I make a habit of hunting down the best, award-winning, fun yet thoughtful age-appropriate or higher books for my middle school kid. I search the internet and I wander around libraries. She is no longer in middle school but here I share my successful finds with you in no particular order
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (my kid loved this one so much I hunted for others like it)
A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel (like Wonder and El Deafo, this one captured my daughter’s empathy and imagination)
El Deafo by Cece Bell (my kid still talks my ear off about this book)
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (my kid cannot stop talking about Melody. Years after reading the book, she is still entranced by it).
My daughter absolutely loved The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz (also A Tale Dark and Grimm)
I cannot say enough about how wonderful The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer is (and the others in the trilogy), though at this stage, I’m probably a bigger fan than my 5th grader is. I also love Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson. The two books had the entire family captivated during a long road trip.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (one of those magicky books that capture kids’ imagination).
For neuro-atypical kids especially: Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz, Anything but Typical by Nora Baskin, Rules by Cynthia Lord, Niagara Falls, or Does it? By Henry Winkler (the Fonz!), Thank You, Mr. Falker and Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt
I Funny by James Patterson. I couldn’t get into Patterson’s work for grownups, but my kid loved this book. She also loves I Even Funnier, and Public School Superhero. Now she loves Jacky Ha-Ha even more.
Pax by Sarah Pennypacker
The Wide Awake Princess by E.D. Baker (the idea is that Sleeping Beauty has a wide-awake sister. My kid was entranced by the story).
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (my daughter liked it. I’m hoping this series will replace that unending Warriors series)
Malcolm Under the Stars by W. H. Beck
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (codes, math, art! Check out other books by the author too)
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
George’s Secret Key to the Universe by the Hawkings (sciency and fun. Check out the series. My kid read this one fast, and is now on the last book.)
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka, and all his books for fun science. Honestly, she liked this one only moderately well.
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou
A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler
Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Rigg
The Key to Extraordinary By Natalie Lloyd
The Door by the Staircase By Katherine Marsh
The Evil Wizard Smallbone Delia Sherman
Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge – story of a hirsute half-White, half-Indian girl. Really gets into the middle schooler’s mind. Importantly, brings attention to body shaming, bullying, and teasing practices in schools that can cause lasting psychological damage. Have your kids read this. Especially if they’re popular and/or White.
The 13-Story Treehouse (and the rest of the series) by Andy Griffiths was more of a 4th grade favorite for my kid.
Cornelia Funke’s books (Inkheart, Inkspell, Inkdeath)
Saints & Misfits [Grade 7 and up, but my Grade 6 kid loved it]
Counting by Sevens Holly G. Sloan
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Shannon Hale
The Nocturnals series
West of the Moon
Platypus Police Squad: Never Say Narwhal (just fun)
The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin
We love the comic series Princeless
The Nerdy Dozen: 20,000 Nerds Under the Sea
The Tale of a No-Name Squirrel by Radhika Dhariwal
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
This Would Make a Good Story Some Day
Vile Verses by Roald Dahl (great fun)
The Prehistoric Masters of Literature by Saskia Lacey (yes, a shameless attempt to get my kid into great literature. She liked this a lot).
Romeo & Juliet for kids by Lois Burdett (my kid liked this. I will get the others in the series)
About the world
How amazing is What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
Frightlopedia by Julie Winterbottom and The Worst Case Survival Handbook: Gross: Junior Edition (because middle readers want to read about weird yucky stuff, and my kid liked this one)
We have to read Wildlife of the World with our kid at bedtime pretty regularly.
If you have an animal lover like I do, bring home Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? It is not written for children, but my daughter has been reading it nonstop since we brought it from the library. Warning to public library: daughter does not wish to return it at all.
Lesser Spotted Animals (fun visuals about curious creatures)
A Black Hole Is Not A Hole by Carolyn DeCristofano (Because if she doesn’t get into medicine, how about space?)
Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks. A comic-style intro to anatomy.
Maps and Geography By Ken Jennings (yes, geography is always a possibility) and The Human Body and Outer Space by Jennings also
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Foer, Thuras, and Morton
Really, Really Big Questions About Space & Time by Mark Brake
Dangerous Planet Natural Disasters That Changed History By Bryn Barnard
Understanding Myself by Mary Lamia (OK, I made my kid read it, and she wasn’t enthusiastic, but she realized that it was very useful)
An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi
It Can’t Be True! The Book of Incredible Visual Comparisons – she was very excited about this.
Children’s Book of Philosophy (Unless you don’t want your child dealing with serious metaphysical problems yet).
The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics
Viva la Repartee: Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History’s Great Wits and Wordsmiths (My kid enjoyed reading and sharing these witty retorts though the book isn’t really written for kids)
Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendal. A graphic history of women’s rights. And it is not white-centric, and does not begin with the US!!
You Wouldn’t Want to Be A Pyramid Builder! by J. Morley (you have to check out the other books in this series. My kid loves them all. Painlessly informative).
Roman Diary – Illustrated in personable style (at times triggering for the deeply sensitive child, since it is a story of an enslaved Greek child, though mine managed) and with a lot of everyday historical detail. This is by Richard Platt, whose other books I hunted down as well: Egyptian Diary, Pirate Diary, Castle Diary, and the “Through Time” books, Pompeii, London, Beijing, etc.
Turn of the Century by Ellen Jackson
Nadia The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still by Karlin Gray (Nadia Comaneci! For little girls who can’t sit still!)
Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas by Cheryl Bardoe (okay, my kid didn’t absolutely adore it, but she became very interested in heredity after reading it. So this is part of my campaign of nudging her toward medicine – so shoot me).
One Beetle Too Many The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky (yay, more science)
What’s up with my family?