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!

Survival is the Name of the Game May 23, 2013

imgresImagine, being alone with your 7th grade teacher, every Wednesday afternoon, all school year. Horrifying, right? Well, that is what Hollis Hoodhood is faced with in 1968 when he begins 7th grade. See, everyone else leaves school on Wednesday afternoons in 7th grade for religious studies. Everyone except for Hollis because he is Presbyterian, not Catholic or Jewish. Quickly, Hollis realizes Mrs. Baker has it out for him, first by trying to get him killed by sending him outside to play football with some juvenile delinquents, and then secondly, by sheer boredom by forcing him to read Shakespeare.

In The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, Hollis runs the gamut from trying to outsmart the 8th graders at school, his teacher, 2 rats that have gone rouge in the school, and then his own father at times. All this is set within the turmoil over the escalating violence in Vietnam, and hearing how more and more soldiers are being killed each day. Issues arise in Hollis’ own family with his sister and father constantly butting heads over politics and how to live one’s own life. Hollis has to make some pretty big decisions for himself over how much he will let others dictate his life and how much he wants to control it himself.

Parts of this book were laugh out loud for me, but to truly get this book you’ll need to be a reader with some knowledge of the climate of the 1960s. A book worth enjoying but not a light read.

Recommended for 7th grade and up.


Picturing What War Must Be Like April 1, 2013

Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam by Walter Dean Myers, Collages by Ann Grifalconi is a very short picture book about one soldier’s experience in the Vietnam War.

According to the book jacket, “Walter Dean Myers joined the army on his seventeenth birthday, at the onset of American involvement in Vietnam, but it was the death of his brother in 1968 that forever changed his mind about war.”

This soldier Walter Dean Myers write about in this story was in “the land of my enemy.” He describes what it was like for soldiers to move into this unknown land and risk their lives. The soldier is in continual search for the enemy while being afraid to actually encounter this enemy. The American soldier finally meets the enemy he’s been on the hunt for. He’s shocked to discover how young his enemy really is. Both soldiers are forced to face each other and the realities of the war.

The illustrations in this picture book are unique. They are collages made from both drawings and real life photos. This book is a great resource to use while reading and learning about the Vietnam War.