When I sat down to gather the best middle grade books for adventurous readers, I went back to my own time as a young reader. Because I was really a horrible asshole as a child, or I was just batcrap crazy…one or the other, I read A LOT. When I was 8-12 I just read what my MawMaw and the librarian who smelled of Salem slim lights told me to read. I’m surprised the librarian didn’t have me reading The Valley of The Dolls. I probably would’ve liked it. Again, I was crazy. STILL AM! But I’m good at books.
When I was a teenager, I was over the moon with Harry Potter. I fell head over heels for Harry and Ron. Hermione WAS me, as far as I was concerned. I then fell headlong into Chaim Potok and deeper into Stephen King. I eventually found Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and Octavia Butler. One author led to another who led to another. It is that way today. It’s an exhilarating experience. It’s pure joy to find a new author, a new series, to tempt your mind.
That said, for middle readers, finding a new series isn’t all that easy. These are kids mostly dependent on their parents’ recommendations, their internet, their money. Yes, they talk to their friends at school, but really? Yeah. It’s on us. And smoky ladies wearing corduroy pants and a golden smile.
This list is better.
My son, an 8 year old Percy Jackson fanboy of the highest order, is very specific. He likes fantasy, sci-fi, pediatric pulp fiction. He’s obsessive about it. Reading for him is calming. It’s a steady beat for his mind. It’s comfort.
I’m hyper-focused on how I can make his reading life as fulfilling as humanly possible. I take real joy in finding him the best books, and I’ve been pretty successful. But I can only suggest. He’s the judge, jury, and executioner.
The two of us made a list. Best middle-grade novels for the adventurous reader. These are all vetted by a real, reading 8 year old. From the mouths of babes.
The best middle grade novels for adventurous readers! As chosen by an 8yo and his mom. The mom is…
Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing-she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?
In the Urwald, you don’t step off the path. Trolls, werewolves, and butter-churn riding witches lurk amid the clawing branches, eager to swoop up the unwary. Jinx has always feared leaving the path-then he meets the wizard Simon Magus.
Jinx knows that wizards are evil. But Simon’s kitchen is cozy, and he seems cranky rather than wicked. Staying with him appears to be Jinx’s safest, and perhaps only, option. As Jinx’s curiosity about magic grows, he learns to listen to the trees as closely as he does to Simon’s unusual visitors. The more Jinx discovers, the more determined he becomes to explore beyond the security of well-trod paths. But in the Urwald, a little healthy fear is never out of place, for magic-and magicians-can be as dangerous as the forest, and soon Jinx must decide which is the greater threat.
In Viking times, Norse myths predicted the end of the world, an event called Ragnarok, that only the gods can stop. When this apocalypse happens, the gods must battle the monsters–wolves the size of the sun, serpents that span the seabeds, all bent on destroying the world.
The gods died a long time ago.
Matt Thorsen knows every Norse myth, saga, and god as if it was family history–because it is family history. Most people in the modern-day town of Blackwell, South Dakota, in fact, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt’s classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke.
Blamed for her uncle’s death, fifteen-year-old Annie is on the run. Knowing the perils she will face on the streets of eighteenth century London, she disguises herself as a boy. Her life on the streets is cut short when she becomes Captain Hawke’s cabin boy.
Not only must Annie work alongside the Realm’s motley crew of outcasts and gentlemen, she must also keep her superstitious shipmates from discovering she is a girl.
Annie vows she will never leave the Realm, where dreams are chased, shattered lives can mend, and secrets are stowed like keepsakes in an old desk drawer. But when her past catches up with her, can she return to the Realm? More importantly, will she have a choice?
No one has any confidence in twelve-year-old Christopher Lane. His teachers discount him as a liar and a thief, and his mom doesn’t have the energy to deal with him. But a mysterious visit from the Ministry of Education indicates that Chris might have some potential after all: He is invited to attend the prestigious Myers Holt Academy.
When Christopher begins at his new school, he is astounded at what he can do. It seems that age twelve is a special time for the human brain, which is capable of remarkable feats-as also evidenced by Chris’s peers Ernest and Mortimer Genver, who, at the direction of their vengeful and manipulative mother, are testing the boundaries of the human mind.
Logan Wilde is accidentally drawn into the mysterious, dangerous world of the Menagerie when he discovers a griffin hiding under his bed . . . and it leads him straight to the weirdest girl in seventh grade, Zoe Kahn.
Zoe is panicking. Her family has been guarding the Menagerie for centuries. If they don’t get the cubs back fast, the whole place will be shut down. To save the griffins’ lives, she’s willing to break all the rules, even if it means letting an outsider like Logan help. But the real mystery remains: Is someone trying to sabotage the Menagerie?
Who let the griffins out…and why?
Jack McKinley is an ordinary kid with an extraordinary problem. In a few months, he’s going to die.
Jack needs to find seven magic loculi that, when combined, have the power to cure him.
The loculi are the relics of a lost civilization and haven’t been seen in thousands of years.
Because they’re hidden in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
A deadly white mist has cloaked the earth for hundreds of years. Humanity clings to the highest mountain peaks, where the wealthy Five Families rule over the teeming lower slopes and rambling junkyards. As the ruthless Lord Kodoc patrols the skies to enforce order, thirteen-year-old Chess and his crew scavenge in the Fog-shrouded ruins for anything they can sell to survive.
Hazel is the captain of their salvage raft: bold and daring. Swedish is the pilot: suspicious and strong. Bea is the mechanic: cheerful and brilliant. And Chess is the tetherboy: quiet and quick…and tougher than he looks. But Chess has a secret, one he’s kept hidden his whole life. One that Lord Kodoc is desperate to exploit for his own evil plans. And even as Chess unearths the crew’s biggest treasure ever, they are running out of time…
Strange things are happening in Village Drowning, and a terrifying encounter has Rye O’Chanter convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned.
Now Rye’s only hope is an exiled secret society so notorious its name can’t be spoken aloud: the Luck Uglies. As Rye dives into Village Drowning’s maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she’ll discover the truth behind the village’s legends of outlaws and beasts…and that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.
Nominated for three Harvey Awards, THE ONLY LIVING BOY tells the story of 12-year old Erik Farrell, who runs away from home only to find himself without his memory, stranded on a patchwork planet with danger lurking around every corner. Every day is a struggle to survive. Erik quickly allies himself with Morgan, a mermaid warrior and Thea, a teenage princess from a mysterious insect race. He’ll need their help to escape the Dreaded Lord Baalikar and the evil Doctor Once and maybe, one day, find his way back home.
When Lorelei’s old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It’s every kids’s dream.
But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it’s too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center.
Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she’d like to forget – and taking on a teacher who’s a real witch.
Fantastical books for fantastic young minds! The best middle grade books for adventurous readers.
Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.
Her mother’s left, her neglectful father-the maestro of a failing orchestra-has moved her and her grandmother into the city’s dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.
Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help-if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.
Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living…and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.