30 Best Middle Grade Books Kids Will Love
The elementary and tween years are often when kids fall in love with reading and start to define their tastes. Or perhaps it’s because the very best middle grade authors seem to have an innate understanding of and respect for kids. But I love them.
These authors know that kids are often grappling with difficult issues, or that kids every day encounter friends and classmates who are.
Reading books can help people, but specially kids, approach these situations thoughtfully, sensitively, and with empathy. A Harvard research in neuroscience suggests that reading literary fiction helps people develop empathy, theory of mind, and critical thinking.
by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is a coming-of-age novel written by American novelist Louisa May Alcott. Originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869 at the request of her publisher. The story follows the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—and details their passage from childhood to womanhood.
Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.
It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
By John Boyne
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas tells the story of Bruno, a young boy whose father works at Auschwitz. Bruno knows very little about Auschwitz or what his father does. He only knows that he is separated from all of the people behind the fence. He strikes up a friendship with another boy on the other side of the fence, which provides much-needed companionship for them both.
This book is told solely from Bruno’s relentlessly innocent perspective. Which can be frustrating for the wise reader who wants him to face the reality of what’s happening. It’s unflinching, and you won’t be able to turn away, even as you can see what’s going to happen. It will be impactful for pre-teens or young teens who can handle it.
The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan
The Lightning Thief is a 2005 American fantasy-adventure novel based on Greek mythology. The first young adult novel written by Rick Riordan in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. It won the Adult Library Services Association Best Books for Young Adults, among other awards.
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea.
Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.
A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle
Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure—one that will threaten their lives and our universe.
A Wrinkle in Time is a young adult science fantasy novel written by American author Madeleine L’Engle. First published in 1962, the book won the Newbery Medal, the Sequoyah Book Award, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. And it was runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.
The Little Prince
written and illustrated by French aristocrat, writer, and military pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
“The Little Prince” is a fantasy book that everyone should read, even if you’re at age 100. Readers from various generations have enshrined this book as a classic work of children’s literature. One that pays tribute to the creativity and compassion of young people. It is as much of a book for adults as children and will have deep meaning to both age groups.
Its plot, nature and atmosphere is far different from any fantasy we’re used to, but once you start reading it, you will be amazed to see what happens in this story. It starts off with a pilot’s crash in the Sahara where he meets a little boy who is a prince, who is the main focus of the story. The boy tells the pilot that he comes the planet Asteroid 325 and how he cared for the planet and his bond for a rose he loved which was shattered by a lie. After that, the prince went on a journey to six different planets and meets a few mysterious odd people and learns about their strange behaviors and purposes in their lives.
Then throughout the journey, the little prince comes to Earth, but then still wonders about his rose he left behind. This story let me wonder about many thoughts, about how one certain thing can keep you thinking. We don’t get things like dragons, knights with swords, or even a fantasy, but what we get is something one of a kind. Readers will find it a heartfelt story, while others might find it confusing, but “The Little Prince” is definitely something out of this world.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
by C.S. Lewis
To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.
The talented director Greta Gerwig will make a new adaptation of this classic!
Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house. At first her brothers and sister don’t believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Lion Aslan, they realize they’ve been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch’s sinister spell.
by M. Evan Wolkenstein
Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. His science teacher finds out about the turtles he spent his summer collecting from the marsh behind school and orders him to release them back into the wild. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he has to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease. Unfortunately, Will hates hospitals.
At first, the boys don’t get along, but then RJ shares his bucket list with Will. Among the things he wants to do: ride a roller coaster, go to a concert and a school dance, and swim in the ocean. To Will, happiness is hanging out in his room, alone, preferably with his turtles. But as RJ’s disease worsens, Will realizes he needs to tackle the bucket list on his new friend’s behalf before it’s too late. It seems like an impossible mission, way outside Will’s comfort zone. But as he completes each task with RJ’s guidance, Will learns that life is too short to live in a shell.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling Blurb: Join Harry Potter as he discovers his magical heritage, attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and faces the challenges of the wizarding world, including the dark Lord Voldemort. Why Kids Love It: This beloved series offers a captivating blend of magic, adventure, friendship, and self-discovery.
“Matilda” by Roald Dahl Blurb: Follow the extraordinary Matilda Wormwood, a young girl with telekinetic powers, as she outsmarts her neglectful parents and the tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Why Kids Love It: Roald Dahl’s magical storytelling celebrates the power of intelligence, courage, and standing up for what is right.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl Blurb: Join Charlie Bucket as he wins a golden ticket to the eccentric Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, where he experiences wondrous delights and moral lessons. Why Kids Love It: Roald Dahl’s whimsical tale of imagination and fantastical treats is a delightful and timeless classic.
“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio Blurb: Meet Auggie Pullman, a boy born with a facial difference, as he navigates the challenges of middle school and teaches everyone around him the true meaning of kindness and acceptance. Why Kids Love It: This heartwarming and uplifting tale promotes empathy, friendship, and the importance of embracing differences.
The One and Only Ivan
“The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate Blurb: Ivan, a silverback gorilla living in a shopping mall, narrates his story as he befriends a young elephant named Ruby and dreams of a better life for both of them. Why Kids Love It: Inspired by a true story, this touching novel explores themes of friendship, freedom, and the power of hope.
“The Giver” by Lois Lowry Blurb: Enter a seemingly perfect dystopian society where young Jonas is chosen to receive memories of the past from the Giver, leading him to question the true nature of his world. Why Kids Love It: This thought-provoking novel delves into themes of individuality, choice, and the value of human emotions.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney Blurb: Follow Greg Heffley’s hilarious and relatable middle school misadventures as he navigates the challenges of growing up and fitting in. Why Kids Love It: This engaging and funny series resonates with kids as it captures the ups and downs of adolescence.
The Wild Robot
“The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown Blurb: Discover the heartwarming tale of Roz, a robot stranded on a wild island, who learns to adapt and form bonds with the local animals. Why Kids Love It: This unique story blends themes of nature, friendship, and self-discovery, making it a captivating and emotional read.
“Holes” by Louis Sachar Blurb: Follow Stanley Yelnats as he is sent to a juvenile detention center and forced to dig holes as part of his punishment, leading him to uncover a mysterious family curse. Why Kids Love It: This award-winning novel weaves together humor, mystery, and adventure into a compelling narrative.
The Secret Keepers
“The Secret Keepers” by Trenton Lee Stewart Blurb: Meet Reuben Pedley, who discovers a mysterious and powerful watch that grants him invisibility, setting off a thrilling adventure filled with secrets and unexpected allies. Why Kids Love It: This captivating story combines elements of mystery, friendship, and courage in a suspenseful journey.
Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
“The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy” by Jeanne Birdsall Blurb: Follow the four Penderwick sisters on their summer vacation adventure filled with friendship, humor, and unexpected escapades. Why Kids Love It: This heartwarming and endearing story celebrates sisterhood and family bonds.
The Phantom Tollbooth
“The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster Blurb: Embark on an imaginative journey with Milo as he discovers the magical tollbooth that leads him to the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he encounters extraordinary characters and life-changing lessons. Why Kids Love It: This whimsical and clever novel engages young readers with its wordplay and inventive storytelling.
The Westing Game
“The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin Blurb: In this thrilling mystery, sixteen strangers are invited to the reading of eccentric millionaire Samuel Westing’s will, with a twist—they must solve the puzzle of his murder to inherit his fortune. Why Kids Love It: This gripping puzzle mystery keeps readers guessing until the very end.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
“From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg Blurb: Join Claudia and her younger brother Jamie as they run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they embark on a grand adventure that leads them to a captivating mystery. Why Kids Love It: This timeless classic offers a thrilling tale of curiosity, art, and self-discovery.
Bridge to Terabithia
“Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson Blurb: Discover the powerful friendship between Jess and Leslie as they create an imaginary kingdom called Terabithia, where they find solace from the challenges of their real lives. Why Kids Love It: This touching and bittersweet story explores themes of friendship, loss, and the power of imagination.
The Mysterious Benedict Society
“The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart Blurb: Meet four extraordinary children who are selected to join Mr. Benedict’s secret mission to save the world from a nefarious plot that threatens humanity’s intelligence. Why Kids Love It: This clever and suspenseful adventure celebrates the power of intellect and teamwork.
The School for Good and Evil
“The School for Good and Evil” by Soman Chainani Blurb: Best friends Sophie and Agatha are unexpectedly whisked away to the School for Good and Evil, where they learn the art of fairy tales and discover their destinies. Why Kids Love It: This enchanting and twisted fairy tale explores the complexities of good and evil.
The Tale of Despereaux
“The Tale of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo Blurb: Follow the brave and noble mouse Despereaux as he embarks on a heroic quest to rescue a princess and bring light to the dark kingdom. Why Kids Love It: This charming and magical tale weaves together themes of bravery, love, and forgiveness.
“Esperanza Rising” by Pam Muñoz Ryan Blurb: Set during the Great Depression, follow Esperanza Ortega as she goes from a life of luxury in Mexico to a migrant worker in California, learning resilience and the true meaning of family. Why Kids Love It: This touching and inspiring story of hope and courage resonates with young readers.
“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White Blurb: Join Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider as they form an unlikely friendship and work together to save Wilbur from becoming dinner. Why Kids Love It: E.B. White’s classic tale of friendship and sacrifice is a timeless favorite for its heartwarming themes.
The City of Ember
“The City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau Blurb: Explore the underground city of Ember, where Lina and Doon discover secrets that could save their city from darkness and despair. Why Kids Love It: This thrilling dystopian adventure keeps readers on the edge of their seats.
The War That Saved My Life
“The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Blurb: Amidst World War II, follow Ada, a young girl with a clubfoot, who escapes her abusive mother and finds love and acceptance in an unexpected place. Why Kids Love It: This emotionally resonant historical fiction novel celebrates resilience and the power of love.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
“Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” by Grace Lin Blurb: Join Minli on her magical journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her family’s fortune, encountering mythical creatures and tales along the way. Why Kids Love It: This captivating story celebrates the magic of storytelling and the power of dreams.
“Coraline” by Neil Gaiman Blurb: Enter the eerie and captivating world of Coraline as she discovers a parallel reality with a sinister “Other Mother” who wants to keep her forever. Why Kids Love It: Neil Gaiman’s dark and imaginative tale enthralls readers with its eerie atmosphere and courageous protagonist.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick Blurb: Unfold the captivating story of Hugo, an orphaned boy living in a Paris train station, as he uncovers the secrets of a mysterious automaton left behind by his deceased father. Why Kids Love It: This groundbreaking novel weaves together a heartwarming narrative with exquisite illustrations.
The Last Kids on Earth
“The Last Kids on Earth” by Max Brallier Blurb: In a world overrun by monsters and zombies, follow thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan and his gang of friends as they battle the apocalypse and have thrilling adventures. Why Kids Love It: This action-packed and humorous series delivers a perfect blend of monster-fighting fun and camaraderie.
Inside Out & Back Again
“Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai Blurb: Witness the emotional journey of ten-year-old Hà as she escapes war-torn Vietnam and starts a new life in the United States, facing challenges of assimilation and resilience. Why Kids Love It: This poignant and beautifully written novel explores themes of identity, culture, and the power of family.
The Land of Stories
“The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell” by Chris Colfer Blurb: Twins Alex and Conner Bailey are transported to the Land of Stories through a magical book, where they meet fairy tale characters and embark on a quest to return home. Why Kids Love It: This enchanting series brings beloved fairy tales to life and adds imaginative twists to classic stories.
“Roller Girl” by Victoria Jamieson Blurb: Follow twelve-year-old Astrid as she navigates the ups and downs of roller derby, finding strength and friendship along the way. Why Kids Love It: This empowering graphic novel celebrates individuality, perseverance, and the thrill of roller skating.
“Refugee” by Alan Gratz Blurb: Experience the stories of three refugee children—Josef from Nazi Germany, Isabel from Cuba, and Mahmoud from Syria—as they seek safety and hope in different times and places. Why Kids Love It: This compelling and timely novel explores the human impact of refugee experiences, fostering empathy and understanding.
Out of My Mind
“Out of My Mind” by Sharon M. Draper Blurb: Meet eleven-year-old Melody, who has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak, as she finds her voice through determination and strength. Why Kids Love It: This powerful and moving story celebrates the importance of inclusion and the resilience of the human spirit.