Does your 10-year-old boy or girl in fifth grade need a good book? Find good middle grade books for 5th graders with my recommendations and reviews, plus topic and genre tags to help you easily pick your 5th grader’s next favorite book.
Middle Grade Books for 5th Graders
When I was a child and even when I started teaching elementary school 30 years ago, we called any book with chapters a chapter book. In recent years, that term has changed to ONLY apply to beginning chapter books for kids in grades 1 to 3.
For children who are in grades 4 – 7, and ages 9 – 12, we use the term middle grade when talking about the fiction and nonfiction books written for this age group. (Tweens.)
What are the best books for 5th graders?
The best books for 5th graders are whatever books appeal to them!
Reading builds reading skills (in most cases) so we want to encourage reading any kind of material that interests them, whether it’s nonfiction, fiction, a graphic novel, or an audiobook! (Yes, audiobooks count as reading, and so do graphic novels.)
This book list shares great books that meet the following criteria:
- interesting storyline
- memorable, complex characters with an arc
- emotional resonance (funny, sad, heartfelt, and so forth)
- appealing and relatable to a middle grade reader (mirrors into a reader’s life)
- addresses topics and issues facing the 5th grader, such as divorce, friendship, learning differences, anxiety, caring for animals, and other themes
- opens a window or door into the lives of someone else — generally in the genres of historical fiction or realistic fiction
Each child is unique and will progress differently in their reading abilities. Use the book list and reviews as starting point for finding their next right book.
What if I need easier books?
What if I need harder books?
What’s a good book series for 5th graders?
Looking for 5th grade middle-grade book in a series? Visit my recommendations for book series for 5th graders. There are many good books in a series that get young readers hooked on a good book.
What read alouds books are good for 5th graders?
Find 33 favorite read aloud books for 5th graders here.
I like books with discussion-worthy topics, cozy themes, and rich language. While I think it’s great to read any book aloud, not all books are created equal when it comes to the vocabulary, pacing, plot structure, and predictability.
For example, I read aloud both Harry Potter and Percy Jackson to my daughters. They both were great books to read but I noticed a huge difference in the language the two writers used. Rowling’s language was more complex with rich vocabulary words. For me, that made the reading-aloud experience more enriching to my children’s language learning that Rick Riordan’s books. However, both books engaged my kids and it was only a personal preference. We loved both book series.
In addition, read aloud time can be a wonderful way to introduce your readers to new books. Look for different genres than the child would normally pick for themselves. What historical fiction books for 5th graders could you try? What mystery books for 5th graders would interest them? How about fantasy or adventure books?
Probably the only format of book I don’t recommend reading aloud is a graphic novel. For me, it’s too tricky unless you have a reader on your lap and you can point to the pictures. Your 10-year-olds aren’t going to want to sit in your lap — nor will they fit. Maybe it would work if you read side by side? Let me know if you’ve done this successfully!
What about book club books?
I have a list of book club recommendations for 5th grade here but you can really choose any book from the list below.
Summer Reading Recommendations
Have you seen my 5th-grade summer reading list? It will give teachers, parents, librarians, and grandparents good book ideas for their soon-to-be 5th graders.
What are good nonfiction books for 5th graders?
How about a list of excellent NONFICTION books for 10-year-olds? It’s important to include nonfiction books for 5th graders — kids need a diet of fiction and nonfiction! They must learn how to read informational texts to be successful in the higher grade levels.
100 Best Books for 5th Graders (10-Year-Olds)
Download a free pdf book list of the top books for 5th graders:
Best Middle Grade Books for 10-Year-Olds (5th Graders)
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
On her 12th birthday, Zoe, a girl who loves to bake, discovers a letter to her from her incarcerated biological father, Marcus. She decides to write him back, even daring to ask him about the murder he’s in jail for — did he really do it? Marcus writes to Zoe that he’s innocent and he can prove it, which sets Zoe on a quest to find out the truth for herself, even if her mom and stepdad forbid it. She enlists the help of her Grandma and her best friend, Trevor. You won’t be able to put down this winsome story with a heroine you can’t help but adore; a story that illuminates social justice with themes of family, friendship, and love.
City Spies by James Ponti
When Sara, a foster kid and hacker, gets in trouble again, her new so-called lawyer recruits her to be an MI6 spy. Sara joins a team of other kids, trains quickly, and is immediately sent undercover to break open a big case in Paris. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I predict you’ll love every second of this action-packed story! It’s filled with great characters and an interesting twisty plot. You won’t be able to put this series down.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few of the reasons you’ll love this book. On top of that, you’ll find an exciting action-packed, suspenseful story about Amari whose brother vanishes mysteriously. He sends her a message that she’s a magician and should attend a special school. There, she discovers she’s a magician with outlawed dark magic but she’s determined to stay in the school and find her brother.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
This middle grade graphic novel is the Newbery award winning book for 2020! Jordan’s parents make him go to a private school across town where he’s one of the only kids of color. Besides having the tricky business of navigating friendships, he now must deal with the two separate worlds of his neighborhood and his school along with racism and balancing academics with his artwork. This story feels truthful, relatable, and important for 5th graders.
Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
Snow and Rose are two sisters who with their mother live in the woods after their father disappeared in those same woods. The girls befriend both a young boy from a mushrooming family and a large bear. But danger arrives with the Huntsman and a sinister Little Man who seeks to enchant them or kill them. Surprisingly, this is a MARVELOUS Grimm story with a happy ending!
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
An absolutely wonderful, heartwarming historical fiction story with close-knit siblings who stick together and eventually find a forever home. Evacuated from London during WWII these siblings need to find a new home. Unfortunately, their placements are horrid. It’s only the library and the kind librarian who help them survive the bullying and hunger. Unfortunately, the librarian is deemed “unsuitable” to be their foster mother since her missing husband is German. When things go from bad to worse in their latest home, can the children fight for a home with the librarian no matter what the town thinks?
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
One of the best, life-changing middle grade books you’ll ever read. Narrated by Melody, we learn what it’s like for her, a girl who with cerebral palsy who can’t speak or take care of herself. No one except her parents thinks that she’s smart. Then one day, she gets a chance to prove how smart she is. Heartbreaking. Real. Inspiring. Beautifully written.
Haru Zombie Dog Hero by Ellen Oh
Edge-of-your-seat writing and action, a dog and boy (and family) bond grounds this paranormal adventure in love even though it’s also about evil scientists and zombies! Luke loves his dog, Haru, more than anything. So he’s devastated when their family’s mean landlord gets Haru taken away by the pound. But instead of going to the pound, Haru is sent to a sinister laboratory where scientists experiment on dogs. (This part is hard to read for us animal lovers — but hang in there, Haru will be okay.) Instead of dying like the other dogs, Haru wakes up changed. Violent. A stray cat named Penelope reminds Haru of his people, which helps his impulses. Then, the other more violent zombie dogs escape the lab — and Haru knows he must protect his people no matter what!
My Not-So-Great French Escape by Cliff Burke
Rylan hopes that traveling to work on a farm in France with his former best friend will repair their friendship. But once there, Rylan is separated from his arrogant friend which helps him be open to befriending other international kids, milking a goat named Bijou, growing a garden from scratch, and discovering the truth about his father, who’d abandoned him years before. The growth that Rylan experiences is incredible; readers will be cheering him on as he forges his path, experiencing hard-earned, painful truths about his former friend and his dad and finding wonderful new lessons about what he values.
Finally Seen by Kelly Yang
This middle-grade novel explores the importance of books as mirrors and doors, the challenges of immigration, the realities of racism, and book banning. Lina’s lived with her Lao Lao for the last five years but she moves to join her dad, mom, and little sister in LA, leaving her beloved Lao Lao behind in a nursing home. But, it’s not what she expected and she’s embarrassed when she struggles with English words and surprised at her family’s financial struggles. Even still, Lina’s bright spots are a kind ESL teacher, the graphic novels she reads and writes, and her new friends, Finn and Carla.
Misfit Mansion by Kay Davault July
MISFIT MANSION is a heartwarming story about what it means to Be family, even if you’re not related by blood. The “horrors” who live at the titular mansion have been told that its’ too dangerous to venture outside into the human world. But a young creature named Iris wants to give humans another chance. If you’re looking for a book about found family, learning from prejudice, and friendship, a cannot recommend MISFIT MANSION enough.
First Cat in Space by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris
SCIENCE FICTION / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Absurdly hysterical, this is a bizarrely perfect adventure in space with a cat and a toenail-clipping robot who journey to the moon to stop the rats from eating it all. Silly adventures ensue –like befriending a whale, becoming pirates, and answering a sphynx’s riddle. Then, the spaceship’s computer joins the Rat King’s side with revenge in mind and when the heroes arrive at the Rat King’s they GET CAPTURED. But, don’t worry — somehow, they’ll escape. Right?
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Wonderfully crafted and imagined, this 2017 Newbery winner is a fairy tale about a good witch who rescues the town’s many abandoned (sacrificed) babies, one of whom she adopts and names Luna. It’s also the story of the baby’s magical, bereaved mother, a wicked witch who feeds off sorrow, a woodcarver who wants justice, and most of all, a girl named Luna who grows up to be amazing.
Dust by Dusti Bowling
REALISTIC / FOOD ALLERGIES
Avalyn, a spelling bee fanatic, lives in dry Arizona, which is supposed to be better for her asthma–until Adam moves to town, bringing pain and throat-clogging, asthma-attack-inducing dust storms. She wonders if her superpower is sensing energy– like Adam’s negative energy. As she investigates and observes Adam, she and her friends continue to be relentlessly bullied at school. She also struggles with the challenges that come with food and environmental allergies. This story deftly addresses abuse, bullying, asthma, and allergies. The author’s note in the back gives readers advice on what to do if they suspect abuse.
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park
Rafe’s goal in middle school is to break every single rule. You can imagine how his plan will go, right? A funny middle grade book filled with cartoon-like illustrations, this story will crack you up. BOX SET HERE.
Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
This is National Geographic’s first fictional book series with full-color illustrations that hits the spot with an exciting mix of science, technology, adventure, and mystery. Newly accepted into the prestigious Explorer Academy for science and exploration, Cruz realizes that someone is trying to kill him; someone who doesn’t want him finding out about his mother’s mysterious research and untimely death. You’ll love the cool tech, amazing friendships, plot twists, and the intriguing premise.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
REALISTIC GRAHPIC NOVEL (series)
My daughter found this book SO RELATABLE — just like she struggles with confidence and speaking up, so does the main character, Peppi. This well-done graphic novel tackles the issues of friendships and confidence, among other things. (So glad I’m not in middle school anymore.) We highly recommend this graphic novel.
Refugee by Alan Gratz
This book is a tween must-read middle grade book about what refugees experience. Follow three distinct stories about being displaced from your country, on the run, and in danger. First is a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany on a ship to Cuba. Next is a Cuban girl in the 1990s who flees in a homemade raft to the United States. Finally, is a story about a Syrian boy whose home is bombed in a country at war. Gatz skillfully connects all three stories with a satisfying, realistic conclusion.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
MIDDLE GRADE FANTASY
Bod lives in the graveyard with an assortment of ghosts and other cemetery creatures who raise him after Bod’s parents are killed when Bod was a baby. Bod’s guardian Silas cares for him, feeds him, and teaches him about the human world. Despite the scary-sounding title, the scariest part is in the first chapter when Bod’s parents get murdered and I suspect most 5th graders can handle or skip over that part.
5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun
SCI-FI / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Gorgeous artwork sets the tone for an otherworldly story of five worlds that are falling into chaos. When one world attacks another, Oona Lee, a sand dancer, rescues two boys and they journey on a mission to light the unlit Beacons in order to save the worlds. But, they face a dark force and a devastating betrayal. A perfect science fiction adventure read for 5th graders.
The Adventurers Guild by Zach Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Get ready for your new favorite fantasy adventure series. Zed and Brock don’t want to be chosen for the Adventurers Guild. Nobody does. Unlike the mages or merchants guild, the adventurers must leave the safety of their walled city to fight the monsters who live on the outside. Unfortunately, Zed and Brock are picked as Adventurers. And before they can finish training, Zed, Brock, and others are sent outside the city on a fact-finding mission that uncovers treachery, fiendish beasts, and Zed’s untapped magic. Imaginative world-building, intriguing plot twists, and complex characters kept me enthralled from page one!
Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist
After Isaiah’s dad dies, his mother stops working and starts drinking too much. The family of three now lives in a smokey motel where Isaiah watches his 4-year-old sister when his mom is passed out. Isaiah finds strength and inspiration in his father’s journaled stories about Isaiah Dunn Superhero and eventually, he begins to write poems again in his own journal. With themes of grief, family, poverty, poetry, the power of writing, and friendship — this is a beautiful middle grade book.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
REALISTIC / IMMIGRATION
Mia and her parents have struggled ever since moving to America from China. When her parents take a new live-in job at a motel, they end up working around the clock for very little pay. Mia helps out by working at the front desk. She befriends the weekly tenants and uses her English skills to write letters advocating for other people in tough spots. This book is more than a memorable coming-of-age immigrant story, it’s also about tolerance and diversity. You’ll love this story— the writing, the characters, and the plot.
Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan
Action, intrigue, plot twists, and super-cool technology! Ana is the only surviving relative of Captain Nemo. When her school is attacked, she and her crew need to find the Nautilus and the school’s secret base while trying to evade their enemies. You won’t be able to put this book down– run out to get it as soon as possible — it’s a page-turning adventure that will appeal to all boys and girls.
Skyborn Sparrow Rising by Jessica Khoury
Ellie is an orphan Sparrow girl in a world of avian-human caste system who flees the orphanage so she can compete for a coveted spot in the knight training school. She travels with a group of thieves and their friendship and adventures open her eyes to who is actually honorable and heroic. She also discovers that the stolen gargol eye has powerful healing properties. A courageous main character and complicated companions, an interesting world, and lots of surprises adds up to a compelling read.
Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire, illustrated by David Litchfield
This is a beautiful story about family, community, and grief. After the death of her father, Cress and her family move from their cozy burrow into the Broken Arms oak tree ruled by a cranky Owl. There, Cress helps her mom collect moths to pay their rent, leaving her mom time to work and gather ingredients for her sickly brother’s tea. As Cress navigates her new environment, the natural world, and the stories around her, it helps her understand her inner world, especially how grief waxes and wanes like the moon’s cycles. This is one of the best books for 5th graders with its gentle storyline and lavish illustrations!
Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts by Erika Lewis
Fast-paced with an interesting premise, this Celtic mythology book is about a foster child attending a magical school while searching for answers about her mysterious heritage. Foster kid, Kelcie, has been living in the human world. When she arrives at the Academy, she discovers that she’s a Saiga, a mistrusted elemental whose legacy includes a dangerous traitor. She makes friends and learns about her unique powers. But why are monsters attacking the school looking for her?
Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, illustrated by Ann Xu
REALISTIC / COOKING
A beautiful story of food, a close-knit, multigenerational family, finding your place in a new culture and country, and staying proud of your heritage…Cici moves to the U.S. from Tawain and wants her A’má to come, too. She hopes to win the grand prize in a cooking contest and use the money to buy her A’má a plane ticket. Cici wants to cook American food like her cooking contest partner…She learns from Julia Child but in the end, Cici returns to her Tawainese roots to win the contest.
Edge of Extinction The Ark Plan by Laura Martin
Action from the first page in a dangerous world where cloned dinosaurs have taken over the world. Sky and her fellow humans live below ground in safety with Noah as their supreme ruler. Sky finds a secret note with cryptic instructions on how to find her dad and leaves the underground city in order to find him. Barely outside a day, she and her friend Shawn are attacked by hungry dinosaurs but are rescued by a boy who lives in a treetop enclave. Soon, Sky realizes that everything she believed to be true is wrong.
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson, illustrated by Chloe Bristol
Elizabeth, an orphan, is unexpectedly sent to a large, stately hotel with a kind, grandfatherly proprietor for Christmas vacation. There, she discovers a magical book, a sinister couple, a family mystery, and a new friend who loves puzzles as much as she does. The writing is mesmerizing, the mystery is fascinating, and the characters are enchanting.
Beneath the Swirling Sky (The Restorationists) written by Carolyn Leiloglou, illustrated by Vivienne To
Sent to his great-uncle’s house for the summer, Vincent learns his mom’s greatest secret when his little sister Lili wanders INTO a painting–and doesn’t come out! His cousin Georgia leads him through paintings, corridors, and museums to find Lili. At the same time, she explains their family’s talent –they travel into paintings to protect the art from other nefarious travelers. They track Lili to where she’s been kidnapped by a mysterious Lady. But they are captured, too. Forced to attend the Lady’s training, it becomes clear that the Lady is using stolen children and art to gain power and wealth. Even still, Vincent never expects the horrifying truth of who the Lady really is! Fast-paced and exciting with unique world-building, this art-filled, faith-implied, illustrated adventure will captivate readers from cover to cover.
The Shape of Time (Rymworld Arcana) by Ryan Calejo
SCI-FI / TIME TRAVEL
Our hero, Antares, is kidnapped and taken to a prison in another world. He meets two other prisoners who explain that his world is flat and surrounded by a world outside the edges called Rymworld. Rymworld is in peril from a group of mystics who seek to control time. Antares escapes prison with his friend, Magdavellía, but they’re almost immediately kidnapped AGAIN by space pirate aliens. Encountering one problem after another, the friends race to find the mysterious star artifact and, possibly, Antares’ missing parents. Detailed, creative world-building, this is a thrilling adventure that many kids will love.
Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter
A well-done middle-grade graphic novel about a child with allergies! Maggie is devastated that she’s allergic to the puppy she’s finally allowed to get. What’s more, her new fifth-grade class must get rid of their class pet because of Maggie’s allergies –which makes everyone mad at her. Then, her new friend gets a puppy which Maggie interprets this her new friend not wanting to be friends anymore. The story ends with Maggie helping with her new baby sister and feeling like she doesn’t need an animal pet anymore.
Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny
Charlie’s dad remarries and moves Charlie and his younger brother into their stepmother’s frightening purple mansion. Charlie begins to have horrible nightmares that blur between reality and dream. When the nightmare witches steal Charlie’s little brother, Charlie and his friends must venture into the nightmare world, face their fears, and hope they can save his little brother and the entire world before it’s too late.
The Unforgettable Logan Foster by Shawn Peters
Logan is a neurodivergent, orphan main character who is fostered out of the orphanage by a friendly new couple, Gil and Margie. Then, Logan and his neighbor, a super cool older girl named Elena, discover that his foster parents are actually superheroes who get double-crossed and captured by an evil villain. In an exciting, fast-paced adventure, Logan and Elena use their wits and strength to save his foster parents and other supes from the villains and the traitor.
More to the Story by Hena Khan
Jameela is one of four girls in a Pakistani-American family. She’s passionate about journalism, but in her enthusiasm, she hurts a new friend when she writes something he isn’t comfortable sharing with the world. While she digests these hard-earned lessons, she learns that her beloved little sister has lymphoma. Khan skillfully weaves a story of family, culture, community, and social justice that is sure to become a modern-day Little Women-type classic.
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid by Matt Wallace
COMING OF AGE / BULLYING
An outstanding, surprisingly philosophical, poignant story about dealing with bullies, growing in confidence, and the complexities of human beings. Matt doesn’t think he can survive three more years of middle school bullying, so he writes supervillain Master Plan who is also a “gentleman of size”, asking for help. Surprisingly, Master Plan emails back with helpful, sage advice but is Master Plan actually looking out for Max or for himself?
Smile (Also: Drama, Sisters ) by Raina Telgemeier
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Raina writes about her life with humor, amazing art, and relatable stories. Smile is about Raina’s unfortunate accident which leads to oral surgery and braces and her ongoing life challenges with friends, family, and boys. What kid can’t relate to all of this? BOX SET HERE.
Masterminds by Gordon Korman
Eli and his friends discover that their utopian town is a large-scale, illegal science experiment to determine if kids cloned from criminal masterminds can be good when raised in the right environment. Eli and his cloned friends know they can’t stay in their town of lies anymore but how can they escape when the minute they reach the border, they experience violent pain and guards surround them? And if they do escape, what will they do next? My kids and I love this amazing, action-packed adventure.
Skyriders by Polly Holyoke
Kie is a courier for the kingdom, riding on her skyrider, a small but fast winged horse. Her Uncle taught her the old ways of fighting the chimerae. Fearing a full chimarae invasion, her uncle sends Kie to the capital to convince the leaders to use the old ways of fighting. But she’s dismissed by the leaders who insist on their new ways — which will eventually get them killed. Meanwhile, Kie learns she can mindspeak to all skyrider steeds which helps when she and her friends (including the prince and princess) must save the city themselves. Readers will love this exciting story with an interesting plot and a brave but reluctant heroine.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Aven Green is used to making up creative stories for why she doesn’t have any arms. Especially now in Arizona where her parents are the new managers of a rundown theme park. She befriends a boy at school who has Tourette Syndrome. They investigate a mysterious storage shed which leads them to a mystery involving Aven’s past. This story is about restorative friendship, facing your fears, and discovering your true (significant) potential. I loved the physical and mental diversity shown with so much strength and compassion.
Starfish by Lisa Fipps
REALISTIC / BODY IMAGE & SIZE / VERSE
Heartbreaking and inspiring, this poignant story in verse shows a girl who learns, after years of fat-shaming and bullying, to be proud of herself. Ellie’s nickname is Splash because of her size but she loves swimming. And her biggest bully? Her mother–who won’t buy her new clothes because she thinks it encourages Ellie’s weight gain and is pushing for gastro-bypass surgery. Not even Ellie’s dad stands up to her mom’s cruel treatment of Ellie. Fortunately, Ellie finds an understanding therapist who helps her move from powerless to powerful.
Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A. Reynolds & Pablo Leon
In this Spider-Man graphic novel adventure, Miles Morales is faced with a problem. As he struggles to juggle both his superhero and civilian lives at the same time, a fellow student’s father suddenly goes missing with just a few too many connections to strange supernatural activity in the area. Can he figure out what’s going on and save this innocent civilian?
The Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen
Set in a futuristic Ethiopian empire, this exciting adventure grabs your interest and keeps it through wild twists and turns that feature heroic main characters! Yared gives his real name during an augmented reality game and soldiers come for him revealing everything he believed about his life to be a lie…including his identity. Yared partners with another game player, the Ibis, to escape the troops and the giant monster and find the truth. The two clever, quick-witted kids face incredible danger, insurmountable odds, and a galaxy-spanning war but Yared has been trained for this and he is ready to fight.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
I’ve read this middle grade book so many times, I can’t count — many times with my classes as a read aloud book for 5th grader students– and every time it’s just as fantastic. (That doesn’t always happen with books.) A Wrinkle in Time is a remarkable, well-written adventure in space that deals with the overarching theme of good vs. evil. Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend, Calvin travel in space and time to find her scientist father who disappeared while researching tesseracts. BOX SET HERE.
Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo
FANTASY / ADVENTURE
Charlie Hernández’s house burns down, his parents go missing, and he is sent to a foster home. But it’s when he grows HORNS, the WINGS, and meets the MYTHS in real life — like calacas, mukis, and El Justo Juez, he’s really freaked out. Fortunately, a persistent classmate Violet Rey (also his crush) helps Charlie follow the clues to find out what happened to his parents and that Charlie might be the prophesied Morphling who is meant to save the world. A perfect balance of action, dialogue, & description in an exciting fantasy adventure.
In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
FAIRY TALE (series)
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this fabulous story — we’re on our second time through already. We love the message, the fairy tale mash-up, the humor, . . . everything! More Grimm tales await in the harrowing, hilarious adventure of Jack and Jill.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Kyle and a few classmates win a sleepover at the town’s newly created library by game-creator Mr. Lemoncello. The silly Mr. Lemoncello devises a fun way to get OUT of the library — you can only get out if you solve the puzzles around the entire library. Will the kids work together or will it be every child for himself?
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Ghost accidentally gets on a track team and it’s life-changing. His coach becomes a mentor and father figure who pushes Ghost to take responsibility for his mistakes (stealing sneakers) and to start dealing with the ghosts of his past. Well-written and hopeful about growing up and growing into yourself.
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
A coming-of-age story both heartbreaking and hopeful… Perry is well-loved by his mother and her friends. . . in prison. That’s where Perry has lived since he was born eleven years ago. But in an unexpected and unpleasant turn of events, his best friend’s stepfather, the new District Attorney, forces Perry to leave his prison home. Perry decides to research the inmates’ life stories, hoping that somehow they’ll be helpful in reuniting him with his mother.
Cucumber Quest 1: The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.
GRAPHIC NOVEL / FANTASY ADVENTURE
When the kingdoms of Dreamside need a hero, his parents send Cucumber, a not-adventurous or brave magician. Fortunately, his heroically inclined little sister, Almond, arrives just in the nick of time to save Cucumber the first of many dangers. Together, they set off to find the Dream Sword and stop the evil queen and her Nightmare Knight. Adapted from the Cucumber Quest webcomic.
Hither and Nigh by Ellen Potter
Guaranteed to enthrall with masterful storytelling and wildly inventive world-building, Hither and Nigh draws you into a magical, multi-layered story of adventure and heart. When Nell is forced to join the Last Chance Club or be expelled from school, she’s surprised when the students get lessons in magic! This begins Nell’s search for her missing brother. Her search leads to the magical world of Nither and poachers who kidnap non-magical children with big imaginations.
Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick
MYSTERY / NEURODIVERSITY
When Frankie’s former best friend, Colette, vanishes, Frankie searches for her. As she does, we see how complicated it is to be in her brain. Loud noises, changes, touch, and so many things affect her intensely. The mystery of Colette’s whereabouts keeps every moment of the story suspenseful. Frankie and her twin sister piece together Colette’s last known locations. As they do, Frankie accepts herself and forgives Colette and her sister.
El Deafo by Cece Bell and David Lasky
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL
In this award-winning graphic novel, Cece Bell shares the story of growing up with a hearing impairment, using a very bulky hearing aid, and finding her place in the world. Funny and moving, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story of courage and determination.
Restart by Gordon Korman
After a bad fall, Chase has no memory of who he is or was. But he soon realizes that he was a cruel troublemaker. Now he must decide who he’ll be from now on. Because he’s enjoying his new life in the film club and the new (“nerdy”) friends he’s made. This thought-provoking novel shows kids that our choices and behavior make a difference.
Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood
HISTORICAL FICTION / VERSE
Thinking Hitler will invade England next, Ken’s family sends him to safety in Canada. But, Ken’s ship is torpedoed and sunk only days into the journey Written in verse, this is a moving account of bravery as Ken, several other kids, a priest, the ship’s only woman, and members of the crew spend weeks adrift at sea in an ill-stocked lifeboat. You’ll read about their swollen feet, dehydration, and starvation as well as the stories and songs that helped keep the kids distracted and somewhat hopeful. Ultimately, you’ll be left with a sense of amazement at the resiliency of the human spirit.
Brick Dust and Bones by M.R. Forunet
Marius Grey is a 12-year-old Cajun Cemetery Boy and student. But he’s also working nights as a monster hunter to earn mystic coins for a really important spell that will bring his mother back to life…and time is running out. In desperation, Marius decides to hunt one of the most dangerous monsters in the swamp, a rougarou, even though his only friend, a monstrous mermaid, doesn’t want Marius to risk his life. The story is compelling and entertaining, with a heroic main character who loves his mom more than anything. You won’t be able to put this one down!
The Secret of the Dragon Gems by Rajani LaRocca and Chris Baron
Tripti and Sam met each other at summer camp, where they found beautiful, mysterious-looking rocks. Their rocks are unusual: they move by themselves, leave messages in the Dragon Gems books, and become hot and cold! As the seemingly nefarious camp director plots to get the stones back, the new friends realize that their rocks are related to a passing comet…and that they’re dying. As the tension mounts and the friends try to save their now-dull rocks, Tripti learns the hard way about who is a true friend. Kids will love reading about the family cultures of Sam and Tripti from Jewish and Indian heritages, and they’ll love the different formats narrating this exciting mystery story of letters, emails, texts, chapters from a fictional Dragon Gems book, video chat transcripts, and journal entries!
Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Norrie loves horses and the low-key stables where she works and rides. When the new girl Victoria rejects her offer of friendship, it takes Norrie a lot to try again. But the only boy at the stables connects to Victoria to their friend group’s favorite science fiction show and they find common ground, forgiveness, and mutual support. It’s a beautifully knit-together, relatable middle grade story of friendship, horses, being yourself, and growing in confidence.
Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion by Gregory Mone
Lewis’s dad believes that Atlantis still exists. Lewis ends up on a journey with his dad and his dad’s research assistant, Hanna. Meanwhile, an Atlantian girl sneaks away from home and passed the guards to see if there could be life above the ocean. When their fates collide, the excitement at each other’s existence is short-lived because the Atlantian Eraser guards capture Lewis’s dad…and then Lewis and Hanna. Interesting, action-packed, and filled with cool tech!
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
After a food mage turns Aventurine, a dragon, into a human using a magical chocolate drink, she develops a passion for chocolate. Unrecognized by her dragon clan, Aventurine travels to the nearest city to apprentice herself to a chocolate shop. She’s a brave, adventurous girl who makes her chocolate dreams come true with help from a new friend and kind employers. Will she be as brave when her dragon family attacks the town? Enjoyable from the first page, this fantasy book is a delight to read. (Best read with chocolate!)
Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry, illustrated by Lindsay Moore
ENVIRONMENT / OCEAN / ANIMALS
Two orca siblings separated from their families, trying to find food and their seasonal home. When a Tsunami hits and they both are lost from their pod, Vega, a stranger, and her little brother travel together towards recognizable landscapes and hopefully, food. As they journey, they meet other orca pods with different customs and who eat different foods, as well as other sea creatures. (This is all explained in the author’s note — which is fascinating!) When they’re with the Vanished Ones, Deneb gets hurt protecting Vega. She becomes even more determined to get Deneb to safety and food.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Like The Penderwicks, you’ll fall in love with this quirky, wonderful family from the first page. The Vanderbeekers’ landlord wants them out by the end of December but the Vanderbeeker kids are determined to change his mind, even though he hates noise, kids, and their family. But it’s almost Christmas and their efforts are only making things worse. What will they do? Charming and heart-warming.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
HISTORICAL FICTION (series)
One of the BEST children’s chapter books EVER!!! Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when the London children are evacuated during WWII and go to live with a grieving woman in a small country town. It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust but slowly the trust grows and all three regain something lost — hope and love. I can’t recommend this book and it’s sequel(The War I Finally Won) enough, it just touched my heart at such a deep level.
Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
Park writes a wonderfully touching multilayered story about a young half-Asian girl’s life during western expansion, frontier times. After Hana’s mother dies, her father moves the two of them to a small midwestern town. Park sets the scene with care and you’ll see a realistic portrayal of life in the 1880s from the point of view of someone who is experiencing racism. Despite many unfair things, Hana stays resilient and determined to graduate from school and help her father in his shop.
Chupacarter by George Lopez and Ryan Calejo
Fast-paced, exciting, well-written, and dynamically illustrated about friendship and monsters! Jorge is bullied at his new school but makes a new friend outside of school –a chupacabra named Carter. But Carter ISN’T a monster, and the friends have a lot in common like loving candy, climbing trees, and playing hide-and-seek. Even still, Carter needs to reunite with his chupacabra family, especially because Jorge’s school principal is hunting him. So, Jorge and his two new school friends come up with an ingenious plan to get Carter to safety–but will they be too late?
Peril at Price Manor by Laura Parnum
Get ready for a wacky, fun story of a horror movie-loving girl who steps into a real-life horror scenario on accident and discovers she isn’t the victim; she’s the heroine! When Halle delivers black roses from her mom’s flower shop to the home of her favorite horror movie director, Maximus Price, Halle discovers twins her age who have never left their house, plus a horrific treducplus squid-creature that attacks human faces and is duplicating rapidly. The twins learn that they’re more capable than they thought — and can save their dad, their staff, and maybe even the world.
Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibb
The story starts out fast and furious with Einstein’s death and a huge secret he accidentally says in German… Then it goes to the present day when the CIA asks a super genius 12-year-old girl named Charlie to help find the missing and dangerous “Pandora” theory of Einstein’s. You will fall in love with Charlie—she’s a creative thinker and a survivor who despite all her knowledge still can act like a child yet also outwit bad guys in amazing ways. Terrorists, Moussed, cross-world travel, and mathematical clues combine with excellent writing to make the perfect action-adventure spy story starring a female protagonist you’ll love!
Aquanaut by Dan Santat
REALISTIC (ish) / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Wildly imaginative and totally enthralling, this is a heartfelt story of family, legacy, and protecting animals. After Sophia’s father dies in a shipwreck, she lives with her workaholic scientist uncle who runs the theme park called Aqualand. When a lumbering “aquanaut” stumbles into the park, Sophia discovers that it’s a deep-sea diver’s body controlled by sea creatures in its head. The creatures give Sophia her father’s journal and together they uncover a nefarious plot by greedy investors.
Ahisma by Supriya Kelkar
What an incredible, passion-filled story. Anjali’s parents join the freedom movement against the British government. Through her parents, Anjali begins to see her world differently including the poverty-stricken caste of many people call “the Untouchables”. Other Indian families do not like the changes her family is making. Then, Anjali’s mom is thrown in jail! You won’t be able to put this book down!
Dungeon Club Roll Call written by Molly Knox Ostertag and illustrated by Xanthe Bouma
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL
8th grader Olivia and her best friend Jess love the tabletop RPG game Dungeons and Dragons. Jess is a loner and only wants one friend Olivia, their Dungeon Master. But when Olivia starts a D&D club, Jess gets mad that Tyler joins. She is mean to him and kills him in the game. (Jess didn’t like Tyler because in 6th grade, to avoid being called gay, he said they were going out.) Jess’s father helps her see the power of friends to fight monsters and she apologizes to Tyler and makes room for more friends in her life. A great life lesson, stunning artwork, a tabletop RPG game, what’s not to love!?
Your Pal Fred by Michael Rex
SCI-FI / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Fred is a robot who brings kindness (and STICKERS!) to a dystopian world he makes better in this funny, warmhearted, and interesting story. When Fred discovers that two warlords are capturing innocent people to fight as soldiers for them, Fred knows what he has to do–ask the two bad guys to try peace. He irritates and surprises everyone he meets with his cheerfulness and positive attitude, even when he’s caught and “tortured” with drumming, which, of course, he loves. His character oozes charm, you can’t help but love him, Will Fred succeed in his seemingly impossible mission?
The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody
A fantastic, magical journey of self-acceptance, a bewitching plotline, and irresistible characters. When gathering mushrooms, Barclay accidentally becomes a Lore Keeper bonded with a mythical beast. Even though he doesn’t want to be a Lore Keeper, Barclay is forced out of his hometown by scared villagers. He travels with another Lore Keeper named Violet to a town where he tries to get rid of his mark by first entering a competition. All the while, he struggles with the unexpected joy of the wild Beast bond and the guilt for enjoying it. He’ll soon have to make a choice — cut out the Beast or embrace his new life.
The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
ADVENTURE / MAGICAL REALISM/ FUNNY
If you’re a fan of wild and wacky stories, this is the book for you. Cousins Otto and Sheed accidentally stop time, freezing all the people in the town. Mostly. Because a sinister Mr. Flux on a gigantic beast can move about as can all the people related to time like A.M. and P.M.and Father Time. Throw in some unexpected plot twists and excellent writing and it adds up to a delightful adventure that just proves you should be careful what you wish for…
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
This book is SO funny and a quick read! Learn some valuable cow trivia in this hilarious adventure of two pranksters who (eventually) work together to pull off the biggest prank of all time — a prank that will ensure they get April Fool’s Day off from school. The entire series is great. Your kids will zip through them, laughing all the way.
Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Bree and her dad move to Florida where she has to take Swim 101 at school. But she ditches because she can’t swim and is afraid. luckily, her neighbor and babysitter is a former swim team captain, and she teaches Bree how to swim. When Bree accidentally makes the swim team, she learns about teamwork and friendship. This is a wonderful feel-good story about failure, perseverance, and teamwork.
Unteachables by Gordon Korman
This book is everything you’d want — funny, sensitive, well-written, brilliantly paced, relatable, and poignant. The middle school assigns the worst teacher, Mr. Kermit, to a class of the so-called worst kids –the class known as the unteachables. Mr. Kermit is totally uninterested in teaching. Then something surprising happens…Mr. Kermit starts to care just a little. And that opens the gates to even more caring and a big life change. When Mr. Kermit gets a notice that he will be fired, the students have a plan to save his job.
The Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate
The conquering human ruler, Murdano, hunts and kills all the large, dog-like Dairne. All except Byx. In hopes to find a safe place and maybe the Dairne’s mythical homeland, Byx sets off on what becomes a dangerous, exciting adventure filled with new friends like Tobble who is a wobbyk. I love this uniquely imagined fantasy world about friendship, differences, betrayal, and family.
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks
SCI-FI / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Sanity and Tallulah are two good friends who live on a space station. Sanity is a brilliant inventor — but her newest (illegal) creation, a three-headed kitten named Princess Destroyer of Worlds has escaped and is living up to her name — destroyer. The friends look for their missing kitten but instead discover a big problem that will destroy the space station. I love the space station setting, the super-smart problem-solving main characters, and the non-stop action.
The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson
When Yanka’s legs turn into hair bear legs and paws, she leaves her foster mother’s home in the village to find answers in the forest. Her quest for answers leads her to a wolf she met as a baby bear, a Yaga girl and mom and their house on chicken legs, her grandmother, the Bear Tsarina, and eventually, a dangerous task to kill a dragon and save the wish tree so that Yanka can ask for her friend Sasha’s life to be spared… It’s a Russian-folktale-infused story with themes of family, belonging, identity, selflessness, and the power of stories.
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Written in evocative yet readable verse, follow a young Syrian girl who moves to the United States. Jude’s journey is one of growing up, being brave, and discovering. Readers will see how Jude finds her way– relating to other ESL students in their safe classroom space, finding new friends, getting her period and starting to wear a headscarf, and even performing in the school play. Her insights on life in America help us understand what it’s like to be an immigrant, experiencing this country for the first time. Beautiful!
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
FANTASY / ADVENTURE (series)
A new favorite action-packed, fantasy series of elves, danger, and magical creatures!! Twelve-year-old Sophie doesn’t fit in her world, maybe because she’s a Telepath and not even human. She leaves the human world for the Elvin world where she faces danger from both worlds. She hopes she’ll be safe if only she can regain the lost memories of her past. BOX SET HERE.
The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger’s Apprentice by John A. Flanagan
Will is apprenticed to become a Ranger, a job he’s unsure about. But as he develops a relationship with his master and learns what being a Ranger is all about (spying for the kingdom), he begins to embrace his new life. When an old enemy of the kingdom sends out dangerous beasts to attack Will’s master, Will is instrumental in getting help and killing the creatures. Action, fantasy, adventure, friendship, excellent writing — this book has it all!
Growing Pangs by Kathryn Ormsbee, illustrated by Molly Brooks
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Katie used to be homeschooled but she has a best friend forever named Kacey. When they start camp and Katie makes a new friend and Kacey gets jealous. But what’s worse is Katie’s having buzzing thoughts that tell her to do repetitive things and they’re getting worse. Katie and Kacey’s friendship gets worse but eventually, Katie tells her parents about the buzzing and they get her help for what she learns are obsessive-compulsive thoughts.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
REALISTIC / VERSE
Because this is written in verse, this is a fast-paced read but packs a big punch. Basketball player and twin Josh narrates his life in quarters, just like the game he plays. He writes about missing his twin when his twin, Jordan, gets a girlfriend; about getting in trouble when he hits Jordan in the face with a basketball; and about watching his father as his heart fails. This is a coming-of-age, gripping story about a boy who is just trying to figure out life like most boys at age 12.
Lightcasters by Janelle McCurdy
After the Reaper King’s soldiers attack her forever dark city and capture her parents, Mia, her brother Lucas, plus two other friends flee the nefarious soldiers toward her grandparent’s in the capital city. To make it through the dangerous Nightmare Plains, Mia reluctantly bonds with not one but two wild umbras, creatures made of shadows and starlight, and learns she’s one of the mythical Lightkeepers, foretold to defeat the Reaper King. Unique, super cool world-building, fantastic storytelling, and perfect pacing, this is one book you won’t be able to put down!
Space Case and Spaced Out by Stuart Gibbs
SCI FI (series)
review written by 11-year old JJ
This series is AMAZING– a murder mystery on the moon. I can never turn down a good, realistic sci-fi PLUS murder mystery. It has it all! It occurs in 2040 when the second-in-command dies. He had walked out the airlock (to the moon’s surface) with his space suit on wrong– he died in seconds. Everyone thinks he might go crazy, but Dashiel Gibson suspects differently. Murder.
Thirst by Varsha Bajaj
Set in Mumbi, this is a deftly narrated, hope-filled story of the inequities around water with themes of advocacy, education, and community. 12-year-old Minni’s community has access to water only a few hours per day with severe water shortages. When Minni is forced to leave school to work as a maid, she sees the water (and other) iniquity first-hand and discovers that the family’s dad is the water mafia boss. Her decision and action to report him makes a difference — and gives us hope that one person can make a difference.
Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yue
If you like mystery, adventure, and CATS, you won’t want to miss this entertaining graphic novel! Katie desperately wants to join her friends at their summer camp so to earn money, she gets a job for her neighbor Madeline catsitting 217 cats. But, something is VERY weird because these are super-smart cats with destructive behaviors and powerful abilities, not to mention that Katie finds evidence that her neighbor might be the supervillain, Moustress. Then, when the Moustress gets captured, Katie decides she and the cats must take action and save their friend.
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
REALISTIC / PAKISTAN
Amal’s life is turned upside down when she offends a regional Pakistani overlord and is forced to leave her home and school to work in his home as a servant — indefinitely. She finds her inner strength and fights back, freeing herself and the other household slaves. The author deftly sets the scene of rural Pakistan. Readers will feel transported, feel the injustice, and cheer for Amal’s bravery.
Recipe for Disaster by Aimee Lucido
Hannah, a girl who loves cooking and food, wants to figure out what being Jewish means…and have her own bat mitzvah. Since her mom forbids her to be Jewish, she secretly studies. As she pursues her lessons, other things aren’t going well in her life…her dad and brother argue all the time, her BFF dumps her, and her new friend Vee experiences anti-Semitism graffiti on her house. A heart-warming story about family, faith, forgiveness, and learning to define yourself instead of letting others define you.
Ophie’s Ghost by Justina Ireland
A page-turning historical ghost mystery about racism, justice, bravery, and friendship. Ophie sees ghosts everywhere, even in her new house job with her mother. At her new job, she meets a beautiful, charming ghost named Clara who was murdered but can’t remember it. Ophie wants to discover the truth and help her new friend. But ghosts don’t have good intentions and will do anything, including possessing someone, to get their revenge. Ophie needs to be careful…
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya
Marcus is an entrepreneurial kid who makes the most of his intimidating size. He’s also very protective of his brother with Down syndrome who faces bullying at school. When Marcus gets suspended, his mother takes the two brothers to Puerto Rico, the home country of their father who abandoned them years before. Even though they are only meant to visit relatives, Marcus hopes to find his father. However, he finds a loving, extended family, the difficult truth about his dad, and a growing sense of his own identity. Remarkable.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrations by Katie Kath
MAGICAL REALISM (series)
We loved this book so much, it’s one of our favorites. The book is written as letters from a girl named Sophie, who is newly living at the farm of her deceased great-uncle Jim. She writes to her dead abuelita, her dead great-uncle Jim, and Agnes of the Extraordinary Chickens catalog. While her parents are figuring out their new lives, Sophie figures out the farm. Specifically, the magical chickens who seem to have telekinesis, invisibility, and carnivorous chicks. But a neighbor chicken thief is also interested in Jim’s chickens, too — and Sophie must stop her. Exceptional writing, characterization, and plot!
The Monster Missions by Laura Martin
If you like adventure, fast-paced action, cool world-building, and heroic kids, then read this post-apocalyptic adventure when all the humans live on ships. After she rescues her ship from a sea monster, Berkley gets the choice of prison or a mysterious monster hunting. submarine. When their sub is hijacked by pirates, she must use the sea creatures in the aquarium tanks to stop them. In particular, the brilliant and mischievous– an octopus named Elmer.
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
I found this to be very creepy — so if you like that, this book is for you. Her father and Serafina live in the basement of Biltmore Estate. When kids suddenly start disappearing from the estate, she befriends a boy to help her uncover what is happening. Serafina doesn’t expect to discover something about her own past that will change her life. BOX SET HERE.
Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant
A warm-hearted adventure with brave kids, dogs, and a happy ending. The war has made Ben an orphan –again. All that he has left are his dog and his dad’s boat, the Sparrowhawk. When a policeman gets suspicious of Ben’s living situation and his new friend, Lotti’s abusive guardians try to kill her rescue dog, the two friends set off on the boat for France to find Ben’s missing older brother. The boat isn’t meant for a channel crossing but the two kids are determined to make it work…but it won’t be easy. Nor will it be easy to find Ben’s missing brother in a country decimated by war.
Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell
Indian No More is an emotional, important story about when the U.S. government arbitrarily made certain Native American tribes no longer tribes without reservations or legal rights. It also shows the historical landscape of prejudice and stereotypes towards people of color. I love the close-knit, loving family based on the author’s own life, a family who values each other and their survival. This book is a must-read and must-own for all schools and libraries and would make an excellent book club selection.
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The best-selling children’s book of all time, this series gets kids hooked on reading for so many reasons: the brilliant storytelling, a complex and entertaining plot, relatable characters, rich language, essential life lessons about friendship and bravery, and more.
All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
REALISTIC / COMING OF AGE / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Growing up, Imogene (aka. Impy) always loved her family’s part in the Renaissance Faire . . . that is, until middle school. Even though she gets her dream to work in the faire as a squire, she also just wants to be like the other girls at her school, too. Her journey is painful and honest as she figures out who she wants to be. It’s narrated as a hero’s journey which, with the faire background and middle school drama, feels perfect. Beyond being a terrific coming of age story, I’m sure this book will interest tween readers in Renaissance festivals themselves.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Lowry does an excellent job at writing about WWII in a way that isn’t too scary or inappropriate for kids. Annemarie’s best friend hides Annemarie’s Jewish family. The tension is high as the Nazis are everywhere in Denmark looking for Jews and Jewish sympathizers. It’s challenging for Annemarie to hide knowing that every day she might be caught and sent to a death camp. Finally, the family escapes to Sweden where they will be safe from the Nazis.
Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
BULLYING / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Jensen is the miserable target of the school’s bullies’ attacks. Friends, Jenny and Akilah think that they can use the newspaper to help him, but their plans without Jensen’s consent hurts their friendship. The ups and downs and challenges of Jensen’s life (that he relates to a video game) as he struggles with self-esteem, stop the bullies, and finds his place in the world.
Wink by Rob Harrell
A standout cancer story based on the author’s life for readers who like humorous but emotion-filled stories. When Ross is diagnosed with a rare kind of tumor, he immediately starts radiation treatment. School becomes pretty challenging because his eye is goopy, he has to wear a hat, and his hair starts falling out in clumps– among other things made funny with his cartoon drawings. A goofy, kind-hearted radiation tech gets Ross interested in alternative punk music, and in order to impress a girl, Ross asks the tech for guitar lessons. Turns out, the guitar and his new music, help Ross both express his frustrations and find his joy, leading to some surprising results — like a new, unexpected friend.
Lark and the Wild Hunt by Jennifer Adam
Sage’s family raises the half-animal, half-fae horses for the Wild Hunt from which her brother doesn’t return. Sage’s new fae friend Rook tells her she must fix the mysterious, broken moon clock to save her brother and strengthen what has been broken. If you like epic adventures with magic, don’t miss this story about a brave and determined human girl in a world of magic and fae who embarks on a quest to save her brother…and her sister…from the new, evil fae king.
Legacy and the Queen by Annie Matthew, created by Kobe Bryant
FANTASY / SPORTS
This uniquely imagined story is also beautifully written and 100% enchanting. Legacy lives at an orphanage with her father and the other orphans but she longs to compete in tennis. When she gets the chance, she leaves to try out for the country’s elite tennis academy. Once she’s there, Legacy’s country background makes her an outcast but that also helps her discover two true friends, her inner magical power, and the dangerous truth of what’s actually going on at the Academy.
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
If your child hasn’t learned about Nordic mythology, this will be a great intro! To end the long winter, Odd must journey to find Asgard, a city under siege from the Frost Giants. It’s a wonderful, nail-biting adventure.
Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
I think you already know about these amazing books but if you don’t, they’re absolutely engaging fantasy adventures set in a different world of magic and magical animals that will hook your kids into reading. BOX SET HERE.
The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
An addictive series you won’t be able to put down! Fairy tales come alive when Alex and Conner (brother and sister) find themselves trapped in the fairy tale world. Their only way home is to find the ingredients for a Wishing Spell. Finding them will be dangerous, mysterious, and life-changing. The characters are memorable, unique, and familiar all at the same time. Kids love these books. (So do I.) BOX SET HERE.
Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
FRACTURED FAIRY TALE (series)
In this powerful story from Rumplestiltskin’s perspective, you’ll read how Rump discovers who he is and grows into his potential. It takes some work but Rump learns he’s trapped in his mom’s magical “rumple” which requires him to make straw into gold for any trade that another person offers. This is what the miller takes advantage of, leaving Rump without options or any control. With the help of his troll friends, his friend Red, and his aunts, Rump finds a way to stop the magical curse and give the queen back her child.
Green Lantern Legacy by Minh Le, illustrated by Angie Tong
SUPERHERO GRAPHIC NOVEL
Excellent! Before Tai’s Vietnamese grandmother dies, she gives him her Jade ring. He wears it and discovers that he’s a Green Lantern who must protect the earth from evil like Sinesteo. Not long after, he discovers that the rich guy trying to take over the neighborhood for redevelopment turns out to be a Yellow Lantern working for Sinesteo. Lots of action, intrigue, and humor!
The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West
This is an awesome book series about a house that seems to be haunted; with paintings that lead to other worlds, and mysteriously cryptic, talking cats. Olive soon learns that the previous owners had trapped many people in the paintings, including a boy Olive befriends. The plot’s twistings kept me wondering what was happening, and my kids and I loved the main character’s gumption and her supportive side-kick cats.
Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood edited by Kwame Mbalia
Middle-grade readers need more short stories and this book hits the spot big time! These short stories for ages 8 to 12 celebrate Black main characters in space, at school, hanging out, and more in 17 different stories from 17 different authors. I loved the writing, the variety of genres, and the focus of Black boys living their best lives — it’s a must-read, must-own collection.
The Royal Guide to Monster Slaying by Kelley Armstrong
The story is an exciting adventure filled with surprises, mythical creatures, and new friendships. It’s not a cliffhanger, but it does leave the door open for another book. (I can’t wait!)
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullally Hunt
REALISTIC / DYSLEXIA
Both Ally and her older brother have hidden that they can’t read — until Mr. Daniels helps Ally learn to read and discovers her true value. It’s such a beautiful, emotional story that will help kids who might not understand how it feels to have dyslexia.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Stuck in a museum with her sister and father who is working on a sword exhibit, Ophelia’s curiosity leads her to a locked room where a boy has been trapped for thousands of years. But Ophelia doesn’t believe magic. Except, she kind of does. This is a breathtaking journey of loss, acceptance, hope, and friendship and a cool homage to the Snow Queen fairy tale. I loved it so much that I wrote about it for the first Read Brightly book club pick.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Greek gods still exist and so do their kids, half-bloods, or demigods, who have incredible abilities. Unfortunately for these kids, monsters are out to kill them. But, they are also the only ones who can save the world from a war between the Greek gods the Titans. Percy goes to Camp Half-Blood where he is trained to protect himself… that is until he’s sent on a dangerous quest. Betrayal, adventure, plot twists, and incredible mythological world-building make these books kids can’t put down.
The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
While on a class trip to Washington D.C., Wyatt and his best friend, Matt, are positive they’ve discovered a plot to blow up the White House. Wyatt’s crush, Suzanna, helps the friends make a plan, and as you can imagine, disaster and hilarity strike. I totally loved this book and know your kids (especially those who like humor) will as well.
Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar
REALISTIC / DEPORTATION / IMMIGRATION
Written in verse, this timely story of immigration and deportation follows 9-year-old Betita who lives in the United States but ends up in detention. Detention is traumatic for her, with horrible conditions and racist guards. Betita relies on her father’s story of cranes, using this overarching metaphor to talk about her clipped wings and her song. She draws and writes poetry to send to her Papi which she gives to a lawyer to pass along and tell her story. Powerful and important.
The Brave by James Bird
NEURO DIFFERENCES / FRIENDSHIP
When Collin, a boy who counts every letter spoken to him and says the number out loud, gets kicked out of yet another school, his neglectful father sends Collin to live with his mom. Collin has never met his mother, but he’s curious to meet her and live on the Ojibwe reservation. Living with her is a totally different experience than his previous home — because with his mother, he’s welcomed and not judged. He befriends the neighbor girl who teaches Collin how to be brave. Which he needs. And so does she because she’s going to be a butterfly soon…
Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty
Set in the time of early American settlers, this is a beautiful story about a night spirit who is still connected to the powerful wood magic of her ancestors. When Willa accidentally discovers that her clan is keeping human captives and forbidden technology, her Faeran clan leader wants her dead. Fleeing the danger of her home, Willa cautiously observes a human man, slowly learning to trust him. When she realizes that one of his children was one of the human captives she saw, Willa knows she must return to her clan and make things right.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez
REALISTIC / COMING OF AGE
An excellent, diverse, page-turning coming-of-age story, this is about a girl who is half-Mexican on her mom’s side and half-punk rock on her dad’s side, both of which are cultures prominently featured in the story and her life. Malú’s unhappily forced to move to Chicago with her mother, where she eventually finds her place when she starts a Latin-flavored punk band. Malú discovers herself and what the first rule of punk actually is…
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
MYSTERY / HUMOR (series)
Was the FunJungle’s hippo murdered? Teddy and Summer think so. Mystery, adventure, and humor will keep your readers on the edge of their seats in this unique story with quirky characters perfect for 10-year-old readers.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
REALISTIC BIOGRAPHY / HISTORY
Sudan’s reality, past and present, collide in this beautifully written true story. In 1985, we follow the harrowing journey of a young boy who, after his village was attacked, walks miles and miles to a refugee camp. In 2008, we learn about a girl who must walk two hours morning and night to get fresh water. Their stories are compelling; you won’t be able to put this down, nor take peace and clean water for granted again.
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
REALISTIC / FAMILY, COMING-OF-AGE
Genius story crafting and meaningful life lessons. When his grandfather’s butler arrives to help out 6th grade Carter’s family, sharing his passion for the game of Cricket, filling a void the family didn’t know they had. Butler gives Carter purpose, structure, and belonging. “Make good decisions and remember who you are,” he often reminds Carter and Carter’s sisters. Along this journey, Carter learns to pay attention to his life and to who loves him.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Narrated by a gorilla named Ivan, this story about friendship, love, and compassion grabs your heart immediately. Making it even more compelling, it’s true! Ivan is kept in a cage in a run-down mall for 27 years without seeing another gorilla. He’s friends with a stray dog named Bob, a full-grown elephant named Stella, and Ruby, a newly purchased baby elephant. When Stella begs Ivan to make sure Ruby doesn’t grow old in their cages, Ivan finds his courage.
The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris and Alec Azam, illustrated by Lissy Marlin and Kyle Hilton
Carter’s had a rough life, even now after he runs away from his crook of an uncle and lands in a New England town. There he encounters unsavory carnival people who remind him of his uncle. At the town’s magic shop, Carter meets a young girl and her fathers who love magic just like him. He and his new kid friends set out to thwart the carnie’s plot to steal the world’s biggest diamond. And maybe in the process, his luck will turn around. Through the book are ciphers, codes, and tricks giving this already delightful story extra oomph.
Camp by Kayla Miller
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Both my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed this meaningful graphic novel from the author of Click (a story we also loved). It’s not just about a summer camp experience but also about the challenges of friendship, particularly when you have a friend who is clingy, wants to be your only friend and is jealous of other people. That is hard for Olive! She wants to be Willow’s friend but she also likes other people. The story feels honest and relatable as well as being a helpful road map to how you might handle your own friendships.
It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds
When he’s forced to stay home from the beach party because he needs to do his laundry since every single stinky piece of clothing, is dirty, Eddie hurries through the washing with quick cycles–until the power unexpectedly goes out. Eddie leaves the house to investigate and finds four other kids but NO ONE ELSE. No parents. No kids. NO ONE. It’s all very mysterious and suspenseful, especially when the street lights turn back on — without the electricity coming back on. What is going on? Cliff hanger alert– I can’t wait for book two!
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
After having lost their home and living in their van for 3 months, the family is now about to lose their apartment. Although Jackson’s parents don’t tell him this, he knows the signs. He knows why they’re having a yard sale. He knows it’s not his dad’s fault for having MS but he’s mad and worried and alone. It isn’t until Crenshaw shows up and pushes Jackson to speak the truth to his parents that Jackson learns that he’s not facing this alone. Oh, and who is Crenshaw? He’s Jackson’s large, imaginary cat friend from when he was little, returned to help Jackson in his time of need.
The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Colgate
This story makes zombie apocalypse sounds like a fun adventure. Jack and his best friend, Quint, live in an upgraded, well-defended treehouse where they plan to first rescue his crush June (she doesn’t need rescuing being quite capable) and then fight zombies. Illustrations throughout make this even more appealing to read and imagine. Delightful. Who would have thought?! BOXED SET HERE.
The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Deliz Sherman
Runaway, Nick, leaves his horrible uncle only to get stuck with an evil wizard who calls him foxkin and won’t let him leave. If he tries anything against the rules, Nick gets turned into something– a spider and a rock, for example. Once he’s resigned to his new life, Nick finds a lot to like, especially learning magic from the wizard’s books and then helping the wizard protect the Smallbone town from the Evil Wizard Fidelou. This is a magical story about kindness, friendship, and growing up.
Rules by Cynthia Lord
I highly recommend reading this meaningful, coming-of-age story about 12-year old Catherine. Read it in your classroom and with your children to develop empathy and compassion for children who have autism. Catherine’s worked hard to help her autistic brother, David, learn the rules about life. But now that she has new friends, she’s feeling more embarrassed than compassionate.
In These Magic Shoes by Yamile Saied Mendez
A tenderhearted, beautiful story about family, asking for help when you need it, racism, and grit. When their mom doesn’t return home from work, Minerva steps up to care for her siblings and herself. At school, Minerva tries out for the Peter Pan musical and speaks up against the play’s racism. At home, her sisters talk about the fairies they see just like the fairies from her mamá’s stories. Finally, Minerva contacts her mom’s estranged mother, their abuela, for help because the kids are out of food and money and desperately need help.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
SCI-FI/ ADVENTURE (series)
This is a must-read, excellent Newbery-winning book about amazing lab rats with intelligence who escape from the lab and form their own community. This was always one of my fifth graders’ favorite read-alouds.
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
The close-knit Penderwick sisters and their father spend their summer vacation in a rented cottage on an estate called Arundel. Theirs is an unplugged world of summertime magic filled with play and pretend and a new friend — Jeffrey Tifton, the son of the estate’s owner.
The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Like the Harry Potter books, I’ve read this book so many times, often as a read-aloud for my students, because it’s so well-written and interesting. This is a wonderful adventure of two siblings who run away from home and live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC where they discover a mystery. While unraveling the clues about of who created the angel statue, the brother and sister duo discover that a Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will help them with more than the mystery, but with growing up and going home, too.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
REALISTIC / GRAPHIC NOVEL
Roller Girl shows the struggles of friendship and finding your place in the world as Astrid works hard to become a better roller derby skater, reconciles her friendship with her best friend, and develops a new one. (I recommend going to a roller derby event with your kids to help them know more about this cool sport for girls — it’s such a blast and would be helpful for reading this book, but not essential.) Well-written and relatable.
Way of the Warrior Kid by Jocko Willink, illustrated by Jon Bozak
The Way of the Warrior Kid is a self-help book of sorts wrapped in a fictional story that is engaging and interesting to read. Marc’s Navy SEAL Uncle Jake stays for the summer and in that time, transforms Marc’s life in three months. Marc starts out as a discouraged bad-at-math, weak, average kid who gets picked on by a bully but he decides to take his uncle’s advice and try a different approach. Marc learns discipline, persistence, daily habits, and even how to learn — and it transforms his life.
Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner
POVERTY / SPD / FOSTER CARE
12-year-old Lou and her mom live in a truck. While her mom works as a waitress, Lou hangs out or sings for money even though she dreads performing. One evening, underage Lou drives in a snowstorm to pick up her mom from work and gets into an accident Lou gets sent to foster care with an aunt. In her new home, Lou goes to a fancy private school where she’s assessed with Sensory Processing Disorder. She starts to get help from an occupational therapist and a sensory diet, understanding herself better, and learning to trust her kind aunt and uncle.
Nooks and Crannies by Jessica Lawson
Nooks and Crannies is an intriguing story about a young girl with horrible parents. Just before she’s about to be sent to an orphanage, she learns that she just might be a rich someone’s heir and have the chance to live happily ever after. Once at the Countess’ home, she must use her detective skills to figure out what is going on with the heir mystery, the disappearing kids, and the scary Countess. My daughter LOVED this book.
Saving Fable by Scott Reintgen
Book lovers — don’t miss this wildly imaginative story about a girl named Indira who has always wanted to be chosen to go to the Protagonist Preparatory, a school for side characters and protagonists where they hope one of the Brainstormers will introduce them to an author. As we become acquainted with this creative world where (book)Marks and DogEars roam the streets, the story grows into an exciting adventure and puzzling mystery — because someone is using dangerous magic that will damage the world of stories forever. Enchanting and unique, I can only hope that there will be more books set in this world. Loved it!
Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland
A group of dragonets who might be the long-awaited dragonets of the prophecy that will end the dragon wars for good leave their protectors’ safety only to be captured by a cruel dragon faction. One thing’s for sure: when the dragonets are captured, things don’t look good for their safety and future.
Treasure Hunters by James Petterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Juliana Neufeld
The life of the four Kidd siblings isn’t typical — they live on a boat and their parents are treasure hunters. Unfortunately, not only is their mom missing but their father went overboard in a bad storm. Now they’re on their own and need money to survive. The only way they know is to find a treasure and sell it. But danger is around every wave; they’re not sure who to trust. This is a fast, action-packed adventure that sets the tone for more books to come.
Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai
REALISTIC / IMMIGRATION
Pie in the Sky is an insightful, funny, and poignant look at the struggles of immigrating to a new country (Australia) and the difficulties of learning English along with growing up and grieving the loss of a father. Jingwen’s observations and wit make him a likable main character and the illustrations capture the depth and flavors of his experiences. He likens learning English to becoming human. After school with his brother, he bakes the cakes that his father wanted to include at his dream Pie in the Sky bakery.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Wonder helps us see compassion, empathy, and acceptance from a variety of character’s points of view. Auggie, a boy with a facial difference, starts public school for the first time in 5th grade. His experience, though often difficult, shows his inner strength. This beautiful story shows that kindness wins over bullying.
Kristy’s Great Idea Babysitter’s Club #1 Full-Color Graphix Novel by Ann M. Martin, illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
We’re loving these updated Babysitter’s Club graphic novels by the uber-talented Raina Telegemeier who wrote the highly-acclaimed Smile and Sister. It’s a good idea to start with book one since the stories are told in a specific order with details from previous stories. These are funny and fun to read, maybe even more than once. BOX SET HERE.
The Friendship Code #1 Girls Who Code by Stacia Deutsch
STEM REALISTIC (series)
Lucy joins coding club so she can make an app for her uncle to remember his medications. But the class is moving TOO slow. Then, a mysterious letter arrives on her locker with instructions in code. The subsequent messages in code put her back in touch with old friends and help her build a new friendship. Whoever is sending messages is teaching Lucy and her friends about input/output, conditionals, loops, and variables. To solve the mystery, the girls decide to write their own code…
The Watson’s Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watson family drives from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama to visit relatives in the 1960s where they hope to set Bryon straight. The car trip builds up to the deeply disturbing church bombing where Grandma goes to church. This is a moving story filled with hope and humor. Newbery Award Winner.
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
They’re not supposed to be in the woods, but to avoid Chad the bully, Tamaya and Marshall go there anyway. Tamaya discovers the weird-looking “fuzzy mud” and throws it at Chad’s face. When Chad goes missing, and Tamaya’s hand gets a bloody rash, it’s clear that the mud is not just mud. Fast-paced and adventurous, this book introduces kids to the science fiction genre and environmentalism.
Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki Lenz
This genuinely sweet story about a girl who goes from a bully to a trying-to-do-better model citizen will make you laugh and warm your heart. When Bernice’s mom sends Bernice to live with her nun aunt, it’s a chance for this former bully without any friends except the town’s librarian, to reform her mean-spirited ways. Bernice does it — she makes a friend, becomes nicer, and finds an unexpected home with the nuns.
Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull
FANTASY / ADVENTURE (series)
Brandon Mull has outdone himself with an inventive, totally unique world and characters! Cole, a regular kid, is trick-or-treating with his friends when they all get kidnapped. Cole manages to hide but follows the kidnappers — to another world – a world of five kingdoms, slavery, and magic. Cole is found and sold to slavers on the Outskirts. There he’ll battle mysterious beings living on cloud castles, discover an exiled princess, escape from slavery, and have unimaginable adventures.
Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Jacky stutters badly so to make life easier, she just makes a joke . . . about everything. Now at age 12, she’s started the new school year with tons of detentions. Luckily, someone sees the potential in Jacky and lets her “serve” those detentions in the school play, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. It turns out Jacky is a natural actor — and that helps distract her from her Nonna being sick, her mom being deployed, and her dad never being home. Very enjoyable!
Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp
I read many parts out loud to my kids while I was reading this book – they were just so funny!! Now my kids are addicted to this series, too. Quirky but lovable Ivy’s adventures involve a sinister ghost, a mystical jewel, and a surprising destiny.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
This is a beautiful, bittersweet story about Jess whose best friend, Leslie, dies in a tragic accident. Jess learns to cope with Leslie’s death with art and running. Well-written and important.
The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman
This story explores what happens after Chernobyl explodes in 1986; it’s about Russia, friendship, family, and prejudice. When Jewish Valentina and her enemy Oksana are forced to leave town together after the meltdown, we learn why Oksana acts the way she does, because of fear and abuse from her father. The girls end up in Leningrad with Valentina’s grandmother and the months there are a healing time with unconditional love. Heartwarming, insightful, and beautiful, this book is impossible to put down with wise life lessons.
BOOK LISTS BY AGE
Easy Reader Books for 1st Grade, 5- and 6- year olds
Beginning / Easy Chapter Books for 2nd Grade, 6- and 7- Year Olds
Books for 3rd Grade, 8-year olds
Books for 4th Grade, 9-year olds
Books for 5th Grade, 10-year olds
Books for 6th Grade, 11-year olds
Books for 7th Grade, 12-year olds
Books for 8th Grade and High School, YA Books
Read Aloud Books by Grade Level
Book Lists By Genre
Adventure Books for Kids
Fantasy Books for Kids
Funny Books for Kids
Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Mystery Books for Kids
Nonfiction Books for Kids
Realistic Books for Kids
Science Fiction Books for Kids
ALL Picture Book Reviews