The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.
Our first journey takes us to Jane Addams Middle School in Seattle, Washington, where Lisa talks with librarian Laurie Amster-Burton.
Lisa: What are three to five things Bookology readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?
Laurie: Jane Addams Middle School is a new middle school in an old-ish (1949) building. We serve all kinds of students in grades six-eight, including programs for English language learners, highly capable, and autism inclusion. Our staff is energetic and our students are lively. The library opened this year with 10,600 brand-new books.
Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often?
Laurie: Graphic novels or comics are 11 of the top 20 books checked out, and Raina Telgemeier is the reigning queen. Her books Sisters, Drama, and Smile are in constant circulation. Popular series include the Menagerie books by Tui T. Sutherland, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, and the Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renée Russell.
You can see that those titles skew toward the sixth grade readers. The books most popular with older students include The Living by Matt de la Pena, the Maze Runner series by James Dashner, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.
Lisa: What books do you personally love to place into students’ hands?
Laurie: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Good Enough by Paula Yoo. Impossible by Nancy Werlin. Zach’s Lie by Roland Smith (witness protection!). Girl, Stolen by April Henry (kidnapping!). Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez. Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker is amazing nonfiction that I love to booktalk.
Our library has the new editions of Lois Duncan, and when I get them into kids’ hands they always come back for more.
Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?
Laurie: Be calm. Be patient. Show the kids that you care.
Lisa: What do you like most about working with middle-schoolers?
Laurie: They are so funny and earnest and thrive with a little kindness.