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!

Learn About Far Away Places and People September 26, 2013

Filed under: Historical Fiction — bhomel @ 2:43 pm
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Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy describes what life has been like for many females in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. Zulaikha is a young Afghani girl who was born with a cleft palate – a facial deformity. Her mouth and teeth are not shaped correctly and she hates not feeling and looking normal. Some of the boys in her village tease her and call her donkey face.

Zulaikha does not go to school. As a matter of fact, none of the females do. Their jobs are cooking, cleaning, going to the market, and taking care of younger brother and sisters. Zulaikha follows the grueling orders of her stepmother but wants something more for herself.

While American soldiers are stationed nearby, one of them notices Zulaikha. This soldier, with the help of his commanding officer, finds a doctor to help fix Zulaikha’s face. She knows this surgery will change her life – she could be pretty like her older sister and then find a husband some day.

Unfortunately Zulaikha faces several obstacles in becoming pretty, with her family, and figuring out what would make her life happier. Words in the Dust was written by a soldier, Trent Reedy, who spent time in Afghanistan while in the military. His story is based on real people he met and his experience there. This book inspired me to want to learn more about Afghanistan because of how different it is from the life we know in America.


Guest Book Review by Mrs. Krygeris, 6th grade teacher June 27, 2013

PaperboyIn his Author’s Note, Vince Vawter uses a quote from James Earl Jones, “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.” Jones, well-known throughout the world for his deep, resonating voice and award-winning roles in the movies The Hunt for Red October, Field of Dreams, The Lion King, plus so many others, suffered with a stutter as a young boy.

Paperboy captures the experiences of author Vince Vawter, who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee during the late 1950s. Mr. Vawter, like James Earl Jones, also suffered with stuttering; he remembers stuttering as early as five year of age and claims that he hasn’t been cured of his stutter, just overcome it. In this, his first novel, we meet 11-year old Victor Volmer III, fondly nicknamed Little Man by Mam, his family’s live-in black housekeeper and Little Man’s true champion. Little Man is growing up in a traditional southern city during a time of huge change for all Americans, white and black. As Little Man struggles to communicate with his peers and adults, he also wrestles with the injustices that he witnesses daily: Mam can’t go to the zoo except for specified times, he can’t attend Mam’s church, he chooses to sit in the back of the bus with Mam where she is more comfortable, and he struggles with the obvious lines in his community between those that have (the whites) and those that have not (the blacks). The story setting is the summer of 1959 and Little Man takes on the responsibility of a paper route for his one friend Rat. While Rat is away visiting his grandfather in the country, Little Man overcomes many personal fears and doubts to deliver the evening newspaper along Rat’s route and then each Friday to personally knock on each door to collect the paper money. This job requires more talking than Little Man has probably done in his whole life! But as most summers are, this is one of growth and experience for Little Man. Mr. Vawter has woven a beautiful tapestry of Little Man’s life as it changes after experiencing the lives of those on his paper route. Little Man finds a friend in Mr. Spiro, an adult who is willing to sit and listen to his questions and provide thought-provoking answers. Mrs. Worthington is young and beautiful, but Little Man senses her sadness and desperation, while TV Boy, who sits day after day in front of the TV without the sound playing, is a puzzle to Little Man. But, while all these impact Little Man, it’s the influence of the neighborhood junk man, Ara T, who turns events in Little Man’s world upside down.

This is a beautifully crafted book that has the reader thinking about so many things: the impact of a speech impediment on communication, racial equality, “traditional” roles of men and women, and finally, friendship. What a wonderful first novel for Vince Vawter, a retired newspaperman, now living in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.


7th Grade Student Guest Blogger – Sydney H. March 22, 2013

Stop PretendingI read Stop Pretending – What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones.

This book is about a girl named Cookie. She is 13 years old and has an older sister that is 19 years old. One day, Cookie’s sister comes home from the mall with many bags of clothes. She keeps pulling out the same sweaters, just in different colors. Later, Cookie realizes that something is wrong with her sister. Cookie’s sister is put into a mental hospital for awhile. Cookie is going through her own life wondering what went wrong with her sister. She faces many challenges of trying to hide the secret of her sister with friends at school, and is going through a very rough time, but then something good finally happens, and Cookie’s life is getting better.

I picked this text because it seemed like it was going to be very interesting and a story about a girl just like me, but something different happens to her. I liked this book because it is talking about how Cookie is trying to live her life the way it normally was, but it is so hard. I would recommend this book to a friend, it is more of a girl book, but boys can read it as well.