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!

A Novel for Artists February 13, 2013

It’s funny how sometimes books can be both loved and hated, liked and disliked. Recently our middle school book club, Book Buddies, chose to read Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. Several students did not enjoy the book and I had the opposite reaction.

Hollis Woods is an orphan. She was abandoned as a baby in Hollis Woods and that’s how her name came to be. Part of her story is told through flashbacks described through the pictures Hollis draws. She’s a skilled artist who has an eye for color and detailed drawings.

Hollis runs away from the only real family she’s ever had and ends up in another foster home. This time she’s placed with Josie, who is also an artist. Hollis likes living with Josie but if Social Services discovers Josie’s mental health is getting worse, Hollis will be forced to leave. All the while, Hollis can’t seem to forget the Regan family – the one family she felt was real. She’s torn between staying with Josie to help care for her and wanting to be back with the Regan family.

The book switches back and forth between Hollis’ pictures (her memories) and her time with Josie. I thought this book is a good reminder about how important family is.

Book reviews and recommendations are great but you’ll never really know if you like or dislike a book until you read it for yourself.


Waiting Can Be the Worst Part October 31, 2012

Waiting can be the hardest part, especially if you are waiting to find out if your younger sister will come out of her coma. In Waiting to Forget by Sheila Kelly Welch, T.J. can’t believe that his life has brought him to just such a place, after all the times he and Angela survived living with their mother, and all her crazy boyfriends. To have Angela struggling to survive because of something he did, it is almost too much. When the book begins, T.J. and his sister have been adopted but T.J. has a hard time letting go of the past, specifically how he feels about his biological mother. This moving and fast paced book follows T.J. as he is forced to grow up long before he should, to protect his little sister and at times his mother, from herself and others she brings into their lives. Struggling to deal with the possible death of his sister, he relives everything that brought him to this moment in time, hoping for something positive in a life that has been short on happiness and security.

Why did I love this book? In a time when so many books are focused on dystopian/utopian societies, or fantasy and science fiction, this book is a nice addition because it is a contemporary fiction novel that appeals to both teen boys and girls. The situations T.J. finds himself in resonate for readers because it is so real, and you find yourself really hoping that things will work out for him. In my job as middle school librarian, I’ve recommended this book to both my 7th and 8th graders, in particular, those looking for realistic situations and traumatic family dynamics.
Highly Recommended for 6th and up.