1903, this fascinating story focuses on the “lost family” of Russia—whose legend seems to grow stronger over time. Nicholas II was Tsar of Russia, and was at the time the wealthiest monarch in the entire world. He had a kingdom of 130 million people, and his empire stretched to cover an entire 1/6 of all land on the entire surface of the earth (which is CRAZY), but his subjects lived in dire poverty.

The Romanov family was composed of Nicholas, his beautiful, shy wife Empress Alexandra, their wild, gorgeous daughters named Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia, and their very frail, sickly youngest brother, the Tsarevich Alexei. They ate off of solid gold plates, attended parties with thirty-course dinners, and all owned prize-winning horses….  And at the same time, farmers in Russia starved and froze to death in homes with no heat, factory workers worked 12-hour days in dangerous conditions where it was easy to lose fingers, hands, or your life working with run-down factory machines, and young men died as soldiers fighting in World War I. Almost 2 million Russian soldiers were killed in total in World War I.

Infuriated by such an unbalance in lifestyle, members of the Bolshevik party forcibly removed the Romanov family from their palace to the country, placing them under house arrest.  Then, in July 1918, rebels from the party entered the estate where the entire Romanov family had been banished, with the intention of executing all of them. However, afraid to cause a mass uproar when revealing the murder of children, they later reported only Tsar Nicholas II was dead… when the mass grave of the family was found, two bodies were missing—what really happened to Princess Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexei?  Read this exciting book to find out!


Real Story of Emmett Till October 24, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 10:25 am

6681233So much lore surrounds the murder of a young Chicago boy, named Emmett Till. What is commonly known is that he went to visit relatives in Money, Mississippi the summer of 1955. There after going into town with some of his relatives, two days later he was taken from his Uncle’s home by two white men. His brutally abused body was found in a river 3 days later.

At the time, this case was different from other black lynchings because it happened to a northern child, and this brought attention to a huge issue that had been happening for years; the random murders of black boys and men in the south for perceived wrong doings against anyone who was white.

Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till by Simeon Wright gives the first hand account from Emmett’s cousin of what happened in the days leading up to and the night of the fateful abduction. Simeon also clears up many of the myths and just plain wrong information that has often circulated in relation to this story.

This is an amazing story and should be read by everyone to get an idea of what life was like in many parts of the south during the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.

Recommended for mature 6th graders and up.


Unbroken September 28, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:10 pm

He really was a trouble maker. If there ever was a kid that was destined for juvenile hall, it imgreswas Louis Zamperini. If it wasn’t nailed down, he had no problem stealing it and even if it WAS nailed down, he’d bring a hammer and pry the nail out! His mother despaired of him ever amounting to anything. That was until his older brother, Pete got him into running. By some luck, Louie loved running. And not only did he love it, but he was good at it. So good that by the time he was out of high school, he had his eyes on the Olympics. He just missed a spot in the mile, but then decided to try his legs at running the 2 mile. He was so fast at that, he made the Olympic team.

While Louis didn’t metal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he knew that he had what it would take to come back in 1940. However, in 1939, the world was caught up in World War II, and Japan withdrew as the host of the Olympics. Louie was heartbroken. However, he decided to join the Air Force and after Pearl Harbor was bombed was sent off to learn how to be a bombardier in a B-24 plane. It was Louie’s job to drop the bombs over the correct targets. His plane’s was nicknamed Superman.

One day Louie and his pilot – Phil – were ordered to go on a search and rescue mission in another plane that had the nickname the Green Hornet. Superman had been terribly damaged in a battle and so wasn’t available for them to fly. As Phil, Louie and the rest of a motley crew of airmen flew away in the Green Hornet, they had no idea it would be the last flight for all but two of them.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (the adapted for young adults edition) is a gripping tale of what war time is really like. Not only does Louie’s plane crash in the Pacific Ocean where he undergoes extreme thirst and hunger, but he and Phil are captured by the Japanese and endure unimaginable horrors in their prisoner of war camps.

Anyone interested in World War II, prisoner stories, survival stories, or just an amazing story will be captivated by this book.

Recommended for 8th graders and up due to the details of torture in this book.


Giants Among Us? August 25, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 2:08 pm

imgresHe simply needed a new well. At least that is what William Newell told the men that had come on the morning of October 16, 1869 to work for him. He took the men to a specific location and told them that he figured digging down about four or so feet should get them to water. What none of the workers expected was to find what appeared to be a stone man, or maybe even a petrified man. Could this be proof that giants once roamed the earth, as the Bible said? Could this be proof of Giants that the native Onondaga Indian tribe described in their legends?

Or could it actually be one of the most successful hoaxes played on Americans in the 1800s? The Giant: And How He Humbugged America by Jim Murphy looks at a little known, but largely impactful hoax that was imagined and perpetrated by a man named George Hull, along with many accomplices. This Cardiff Giant, as it was later named, captivated the minds of Americans for several months before the truth finally came out.

This is a quick and interesting read about a little known part of American history. Recommended for 6th grade and up.