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!

Sisters In Misery October 11, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 3:56 pm

downloadFor decades, American Indian children were sent off to boarding schools that were supposed to educate them in the white man’s world. Often these children were sent by well intended parents who thought this was in the best interests of the children.

Mattie and Sarah are sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School after their mother dies. Some of their other siblings have already gone to other Indian schools, so this isn’t something new for the family. Mattie – the oldest of the two girls, and Sarah, both have reservations right away about their new school. The people in charge seem cold, distant and often just plain mean and cruel. However, Mattie quickly gains a friend and begins to like one of her teachers. Sarah struggles to do both. Yet it is the outspoken Mattie who finds herself a target of the head teacher.

Mattie is accused of stealing a pin from the head teacher, Mrs. Dwyer. Even though she says she didn’t, the other students begin to look at her as if she is guilty. Mattie feels that her only recourse is to run away from the school.

Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell looks at a troubling and often terrible time in our history. Readers will understand the longing and nostalgia both Mattie and Sarah feel for home, even as they try in vain to make the best of their situation.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.

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To Eat, or Not to Eat? June 19, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 2:41 pm

downloadMany know of the story of the doomed Donner party, a group of travelers who were trying to make it to California from the East, but were trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains when snowfalls kept them from moving on. As the supplies ran out, and people died, some began to look at the dead as a source of food. While many wagon trains West all had their own sources of torment and tragedy, the Donner group remains in the mythology of these travels and is told in hushed tones as the ultimate horror story of what can happen when time runs out…and you are still in the mountains.

Mary Ann Graves, who was nineteen when her parents packed up the family and headed West for the promise of California with her eight siblings, had no true understanding of the sacrifices she and her fellow companions were going to make in the months to come. Part of the Graves’ misfortune was to join with the wagon train that included the Reed family. John Reed had heard of a supposed short cut, called the Hastings cutoff, which was to reduce the amount of time they had to travel. However, it turned out the cutoff was passable on horseback, but for a wagon train, it was horrible. Much time was wasted trying to make a trail and as a result, it put them weeks behind where they should have been heading into the mountains.

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown is a novel in verse that shows the gritty, boring, horrifying and desperate journey of these hopeful settlers and reveals in those awful moments what it really takes to stay alive.

Recommended for mature 6th graders and up.

 

When is the Right Time to Leave? May 15, 2017

Filed under: Historical Fiction,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 8:05 am

Grace has been told a thousand times to keep her mouth shut around white folks. And typically it isn’t hard, but when she leaves her family’s slave cabin for the “big house,” she finds that while she always knew things were unjust for her family, the contrast with how the white folks live is too much for her. Grace is told she must work in the kitchens with a woman named Aunt Tempie. The work is hard in the kitchen and Gracdownloade can’t understand why the Master and Missus need so many people to clean up after them and even dress them!

As Grace settles into life at the big house, she misses her two younger brothers and her parents. Grace often curses her lighter skin, from the father she never knew and her mother won’t talk about, because it seems it is her lighter skin that has gotten her placed in the Missus’s crosshairs. When another enslaved person runs away, Grace is forced to serve in the dinning room where she overhears something that makes her blood run cold.

Unbound by Ann E. Burg tells of a complex story between wanting to just go along for the sake of safety and realizing that when you can’t.

Recommended for any students 6th grade and up interested in events leaving up to the Civil War, slavery, or just a really good story.

 

A Fast Horse Can Only Take You So Far May 8, 2017

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:45 am

downloadHer mother dying left a hole in Raesha that nothing seems to be able to fill. However, if she can ride her horse, Fancy, in the coming rodeo season and place high enough to maybe win Nationals, like her mother did, maybe that will bring her closer to filling that hole up.

Rae knows that everything counts when you are racing the clock in barrels, and anything she can do to help her horse be faster and lighter will make all the difference. That is when she starts thinking about how she can be lighter. So much lighter that Fancy will have to be able to go faster.

Rae’s best friend, Asia, is the first to notice that Rae isn’t eating much of anything, if at all. Rae’s boyfriend, Cody, doesn’t seem to have any idea of what is going through his girlfriend’s mind, and things between them are only complicated when a new girl moves into town, named Kierra, and seems to threaten their once stable relationship.

The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene is a novel in verse that will capture your heart as you see how much Rae struggles to move beyond this growing despair she has in her life. The issue of eating disorders is portrayed in such a way that students will begin to understand how all encompassing this disease can become and how its impacts can be felt far and wide. An author’s note at the end will give readers even more perspective on how damaging and life threatening this can be to people.

Recommended for 8th grade readers and up due to the inferencing and text complexities of the text.

 

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.

 

A Father Changes Everything February 22, 2017

Connor understands that his father is very depressed after the death of his mom. What he doesn’t realize is that his dad is thinking about a lot of things. It turns out that when his mother died, she left him with something that shook the foundation of Connor’s father’s life. In a letter, Connor’s grandmother tells his dad that the man he thought was his father all thes9780803733053e years wasn’t. At least not biologically. Turns out that when she was in Italy during World War II she met an American pilot and he is really Connor’s father’s dad.

When Connor’s dad shares this news with the rest of the family they react quite well. However, it is the ring and set of wings that came with the letter that captivate Connor and his dad’s interested. Could these be the key to finding out more about Connor’s biological grandfather? And is this something they should be digging into? What if it leads them down a path they realize they aren’t quite ready to tread?

American Ace by Marilyn Nelson is a quick and powerful read about a family coming to terms with learning biology can be a powerful thing, but not everything. And what if you find out something that you didn’t expect?

This is a great novel in verse story. I loved how the information was interwoven and felt the reactions to the revelations were authentic to real life. Recommended for mature 6th graders and up.

 

One + One = Two December 14, 2016

Image result for one by sarah crossan

Being twins, Tippi and Grace have a very close relationship and are joined at the hip – literally. They are conjoined twins who look separate from the waist up and share one body from the waist down. For most of their lives, they have been safe at home. Their mom chose to home school the twins to protect them from society but Tippi and Grace have to attend public school for the first time because of money issues. The twins friend two outcasts at school – Yasmeen and Jon. It’s the first time the twins have friends and have a life outside of each other.

As the twin’s social life begins to get better, Grace’s heart takes a turn for the worst. The twins must be separated to save their lives. It’s a risky operation but not having the surgery is even riskier.

One by Sarah Crossan is a novel in verse. I was interested in reading this book because I’ve never read a book about conjoined twins before. Grace and Tippi’s stories are definitely interesting. . You have to read and find out what happens in the end!

I would recommend this book to mature 7th and 8th grade readers.