Middle grade book recommendations for parents of kids ages 5-12

Age 5-8

Remarkable by Lizzie Foley

Posted by on Apr 25, 2015 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow!, Read Aloud | 0 comments

Remarkable by Lizzie Foley

Jane Doe is an ordinary girl in a town full of people with remarkable talents. Her brother is an amazing painter, her sister a math whiz, her father a noteworthy novelist, and her mother a renowned architect. Jane is the only kid who attends the regular public school, because everyone else goes to the school for the gifted. Hijinks ensue: her fifth grade teacher becomes a pirate, and her grandfather (the only other non-remarkable in the town) is jailed for sabotaging the town’s new bell tower in an effort to save the secret lake monster. It’s funny and silly, with a nice underlying message about what it means to be gifted. Amazon...

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Posted by on Mar 15, 2015 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Classics, Read Aloud, Series | 0 comments

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

I love this book. I love the language and the imagery and the bravery and the adventure. I love the talking animals. I recently reread it to my six-year-old, and remembered all over again how beautiful and spare and kind it is. Lewis wrote it for his goddaughter, and his love for her suffuses the story. For those who haven’t read it (you should!), it’s the story of four children who hide in a wardrobe and discover through the back the magical world of Narnia, which is under the spell of an evil witch who has made Narnia always winter, but never Christmas. The four children join forces with a rebel alliance of beavers, fawns, and a mighty lion to defeat the witch and become kings and queens of Narnia. There is a definite Christian theme of betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption, but I don’t find it overly heavy-handed (others disagree). The battle scene and the scenes with the witch are a bit scary, and some of the language is difficult, as it’s set in England and was written sixty years ago. The plot is clear and straightforward, though, so I like it for younger, strong readers, or as a read-aloud. Anyone would enjoy it, though, at any age. Amazon...

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The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Classics | 0 comments

The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin

As you may know, this series revolves around four girls (seventh graders at the beginning) who form a club to provide babysitting services. The main focus of the series, though, is really friendship – making new friends, staying friends as you grow and change, fighting and making up – and so it’s a great option for those girls who are navigating the choppy waters of late elementary school friendships. It’s also nice to see girls who are doing something entrepreneurial, and the girls’ diverse personalities and interests (one is artistic and funky, one is shy and bookish, one is hard-charging and impulsive). There is a slight romantic angle (one of the girls has a crush on another girl’s older brother) and a somewhat disturbing dieting subplot (it turns out the girl has diabetes and was hiding it from the others). Otherwise, nothing to fear here for parents – the girls are generally well-behaved and polite, and there are a few zany subplots involving unruly cats and grumpy neighbors. The age of the book shows mainly in the fashion choices and the telephones; the friendship woes are, of course, timeless. There are a million books in the series, as well as comics, movies, and TV shows.  Amazon...

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The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler

Posted by on Nov 1, 2014 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Sparkle Ponies | 0 comments

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler

“Can you keep a secret?” A great opening reels you in to this story of a girl who discovers at age twelve that she is part mermaid. Emily lives on a boat with her mom, who never talks about Emily’s father. Turns out dad is a merman, and Emily is the offspring of a forbidden human/merperson liaison. Dad is now serving an endless prison term, and Mom is being drugged to forget he ever existed. Emily, with the help of her new mermaid bestie, manages to find Dad, reunite him and Mom, and secure his release and a happy ever after ending for the whole family. This light and engaging book is the first of series. Amazon ...

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Classics, Read Aloud | 0 comments

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

So fun! Our kids actually liked the book better than the movie. You know the story, though in the book there is some additional backstory on the scarecrow and the tinman, and less of the frame story in Kansas. Otherwise, it’s the same familiar and exciting tale of Dorothy’s adventures in Oz and defeat of the Wicked Witch of the West. The chapters are satisfying mini-stories, which make for a nice bedtime read-aloud. The flying monkeys are less scary in the book. Dorothy’s shoes are silver, not red, which blew my mind. There are thirteen sequels, for those who want to keep going.  Amazon  P&P...

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Matilda by Roald Dahl

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Age 5-8, Classics | 0 comments

Matilda by Roald Dahl

You’re probably familiar with this one. Matilda is a five-year-old genius who has read Dickens and can do complex calculations, but is humble, polite, and brave. She takes on the bullies around her, and saves her beloved teacher. It’s Dahl, so the humor is dark. The evil principal likes to take little girls by the pigtails, spin them around, and throw them over the fence. Matilda’s parents are crooks who only want to watch TV, and make fun of Matilda for liking to read. Matilda exacts revenge through pranks, and always comes out ahead due to her intelligence and desire to help the less fortunate. The violence is all cartoony, and the trials Matilda suffers make us love her all the more. The book was made into a movie and a musical. Amazon ...

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Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Classics, Read Aloud | 3 comments

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

You know the story – plucky family with three young daughters settles the American frontier. Each chapter has its own adventure and resolution, so it lends itself well to bedtime reading. The book and its portrayal of that time has captured my kids’ imagination, and entered their conversation and their play. We discuss how hard the settlers worked and how little they had. It’s a wonderful foil for our consumerist time. But, the racism. The adults in the book, including Ma and Pa, are lousy with it. They talk about the Native Americans as if they are wild animals, and call them “savages.” The girls are more curious than afraid, and the Native Americans in the story are, with one exception, fine and upstanding. At the end, when the chief rides by on his horse, leaving the territory, Pa salutes him. Ultimately, I decided this was an opportunity to discuss racism with the kids, though I admit I did skip over some of the most awful language. There are nine books in the series, beginning with Little House in the Big Woods. Amazon P&P Kids who like this book may also like May B. and...

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Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn

Posted by on Jan 22, 2014 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Read Aloud |

Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn

What a treasure. This is a series of three stories in one book, all starring a married mouse couple named Tumtum and Nutmeg. They live in a grand English country house and just want a quiet life, but get pulled into adventures, mostly because of their desire to help others. Because it’s three different tales contained in one book, you get the benefit of a longer book but with shorter stories that are easier for younger kids to follow. Fun illustrations, too. There are a few scary parts, but there is no violence and everything works out in the end. The word “stupid” is used, but nothing harsher than that. There is a little sexism – Nutmeg is always cooking, and her ideas are discounted. But the stories have an old-fashioned feel that made that seem not out of place, and it’s clear that Nutmeg has the better ideas. Overall, a great read aloud (not least of which because it’s really fun to say “Tumtum and Nutmeg”). There is a sequel. Amazon ...

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Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Posted by on Jan 12, 2014 in Age 5-8, Age 8-12, Read Aloud |

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman is known for his spooky stories like Coraline and The Graveyard Book, but this book is a departure. It is a wild tale spun by a father to his two kids to explain why it took so long for him to return with the milk for their cereal. The story covers aliens and time travel and dinosaurs and pirates and a myriad other things. The illustrations are fantastic. It’s great fun for a day by the fire. You might also enjoy it as an audio book for a long car ride. The book is categorized as being for 8-12-year-olds, but it’s also fine for younger ones who can follow a longer story. Amazon ...

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Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Classics, Read Aloud |

Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

Oh, it’s so cute! A mute trumpeter swan gets a real trumpet to play, has cross-country adventures with it, and then settles at home with a girl he loves. Particularly fun for kids who are into music. Amazon...

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The Littles by John Peterson

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Read Aloud, Series |

This is a series centered around a family of tiny people with tails (sort of a human/mouse hybrid) that lives in the walls of a house. It’s pretty old-fashioned in the language and content, which is just great for the younger folk. The stories are short and sweet; you can read one aloud in an afternoon. There is a bit of a sexist flavor to it (big brother Tom always gets to be brave and little sister Lucy always seems to be scared), but not blatant enough that I was turned off. Amazon...

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The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Award Winners, Read Aloud |

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The sweet story of a mouse who doesn’t fit in, but is brave and true of heart and saves a princess. A great read aloud – you’ll enjoy it as much as your kids. There is a dungeon with rats, which can be a little scary; I’d suggest just reading those parts in a light and happy tone, nothing to worry about here, kids. And there really isn’t, it all works out well and the conflicts are minimal. Plus this book won the Newbery Award, and there’s a really pretty hardcover version out which makes a nice gift.  Amazon...

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Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Series |

Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne

I’m sure you’re familiar with these. There are about a million of them, all of which follow a brother and sister on adventures that begin in the magic treehouse behind their house. The sibling relationship is sweet – they get frustrated with each other sometimes, but nothing too nasty – and the stories provide some light education along the way. A good option for new...

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Disney Fairies

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Read Aloud, Series, Sparkle Ponies |

Disney Fairies

Not as bad as you fear. There’s actually a nice empowerment message in that each fairy has to find her calling, and that it will be something that she loves to do more than anything else. There is a romantic subplot between Tinkerbell and a male fairy which seems a bit out of place for the age range, and some scenes can be a little scary, but overall, it’s got fairies, adventure, friendship, what more could a kid want? Note that there is one series of three longer books (the Fairy Dust Trilogy), all written by Gail Carson Levine and all centered on Tinkerbell; these are good if your kid can handle a longer and somewhat intricate plot. For younger kids, there are a lot of shorter chapter books that each focus on a particular fairy. These are quicker and simpler than the Levine books, and also make a nice read aloud if you have a fairy-obsessed pre-reader. Amazon: Fairy Dust Trilogy Chapter Books     P&P: Fairy Dust Trilogy Chapter...

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The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

Posted by on Aug 24, 2013 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Award Winners, Modern Classics, Series |

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

This book was published in 2005, but it feels much older, like Anne of Green Gables or Little Women. It centers on four sisters from ages 12 to 4, whose mother has died and who spend three weeks in the summer with their father in a rented cottage on a fancy estate. The girls befriend the boy who lives in the estate and get into all sorts of trouble along the way. The sibling relationship is great, the four sisters are distinct and likeable. There is a little light romance (the oldest sister has an unrequited crush on the 19-year-old gardener). Overall, an easygoing and enjoyable story. It won the National Book Award, and there are two sequels for those who want to hear more about the Penderwick sisters. Amazon...

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Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Posted by on Aug 22, 2013 in Age 5-8, All Book Recommendations, Classics, Read Aloud |

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The pig lives, the spider dies. Death is handled deftly in this classic story, but it is prominent, from the very beginning. The talking animals and farmyard setting make it a nice early read aloud, but be prepared for discussions on death and humans’ role in it. Otherwise, a funny and sweet story suitable for the youngest readers and pre-readers. Amazon...

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