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!

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.


Many Wanted Hitler Gone February 27, 2017

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 10:34 am

One of the most surprising things about this book for me was just how early many high imgresofficials in the German government wanted Hitler gone or stopped. However, Hitler was very quick to put down anyone who spoke out against him and because of this, many plots had to go “underground.”

An area that doesn’t get much discussion in history classes is the role that the Church could have taken in trying to halt the progression of Hitler’s regime. A man named Dietrich Bohnoeffer was very aware that if the Church came out against Hitler’s policies of discrimination against Jews and others, it was possible that the general population would have followed suit and made things more difficult for Hitler and his men. Dietrich brought this concern to the Church leadership’s attention time and again. However, his pleas fell on deaf ears. This dismayed Dietrich so much that he even went as far as to start his own Church.

Interestingly, most of Dietrich’s family became involved in a plot to remove Hitler from his position as early as 1938. In fact, as a pastor, one of his brother-in-laws came to him with the moral question, was it okay to commit murder if it was to kill someone like Hitler? This was a question that Dietrich, as a pacifist, wrestled with. He believed that the work of Gandhi in India was the way to defeat Hitler and the Nazis. However, others believed that nonviolence methods could not work against Hitler. Finally, Dietrich came to the same realization and joined his one brothers and two of his brother-in-laws in their secret plot to assassinate Hitler.

The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick is a fast paced thriller in a nonfiction package. As readers we find out at the beginning of the book that Dietrich and much of his family were caught in their plot to kill Hitler and executed, however, the amount of times that Dietrich could have saved himself but stayed his course were numerous. The tragedy of their family is that most of them were killed within a few weeks of the end of the war.

Recommended for anyone who is fascinated by World War II, Hitler, or what life was like in Germany during that time period. Grades 7 and up should enjoy this title.


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.