January 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Middle School | 2014-2015 | January - (Comments Off on Pinned)

pinned Pinned by Sharon G. Flake. Scholastic Press, 2012.

1. How does the author use the text to differentiate between Adonis and Autumn? How are their voices different?

2. Autumn perseveres through her struggles with wrestling and during her pursuit of Adonis, but she gives up more easily when trying to read. Why doesn’t she apply herself to reading the way she does with wrestling and in her pursuit of Adonis?

3. Why is Adonis so resistant to Autumn’s advances?

Books for Middle School Age

Orleans / How I Became a Ghost

December 1st, 2014 | Posted by etownsend in Middle School | December | 2014-2015 - (Comments Off on Orleans / How I Became a Ghost)

orleansMSOrleans by Sherri L. Smith. Putnam, 2013.

1. How does the dystopian New Orleans setting shape the characters’ beliefs and actions?

2. How do the points of view of Daniel and Fen differ? What are ways the author differentiates their two perspectives?

3. Safety and trust are two ideas explored in the story. Do any specific elements (scenes, character interactions, etc.) stand out when you think of how either one of these ideas was explored?


how i became a ghostMS

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle. The RoadRunner Press, 2013.

1. During the course of the book, Isaac dies and becomes a ghost. How do his relationships with the other character change because of this?

2. How does the author show us ways that Isaac’s point of view is grounded in his identity as a Choctaw as well as his experiences as a child?

3. From the start, the reader knows that Isaac will die. How does this create suspense or tension in the story?


Books for Middle School Age

Eruption! / Zero Tolerance

November 1st, 2014 | Posted by etownsend in November | Middle School | 2014-2015 - (Comments Off on Eruption! / Zero Tolerance)

eruptionEruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives by Elizabeth Rusch. Photographs by Tom Uhlman. (Scientists in the Field) Houghton Mifflin, 2013.

1. The author writes about volcanic eruptions and human reaction across the globe. What are some of the differences in the ways people have reacted to volcanoes in different countries?

2. Only 100 people were killed as a result of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. What lessons from earlier eruptions did scientists use to achieve such a positive result?

3. How do the VDAP scientists interact with people who have survived eruptions?


zero tolerance

Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013.

1. What argument is the author trying to make about ‘zero tolerance’ as a disciplinary policy? Are one-size fits-all policies such as zero tolerance effective? What would you have done in Sierra’s place and why?

2. Kids who serve detention are often perceived as troublemakers. What are examples of ways Sierra buys into that stereotype initially? How does the novel ask us to challenge that stereotype?

3. When straight-A student Sierra falls victim to the Zero Tolerance policy at her school, she gets an in-school suspension and may be expelled. How do the points of view of her principal and her father differ? What are ways does the author develops their two perspectives? Does either or both of them change?

Books for Middle School Age

I Lay My Stitches Down / The Thing about Luck

October 1st, 2014 | Posted by etownsend in October | Middle School | 2014-2015 - (Comments Off on I Lay My Stitches Down / The Thing about Luck)

i lay my stitches down

I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery by Cynthia Grady. Illustrated by Michele Wood. Eerdmans, 2012.

1. In the introduction, the author states that she included three references in each poem: biblical/spiritual, musical, and sewing/fiber arts. Choose a poem and locate each of these references in it.

2. As you were examining each page layout (poem, explanation, artwork), which order did you use to best understand and decode? Why was this your strategy?

3. How is the theme of sewing and quilting developed throughout the collection? What is the relationship between quilting and the experiences of American slaves?


thing about luck

The Thing about Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. Illustrated by Julia Kuo. Atheneum, 2013.

1. Why is Summer so obsessed with mosquitoes? Why does she spend so much time drawing them and seeing them as “beautiful”?

2. How would you describe Summer’s relationship with Obaachan, her grandmother?

3. The author, Kadohata, ends the book in an abrupt way, meaning that there is no distinct ending. Why do you think the author does this? What are possible outcomes for Summer and her family at the end of summer?


Books for Middle School Age





Al Capone Does My Homework

September 1st, 2014 | Posted by etownsend in September | Middle School | 2014-2015 - (Comments Off on Al Capone Does My Homework)

al capone does my homework

Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko. Dial, 2013.

1. How does living on Alcatraz Island shape the story?

2. How do the characters interact differently with Natalie?

3. Adults are in a position of power over kids. Sometimes adults abuse this power. How might you have reacted to the Trixles’ rude and unfair treatment of the members of Moose’s?

Books for Middle School Age


Chomp / Diamond Willow / Kimchi & Calamari

June 1st, 2014 | Posted by schliesman in Middle School | 2013-2014 | Summer - (Comments Off on Chomp / Diamond Willow / Kimchi & Calamari)

chomp cover

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012





diamond willow cover



Diamond Willow by Helen Frost. Frances Foster / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008





kimchi and calamari cover

Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent. HarperCollins, 2007






Books for Middle School Age

See You at Harry’s

May 1st, 2014 | Posted by schliesman in Middle School | 2013-2014 | May - (Comments Off on See You at Harry’s)

see you at harry's cover

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles. Candlewick Press, 2012

1. Each member of Fern’s family responds differently to the tragedy they face. Pick any two of the family members and talk about what changes from before to after in terms of how they behave.

2. Guilt and grief are two powerful forces in this book. How does guilt affect various characters’ grieving?

3. Why do you think Holden doesn’t want Fern to know about the bullying he faces?


Books for Middle School Age

Outcasts United / Temple Grandin

April 1st, 2014 | Posted by schliesman in Middle School | 2013-2014 | April - (Comments Off on Outcasts United / Temple Grandin)

outcasts united coverOutcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town by Warren St. John. Delacorte Press, 2012

1. The kids in Outcasts United come from various countries, but all have experienced difficult things both before and after coming to the United States. Why do you think being on The Fugees means so much to them?

2. Luma had no background in teaching or social work but seemed to instinctively understand what her players needed. What are some of the things that she does that goes above and beyond what a typical sports coach might do?

3. Why is Luma so strict with her players?


temple grandin cover

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery. Houghton Mifflin, 2012

1. What were some of the challenges Temple faced growing up? What were some of the ways she overcame them?

2. Temple notes that the unique way her brain works is the reason she has succeeded. What are some of the specific skills and gifts she credits to her autism that have helped her in her work?

3. Did this book make you think about the food you eat, especially meat, in a different way? Did it make you uncomfortable, and if so, why do you think it had that impact?


Books for Middle School Age


March 1st, 2014 | Posted by schliesman in Middle School | 2013-2014 | March - (Comments Off on Unwind)

unwind cover

Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Simon and Schuster, 2007

1. Connor, Risa and Lev have followed three different paths to the same fate and are all destined for “unwinding.” How do their individual experiences draw similarities between the future in which this story is set and our society today?

2. What are some of the ways the three main characters influence one another’s understanding of and attitudes toward “unwinding”? How do Connor, Risa and Lev change in other ways from knowing one another?

3. This book takes a highly controversial issue in our society today and offers up a fictional future where the solution is a compromise that seems unimaginable. What do you think the author wants readers to think about or take away from this?


Books for Middle School Age

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano

February 1st, 2014 | Posted by schliesman in Middle School | 2013-2014 | February - (Comments Off on The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano)

revolution of evelyn serrano cover

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano. Scholastic Press, 2012

1. How and why do the relationships between Evelyn, her mother, and her abuela change over time?

2. Do you think the occupation of the church by the Young Lords was justified? Why or why not?

3. Manzano uses powerful descriptive language to set the scene. What sights, smells, sounds stood out to you and what words would you use to describe your neighborhood?



Books for Middle School Age

Marching to the Mountaintop / Fire in the Streets

January 1st, 2014 | Posted by schliesman in Middle School | January | 2013-2014 - (Comments Off on Marching to the Mountaintop / Fire in the Streets)

marching to the mountaintop cover

Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Hours by Ann Bausum. National Geographic, 2012

1. What are some of the factors that led to the garbage workers deciding to strike in Memphis?

2. Why was Martin Luther King, Jr., initially reluctant to come to Memphis? What made him change his mind?

3. There are several major stories in this book: the Memphis garbage workers’ strike; the shifting focus of Martin Luther King’s activism from racism to poverty; and King’s assassination.  What did you learn about the connection among these three things?


fire in the streets cover

Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon . Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, 2012

1. What does Maxie find so appealing about being part of the Black Panthers?

2. Based on what you know about Maxie in the story, why do you think she decides to turn in her brother? If you were in Maxie’s position, what do you think you would do?

3. This story is set in 1968, a time of great political and racial turmoil. What details did you find especially interesting about that time? Were there things that struck you as being very different from—or similar to—today?


Books for Middle School Age

After Eli

December 1st, 2013 | Posted by schliesman in Middle School | December | 2013-2014 - (Comments Off on After Eli)

after eli cover

After Eli by Rebecca Rupp . Candlewick Press, 2012

1. Why do you think Danny keeps his Book of the Dead?

2. Danny’s memories give readers a strong sense of Eli. What do you learn about Eli as a brother and a friend through specific incidences in the book? How do you think he influenced Danny?

3. What are some things Danny figure outs about friendship through his relationships with Isabelle and Walter?



Books for Middle School Age

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