Middle School series fiction

All posts in the Middle School series fiction category

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman

Published December 9, 2014 by Dagmar

goldencompassI’ve had The Golden Compass on my school library shelf for three years.  I’ve wanted to read it and never had the opportunity.  With so many students all eager for fiction recommendations, my reading list can be long and scattered – science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, realistic fiction.  I’m often reading several books at one time.  One or my fourth grade students simply tore through this series this fall.  I’m grateful to her for putting this book and series back on my radar.  The beginning of this book really grabbed my attention.  I didn’t stop reading until I’d finished the book.

The Golden Compass is the first book in the “His Dark Materials” series (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass).  Lyra is the main character.  Her world resembles the current world with recognizable countries and geography.   Every human being has a daemon, an animal that acts as an expression of each person’s soul, and is their closest friend.  Daemons change form as a child grows and eventually settle into one animal form when the child becomes an adult.  Lyra is being raised by the Scholars at Jordan College.  Lord Ariel, her uncle, visits Lyra occasionally, but she is largely left to her own devices.  She spends most of her time with her best friend, Roger, a kitchen boy. Together, they get into a lot of mischief, battling with other children, climbing onto the roof of the College and discovering all that tunnels and rooms that lie beneath the College.

The story begins as Lyra, a girl, and her daemon, Pantalaimon hide in a wardrobe in the Retiring Room at Jordan College.  Hidden, she sees the Master of the College walk into the room and put poison in the wine glass of the visiting Lord Asriel, who is soon to arrive. Lord Asriel enters the Retiring Room only to catch Lyra, hiding in the wardrobe.  Lyra tells him of the poisoned wine. Grateful to know about the plot to kill him, Lord Asriel allows her to crawl back in the wardrobe so that she can see the slideshow he is presenting to Scholars at Jordan College.  The slideshow shows the Aurora in the North and an image of a city in the sky.  Lord Asriel speaks to the group of Scholars about a mysterious substance called “dust”.  Lyra is fascinated by the images Lord Asriel has shown the group.  She is curious about everything she has heard and wants to visit the North to learn more about “dust” and the City in the sky.

From that day forward, Lyra’s life changes completely.  She and Roger begin to hear rumors that children are being stolen from Oxford and surrounding areas.  Then, Roger is abducted.  Lyra also learns that Lord Asriel is being held prisoner in the North. Then, the Master of the College tells Lyra that she must leave Jordan College and go live with Mrs. Coulter, a beautiful and charming, but mysterious, woman.  Before she leaves the College, the Master gives her a strange device called an alethiometer, that looks like a compass.  She is told to keep it safe from others.

Lyra soon finds out that she has a special gift that allows her to “read” the alethiometer.  She learns more about her family and the evil that exists in her world.  She is forced to run away from Mrs. Coulter’s house and is found and protected by Gyptians, a nomadic people who move from place to place on their boats.  Together with the Gyptians and an armored bear called Iorek Byrnison, Lyra heads north to free her friend Roger, the other lost children and Lord Asriel.

This is a fast-paced book’s unfolding mystery will hold you in suspense until the final pages.  There are truly evil characters and smart, loyal characters that you’ll come to love.  Lyra is brave and determined to fight the evil she sees.

I highly recommend this book to fourth grade-middle school readers who love mystery and fantasy.

I am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore

Published March 9, 2014 by Dagmar

number 4I am Number Four is a fast-paced, suspenseful science fiction novel for middle schoolers.

“They caught Number One in Malaysia.  Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya.  They killed them all.  I am Number Four.  I am next.”

This is the story of Number 4, a teenager who arrived on Earth from another planet called Lorien when he was a child.  He, and the other nine Lorien Legacies, are the last hope for the planet, destroyed by the Mogadorians.  Their plan is to strengthen themselves and return to fight for Lorien.

The children are bound by a charm — provided that they never meet, the ten children can only be killed by the Mogadorians in order.  Number 4 lives with Henri, his caretaker from Lorien.  Each time the Mogadorians kill one of the Legacies, Number 4 finds out because he feels a searing pain in his ankle that turns into a scar.  Number 4 has three scars now.

Number 4 looks just like any other teenager and would love to be just like any of the kids he knows.  Unfortunately, he and Henri have to change identities all the time, moving across the United States to keep safe, never being able to make long-lasting friendships or stay settled in one place.  Will Number 4 survive?

Don’t miss this exciting first book in the Lorien Legacies series.

Dear Dumb Diary, by Jim Benton

Published May 23, 2013 by Dagmar

dear dumb diaryI love Dan Gutman’s My Weird School series for younger readers, because it is so irreverent.   Kids say things in the books that they would actually say to each other, instead of the more “pc” things they say around their parents and teachers.  I think that’s what makes the series so successful with its 2nd and 3rd grade fans.

Well, here is the series for older readers – the same snarky, irreverent humor that so appeals to kids with My Weird School, appears in Jim Benton’s Dear Dumb Diary, a real favorite with my 4th-6th graders looking for a funny book.  This series tends to be read more by girls.

In her note at the beginning of her “dumb” diary, Jamie Kelly writes, “Dear Whoever is Reading My Dumb Diary, Are you sure you’re supposed to be reading somebody else’s diary?  …If you are my parents, then YES, I know that I am not allowed to call people idiots and fools and goons and halfwits and pinheads and all that, but this is a diary and I didn’t actually “call” them anything.  I wrote it.  And if you punish me for it, then I will know that you read my diary, which I amnot giving you permission to do.”  So begins Jamie’s diary and her hatred of “perfect” Angeline, a kid named Mike Pinsetti who has the power to create embarrassing nicknames, and her search to help her good friend Isabelle pick a new “signature” lip gloss.

Ok, the series is NOT deep; but, it is really funny.  This series flies off my shelves with its fans reading every book in the series.

Olympians, by George O’Connor

Published March 12, 2013 by Dagmar

zeusAnother great graphic novel series.  This series focuses on the greek gods.  The pages are full cover and the author, George O’Connor pulls from historical texts as he retells the myths of each of the gods he writes about.  The illustrations are full-color and dramatic and are a real draw for students.  The series includes books on Zeus, Athena, Hades, Hera and Poseiden to be published this month. Highly recommended for tweens and middle school readers.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, by Nathan Hale

Published March 12, 2013 by Dagmar

nathan haleI’m so happy to see that graphic novels are expanding to include history, mythology, and adaptations of classics.  I have a few readers who will not read anything unless it’s in graphic novel format.  They’re big readers and are in the library always looking for new books.  They are really excited about this series.  I’m excited, because they’re reading American History!

This new series, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales is a funny recounting of the story of Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War spy who famously said, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”  In this version, Nathan Hale and the hangman are discussing “last words” and the fact that Nathan Hale should say something memorable before he is hanged.  Nathan Hale not only thinks of his last words, but then delays his hanging by recounting the story of the seige of Boston, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and General Howe’s invasion of New York.

This is real American history but presented in a funny and engaging way. I laughed out loud several times at the cleverness of the book.  There are two books in the series so far, One Dead Spy and Big Bad Ironclad and more to come.  (Thank goodness!)  My only regret… is that the pages are not full-color. I think it would add a lot to the book if the illustrations were more attractive.  That said, it’s a great series and kids love it.

Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit, by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Published January 23, 2013 by Dagmar

supernaturalHere’s a cute series for your tween/middle school girls who love a mystery and some supernatural powers thrown in.  This series has been flying off the shelves since I brought it into the library a few months ago.  I just had to read it to see what the fuss was about.

At first I found the “mean girls in middle school” a little boring, but I liked the main character, Kat, and her new best friend, Jac, a gifted cellist.  Kat finds out that she is able to see spirits like her mother, who is a medium.  Although she is reluctant about her new gift, she and Jac end up solving a mystery.  This book is fast-paced and fun.  I liked the mystery and didn’t mind the “not subtle” hint that there is a sequel on its way.  Lucky for my students that there are actually four books in the series – all on my shelves.  My only worry with this series is that it will date itself with its references to modern music.

Ranger’s Apprentice, by John Flanagan

Published January 15, 2013 by Dagmar

rangersapprenticeThe Ruins of Gorlan is the first book in a terrific series for late elementary and middle graders called Ranger’s Apprentice.  Will is left in a basket at Castle Redmond as a baby with only a note that says that his mother died and his father died a hero.  Will grows up as a ward of the Castle Arald.  The wards of the castle are assigned apprenticeships when they become teenagers.  Will hopes to become a warrior just as he imagines his father was.  To be a warrior, he must train at Battle School.  However, when the Choosing Day arrives, Will is apprenticed to a Ranger.  As Will learns his new trade, he also learns to appreciate the important role the Rangers hold in defending the kingdom.

Ranger’s Apprentice is an intelligent series, drawing readers in and keeping them engaged.  There are 10 books in the series and a book of Lost Stories.  Highly recommended for fourth grade through middle school.

Son, by Lois Lowry

Published December 11, 2012 by Dagmar

sonFor your kids that love dystopian novels.  Son, is the fourth novel in The Giver series.  The Giver is one of the original dystopian novels without all the violence.  Son can be read on its own, but definitely has more meaning if you’ve read the Giver and is better yet if you’ve read books two and three, Gathering Blue and Messenger.  I loved this book.  There was just the right amount of suspense, the characters were really beautifully drawn and there the element of “creepiness” that dystopian readers crave.  For those who have read the previous books, it’s fun to try to trace where this book intersects with the previous books in the Giver series.

Synopsis: Claire is assigned to be a birthmother at her 12 ceremony.  She and other girls are to give birth to “products”.  Once they’ve given birth to three products, they move on to another job in society.  Claire has difficulty with her first birth and is quickly reassigned to another job. So quickly, that those in charge forget to give her her daily pills.  Slowly her feelings for her son awaken.  Claire imagines running away with her son.  Her son, a difficult baby and toddler has been chosen for “release”.  That’s when Claire discovers that her son is missing, taken away by a boy from the community.  So begins Claire’s desperate search for her son.

Cirque du Freak, book 1, A Living Nightmare, by Darren Shan

Published November 14, 2012 by Dagmar

cirqueduAh.  Finally a great horror book for tweens and middle school.  Darren Shan has written a book that will please your readers seeking “creepy” books.  My son read the 12 books in the series in a matter of a month – six books in one week.  It’s that compelling.  I thought the writing was really good.  I couldn’t wait to read what was going to happen next.
Synopsis: Darren Shan and his friends see a flyer advertising the Cirque du Freak.  They pool their money and buy two tickets.  Darren and his friend Steve win a game and get to use the tickets.  They sneak out at night to an abandoned theater and are amazed at the “freaks” in the show.   When Steve gets bitten by Madame Octa, a spider Darren stole from Mr. Crepsley, a member of the Cirque du Freak, the boys begin a page-turning journey into the world of vampires.

Conspiracy 365 series, Gabrielle Lord

Published November 12, 2012 by Dagmar

conspiracy365If your middle schooler/tween is looking for action and excitement, this may be the series you’ve been looking for.  In this 12 part series, beginning with January and ending with December, there is non-stop action and suspenseful endings that keep you wanting more.  These books are less than 200 pages, also making them appealing for reluctant readers, and are numbered backwards from page 185 to 1.

Synopsis: Cal is a 15 year old boy whose father died from a mysterious virus.  Cal lives with his mother, his little sister and his uncle.  One day, Cal is stopped by a stranger and told to go into hiding for 365 days, or else.   Suddenly, Cal is in almost constant danger and is even accused of trying to kill his little sister.  Cal is forced into hiding, helped by his loyal and brainy friend, Boges.  Cal suspects that the work his father was doing in Ireland before his death is at the bottom of this mystery.  It’s up to Cal and his friend Boges to discover the secret behind the Ormond Singularity.  The final book, December, leaves you wanting for more.  Luckily, there are two more books that have been written for the Australian market and will hopefully be printed in the U.S.  The first, Revenge, is written from Boges’ point of view.  The second follow-on book is called Malice.  Stay tuned!