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!

Bed Time Stories and More September 12, 2022

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

downloadGrowing up an immigrant from the Philippines wasn’t always easy for Elsie, especially when her teachers wouldn’t even listen when she told them her name. They just went on calling her Maria. Still, she did want to let her own two daughters know about her story and where she came from, even if the stories were hard to tell sometimes. But how do you get two young kids into bed on time and tell them all about what it was like growing up in a new and foreign country? Sometimes it is easier to tell a fairytale to help people understand what you are trying to say, so that is what Elsie does.

We Belong by Cookie Hiponia Everman is a very quick novel in verse read. However, the story jumps back and forth between Elsie and her two young daughters and a fairytale from the Philippines and while the fairytale is in different color text, as a reader, I often struggled at the beginning to know who was telling the main story. And there are many characters with the same names and multiple names, which makes it a bit of a confusing read. If you are looking for an immigration story where the immigrant can reflect back on their life and transition, this would be a good pick. There is a nice glossary at the end to help the reader understand many of the Tagalog words interspersed throughout the book. However, there are so many Tagalog words, that to keep flipping back and forth interrupts the reading and flow of the story. I didn’t see the glossary until later after finishing the book, and did go to look up one words. Most of the others you can get an sense of from just reading the story.

Recommended for 8th graders simply because the text can be a bit confusing at times.


When the Water Came August 8, 2022

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

download-2Joe wants more for his life that what his father has. He thinks that by showing his dad he was able to save up and purchase a news stand on his own that his dad will respect him more. And then he can ask Maggie to begin planning their lives together. Or that is what he hopes as the country gets ready to celebrate Decoration Day, to honor all the soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Some of Joe’s friends just can’t wait for school to be over, so they can go sneak off to the forest, and to the lake that is high up above Johnstown, Lake Conemaugh, a man made lake owned by members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. Basically, rich people from Pittsburgh, PA. But people from the town aren’t really welcome at the hunting club, unless they are working there.

All little Gertrude Quinn wants to do is go to the big parade for Decoration Day! But with all this rain and the streets flooding, and her stick in the mud aunt, it looks like she might not get to have the fun time she is hoping for.

As the streets flood, and the rain keeps coming down, more and more people get worried about the dam that holds Lake Conemaugh in its banks. Because what will happen if the dam fails?

Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown by Ann Burg is based on true events in 1889 when an earthen dam collapsed and sent millions of gallons of water rushing down into the town of Johnson, where homes, businesses and people were in its path.

Recommended for 7th grade and up. If you enjoy this book, consider reading another novel in verse on the same subject called Three Rivers Rising by James Richards.


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.