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!

To Make A Monster December 18, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles,Novels in Verse — oneilllibrary @ 1:05 pm

We’ve all heard or seen or listened to something about Frankenstein. But do we reallydownload know much about the woman who created one of the most enduring creatures in the last two hundred years? Mary was the daughter of a famous writer, Mary Wollstonecraft, who is often linked as being one of the first writers to examine the rights of women, or the lack of rights for women. Unfortunately, just ten days after Mary was born, her famous mother died. Mary grew up with her older sister and her father, listening to famous poets and writers of the late 1700s and early 1800s talk about all kinds of interesting and thought provoking ideas. It wasn’t until her father remarried that Mary’s life took a dramatic change. No longer was it acceptable for Mary to listen to the conversations her father had, and the step-mother moved the family to the city and had Mary’s father run a bookstore that never did well. When Mary was a teenager, she was sent to live for two years with another family in Scotland, whom she grew to love and adore. Then her father demanded she return home to help work in the book shop.

Even though Mary wasn’t happy working in the city in her father’s book shop and to be back living with her step-mother and step-siblings, Mary was excited to meet a new young poet who had come by to speak to her father. Percy Bysshe Shelley was a married man of 21, and Mary was just 16, but their attraction to each other was instantaneous. They ended up running away together with Mary’s step-sister Claire.

Thus began years of Mary running with Shelley in an attempt to find a place where they could be accepted. In the process, Mary wrote one of the most famous books ever, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, which was published in 1818.

Mary’s Monster: Love Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge is a novel in verse with amazingly haunting black and white illustrations depicting the life of Mary until just after Shelley’s death. A fascinating read about one of the worlds most famous authors.

Recommended for mature 8th graders due to content.



Flying High Above the Battle December 12, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 10:01 am

download-1War had finally come. There was a lot of talk, but after Lincoln’s election, southern states began leaving the Union and it had come to war to preserve the country. One man thought he might be able to help the Union with the war. His name was Thaddeus Lowe. Lowe was an aeronaut (someone who flew air balloons) at the time the Civil War began, and he thought that the army should have an actual balloon corp to help determine troop movements, fortifications and other advantages that could only be seen from the sky. Lowe found some in the government more receptive to his idea than others, but he did find support with the first general of the Union army, McClellan, who soon made use of Lowe’s hydrogen air balloons.

Flying high above enemy lines was not something that could be taken lightly. The confederates soon realized the problem these balloons could cause for them, and right away began trying to shoot them out of the air! Because the balloons needed to go up and come down, sometimes quickly, ropes were attached to allow for just such an activity. Lowe often took up members of the military so they could gage troop size and movement. Sometimes the balloons went up during actual battles and were able to give important information to help the commanders on the ground.

Lincoln’s Flying Spies: Thaddeus Lowe and the Civil War Balloon Corps by Gail Jarrow is a quick and interesting read about a little known part of the Civil War.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


They Glowed Like Ghosts December 6, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 9:54 am

It was great work for good pay! At least that was how the girls looked at it when they started working for the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation in New Jersey just before World War I in 1917. The young girls loved the camaraderie that emerged in the work room where they would bend over the faces of watches and other dials and painted them with the magical seeming luminous paint that held that wonderful element that had only recently been discovered: radium!

While the girls worked, they would take their paint brushes and put them in their mouths to get a nice fine point on the tip because painting the numbers with the luminous paint was precision work. Each girl was paid per dial they painted, so speed was of the essence. They were mostly young girls, some as young as 14, and making money they could spend on nice dresses and fancy clothes, while others took their wages home to help out their families. What none of the girls knew was that radium was a silent, but deadly killer and each time they put the paint brush in their mouth, they were letting the killer into their bodies. The girls were completely unconcerned with the paint – although some didn’t like the gritty taste – because their employers told them the paint was completely harmless to them. What the girls and women didn’t know was that radium had been known to cause harm and that had been documented as early as 1901. What was worse, their company soon realized that the radium wasn’t good for the women, but kept it a secret from them – going as far as to out right lie to them. However the company felt the amount of radium in the paint was so minuscule as to be almost not there. So what if the girls literally glowed from the dust that got on their clothes when they were in a dark room. It made it all more exciting for them!

After a few years of working, some of the women began to notice problems. Many of them had jaw pain and their teeth began to get loose. Some of them went to have them extracted, but the spot where the tooth had been removed didn’t heal. In fact, it seemed to make the problem worse, and more teeth needed to come out. One woman, Mollie, went to the dentist and when he gently probed her jaw, a piece of her bone broke off in his hand! He was appalled! He’d never seen something like this. And it didn’t stop there for poor Mollie. The bones in her mouth continued to disintegrate and then she got an infection which went down her throat. In the end she died a horrible death. Mollie was only 24 years old at the time.

She was not the only woman suffering. Others had terrible leg and hip pain and almost all had some form of anemia. The doctors were mystified – especially when they asked after their work environment. Because many of the women had moved on from painting at the dial company and were either home as mothers, or working in other places it didn’t seem this could be caused from work. Doctors had never seen anything like this. What could possible be causing this horrible decline in these young women?

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore is a fascinating story of how several companies in different places in America duped the women working for them, and how the law tried to bring some justice to the women who were suffering.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in reading the history of this tragic time in our country’s past and how the repercussions are still being felt today.


The End of the End November 26, 2018

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 11:03 am

When did the Civil War actually end? We all tend to think of the ending as when Leedownload surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. But was that really the end in the minds of the southerners? What about their president, Jefferson Davis? After all, Lee told him to leave the city of Richmond, VA, the capital of the Confederacy in early April because Lee knew he couldn’t come to the rescue of the city against the Union forces lead by Grant. For the first time in five springs, the Union finally broke the defenses of Richmond and were in the enemy’s capital city, which was only about 100 miles from Washington, DC.

Davis had finally fled the city with the members of his cabinet and also the gold for the treasury of the Confederacy. Still, even with Lee telling him to leave the city, Davis didn’t think the war was over. He believed that as he went farther South, the people would rally and more soldiers would volunteer to be in the army. Even after Lee surrendered a few days after the fall of Richmond, Davis continued to believe his cause was not lost.

Lincoln was not looking to go “after” Davis. He just wanted an end to the whole long bloody, costly, terrible war. In fact, even seven days after the fall of Richmond, Lincoln had not started a manhunt for the Confederacy president. And appeared to have no plans to do so. However, the assassination of Lincoln changed many things, including how the former president, Davis, would be treated. After all, for all the Union knew, Davis had been in league with Booth to carry out the plot to kill Lincoln.

Blood Times by James L. Swanson is not a book to read if you want lots of action and drama. Mostly the book focuses on the movements of the funeral procession of Lincoln’s body as it was taken back across the Eastern part of the United States heading for Springfield, IL. The interesting parts are when the book, in parallel to Lincoln’s last journey, track Davis’ movements and how he really believed, almost till the very end, it was still possible to have the Confederacy survive.

Recommended for someone wanting to know all things about the Civil War, but probably not for the passing interest kind of reader. Grades 7th and up.


At a Crossroads November 19, 2018

Filed under: Novels in Verse,Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:55 am

Garvey is struggling to connect with his father who only seems to want Garvey to dodownload-1 something athletic. But that is his older sister’s area of expertise. Garvey is more into music and reading than running around! It hurts him to hear his dad complain to his mom about him not being the kind of kid he wanted. Garvey finds himself slipping farther away from his dad and he isn’t sure how anything he likes will ever find favor with his dad.

One day Garvey starts talking with a new kid at school. A kid who has people making fun of him… a lot! The new kid happens to be albino and he tells Garvey you have to let the bad words people say go unheard. Garvey has been having trouble with this since he’s been gaining weight and that appears to be all anyone sees about him these days. But when a friend tells him he should try out for the Chorus, Garvey feels like he has finally found a place to call home. The only problem is, what will his dad think?

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes is a quick, sweet story about a boy looking for approval from his dad and his learning to live in his own skin.

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


When is Enough, Enough? November 12, 2018

Filed under: Realistic Fiction/ Contemporary Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 10:12 am

Jake is coming home as a hero. At least that is what others are saying. In fact, he’s in line to get a silver star for his bravery and conduct in battle in the Middle East. He comes from a military family. His grandfather is an actual retired General from the Army, and his father has made a career in the military as well, although he never saw active duty.

Jake, however, doesn’t feel like a hero. He saw horrible things while serving. And did horrible things. Things he can’t forget about. How do you justify killing young children who are armed? Jake was injured in the line of duty and has a short visit home before heading off to rehabilitation at an army hospital. But he still has more time to serve on his tour. He’s beginning to wonder if he can actually go back into the combat zone.

While he’s home, he is confronted by a girl from his old school who points out all the issues with JROTC programs and how it seems to be a recruitment program for young people to go right into the Army. Jake knows that there were things that his own recruiter lied about when he signed up and so that adds to his conflicts. Plus, even though his girlfriend Aurora waited for him while he was deployed, is it really fair to ask her to continue waiting for him if he goes back? What if he comes back even more damaged, emotionally and physically, than he already is?

Price of Duty by Todd Strasser does an amazing job of showing the grim realities of war adownloadnd how we send over people who, in many cases, are completely unprepared for the mental and physical possible ramifications of the job. It also shows how even though the army is a volunteer army, it is mostly made up of those groups in society that already have limited options, like minorities and people on the lower socio-economic ladder.

Highly recommended book for 8th graders and up. Really powerful, accessible read and shines a spotlight on many of the issues facing veterans and those who are looking to join their ranks.


Reconstruction Reimagined! November 5, 2018

Filed under: Fantasy Books — oneilllibrary @ 10:49 am

The war sort of came to an end, when both the Confederates and the Union decided it downloadwas more important to fight the UNdead (or shamblers they are popularly called) than each other. Of course, the country is still in a state of chaos and disorder, which means it is just right for new groups of politicians to rise. No longer are the Democrats or Republicans in power, but rather the Survivalists and the Egalitarians.

All this seems to be too lofty for Jane – she just wants to get back to her home, Rose Hill, where her mother and all her Aunties live. But Jane, along with all the other able bodied young Negros, have been sent to combat schools. It is believed that by training young black children in the art of fighting the shamblers, the whites will then be protected. Jane is a black child born to a white southern woman, a plantation owner no less. Jane was born just days before the shamblers began walking and killing in the United States, and while the Major – her mother’s husband – was off fighting for the Confederates. After the war, even though the enslaved were technically freed, not much seems to have changed.

Jane has been at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Maryland for three years now, and is learning all she needs to be an Attendant – someone trained to be a personal bodyguard for young white society girls. While she doesn’t really plan to become an Attendant, the skills she is learning she knows will help her back home at Rose Hill. However, as she gets closer to graduation, strange things begin happening. First, she hasn’t heard from her mother in year and she’s terribly worried something awful has happened at Rose Hill. Also, supposedly, most of the shamblers have been killed or driven away from the large cities, but Jane isn’t so sure this is actually true. One night when she and some other girls go to see a lecture, Jane sees something the makes her blood run cold. And it also brings her to the attention of the mayor of Baltimore, which in turn completely changes the trajectory of her life.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland is a fabulous book, and I’m not into zombies! This book had me not wanting to put it down because of the originality of the premise as well as the awesome character of Jane. While some of the events and things are based in history, Ireland’s reimagined possible past makes this a stand out read. While the book is set in Reconstruction, many of the same issues are still relevant today.

Highly recommended read for 8th grade and up.