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!

Chocolate Has a Dark Side April 3, 2017

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 5:05 am

Amadou thought that he was leaving Mali to hopefully be able to earn some money for his family. Drought over the years had left his area of the country badly impoverished, and he hoped to be like other children who had left and returned with money in their pockets. His little brother, Seydou comes with him. What Amadou can’t know is that the farm he lands on, isn’t one that will pay him. Instead, he’s been sold to a family that can’t afford to pay workers a wage, so they rely on children to work their cacao trees and repay them with harsh working conditions, beatings if the daily quota isn’t met and a miserable existence. Quickly, Amadou realizes that he isn’t going home at the end of the season with money is his pocket. In fact, he’s never seen a boy leave the farm…alive.

Amadou has spent the last two years of his life in this terrible situation, trying each day to keep his much younger brother alive and safe, with no end in sight or a way out that he can see. Until one day something strange happens. A girl shows up at the farm. No other girls have ever come to the farm and no other girls work with them currently. Wimgreshy would a girl show up and by herself, with no other new boys to work with the cacao pods?

Right away, the girl causes trouble, and somehow Seydou and Amadou are always right in the middle when it comes to her.

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan takes a subject about a little known event that is happening currently in the world and something that many of us take for granted. How does chocolate end up in our stores and in our lives? What is the price that others are paying for us to have that moment of sweetness in our mouths? Is it worth it?

Recommended for mature 7th graders and up. Very insightful story and important read.


See You in the Cosmos March 20, 2017

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng is an AMAZING novel told from the perspective of a space-loving eleven year old (who explains he is thirteen in maturity years :)). Alex Petroski loves space, and his idol is Carl Sagan. Just as Carl Sagan launched the Voyager Golden Records, which contain sounds and pictures of life on Earth, into space, Alex plans to lauSee You in the Cosmosnch his Golden iPod. This iPod contains Alex’s narration of his daily life, and he searches for people to interview who can explain the beauties and intricacies of what it means to be human for the alien life forms who will find his iPod after he launches it. This book follows Alex’s determination to build a rocket which will launch his iPod, his quest to find a “man in love” to interview, and his desire to unravel the mystery of why there is a record of a man with his deceased father’s same name and birthday living in Las Vegas. What follows is a roadtrip of epic proportions that will stay with you long after you close this book’s pages. Highly, highly recommended for any fans of realistic fiction!!!



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.


Not Much of a Secret February 14, 2017

Filed under: Humor,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 1:56 pm

Could life be any worse? Lincoln doesn’t think so. I mean, how many kids have to go to imgrestheir parents work after school? And how much worse that his mom works in a crazy home, or AKA – old folks home – or AKA a nursing home for dementia patients? Plus, Lincoln is having to deal with moving to a new school and a new apartment and having to deal with the school bus, which all pose their own problems.

Even though Lincoln has a lot to deal with, he moves through life with a journal in his backpack and lots of stories in his head. If he can only stay out of the way of Troy (who makes his life a misery on the bus) and Kandy Kain (seriously that is her name – a girl who won’t leave him alone at school) and various residents at Brookside Manor (one who periodically likes to take off her clothes!) he might be able to make it through the first months at school.

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen is a fabulous and funny look at a guy growing up and trying to find his way while staying true to himself. Lincoln begins to realize that while he’s an expert at turning in, he’s missing a lot by not looking outside of himself.

Recommended for 6th grade and up if you are looking for a fun and enjoyable book! Don’t let the boring book cover keep you from picking up this title!


Frenimes January 19, 2017

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 12:55 pm

Can a friend ultimately be an enemy or an enemy, a friend? Can you really ever truly be friends with someone you compete with?

Grace is friends with Leigh, or as much as she can let herself be friends with anyone, and Leigh believes she and Grace are true friends. But both of them want a spot on the USA Gymnastics team for the Olympics and only five girls will be picked to be on the team. For Grace this is the moment that her whole life has been moving toward. For her, she has to make this team, there is no other option. Her father is her coach and pushes her till she feels she might break. Her only friend is Leigh, the girl who leads a pretty normal life. Her parents insist that she attend high school. Leigh, however, wishes she could have Grace’s life where she could focus 100% of her time on gymnastics. Both girls have a secret; but only Leigh has shared hers with Grace. Grace has a hard time even admitting her own secret to herself.

And then there is Camille, returning to another Olympic Trials at the age of 20 for her imgresmother and feels the pull from her boyfriend to quit gymnastics completely. Camille isn’t sure what she wants herself. Wilhemina is going for her first Trials at the age of 19 because she was too young four years previous and has had to try to keep her body strong and injury free for the past 4 years. But to keep her body whole she hasn’t trained  the way the Head of the Women’s Gymnastics team believes the girls should train. The could come back to haunt Wilhemina in the end.

Finally, little Monica, still excited and thrilled to be at her first Olympic Trials with no dreams of going to the actual Olympics because she doesn’t think she has a chance. It turns out she might have the biggest chance of all.

And how can all these top competitors support each other, even as they hope to beat each other? Tumbling by Caela Carter is a fantastic books about what it REALLY means to be friends with someone. How can you care and want the best for someone when you want that same thing, and only one of you can have it? The complexities of the characters, under the pressure cooker of the Olympic Trials, makes for an amazing read, cover to cover.

You’ll find yourself wanting all the girls to win, but at times intensely disliking one and then changing your mind. Each
girl has their own story, and each one is just as important as the other. This is a book you don’t want to end.

Recommended for mature 6th graders and up.


A Shocking Discovery January 5, 2017

Filed under: Mystery and Ghost Stories,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 8:11 am

All her life this is what Olivia believed – that her father killed her mother, then took Olivia imgres-1to a Walmart and left her there to be found hours later. That is what the police believed after her mother’s body was discovered in the woods where her family had gone to cut down a Christmas tree. And since only her mother’s body had been found, and her father’s truck was later found in an airport parking lot, what other conclusion could there be?

Except, now, fourteen years later, Olivia, living on her own after many failed foster homes and a disrupted adoption, gets a visit from the police. A bone has been found and it has been identified as that of her father through DNA testing. So, this changed everything. Her father clearly didn’t kill her mother if he was dead too. The question is, who did? And who took a three year old Olivia to a store and left her there for someone to find?

Olivia wants answers. She heads down to her father’s funeral, but doesn’t tell anyone who she really is. She decides she is going to look into the murder of her parents on her own, and see if she can’t put together what the police haven’t been able to…who killed her parents 14 years ago, but spared her. And why?

The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry is a haunting book with lots of turns as the reader and Olivia try to figure out what happened all those years ago. Another fabulous mystery from master mystery writer April Henry.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Ghost by Jason Reynolds December 28, 2016

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — debrawisch @ 7:44 pm
7th grader Castle Crenshaw can’t seem to make it more than 17 straight hours without getting into some kind of trouble. Honestly, he can’t help it! He just has a lot of anger built up inside. He’s been calling himself Ghost ever since the night his dad got drunk and threatened Castle and his mom with a gun.  Ghost learned to run that night, and he’s been running ever since. When a coach for a track league called the Defenders sees him run one day,  Ghost decides to join the team and give it a try. The running is way harder than anything Ghost has ever experienced before. But no matter how fast he is, Ghost can’t run away from trouble. And if he’s not careful, it’s going to follow him right onto the track.