Realistic Fiction for Middle Grade Readers

School assignments, curiosity, parents, friends, and more could urge children to pick up a book in a different genre than they would normally read. Sometimes this makes recommending a book difficult, because they do not know which book or books they might like and could be willing to dismiss any given title without much thought. Since realistic fiction is not my genre of choice (I prefer fantasy and other types of escapism in my reading), I scoured Goodreads lists, school library lists, and more to find the realfiregirlmost recommended books in the realistic fiction genre that are best suited for middle grade readers. Here are some of the most mentioned books on these lists.

1. Firegirl by Tony Abbott
A middle school boy’s life is changed when Jessica, a girl disfigured by burns, starts attending his Catholic school while receiving treatment at a local hospital.

2. Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgeraldrealemmajean
Her grandfather’s dying words lead 13-year-old Theodora Tenpenny to a valuable, hidden painting she fears may be stolen, but it is her search for answers in her Greenwich Village neighborhood that brings a real treasure.

3. Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
A quirky and utterly logical seventh-grade girl named Emma-Jean Lazarus discovers some interesting realseedfolksresults when she gets involved in the messy everyday problems of her peers.

4. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
One by one, a number of people of varying ages and backgrounds transform a trash-filled inner-city lot into a productive and beautiful garden, and in doing so, the gardeners are themselves transformed

5. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Weighed down by guilt, Joel searches for the courage to tell the truth about the disappearance–and apparent drowning–of his best friend realchanceTony while the boys are playing near the treacherous, and forbidden, Vermillion River

6. Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Lucy, with her mother and her photographer father, has just moved to a small rural community in New Hampshire, and with her new friend Nate she plans to spend the summer taking photos for a contest, but pictures sometimes reveal more than people are willing to see.

7. The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
Just when 12-year-old Summer thinks nothing else can possibly go newsaturdaywrong in a year filled with bad luck, an emergency takes her parents to Japan, leaving Summer to care for her little brother while helping her grandmother cook and do laundry for the harvest workers.

8. The View from Saturday by E.L. KonigsburgFour students, with their own individual stories, develop a special bond and attract the attention of their teacher, a paraplegic, who chooses them to represent their sixth-grade class in the Academic Bowl competition.

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Here are a few more books to chose from, including some very popular books that you might have already heard great things about; Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee, Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord, Paperboy by Vince Vawter, Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan, See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street by Sharon G. Flake, Warp Speed by Lisa Yee, Frindle by Andrew Clements, Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt,Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy, Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt,  Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, or The Not-Just-Anybody Family by Betsy Byars.

Enjoyable Assigned Reading

Tackling books that have been labeled as classics, or are required reading in school, can be a daunting or even dreaded task. However, many of these books are classics because so many people enjoyed reading them, not just because of their literary value or the statements they make about humanity or the time in which they took place. Here are some of the classics, or assigned reading, that I have come to love, either when they were assigned to me or as I picked them up on my own.

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury was originally published in 1953, and seems to be even more relevant today than we might want to admit. Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman that used to enjoy his job but is beginning to have some doubts. The boring life he leads with his wife contrasts drastically with that of his young neighbor Clarisse. This young girl inspires Guy’s doubts through her interest in books. When Clarisse mysteriously disappears, he decides to make some changes and begins hiding books in his home. When his wife turns him in, he is expected to burn his secret cache of books. Guy runs from authorities and winds up joining a group of outlaw scholars who keep the contents of books in their heads, hoping society will once again desire the wisdom of literature.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was originally published in 1960, and remains on my list of favorite books. We are introduced to the Finch family in the summer before Scout’s first year at school. Scout, her brother Jem, and Dill Harris,spend their days reenacting scenes from Dracula and trying to get a peek at the town bogeyman, Boo Radley. The alleged rape of Mayella Ewell, the daughter of a drunk and violent white farmer, has no impart on the children. But when their father Atticus defends the accused, Tom Robinson, they find themselves caught up in events beyond their understanding. As the trial progresses the good and bad of human nature is clearly exposed with the key aspects being the heroism of Atticus Finch, who stands up for what he knows is right, and in Scout’s learning to see that most people are essentially kind. To Kill a Mockingbird is funny, wise, and heartbreaking, and deserves to be reread often.


1984 was written by George Orwell in 1948, and still stands as chilling prophecy about the future. This novel is set in a future world which is dominated by three warring totalitarian police states. Winston Smith’s longing for truth and decency leads him to secretly rebel against the government. Smith has a love affair with a like-minded woman, but they are both arrested by the Thought Police. The resulting imprisonment, torture, and reeducation of Smith are intended not merely to break him physically or make him submit but to destroy independent thought and spiritual dignity.

Dracula, Silas Marner, War of the Worlds, Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Stranger in a Strange Land are some of my other favorite classic or assigned reads. Do you have a favorite book that you were required to read in school, or one you read afterwards that you wished you had been assigned to read?