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These must read middle grade books definitely belong in your home library if you have a child between the ages of 7-13. Having a library of good books-is so important for building reading skills.
There’s just something about middle grade fiction that speaks to so many emotions. To the challenges and the process of growing up that make them essential reading.
I’ve also found that the character and plot development is often superior to many young adult and adult fiction books. Maybe it’s because they have to catch and keep a young person’s attention and so there has to be a real plot and interesting characters right away. Or maybe because they have to write more simply and straightforwardly than books for older people. Whatever the reason, I come away from my middle grade reads feeling satisfied. Like I learned something, gained valuable insights, or just had fun reading in a way that I often don’t with “grown up” books.
Obviously taste is subjective, and what one person loves another person could really, um, not. But, when books win awards for outstanding children’s literature, there’s usually a pretty good reason! Now, not all of these fall into that category, but many do.
A book is a must read if it has important life lessons that can help you grow and become a better person. The characters develop and change as the story goes along; and you as the reader grow and change along with them. The story often helps you as the reader look at the world from a different perspective.
All of these books are on this list because I feel they have these qualities. So, here are some of my must read middle grade books, in no particular order:
Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare, is one of my all-time favorite books. Speare is known for her historical fiction, and this one won the Newbery Medal in 1959.
It begins in 1687 and tells the story of Kit Tyler, an English girl born and raised in Barbados. She is the wealthy granddaughter of a prominent plantation owner. Kit travels to Puritan Connecticut to live with an aunt she’s never met and finds she doesn’t fit in with the very different way of life. She ends up meeting an old woman, who also doesn’t fit in, and they become friends. Will Kit learn to be more like her cousins, will she ever fit in? Prejudices and superstitions threaten from all sides.
I love it because it shows the strength of character Kit has. And that even though your beliefs may differ from someone else, judgments, prejudices and treating people badly just because they’re different is not ok.
Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle is the first book in a fantasy/sci-fi series that won the Newbery Medal in 1963.
It tells the story of Meg Murray and how she travels through space and time along with her little brother and friend to save her dad, who is a scientist, and has disappeared. They are helped by a neighbor who turns out to be a supernatural being. They travel to other planets and meet fantastic creatures on their journey.
It a fun story, full of challenges, surprises and requires a lot of emotional growth from Meg.
Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli has been one of my favorites since I was about 12. It won the Newbery Medal in 1991.
This book covers themes of racism, inequality and how we have the power to come together as a community. It tells the story of Jeffrey, “Maniac” Magee who is an orphan boy looking for home when he stumbles upon the town of Two Mills, which is racially segregated east and west. He has a special talent for athleticism and being helpful to people, and becomes a local legend.
I love this book because instead of the main character really changing and growing a lot, its the others around him that he has a positive affect on. By being himself, and being ignorant of the tensions that divide his adopted town, he draws others together.
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio is about a 10 year old boy with severe facial deformities who is entering school for the first time in 5th grade because his parents want him to experience the world and find a place in it outside his loving home. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell real friends from fake, to stand up for others in the face of bullies and to see people for who they are on the inside.
I love this book because it changed my heart and couldn’t wait for my kids to read it. It is filled with wit, wisdom and character-building precepts courtesy of English teacher Mr. Browne, that I think is a beautiful way for children–and adults–to find compassion for others.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1978 and is a beautiful tribute to friendship and growing up.
It’s about 2 unlikely friends who create a secret magical–to them–place in the woods near their homes. Here they can play and rule in their land of Terabithia. Some of the book deals with bullying and understanding that people have stories that we often don’t know about, but should treat them kindly anyway.
SPOILER ALERT FOR PARENTS: Near the end of the book, one of the children dies in an accident and the other characters deal with their grief and guilt.
I love this book and recommend my children to read it because of the themes that it deals with and life lessons that the characters learn. From dealing with class differences, having compassion for others, and friendship, this story stays with you for a long time.
Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt is consistently on lists of the top chapter books for children and has won several awards.
It tells the story of a wealthy girl in a small town at the turn of the 20th century. She is bored with her life, stuck behind the fence of her house and always made to act like a lady. One day she sneaks out to the woods across the road and sees a teenage boy drinking from a spring. She wants some water, but he insists she not drink it, and she isn’t happy about it. Finally he has to tell her why not–because it will give her eternal life.
The story is about immortality and how it may not be as great as it seems. It’s also about friendship and doing the right thing and what it means to be alive.
I love this book because of the simple, yet complex theme that it tackles and does so in such a concise and interesting way. It’s a short book, with prose that is easy to follow, but the story is engrossing and well done.
Originally written in French by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince is a very short story with profound meaning about living life in the best way possible.
The story is told by a narrator, an aviator crash landed in the Sahara Desert. He’s trying to repair his plane when he meets “the little prince.”
The little prince has come from a tiny little planet where he lived alone with a beautiful rose. He decided to visit other planets to see if there was somewhere he might like better because he felt the rose wasn’t treating him well.
The book then describes the other planets and what he finds there, finally arriving on Earth and meeting the narrator. It’s largely a commentary on childhood versus adulthood and what makes life beautiful.
I love it because it’s simple, yet vague and can seem complicated at times. There’s symbolism and great life lessons to be taken from it.
The Giver by Lois Lowry rivals Witch of Blackbird Pond in my favorites. Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1994 and is often read in middle school English classes.
It tells the story of a boy named Jonas as he approaches his 12th birthday in his Utopian community. Everything is planned out and organized to give citizens the best outcome.
After Jonas is given a unique job and learns from The Giver he begins to see his community isn’t all he thought.
I love this book because it is both exciting trying to discover what’s really wrong in this society. It’s also terrifying once you discover what is happening. It also shows you what can happen when one person is willing to stand up for what he believes in.
This list is by no means complete, but these must read middle grade books are a great place to start! What are your favorite middle-grade reads? Tell me in the comments below!
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