Middle School Fiction

All posts tagged Middle School Fiction

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper

Published December 21, 2014 by Dagmar

Of all the books my students read in our 4th and 5th grade book club this fall, Out of My Mind was their favorite.  Sharon Draper, who has a disabled daughter herself, tells a story of a disabled girl who is constantly underestimated and misunderstood but who is extraordinarily smart and determined.

outofmymindMelody is 10 years old and has cerebral palsy.  Her disability affects her in many ways. Melody is unable to walk and cannot balance when she sits up.  She sits, strapped into a wheel chair. She can’t feed herself, cloth herself or go the bathroom by herself.  Sometimes, she can’t control her body movements.  Far more frustrating for Melody, though, is the fact that she can’t talk.  But, don’t feel sorry for Melody.  Melody is brilliant.  In fact, she has a photographic memory.  If people knew how smart she was, they might not underestimate her so much.

Imagine knowing what’s happening around you and wanting to speak, but being unable to speak.  No one around her, not even her parents, fully understand how much Melody knows or what she thinks about.  It might make you go out of your mind, like a fish in a tiny fish bowl who just can’t stand those glass walls anymore.

At school, Melody is placed in a room for children with disabilities.  Unfortunately, there, having disabilities means that people also think you’re stupid and try to teach you the alphabet in third grade.

Luckily, Melody has champions who fight for her.  Her parents are constantly trying to explain that Melody is an intelligent child who needs people to teach her.  Ms. V., Melody’s neighbor who has taken care of her since she was a baby, while Melody’s parents work, needs no convincing about Melody’s intelligence.  She works with Melody, developing word cards so that Melody can communicate.  Catherine, Melody’s aide at school, works with Melody to find a machine that can help her speak.

When Melody gets her machine, she finds her voice.  It is an amazing gift.  Everyone learns just how incredibly bright Melody is.  Melody has opportunities that she couldn’t have dreamed of the year before, including joining mainstream classrooms.

This book does such a wonderful job of explaining Melody’s condition and limitations in away that doesn’t let you feel sorry for Melody.  Draper’s writing gives Melody an authentic voice that really speaks to students.  Melody’s disappointments and frustrations are easy to imagine.  Her victories make you feel great.

With great characters and plot twists right until the end, this book will really draw you in.  Don’t miss it!  For more information, please check out this interview with Sharon Draper about this book on her web-site. http://sharondraper.com/bookdetail.asp?id=35

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.

Legend, by Marie Lu

Published August 27, 2013 by Dagmar

legendLegend is my favorite dystopian novel.  My students agree.

Legend moves quickly between chapters written by June and Day.  June is a brilliant 15 year old girl who got a perfect score on the Republic’s trial and is being trained to be one of the Republic’s top soldiers.  Day is 15 year old boy who failed the trial, escaped a labor camp, has become a criminal and the Republic’s number one enemy.

Day and June live in Los Angeles where the rich live alongside the poor in different sectors.  The rich live in beautiful modern buildings and have plenty of food.  The poor live in broken down buildings and and fear the plagues that spread regularly throughout their neighborhoods.  Day and June have never met, but June knows that the most important mission in the military is catching Day.

Their lives intersect when Day’s little brother contracts the plague.  Day, desperate to find vaccines to save his family, breaks into a hospital.  As he tries to escape, June’s brother, a Republic soldier is killed.  Day is accused of killing him, and June is consumed with the need to find and arrest Day.  In her quest to caputure Day, June uncovers things that shake her belief in the Republic and make her wonder if Day is really the enemy at all.

This book combines fast-pacing, mystery, action, suspense and a little romance into a great novel.  Highly recommended for tweens and middle school.

I’m looking forward to reading Marie Lu’s sequel to Legend, Prodigy.

Amelia’s Notebook series, by Marissa Moss

Published July 29, 2013 by Dagmar

Amelia's NotebookIf you’re looking for a fun read for tweens and middle school girls, here’s a great choice.  Marissa Moss’ Amelia Notebooks are written like diaries that look like composition books full of Amelia’s writing and her many drawings.   Amelia is 10 and has an older sister named Cleo.  They act a lot like you’d imagine an annoying younger sister and a more annoying older sister might act.

In Oh Boy, Amelia, Amelia can’t believe how her sister Cleo changes when she’s around a boy she likes. Amelia tells it like it is. “I know why Cleo’s suddenly so polite.  She’s eating lunch at school with Oliver now, and she doesn’t want him to htink she’s a rude slob…If Oliver saw the real Cleo, there’s no way he’s ask her to go out with him.” and “Today when Oliver came over, Cleo actually fluttered her eyelashes at him – I thought that only happened in cartoons!  I thought I’d see big pink hearts pop up over her head.”

As Amelia tries to make sense of the way Cleo is acting, she has her own struggles in “Life Skills” class.  Amelia has to sew, something and that does not come naturally to her.  Amelia talks about “The Truth Behind Boy and Girl Things”  Her truth?  “All girls aren’t the same, and neither are all boys.  And even if most girls like something, I don’t have to like it, too.”

Amelia’s sewing project is a disaster, and she’s really nervous about her teacher’s suggestion that they have a fashion show with everyone modeling their projects.  Her big challenge though, is making a science project that will impress Oliver enough that he’ll invite her to go the state science fair.  Amelia loves science and is dying to go to science fair.

Will Amelia get through the fashion show and get to go to the science fair?  Will Cleo figure out that it’s better to be yourself than to try to change yourself to get someone to like you?

Read this fun book to find out and enjoy the entire series of Amelia’s notebooks!

As a note, our school was lucky enough to receive an author visit from Marissa Moss.  She did a great presentation and writing workshop for our sixth grade.  Yay, Marissa!

Flight, edited by Kazu Kibuishi

Published June 18, 2013 by Dagmar

flightFinally, something to satisfy the many Amulet fans in my library.  As I mentioned in my blog article about Amulet, my students are so sad that the series only has five volumes.  Many of my students have read each book of Amulet multiple times.  Kibuishi’s Copper book also circulated like crazy until our copy was lost.

So, when I found out that Kazu Kibuishi created a collection of graphic short stories, I thought I’d give these books a try in my library.  I was not disappointed.  While the work is not entirely that of Kazu Kibuishi exclusively, it is a really nice collection.  It contains short stories from 21 authors, including one story from Kibuishi.  I ordered the first three books, and they immediately started circulating.  There are eight books in all, and I’ve already been asked by my students to add to our collection.  While most of these stories can be understood by younger students, I would recommend them for a tween and older audience.

Shooting Kabul, by N.H. Senzai

Published May 1, 2013 by Dagmar

shooting kabulMiddle schoolers barely remember a time when the United States didn’t have troops in Afghanistan.  Shooting Kabul takes place in Kabul and in Fremont, CA.  The book starts as 12 year old Fadi and his family, afraid of the way Kabul has changed under the rule of the Taliban, make a dangerous nighttime escape from Afghanistan.  Fadi loses hold of his six year old sister’s hand in the escape.  Broken-hearted, the family is forced to save themselves and leave little Mariam behind in Afghanistan.

Shooting Kabul is the incredible story of an immigrant family adjusting to life in Fremont in a large Afghani community.  The family moves in with relatives and has to live in cramped quarters and the hospitality of their relatives until Fadi’s father can find work.  Fadi has to transition to an American middle school and his father finds work as a taxi driver.  It is difficult to support the family as a taxi driver and particularly difficult, because his father was a university professor in Kabul.  Fadi cannot forget his little sister, alone in Afghanistan, or maybe even Pakistan.  He is determined to find her and bring her to America.  He enters a photo competition with his new friend, a girl named Anh.  First prize is a photographic journey to anywhere in the world.  Fadi thinks this is his way to get back to Pakistan, where he thinks his sister might be.

Then, 9/11 happens, and it’s hard being at school where kids only see you as Afghani and someone who might be responsible for the attacks.  Fadi concentrates harder on winning the photo competition and finding Mariam.

This book kept me and my students in suspense. I had to keep turning the pages to see if Fadi could find his little sister. A great read.

Mike Lupica’s Sports books

Published April 27, 2013 by Dagmar

My malMike Lupicae students who are into sports are very particular about their sports, it’s either football, basketball or baseball.  It is not a blend.  So, what do I give students who want to read nothing but sports books and Sports Illustrated?  I had a suspicion that I could pull them in with Mike Lupica’s books, and am happy to tell you that I have kids, many of them reluctant readers, grabbing his books off the shelves.

Mike Lupica is a syndicated sports writer for the New York Daily News.  Most importantly, he writes realistic fiction about football, basketball and baseball.  This is realistic fiction that has my tween and middle school boys excited about reading. I think these books could easily reach high school age students too.

Here’s a link to his web-site: http://www.mikelupicabooks.com/

Take a look.  You can also check out my review of Heat, Mike Lupica’s book about a 12 year old boy trying to get to the Little League world series.

Malice, by Christopher Wooding

Published April 27, 2013 by Dagmar

MaliceIs your tween or middle schooler looking for an edgy, sinister book?  I’m asked every day for “scary” books and usually lead my students to my ghost story collections.  But, for those kids who don’t mind dark books, read A Series of Unfortunate Events, tore through the Cirque du Freak series and are looking for more, Malice could be the answer.  It is sinister, so I’d suggest middle school for this book.

I read Malice in one sitting.  It was that good.  This smart, but scary book is part novel, part graphic novel, part fantasy.  Malice is about high school kids caught up in the mystique surrounding a comic book called Malice.  It is said that kids who perform a ritual to call the main character, “Tall Jake” disappear, sometimes for months and sometimes forever.  The pages of Malice, if you can get your hands on a copy, show the kids who have disappeared fighting for their lives in a strange fantasy world.  Little do the kids who do the ritual know that Tall Jake is real, the world of Malice is real and as terrifying and deadly as the comic book makes out.  Those that come back from having disappeared don’t remember a thing about the time they were away.  Because no one remembers Malice after they return, no one can warn the other kids about Malice and the dangers of calling Tall Jake.  Seth and his friends, once in Malice, fight for their lives and swear that they will find a way to stop Tall Jake.

This book has a sequel called Havoc which continues the story of Seth’s fight against Tall Jake.

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli

Published April 26, 2013 by Dagmar

stargirlStargirl is magical, just like Stargirl herself. What happens when you meet someone completely different —  someone who does things that no one would ever do, things that draw a lot of attention.  What if that someone doesn’t even care that they’re different?  Would you have the courage to be that person’s friend?  I loved this book and so did my students.

Leo Burlock is in high school.  He’s just like any other kid.  He’s kind of popular, a nice guy.  But, when a new girl, Stargirl, arrives at school, she changes things for him and for everyone.  She brings her ukelele to the cafeteria and serenades people on their birthdays.  She sits down in class and puts a curtain and a vase of flowers on her desk.  She joins the cheerleading squad and cheers for both teams.  Stargirl’s complete innocence catches him by surprise and makes him fall in love with her.  For a time, the entire student body falls in love with her too.  But, then, Stargirl makes a big mistake, and the penalty is huge.  She is shunned by the entire school, and Leo, as her boyfriend, is shunned too.  “And the shunning — it was clear now — had come to me.  It was less absolute for me than for her, but it was there.  I saw it in the eyes that shifted away from mine, the shoulders that turned, the chatter that seemed less loud around me now than before.  I fought it.  I tested its limits.  In the courtyard, between classes, in the lunchroom, I called out to others just to see if they would respond. When someone turned and nodded, I felt grateful.” In desperation, Leo asks Stargirl to change, to be normal.  “She constantly quizzed me about what other kids would do, would buy, would think.”  Stargirl does her best to change for Leo.  “In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.”

So B. It, by Sarah Weeks

Published March 10, 2013 by Dagmar

sobitIf you haven’t read my review of One for the Murphys, please do.  This book might be tied with One for the Murphys for my favorite book of the year.  I closed it and thought “That was a great book.”  I have a wonderful fifth grade reader who looked at me and said exactly the same thing.

Heidi was a baby when her neighbor Bernadette found her outside in the hallway with her mother.  Her mother is mentally disabled.  Heidi’s mom knows only 23 words, most of the common, but there is one that only Heidi’s mom says, “Soof”. Bernadette is agoraphobic.  Luckily, Bernie’s apartment has a connecting door with Heidi’s apartment.  Together, they survive.  Bernie manages everything, including teaching Heidi, while Heidi and her mom go out to do the shopping. Heidi wonders about her past, but her mother cannot give her any clues about it nor can Bernie.  One day, Heidi finds an old camera with undeveloped film.  She takes it in to be developed and finds a picture of her mother at a home for the mentally disabled in New York State.  Heidi is determined to find out about her mother’s past.  Her search, and the answers she finds, including the meaning of “Soof” make this book incredible.  Highly recommended for middle readers.