Monday, July 18, 2016

The Best Books for Middle Grade Readers (Grades 3-7, Ages 8-12)

Adults are always talking about their favorite books, teens gush about the latest book made into a movie, but what about tweens? What about those kids-that-aren't-really-kids anymore? They aren't really recommending books to each other like adults and teens. Some do, but the majority of middle graders - that is the the term used in the world of literature - are getting their recommendations from the adults in their life.

Whether you are a parent, relative, librarian, or teacher, you probably know a child between the ages 8-12. Wouldn't it be nice to have a handy list ready of old and new books that you could give as gifts or recommend? Did you say, "yes"? Then look no further! We've compiled a list of Delicious Reads Approved books that your tween will love and hopefully will transition them into a lifelong reader. All of these books have an average of close to 4 out of 5 stars or better on GoodReads and Amazon. We tried to stick with books that would be gender neutral (both boys and girls would enjoy) and "clean" (no swear words, sexual content, extreme violence). If you like this list, check out some of our other book lists: 40 Clean Reads for Teens, 24 Clean Romance Novels, and Top 24 Books for Teen Boys.

Delicious Reads

Keep reading for more details on our middle grade book choices, including a Delicious Reads book rating and comments specific to each book.






Book TitlePeter and the Starcatchers
Author: Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.2 (out of 5 stars)
SummaryDon't even think of starting this book unless you're sitting in a comfortable chair and have lots of time. A fast-paced, impossible-to-put-down adventure awaits as the young orphan Peter and his mates are dispatched to an island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They set sail aboard the Never Land, a ship carrying a precious and mysterious trunk in its cargo hold, and the journey quickly becomes fraught with excitement and danger. 
Discover richly developed characters in the sweet but sophisticated Molly, the scary but familiar Black Stache, and the fearless Peter. Treacherous battles with pirates, foreboding thunderstorms at sea, and evocative writing immerses the reader in a story that slowly and finally reveals the secrets and mysteries of the beloved Peter Pan.
Delicious Reads Comments: This is a series of 5 books. The narration of the audiobook is done by Jim Dale and is fabulous!




Book TitleArtemis Fowl
Author: Eoin Colfer
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.1
SummaryTwelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius-and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren't the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous. Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them but then they stop playing by the rules.
Delicious Reads Comments: This is a series of 8 books.



Book TitleThe Princess and the Goblin
Author: George MacDonald
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.2
SummaryPrincess Irene's discovery of a secret stair leads to a wonderful revelation. At the same time, Curdie overhears a fiendish plot by the goblins. Princess Irene & Curdie must make sense of their separate knowledge & foil the goblins' schemes.
Delicious Reads Comments: This is a classic, first published in 1872. It would make for a great classroom read and one to discuss and compare to current fantasy since it was one of the first of its time.


Book TitleWild Born (Spirit Animals #1)
Author: Brandon Mull
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.3
SummaryFour children separated by vast distances all undergo the same ritual, watched by cloaked strangers. Four flashes of light erupt, and from them emerge the unmistakable shapes of incredible beasts - a wolf, a leopard, a panda, a falcon. Suddenly the paths of these children - and the world - have been changed for ever. Enter the world of Erdas, where every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. A dark force has risen from distant and long-forgotten lands, and has begun an onslaught that will ravage the world. Now the fate of Erdas has fallen on the shoulders of four young strangers ...and on you. 
Delicious Reads Comments: This is series (7 books so far). Each book is written by a different author. Some of those include Marie Lu, Tui T. Sutherland, Shannon Hale, Maggie Stiefvater, Varian Johnson, Garth Nix, Sean Williams, and Victoria Schwab.



Book Title: Princess Academy
Author: Shannon Hale
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.26
SummaryMiri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince will choose his bride from among the village girls. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess. Soon Miri finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires. Winning the contest could give her everything she ever wanted-but it would mean leaving her home and family behind.
Delicious Reads Comments: Don't be fooled by the cover and title. This book could totally be enjoyed by boys and girls alike. In fact, the author Shannon Hale, has spoken on the subject of gender bias many times including in this article. She was the keynote speaker at a writing conference (LTUE) I went to earlier this year and she spoke on the same subject.



Book TitleThe False Prince
Author: Jennifer Nielsen
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.4
SummaryIn a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together. An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.
Delicious Reads Comments: Audio is amazing on this one! It is also a perfect book for a book club for adults (see our amazing ideas here and our review here) or for a younger readers book club. I recently did this for a book club with 10-11 year olds and they loved it. You can use the author's discussion questions from here. We also painted our own fake gold rocks and made origami crowns from here.


Book TitleThe House With a Clock in its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt #1)
Author: John Bellairs
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.2
SummaryOrphaned Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his Uncle Jonathan and quickly learns that both his uncle and his next-door neighbor are witches on a quest to discover the terrifying clock ticking within the walls of Jonathan's house. Can the three of them save the world from certain destruction?
Delicious Reads Comments: Though his books are older (this one originally published in 1973), Bellairs books are still relevant and the perfect mysteries for middle graders. They've been republished more recently with a new look.


Book TitleBridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Patterson
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.2
SummaryJess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone. That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.
Delicious Reads Comments: My 5th grade teacher read this to my class and it was the first time I realized a story could have a strong emotional impact on me. It was also the first time I saw a boy cry over a book! My teacher Mrs. Deerfield passed away several years ago, but her story and Bridge to Terabithia will always stay with me.


Book TitleWonder
Author: R.J. Palacio
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.6
SummaryI won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?
R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.
Delicious Reads Comments: We did a WONDERful book club using this book here. The great thing about this book is its ability to cross several age groups and still be enjoyable and teach lessons. This is a perfect book for discussion.


Book TitleThe BFG
Author: Roald Dahl
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.4
Summary"Well, first of all, " said the BFG, "human beans is not really believing in giants, is they? Human beans is not thinking we exist." Sophie discovers that giants not only exist, but that there are a great many of them who like to guzzle and swallomp nice little chiddlers. But not the Big Friendly Giant. He and Sophie cook up an ingenious plot to free the world of troggle-humping -- forever.
Delicious Reads Comments: Any book by Roald Dahl is great for a middle grader, but this is my favorite. Check out my post on other Roald Dahl books (and get the FREE printable bookmark). The BFG is particularly relevant this year because it just came out as a movie this month. Read our post to learn more about the movie.




Book TitleThe Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire #1)
Author: Tui T. Sutherland
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.6
SummaryClay and his friends have grown up under a mountain, secretly raised by the Talons of Peace to fulfill a mysterious prophecy. The five young dragons are destined to end the war that's been raging between the tribes of Pyrrhia -- but how they'll do this, none of them knows. But not every dragonet wants a destiny. When one of their own is threatened, Clay and his friends decide to escape. Maybe they can break free and end the war at the same time -- or maybe they'll risk everything ...
Delicious Reads Comments: There are 8 books in this series, the 9th due next year. It's currently one of the highest rated series out there for middle graders. Check out the author's website here!


Book Title: Stormbreaker (Alex Rider #1)
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.25
SummaryThey said his uncle Ian died in a car accident. Alex Rider knows that's a lie, and the bullet holes in his uncle's car confirm the truth. But nothing can prepare him for the news that the uncle he always thought he knew was really a spy for Britain's top-secret intelligence agency. Enlisted to find his uncle's killers and complete Ian's final mission, Alex suddenly finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, with no way out.
Delicious Reads Comments: Though technically a young adult book, I think it works for older middle graders (5-7 grade) or more advanced readers. There are 10 books in the series and some short stories as well. There is a movie of this book too!


Book Title: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.1
SummaryOn his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry gets a bag of sand in the mail-his only inheritance from his father and mother. He soon learns that this is no ordinary bag of sand. It is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians who are taking over the world by spreading misinformation and suppressing truth. Alcatraz must stop them, using the only weapon he has: an incredible talent for breaking things.
Delicious Reads Comments: Seriously, anything by Brandon Sanderson is amazing, but these books in the Alcatraz series are geared toward younger teens and tweens. There are currently 5 books in the series.


Book Title: Fablehaven
Author: Brandon Mull
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.3
Summary: For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite. Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken -- Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good -- powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.
Delicious Reads Comments: This is a series of 5 books, each subsequent book rated better than the one before it!


Book Title: Waterkeep (Farworld #1)
Author: J. Scott Savage
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.1
Summary: Other people may see thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas as an outcast and a nobody, but he sees himself as a survivor and a dreamer. In fact, his favorite dream is of a world far away, a world where magic is as common as air, where animals tell jokes and trees beg people to pick their fruit. He even has a name for this place — Farworld. When Marcus magically travels to Farworld, he meets Kyja, a girl without magic in a world where spells, charms, and potions are everywhere, and Master Therapass, a master wizard who has kept a secret hidden for thirteen years, a secret that could change the fate of two worlds. But the Dark Circle has learned of Master Therapass's secret and their evil influence and power are growing. Farworld's only hope is for Marcus and Kyja to find the mythical Elementals —water, land, air and fire —and convince them to open a drift between the worlds. As Kyja and Marcus travel to Water Keep, they must face the worst the evil Dark Circle can throw at them —Summoners, who can command the living and the dead; Unmakers, invisible creatures that can destroy both body and soul; and dark mages known as Thrathkin S'Bae. Along the way, Marcus and Kyja will discover the truth about their own heritage, the strength of their friendship, and the depths of their unique powers.
Delicious Reads Comments: J. Scott Savage writes another middle grade series called Mysteries of Cove that is equally appealing.


Book Title: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.4
Summary: 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.
Delicious Reads Comments: I know. Another series! But reading series as a middle grader is good because these books are generally much shorter than young adult books and middle graders love having another book to look forward to. Also, anything by Rick Riordan is gold! Try The Lost Hero next.


Book Title: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
Author: Chris Grabenstein
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.4
SummaryKyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library. Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.
Delicious Reads Comments: This one is an NYT and Amazon bestseller. If you like it, read Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics next.



Book Title: The Indian in the Cupboard
Author: Lynne Reid Banks
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.2
Summary: It's Omri's birthday, but all he gets from his best friend, Patrick, is a little plastic Indian brave. Trying to hide his disappointment, Omri puts the Indian in a metal cupboard and locks the door with a mysterious skeleton key that once belonged to his great-grandmother. Little does Omri know that by turning the key, he will transform his ordinary plastic Indian into a real live man from an altogether different time and place! Omri and the tiny warrior called Little Bear could hardly be more different, yet soon the two forge a very special friendship. Will Omri be able to keep Little Bear without anyone finding out and taking his precious Indian from him?
Delicious Reads Comments: This book was written in the 1980, but it's still great today.


Book Title: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.3
SummaryWhen suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn't just want to run from somewhere she wants to run to somewhere--to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and preferably elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing that her younger brother, Jamie, has money and thus can help her with the serious cash flow problem she invites him along. Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie, find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $250. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn't it? Claudia is determined to find out. This quest leads Claudia to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.
Delicious Reads Comments:  This was originally written in 1967 and a Newberry Medal winner, a classic well worth the read.


Book Title: Reign Rain
Author: Ann M. Martin
Delicious Reads Rating: 4.5
Summary: Rose Howard has Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.  Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners
Delicious Reads Comments: Some adults may recognize the author's name from books they read in the 80s and 90s. Martin has published several novels before and after her lovely Babysitter's Club series, but those books and were an inspiration to me when I was a kid and partly influenced my decision to become an author.


WOW! What a list! I'd forgotten how many fun middle grade books there are out there. One of the great things about these books is that they are enjoyable to really any reader even if they are focused more toward a tween audience. So get out there, get reading, and get those 3-7 graders reading some of these fun books!

XoXo,

The Best Books for Middle Graders, ages 8-12, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade

Learn more about me and my books at www.AuthorRobinKing.com.

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