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. If you would like to listen to booktalks of some of these books, please check out this site and enjoy!

Finally Together May 30, 2022

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

download-1Richard and Millie had grown up together with their families in Central Point, Virginia. It was an unusual area for that time in Virginia – black and white families would often get together for events and to just hang out. The rest of the segregated South seemed to disappear in Central Point. When Millie was in high school, she and Richard started to date and in time fell in love.

But there was a problem. Richard was white, and Millie was black and Native American. In Virginia, people who were white could only marry other people who were white. Millie and Richard went to Washington, D.C. to get married since they knew they couldn’t in Virginia. But in the dead of night, the Sheriff arrested them for being together. They were tried and found guilty of breaking the law for living together because they were of different races. Their sentence was they could not return to Virginia for 25 years, or face the possibility of going to jail. Both of them wanted to live in Virginia – it was where their families were and where they wanted to raise their children.

Millie hated that they had to live in Washington, D.C. City life was not for her. She struggled to find someone who could help them and finally she did.

Loving VS. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell is a novel in verse look at the important Supreme Court case involving marriage in this country and how the United States was still dealing with segregation and racism years after the abolition of slavery.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Taking Up Space…In A Good Way! December 13, 2021

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Ellie has had to live with a horrible nickname since she was 5 years old. That was when her older sisterdownload-1 called her Splash, after she canon-balled into their swimming pool. After that point, everyone seemed to be making fun of or disparaging her about her weight. She hadn’t thought anything of how she looked until that moment. But for every moment afterwards, it seems that is all she thinks about.

Now she’s about to start 6th grade and her best friend is moving across the country, away from Ellie. All Ellie can think is that she has no support for school anymore. What will she do? And her mom seems to be ramping up her quest to get Ellie in for gastric bypass surgery. Her only ally appears to be her father.

Starfish by Lisa Fipps is a quick read about the struggles we face in our own families and in the world at large. And how everyone has something they worry about or wish could be different. The hardest thing in life is to learn to accept who we each are.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


A Very Long Walk November 30, 2020

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

Misael and his family decide they can no longer live in the conditions thatdownload-1 are El Salvador. Either there are no jobs, or the kids will be taken in by the gangs. It is a hard choice to make, but one his parents don’t think they really have. They believe their only hope is to make the arduous and long trek North, toward America. But first they must traverse close to 2,500 miles – much of it on foot – to reach Tijuana, close to the Unites States border between Mexico and California.

Caravan to the North: Misael’s Long Walk by Jorge Argueta is a sparse and stark novel in verse about the trials of being an immigrant – moving through different countries, in search of a better life. The problem is, what if the other country doesn’t want the immigrant?

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


World Gone Crazy March 30, 2020

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

downloadAt first, they didn’t realize just how horrible things would become. While their father had a feeling and voiced his disapproval of Hitler, Hans, and Sophie were not so sure. However, soon they began to see how things were falling apart, how they could not sit by and watch German soldiers killed, Jewish people killed, innocent civilians killed.

But what could two college students do to interrupt the largest killing machine in the world? Could the written word be mightier than the sword? Could they take their ideas and spread them throughout their college town, and maybe even beyond? And what would the consequence be to their actions, if they were ever found out, or caught?

White Rose by Kip Wilson tells the remarkable story of two siblings and a few of their friends who worked to defy the Nazis during World War II. This fictional account is based on real letters, pamphlets and information gathered from the time of these events. Hans and Sophie Scholl were real people trying to make a difference in a world that seemed to have gone insane.


Cows, Maine and More Cows! February 17, 2020

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 pm

It started out as a random question in the car one day. But quickly, Reena’s mom and dad are on board. Reena’s mom wondered if they really wanted to keep living their lives the way they were – with both of Reena’s parents working in journalism. And in that moment, they both realized they didn’t want that! So when Reena suggests they move to Maine (where her parents met) the idea takes hold and almost before they know it, they are packed and moving up the coast to Maine! Land of cold, biting black flies, lobsters and blueberries. And it turns out, cows!

downloadAt first Luke, Reena’s younger brother and she are captivated by the black and white cows they see on their bike rides out of town. But one day they have to go visit a lady who lives in a house that looks like it is tilting a bit, and discover she has one of these cows too. Only Mrs. Falala’s cow, Zora, isn’t very nice. She is big and muddy and drooly – all the time! And Mrs. Falala seems pretty strange too. When their parents volunteer both Reena and Luke to help out Mrs. Falala, neither of them is very happy about this arrangement at all.

Moo by Sharon Creech is a super fast read that delves into how life can change pretty quickly and how a city girl and boy can discover it is possible to trade in those bright lights for the more subtle ones!

Recommended for 6th grade and up.


To Make A Difference February 3, 2020

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:00 am

When you talk about the Holocaust, many names will come to mind. Such as Hitler, Anne Frank, Oskar Schindler, and Adolf Eichmann, but most people probably haven’t heard of someone named Raoul Wallenberg. And yet, we should all know his name as well.

Raoul grew up in Sweden with a loving mother who was widowed just before Raoul was born. For many years after, his grandfather on his fatherdownload‘s side was a major influence on him – sending him around the world to learn languages as well as people. When it was time for college, Raoul came to the United States and earned a degree in architecture from the University of Michigan.

After that, he traveled around the world more, and landed in South Africa. Later, he made his way back home to Sweden, just as the world was about to explode with World War II. Things became difficult in Sweden even though they were a neutral country during the war. Food became scarce and work was difficult to find at times as well. Still Raoul made friends wherever he went, which was why late in the war, his name came up for a special mission.

Hungary had been able to protect their Jewish population for the most part during the war, however, toward the end, the general who had been keeping them out of the Nazis line of fire, was replaced and lost a lot of his power. As a result, thousands and thousands of Hungarian Jews were to be relocated to concentration camps, or simply killed before even leaving Hungary. Many organizations in the world by this time realized something horrible was happening with Jews in Europe. Sweden wanted to help save Jews by claiming them as Swedish citizens, or having some ties to Sweden. However, they needed someone to go who could navigate through all the craziness that was happening there to try to save them. Raoul Wallenberg’s name came up.

Raoul agreed to go on this mission because he was driven by a deep belief that he wanted to do something good in the world. Now seemed his chance, but the odds were stacked against him. Would he be able to actually help stop the killings of the Jewish people, long enough for the war to end?

His Name was Raoul Wallenberg by Louise Borden is a really quick read about a very important person during WWII. It is set up like a novel in verse which makes for an accessible nonfiction work as well as lots of photographs and primary source pieces of documentation.

Highly recommended for grades 6th and up.


Silent and Disastrous November 18, 2019

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:00 am

download-3Osmel has big dreams and he has plans for making them happen. His last year of high school looms ahead and he can’t wait for it to be over. When it is, he can start college and move on to fulfilling his dream since 5th grade of becoming a meteorologist. He works with his uncle sometimes in the orchards in the state of Washington, picking apples and other fruit that comes into season. However, his real passion will take him far away from the dry arid part of the state to the wetter Western side.

But at a family party for his little sister, Osmel’s perception of himself and his reality suddenly changes. He finds out that he’s undocumented – just like his uncle and his aunt and his mother. This sends him reeling as he wonders how on earth he will now be able to go to school. And the ICE raids that he hadn’t really paid much attention to in the past take on serious meaning to him now, since he could very well be sent back to a country he has no recollection of leaving and no memory from that time.

Sanctuary Somewhere by Brenna Dimmig is a very quick and powerful read about the realities facing children who were brought to the United States illegally.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


What Happens on the Field, Stays on the Field November 11, 2019

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 9:00 am

Teddy is in a coma after playing the Rookie Rumble – a game that just the incomingdownload-2 freshman play against each other and is coached by the senior football players on the last day of the preseason camp. Everyone is saying it was a tragic accident and how football has its problems, but everyone knows that is part of the risk to play this amazing game.

As Teddy’s family struggles to deal with his life threatening and possible life changing injury, others in the community gather round to support the family and the team in this time of need. However, when a well intentioned girl, who likes Teddy and just happens to be the daughter of the head football coach, puts up a site for people to offer prayers and to come together as a community, some interesting posts start to pop up. Was this really a typical football injury, or could there be something more to what happened on the field that day?

Game Changer by Tommy Greenwald is a super fast read as it is told in text messages, site posts, newspaper clips and short, almost novel in verse like text. The story shows how so many people are conflicted about the dangers of football and how some traditions are hard to let go.

Recommended for grades 7 and up.


Life Was Perfect…Until it Wasn’t July 29, 2019

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 10:15 am

download-2In a small village in Armenia in 1914, people are just living their lives in the Ottoman Empire. There are Turks, Kurds, and Armenian Christians all living together, for the most part in harmony. But the world events are going to come crashing into their lives very soon.

Shahen and his twin sister Sosi couldn’t be more different. She’s tall and strong and loves living in her village, dreaming already of marrying one of the local boys. Shahen, at thirteen, is still waiting to have a growth spirt and catch up with his two older brothers and he wants to leave this place as soon as possible. He has an uncle in America who has invited him to come live there, but Shahen’s mother and father want him to stay with them. Shahen wants nothing more than to fly away and start a life away from all the turmoil he sees coming. The only one who doesn’t see anything coming seems to be their father, who believes that all their neighbors and their village will not fall prey to the horrors that are happening around them. Even as things begin to spiral out of control, and other families leave, Shahen and Sosi’s father believes in the inherent goodness of others and thinks they will be safe. Unfortunately, his belief is misplaced.

Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath is a look at the Armenian genocide that occurred in 1915 and lasted through 1917 under the Turks. Around three-quarters of the Armenia population were killed – about 1.5 million people and their lands lost. Families of young and old were transported to deserts and left to die, others taken to rivers and shot. As World War I raged on, most of the world was in the dark about this horror and for decades afterwards, it was officially denied by the Turkish government.

Recommended for 8th grade and up.



A World Away July 8, 2019

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:43 am

Jude loves where she lives – by the coast with her mother, father and older brother Issa. The only thing she doesn’t love is the smell of fish some days! She loves looking at the fancy hotels that the tourists come and stay at and dreams of someday staying in one herself, once she’s a famous actress. And she has lots of examples, since she and her best friend Fatima watch American movies on tape whenever they can, and imitate the actors and actresses endlessly! Even Issa used to get involved and sing along with them, but lately, all he can talk about is change. Change in their country’s political system and how he wants to help make it happen. Jude just wants to hang out at their dad’s little store and watch him sell candy, papers and other little items for prices way cheaper than at the big hotels.

download-2However, Issa’s wish might be happening. After all, Jude is amazed when she sees her country’s name, Syria, in the newspapers making headlines. Aleppo, a large city in Syria, is burning from all the fighting happening, and while that isn’t Jude’s reality where she lives, she knows that from all the whispers around town, that tourists won’t be coming much this year to their seaside retreats. The country is falling into chaos, and Issa seems to be part of it. Jude’s parents get more and more concerned about what the future might hold, and Jude is unprepared for the big change they decide for her.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga shows the struggle that many immigrants must go through – in feeling a loyalty to their former homes, a longing for the reasons why they left to disappear so they could return, and yet feeling hopeful in their new adopted country.  Jude has to deal with all these new things while just trying to be a teenager.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.