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!

His Dark Materials Trilogy November 14, 2012


I just re-read The Golden Compass, the first book in Philip Pullman’s incredible fantasy/adventure His Dark Materials trilogy.  The Golden Compass is set in the Victorian-era when high-tech travel is limited to boat, sled, and zeppelin, and excursions to the magical, wild, dangerous “North” are extremely deadly.  It is also a world where every person has a daemon, an animal embodiment of their soul which must stay close to them at all times.  Young Lyra Belacqua is a high-spirited storyteller and tomboy who was raised, along with her daemon Pantalaimon, on the campus of prestigious Jordan College in Oxford.  Lyra is much more interested in exploring the secret passageways and fighting the local gypsy children with Pantalaimon than studying, however.  All of this changes when beautiful, brilliant, cultured Mrs. Coulter takes a special interest in Lyra, and begins to groom her to become her assistant on an upcoming expedition to the North.  But Mrs. Coulter is far more sinister than her appearance would suggest, and Lyra discovers that her mentor is in a deadly race to get to the North to experiment on a strange, mysterious substance called Dust before Lyra’s uncle, Lord Asriel.  Parallel worlds, proud mercenary polar bears, murderous mechanical animals and more of some of the most creative magical wonders ever written about fill the pages of this amazing trilogy.  It is a must read for anyone who loved J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series or Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.


The Rebirth of Mythology November 6, 2012

Filed under: Fantasy Books — ghahn2012 @ 1:47 pm
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Rick Riordan has given Greek and Roman mythology a new life with the Percy Jackson Lightning Thief series and now the Heroes of Olympus books.  Waiting for the new books to come out has brought me back to the Harry Potter days, and I know that I will have to reread every year in order to know what is happening in the series, but I don’t care.  Most of the young adult Imagebooks that I read I pick up because I have a student reading them who either loves them or needs a little encouragement.  This was a series that started the same way, but once I started reading I could not stop.  I loved the books so much I passed them to my twin brother who in turn passed them to another friend and the chain did not stop there.  Any book that an adult loves that is written for children is a success!

The Mark of Athena (the latest book in the series) came out in the beginning of October, and like several of my students I was waiting on the edge of my seat for it.  These books definitely make the reader want to find out more about mythology and the roots of the monsters in the story.  My favorite book in the series is The Son of Neptune which pretty directly follows the plot of the Odyssey.  I used it a couple years as a read aloud while teaching the Odyssey and my students understood the story better and made some great comparisons between the two stories.

I hope that the following continues to grow.  Maybe next year there will be midnight mythology parties at the local Barnes and Noble where everyone is dressed up as Greek gods and goddesses.


Read A-Likes for Rick Riordan Fans October 29, 2012

Currently, I’m involved in the new (well newer) series by Rick Riordan, The Kane Chronicles. I’m on the first book, The Red Pyramid. Now, I will confess, I’m not super into this book, except for Saddie, who is a hoot and holler. I know if I end up booktalking this book, she will be part of what I read out loud for sure! I felt the same way about The Lightning Thief. Just too much running around and peril all the time for me, I guess. But as I’m reading this book, which is really popular in our library, as well as Riordan’s other newer series – Heroes of Olympus – I realized I have a perfect recommendation for students who are looking for a completed series while waiting for the next installment from Riordan for either of his series.

Garth Nix has a series called Keys to the Kingdom which starts with the book Mister Monday. In it we meet Arthur Penhaligon, a sickly boy, who is late starting school – at a new school – because he has been ill with asthma. On the first day, he is asked to go running, which he knows will bring up his asthma again, but the gym teacher has no pity and makes him run anyway. As he is running he has an attack, and while he is lying on the ground in what he is sure will be his final moments, a strange being appears pushing a man in what appears to be some kind of old wheelchair. They give Arthur a key because,as he is listening to the 2 men argue, they believe he is moments away from death. But something happens when Arthur touches the key. He lives. And thus begins his strange journey to – what else – save the world.

Any fan of Riordan’s newest series’ should take time to explore author Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom. It will be a  worth while journey.