If you're looking to find new books for the middle grade reader in your life, check out this guide for quick suggestions, or stop by the store for some expert guidance. These books are perfect for kids ages 8-12 or generally between 3rd and 6th grades. With each book description, I'll list the ideal age for each book or series.
Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer
This series launched back in 2013 and recently came to an end last year, so you won't have to wait to read all the books. In each book, twins, Alex and Conner Bailey, disappear into the Land of Stories where all the characters of your favorite classic fairytales exist in the same world. Though it seems like a dream, the twins quickly realize the deep unrest in the fairytale world and have to figure out both how to save it and make it back home.
This series is great for the entire family and for a broad span of ages. It has great humor and dialogue that older kids and adult will appreciate while also being fascinating for younger readers. You don't even have to be a huge fan of fairytales to fall for Colfer's reimagining of the classic cast. Don't be intimidated by the high page count either, the fast pace and easy style of the books will make the pages melt away.
There's also a new prequel series, A Tale of Magic, that recently started in October to carry on the magic.
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
This book has become somewhat of a middle grade classic and for good reason. Follow Logan, Miles, Daisy, and Philip on the greatest competition adventure you'll ever experience as they fight for the win in a national candy making contest. Told from all of their prospectives, you get to experience the nervous energy combined with the mystery of competition sabotage mixed with the sweet coating of a candy factory. It recently got a long awaited sequel called The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase to continue the story.
This would be the perfect fit for an older middle grade reader from 10 years old on or for a younger reader when read with a parent.
Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski
This is the perfect series for those crossing the bridge from early readers and basic chapter books into middle grade. This series also reimagines fairytales but for a younger audience than The Land of Stories. When Abby goes through her magic mirror and ends up in an alternate world, she starts to accidentally derail all of our favorite stories. These have been hugely popular with girls in older elementary school classrooms.
Mr. Lemoncello's Library Series by Chris Grabenstein
This is the perfect companion book to go with The Candymakers because it is another exciting competition story with a mystery. You'll want to solve the clues along with the contestants as they try to crack the code of Mr. Lemoncello's eccentric library. If you like solving puzzles and would love to get trapped in a library, this is the book series for you. This book has wide appeal age wise and can capture the interest of all middle grade readers.
The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
This sophisticated middle grade series is perfect for older readers looking for higher level books who aren't ready for the content in YA. These lengthy books chronicle the children who are a part of the Benedict Society shrouded in mystery. Each of these kids took a series of tests to make it into the group led by the rich recluse Mr. Benedict. None of them see themselves as particularly special, but all of their talents are recognized and become powerful when combined. Full of puzzles, mysteries, clues, and questions, this book is fun for the whole family. I personally used these books in a book club with sixth graders who all captivated by the story and couldn't put their copies down.
Stuart Gibb's Books
Stuart Gibbs is one of my favorite authors to recommend for those looking to entice their kids into becoming readers or who aren't sure what to get for their child. His books have exciting premises, witty dialogue, appeal to both boys and girls and across age boundaries. Also, these series have tons of books and continue to grow each year, so your voracious readers will be entertained for months on end.
Ben Ripley got into the CIA's Academy of Espionage to train to become a spy. He's super smart, but he realizes very quickly that wit won't get him far in the cutthroat world of spy school. Luckily, Erica Hale, daughter of renowned spy, comes along to give Ben a helping hand. Together, they have to confront evil spy organizations and double agents to protect the world and themselves.
This was my personal favorite of all of the series when I was in middle school. This series focuses on Teddy Fitzroy who lives in the amusement park-zoo that his parents work at. When a hippo is found dead in its enclosure, Teddy senses that something is amiss. With the help of Summer McCracken, the billionaire owner's daughter, the two infiltrate the corrupt happenings of the zoo to discover what happened to the prized animal. This lighthearted series has mystery but is also more lighthearted than spy school.
Moon Base Alpha
Dash Gibson lives on the moon. His parents are employees at Moon Base Alpha, one of the first colonization experiments on the moon. He hates living on the moon because it's so boring... until one of the lead scientists get murdered. Dash is the only one who believes that foul play was involved, so he's on the hunt to get to the bottom of it. These books are the perfect way to get into mysteries without scary elements from thrillers or darker mysteries.
Finally, for those who want to find a book that will help crossover their reader from middle grade to YA, check out author Ally Carter. Her books are similar to Stuart Gibbs but feature more romance and female protagonists. Heist Society and Gallagher Girls series are both captivating, quick reads and appropriate for the middle grade and early high school readers.
This post originally appeared on www.readingwritingandme.com. Come by the store to pick up your copy and find it on the Staff Favorites wall.
Permanent Record by Mary HK Choi
Overview: Pablo's life is a mess. He works at a bodega or a "health food store" depending on who you ask, which is about the only thing he has going right at the moment. He dropped out of NYU, though that debt still follows him, along with the credit card bills from some ill advised buying sprees. He has a good group of friends that he lives with and a family that genuinely does love him, but he has no clue what he's doing. What's the end goal? Who knows... Overall: 5
General Thoughts: This is not a normal part of my reviews, but I had some things I wanted to say that don't necessarily fit anywhere else. 1) I love this book, but I feel like it's for a very particular set of readers. You MUST be a lover of character driven stories because a lot of this book is exploring Pablo's mind. I love that. I honestly don't care about plot if I love your characters, but I know a lot of people aren't like that, so fair warning. 2) I would like Mary's ability to title books because Emergency Contact and Permanent Record are some of my favorite titles of all time. 3) This cover is just beyond gorgeous and the plastic dust jacket and what it does with the art is just remarkable. Anyway, on to the review.
Characters: 5 I was not expecting Pablo when I picked up this book, but I love him now. He's really the book. All of his anxieties, confusion with life, and passion for seemingly useless things fuel the book. While he has nothing figured out life wise, he's miles ahead of most in the emotional intelligence department. He's totally a 20 year old dude but he's so aware of his feelings and the world around him. I want to be friends with Pablo.
The other remarkable thing about this book is how well it balances a huge ensemble cast beautifully. This means I can't get into everyone here, but each character is so effortlessly developed from his million roommates to his whole family to his found family at the bodega. It adds to the feeling of being fully part of more than a story but a world.
I will mention Leanne Smart briefly because she's named in the flap copy. Honestly, she's not as big of a part of the story as a lot of people. The book isn't about dating a famous girl like it might seem, but I'm happier for how it turned out. I also like the different and evolving looks at Lee we get through Pablo's eyes as time goes on.
Plot: 5 Like I said, a lot of the book is in Pablo's mind living in the anxiety, rehashing how he got to where he is. I love it. The book deals with things I feel like we need more of in YA but I've never seen before. It deals a lot with fear of failure and the meaning of success and talent. Reading about Pab's experience at NYU spoke to some of my deepest fears. I think Pab is all of us who are growing up in a world that expects you to describe, have a plan, and stick to a box for everything. What if you want to do everything? I also love all the family stuff in this book. It's so real! Also, all the stuff about debt is a huge realty today and a good warning for teens becoming an adult. There are so many things that no one ever tells you about adulting it seems.
Writing; 5 I loved Choi's writing before, but this was next level. Like I mentioned above on the feeling like you're part of a whole world, the language she uses to write this book feels so New York. Not in a cheesy stupid way but totally effortlessly. It feels authentic in voice, in the story. I can't wait to see where her writing goes next, and I love that she's paving the way for more 18-20 something stories in YA.
This review originally appeared at www.readingwritingandme.com. Looking for a fun contemporary about amazing teenage girls in STEM? This is the perfect book! Come to the store to get a copy of your own!
Screen Queens by Lori Goldstein
Overview: Valley Start takes fewer applicants than any of the Ivy Leagues. Lucy, Delia, and Maddie are three of the 2% who made it. They are also the only female team at the tech incubator. While their personalities originally clash, with mentorship from a female CEO, friendship at a tech camp on the campus, and a new sense of understanding, the girls band together to strive to be the first all female team to win. Along, the way, though, they uncover more sinister layers to the shiny Silicon Valley world they stepped into. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 Lucy is headstrong and independent. While she's great at coding, she's even better at presenting, selling, and stylizing. She's on a mission to redeem herself in the eyes of Stanford to get off the waitlist and in the eyes of her icy tech CEO icon of a mother. Lucy is a touch insecure masked by her overconfidence and the experience actually helps her develop closer connections.
Maddie also has a single goal. She wants to win so that she can give her graphic design business the final bit of credibility it needs to boom, allowing her to skip college and care for her brother full time since her parents aren't physically or emotionally available for their family. Like Lucy, Maddie learns more about opening up and being vulnerable to forming connections.
Delia too doesn't want to go to college. She wants to get into Silicon Valley as a programmer so she can support her family and save their theater that her parents love so much.
I love that each of the girls start with a very singular focus and slowly pushes forward to a broader. world view and more emotional intelligence.
Plot: 4 While they're working towards winning the completion, each girl plows forwards to realizing their own goals and reasons for coming to the camp. Sometimes the story splits in three ways where as other times they stand fully united. While the idea of winning the internship at Pulse starts out shining and fascinating, soon the cracks begin to show with CEO Ryan. It's easy to tell he's sceezy from the start, so it's extra fun to see the girls stage their elaborate take down.
Writing: 4 While their were a couple plot holes in shifting details throughout the book, I'm super impressed overall. The book is written in third person, which usually bugs me, but I absolutely loved it here. It's the perfect format to tell these interweaving stories in a concise yet nuanced way. The key here, though, is that it's told in limited third person with super distinct voices that works better for this book than even a triple POV story set. Honestly, the execution of the POV was the biggest win for me in the book.
Originally appeared on: Reading, Writing, and Me Read more
Looking for a twisty thriller to wind down the summer with? Check out our featured book, The Best Lies, and come by the store to purchase a copy with a signed bookplate by the author. Read the review to see if this is a fit for your next read!
Overview: There's an old revolver that ruins everyone's life. Elise finds it in her deceased grandmother's attic while digging around for fireworks for prank number 1. After that, the gun rarely leaves her thoughts, and, eventually, it never leaves her side. It's the gun that kills Jack. Remi doesn't know what to do. Her boyfriend is dead, and her best friend- more than her best friend- is the one who pulled the trigger of the stupid gun that she tried over and over again to get rid of. How did it happen? How did Jack wind up dead on the floor? How did she lose everyone she cared about at once? Overall: 5
Characters: 5 This is an intense book, and the characters are no exception. Remi does her best, but she's not perfect like her brother Christian. She uses boys to forget about her parent's constant fighting, but she feels stuck. And then she meets Elise after Homecoming. With Elise's pink Cadillac convertible and cigarettes and reckless abandon, Elise rocks Remi's world in what feels like the best way. Until they become each other's entire world's and Elise becomes focused on poetic justice. Dangerous revenge.
While Remi is pretty normal but a little lost and a bit bored, Elise has deep, unaddressed issues and a long history of trauma. She's also emotionally manipulative, blurring the line between expressing her pain and twisting it for her benefit. She's terrifying, and you don't want to admit that there are people like Elise as the plot thickens, but there are. You think about everyone you've ever met who's sticky and trapping and overpowering like Elise.
Jack is the only one who breaks through the Elise infatuation in Remi's mind. Even though Jack is not toxic or manipulative, it's interesting to see how Remi's personality still makes it feel like she's falling into him and he's drawing her in. Jack makes Remi realize what's happening, but the loyalties run deep, and Jack, stepping into their messy, passionate world doesn't realize how deep or dangerous his interference is.
The family dynamics is also an amazing dive. Remi's parents are trapped in a loveless cycle of explosive fights and affairs, but ruining their perfect exterior is too high of a price to finally be free of each other. I also love the evolution of her relationship with her brother Christian, the so called "golden child".
Plot: 5 Oh my god! The twists and turns and the missing pieces and the puzzle pieces that snap together. Wow. This is a great example of a book where the timeline is all over the place, but it's controlled perfectly. Information is sprinkled in at the perfect time to make it an unputdownable thriller. I also love how each character holds one possible view that flits through your mind about the characters, so you can see how each angle would really play out.
Writing: 5 The writing style here is so voicey and atmospheric, and I love it. The story is strong and built up well. The style is distinct, and Sarah plays off unreliable narrators along with other unreliable characters to make a confusing whirlwind that is somehow perfectly clear too.
As the book says, the best lies are rooted in half truths, and the best scenes are all grounded in a certain amount of truth and honesty. This is delivered excellently.
Going Off Script
In this super cute romance perfect for summer, you'll get to experience the ups and downs of being an intern on a TV show in LA. Behind the glitz and glamor, there's a lot of hardwork, but there's also awesome friends and new possibilities.
The Way You Make Me Feel
If spending the summer working in your dad's food truck with your nemesis sounds like a nightmare, Claire couldn't agree with you more, but that's how her LA summer is playing out as she serves her school punishment. Luckily, there's far more laughs than tears in this hilarious comedy.
Nothing Left To Burn
If you're looking for a book with romance, outdoorsy vibes, and a heart pounding, page turning plot, this is the book for you. As a massive wildfire threatens Brook's California home, she's fighting her own battle. She's pretty sure she knows who started the fire, but telling the police could ruin both their lives.
The Lake Effect
Set on the shores of Lake Michigan, this hilarious beach story takes some unexpected twists and turns. Briggs can't imagine what's ahead for him as he signs on to assist an elderly lady for the summer. With each funeral he attends with his eccentric companion, Briggs learns a little more about life, and the romance that brews with his next-door neighbor makes him look at life in a new way.
The Summer of Jordi Perez
Jordi has been dreaming about getting an internship at the fashion label she's idolized her entire life. When she gets the job, the only catch is that she has to share it with another girl, and there's room for just one of them to stay after the summer. An intense rivalry begins to shift when feelings develop between Jordi and her competitor, leading to lots of summer fun and a conflicting romance.
Zorie and Lennon agree to go on a camping trip in the middle of nowhere with their "friends" against their better judgement. When they get ditched, they have to find their own way home, working together despite their awkward past. If you love camping, hiking, and romance, this is the book for you.
You'd Be Mine
Two country stars go on a summer tour together in the perfect recipe for a romance to take with you on all your adventures. Both Annie and Clay are 18, finally adults, but they still have a lot to figure out as they grapple with their pasts under the heat of the spotlight.