If you’re a teacher, librarian, grandparent, or parent looking for the best books for 5th graders who are usually ages 10 – 11, here are middle-grade book suggestions that are exceptionally well-written, represent the diversity in the world, including cultural, ethnic, physical, and religious, and well keep fifth-grade students excited about reading.
Most of these books are contemporary stories, not classics, about relatable topics with interesting (compelling!?) characters that kids will like and engaging plot lines.
Let your readers choose the middle-grade novel they want to read to increase motivation.
You can use any book from this list to practice thinking and comprehension skills and strategies, such as connecting to background knowledge, making inferences, and other strategies.
Find read aloud book ideas for 5th graders here.
Find book series for 5th graders here.
Best Books for 5th Graders
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.
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.
Refugee by Alan Gratz
This incredible 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.
City Spies by James Ponti
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. I highly recommend this book for 5th graders for every reason –the writing, the characters, and the plot.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
This middle grade graphic novel is the Newbery winner 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.
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.
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.
Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery by James Ponti
Captivating from the first page, 12- year old Florian Bates uses his brilliant, observing brain to implement T.O.A.S.T. (the Theory of All Small Things) to notice things that others have missed. Including the FBI when there’s an art heist at the museum his mother works at. The FBI hires him to help unravel a mysterious art heist which he does with the help of his best friend, Margaret. Fast-paced and interesting.
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 their 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?
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.
Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist
With themes of grief, family, poverty, poetry, the power of writing, and friendship — this beautiful middle grade story captures your heart with a struggling, heroic main character whose hopeful journey makes you believe in humanity again. 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. He finds strength and inspiration in his father’s journaled stories about Isaiah Dunn Superhero and eventually, begins to write poems again in his own journal.
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.
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 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!
More to the Story by Hena Khan
Jameela is one of four girls in a Pakistani-American family and 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 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.
Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts by Erika Lewis
Fast-paced with an interesting premise, this exciting middle-grade book with Celtic mythology is about a foster child attending a magical school and searching for answers about her mysterious heritage. Kelcie is a foster kid who 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 who help her learn about her unique powers and together they fight the monsters who continue to attack the school, seemingly looking for Kelcie. This first book packs a punch and sets us up for book two — which I can’t wait to read. Highly recommended!
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? This is a funny middle grade book filled with cartoon-like illustrations that 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
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.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
MIDDLE GRADE FANTASY
This book is so excellent, I’d say it’s a modern children’s book classic. 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 main guardian is Silas who cares for him, feeds him, and teaches him about the human world. The ending is bittersweet (my daughter yelled at me for making her read a sad story) but perfect. 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 that part.
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. (Added to my Physical Disabilities Book List.)
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.
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! It’s a must-read, especially appealing to boys. BOX SET
First Cat in Space by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris
FUNNY / SCI-FI / 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 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 slipped my hand into hers. A strange and unfamiliar feeling rang through me. It felt like the ocean, like sunlight, like horses. Like love. I searched my mind and found the name for it. Joy.” I can’t recommend this book enough, it just touched my heart at such a deep level. The sequel, The War I Finally Won, is just as incredible and beautiful.
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. 5th grade readers will feel transported, feel the injustice, and cheer for Amal’s bravery.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibb
The adventurous 5th grade book 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!
Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick
MYSTERY / NEURODIVERSITY
When 7th grade Frankie’s former best friend, Colette, vanishes, Frankie begins to search for her friend. 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, it helps Frankie accept herself and forgive Colette and her sister. It’s a brilliant, touching first-person story that gives fifth grade readers insights into a neurodivergent character’s brain in a suspenseful mystery story.
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.
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!
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. Very well-written.
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. Things get more complicated when Mr. Kermit gets a notice that he will be fired. But the students have a plan for saving their teacher’s job.
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 next? My kids and I couldn’t put this book down –it’s an amazing, action-packed adventure for 5th graders.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
This best book for 5th graders hooked me from the first page, taking me on a coming-of-age story that was both heartbreaking and filled with hope. 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.
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 about her past. BOX SET HERE
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.
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.
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!
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks
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.
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!
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?
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.
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
I loved this engaging story about food-enthusiast Gladys who is suffering in a house of microwaving parents without a taste bud between them. Gladys not only appreciates good food, but she also loves to cook, and wants to be a food critic. She already has lots of practice writing her daily notes about her parents’ horrid creations. When a mix-up in a writing contest has the editors of a paper thinking she’s an adult, can she actually write a published review without letting anyone know she’s 10 years old? (UPDATE: The entire 3-book series is fantastic!)
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.
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 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 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.
96 Miles by J.L. Esplin
SURVIVAL / ADVENTURE
“Dad always said if things get desperate, it’s okay to drink the water in the toilet bowl.” Isn’t this a great first sentence? An apocalyptic event has happened, there’s no electricity, the brothers are alone, and all their dad and their survival supplies were stolen at gunpoint. Now John and Stewart are on the road trying to get to a friend’s ranch for their supplies. It’s not going well–they’ve picked up a girl and her little brother not to mention Stewart is fighting nonstop with John. If your 5th grade like survival stories, sibling stories, and adventure, this is a great choice.
For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington
It’s hard for Makeda to be a black adopted girl in a white family. But there are even more challenges for Makeda these days, starting with being the little sister to a newly-distant teenager, moving to a new town away from her BFF, having parents who constantly fight, and watching her mom’s mental health deteriorate and blaming herself. After her mom’s mania takes them on a trip to Colorado which abruptly nose dives into severe depression and a suicide attempt, Makeda reaches out for help. Don’t miss this insightful, honest story — it makes you think deeply and will stay with you long after the last page.
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…
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.
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 then rescued from hungry dinosaurs by a boy who lives in a treetop enclave. Soon, Sky realizes that everything she believed to be true is wrong, becoming even more determined to find her father. I LOVED this series.
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.
Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan
Action, intrigue, plot twists, and super-cool technology — this is a page-turning adventure that will appeal to all 5th-grade boys and girls! 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.
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.
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. 5th grade readers will love every moment of this story.
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.
Green Lantern Legacy by Minh Le, illustrated by Angie Tong
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!
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.
Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant
If you want a new favorite warm-hearted adventure with brave kids, dogs, and a happy ending, you don’t want to miss this captivating and beautiful story. 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.