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

Series

For the truly insatiable, here is a collection of series that go on and on. It won’t satisfy them, but it will keep them quiet for a bit.

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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Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Comics & Graphic Novels, Series |

Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

This is a fun graphic novel centering on a girl who inherits from her grandfather a magic amulet that gives her the power to rule the world, but all she wants is to save her mom. The story is exciting without being too scary. The father dies in a car crash in the opening pages. The mom is eaten by a monster, but it quickly becomes clear that she’s fine and just stuck in the monster’s belly waiting for the kids to come rescue her. Emily and younger brother Navin have a nice, caring relationship. Features robots, bad guys, a talking stuffed bunny, and an awesome house on a cliff that stands and walks across the sea. There are five books in the series (#6 comes out in August 2014). 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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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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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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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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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Posted by on Aug 25, 2013 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Award Winners, Classics, Series |

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

“It was a dark and stormy night…,” begins this classic novel, which follows 14-year-old Meg, her unusual younger brother, and her friend and light love interest Calvin, on a trip across the galaxy to save Meg’s father. Nothing to fear here for parents, and it has the nice benefit of being a science fiction book with a strong female protagonist. Won the Newbery. If your kid falls in love with this one, there are four other books in the series, as well as a graphic novel. Amazon  P&P Kids who like this book may also like A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel and When You Reach...

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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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