A reader wrote to ask me for a list of books with short stories for middle-grade readers, ages 9 – 12. Interestingly, short story anthologies are not in abundance for tweens but even still, there are some good options to keep kids reading.
Short stories offer students an alternative to a long chapter book and give teachers quick passages to use as mentor texts or for reading lessons.
Short Story Books for Middle-Grade Readers (Ages 9 – 12)
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids edited by Cynthia Leitch Smith
These exceptionally written, interconnected stories are about kids and their experiences with the powwow, cultural aspects of the Native communities, growing up, and belonging. They’re wonderfully written and wholly engaging. At first, each story seems distinct, but the stories intersect with graceful wonder. It’s a beautiful collection of stories that amplifies Native voices and gives non-Native folks a view of the modern-day lives of Indigenous kids and their families.
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.
Fable Comics edited by Chris Duffy
My kids and I ADORE this book — as well as the series’ previously published books, Nursery Rhyme Comics and Fairy Tale Comics. We love that 17 different cartoonists created one or more of the 28 illustrated fables, sometimes retelling a traditional, often unknown fable, and sometimes retelling with their own twist. The neat thing about this diversity in cartoonists is seeing what the artist envisions for the style and tone of the art for each story. (That concept could be an entire lesson in itself!) I highly recommend this book not just for all kids but for kids with short attention spans, or reluctant readers, since the stories are short and fairly different. It holds your attention and you can stop and start anywhere in the book.
Guys Read: Heroes & Villains
Get ready for short stories written by well-known authors like Laurie Halse Anderson, Sharon Creech, Jack Gantos, Christopher Healy, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Lemony Snicket, and others. (Jon Scieszka edits all of the books.) The stories explode with different flavors — from an irreverent fairy tale to an immigrant’s crossing to a Russian mobster adventure. You won’t be bored and will find it fun to read and compare which stories you liked best. If you like this book, you’ll want to read more in the Guys Read series– there are many books from which to choose such as Guys Read: True Stories and Guys Read: Funny Business.
The Hero Next Door edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (#OWNVOICES)
What makes a hero? These short stories for tweens by authors like William Alexander, Joseph Bruchac, Lamar Giles, Mike Jung, Hena Khan, Juana Medina, Ellen Oh, and R. J. Palacio, explore stories where real-life heroes spread kindness.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark retold by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
This book was the MOST tattered, beat-up book in my classroom library because it was so well-loved. The short stories are very readable. You can skip around or read it cover to cover. If you like creepy and scary, this is a great choice.
Ghost: Thirteen Haunting Tales to Tell by Illustratus
Knucklehead Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka
Growing up Scieszka was a WILD time. There’s quite a bit of potty humor in Scieszka’s hilarious musings on his childhood but the writing is excellent and captures personal narrative in short, digestible stories.
Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. by Betsy Bird
I chuckled through most of these short stories — especially Deborah Underwood’s story that continued throughout the book featuring a dog and a cat who are advice writers. Hilarious! Funny stories from award-winning and bestselling authors including Cece Bell, Sophie Blackall, Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, Lisa Graff, and Raina Telgemeier.
Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher
Ralph Fletcher is a respected writing teacher and author of writing pedagogy. His short stories from childhood show a large, close-knit family that gave him the foundation for his storytelling as an adult.
Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh (#OWNVOICES)
I recommend this book as a go-to book of short stories for middle school. The writing is absolutely incredible with short stories meant for ages 8 – 12 written by amazing, award-winning, and BIPOC authors.
Knots in My Yo-Yo String: The autobiography of a kid by Jerry Spinelli (ages 11+)
Spinelli shares stories from his teen years that helped him become the author and storyteller he is today.
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