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 http://www.buzzsprout.com/229361 and enjoy!

Looking for 60-year-old Skeletons? Fun! July 29, 2014

After his father died two years ago covering the conflict in Darfur as a photojournalist, Dylan can’t seem to connect with anyone or anything. He is hostile, angry, and just plain unpleasant to be around. His mom doesn’t seem to know what to do with him, and that is just fine with Dylan. After all, she doesn’t seem to blame his dad for going off and getting killed in some far off place hardly anyone even thinks about, so Dylan will be ticked off at the whole world enough for her too. One night he lands in jail after joy riding through a field in a stolen car. He doesn’t see what the big deal is, but his mom and the courts sure seem to have a problem with him.

imgresEnter his dad’s brother, Uncle Todd. Uncle Todd has some crazy idea to go find the Bomber plane his dad, Dylan’s grandfather, flew in during World War II. It was shot down in Papua New Guinea (PNG), and his grandfather was the only one of the crew who made it out alive, two weeks after the plane went down. For some reason, Uncle Todd thinks he can find the plane in the jungle after over 60 years, and that Dylan will become enlighten by the journey through bug infested foliage! Dylan thinks his uncle is nuts. No way does he want to tramp through some stupid jungle looking for a plane no one will be able to find anyway.

Contrary to all of Dylan’s best plans, he does end up in the jungles of PNG, and not long after arriving, he finds himself fighting for his very life, all because of his own actions.

Jungle of Bones by Ben Mikaelsen takes a kid who hates the world and gets set down in a situation where the world couldn’t care less. It is up to Dylan to decide if he really doesn’t care, or if there is something more to life.

Recommended for readers who enjoy survival stories and reading about characters who get their just deserts! For grades 6th and up.

 

 

 

How Well Can You Keep a Secret? January 28, 2014

She doesn’t understand at first, why she must keep certain things a secret. Growing up in Paris with a loving mother and father, Odette’s life is wonderful. She gets to stay after school with her godmother and father, who dote on her endlessly. However, even as Odette’s life seems perfect, the outside world isn’t. Often, her father and mother whisper into the night about Germany and Hitler and the Nazis. Odette isn’t sure at all what these things mean, being a little girl.

imagesHowever, one day her father says he is going to join the French army to stop the German forces from taking over France. He is captured, and Odette and her mother go visit him in prison. But that is the last time they are able to see him. Not long after that, Odette’s mother tells her they must begin to keep secrets. One of those secrets is Odette must go live in the French countryside with other people. The biggest secret Odette must keep is one that could lead to her death if she doesn’t. The fact that she is a Jew must never come out, or it could mean capture for her and the people sheltering her. Can she keep this incredible secret?

Odette’s Secrets by Maryann MacDonald shares the story of a little girl caught up in the terrifying events of World War II. This story is based on the real life of a woman who was sheltered during WWII in France, and actual photos of her and her family add to the story. This novel in verse is a great book for anyone looking to learn more about the war and another Holocaust survival story.

Recommended for 6th grade and up.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

Cold Read in the Snow October 26, 2012

Filed under: Historical Fiction — oneilllibrary @ 3:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

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!