A whole stack of middle grade books you can read in one weekend

A whole stack of middle grade books you can read in one weekend

Readers, I have a few book-related holidays on my calendar: at the end of April, we celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, and June is the month of audiobooks. But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered so many readers participate in Middle Grade March, a festive month dedicated to reading novels for kids ages 8-12.

Middle grade books are generally shorter (meant for a ten-year-old’s attention span)—and that’s what many of us need in our reading lives right now. Aside from the satisfaction of finishing a book in one sitting, middle grade novels offer heaps of comfort, hope, and joy. They’re known for tackling tough subjects with a light touch, and are often witty, funny, and endearing.

To stock your shelves for Middle Grade March, Afoma Umesi is one of my favorite recommenders. She and I talked about our affinity for middle grade books in WSIRN Ep 249: Who would read the dictionary for fun? (we would). Afoma has a fabulous blog where she regularly reviews middle grade and YA books—it’s a must-read if you have young readers or if you’re looking for middle grade recommendations.

Today, I’m sharing a few of my recent middle grade reads, some longtime favorites, plus a bunch of titles you’ve recommended I pick up. I’ve included a mix of graphic novels, realistic fiction and fantasy, plus a ton of titles that are amazing on audio.

Writing this post brought to mind a handful of What Should I Read Next episodes, including 213: Art, fear, and discovering great books with author Kate DiCamillo. Plus, 106: the anatomy of an excellent reading experience and our most recent installment of Ask Anne Anything, in which I share my tips for raising readers.

Check out those episodes for plenty of book talk and a gentle nudge to pick up a middle grade book, even if you think you’ve outgrown them.

Readers, I hope you find a whole stack of middle grade books for your weekend reading in this list.

Recent Reads

El Deafo

El Deafo

Author:
My family started passing this book around several weeks ago, and everyone has loved it. In her graphic memoir, Cece Bell tells the story of her own childhood, when a case of meningitis at age 4 left her unable to hear. She was promptly fitted with a hearing aid, the Phonic Ear, which allows her to hear her teacher even when her teacher is in another part of the school. The other kids think it's pretty cool—it's even like a superpower! But as Cece puts it, "Superheroes might be awesome, but they are also different. And being different feels a lot like being alone." A wonderful, touching story; don't miss the afterword from the author. More info →
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The Next Great Jane

The Next Great Jane

Author:
Young Jane Brannen dreams of becoming a famous author someday, just like her idol Jane Austen. So when bestselling author J. E. Fairfax comes to Whickett Harbor, Jane thinks it's the perfect opportunity to learn her secrets to literary success. But then a hurricane rolls through, and Jane misses her chance, instead getting thrown together with the author's snobby, science-geek son. And in addition to an exceptionally annoying boy, the storm blows in bad news for Jane's future: her mother has filed for custody and intends to bring Jane back to California with her. Jane doesn't want to leave her beloved small town, so she sets her sights on finding the perfect match for her father and proving to her mother that Whickett Harbor is where she's meant to be. Full of Austen-isms and a lot of heart, this middle grade novel is a delightful one-sitting read. More info →
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Before the Ever After

Before the Ever After

I was happy to recommend this new Jaqueline Woodson novel for Afoma Umesi's TBR. Black preteen ZJ has always had a strong relationship with his father, a football star who's a living legend and fan favorite. But ZJ and his mom have been struggling lately, trying to make sense of his dad's increasingly erratic behavior. The doctors suspect the many concussions he's suffered over the years are the culprit, but they don't know what to do about it. Woodson doesn't sugarcoat the suffering, but a drumbeat of hope and resilience anchors ZJ's story. I listened to the audiobook narration by Guy Lockard: the story was AMAZING in his voice, and delivered a wholly satisfying story. Funny thing: my 11-year-old is starting this book TODAY—I was thrilled when he announced it's the next book club selection for his fifth grade class. More info →
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Loot: How to Steal a Fortune

Loot: How to Steal a Fortune

Author:
There's so much to love about Loot—jewel heists, kid criminals, master schemes. It also boasts short chapters with page-turning cliff-hangers and hilarious dialogue that keep kids reading. March McQuinn's dad is a world-renowned jewel thief who leaves him with a mission before he dies: "find jewels." Except he doesn't mean diamonds and rubies; he means March's secret twin sister Jules. As soon as they find each other, March and Jules are thrown in an orphanage—but they don't intend to stick around. With their criminal know-how and inherited heist skills, the twins break out to live a rich life on the run. I recommended this one on episode 257 of WSIRN as a crowd-pleasing middle grade series. More info →
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The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room

The latest release from the author of Counting by 7s (one of my daughter's favorite books) about family separation and the healing power of animals. Sila misses her mother, who flew to Turkey last year to secure immigration papers for her family. Meanwhile in Oregon, Sila and her mechanic father come across a grandfatherly man who recently won the lottery. Their unlikely friendship leads to a rescue mission; a circus elephant named Veda needs their help. Along the way, Sila meets a young boy and discovers that friends can help ease a lonely heart. Told with heart and humor, this book is like a warm hug. More info →
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Golden Gate (City Spies Book 2)

Golden Gate (City Spies Book 2)

Author:
My kids LOVE Ponti's City Spies series. I'll be picking up the newest installment from our local bookstore soon, and I'm sure at least two kids will read it within a day. The series features a group of young MI6 agents whose special skills, combined with their unassuming ages, allow them to complete missions that adult spies simply can't. In this second book, fourteen-year-old surfer and field ops specialist Sydney finds herself in an undercover mission gone awry. While Sydney untangles herself, the rest of the spies get wrapped up in an investigation where they are also under suspicion, spurring them to go rogue and uncover double agents in their midst. I have a feeling I'll also enjoy this page-turner on a Saturday afternoon. More info →
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Tried and True Favorites

The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth

Author:
I probably wasn't old enough to appreciate this instant classic when I first read it as a child, but that didn't stop me. (Thank goodness. It delights me to this day!) 10-year-old Milo comes home from school one day to find a tollbooth sitting in his bedroom. Since he doesn't have anything better to do, he pays the toll and drives through–and embarks on a strange journey into a fanciful world where he encounters all sorts of strange characters. A satisfying and delightfully nerdy book that will engage both kids and adults, albeit on different levels. And I MUST recommend the recent audio version narrated by Rainn Wilson. More info →
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A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

L'Engle begins her groundbreaking work with the famous opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night,” and plunges you headlong into the world of the Murray family, who must travel through time to save the universe. When I read this as a kid, I wanted to be Meg, of course. Wrinkle is the first—and most famous—of the Time Quintet, but I read them all, again and again. This Newbery winner bridges science fiction and fantasy, darkness and light; L'Engle herself hated when readers tried to shoehorn it into a specific genre. The whole series makes for a great family read-aloud. More info →
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Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming

In this memoir in verse, Woodson tells the story of her childhood, moving with her family (or part of it) from South Carolina to New York City and back again, sharing her observations through a young girl's eyes with a writer's sensibility. Poignant and resonant for readers of all ages. This story is fantastic, and it absolutely comes alive when read by the author herself. If you've never given novels-in-verse a chance (or if you love the poetic form), pick this one up on audio! More info →
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The Crossover

The Crossover

Author:
My family listened to this Newbery-winning novel in verse and LOVED it, after Caroline Starr Rose raved about it on Episode 14 of What Should I Read Next. A heads up to those who think they aren't poetry types: when read aloud, this story doesn't sound "poetic." It just sounds awesome. This coming-of-age story revolves around two twin boys, both basketball stars, raised by an ex-NBA star, and the plot features plenty of action on and off the court. You don't need to enjoy or even know anything about basketball in order to get swept away by the rhythm of Alexander's poetry. More info →
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The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963

The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963

I spoke with Kate DiCamillo about her love for this book on episode 213 of WSIRN. In this modern classic, 10-year-old Kenny and his family head south from their home in Flint, Michigan to visit Grandma in Birmingham—right as the church bombings are about to happen. This award-winning middle grade novel has both humor and depth, and heads up: LeVar Burton excels at highlighting the funny and the tragic with his excellent narration in the audio version. More info →
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Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

Author:
“Nothing ever seems impossible in spring, you know.” Anne Shirley has a well-documented and recurring case of spring fever, making this the perfect Middle Grade March read (or re-read). Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of Prince Edward Island, Canada decide to adopt an orphaned boy to help them on their farm. Their messenger mistakenly delivers a girl to Green Gables instead—an 11-year-old feisty redhead named Anne Shirley. She brings compassion, kindness, and beauty wherever she goes; she's a hopeless romantic, committed to her ideals, and guided by pure intentions—though that doesn't keep her from completely upending Marilla and Matthew's quiet life. More info →
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YOUR Recommendations

The Wingfeather Saga

The Wingfeather Saga

Author:
A lighthearted, funny, much-loved adventure story from songwriter Andrew Peterson. This quartet kicks off with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, where we meet the three Igiby children and their trusty dog Nugget as they set out on their epic adventure. Quirky and captivating, this series will have kids (of all ages) smiling and laughing … and turning the pages as fast as they can. This is a favorite middle grade read and read-aloud. More info →
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The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars

Author:
I adore Gary Schmidt, as do two of my kids. My son has read this over and over again. This is one of his most beloved works—a historical novel that revolves around middle school drama, the New York Yankees, and the Vietnam War, as seen through the eyes of seventh grader Holling Hoodhood. Funny and poignant, it's perfect for fans of E.L. Konigsburg. Adults will get just as much joy out of reading this Newbery Honor-winning middle grade novel about courage, destiny, and Shakespeare’s legacy. Janssen Bradshaw picked this as one of her favorites in her episode of What Should I Read Next; go straight to the 13:17 mark of that episode to hear her describe why this is her favorite book of all time. More info →
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Flora & Ulysses

Flora & Ulysses

Author:
It's hard to go wrong with any Kate DiCamillo book; this Newbery Award winner is a good place to start. Flora is a girl addicted to the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!; Ulysses is the squirrel who needs saving. Endearing, insightful, and laugh-out-loud funny. Don't miss WSIRN Ep. 213: Art, fear, and discovering great books, with the delightful DiCamillo herself. I heard that this was recently adapted into a Disney movie, and I might have to put it on our family movie night list. Have you seen it yet? More info →
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The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

This moving middle grade Newbery winner is based on the true story of a gorilla who spent nearly 30 years living in captivity in a mall in Washington state. In Applegate's novel, Ivan the gorilla lives at the Exit 8 Bigtop Mall and Video Arcade with his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But then Ruby, a new baby elephant, comes to join them at the mall after being forcibly removed from her family, and Ivan is forced to confront what it really means to be captive, and how he can save Ruby. Get your Kleenex ready for this one. More info →
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Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

A well-loved favorite, Max LeMoine mentioned this magical middle grade novel in WSIRN Ep. 262: Books that deliver a little depth, a little distraction. Born on Eventide, the unluckiest day of them all, Morrigan Crow is cursed. Her community blames her for every mishap, accident, and misfortune, and because of the curse, she is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. Before Morrigan succumbs to her fate, a strange figure whisks her away to a magical city. Jupiter North, a remarkable man, has chosen her to compete for a place in the Wundrous Society, a prestigious organization for talented children. Morrigan must pass the tests in order to stay in the new city and avoid the curse. More info →
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We Dream of Space

We Dream of Space

Erin Entrada Kelly writes realistic middle grade fiction with a whole lot of heart. Her recent release takes place in 1986, as three siblings await the launch of The Challenger space shuttle. Cash loves basketball and girls, and he's barely passing seventh grade. Fitch plays arcade games and struggles to get a grasp on his big temper while his twin Bird harbors dreams of being NASA's first female shuttle pilot. Despite their stark differences, the Nelson Thomas kids stick together under tense circumstances, especially on the day of the shuttle launch. Character-driven and down-to-earth, this novel explores difficult family dynamics and the important impact of a great teacher. More info →
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When You Trap a Tiger

When You Trap a Tiger

Author:
A 2021 Newbery Award Winner about finding your voice. To help with her care, Lily and her family move in with Halmoni, her sick grandmother. When a tiger arrives right out of a Korean folktale, Lily is sent on a journey to discover her family's secret past. It turns out, the tiger is there to get something back—and it's prepared to make a deal with Lily in exchange for her grandmother's health. Weaving Korean folktales with modern middle grade magic, Keller's novel explores family, identity, and courage. (And isn't that cover gorgeous?). More info →
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Forever, or a Long, Long Time

Forever, or a Long, Long Time

Author:
Flora and Julian have been in so many foster homes, they're convinced that they weren't born—they must have appeared out of nowhere. Now they're adopted, but Flora can't quite grasp the idea of a forever family. Along with their new mother, Flora and Julian journey to the past to discover where they came from. Slowly, they start to heal and feel safe. Flora and her brother exhibit signs of trauma, which makes for a heartbreaking read, but Carter's prose is beautiful and tender. This book depicts real, harsh aspects of the foster care system; be mindful if you have sensitive young readers. More info →
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Shuri: A Black Panther Novel (Marvel)

Shuri: A Black Panther Novel (Marvel)

Author:
MMD team member Donna raves about this middle grade graphic novel! My kids love all things Marvel, so I need to get ahold of this one ASAP. Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin, pens the story of Shuri, sister to T'Challa the Black Panther and superhero in her own right. In addition to being a science and tech genius, Shuri is also just a teenager (well, and a princess). In this story, it's her turn to save Wakanda from the latest threat: something is killing the vital Heart-Shaped Herb, an essential crop. Shuri's passion for science is contagious, and Stone shares plenty of her signature humor in these pages. More info →
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Have you read any great middle grade books lately? Tell us in the comments.

P.S. Need a few more suggestions for your library stack? Try 11 series kids (and adults) love, 15 re-readable middle grade novels, or 13 adventure-filled audiobooks for the whole family.

A whole stack of middle grade books you can read in one weekend

more posts you might enjoy

104 comments | Comment

104 comments

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  1. Barb says:

    I LOVE the Melendy Family series set in the 1940s. The Saturdays is the first book, about a family of four kids who live in New York city and pool their allowance so that each of them can do something special. In the second book, The Four Story Mistake, they move to the countryside and have very different kinds of adventures. The third book, And Then There Were Five, is about a friend they meet who ends up becoming a family member. The fourth book, Spider Web for Two, is about the two youngest kids who are still at home while the older ones are away at boarding school. Someone has created a mystery for them to solve and they get various rhyming clues that send them on crazy hunts and adventures.
    These books are so charming and they are go-to stress relievers for me! My kids loved them too.

  2. Donna B. says:

    I loved The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise! One of the most enjoyable cast of characters I have spent time with in a long time. Coyote is only 12 but has so much to teach the adults in her life! Loved it!

  3. So many wonderful titles here! I’m especially happy to see my all-time favorite, The Phantom Tollbooth, which is a fitting tribute with Norton Juster’s passing earlier this week.

    Middle grade books are the books that have made the biggest impact on my life as a reader and human being. Thank you for spotlighting them today. xo

    • Brittany says:

      I just heard about his passing yesterday! I’ve never read this book for some odd reason. I’ll definitely be adding it to my list to read soon.

      When I think of children’s books, I always recall CS Lewis’ words: No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.

  4. Sara Gentry says:

    A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat is lovely. From the publisher’s description:
    Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat’s twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice — and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.

  5. Meggan says:

    Just published yesterday is Amber and Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz – a Newberry Winning author. It’s a new read I’m excited about!

  6. Amber says:

    Thank you for the list! The Next Great Jane looks really good. 🙂

    I recently finished and fell in love with Waiting for Unicorns by Beth Hautala. It’s an absolutely sweet story with beautiful writing, setting (Churchill, Manitoba), and themes—grief, healing, new friendships, wishes, hope…and unicorns/narwhals. The cover is beautiful too!

  7. Debbie Schmidt says:

    I just finished reading Wink by Rob Harrell and loved it. The author writes about his own experience of dealing with eye cancer, but from the perspective of a middle school boy. Mixed in between the chapters are comic strips of Batpig, saving the day. This a is delightful read or audiobook and helps us all have a deeper understanding of childhood cancer.

  8. Kara says:

    I love so many of the books on this list! I’ve found such joy in “discovering” middle grade books that my kids have read and then shared with me. It’s fun to get book recommendations from your children!

    In addition to favorites on this list like The Phantom Tollbooth, Flora & Ulysses, and anything by Jacqueline Woodson, I’d suggest The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin . My son and I loved this one!

  9. Val Harder says:

    My favourites lately have both been by Barbara Dee — “Maybe He Just Likes You” and “My Life in a Fish Bowl”. Both AMAZING!

  10. Janna says:

    Tiger Rising by Kate di Camillo is a winner. As you said, you can’t go wrong with Kate di Camillo.
    When I was teaching, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume and Trumpet of the Swan by EB White were favorites- even into the 20teens. Oldies but goodies!

  11. Afoma says:

    Thank you for the shout-out, Anne. I love this list! Recently, I enjoyed a new graphic novel called ALLERGIC about a girl who loves pets but finds out she is allergic to fur. I also loved STARFISH by Lisa Fipps about a fat girl who learns to take up space in the world. Hena Khan’s AMINA’S SONG is also another new middle grade book about family and culture and part of it is set in Pakistan! So many wonderful books!

  12. Sarah Williams says:

    An excellent pairing with A Wrinkle in Time would be When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I LOVE this book. It’s set in NYC in the 70’s. Miranda loves A Wrinkle in Time, and begins to wonder if its premise is feasible when she begins receiving notes about events that have not yet taken place. The friendships and character development are excellent.

  13. Stacie says:

    Thank you for this post, I loved The Next Great Jane! Shuri is also excellent on audio, the actress from The Princess and the Frog movie narrates! I also really enjoyed Other Words for Home, Penderwicks, Ghost, and Wonder.

    • Jennifer says:

      I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Penderwicks and Wonder!!! They are excellent on audio, as well! I have Other Words for Home on my TBR list.

  14. Brandy says:

    Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier shouldn’t be missed! My 7th grader brought it down to me at 10:30pm saying, “Mom-you HAVE to read this!” It’s the story of an unlikely hero and is excellent on audio as well. Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton also is a winner, calling us all to be brave with our creativity. My kids have also loved everything Laura Martin has written. Thanks for all the new books to check out!

    • Julie Osborne says:

      Ooh, yes, my whole family loved Peter Nimble! The second in the series, “Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard” is maybe even better – the protagonist is a bookmender 🙂

  15. Kaylin Means says:

    I have recently been re-reading the boxcar children which has just been so delightful journeying back into their world that I loved so much when I was young. Middle grade novels just don’t get enough credit! 🙂

  16. Teresa Forsberg says:

    I love reading middle school books. I feel as if it activates a different part of my brain. I loved (like cried buckets) The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart. Another favorite from last year was Ban this Book by Alan Gratz–I have recommended it multiple times to kids and adults. My third favorite was Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

    I also recently read the nonfiction book Paperback Crush about all your favorite 80s and 90s teen fiction and have been reading some books listed in that book (The Face on the Milk Carton (and the follow-ups), Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume, the first Sweet Valley High book, and a selection from Lurlene McDaniels).

    • Jennifer says:

      Oh my goodness…Lurlene McDaniel takes me back to my upper elementary years. I got Six Months to Live at a school book fair, and I loved reading her books that were so tragic and always made me cry.

  17. Susan says:

    Before the Ever After and Loot are both fantastic books. This past year, I’ve concentrated on reading middle grade fiction, and there are many wonderful books for that age group. Some of my recently published favorites:
    Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – an absolutely beautifully written book about child neglect and sexual abuse
    Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar — a lovely story about an undocumented family that gets separated and incarcerated
    American As Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar — an Indian-American girl endures microaggressions, followed by outright racism, but learns to stand up for herself

  18. Christina says:

    Wow, I’m excited to add a lot of these to my TBR. I’ve taught middle grades for almost 6 years now, and I’m always looking for quality, fun titles to share with my students.

    One new-to-me book this year is A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord. About a girl who becomes friends with a girl her age who is a migrant worker. Beautiful, poignant, but easily relatable with typical middle grade friend problems.

    Another of my new favorites is Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. The main character is in 6th grade, has moved a lot as an Army brat, and can’t read. She has dyslexia but is undiagnosed until later in the book. My students LOVED it!

    I wrote more about both of these titles (and several more favorites from last year!) on my blog here: http://alookatabook.com/2020/12/26/top-middle-grade-reads-of-2020/

  19. Liesl says:

    A friend recently recommended the Underland Chronicles to me, and I loved them. They’re written by Suzanne Collins (yes, the author of The Hunger Games) and were her first series – I’m shocked I’d never heard of them before. You definitely see some of the same themes in the Underland Chronicles that you do in Hunger Games. I will say that the depiction of war and gore would make this on the more mature side of a middle grade novel, but I wholeheartedly recommend.

  20. Jennifer says:

    LOVE Gail Carson Levine, particularly Fairest and Ella Enchanted (brilliant retellings of Snow White and Cinderella, respectively), as well as her two original fairy tales, The Two Princesses of Bamarre and The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre. All are excellent on audio, too.

    Andrew Clements is the master of “school stories.” My son and I have loved both Frindle and The Report Card.

    Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes is a favorite of both my daughter and me, painting a picture of life for former slaves and Chinese workers and the conflict between them on a sugar plantation post-slavery. Excellent!

  21. Ulrike says:

    I love the Melendy series, and my kids and I greatly enjoyed the audiobooks. Another wonderful series is The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, a series of five books. If you enjoyed the Wingfeather Saga, you would enjoy Prydain.
    One of my favorites is The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. I bought it in Germany when it was first published, and it is still a classic there. I find it sad that this beautiful story never really became popular in the US. The 80s movie probably ruined it for some, but it only touches the first part of the story and really doesn’t do the book justice. Hint: try to find the hardcover edition, because it is printed in two different colors for the two worlds where the story happens, and it has the whole-page illustrated first letters for every chapter that are beautiful. Has anyone here read it?

    • Natka says:

      Neverending Story – yes!!! I read it for the first time when i was in college 🙂
      I got the hardcover copy for my son a few years ago. Unfortunately, he never got into it.
      It’s different and it’s a bit dark in places, but so, so imaginative.

      I have 3 young readers, ages 7-12, so I am looking forward to checking out some of the books listed in the post, and reading through the commments!

      Are there any other translated books anyone can recommend?

      My kids really like books by Astrid Lindgren (Swedish) and Maria Parr (Norwegian).

  22. Aimee says:

    Amari and the Night Brothers, Root Magic, and The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez have been my recent favorites.
    Also, All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat was phenomenal. I read it, and instantly gave it to my dad. He finished it in a weekend and passed it to my mom. I’m hoping to eventually get it back to let my 5th grade students read it.
    I just finished Ancestor Approved, a book of short stories by indigenous authors for middle grade. It was lovely.
    Efren Divided, a debut by Ernesto Cisneros, was my favorite book from 2020.
    Oh! And for those who like spooky stories, Scary Stories for Young Foxes is brilliant.

  23. Cara Veddireddy says:

    I just recommended this over in the MMD book group forums, but they’re so good it bears repeating here:
    The Vanderbeeker series! I especially love the second book, but they are all a delightful look at family life in a brownstone in Harlem as the kids navigate landlord problems, friendships, changing family dynamics, constructing a community garden, and more.

  24. Karleen says:

    I just read The Comeback by E.L Shen which recently came out. It’s a sweet, inspiring story about a young Chinese-American girl with figure skating dreams. It touches on a lot of themes – friendship, competition, specialization and sports, and most timely, racism. Highly recommend!

  25. Melanie O. says:

    When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson
    Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
    The Barren Grounds by David Alexander Robertson

    • Catherine says:

      Yes to The Barren Grounds by David Alexander Robertson! I really enjoyed that book. It is billed as Narnia meets Indigenous stories but it is really so much more. The second book in the series – The Great Bear – is set to come out this September.

  26. Janice says:

    When I was teaching I had to put together a middle grade books curriculum for my reading class. I read so many books every summer in order to choose what to teach. That was many years ago. Since then I have read hardly no middle grade books. The most recent was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I truly fell in love with the characters and the story. From all your posts and Anne’s suggestions it appears that middle grade books have flooded the market. I need to read more of this genre in the future.

  27. Vanessa Simon says:

    Front Desk and Three Keys by Kelly Yang. I’ve read them both to my fourth graders and we all loved both books. Also, Out of My Mind and Blended both my Sharon Draper. She has such a gift for writing the inner monologue of a middle grade kid.

  28. Liz Chandler says:

    I am reading Flora and Ulysses, right now on recommendation from my 100+ a year book reading teenager. I also just finished Rascal by Sterling North, one of my all time favorite family reads. Finally, I highly recommend Baby, Journey and the Sarah, Plain and Tall series by Patricia MacLachlan.

    • Ruth O says:

      I have beloved memories of my Grandma reading Rascal to us as children, just loved that story!
      I cherished the Melendy family when I was old enough to check out my own books at our local library…quite a while back.
      So many good reads added to TBR today. Thank you!

  29. Hilary says:

    Middle grade is my go-to for comfort reads. I love them. There are so many hidden gems in this genre for kids & adults.
    My kids and I LOVED the Space Case series by Stuart Gibbs (great for boys as the protagonist is a 12 y.o. boy who lives on the moon). We’ve been listening to The War that Saved my life and THe War I finally Won and we love these too.
    Going back a ways, we’ve enjoyed The Egypt Game and A Cricket in Times Square.
    Truly, middle grade books will always hold a special place in my heart.

    • Mairsydoats says:

      I strolled through the comments specifically to recommend Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s books. Specifically, Black and Blue Magic, The Egypt Game, and The Changeling.
      What a great list of books! Some middle grade reading sounds absolutely perfect at this point in the pandemic!

  30. Kristi Lund says:

    Same Sun Here co-written by Silas House and Neela Vaswani is the story told through letters (and emails) of two pen pals circa 2008.
    It is an Indian immigrant girl living in Chinatown in NYC, and a boy living in small-town Kentucky. Through their letters they learn about each other’s very different lives and what they have in common, despite their different circumstances.

  31. Ellie’s mom says:

    Quintessence by Jess Redman! So good. Also, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. And btw, the new editions of the Wingfeather Saga are much more attractive than the original you depicted here. 🙂

  32. Brittany says:

    This is my favorite type of book list! I really enjoy reading middle grade novels. Kate DiCamillo is my absolute favorite author! And I also really enjoy Jacqueline Woodson. Her poetry is just beautiful! I read Brown Girl Dreaming on audiobook, which I highly recommend. I also wrote a review about it recently: https://themiraculousjourneyofbooks.com/book/brown-girl-dreaming-book-review/

    I want to comment about each book you wrote about! haha. Thank you for sharing this great list!

  33. Heidi says:

    Sara Mackenzie has some excellent middle-grade books lists over at Read Aloud Revival, and a podcast or blog post discussing the distinction between middle grade and YA novels – essentially, she says YA is not a designation of reading ability, but a designation of content. So middle-grade books are not necessarily easier for the reader to understand, they simply deal with issues in a way that less mature or intense. She classifies YA as a sub-genre of adult fiction. This helped me immensely when my 12-year-old was looking for more advanced books but wasn’t ready for the subject matter of YA. There’s a ton of middle grade books that still fit the bill!

    All three of my kids (including a very reluctant reader, age 10) have been sucked into the Ranger’s Apprentice series. They also have enjoyed Encyclopedia Brown, the Penderwicks, Pippi Longstocking, Homer Price (by Robert McCloskey!), and anything by Jean Craighead George, Rick Riordan, Trenton Lee Stewart, Jonathan Auxier, E.B. White, Beverly Cleary, and E.L. Konigsberg.

  34. Cassandra says:

    My kids and I loved Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech. And I personally loved Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, wonderful book.

  35. For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington is a lyrical coming of age story of a transracial adoptee & her complicated, loving-but-messy family as she navigates the changes involved in a cross-country move & resulting fall-out.

    Fun structure (including 1st person POV, letters, blog posts, poetry & song lyrics), honest & insightful (the author is herself a transracial adoptee).

    With CW for mental illness & attempted suicide, this one feels geared to the more mature end of middle grade/YA. As an adult, I loved this book!

  36. Joy Shelden says:

    What – no Roald Dahl on your list?! Are you crazy?! He’s one of the best storytellers. Ever. Also, where’s the Narnia series?
    The Whale Rider, Charlotte Sometimes, and The Island of the Blue Dolphins are books that are still a part of my reading life.

    • Liz says:

      If you loved The Island of Blue Dolphins, read Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife which takes place on that same island. Fascinating story though not a middle school book.

  37. Meghan Kirk says:

    I recently read Flora & Ulysses and found it to be so fun and yet touching at the same time. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I hope they managed to capture the deep feelings of a young girl as compellingly as the book does.

  38. Deborah Larson says:

    I’m sure Krista from Books and Jams is thrilled to see your post today highlighting Middle Grade March, a reading event that she hosts yearly. 🙂

  39. Suzy says:

    This is an old, old title, but no less charming and heartwarming—Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Betsy is an orphan, adopted by her old aunts, who UNDERSTAND her, that she’s sensitive and impressionable, to the point that they shelter her, do everything for her, ask nothing of her, they just smother her with love and protection. When the time comes that she needs to go stay with the Putney cousins in Vermont (Oh, no, not THEM! Her aunts have talked about THEM! They make children do chores, whatever that is!) she’s afraid and horrified. Her awakening, and growth, and finding herself, plus the love of Vermont, is just touching and it’s so fun to go on that journey with her! It was my mother’s favorite book as a child and led to her wanting to move to Vermont. I refused to read it until I was an adult, and how stupid I was!

  40. Yelle says:

    After the birth of my daughter, it was a little while until I had my focus back in order to enjoy a book cover to cover. Then the pandemic hit shortly after, and my focus was shot, again. The idea of a “middle grade” book is kind of new to me, but I have always found that I read more “beach reads” in summer and saved the deeper books for winter time. I love the idea of a middle grade book, especially as I work to get my focus back!

  41. Erica says:

    Love this list! It fills me with joy just reading it!

    I have to say a word for a classic, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is absolutely wonderful! And did you know Mildred Taylor has just put out another book in this series? It’s geared more for adults so if you read Roll of Thunder as a kid, you might really enjoy this most recent one called, All the Days Past, All the Days to Come.

    I also absolutely loved The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh. This book is precious! The voice is so strong it’s like the main character is talking in your ear. It’s about sisters, and family secrets, and it has a little mystery and a whole lot of charm and humor. It even has recipes at the end of the chapters that are actually good!

  42. JeriP says:

    I recently read 96 Miles by J.L. Esplin. I am a Great Grandma rather than a middle school student and I loved this book. The story grabbed me and I was surprised and pleased to find that there was more than the obvious happening. I found that the ending not only left me satisfied but reflecting on several themes long after I finished the book. Highly recommended.

  43. Lynne Carlton says:

    Diversity is important
    Blended by Sharon M Draper
    Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker
    Front Desk by Kelly Yang
    Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
    All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker
    Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes

  44. Liese says:

    I’ve read Walk two moons by Sharon Creech for my reading challenge a couple of years ago and loved it. I also really liked Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl. When I was a kid, I loved Thea Beckman’s historical novels, but I don’t think they are translated in English (she was a Dutch children’s author).

  45. Marion says:

    The Hedge School by Gloria Whelan,Anne Of Green Gables series are wonderful reads but so are Pat Of Silver Bush(my favorite series) and Jane Of Lantern Hill by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The American Girl series are good historical books. Try and get the original ones. They are far better than the new editions.
    Marion

  46. Pat says:

    I could only read page-turner mysteries for the first 9 months of the pandemic. Then I thought I might be able to ease back in by reading middle school novels. So far, I have read “Anne of Green Gables”, “On the Shores of Silver Lake”, and “Brown Girl Dreaming”. They have all been wonderful and I have been very pleased. Next up are “The Phantom Tollbooth” and “Caddie Woodlawn”.
    I would recommend “The Borrowers” and the rest of the series. My children and I think they are a lot of fun!
    Thank you, all, for your suggestions.

  47. Stacy Joseph says:

    Hello,
    I’m a middle-grade librarian so I absolutely love this topic! Jason Reynolds is extremely popular in the book/library world right now. His Track series is fantastic! Even better is listening to him narrate his own audiobooks. He is brilliant!

    I’m on the Young Hoosier Book Award Middle-Grade Committee for Indiana. It is sort of like Anne’s Summer Reading Guide but for Middle School Indiana kids. It is run by the Indiana Library Federation and every year we pick 20 excellent middle-grade books that students read throughout the school year and then vote on their favorite. It is an excellent way to promote literacy. I just received over 40 books to read by July to pick for the 2022-2023 school year. It is like a secret book society because I can’t talk about the potential books on the list.

    Anyway, I will include the link to the Young Hoosier Books for this year! https://www.ilfonline.org/page/2020-21YHBAMiddleGrades. My favorite on the list is The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor. Fantastic read!

  48. Marilyn says:

    Betsy Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace,Emily of The New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Moffits,All Of A Kind Family and Drina series.
    Marilyn

  49. Heidi says:

    Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. Her follow-up (Navigating Early) is good too, although I think this one is better. Won the Newberry in 2011.

  50. Amanda says:

    My 11yo *highly* recommends The Hour of The Bees by Lindsay Eager. She received it for her 10th birthday, read it five times in six months, and raved about it enough we purchased the audiobook for our family road trip that summer. It really is a great book! We all enjoyed it.

    • Gina Fiorito says:

      I just want to say thank you and I love this list so much. My 10-year old devours SO many books and with libraries just doing curbside, these lists and all of the comment recommendations have kept her going for the last year. She can’t wait to explore the shelves when it’s safe but these conversations and lists have been a lifesaver!

  51. Nancy Halsema says:

    I would add almost anything from Kate DiCamillo – Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, or Tiger Rising are my personal favorites for myself and to read to grandchildren.

  52. Sherry says:

    Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant
    The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
    Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements
    The Luster of Lost Things by Sophie Chen Keller

  53. Carrie says:

    “Operation Yes” by Sara Lewis Holmes is a delightful book that I don’t hear about much, but I think it’s such a great look at loss and the power of art (with some improv thrown in!) Also really fun as an audiobook since the accents bring the setting alive.

  54. Meredith says:

    Yes to Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds. And my absolute favorite is Kate DiCamillo. My son and my very favorite is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It is a masterpiece. Recently, he liked The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman. And for a book that my nine-year-old can just whip through but also learn something, the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis is fabulous. I just bought her books about I Survived 9/11 and also I Survived the Nazi Invasion as ways for us to discuss the topics before they read Number Our Stars by Lois Lowry in 5th grade.

  55. Anne Dunham says:

    I greatly enjoyed Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, and the other books in her art mystery series – The Wright 3, The Calder Game, and Pieces and Players.

    And for a bit of humor, Regarding the Fountain, and other books in the series by Kate Klise are great fun.

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