Home About Contact Login
Reading to Learn Learning for Life

Battle of the Books offers books for middle schoolers

Original article at The Statesman Journal

It is Oregon Battle of the Books season again. This excellent program encourages reading by offering teams of students a chance to read, study books, and answer challenging trivia questions about those books. It starts at the school level and leads all the way to an exciting state tournament in the spring. Interested students should ask about it at their school library. Whether they join a team or not, OBOB lists offer a superior selection of books to consider reading. Here are some highlights from the 2014-2015 middle school list.

'Endangered' by Eliot Schrefer

What it's about: During a summer visit to her mother's bonobo sanctuary in the Congo, 14-year-old Sophie goes on the run when civil war breaks out and the sanctuary is brutally attacked. Her only companion is Otto, a young ape whom she has grown to love. Together, they fight for survival in the jungle.

What we think: This nail-biting survival story sheds light on multiple important issues—animal poaching, civil unrest, and resiliency.

The Lions of Little Rock(Photo: Submitted photo)

'The Lions of Little Rock' by Kristin Levine

What it's about: In the year following the initial integration of high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, racial tensions are at the boiling point. Quiet, awkward 12-year-old Marlee finds a friend and a bit of courage in bold new classmate Liz. When Liz disappears abruptly and everyone learns she was a Negro passing as white, Marlee has to decide what race and friendship really mean to her.

What we think: This is an important piece of history experienced through the eyes of children who bring more sense, humanity, and understanding to the situation than the adults around them.

'Poison' by Bridget Zinn

What it's about: Kyra is a Master Potioner and a deadly assassin who has only missed once. Unfortunately, that was when she attempted to assassinate her best friend, the future queen of Mohr. Now, the entire King's Guard is after her and it's going to be hard for her to find the opening she needs to explain how her actions were all for the greater good.

What we think: Kyra's story is witty, fun, and thoroughly entertaining, with twists and surprises enough to keep a reader guessing to the final pages.

'Freak the Mighty' by Rodman Philbrick

What it's about: Brilliant, tiny Kevin ("Freak") and oversized, misunderstood Maxwell ("The Mighty") develop a beautiful friendship and team up to become an amazing human force that can stand up to evildoers of many descriptions, improve one another, and take on epic quests.

What we think: Far from a new story, this 1993 release stands the test of time. The hardest of hearts could not fail to be moved and amused by this unusual pair.

Did you know?

The 2014-2015 list also includes: Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac; The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen; Into the Wild by Erin Hunter; Legend by Marie Lu; The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan; One for the Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt; The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan; Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai; True Legend by Mike Lupica; Ungifted by Gordon Korman; and Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

Sonja Somerville is the Teen Librarian at Salem Public Library. Reach her at (503) 588-6083 or ssomerville@cityofsalem.net. Sonja also blogs about her favorite young adult book selections at www.myssr.wordpress.com.