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

Crash! Pow!

These are adventure stories with daring rescues, close escapes, and lots and lots of action. For the kid who can’t sit still.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow!, Modern Classics, Poetry & Novels in Verse | 0 comments

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

This fun novel-in-verse captures both the quick rhythm of a basketball game and the turbulence of the first year of middle school. Josh Bell and his identical twin, Jordan, are the stars of their school basketball team and as close and competitive as brothers can be. Jordan’s crush on a girl drives a wedge between them, though, and Josh fears he’s being left behind. The story is compelling and moves quickly, with bright, playful language. A warning to parents of sensitive kids: The boys’ father, who is a former professional basketball player and a strong role model for the boys, dies of a heart attack at the end of the book. Won the Newbery Medal in 2015, as well as the Coretta Scott King Honor Award. P&P...

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Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Posted by on Nov 8, 2015 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow!, Modern Classics | 0 comments

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

This dreamy, lovely story was recommended to me by my cellist nine-year-old daughter. Set in 1890s London, it’s the story of a girl who was found floating in a cello case after the sinking of an ocean liner. Sophie is rescued by an eccentric academic who becomes her guardian. When authorities threaten to place Sophie in an orphanage, she and Papa flee to Paris in search of her mother, whom Sophie is sure lives despite evidence to the contrary. There she begins a wild adventure across the rooftops of Paris with her new friend, Matteo, and other orphaned children. The book is enchanting and riveting. There is one scene with kids fighting on a rooftop, but it is short and not too violent. Overall, this book is a wonderful world in which to spend a few hours. Amazon...

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Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voight

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow! | 0 comments

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voight

Set in an unnamed American city in the early 1800s, this story centers on Max, the practical twelve-year-old son of eccentric actors. When the book opens, Max’s parents receive an invitation to sail to India to open a theater. Max and his parents prepare for the trip, but when Max goes to the dock to meet his parents, they’ve already set sail under suspicious circumstances. Under the benign eye of his grandmother, Max sets out to support himself and solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance. The story is fun and quick-paced and not too scary. I predict that if your kid reads this one, he or she is also going to want books two and three. I know I do!  Amazon...

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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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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow! | 0 comments

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

My eight-year-old bookworm says this is the best book she’s ever read. Mr. Lemoncello, an eccentric millionaire in the vein of Sam Westing from The Westing Game, sets up a game in the new library he’s funded in town. Twelve seventh-graders get to spend the night in the library, and then are invited to participate in his challenge: If you can escape from the library, fame and fortune await (losers are sent home with parting gifts). The way to find the escape involves getting to know the library – looking up call numbers and reading books and exploring the stacks. There are riddles and puzzles and lots of cheesy jokes, plus lies, double-crossing, and opportunities for heroism and good sportsmanship. No violence or questionable language, just great fun all around. Amazon...

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The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow! | 0 comments

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

I was so pleased to find a book where the main characters have gay parents. The Family Fletcher does not disappoint. The Fletchers are a two-dad, four-son, two-to-four-pet household. The brothers are all adopted. Two are white, one is African-American, and one is Indian. The best part is that all of this is completely irrelevant to the story, which focuses instead on the brothers’ struggles to survive mean neighbors, new schools, changing friendships, and deeper understandings of themselves and each other. And did I mention it’s hilarious? Like Ramona Quimby levels of funny. Levy shows each of the brothers as unique and generally trying to do the right thing, but the sum total is a messy and chaotic, but overall loving, household. There is some light language – one of the dads keeps accidentally cursing (though what he’s actually saying is not in the text), and “butt,” “moron,” and “stupid” are all used. The book is great fun, and I highly recommend it. Amazon...

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Dreamwood by Heather Mackey

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow!, Modern Classics | 0 comments

Dreamwood by Heather Mackey

What a fun adventure! This book is a fascinating alternative history of the American Northwest, in which the Native Americans (“First Peoples,” in this story) win every battle with the settlers, and have all the power in the society. Lucy, a settler, runs away from her boarding school in search of her father, a ghost clearer who has disappeared into the wilderness. Lucy and her friend Pete set off to find him, as well as the cure for the mysterious sickness that is killing off the trees. Lucy’s friend, Niwa, a princess of the First Peoples who is smart, brave, and daring, helps them along the way. There are some scary scenes, including a tree that eats people, and adult characters also searching for the cure are killed. Lucy succeeds in finding her father and he does survive, though it looks bad for a bit there. There is some light romance between Lucy and Pete. Amazon ...

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The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Posted by on Jun 8, 2014 in Age 8-12, Crash! Pow! | 0 comments

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Smekday is a crazy, bizarre, silly, and laugh-out-loud funny book about what happens after an alien invasion of earth. Eleven-year-old Gratuity (“Tip”) Tucci goes on a cross-country journey to Arizona, where all the humans are forced by the invading Boovs, with her cat and an on-the-run Boov named J.Lo. With a little help from her friends, she manages to find her mom and save the world. Tip is tough and resourceful and never self-pitying. The story a fun read for the older set, with an interesting comparison of the alien invasion to the U.S. take over of Native lands. Tip is biracial, and being raised by a single mom. “Damn,” “hell,” and “ass” are used a few times. A gang of lost boys call themselves Boob. For those who get really into the book, there are some fun extras online at www.smekday.com. Dreamworks is making an animated version, which will, of course, feature the voice of Jennifer Lopez. Amazon...

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Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow! |

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

So fun! Nate is a hilarious, Broadway-loving thirteen-year-old who sneaks away from his home in Jankburg, PA, to New York City to audition for E.T., the Musical. It’s an easy read with a quick, bouncing pace, told in the style of one long, breathless anecdote from your gay bestie (though Nate is officially “undecided” about his sexuality). One of my favorite recurring bits is that instead of swear words, he uses the names of failed Broadway shows (“Holy Dance of the Vampires!”). There are some difficult moments – Nate is called “faggot” and “homo,” and feels alienated from his father, who wants him to play sports and like girls. Nate’s parents are in a rough patch, and may be headed for a divorce. When Nate’s mom finally learns where he’s been, she shows up drunk and furious. There are also sweet moments, like when Nate walks past a gay bar and sees “a world where guys who look like me and probably liked the Phantom movie, too, can dance next to other guys who probably liked Phantom and not get threatened or assaulted.” I was sorry to see this book end, but happily, there’s a sequel.  Amazon ...

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The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Posted by on Dec 10, 2013 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow!, Series |

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

An evil genius is threatening to take over the world with a machine that transmits secret messages of fear through TV screens. Four supersmart kids are the only ones who can stop him. So fun, right? The story is exciting without violence, and prizes intelligence, ingenuity, bravery and friendship. The plot is a little far-fetched, and so might appeal more to the younger crowd (7-10 or so). It’s a long book – almost 500 pages – and there are three more of equivalent length in the series, so they should keep your little reader happy for a good long time. Amazon ...

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The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

Posted by on Nov 23, 2013 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow!, Series | 0 comments

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

A sister and brother whose grandmother has just died are given a choice at the reading of the will: take $1 million each immediately, or turn it down and receive a clue to the solving of a mystery that will either make them the most powerful people in the world – or lead to their deaths. It’s a great hook, and the story is fun and exciting, delving into secrets across centuries and cities. Think DaVinci Code for the younger set. The brother and sister sometimes aren’t very nice to each other (there’s a lot of “idiot” and “baboon face” language, and “butt” is used), but that’s really my only gripe. There are some scary scenes, but the violence is pretty mild, and no one gets really hurt. If you want to get more books in the series, please note that there are multiple authors and different collections, so it can be a little confusing to figure out the sequence. A full explanation is available on Wikipedia. There are also some fun online games and cards you can collect to enhance the story. Amazon ...

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Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Posted by on Sep 6, 2013 in Age 8-12, Crash! Pow!, Series |

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

This five-book series follows Percy Jackson, a 12-year-old with dyslexia and ADD who discovers that the Greek gods are still around and that he is the son of Poseidon. Percy is hunted by all sorts of bad guys and has to fight them off to save himself and head off an epic war between the immortals. Along the way we learn lots of Greek mythology. The violence is both innocuous (the monsters don’t die, just go away to fight again later) and prolific, almost like a video game, so make of that what you will. Percy is also a bit of a dog romantically as he gets older – he harbors a secret hankering for one girl while kissing another because, you know, kissing is fun. That said, the story is engaging enough that it might be just the ticket if you have a kid who swears he or she doesn’t like to read. If it works, Riordan is writing a second series starring Percy Jackson, called The Heroes of Olympus, so you’ll have plenty more books for your budding Greek historian....

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Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow!, Modern Classics, Read Aloud, Series |

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

As you probably know, this series follows Harry Potter from age 11, when he discovers he’s a wizard and heads off to wizarding school, through age 17, in which he defeats the dark wizard Voldemort. Book 1 is pretty light and almost cartoony (though parents reading it aloud to their younger kids should be aware of a scene in Chapter 15 in which a creepy Voldemort drinks unicorn blood). The books get darker and more intense quickly, however, and by the seventh book, Harry is abandoned by one best friend, another is tortured while he listens, and multiple beloved characters are killed. Rowling does an amazing job with character development, and there are some great messages here about loyalty, friendship, and courage. It’s a terrific series, but parents may want to delay their kids’ starting it for as long as possible; once they begin, it’s all but impossible to hold them off of the later and darker books. Amazon  P&P Kids who like this book might also like Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Mysterious Benedict...

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Alex and the Ironic Gentleman by Adrienne Kress

Posted by on Aug 25, 2013 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow! |

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman by Adrienne Kress

A fun and exciting tale. Alex is 10 ½ years old, lives with her uncle and is a big fan of her nerdy 6th grade teacher. When pirates kill her uncle and kidnap her teacher, Alex embarks on an adventure to save him and find a lost treasure. The strange and magical journey is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. There is some violence (one character is tortured, and Alex kills a pirate near the end) and some drinking (Alex takes a sip of champagne which turns out to be liquefied human souls – ew! – and adults are shown drinking and getting drunk). Amazon...

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