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!

You Can Run, BUT Can You Hide? January 20, 2015

Growing up in Honolulu in the late 1930s is a good life for Zenji. He is surrounded by good friends and a great family. The only dark spot on his life is the fact his father was killed in an accident at Pearl Harbor before he was 10. It was hard growing up without a father, but his older brother Henry is always there for him.

imgresZenji has just finished high school and is trying to decide what to do with his life when he gets an unexpected visit from his high school JROTC officer. Colonel Blake says he has a proposition for Zenji because Zenji is so good with speaking and reading Japanese and being very proficient in English as well. While Zenji’s mother is totally against him going into the army, Zenji isn’t, and wants to see the world beyond the islands. After exhaustive testing, Zenji is admitted into the army as a CIP or member of the Corps of Intelligence Police. Basically, he will become a spy for the army.

His first assignment is to go by boat to the Philippines and stay at a hotel in Manila where a lot of Japanese business men like to stay. At first, Zenji isn’t sure how he’ll be able to help his country by spying in a hotel on Japanese businessmen. But as he spends more time in the city, he begins to realize that the tensions between the United States and Japan aren’t going away, and war might be coming faster than anyone expected.

Hunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury is a fascinating look at the spying involved in World War II in the pacific theater. Zenji knows if he is captured by the Japanese they will look at him as a traitor to their country, even though he isn’t a Japanese citizen. If they know he is a spy, he’ll be killed. Zenji has to walk a fine line to stay live.

Recommended for students who enjoy reading books about World War II and a look at something other than combat. Due to torture scenes in the book, it is recommended for mature 8th graders.


The Irony of Life January 8, 2013

Filed under: Nonfiction Titles — oneilllibrary @ 10:40 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I must be on a cover kick, but the irony of the cover of The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland is perhaps too obvious, but startling nonetheless. I am always on the lookout for interesting nonfiction works and I found a great one in The Bite of the Mango. Mariatu was living her life in Sierra Leone during the civil war in that country that raged for most of her life, certainly all of her young life. Her family was poor, like most of the country and living in a small rural village. She made her life with her aunt and uncle in a custom that appears (at least in the book) to be very common –  many family members would live away from their biological parents to be raised by other family members. So while Mariatu’s parents were both living, she made her life with her aunt and uncle and was close to many members of her extended family. Often, there were reports that the rebels were coming to the village and everyone would leave to live in the woods and wait until it was safe to return. Sometimes this lasted as long as a month or more. As time went on, the mayor of Mariatu’s village decided it was too unsafe staying in such a small village and everyone was to move to a larger one, in the hopes of safety from the rebels.

imgresThis proved to be a turning point in Mariatu’s life as well as those of her close relatives and friends. Rather than finding safety in the larger village, the rebels attacked it and killed many women, men and children, and tortured others that were left alive. Mariatu was one who was captured and before her release, she had both of her hands chopped off. Yes, BOTH of her hands. She then wandered looking for help before she was taken by 2 women to a town with medicine that saved her life. As horrific as this was, Mariatu wasn’t alone. Many, many others had both hands cut off, and she meets them in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. There she learns to adjust to life without hands, and struggles to process her new life and what will become of it.

The Bite of the Mango is an incredible story of one young woman who has the same hopes and dreams as any girl you know, and how she was able to find a way toward living those dreams.

Recommended for 8th grade and up based on mature content including rape and torture.