My Favorite Middle School Books

Welcome back, friends!  This is a continuation of my lists.  Today’s list contains books for the middle grades.  I have advised caution with some of these books; but please don’t take them off your child’s reading list forever!  Exercise caution if appropriate; but these books can be revisited when your child is in high school, or even after! 

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia – Many people don’t realize that there is a book that comes before “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”. However, I think this is the best book of them all!!  It’s called “The Magician’s Nephew” and it tells the tale of where the wardrobe came from.  In my opinion, it lets the reader know where the magic came from.  Simply reading about the children who escape through the enchanted armoire leaves the reader to question how this could be.


  2. The Harry Potter series – I am currently reading this series for about the fourth time. I simply love that it is written so well as to keep me entertained, but that I don’t have to think too much about it.  The characters are so well written that readers can really relate to them.  One of these days, I will have the chance to go visit Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Florida.  Don’t worry, friends, I’ll take you along for the adventure!


  3. Gulliver’s Travels – Speaking of adventures, this is a great tale about point of view. Who is the giant?  When Gulliver lands on Lilliput, he is the giant; but when he lands on Brobdingnag, he is surrounded by giants.  Further, what does it mean to be a “good” person?  Does one’s ability to do good or do evil depend upon his situation and the points of view of others?


  4. The Indian In The Cupboard – This is a fun story about a magical cupboard (ok, you’re starting to see that I like magic)……that brings toys to life. The boy, Omri, puts a toy Indian inside and the Indian becomes his constant companion.  However, there are tests when other toys are also introduced to the cupboard.  The toys don’t always get along and eventually Omri has to make a series of decisions to keep the peace.


  5. Stone Fox – This is a sad tale about a boy whose grandfather is about to lose his farm to unpaid taxes. The boy enters a sled dog race to try to win $500.  The story is full of rich characters and nail-biting action.


  6. Jason’s Gold – This is a story about a teenager in the late 1800’s who discovers that there is gold in Alaska and so he treks from Washington State to Alaska, enduring freezing temperatures, near starvation and terrain that seems impassable. Of all the people who sought their fortune in Alaska at the turn of the century, who would succeed?


  7. The Red Badge of Courage (Classic Starts Collection) – First, let me say that if you look up “Classic Starts Collection”, there are many of these classics that have been abridged (shortened & simplified) for younger readers. I am very satisfied with these renditions of the stories!  As far as The Red Badge goes: My oldest son once made a remark about an injury someone had received at war and how it made that person “entitled”.  I encouraged him to read this book.  The young Henry finds himself in battle and he runs.  He is so ashamed.  He wishes for a wound – something that will make up for his cowardice.  This book shows the emotions that run through soldiers’ heads and hearts.  Of course, it is only natural to want to run.  But their job is to stay.


  8. The Devil’s Arithmetic – Hannah is a modern girl celebrating the Jewish Passover with her family. Hannah hates the traditions and the symbolism.  She is tired of hearing the stories her relatives tell.  According to tradition, Hannah symbolically opens the door for the prophet Elijah to enter.  However, when she turns around, everything has changed.  She is now called “Chaya” (pronounced Kie-ah) and she has been transported to Nazi Germany.  Soon, her entire village is relocated and Hannah tries to warn the others.  They think she has cholera and is saying these things because of the fever.  At the camp, Chaya meets another girl, Rivka.  One selfless act sends Chaya back to the modern day; but she is changed forever.
    • Parents should take their children’s maturity level into consideration here, as well as any special circumstances. My father died when I was a little girl and, if I had read this story as a 6th grader, I would not have handled it well.  The themes of death, murder, mistreatment, starvation, etc., can be difficult for immature or very emotional middle school students.
  1. Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl – Many of us know the story of Anne Frank. It is just fascinating to read what is happening in her own words.  She talks about boys she likes, things she misses doing and what she looks forward to in the future which she never sees.
    • Again, my warning above is the same. This book deals more with the hiding aspect of Anne’s life, as she did not write once she was transported out of the annex.  However, an emotional young person will still be affected by this sad story.
  1. The Secret Garden – Ok, so enough sad stories. This is a magical story which has nothing to do with “magic”; but rather, the magic of friendship. Poor Mary Lennox was always unhappy.  And why not? Cholera had killed everyone in her house; leaving her to fend for herself.  She is sent to live with an uncle she has never met in a giant house.  If anyone is more negative than Mary, it is her uncle.  But, as Mary begins to wander around, she finds a secret and unkempt part of the gardens as well as an unlikely friend.  Together, they rebuild more than the garden.


  2. The Outsiders – This is a book about a couple of rival gangs in the 1960’s. I think mostly it gives kids today a good look at some of the things that were going on in that era. For example, smoking and drinking were much more socially acceptable, even for teens.  There are many slang terms of the time that are used.  Other themes include gang violence and death.


  3. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) – This is a great book series for anyone who likes Greek Mythology. It has a tie-over to Roman Mythology as well, with The Heroes of Olympus – the first book being “The Lost Hero”. These books are full of action.  I couldn’t put them down!


  4. The Cay – Ah, young boss, I know you’re blind, but climb up that tree and get me a coconut! If you’ve never read this tale, you’re missing out. It’s an adventure set on an island where only a young boy, blinded in the shipwreck that landed him there, and a Curacao man have been marooned.  The story is about learning to survive, depending on yourself and building friendship.


  5. Holes – A boy who is always in trouble is sent to a juvenile delinquent camp where they each have to dig one hole a day, every day. It is said that the digging is to help them build character; but Stanley begins to think there is more to the story than they are being told. Not only is there more to the “holes” scenario; there is more to his friendship with a boy called Zero than any of them suspect.  Oh, and this book also introduces kids to Palindromes!  What’s that?  Never odd or even.  It’s a word or phrase which reads the same – beginning to end, or end to beginning.


  6. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – It’s another story about mice that have human characteristics…why do we love mice so much?! J Well, in this story, Mrs. Frisby needs help because her son is sick.  She discovers the rats that live in a bush and who have a human-like community.  They’ve tapped into the electricity to have heat and lights.  They have everything!  It’s a story about working together to achieve goals and to help one another out.


  7. The Giver – This is another book that I STRONGLY caution parents of. When my oldest son was in middle school – all three grades – he would not have been able to handle reading this book. In fact, I don’t think he would have been ready for it even as a high school senior.  Oh, he could have read it; certainly.  But it would have haunted him.
    • This book is an example of what were to happen if everyone was really “equal”. It’s a great opportunity to start a conversation about what “equal” means.  In this utopian society, they have manufactured “equal”, and in doing so they have had to end true freedom.  It is only when the young protagonist of the story begins to see things as they really are that things can become what they should be again.


    • Some things to bring up with your child – What if scientists could make it so that no one was ever a thief or a murderer again? Remember in Jurassic Park, when they made all the dinosaurs female so they couldn’t reproduce?  But somehow, some of them shifted gender and they did?  Nature found a way.  Now imagine if we thought we could “cure” bad behavior scientifically.  Would nature, eventually, find a way?
  1. Warriors/Seekers/ Survivors series by Erin Hunter (Grade 4-9) – I admit, I’ve never read a single book in these series. However, my oldest son, who struggled with reading, loved them! Warriors is about cats, Seekers is about bears and Survivors is about dogs.  They are written with plain enough text that reluctant readers are not struggling with decoding issues and can just enjoy the books.


  2. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi– This is a sweet story of a mongoose who is adopted by a family living in India. A pair of cobras threatens the family and Rikki Tikki Tavi defeats them and then stays to guard against any further snakes.


  3. Bridge to Terabithia – This is a book about a couple of kids who become friends, but one of the children has an accident and dies. The story goes on to tell about the other child and how he comes to accept his friend’s death. Again, these are themes that parents should be aware of; but not necessarily avoid.


  4. The Hunger Games series – These books are well written and easy to read; but I have to admit that I was tempted to leave them off my list. I was so angered by the ending that I threw the book across the room. Why?  Well, you’ll have to read to see.  However, I will say that many of the same themes recur here.  Mistreatment, an alternate society, torture and death.

**The Book Thief – This book showed up on nearly every list that I looked at when I was researching these books to make sure that I remembered them properly.  I had not ever read it, but I promised myself that I would so I could report back to you all! The verdict: I couldn’t even get through it. I will try again this month and let you know if maybe I was just in a reading slump.