I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't read a ton of Native American middle-grade or YA literature. I think part of the reason is that they're just not as widely publicized and are still marginalized in publishing. November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is usually called, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. I made it a point to learn a bit more about Native American literature, and to read more of it, not just during this month, but in general. On this list, I've tried to include OwnVoices selections from Native American authors or authors of Native American descent. You will find middle-grade and young adult books.
I've recently been reminded how important OwnVoices stories are, especially where disability and neurodiversity are involved. I already have an older list of books with autistic characters (for kids and adults) on this blog, but I wanted to broaden the scope a bit to include other kinds of neurodiversity, including sensory processing disorder (SPD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), dyslexia, ADHD, learning difficulties, synesthesia, and autism spectrum disorder in general (ASD). You'll find books by OwnVoices and non OwnVoices authors, as well as books in which the neurodivergent person is the main character, and others with "neurodiversity rep."
You'll notice that the best books for seventh graders tend to veer into upper middle-grade territory. That's the case with the books on this list. I have so many beloved upper middle-grade books and I'll link to the full list at the bottom of this post, but this list also has several books I have never recommended on the blog before. Seventh graders are on the brink of teenage life, and may relate most strongly to books about body image, crushes, and things like that. They're also more able to tolerate tastefully done stories about sexual harassment, domestic violence, addiction, serious mental illness and other harsh, unpleasant realities of life. On this list, you'll find books that hit all of these themes.
Today, it's all about the best books for sixth graders (and can I say, this is quite the sweet spot). At age 11, these kids are often confident readers who are eager to explore a variety of genres. Many of them can handle problem books and really enjoy realistic fiction. Still, of course, they're still reading their graphic novels and short books, as well as engaging series. That's why I've tried to include all of these on this list. You'll find comics, problem books, funny stories, short books, long books, middle-grade mysteries, and even series on this list of books for sixth graders. I've worked hard to make it a good mix of books with boys on the cover and girls as well.
The best middle-grade books about immigration highlight the challenges of moving to a different country. These often include dealing with feeling like an outsider, and struggling to find one's place in a new home, culture, and sometimes in the midst of anxiety caused by parental deportation or other immigration crises. This list has been on my mind for while, and I kind of went back and forth on whether or not it was worth it to make, since I already have a list of books about moving (which includes moving houses, moving to a new city or moving to a new country). Consider this list of middle books about immigration as one that includes books about moving and the immigrant experience.
This list of the best chapter books for boys ages six to ten is important because let's face it: boys and girls don't always enjoy the same kinds of books. Boys are notorious for being reluctant readers, especially when they're younger. If you have one that enjoys reading, then yay you (and him)! But typically boys -- when they do get into reading -- like funny stories, adventure stories, fantasy, sci-fi, and a good dose of graphic novels. And that's what I've included on this list -- minus the fantasy.
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!
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 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.
Finding chapter books for fourth graders is fun, because at this stage, most nine-year-olds are strong enough readers. A few of them still like to see some pictures in their chapter books, but others can handle reading up to 200 pages of fiction (or more). Whatever your fourth-grader's reading level, I'm pretty sure you'll find a couple or more books for them among these 33 chapter books for fourth-graders. I've separated those that feature illustrations from the chapter books that do not. The non-illustrated chapter books I've chosen are technically "middle-grade books" for ages 8-12. But these picks are well suited for younger readers because they feature younger protagonists, fewer pages of text, less intense subject matter, and a "young" voice.
There are more mixed-race people in the world, than ever before and these middle-grade books with biracial protagonists highlight that fact. The characters in these stories benefit from being part of multicultural households. In most of these books, the fact that the character is biracial plays strongly into the story. They highlight how these kids handle more than one culture at home, and how they find the best of both worlds.
Finding chapter books for second graders can be tough, because these kids are often new to reading and we don't want to discourage them with bulky chapter books. Ideally, these kids would be seven-year-olds. The selections for this age (unless you have a faster reader) tend to be heavily illustrated, featuring text in much larger fonts and simple story lines. If you're an adult reader, you could get through these books in under an hour or much less. Series are also a hit for this age group.
YA books about sports aren't the most common, but for some reason, I keep running into them -- and I don't even like sports! However, I've found some of my favorite protagonists in these books, as well as many sports I never really thought of teens playing in high school. That's why I decided to make this list. In this list of YA books about sports, you'll meet characters who do everything from rowing to playing hockey. You'll also find a gymnast, several basketball players, a sumo wrestler, soccer players, and many more.