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!

Who will be THE ONE? May 8, 2014

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — lhorn1217 @ 5:53 pm
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The One (3rd book in The Selection series)

Kiera Cass


While this series has kept me on the edge of my seat, the much-anticipated third novel was probably the best yet. Now that we have really gotten to know the ins and outs of these characters and girls competing to win the prince’s heart, Kiera Cass focuses on the constant struggle between castes as well as the various rebels against the prince and his family overall.

Within the last book, we left the prince with just a handful of suitors left for him to choose from. As we continue to guess which girl who will ultimately end up with, we also get to know more about the responsibilities as a princess, as well as the struggles the individual girls face when some of their families become in danger due to the war going on around them. There are so many dynamic relationships, characters, conflicts, and events that you too won’t be able to put this book down!

It’s not too often that we see a series continually get better and better with each book and I’m so glad that Kiera Cass was able to do so!


Can you be Wicked and Just? January 23, 2014

Leaving everything behind that she loves, Cecily travels with her father to the countryside of Wales. Her father, a younger brother, has no hopes of inheriting the beautiful landimgres where Cecily has spent her life. With the promise of low taxes and land, her father is lured to the recently settled land of the Welsh. However, the Welsh in the late thirteenth century are chafing under the strict rules and taxes the newly settled English are forcing upon them.

Cecily isn’t happy. She wants to be in charge of her own house, but her father still looks at her as a little girl, and the woman in charge of their house, scoffs at her. Worst of all is the servant girl, Gwinny – as Cecily calls her – with her clear distain for the new English girl. Cecily has no idea that Gwenhwyfar’s family once held claim to some of the same land now occupied by the English.

Life isn’t easy for the Welsh, but as a famine begins to wear away at everyone, the differences between the Welsh and English are exacerbated. Cecily delights in abusing her power over one Welsh boy, not knowing he is actually Gwenhwyfar’s brother. Gwenhwyfar has a hard time seeing Cecily as anything more than a brat come to reek more havoc on her already stressful and harrowing existence.

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats is a detailed look at the lives of the haves and the have not’s during the late Middle Ages. At times the reader will wonder if these two girls will ever reach a common ground, and if so, at what cost?

Recommended for 8th grade and up due to the complicated vocabulary used to depict life at this time. A great read for anyone interested in historical fiction, especially set in the Middle Ages.


In a War Zone…Hope September 19, 2013

imgresMatt only knows that his best friend has been taken away to live in a detention center. He doesn’t understand why after 6 years living in England, his good friend Aman and Aman’s mother are suddenly considered a threat and must return to Afghanistan. A country they fled in terror years ago.

Turns out, Matt doesn’t really know much about his good friend. As Matt works with his Grandfather to help Aman and his mother out of the detention center, his Grandfather hears the story of how Aman and his mother were forced to live and hide in caves to avoid the Taliban. How a little dog showed up at their cave one night and became Aman’s best friend. This dog, whom he named Shadow, assisted Aman and his mother through enemy areas, always on the look out.

 Shadow by Michael Morpurgo is a quick read, and a great book for animal lovers. Sometimes war stories focus so much on the soldiers, it is easy to forget all the civilians whose lives are changed tremendously because of the conflict.

Recommended for grades 6 and up.


A Magic Stone August 31, 2013

Filed under: Fantasy Books,Romance — oneilllibrary @ 6:37 pm
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imgresWhat if your coming had been prophesied, and that you would be called upon to do something great and might lead to the ultimate sacrifice…your death? What kind of pressure would you feel? Elisa is just such a chosen one in the book The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. However, she is a very reluctant chosen one. She is the second daughter of a king, and feels she is the last person who should have been chosen to have a Godstone, a jewel in her stomach, which foretells of her as one God is counting on to do something heroic.

Elisa is set to marry a king of a distant land, a land that may soon be at war. Elisa may be overweight and not value her own counsel, but she is well versed in the language of war, and has been studying since she was a small child. After her marriage, Elisa realizes her husband, while charming and handsome, is at heart, weak. Soon after her marriage she is captured and taken to a land she never thought to see. It is in this barren place she begins to realize her possible purpose and how she can fulfill her destiny.

Looking for an adventure with elements of fantasy and devotion? This is the book for you.

Recommended for students in 7th grade and up.


The War Within April 12, 2013

imgresA lot of war books are action packed with guns, bombs and general mayhem abounding. While Eddie’s War by Carol Fisher Saller is certainly, without a doubt a war book, it focuses on the home front, rather than the war front. And as such it is more of what I call a quiet book, but a book with a lot of punch nonetheless.

Eddie is a young boy when talk of a possible war begins. He first encounters the idea when he goes to the local library and begins – pretending at first since he can barely read- to peruse the newspapers. A man sits with him and reads them as well, and Eddie and the man talk once in awhile about the man’s home country. You see, Josef is considered a Gypsy by people in Eddie’s small town in Illinois, and as such isn’t someone many trust easily. However, Eddie sees another side to Josef as the older man searches for news of his small village in Poland.

In the meantime Eddie is trying to grow up. He sees his older brother, Thomas, think about what the coming war means to him and Eddie begins to realize all the fan fair hides some really serious issues. Eddie struggles to understand some complex relationships he didn’t have a grasp of before he got older, and when faced with a potential life altering situation for his friends, it is up to Eddie to decide what he believes and and what he is willing to put on the line for those beliefs.

Written in a verse style and taking place over many years, we as readers get to see Eddie emerge and realize the people who surround him aren’t as perfect as he once believed and he needs to decide what to do with that knowledge.

Recommended for grades 6th 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.


Lost in Space? February 11, 2013

I must admit. I love earth. I really have no desire to seek out extraterrestrial life, or meander through the cosmos. Never dreamed of becoming an astronaut, or bumping into an alien, or well, any of that stuff. However, reading about it is a whole other ball game. I just finished Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan and the idea imgresof being out in space, with no way of rescue is a frightening and sometimes disturbing one. In Glow, the main characters aren’t out in the universe alone, but rather there is a sister ship that left Earth a year before their own ship, the Empyrean. However, now for reasons that aren’t being shared with the crew or passengers, that sister ship, the New Horizon, appears in the darkness of space and wants to make contact. Quickly, Waverly, a fifteen year old girl and her boyfriend, sixteen year old Kieran realize all they thought about the crew and those in charge are not what they seem. Waverly and all the girl children from the ship are taken to The New Horizon and Kieran is left to try to manage life on The Empyrean after a catastrophic explosion. Even if they are able to get back together, they might both be so changed it will be hard for them to move forward.

As I was reading Glow, I was reminded of another space travel book I read last year called Across the Universe by Beth Revis. As in Glow, the members on board Godspeed, are heading to a planet they hope will be a new Earth, since the old one is dying under human mismanagement. However, Godspeed is the one and only ship that has been sent into space, at least as far as the passengers and crew know. They lost contact with Earth many years before. Godspeed has a whole society that is run with specific rules and everyone, including Elder imgres-2(who will someday take over command of the ship), must obey the dictates of that society or it is feared chaos will rule. When Elder discovers a level in Godspeed he didn’t even know existed, he begins to question what he once believed to be fact. Especially when he discovers frozen people on that unknown level and one turns out to be a girl his age. Suddenly the bodies of people who aren’t supposed to wake up until they land on the new planet start being unfrozen, and the spaceship has never seemed so dangerous.Elder has to save the life of Amy, the teen girl who was frozen, when someone pulls her out and tries to kill her. The reason why and what is really happening on Godspeed will keep you turning the pages.

Of course, both books are just the beginning of what will either be trilogies or series. Enjoy your trek through space with these two spellbinding adventures.

Recommended for grades 8 and up.


What if Your Team is Trying to Kill You? February 7, 2013

Filed under: Science Fiction Books — oneilllibrary @ 3:26 pm
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Chisnall isn’t afraid of dying, but when his landing pad fails to inflate, he realizes quickly that someone on his Angel team is out to get him. The question is Why? After all, they are six teens who have been trained to infiltrate the large enemy compound and find out what their secrets are. Oh, and the enemy – aliens from a failing world that have taken over all of earth except for the seas and oceans, and the Americas. The aliens are from a desert planet so they don’t understand how to navigate the water. All this leads to years of war between humans and the aliens.

Now after altering their appearances to look like the aliens and having extensive training, Angel Team, lead by Chisnall, is ready for their mission. However, now Chisnall has to watch out for the aliens in front of him and a teammate clearly trying to take him down from behind. imgres The Assault by Brian Falkner is a fast paced, in your face, action adventure which grabs the reader right away. The ideas of loyalty and friendship are clearly tested in the Angel Team. Could you turn on a friend? Could you do it even if you thought they were your enemy?

Recommended for grades 6th and up.


Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am December 12, 2012

This was a surprisingly good read for me. I had been on the search for some better “boy” realistic fiction books and Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangirs  hit me pretty deep. I LOVED the fact that it was solely 140 pages and got to the point nice and quick. Without giving too much away, this is the story of Ben graduating high school and grappling with the decision of what to do with his future. It begins with he, his long-term girlfriend, and his best friend staring in their high school’s production of “Westside Story,” which is a future his girlfriend was looking into; one that he too could have faired very well in. But Ben felt as though he needed to make a bigger impact on the world and help out his country in a different way- by joining the army. I liked this book because you see how this affects not only Ben, but his girlfriend, best friend (who is still a junior) and his family that he ultimately leaves behind. A heart-wrenching story about changing relationships, the truths about the army and war, and the after effects of such a decision! A great book for all students and all levels! SomebodyPls_cvr-640-h1-198x300


Cold Read in the Snow October 26, 2012

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 3:05 pm
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I’m a sucker for historical fiction. I majored in college in History, and enjoy it so much. So I was excited to read a new book that the O’Neill Library just received. Set during the end of World War II, Phantoms in the Snow follows Noah, a 15 year old boy who has just lost both his parents to small pox. He is forced to go find his uncle, who turns out to belong to a unit training in the mountains outside of Denver,CO. The unit focuses on skiing and rock climbing/rappelling and other branches of the military aren’t sure what exactly their purpose is. Noah doesn’t like his uncle who seems distant and cold. However, in order to stay with his uncle and avoid going into an orphanage, he must pretend he is old enough to enlist. Growing up with pacifist parents, Noah isn’t sure how he feels about being trained to kill others. What will Noah do when he is faced with a decision to either stay with his uncle or leave, and if he leaves, where could he go? Recommended for 6th and up.

Phantoms in the Snow by Kathleen Benner Duble was a nicely passed book and will be a great read for students interested in World War II. It is nice to have a book set mostly in America during this time. I’d recommend this book for students in 6th grade and up. Enjoy!