The best part of my teaching day is the fifteen minutes of quiet reading time at the beginning of each literature class. It makes me so happy to look around and see each student focused on their book and lost in their own separate world. Once reading time is over (it kills me to break the peaceful silence), I ask students what they’re reading and whether or not they like it. If a student seems really excited about a book I try my best to read it, and nine times out of ten I am so happy that I did. Middle grade books should not be underestimated- they can make you laugh, cry, and contemplate life’s big questions.
So, whether you’re a teacher looking for new recommendations or someone curious about the genre- here are ten middle grade books you should definitely check out:
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. When I picked this book out to be a class novel I knew I would have to read it too…but I was dreading it! This book was like nothing else I had read before – Monsters? Greek gods? Fighting? No, thank you! I finally forced myself to read it and as you can probably guess, I loved it (it is number one on this list after all). In fact, I loved it so much that I went on to read the entire series!
- The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern. It’s hard not to like this book because the main character (Maggie) is so lovable. She tells readers about her daily life as she deals with her dad’s illness and works toward her big dream of becoming the president. One of my favorite things about this book (besides Maggie) is the author’s use of footnotes; they were the perfect fit for Maggie’s Type A personality! P.S. – A portion of the proceeds of this book are donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Society!
- Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. This is another one that I was reluctant to read, but ended up loving (I should probably stop judging books by their covers). In “Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie” the main character, Steven, remains sarcastic (you will laugh out loud) and lighthearted throughout the book, despite dealing with tough-to-talk-about topics like cancer.
- Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. There’s no way to say this without sounding cheesy, but I just feel warm and light when reading a Kate DiCamillo book. Her stories have a certain magical quality to them -even when there is no magic involved, and this book is the perfect example of that. Raymie is a quiet and introspective character, who only wants happiness, or as she puts it, “for her soul to feel good”. The book follows Raymie as she puts her plan for happiness into action, and of course- meets a few obstacles along the way.
- The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan. “The Trials of Apollo” is similar to the Percy Jackson series, but instead of having a demigod be the center of attention, this book is all about the Greek god Apollo….except he’s not a Greek god anymore.His father turns him into a teenage boy at the start of the book and he is very unhappy about it: “I will never understand how you mortals tolerate it. You live your entire life trapped in a sack of meat, unable to enjoy simple pleasures like changing into a hummingbird or dissolving into pure light. And now, heavens help me, I was one of you – just another meat sack.”
- The BFG by Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl has written a lot of great books, but “The BFG” made it to this list because the the giant is such an awesome character. You will love his funny language (snozzcombers anyone?), his insightful quotes (“two rights do not equal left”), and his rebellious view on eating humans (he doesn’t, but all of the other giants do). The BFJ is funny, like most of Dahl’s books, but it also teaches readers a valuable lesson: just because something is considered “normal” doesn’t mean it’s right
- Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Another Kate DiCamillo book (she’s soooo good!). This story follows Flora, who is obsessed with comics, and an unusual squirrel (Ulysses) on an adventure filled with superheroes, villains, oddball characters, and poetry. If I had to pick one thing I loved the most about Flora and Ulysses it would definitely be Flora’s unique catch phrase: “holy unexpected occurrences!” How cute is that?
- Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier. This is a graphic novel, so you could probably read it in an hour, but that doesn’t take away from how good it is. The story deals with smaller topics, like the usual growing pains, as well as bigger ones, like dealing with a relative’s illness – all while keeping it light with pictures, soft colors, and a bit of fantasy! I recommend reading this one around Halloween.
- The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart. This past school year I assigned “The Honest Truth” to a book club full of reluctant readers.When they finished reading it they dubbed it to be, “the best book they have ever read” (…and I did a short victory dance in my head). The book follows Mark and his loyal dog Beau as they embark on a mission to climb Mt. Rainer, despite the odds against them.
- Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington. Courage for Beginners is a heartwarming story about Mysti Murphy, whose life gets turned upside down when her dad falls out of a tree. Readers will love Mysti’s take on life, heroes, and cool kids as she navigates seventh grade.
Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite middle grade books?