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!

The Lost Family November 1, 2016

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — lpitrak @ 4:09 pm
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This is a rare nonfiction book, which is COMPLETELY true, but crazier than fiction! Beginning in 1903, this fascinating story focuses on the “lost family” of Russia—whose legend seems to grow stronger over time. Nicholas II was Tsar of Russia, and was at the time the wealthiest monarch in the entire world. He had a kingdom of 130 million people, and his empire stretched to cover an entire 1/6 of all land on the entire surface of the earth (which is CRAZY), but his subjects lived in dire poverty.

The Romanov family was composed of Nicholas, his beautiful, shy wife Empress Alexandra, their wild, gorgeous daughters named Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia, and their very frail, sickly youngest brother, the Tsarevich Alexei. They ate off of solid gold plates, attended parties with thirty-course dinners, and all owned prize-winning horses….  And at the same time, farmers in Russia starved and froze to death in homes with no heat, factory workers worked 12-hour days in dangerous conditions where it was easy to lose fingers, hands, or your life working with run-down factory machines, and young men died as soldiers fighting in World War I. Almost 2 million Russian soldiers were killed in total in World War I.

Infuriated by such an unbalance in lifestyle, members of the Bolshevik party forcibly removed the Romanov family from their palace to the country, placing them under house arrest.  Then, in July 1918, rebels from the party entered the estate where the entire Romanov family had been banished, with the intention of executing all of them. However, afraid to cause a mass uproar when revealing the murder of children, they later reported only Tsar Nicholas II was dead… when the mass grave of the family was found, two bodies were missing—what really happened to Princess Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexei?  Read this exciting book to find out!


Spies…Everywhere! July 9, 2013

I had no idea. Seriously, none, till I read Bomb: The Race to Build – And Steal – The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin just how many spies wereimgres running around during World War II. It was crazy! Americans were spying on Germans, British were spying for Russians, Russians were trying to spy on everyone, and what cracked me up is most of the spying happened between allies!

This all started when it was discovered by a German physicist that a uranium atom could be split. It wasn’t thought possible at the time. That any atom could be split. And when it split, it gave off energy. So what if a bunch of uranium was put in a situation where it was splitting all over the place – that could produce a lot of energy. Energy could equal a bomb. Soon it was a race. The Germans and the rest of the world were engaged in a massive world war. One that if either side got a serious bomb, could change the course of humanity.  The Germans were limited in the resources available to them as well as not many scientists (many had fled before the war began), lack of a material they needed from Norway – heavy water – and the sabotage of the plant that produced it, as well as the fact that physicists stopped publishing their findings, meant Germany had several handicaps.

The United States created a special program lead by Robert Oppenheimer in the desolate area of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Here scientists from all across the country were recruited to help figure out how to take the fact that uranium atoms could split and produce energy and make bombs out of it all before the Germans. For years these people labored to create something with the massive power of destruction, all before “the other guys.” In the process though, many secrets from the United States made it to the Soviet Union.

The amount of spying and who was doing it is staggering. Truly amazing. There were many Americans who spied for the Soviet Union for years. All the clandestine things you think of happening when people spy – really did!

This is a fabulous look at, and explanation of, how humanity harnessed an awesome power and the people who were responsible for creating it.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.