Middle School Books

Recommended Titles in your Library

Nonfiction Titles

Navy Seal Dogs: My Tale of Training Canines for Combat, by Michael Ritland

Publisher Description: "This book presents the dramatic tale of how Mike Ritland discovered his passion and grew up to become the trainer of the nation's most elite military working dogs. Ritland was a smaller-than-average kid who was often picked on at school—which led him to spend more time with dogs at a young age. After completing BUD/S training—the toughest military training in the world—to become a SEAL, he was on combat deployment in Iraq when he saw a military working dog in action and instantly knew he'd found his true calling. Ritland started his own company to train and supply working and protection dogs for the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, and other clients. He also started the Warrior Dog Foundation to help retired Special Operations dogs live long and happy lives after their service. An exciting true story!"


Grade Levels: 7-12

Lexile: 1140L

Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town, by Warren St. John

"Outside Atlanta, Georgia, a soccer team of refugee kids overcame zoning laws, lack of funds, and internal feuds to win something bigger than a championship."


Grade Levels: 6-8

Lexile: 980

Curriculum Connections: Social Studies

Sensitive Areas: War; Violence

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science, by John Fleischman

Publisher Description: "It's September 13, 1848. A crew of railroad construction workers is blasting through granite bedrock in Vermont. The life of the foreman, Phineas Gage, changes forever: a botched explosion sends a metal rod through his cheekbone, behind his eye, through the front of his brain, and out the middle of his forehead. Miraculously, Phineas lives, but his personality and behavior undergo drastic changes. He is vicious, unreliable, and rude. Phineas's story stumps doctors and scientists all over the country. Two major theories are developed. Both are slightly right—but mostly wrong. Still, they revolutionize the study of the brain. Enter the intriguing world of neuroscience in this astonishing book about the mysteries and the wonder of the human body."


Grade Levels: 6-9

Lexile: 1030L

Curriculum Connections: Science

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe

Publisher Description: "Without honeybees, the world would be a different place. There would be no honey, no beeswax for candles, and, worst of all, barely a fruit, nut, or vegetable to eat. So imagine beekeeper Dave Hackenburg's horror when he discovered 20 million of his charges had vanished. In this photographic nonfiction, Loree Griffin Burns profiles bee wranglers and bee scientists who have been working to understand colony collapse disorder, or CCD. Through this dramatic and enlightening story, readers explore the lives of the fuzzy, buzzy insects and learn what might happen to us if they were gone."


Lexile: NC1120L

Grade Levels: 4-8

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman

Publisher Description: "When Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, his revolutionary ideas seemed dangerous to many people in the 19th century—including his deeply religious wife, Emma. The couple struggled with this dilemma, and over the years, Darwin's science mixed (and sometimes clashed) with his wife's religious views. But throughout it all, the pair supported each other. Drawing on the couple's letters, diaries, and notebooks, this inspiring and thought-provoking biography chronicles the Darwins' long and fulfilling partnership—which lasted 43 years and produced 10 children. It shows how they were able to go beyond their differences, influence each other's beliefs—and make a successful marriage of science and religion."


Grade Levels: 8-12

Lexile: 1020L

Curriculum Connections: Science, Social Studies

Awards and Honors: National Book Award Finalist, Printz Award Honors

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March

Publisher Description: "In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, was a city divided. Local politicians fought to keep the city segregated, with laws that made it illegal for African American and white citizens to share the same schools and experiences. Police officers beat and sometimes even killed African Americans, becoming a source of fear rather than protection. Just when things seemed at their worst, an unexpected group of peaceful soldiers came forward: the African American children and teens of Birmingham. While adults were finding it hard to take action because of fears that they would lose their jobs or put their families at risk, young people around the city signed pledges of nonviolence and got friends involved. In a series of marches at the beginning of May, thousands of young people were arrested. Following four students through these empowering and dangerous days, readers discover harrowing details, such as the techniques that young protestors used to withstand the blasts of fire hoses. The students also share memories of triumphantly eating ice cream at lunch counters and attending movie theaters for the first time after desegregation."


Grade Levels: 4-7

Lexile: 1020L

Curriculum Connections: American History, Social Studies

Awards and Honors: 2013 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist

Nelson Mandela: "No Easy Walk to Freedom," by Barry Denenberg

Publisher Description: From his humble beginnings in rural South Africa to his death at the age of 95 in 2013, Nelson Mandela's life is a tale of inspiration and courage.

Barry Denenberg explores the history of South Africa and its often violent struggle for civil rights, while tracing Mandela's role in that history. As a lawyer, a leader of the African National Congress, a political prisoner who spent 26 years in jail, a president—no one else has had such enormous influence on his fellow South Africans. Even beyond South Africa, Nelson Mandela influenced freedom fighters everywhere.


Grade Levels: 5-8

Lexile: 950L

Curriculum Connections: Social Studies (Prejudice and Racism, Equality, Culture and Diversity, Fairness and Justice)

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793, by Jim Murphy

Publisher Description: "Gruesome, suspenseful, and informative, this gripping nonfiction account of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 is illustrated with historical prints, pictures, and documents."


Grade Levels: 6-8

Lexile: 1130L

Curriculum Connections: American History (American Revolution)

Awards and Honors: National Book Award Finalist, Newbery Honors

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery

Publisher Description: "Typically, one word comes to mind when hearing the name Benedict Arnold: traitor. History books, popular discussion, and folklore have long labeled this infamous man in a one-dimensional way. But maybe there's more to his story? As it turns out, there's much more. Benedict Arnold was a smart, motivated, hardworking family man. He was a proud and loyal patriot, a man known in his day as an incredibly brave war hero. So what drove this complex man to betray the country he fought so hard to liberate? Approachable—yet chock-full of details and surprises—this amazing book is a captivating selection for anyone interested in U.S. history."


Grade Levels: 6-9

Lexile: 990L

Curriculum Connections: American History, Social Studies

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II, by Martin W. Sandler

Publisher's description: "As World War II raged abroad, fear and suspicion toward Americans of Japanese descent swept the country. Culling information from extensive, previously unpublished interviews and oral histories of Japanese American internment camp survivors, Martin W. Sandler gives an in-depth account of their lives before, during, and after their imprisonment. Bringing readers inside life in the internment camps, this in-depth look at a troubling period of American history sheds light on the prejudices in today's world and provides the historical context that can help prevent similar abuses of power from happening in the future."


Grade Levels: 5-12

Lexile: 1240L

Sensitive Areas: *Some mature content

Awards and Honors: YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist

Lincoln's Grave Robbers, by Steve Sheinkin

Publisher Description: "In the late 19th century, counterfeiting is a major problem in the United States—and arresting counterfeiters and keeping them behind bars is proving difficult for the Secret Service. But agents catch a break when they capture Benjamin Boyd—one of the country's most talented counterfeiters and a threat to the nation's entire economic system. Desperate to get Boyd back, his counterfeiting ring comes up with a plan—they'll steal President Lincoln's body out of its tomb and hold it for ransom until Boyd is released! But a Secret Service agent named Patrick Tyrrell gets wind of their plan—and he's determined to put a stop to it. Tyrrell uses an undercover agent to learn the details of the scheme, and the plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln's tomb on election night: November 7, 1876. Ideal for fans of Chasing Lincoln's Killer, this true crime thriller offers fascinating glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service."


Grade Levels: 6-9

Lexile: 930L

Curriculum Connections: American History, Social Studies

Awards and Honors: National Book Award Finalist

The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, by James L. Swanson

Publisher Description: "In his young-adult book on the Kennedy assassination, James Swanson transports readers back to one of the most shocking, sad, and terrifying events in American history. Through Swanson's riveting ticking-clock pace, unprecedented eye for dramatic details, and impeccable historical accuracy, readers experience the story of the JFK assassination as if they are there. Archival photos, diagrams, source notes, a bibliography, a list of places to visit, and an index complete this excellent historic resource."


Interest Grade Level: 6-9

Lexile: 1080L

Curriculum Connections: American History, Social Studies

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster

Publisher Description: "Weaving together the voices of Titanic survivors and witnesses of the disaster, critically acclaimed author Deborah Hopkinson brings the horrors of that terrible voyage to life for today's students. Readers will meet various passengers and crew members—from nine-year-old Frankie Goldsmith to the brave seaman William Murdock. They will also discover:


  • Photos of the ship and its passengers
  • Glossary, timeline, and survivor bios and letters
  • Tips on how to be a Titanic researcher"


Grade Levels: 4-7

Lexile: 1040L

Awards and Honors: 2013 Sibert Informational Book Award Honor, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist

Ten True Tales: Kid Pirates: Their Battles, Shipwrecks, & Narrow Escapes

Publisher Description: Some volunteered. Others were forced into service. But all ten of these young people sailed with the world's most feared pirates—from the notorious Blackbeard and Captain Kidd to Henry Morgan. Some fought side by side with pirates; others tried to escape. You'll never forget their incredible true stories.

Each book in this thrilling nonfiction series from best-selling author Allan Zullo rips true stories right from the pages of history or the daily news—presenting unforgettable characters in bite-sized stories that take only a few minutes each to read.


Lexile: 940L

Grade Levels: 4-7

Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement, by Rick Bowers

Publisher Description: "This is the compelling story of how state spies tried to block voting rights for African Americans during the Civil Rights era, shedding new light on one of the most momentous periods in American history. Author Rick Bowers has combed through primary-source materials and interviewed surviving activists named in once-secret files. Readers get firsthand accounts of how neighbors spied on neighbors, teachers spied on students, ministers spied on churchgoers—and spies even spied on spies."


Interest Grade Levels: 6-10

Lexile: 1290L

Curriculum Connections: American History, Social Studies

Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917

Publisher Description: Shortly before nine o'clock on the morning of December 6, 1917, the residents of Halifax, Nova Scotia, were just beginning an ordinary day in their busy harbor town. Some were already working, others were eating breakfast, and children were on their way to school. Then something completely unexpected and terrible happened.

Two ships (one carrying explosives and weapons to World War I soldiers in Europe, the other picking up medical supplies) collided, causing the largest man-made explosion in recorded history before the atom bomb. Every structure for two square kilometers along the shores of Halifax and nearby Dartmouth was completely obliterated by a blast that created a tsunami in the harbor and a pressure wave that snapped trees, bent metal, and hurled fragments of the ships for miles through the air. Then, on top of this devastating tragedy, a giant blizzard struck, leaving rescue workers in a desperate race against time to find survivors before those buried beneath the snow were lost forever.


Interest Grade Level: 5-8

Lexile: 1100L

Curriculum Connections: World History, Social Studies

Stolen into Slavery: The True Story of Soloman Northrop, Free Black Man

Recounts the experiences of Solomon Northup, an African American man who was kidnapped into slavery and suffered through twelve years of bondage before being rescued from the Louisiana cotton plantation by friends from New York. Teacher guide is available.


Interest grade level: 5-8

Curriculum Connections: American History, Social Studies

The Great Fire, by Jim Murphy

Publisher Description: "It all began one Sunday evening when a small fire broke out inside the O'Learys' barn. Panic was slow to build, people ignored the danger signals, the fire department was unable to locate the fire, and everything went terribly wrong from there. In time, wild flames fueled by a steady wind engulfed everything in their path. By the time the fire was contained, a new kind of drama was beginning. Nearly 100,000 people were homeless and searching through the scorched rubble for their families. Drawing on firsthand accounts, acclaimed author Jim Murphy investigates the Great Fire of 1871, one of the most tragic disasters in American history. The blaze transformed the flourishing city of Chicago into a smoldering wasteland within hours. The damage was so profound that few people believed the city could ever rise again. But even in a time of deepest despair the people of Chicago found the courage and strength to build their city once again. This engrossing narrative captivates readers with the details of one of history's most tragic fires and features photos, engravings, and newspaper clippings on nearly every page."


Grade Levels: 5-9

Lexile: 1130L

Curriculum Connections: American History, Social Studies

Awards and Honors: Newbery Honors

Blizzard: The Storm That Changed America, by Jim Murphy

Publisher Description: Snow began falling over New York City on March 12, 1888, but after one of the warmest winters on record no one expected that in a few hours the storm would bury the city in nearly 21 inches of snow and bring it to a standstill. The blizzard of 1888 devastated cities all along the East Coast. This captivating recreation of the historic storm shows how people survived and what they endured in the aftermath.

Filled with period illustrations and photos, this fascinating nonfiction book is also an extraordinary trip back in time to life in a 19th-century city.

Lexile: 1080L

Grade Levels: 5-9

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro

The author, a child of Fidel Castro's Cuba, recounts his boyhood and chronicles the conditions that led him to leave behind his beloved extended family and his home for a chance at a better life in the United States. Teacher guide is available.


Lexile: 730

Interest grade level: 7-10

Curriculum Connections: World History, World Cultures, American History

Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert

Describes the rescue of thirty-three miners trapped in a copper-gold mine in San Jose, Chile and how experts from around the world, from drillers, to astronauts, to submarine specialists, came together to make their remarkable rescue possible.


Lexile: 1070

Interest grade level: 5-8

Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees

Provides interviews with twenty-three young Iraqi children who have moved away from their homeland and tells of their fears, challenges, and struggles to rebuild their lives in foreign lands as refugees of war.


Lexile: 860

Curriculum Connections: Social Studies

Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War

Children in Afghanistan, ranging in age from ten to seventeen, talk candidly about their lives since the fall of the Taliban.


Lexile: 800

Curriculum Connections: Social Studies

Solving Crimes with Trace Evidence (Nonfiction- Graphic Novel Format)

Looks at the techniques investigators use to find and collect trace evidence at crime scenes, and provides graphic novel accounts of famous cases in which trace evidence led to the apprehension of a killer.


Curriculum Connections: Science

Meltdown! The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and our Energy Future

On March 11, 2011, the Great Tohuku Earthquake struck, causing a tsunami that devastated Japan and led to a nuclear emergency at the Fukushima power plant.


Lexile: 1000

Curriculum Connections: Science, Social Studies

Black Gold: The Story of Oil in our Lives

A history of the slick and foul-smelling substance that drives our existence and that becomes scarcer as our dependence on it grows. Teacher guide is available.


Curriculum Connections: Science, Social Studies

The skull in the rock: how a scientist, a boy, and Google Earth opened a new window on human origins

Chronicles the story behind one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of all time, explaining its significance for understanding human evolution and how it is shaping the thinking of the scientific community. Teacher guide is available.


Level: 1140L

Curriculum Connections: Science, Geography, Social Studies

Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates

Discusses the discoveries of four hominins including Turkana Boy, Lapedo Child, Kennewick Man and Iceman, offering insight into how archaeologists analyzed the remains of each to further their understanding of ancient human behavior.


Lexile: 1010

Curriculum Connections: Science, Social Studies

Propaganda: World War II Sourcebook

"Describes the documentation published by different groups during World War II that was used to persuade civilians, soldiers, and even the enemies to support that group's cause"--Provided by publisher.


Lexile: 1060

Curriculum Connections: World History, Social Studies

The plant hunters: true stories of their daring adventures to the far corners of the Earth

Presents the experiences and contributions of early adventurers, explorers, and scientists responsible for discovering and documenting new types of plants, showing how their often dangerous voyages help establish the field of botany. Teacher guide is available.


Lexile: 1170

Curriculum Connections: Science

I.M. Pei: Architect of Time, Place, and Purpose

Looking at the stories behind six of his most celebrated buildings, this biography follows I. M. Pei’s life and charts the development of his aesthetic.


Lexile: 1070

Grade Levels: 5-8

Awards & Honors: Booklist 2011 Editors' Choice, Books for Youth, Nonfiction, Older Readers; Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of 2011; Booklist Top 10 Biography Books for Youth: 2012; Booklist Top 10 Books for Youth 2012, Arts

Curriculum Connections: Art (Architecture)

The War to End All Wars: World War I by Russell Freedman

World War I introduced to modern warfare such weapons of mass slaughter as long-range artillery, machine guns, poison gas, flamethrowers, and tanks, resulting in the deaths of twenty million people. It also brought about revolutions, caused empires to fall, and saw the birth of new nations.


Grade Levels: 5-8

Lexile: 1220L

Awards and Honors: Horn Book Fanfare, Best Books of 2010, Nonfiction; Kirkus Reviews 2010 Best Books for Teens; Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books 2010, Nonfiction;School Library Journal Best Books 2010: Nonfiction; YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Nomination, 2010; Children's Book Committee Bank Street College of Education Children's Choices - Best Books of 2011, Special Interests, History; BCCB Blue Ribbon 2010, Nonfiction

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin

Publisher Description: "In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb."


Grade Levels: 7-12

Lexile: 920L

Awards and Honors: 2013 Sibert Informational Book Award, 2013 Newbery Honor, 2013 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

The Iranian Revolution, by Brendan January

Publisher Description: "The 1979 revolution left Iran "torn by drastic social changes, invasion, bombing, executions, and assassinations. The Iranian Revolution would also bring Iran and the United States to the brink of war." The events of 1979 were the result of complicated dynamics, both within Iran and internationally. From the CIA-engineered overthrow of prime minister Mosaddeq to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini to the hostage crisis, Iran's revolution is a compelling story."


Grades levels: 5-8

Lexile: 1020L

Lafayette and the American Revolution, Russell Freedman.

Publisher Description: Presents a biography about the French nobleman who assisted the American colonists in their struggle for freedom from England during the Revolutionary War.


Grade Levels: 5-8

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, by Walter Dean Myers

Publisher Description: "Renowned boxer Muhammad Ali is known not only for his bold personality and amazing skills in the boxing ring, but for the way he took a stand against injustice and racism at great personal cost. This book tells the amazing story of his life—from his childhood in Louisville, Kentucky, through his illustrious career as the greatest boxer in the world, all the way up to his courageous struggle with Parkinson's disease in his older years.

Ali's compelling, one-of-a-kind story, told through recollections and many black-and-white photos, is written in an approachable style that will appeal to young nonfiction readers."


Grade Levels: 6-8

Lexile: 1030L