High Interest Books for Middle Grade Readers

I have talked before about reluctant readers and transitional readers, particularly about finding books that can interest and engage them as they work to become more confident readers. (Check out the list here if this would apply to the books you are looking for). However, my kids are a little older now, so I have spent more time looking for the elusive perfect middle grade book to interest my high energy readers. They both love to read but only if the subject matter and action level meet their specific standards. I know this is a common issue since I have helped many a frustrated parent and child find something to read while working in the children’s room.

Why do I bring this up? Well, this week as I was unpacking a new order of children’s books I was thrilled to see a large number of books that fill this sweet spot of reads that would interest many middle grade readers. Right away I started mentally listing some of the best and realized how many zany, energy packed reads are available.middlegrade1

Here are some high interest, high humor, and high action reads for those who have trouble getting into a book, or who have convinced themselves that reading is boring. These are not readers who have trouble reading, only who are tired of being told what to read or have not found highly entertaining books and might have lost interest in books because of it.

Most of these suggestions are series starters or are by authors who consistently write this style of book, middlegrade2so if you find one that makes your reader happy they will have more to follow it up with.

The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier & Douglas Holgate

Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson

Home Sweet Motel by Chris Grabenstein

Marvin and the Moths by Matthew Holm and Jonathamiddlegrade3n Follet

Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies by Andrea Beaty

The Hero Revealed by William Boniface

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt

Wonkenstein by Obert Skyemiddlegrade5

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

My Rotten Life by David Lubar

As usual, I found more books I wanted to include than can fit in a simple list, so more suggestions are: The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, SPHDZ by Jon Scieszka, The Robe of Skulls by Vivian FrenchHerbert’s Wormhole by Peter Nelson and Rohitash Rao, Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka, The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke, Dodger and Me by Jordan middlegrade6Sonnenblick, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis, My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara, The Odd Squad: Bully Bait by Michael Fry, The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, and The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson.

Did I miss a book that was a hit with you or a reader you know? Share the title here so we can give it a look too!

Spooky Selections for Middle Grade Readers

mgspook1Do you have a middle grade reader that lovers anything spooky? This age group often loves to be scared, but not terrified, by their scary stories. Finding books that make parents and readers happy is sometimes hard, but here are some books that might just hit the mark.

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
Unhappy about moving into a converted church in the country with her mother and new stepfather, Molly must put aside her dislike of her little stepsister, Heather, when the child is possessed by a malevolent ghost.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimanmgspooky3
Raised since he was a baby by ghosts, werewolves, and other residents of the cemetery in which he has always resided, Bod wonders how he will manage to survive amongst the living with only the lessons he has learned from the dead.

Doll Bones by Holly Black
Zach, Alice, and Poppy, friends from a Pennsylvania middle school who have long enjoyed acting out imaginary adventures with dolls and action figures, embark on a real-life quest to Ohio to bury a doll made from the ashes of a dead girl.mgspooky4

A Tale Dark & Grimm (A Tale Dark & Grimm, #1) by Adam Gidwitz
Follows Hansel and Gretel as they walk out of their own story and into eight more tales, encountering witches, devils, warlocks, kindly strangers, and other helpful folk as they take charge of their own happily ever after.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
Practically-perfect twelve-year-old Victoria Wright must lie, sneak, and break the rules when her investigation of the disappearance of her best–and only–friend, Lawrence, mgspooky6reveals dark secrets about her town and the orphanage run by the reclusive Mrs. Cavendish.

Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant, #1) by Derek Landy
When a not-so-innocent twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie inherits her eccentric uncle’s estate, she must join forces with Skulduggery Pleasant, a skeleton mage, to save the world from an ancient evil.

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Looking for more spooky mayhem that will please a middle grade (or older) reader? Here are a few more of the many avalible options: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn, The Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki, The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn, The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt, #1) by John Bellairs, School Spirit (Suddenly Supernatural #1) by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel,  Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac, The Ghost Comes Calling by Betty Ren Wright, Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver,  Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck, and The Ghost’s Grave by Peg Kehret.

Book Club Picks for Middle Grade Readers

Book clubs are starting to pop up in libraries and schools for readers of all ages. While book clubs are a great way to encourage reading and picking up books outside a reader’s comfort zone, they are about much more than the books being read. Book clubs are about fostering a sense of community, creating or strengthening relationships, and shared experiences.

If your middle grade reader is interested in joining, or starting a club of their own (or perhaps a parent and child book club is more your speed) they might be at a loss as to what books the group will read next. It is a common issue with adult book groups, so I am sure it happens with younger readers as well. Here are some suggested titles to add to the list of possibilities. Some are tried and true titles that you might have enjoyed at their age, and others are newer books that are simply wonderful. your selections will bcpaperboydepend quite a bit on the interests and maturity of those in your group, but this can help get the selection process started.

Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Taking over a friend’s newspaper route in 1959 Memphis, an 11-year-old baseball enthusiast struggles with a speech disability while attempting to communicate with customers, a situation that turns dangerous when he has a confrontation with a thieving local junkmabcgrimmn.

A Tale Dark & Grimm (A Tale Dark & Grimm, #1) by Adam Gidwitz
Follows Hansel and Gretel as they walk out of their own story and into eight more tales, encountering witches, devils, warlocks, kindly strangers, and other helpful folk as they take charge of their own happily ever after.

bcsmileSmile by Raina Telgemeier
Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth, and what follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabensteinbclibrary
Twelve-year-old Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of 12 children chosen to stay in the new town library–designed by his hero, the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello–for an overnight of fun, food and games, but in the morning, the kids find all the doors still locked and must work together to solve secret puzzles in order to discover the hidden escape route.bcmilkFortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
When a father runs out to buy milk for his children’s breakfast cereal, the last thing he expects is to be abducted by aliens, and he soon finds himself transported through time and space on an extraordinary adventure, where the fate of the universe depends on him and the milk–but will his children believe his wild story?

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Still looking for more ideas, or some great middle grade novels to read? Here are even more:The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood,  Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Inkheart (Inkworld, #1) by Cornelia Funke, One For The Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Matilda by Roald Dahl, A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #1) by Madeleine L’Engle, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1)  by Roald Dahl, Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, The Giver by Lois Lowry, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff, Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1) by L.M. Montgomery, Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)  by Philip Pullman, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff, The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #1)  by Trenton Lee Stewart, Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton, My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath, Doll Bones by Holly Black, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate,Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee,The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald, The City of Ember (Book of Ember, #1) by Jeanne DuPrau, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter, #1)  by J.K. Rowling, One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters, #1) by Rita Williams-Garcia, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

Great Graphic Heavy Books for Reluctant Readers

Do you have a reader that is sad to find the majority of their books are missing the illustrations that initially drew them to reading in the first place? Or perhaps you have a reader that is a bit intimidated (but refuses to admit it) by books with so much text, and so few illustrations? Perhaps they just think that reading is boring or not fun. Thankfully, graphic heavy books and graphic novels for this age group are increasing in both quality and quantity. This means that there are books out there with an extra dash or excitement and silliness available for readers of all ages.

Here are some great books that just might capture your reader’s eye with graphics, and keep them reading because of the story. The majority of theses books are the first in a series, so if your reader gets hooked, you should have a few books to go before looking for the next title. I have broken the lists down by age group, and by amount of text, to make finding the perfect book just a little easier.

Graphic Novels for Grades 2-5
1. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future by George Beard and Harold Hutchins
2. Zita the Space Girl: Far from Home by Ben Hatke
3.Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles by Frank Cammuso
4. Babymouse: Queen of the World! by Jennifer L. & Matthew Holm
5.  Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero by Charise Mericle Harper
6. Squish 1: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm
7. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby by Dav Pilkey


Grades 2-5 with more a bit more text:
1. School!: Adventures at the Harvey N. Trouble Elementary School by Kate McMullan
2. SPHDZ (Spaceheadz series) by Jon Scieszka
3. Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw
4. Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka
5. Big Nate: In a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce
6. Justin Case: School, Drool, and other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail
7. Secret Identity (Shredderman Series) by Wendelin Van Draanen
8. Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon
9. Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight
10. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Grades 5 and Up
1. Coraline (based on the novel by Neil Gaiman) adapted by P. Craig Russell
2. Stickman Odyssey, Book 1: An Epic Doodle by Christopher Ford
3. Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge
4. Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
5. The Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter by John Gosselink
6. Amelia’s Itchy-Twitchy, Lovey-Dovey Summer at Camp Mosquito by Marissa Moss
7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley’s Journal by Jeff Kinney
8. Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renée Russell
9. Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles by Karen Romano Young
10. Max Quigley: Technically Not a Bully by James Roy
11. The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang by Amy Ignatow
12. Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg

What is Middle Grade Fiction?

When shopping around for books to read for yourself, or your children, it is often hard to find books that fit exactly what you are looking for. Sometimes the labels publishers, bloggers, and marketing teams slap on books and there descriptions to help only make it harder because no one knows quite what they mean. Middle Grade fiction is one of those labels. Middle Grade fiction typically refers to books for the hard to please audience of eight to twelve-year-olds. Heavy readers in this age range are often bored with most books in the children’s room because of their reading ability but are often deemed too young to branch out into the young adult section because oft he content that can be found in those books. As a reader that was reading adult books while still in this age range, and learning about all sorts of things my parents might not have been thrilled about, I can understand the concern other parents might have when their book loving children hit this challenging in between stage.

Some people and groups chose the label of ‘Middle Grade’ by the age of the main characters. However, in many cases the themes and conflicts play a large role in whether a book is really better suited for the young adult or middle grade designation. For example, a book featuring a nine year old protagonist that faces harsh violence or abuse might be better suited for the young adult section while a book featuring a fourteen year old with a lighter, relate-able story might be better received by the middle grade set than teenagers. Like many genre and age group labels it is often hard to decide which label, or labels, are best suited for each book and help it reach the best audience. Thankfully, many attempting to label these books have been book lovers since they were that age as well are doing their best to get the right books in the hands of eager readers.

Here are some of the best ‘Middle Grade’ fiction books that I have seen in the last year:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.

Who Could That Be At This Hour? (All The Wrong Questions #1) by Lemony Snicket
Thirteen-year-old Lemony Snicket begins his apprenticeship with S. Theodora Markson of the secretive V.F.D. in the tiny dot of a town called Stain’d By The Sea, where he helps investigate the theft of a statue.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Seventh-grader Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building.

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
After a devastating earthquake destroys the West Coast, causing seventeen-year-old Penelope to lose her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother, she navigates a dark world, holding hope and love in her hands and refusing to be defeated.

Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington
Twelve-year-old Sarah writes letters to her hero, To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch, for help understanding her mentally ill mother, her first real crush, and life in her small Texas town, all in the course of one momentous summer.

There are many more great books in this little subsection of children’s literature. Some more of my favorite examples are; The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories, #1) by Chris Colfer, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson,  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) by Rick Riordan,  Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, and The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #1) by Trenton Lee Stewart.