Recommendations from Button Smith, Library Media Specialist at Pizitz Middle School

During the school year, I try to read as many books geared toward sixth to eighth-grade students as possible so that I can make thoughtful recommendations to my students when they ask. It is often difficult to get students to read in their spare time or for pleasure when they have school work and extracurricular activities that occupy their time, so I try to encourage them to find something they are interested in and to explore that. My hope is for them find books that they love like I did at their age.


By Harlan Coben | Thriller

This is Coben’s first book in this middle school trilogy. Mickey Bolitar is sent to live with his uncle after his father’s death, and his mother is sent to a rehabilitation facility. Mickey meets Ashley, who he really likes, but then she disappears. With the help of some unusual friends, he sets out to discover where Ashley is, and in the process, he is accosted by a neighbor he nicknames “Bat Lady” who declares that his father is not dead after all. Adults will recognize Harlan Coben as the author of the Myron Bolitar mystery series.

I Kill The Mockingbird

By Paul Acampora | Contemporary

When their favorite eighth-grade English teacher dies, Lucy, Eleana and Michael decide that a fitting tribute to him would be to attempt to get everyone in the town to read his favorite book, To Kill A Mockingbird. To do this, they decide that they will make the book desirable to read by making it scarce. They set out to accomplish this by visiting every bookstore and library in the area and hiding or misplacing all the copies of the book and posting fliers and leaflets that say “I Kill The Mockingbird.” It’s a great tribute to middle school life, books and friendship.

All We Have Left

By Wendy Mills | Historical Romance 

Two 16-year-old girls’ stories are interwoven in this historical fiction book about the terrorist attacks on 9/11. In the present day, Jesse tries to cope with the aftermath of her older brother’s death in one of the towers of the World Trade Center when he wasn’t supposed to be there that day. While Alia, a Muslim girl in 2001, gets trapped in the towers and meets a young man who changes everything for her. This book is wonderfully written as it flashes back and forth between present day and 2001, and you can feel the emotions grip you from the pages.

Terror at Bottle Creek

By Watt Key | Adventure

Alabama author Watt Key introduces the intricacies and the dangers of the Tensaw Delta in this gripping novel. Thirteen-year-old Cort is used to traversing the Tensaw Delta with his river guide father, particularly since his mother left months ago. When a Category 3 hurricane quickly blows into the area, Cort finds himself with his classmate Liza and her younger sister out on the swamp, and together they have to figure out how to battle snakes, alligators and wild hogs to get to out of the water to higher ground in order to survive the storm.


By R.J. Palacio | Fiction

I was introduced to this book several years ago when our sixth-grade students read it. Auggie Pullman is a young man who was born with facial deformities and was not expected to survive. Having been homeschooled for most of his life, he convinces his parents to let him attend a private school in Manhattan when he starts fifth grade. The story is one of a boy struggling to be “just like everyone else,” but also addresses the adjustment and acceptance his peers go through as he is introduced into their midst of kids who have  known each other most of their lives.