BtB’s Top 10 Books for Middle Schoolers!

Recently, we’ve been featuring books for high schoolers by authors we love. Today, we made the picks! Here are BtB’s top 10 books for middle schoolers, as recommended by our outstanding staff:

Before We Were FreeBefore We Were Free by Julia Alvarez:
Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her 12th birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition of el Trujillo’s dictatorship. Using the strength and courage of her family, Anita must overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind. From renowned author Julia Alvarez comes an unforgettable story about adolescence, perseverance, and one girl’s struggle to be free. — Amazon

WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio:
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out. —Amazon

Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Peña:Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña:
Danny’s tall and skinny. Even though he’s not built, his arms are long enough to give his pitch a power so fierce any college scout would sign him on the spot. Ninety-five mile per hour fastball, but the boy’s not even on a team. Every time he gets up on the mound he loses it. But at his private school they don’t expect much from him. Danny’s half Mexican. And growing up in San Diego means everyone else knows exactly who he is before they find out he can’t speak Spanish, and before they realize his mom has blond hair and blue eyes. And that’s why he’s spending the summer with his dad’s family. To find himself, he might just have to face the demons he refuses to see right in front of his face. —Amazon

I and I: Bob Marley by Tony Medina:I and I: Bob Marley by Tony Medina:
This lyrical picture-book biography of the reggae icon tells his story in verse, from humble beginnings in a small Jamaican village to his glory days as an influential musician. Told in first person, 17 poems chronologically plot Marley’s life path-combined, the poems (and vibrant acrylics) paint a vivid picture of the poverty and turmoil but also the love, faith and island beauty from which Marley arose. Watson’s (the illustrator) majestic art powerfully evokes the people and places that had the strongest influence on Marley, as well as the power he himself would wield. – Reed Business Information

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes:Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes:
Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm. Ninth Ward is a deeply emotional story about transformation and a celebration of resilience, friendship, and family–as only love can define it. —Amazon

Chess Rumble by Greg NeriChess Rumble by Greg Neri:
“In my ‘hood, battles is fought every day,” quips Marcus, an angry middle schooler on the brink of big trouble. His words, rife with frustration, tumble across page after page in free-flowing verse as he paints a picture of his quickly fading innocence. In the short time since his sister’s death, memories of eating ice cream and giggling have been replaced by the bleak reality of a persistent bully, fist fights, and an absent dad. After begrudgingly meeting CM, Chess Master, the school’s `bad dude’ chess club adviser, an extended `battle’ metaphor unfolds, concluding as Marcus takes responsibility for his own actions and moves his fighting off the street and onto the chessboard . . . –-School Library Journal

Cut by Patricia McCormickCut by Patricia McCormick:
Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside. Now she’s at Sea Pines, a “residential treatment facility” filled with girls struggling with problems of their own. Callie doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with anyone. She won’t even speak. But Callie can only stay silent for so long…. —Amazon

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon DraperThe Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper:
When an elite club, The Warriors of Distinction, invites Jericho and his cousin Josh to pledge, the teens look forward to wearing the black silk jacket, going to great parties, and receiving the admiring glances of the other students at their Ohio high school. The initiation process begins rather tamely with the new pledges helping with the Christmas toy drive, but as it progresses, Jericho becomes increasingly uncomfortable with what they are asked to do and the way they treat Dana, the first-ever female pledge. The characters are deeply human and the strong plot mirrors the difficult choices that young people must make as they try to reconcile their need for acceptance with their inner values. Mostly, though, this title is a compelling read that drives home important lessons about making choices. — Reed Business Information

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams GarciaOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia:
Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, One Crazy Summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 in search of the mother who abandoned them. It’s an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia. –Amazon

Ship of Souls by Zetta ElliottShip of Souls by Zetta Elliott:
When Dmitri, an 11-year-old bird watcher and math whiz, loses his mother to breast cancer, he is taken in by Mrs. Martin, an elderly white woman. Unaccustomed to the company of kids his own age, D struggles at school and feels like an outcast until a series of unexpected events changes the course of his life. An urban fantasy infused with contemporary issues and historical facts, Ship of Souls will keep teen readers gripped until the very end. —Amazon


Ninth Ward Flash Fiction Day 3 of 3!

The final installment of Class 701’s flash fiction pieces on Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes is finally here!

We would like to thank all the student authors, who really put their hearts and minds into their writing, and Jewell, whose work was the inspiration for these pieces.  If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, please check out the previous two installments on Wednesday and Thursday, where you’ll find more pieces.

As always, we encourage you to comment and give great feedback to these student writers. Thanks for reading!

Jewell Parker Rhodes holds up her book Ninth Ward

The Big Moment

By Ashante

The sun was so hot; dogs can be turned into hot dogs!

I was waiting at the Ninth Ward dog park for Tashon. It seemed like I was waiting for the next generation to come! “Where is this boy? I called him millions of times” I wondered to myself. “I need to tell him something really important” I thought.

I had my dog Spirit, to keep me company.”Bark, bark” said Spirit. “What is it girl” I asked growing curious. All of a sudden, I heard loud footsteps in the bushes. I looked up and saw a man clad in a big fur vest with a black suit. He also had a red and brownish hat.

“This can’t be serious” I said hysterically.

“Well it is” said Tashon. “Is that you?” I asked feeling his coat.

“Yeah, why?” Tashon inquired.

“Just asking” I mumbled, looking annoyed. “I know I’ve been not waiting for this get-up” I thought to myself.

“What’s with all this?” I pried.

“Why, you don’t like it?” Tashon asserted while posing.

“Uh…. No” I declared rolling my eyes.

“I did this for you” Tashon added, sitting on the bench next to me.

“Why, I like you the way you were” I remarked.

“Oh, I didn’t know” Tashon said.

“I wanted to tell you at the right   time” I said, getting closer to Tashon. “I always wanted to say that I love you” I confessed.

“I too,” said Tashon, getting closer to me.

I leaned to him, and he leaned to me…. You should know what happen by now……


By Amanda

  It’s the beginning of the school year and Lanesha  was starting her first year of high school . Lanesha had high hopes and wanted to focus on her work so she can get into a good college. But something was getting in her way, her boyfriend Tashon . Tashon’s parents took Lanesha in after Hurricane Katrina . Tashon had a lot of love for Lanesha but he didn’t know how to show it. One day Tashon was trying to get Lanesha’s attention and said “ ayee yooo girl I’m talking to you !”

Lanesha’s response was  “I know you not talking to me like that”

he said “well you the only girl in here RIGHT !?!’’

Lanesha said “you know what I am sick and tired of you. We’re done !!” Lanesha stormed out the room and that was the last time Tashon saw or heard from Lanesha.

He Finally Answered

By Dynalee

It was one day when Lanesha and TaShon were at the cemetery for Mama Ya-Ya’s funeral anniversary. TaShon saw Lanesha holding some other man’s hand and he got jealous. He couldn’t stand seeing someone else with the woman he loved. He walked away from the cemetery. As he did that, Lanesha realized who he was. “Is that really TaShon?” she said silently to herself. Lanesha was shocked when she saw him. But she thought he didn’t feel the same way about her all these years. She dropped her boyfriend’s hand and went over to him. She really didn’t know what to say to him.

“TaShon?” He turned around slowly.

“Yes.” He said.

She replied, “Where are you going?” He didn’t say anything.

“Don’t leave, you should stay so we can catch up. How have you been?” she said while she put her hand gently on his shoulder.

He finally answered.“Umm…….there’s something I need to tell you but I don’t know how to tell you.”

Lanesha wondered what is. So she said, “Just tell me.” He didn’t answer. “Stop acting like that and just tell me,” she said. He started to get frustrated because he didn’t know how to tell her.

So he screamed, “I don’t know how to tell you!!!”

She responded, “whatever, now I don’t even care anymore.”

He didn’t say anything to her. He just left and went home upset. He couldn’t tell the love of his life that he truly loved her!!!

The Day I Was Gone

By Dawn

It was so cold that I could hug a warm bear.  It was a cold, windy day, the leaves were blowing off the trees. People were walking so fast, because it was about to rain. I was trying to call Tashon, but he never picked up.

A student shares his piece with the class

Tashon finally picks up. “why you didnt pick the phone?”

“well I doing something, it was more important than our date”.

“so what more than important than this day?”

He said “well I dont know”

Walking down the block I see Gina. “hey how it going ?”

I said “nothing, well I’m trying to get Tashon to confess.”

“About what?” Gina said.

“I asked him about our date, why he didn’t come, he didn’t say anything.” I started to walk away from Gina, started to wonder, why ‘I don’t know’, the question running through my head, TaShon don’t like me.”

Maybe it’s time for me to go and just leave it alone.

Games Are Good to Meet People

By Daniel

I got my new game Black Ops II for X-box 360 from Gamestop. I put the disc in the tray. I went on zombie mode and I went on a team with three other players. Their names were Tashon2real,Wolf fang 0,and Devil odxo. I had a headset to talk to everybody, everyone had a headset too.

I said ”let’s kill some zombies”

Tashon2real said ”you sound like a girl I knew in New Orleans ”

”I did too” I said

”let’s just start” said Wolf fang 0.

Devil odxo said ”zombies.” I threw a grenade at the zombies. I killed 3 zombies.

I said ”my name is Lanesha, is yours Tashon?”

”yes” said Tashon2real.

”Are you from the Ninth Ward?”

”Yes” said Tashon2real.

”Are you the Tashon from Hurricane Katrina that knew Mama Ya-Ya?”

” I am, are you Lanesha that can see spirts?”

”Yeah, you want to meet up somewhere?” ”I live in New York, Manhattan” said Tashon2real.

”I live in da Bronx”.

”do you want to meet in the Empire State Building on November 23?” said Tashon2real ‘

‘that is in two more days!”

”Yo watch it zombies behind you!” said Devil odxo.Wolf fang 0 and Devil odxo jumped over me and Tashon2real and killed 6 zombies.

” I’m getting eaten alive!”

“Me too!” Tashon2real said. Wolf fang 0 jumped to the mystery box, turned around and died.

“Devil odxo you can do it?” Devil odxo ran to the mystery box, got the thunder gun and shot most of the zombies, his gun ran out of ammo.

“There are more zombies behind you!” said Wolf fang 0. Devil odxo turned around and knifed a zombie seven times and died from the other zombies.

The Wrong Turn

By Jade

Like toddlers hating naps, TaShon was hating Lanesha for what she did. In TaShon’s mind it was Lanesha who was the one to let Mama Ya-Ya die.

“I really hope Lanesha doesn’t come. It’s because of her that Mama Ya-Ya is dead.”I thought to myself. As soon as she walked into the room I automatically went off on her.

“Why would you let Mama Ya-Ya die?”I screamed, everyone is looking at us now.

“You know that if I could save her I would.” explains Lanesha.

“Shut up! I don’t want to hear any more excuses, our friendship is over, and it is now a figment of my imagination.”

I left the reunion without a friend but as Mama Ya-Ya said “I still hold my tight grasp on life.”

A student holds up her signed copy of Ninth Ward. Jewell included a personalized message in each book.

Ninth Ward Flash Fiction Day 2 of 3

It’s time for the second installment of the student flash fiction pieces that explore what happens to Lanesha and TaShon ten years after the end of Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes.  Be sure to check out yesterday’s post too if you missed it.

Have fun reading, and don’t forget to comment!

A Class display about The Ninth Ward

Meeting Lanesha

By Ashton

I was walking around the neighborhood, trying to get to know the community. I just moved to a community called “Crystal Palms”, several counties away from the Ninth Ward. This place reminds me about my house in Ninth Ward, yet it could never be the same.

I walked to house 206 and knock the door. Tock! Tock! Tock! But no one responds. Tock! Tock! Tock! I knock again. I check if anybody is inside. The other neighbors said that she should be home around this time. I see that the lights were on, the television loud, with the weather channel on. I don’t want to remember Hurricane Katrina, but the weatherman said that there’s going to be a storm tomorrow. Tock! Tock! Tock! I knock for the last time. I heard a familiar voice say “GO AWAY!”

I said “Can you at least introduce yourself? You see, I just moved in, and I just wanted to get to know some of the neighbors.” She opened the door slightly and angrily said “GET OUT!” I only got a glimpse of her and she looked familiar. Then it hit me. It was Lanesha! I remember when we got separated at the bridge during Hurricane Katrina. It’s been eons since I last saw her and so I asked “Are you Lanesha?” She had a surprised look and asked me, “Who are you?”

I replied confidently, “I’m TaShon. Does that ring any bells?”

She yelled, “Get the heck out of my lawn!”

“Hey, we haven’t met in like a decade! Why are you so pissed off?” I ask.

Lanesha’s mind: Why is TaShon here out of all people? He never called, wrote or even E-mail me! He thinks he can just barge in and we can live happily ever after? He’s the one who killed Mama Ya-Ya!

The Last Goodbye

By Jennifer

When I saw TaShon again I knew it wasn’t going to be good. While we were talking he told me, “Why didn’t you get in contact with me all this time?”

I said to him “I didn’t know how to!”

The room was loud all you could here was both of us screaming. I said to him “why didn’t you come with me when I told you I was leaving the country?”

TaShon just stood quiet for a minute. He said “I was going to study here!” In his eyes you could see that he was still hurt! He raised his voice and said “why did you leave?”

I yelled “I had to leave, I had no future here I felt like I had to go reach to the very end of the world  to become an Engineer I always wanted to be, and I succeed what I wanted. That’s why I left.”

TaShon said “Really? I stayed here and I’m a good Veterinarian and I didn’t have to leave New Orleans’s.”

I couldn’t be here anymore so I picked up my dog Ginia and said “Bye, TaShon. I was trying to fix everything, but I guess not!”

He just stared at me. I went out and off again I go!

Time Changes Everything

By Mithila

           Last night it was raining cats and dogs and now the sun is shining brightly. The weather was giving me mixed signals foreshadowing Hurricane Katrina. I was on my way to Times Square, where the new skyscraper will be built. I rushed out of the car and suddenly I see someone. He looks very familiar. “Can it be?”  It’s Tashon! I run up to him ignoring what others may think. Its New York, not like anyone cares.

“Tashon. Tashon.”

“Do I know you?” The moment he said that my face was filled with disappointment.

“You forgot me?”

“Umm… Lanesha?”

“ Yes it’s me. It’s been so long since the last time I saw you.” I couldn’t hold my excitement, although the moment was a little awkward. “How are you? How’s Spot and where is he?”I ask.

“I’m fine but….” He paused for a minute looking guilty.

A student sharing his piece with the class

“But what?”

“I gave him away,” he replied

“what?! Why would you do something like that? He was your best friend.”I yelled.

“After the hurricane we couldn’t afford to take care of a dog so we gave him away. The hurricane destroyed everything and our financial status is really low.” he said as tears come down his eyes.

“This was supposed to be a happy moment;” I think

“I came here looking for a job. It’s not that easy.”

“Well I can help you. Maybe there’s a job available in my company.” I offered

“No I don’t need anyone’s help” Tashon said.

“But … you.” I stutter. He turned away and stormed off.

As time changes, it changes the person with it. The devastating hurricane did change everything.

Modern Warfare 4

By Mehrab

I went in my house and it was as cold as winter. I turned on my PlayStation 3 and started playing Modern Warfare 4 Online Survival. I put my headset on and got my mic and started talking with random players. Suddenly, I heard someone talking and it sounded familiar.

“Lanesha?” I questioned.

“Who are you, and how do you know my name?” the voice said.

“I’m Tashon” I answered. “Tashon?” she questioned.

“Where have you been? I haven’t seen you for a long time!”

“I’ve been very busy” I said.

“Why haven’t you tried to visit me or contact me? I’ve been going through a rough time” she somberly commented.

“I didn’t have time to visit you” I answered back.

“You could have at least called me.” She exclaimed. It went silent for a while, then Lanesha left the game. I was very disappointed in myself. I wondered if she would ever speak to me again.

Forever Lonely

By Kasheda

I was taking my daily walk eating ice-cream. It is very hot here in South Carolina. It is like the ice never made it to the freezer. All of a sudden, I see my good ole’ friend… TaShon! I saw him like a week ago. In my head I’m thinking ‘’Who’s that pregnant woman and that child with him? Maybe I should ask him…’’

“Hi Lanesha!’’

I then say “Hi”

“Have you met my wife Katie and my daughter Sasha? Also the baby on the way, Lorenzo.’’ In my head I was disappointed but I didn’t want to show it. So I just said, ‘’Oh nice to meet you!’’

Katie says ‘’Hi! TaShon has been talking a lot about you lately. It is day and night all the time Lanesha this and I remember when Lanesha and I… but I am glad I finally got to meet the world famous Lanesha!’’

I say ‘’Oh, he does. Nice. I am glad to meet you too!’’ In my head I’m excited because he really talks about me!

Then TaShon says ‘’Well Katie, take Sasha to play on the slide.’’

‘’Okay Sasha let’s go.’’

In my head I’m saying ‘’OMG I cannot believe that my crush is alone with me!’’

Then TaShon says ‘’So. What’s up?’’