Introducing the Middle School Collection
by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian
In addition to our regular summer reading-related shenanigans, library staff have been hard at work on another project this summer: creating the new Young Adult Middle School Books Collection. Due to sixth grade joining the local middle schools this fall, we decided to highlight books that appeal to middle schoolers as a group by creating a collection just for them. The new middle school collection has joined the rest of the young adult books on the second floor of the library, located on the shelves closest to the atrium.
The middle school collection contains books for youth in grades 6-8 (ages 11-14), pulling in books from both children’s fiction and young adult fiction. The middle school collection includes plenty of coming-of-age books of all stripes and a wide variety of adventure. Many bestselling fantasy series are now in the middle school collection (think Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl), as are newer excellent series (like Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond and Tristan Strong), along with many of the current William Allen White nominees and this year’s Newbery winner, “When You Trap a Tiger” by Tae Keller.
For many people, middle school is a time of change. Friendships and relationships can begin and end, and many young teens are exploring their identity and the world around them. Fittingly, many books for middle schoolers reflect and explore these changes. However, escapism provides comfort during times of change, and there are still the classic genre standbys of survival, fantasy, and science fiction. Here are some of the major genres and themes that you can find in the middle school collection, alongside a recent book on each topic.
Friendships: “Turning Point,” by Paula Chase, revolves around the friendship of Mo and Sheeda as they spend a summer apart. Mo tries to fit in as a Black girl at a mostly-white ballet program, and Sheeda worries about being forgotten by Mo while also spending time at her aunt’s church and with Mo’s brother.
First romance: Ami Polonsky’s “Spin with Me” looks at the budding romance between Ollie, a nonbinary tween who’s struggling to find an identity outside of their queer activism, and Essie, a girl who’s in town for one semester with her visiting-professor father.
Exploring new hobbies: In “The Chance to Fly,” a local summer production of “Wicked” is the perfect opportunity for Nat, a thirteen-year-old wheelchair user, to finally get cast in a musical. “The Chance to Fly” is clearly written by people who know and love musicals: Ali Stroker was the first wheelchair user to appear on Broadway, and Stacy Davidowitz is a playwright.
Puberty and body image: In “Taking up Space,” by Alyson Gerber, Sarah finds that her changing body keeps slowing her down on the basketball court. Her solution inadvertently gives her an eating disorder, and the book follows her through intervention and treatment.
Racism: “Finding Junie Kim,” by Ellen Oh, focuses on Junie as she and her friends deal with anti-Black, -Jewish, and -Asian graffiti at their school. While working on an oral history project for school, Junie also learns about her grandparents’ childhood experiences during the Korean War.
Survival: Rebecca Behrens’s “Alone in the Woods” combines a classic survival tale with a friendship story, as ex-best friends Alex and Joss get lost in the woods and fight to survive while working through why their friendship ended.
Fantasy: The middle school collection has many mythology-inspired series from the Rick Riordan Presents line, including “City of the Plague God” by Sarwat Chadda. When a Mesopotamian plague god mistakenly believes that he has the secret to immortality, Sik and his friends must team up to save New York City.
Science fiction: Kwame Mbalia collaborated with Prince Joel Makonnen to write “Last Gate of the Emperor,” an Afrofuturist book set in the city Addis Prime after the fall of the Axum Empire to the evil Werari. When he reveals his real name while logging into a game, Yalen ends up on the run with his bionic lioness, Besa, and his former rival, the Ibis, looking for his missing Uncle Moti.
There are too many wonderful books in the middle school collection to mention them all, so do yourself a favor and go take a look. We’ve rearranged the entire young adult area as part of this change, so go ahead and familiarize yourself with the new shelving arrangements, too. I’m sure you’ll find some excellent books (middle school or otherwise) that you can read as you work toward your summer reading goal.