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!

Peace or Revolution? March 19, 2019

Set in 1968 Chicago, this beautiful coming-of-age novel highlights the rise of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party. Sam and Stick Childs are the son of Roland Childs, a devoted father and a Civil Rights Movement advocate for peaceful protest. Roland is a personal friend to Martin Luther King, Jr., and his sons have grown up attending marches and speeches for black equality. Recently, however, Stick has been spending

rockandrivermore time with the local Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party; he is inspired by the Party’s free breakfast program, support for impoverished neighborhood families, and rhetoric about fighting violence with violence. As the younger brother, Sam has always looked up to Stick and followed his lead in all things. However, joining up with the Black Panthers means directly opposing his father’s commitment to non-violence and peaceful protest. Sam feels caught between loyalty to his father and to his brother, or between “a rock and a river,” with any choice he makes seeming to be a loss. Can Sam find his own moral compass and voice as he struggles to grow up in one of the nation’s most turbulent periods in history?


WWI Steampunk Style November 1, 2016



This alternate history, steampunk novel is set when the world is about to plunge into World War I. The Austro-Hungarian and German forces have manufactured war machines they call Clankers. These giant machines are powered entirely by steam, and are fitted with giant machine guns and reloadable ammunition—the world has seen nothing like them before! In retaliation, British forces having been breeding animals to become machines. The pride of their air force is a giant machine called the Leviathan—it is a whale crossed with a plane, deadly and with a mind of its own.

The prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Aleksander Ferdinand, who has no royal blood on his mother’s side, has been forcibly removed from his palace and is on the run from being murdered by members of his own court. At the same time, British Devyn Sharp, a young woman with a passion for flying, has disguised herself as a boy to join the British Air Service. With war looming, the two should be enemies, but when their paths cross, they might decide to become heroes together.


Who is the Prince of Mist? October 4, 2016

It is 1943, and Max and Alicia Carver are growing up in Spain while World War II is raging around them.  For the family’s protection, their father decides to relocate from the city in which they live to a small coastal town.  From the first day they move into their new home, however, Max and Alicia can sense an eerie, ghost-like presence.  Their younger sister finds a cat with giant golden eyes who seems to have a connection with the house.  Max discovers an overgrown sculpture garden made up of statues of creepy-looking circus performers that form a circle around a terrifying stone clown- a stone clown whose position changes overnight and who Alicia saw in her dreams before the family moved.  In addition, Max and the prince of mist cover.jpgAlicia see the dreamlike outline of a ship in the mist over the ocean… but it seemingly appears and disappears at random.  After Max and Alicia meet a friend in town named Roland, the three start to uncover a horrifying mystery involving the spirit of Jacob Fleishman- a young boy who drowned off the coast of their house, a boat which capsized almost thirty years earlier that was full of traveling carnival performers, and a legendary figure known as the Prince of Mist- a man capable of granting wishes, but demanding horrible payments in return.  This novel is part mystery, party ghost story, part horror… and will keep you creeped out and looking over your shoulder the whole time you are reading!





Lady Thief February 10, 2014



(This review is done based off an Advance Reader’s Copy)

Lady Thief, sequel to A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlet, has even more adventure and intrigue than the first book!  It is now known throughout Nottingham that Will Scarlet, aka Scar, the most reclusive and brooding member of Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men, is not a man at all.  Instead, “he” is truly Lady Marion, a noblewoman on the run from an arranged marriage, who has trained herself to be exactingly deadly with daggers.  

At the end of Scarlet, Lady Marion wed heartless Lord Gisbourne to save Robin Hood from further torture and certain execution.  She is now treated like Gisbourne’s puppet and plaything at court, while plotting venomous revenge in secret.  At the same time, Robin is on his own mission to be elected as the people’s choice for new Sheriff of Nottingham.  But Prince John has other, more sinister ideas.

In Lady Marion, still known as Scar to her band of sworn brothers and thieves, A.C. Gaughen has created a very remarkable, unforgettable character.  She is a young woman still mourning the death of her beloved sister and protector, a noblewoman used like a pawn by her unsympathetic parents, and a trained killer who demonstrates again and again an overwhelming commitment to protecting the lives of innocent citizens.  Furthermore, while Robin recognizes himself as a hero and the rightful protector of the people of Nottingham, Marion struggles to reconcile her prowess for murder and thievery with her desire to be a good person.  Luckily, Robin and the rest of the Merry Men are always there to remind Scar of her generosity, bravery, and selflessness.

This is a perfect read for fans of Robin LaFever’s Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph who are dying for Mortal Heart to be released in April! 


Book Two in His Fair Assassin Series April 18, 2013

DarkTriumphA few weeks ago, I posted about how amazing Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers is.  I am now about halfway through Dark Triumph, the second book in her His Fair Assassin series, and I am so thrilled that the second book is just as good as the first!!!  Dark Triumph is also concerned with d’Albret’s malicious plotting against the young Dutchess of Britony.  Instead of Ismae’s perspective however, we are now getting the story from her Sister in Death, Sybella.  Sybella, who was half crazy and suicidal when first sent to the convent of Saint Mortain to train as an assassin, has now been sent to shadow d’Albret and foil any plans of his to assassinate the Dutchess or aid France in overthrowing her kingdom.

But as we soon learn, Sybella’s fragile emotional state was the result of her mental and physical as a daughter of d’Albret.  Will this mission prove to be too difficult, causing one of Death’s handmaidens to take her own life instead of the life of her target?  I can’t wait to find out!!

Coming soon will be Mortal Heart, from the point of view of Annith, stuck like a prisoner in the convent awaiting her role as next Seer.  What an awesome, addicting new series!!!!


World War II Spy Thriller December 13, 2012

ImageWein’s amazing WWII-era novel centers around two highschool-aged girls from very different upbringings.  Maddie loves to spend her free time working with engine parts and fixing up an old motorcycle in her grandfather’s repair shop, while the narrator, at first known only by the code name “Verity” is a boarding school princess descended from Scottish royalty.  Both are incredibly brave, however, and volunteer to serve in the British Air Force–Maddie as a pilot and Verity as a communications specialist.  After a mission they are both a part of is compromised, Maddie is reported as missing while Verity is captured by Nazi soldiers.  As Verity is imprisoned, horrifically tortured, and questioned, the reader starts to realize that both girls are very different from who they originally appear to be, and that there have been very dangerous lies thrown around to all of the wrong people.  In Wein’s novel, concepts such as truth vs. lies and good vs. evil are closely examined and blown apart, since perception changes depending on which side you are fighting for.  She also wonderfully illustrates the perils faced in WWII, when operatives couldn’t even tell their best friends their real last name, or their true assignment.  Without giving anything away, I want to just say that I had heard there was a twist, and OH WOW, there really is!!! Fans of historical fiction will want to devour this in one sitting.


I Love Historical Fiction October 26, 2012

Historical fiction is not typically a genre that I run to, in fact I often forget how much I enjoy reading historical fiction until after I have been sucked into a great story.  Every year at Herrick, we organize a community intergenerational read in which senior citizens in the community are invited to read a common book with our students and have a book discussion with a small group.  It is a fantastic event and in the past we have been able to fill the entire cafeteria with readers.

One of my goals for this year is to read all of the books on the list so that I can really recommend them both to the students and seniors.  The first book from the list that I tackled was Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle.  

I started it unsure of how I would like it, but was quickly pulled into the story’s plot.  The story is told by Ruben as a flashback of  his childhood.  He was a young teen living in a small New England coastal town during prohibition.  Most of the locals made extra money by working on the side for the bootleggers.  Conflict arose when bigger gangs tried to edge out the smaller bootleggers.    The reader is pulled in when Ruben and his friend find a dead body.  When they try to report it, the body disappears. Ruben’s adventures with the gangsters and small time rum runners escalates as the story progresses.  I absolutely could not wait to find out what would happen to Ruben and you won’t either.

The thing that I really love about historical fiction is that the story keeps me turning the pages, but it also gives me specific knowledge about a time period.  When I finished, I wanted to read more about prohibition- and not fiction- the real stuff.  Historical fiction is a great way to get students interested in history and wanting to find out more.