Middle Grade (ages 8-12)

These are some of the books I would recommend that every elementary schooler read.  It’s more a good start than an exhaustive list, but they are all great reads by some of my favorite authors.  The list is a work in progress and I know I’m missing some important books, so please feel free to post your own recommendations in the comments below.

Redwall by Brian Jacques (and sequels)

The story of Matthias, a young mouse at Redwall Abbey who finds himself on a quest to regain the sword and shield of Martin the Warrior to defend the peaceful abbey dwellers from Cluny the Scourge.  When I was a fourth and fifth grader, I lived for these books.  They are great adventures about people (mice actually with an occasional badger or hare) fighting for good against tall odds.  The original is my favorite of the series, but I like them all.  They can be read in any order, but start with this one.

Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes follows the unlikely hero, Stanley Yelnats, a chubby youth wrongly convicted of theft, as he is sent to a juvenile correction center where they dig holes “to build character.”  The story has a great setting (not surprising considering Sachar is the author of The Wayside School books), interesting characters, and a protagonist who is easy to relate to.  The Wayside School books are also great.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White

E. B. White wrote only three children’s books (all for his niece), but all three (Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan) are now considered classics.  Of the three, this was my favorite.  It’s the story of Louis, a trumpeter swan with no voice.  So what does a trumpeter swan with no voice do?  Learn to play the trumpet of course.  It’s a sweet story about playing with the cards life deals you.  Just writing this synopsis makes me want to go read it.

Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

The story of a father and his son who live in an old gypsy wagon and go poaching together…  Which doesn’t make it sound like the kind of book you want your kids to read, but just trust me.  Roald Dahl wrote more of my favorite books than any other author (The BFG, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but if there was one not to miss, this would be it.  It’s a [insert synonym for heart-warming here] story of father and son.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

The classic fantasy series by C. S. Lewis, takes place in the land of Narnia, which four children find themselves in after they accidentally happen through a wardrobe in an old house.  I love these books because Lewis doesn’t follow a formula for them, but tells six different stories.  I’d recommend reading them in the order he wrote (and intended) them, starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, not the chronological order that they’ve recently been published in.  And avoid the movies like the plague.


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