Today’s pick is Hena Khan's most recent middle-grade book More to the Story, a retelling of the beloved Little Women. I've never read Little Women, but I adored this book, which was one of my best books in 2019. Sisters Jameela, Bisma, Maryam and Aleeza are distraught when their father has to move abroad for work -- and then one of the sisters falls ill. This is a truly heartwarming, feel-good book featuring a Pakistani-American Muslim family. If you or your kids loved this book, here are more books like More to the Story.
Fourth grader Mya Tibbs is excited for Spirit Week! She has made plans to partner with her best friend Naomi Jackson. Mya's life seems pretty good with her brother Nugget, his best friend affectionately known as Fish, and her other friends, identical twins Starr and Skye. The one scary part is Mean Connie Tate, who everyone knows is the biggest fourth-grade bully. So, you can imagine Mya's terror when she's partnered with Connie and Connie refuses to trade partners. On top of that, Naomi is mad at Mya for not trying harder to trade partners. Even the twins who agree on everything are getting torn apart because Skye wants to stay friends with Mya, while Starr is on Naomi's side. But as Mya works with Connie, she realizes that things aren't as she's thought.
Funny middle-grade books are a lifesaver! Just like good ol’ comedy, these books are perfect for luring in reluctant readers and are often popular with boys. I’ll be honest: I’m not the biggest “strictly-funny” book reader. Most of my favorite funny middle-grade books also feature serious issues. Still, the “funny” in these books isn’t just comic relief. The protagonists are pretty funny (whether it’s ridiculous laugh-out-loud funny or dry, clever wit) and the story arcs also feature a hilarious turn of events. All in all, you will laugh out loud or at least suppress a giggle every few pages in these books. I’ve included classics and new releases, and — in line with popular requests — boy and girl books! There are also multiple graphic novels on this list, as well as a funny anthology. I really hope everyone finds something they’ll love!
Real Friends is Shannon Hale's graphic memoir of her middle school experience with real friends -- and girls who weren't quite friends. Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends since Shannon came out of her shell in early elementary school. She had earlier been the shy middle child who never felt like she quite fit in anywhere. But with Adrienne, it was like she could finally exhale. But when Adrienne starts hanging out with the popular girl, Jen, Shannon suddenly doesn't know where she fits in anymore.
I like finding books for fifth graders because at this point kids are starting to read middle-grade books. For these kids who are around ten or so, it's good to find engaging, relatable stories. Many of them may also enjoy funny books or even sprawling fantasies. Depending on their reading levels, they may find illustrated or graphic novels more enjoyable than more text-based stories. I recommend encouraging all kinds of reading as long as it's age-appropriate. Typically, I like to choose books where the main character is one year older than the target audience. I find that most kids like to read about older kids than they do younger ones. However, for fifth graders, I would say upper middle-grade books should still be off limits. In this list, I've included some of my favorite, most engaging fun stories, packed with action, real life problems, adventure, humor, and of course, friendship. I've also included a couple of my favorite graphic novels for kids who enjoy the genre.
In The Code for Love and Heartbreak, Emma Woodhouse, math genius and co-president of her school's coding club creates dating app for her classmates. Emma has poor social skills and doesn't read social cues as well as her peers, although it's never specifically mentioned whether she is on the autism spectrum. She genuinely believes that math and compatibility based on interests will help people find romantic partners. At first, the app is working well, and the entire coding club is on board to present their work at a competition later in the year. But then things start to go downhill.
Today’s pick is a much-loved series — a classic, if I do say so myself -- following a group of friends who start a babysitting club. I loved the female friendship, the occasional mystery, and the entrepreneurial and goal-oriented nature of the characters in this series. Here are 7 books for fans of The babysitters Club!
Twelve-year old Sara Martinez is a hacker bouncing from foster home to foster home in Brooklyn, New York. After getting arrested for hacking into the NYC foster care system to expose her foster parents as criminals, she meets a man named Mother who is not a lawyer but convinces her to take on her case. Mother somehow wins and Sara gets released only to join a team of kid spies operating out of a base in Scotland.
Twins Maureen and Francine Carter have always done everything together, but things have changed as they're starting sixth grade. For one, they have nearly all their classes apart from each other, and Francine is dressing differently, trying to stand out from her twin Maureen The girls are still figuring out their new dynamic when Francine decides to run for student council, and by some stroke of fate, her shy, terrified-of-public-speaking sister is also running for president. Despite the ground rules laid by their parents, things get a bit messy as both girls try to establish their personal identities while fighting to reconcile their relationship as twins and sisters.
In Not Your All-American Girl, Lauren is Jewish and Chinese. It's the 1980s and Lauren and her best friend -- who's blonde with blue eyes -- do everything together. So when they don't have any sixth-grade classes together, they're bummed! They decide that they will audition for their school's musical so that they can at least have that time together. Lauren's audition goes swimmingly, and she's obviously the better singer than Tara (even better than any of the other kids), but when the cast list is released Lauren is only part of the ensemble and Tara is cast as lead. Upon confronting the director, she explains that Lauren's half-Jewish, half-Chinese looks don't match the role of "all-American girl" in the "all-American town" depicted in their musical.
In this list, you'll find books in which bullying is a major subplot. For several of these books, bullying is the plot. I like that in these stories, bullies do not triumph because the bullied party finally speaks up, shuts the bully up by winning them over or finds someone else who will speak up for them. In some of these books, readers will get a peek into the mind of bullies and see how they are often propelled by their own insecurities. Hopefully, overall, your kids find these middle-grade books about bullying to be empowering.
Fizzy is the daughter of divorced parents. Her father has remarried and her mother is in a serious relationship. Fizzy is also an excellent cook -- so good that she's entering the Southern Living cook-off. But she has other struggles to contend with. At school, she doesn't have any real friends, and then her mom announces that she's marrying her boyfriend, Keane (whom Fizzy dislikes). Fizzy also has to shuttle between both parents' homes, and she's constantly feeling like the "leftover" child since both her parents are moving on and forming new families.
Here again with another list of 15 backlist middle-grade books to dive into! I like making these lists because they help me find middle-grade books I didn't even know existed. Many of these books are either under the radar because they did not get publicity when they were published or simply because it's been while since they were published. However, they tackle several important vital topics, and make for excellent reading (going by reviews from trusted sources).
Zoo-Mate Wanted is an adorable picture book featuring two physically identically sisters with (of course) different personalities. Leah and Lilly love each other, but they just have different preferences. One day, after dealing with Leah's messes, Lilly gets fed up and moves out of their room. Leah is unfazed, and just decides she'll find a new "zoo-mate" who doesn't mind messes and is willing to paint and get creative everywhere and whenever. After interviewing and testing out a few animal friends, she realizes finding a new zoo-mate isn't as easy as it seems.
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett caught my eye, thanks to its stunning cover. I'm also one of those people who is simultaneously irritated and intrigued by blurbs that say a book is for "fans of Eleanor Oliphant." This one did not disappoint. Eudora Honeysett is an 85-year-old woman who is tired of modern society and planning to die by euthanasia in Switzerland. She is recovering from a recent fall, when a new family moves in next door to her. Their little girl Rose is outgoing and determined to befriend Eudora. She invites her on outings and also ropes in their other elderly neighbor, Stanley on these adventures. The book unfolds in alternating timelines, one in the present, and one following Eudora's childhood.