Young Middle Grades

These books ar for kids in approximately 2nd to 4th grades.
(scroll down for Older Middle Grades, approximately 4th to 7th grades.)
I’ve spoken to several School groups, parents’ groups, and others around the country about how to help kids love books.  I’ve published articles and have written (and am hoping to publish!) young adult novels.  I truly believe anyone can develop a love of books.  One great thing you can do to help is to make reading fun. Read bedtime stories- even to your teens.  (Who wouldn’t be happy to hear a chapter of an amazing novel each night?) Give books as birthday presents. Let your kids see you reading and hear you talking about how amazing your book is.  Pretty soon they’ll be begging for a piece of the action.  =)

Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne

History from the perspective of two children who go back in time via a magic tree house.  I don’t know a kids who doesn’t like these.  Once they start, the will want to read them all.

Tales From the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne

A fun first version of the Odyssey– even helpful for older kids to read before reading the whole classic, so they get the story line up front.  Giants, magic, shipwreck, battles and lots of fun!


Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon  by Ruth Stiles Gannett

            A boy and his baby flying dragon have wild adventures together.


The Courage of Sarah Noble  by Alice Dalgliesh

Highly recommended.  8 year old Sarah is left to keep house in the wilderness while her father goes to get the rest of her family. Based on a true story.


Princess Tales  by Gail Carson Levine

            Short, fun to read, retellings of less-well-known fairy tales by the author of Ella Enchanted. The books linked below contain multiple stories in each volume.

*Charlotte’s Web  by E.B. White

It’s not often that you have a good friend who is also a good writer.  Charlotte was both.  A sweet, sad, funny tale of a pig, a girl and a spider. 


Sarah, Plain and Tall  by Patricia MacLachlan
            A family living on the prairie gets a mail-order mother.  Won a well-deserved Newbery Award


*Homer Price  by Robert McCloskey

You really don’t want to miss these great stories about a boy c.1950 with a pet skunk who catches bad guys, takes care of an over zealous donut machine and generally has fun.  Highly recommended.

*Betsy-Tacy  (and sequels)  by Maud Hart Lovelace

Wonderful series of books about a girl growing up in the early 1900s.  They begin when Betsy is 5 years old and go through her marriage.  A bit like the Little House books in a later time frame.  I don’t know a young girl who doesn’t like these.  Very highly recommended.


The Boxcar Children  (first book) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Four children set out to find a home while hiding from their grandfather.  My kids all wanted to move into a boxcar after reading this.  The other books in the series are ok, but the first is a classic.

Number the Stars  by Lois Lowry

About a young girl who helps hide her Jewish friend during WWII.  A not-too-scary, wonderfully well-written introduction to WWII.  By the author of The Giver


Winnie the Pooh  by A.A. Milne

            Great fun to read aloud.  This is the original story in which our hearts are stollen by the silly old bear.  The first link is for a larger, fully illustrated hard-back edition. (This is the one I own.) The second is for a collection of all the Pooh books, and the third is for a copy with Shepherd’s original illustrations.  Any version is wonderful.

*Princess Academy  by Shannon Hale

This Newbery Honor book tells of Miri, the only child in her village not allowed to work in the quarry, and how she comes to terms with who she is.  Don’t be misled by the title. This is not a pink, frilly book.  Kidnappings, hostages, battles and bravery make this a princess book even boys will enjoy.  Very highly recommended.


Tuesdays at the Castle  and the Dragon Books by Jessica Day George

In Tuesdays at the Castle, when the king and queen are ambushed, it’s up to Celie to save the kingdom.  In the Dragon Books, an orphan girl inherits a pair of dragon-skin slippers that could save- or destroy- the kingdom.


Because of Win-Dixie  and The Tale of Despereaux,  and all other books by Kate DiCamillo 


The Invention of Hugo Cabret  and Wonderstruck  by Brian Selznick

            These novel-length picture books are the thickest books your kids will ever read in one day. Hugo has been made into a major motion picture.


*These are books nearly every child is especially likely to love.  And you’re likely to have fun reading them aloud as well.  =)

Older Middle Grades

These kids are in approximately 

4th – 7th grades.

*The Chronicles of Narnia  by C.S. Lewis

            Good vs. Evil, Christian analogies, loved by all ages.  Highly Recommended.

The Dragonfly Pool  Eva Ibbotson

            During WWII a British girl forms an amazing friendship with the crown prince of a small European country.  Adventure, humor and a tinge of romance.
The Star of Kazan  by Eva Ibbotson
            An orphan living in Vienna before WWI is amazed when her dreams of finding her mother come true—but all is not as it seems.  Throw in a gypsy stable boy, a stolen trunk and the missing gems of a famous actress and you have one entertaining, touching tale.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

A classic coming of age novel with heart that will have kids clipping flashlights to their belts and peaking around corners.


Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe  by Greene.

Laugh out loud, sweet and inspirational.  My kids and I still talk about this one years after reading it together.  =)


Diary of an Early American Boy  by Eric Sloane
An actual diary from the 1800s– not a modern fictional diary– complete with illustrations of how to do the cool farm things this boy did– like build a bridge over a creek, split logs, etc.  (Illustrations are not original.) Highly Recommended.


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankeweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
            A brother and sister run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Phantom Toll Booth  by Norton Juster
A boy who is bored with everything receives a tollbooth in the mail, has wild adventures, similar to Alice’s, and saves Rhyme and Reason all before dinner.


Five Children and It  by E. Nesbit
A classic story of five siblings’ involvement with magic, and how their parents don’t find out.


*Tom’s Midnight Garden  by Philippa Pearce
When the clock strikes 13, Tom finds a garden where the back lot used to be, but discovers he is invisible there.  Classic, captivating story telling.


*A Wrinkle in Time  (and most others), by Madeline L’Engle
Meg travels the universe to rescue her brother and father.  Battles with evil, questions about conforming, and in the end, love conquers all.  I reread this book at least once a year from 3rd grade through college.  Wonderful story with a nice helping of science.  This was my intro to physics.
Ballet Shoes  (and all the other “shoe” books) by Noel Streatfield

Great story of 3 orphans learning to dance, stand up for themselves, and gain their own identities. (Meg Ryan’s recommendation in “You’ve got Mail.” )

The Witch of Blackbird Pond (and all others) by Elizabeth George Speare

A young girl’s friend is accused of being a witch.  Well-researched historical fiction at the time if the Salem witch trials.  (And really, you can’t go wrong with this author.)


How to Eat Fried Worms  by Thomas Rockwell

            Very funny book about a boy who takes a dare to eat worms.


Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
A wonderful story of lab rats who have learned to read, escaped, and are struggling to be independent of humans.  Revenge, intrigue, and packets of sleeping pills slipped to the cat.


*Ella Enchanted  Gail Carson Levine
Ella was “blessed” by a fairy to be obedient.  Which means, she has to do anything anyone tells her, no matter what.  When she falls in love with the prince, things get complicated.  With giants, battles, and glass slippers, this book is a great read-aloud for both boys and girls. The movie doesn’t even begin to do it justice.


Redwall  by Brian Jacques
            Mice and other small creatures battle evil.
*Where the Red Fern Grows  by Wilson Rawls
Old Dan and Little Ann are the best coon hunting dogs anywhere.  Everyone ought to spend a summer running through the Ozarks with this boy and his dogs.


Walk Two Moons  by Sharon Creech

Sal’s journey to find her mother.  For anyone who has a mother, is a mothers, or might be a mother some day. “Don’t judge a man till you have walked two moons in his moccasins.”

(not even your mother)


*Heartbeat  also by Sharon Creech

This is one of the sweetest, simple love stories I know of.  A quick read.

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple  by Karen Cushman

            Lucy is the only girl living in a California gold-rush town.


*The Giver  (and all others) by Lois Lowry

What would the world be like if we had no memories of anything before our own, and if we were not allowed to? A good book to followA Wrinkle in Time. Lots to think about.


*Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
            A classic everyone should read at least once. Imagination and friendship.  Have tissues on hand and people to hug nearby.


A Series of Unfortunate Events  by Lemony Snicket
Almost nothing good happens in these books– but they are so much fun!  They contain humorous grammar and vocabulary lessons kids will remember.  (Books 1-4 are similar. Books 5-13 have more variety.)
Half Magic  (and others) by Edward Eager
            Siblings find a magic coin that grants exactly half of each wish.


*Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
During the Great Depression, Bud searches for his missing father after his mother dies, with only some hints and a flier to show the way.  Amazingly well-written.  Laugh-out-loud funny, with tissues required.


*The Watsons Go To Birmingham- 1963  also by Christopher Paul Curtis
Wonderful, funny, touching story of a boy and his family who have problems of their own, and encounter serious racial conflict while on vacation.  This author is amazing.  If you haven’t enjoyed his books yet, now would be a great time.


Just So Stories,  by Rudyard Kippling
            How the Camel Got His Hump and other stories.  By the author of the Jungle Book. Quick, fun short stories.


The Brownie and the Princess & Other Stories  by Louisa May Alcott
            A collection of fun short stories by the author of Little Women


Esperanza Rising  by Pam Munoz Ryan

Hope rises, even for a migrant farm worker’s daughter in the great depression.


Flipped  by Wendelin Van Draanen
A romance in two voices.  When Julie Baker first sees Bryce, she knows they’re going the be best friends.  But Bryce tells a different story.  The same events are told first from her point of view, then from his.  Very fun and touching.
The Avion my Uncle Flew  by Cyrus Fisher
            Just after WWII, a young American boy in France discovers a Nazi spy living in the mountains. The book begins in English and adds more French in every chapter. The last chapter is all in French.


The Mysterious Benedict Society  (and sequels) by Trenton Lee Stewart

            Are you gifted? The newspaper asked.  Do you want to use your gifts to save the world?  Get

ready for danger and amazing escapades in this fast-paced, retro- yet futuristic-  novel.


*The Bronze Bow  by Elizabeth George Speare

            Newbery winning book about a young boy living in Jerusalem at the time of Christ.  Amazing,

moving, and very well-written.


The Wright Three  (and all others) by Blue Balliet

            Three kids investigate strange happenings at a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Great intro to all sorts

of cool discussions and further reading.


Everything on a Waffle  by Polly Horvath
            Funny and touching, a girl comes to terms with her parents’ death in a wacky small town. Complete with hockey-playing ghosts and a restaurant where everything, including lasagna, is served on a waffle.


Chasing Lincoln’s Killer  by James L. Swanson
            Gripping non-fiction about the hunt and capture of John Wilkes Booth.


*The Green Glass Sea  by Elen Klages
           During WWII, eleven-year old Dewey lives with her father in a town that officially doesn’t exist.  It’s called Los Alamos. And like all the other parents in town, her father is helping develop “the gadget.” This is WWII from a point of view seldom discussed, and told with such innocence it will take your breath away.  (Kids should know atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima before reading this, so the story will make sense.)


Princess of the Midnight Ball  and  Princess of Glass  by Jessica Day George
These are riveting and humorous retelling of classic fairy tales with fun twists.
*These books are especially well-written, fun and touching. If you don’t know where to start, pick one of these.  =)