When kids find books they really like, it’s a big deal, especially if the kids in question aren’t super enthusiastic readers. Parents, relatives, and friends of middle readers often come to us and ask, “My child just read _____ and loved it. Do you know of anything else like it?”
On the other side of the coin, sometimes people come in asking for good books for middle readers, and one of the first questions we always ask is, “What has he/she read recently that he/she liked?” Making recommendations is a large part of our job as booksellers, and the easiest way to help customers pick out books for kids we have never met is to try to hone in on that child’s interests, reading and otherwise.
We love helping people find just the right book, or (even better) discover new books previously unknown to them. So this week, we thought we’d play matchmaker. We’ve taken some of the most popular books for 3rd and 4th graders and matched them with similar books at the 5th and 6th grade reading level. If your kids are outgrowing their old favorites, hopefully these recommendations will help launch them into new and exciting reading adventures!
Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has taken over the world—literally. The books have been translated into 50 languages, and almost every kid who comes into blue manatee has read or is reading them. How do you follow up such a wildly popular series? We think we have the answer. Although not written in “diary” form, Wonder is likewise a story of a kid just trying to fit in and navigate his school days successfully. Unlike Kinney’s Greg, however, R.J. Palacio’s protagonist Auggie must do so with a facial deformity, which presents its own set of challenges.
Matt Christopher, the king of sports writing, has entertained young athletes for years with his books about basketball, baseball, soccer—you name it. For fans of his books, we recommend Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover. Winner of the 2015 Newbery Medal and written in (amazing) verse, this story of a young basketball player will hook readers from the start and not let them go until the last page.
School’s back in session—at Wayside School, that is. Hilariously funny, sometimes confusing, and always entertaining, Louis Sachar’s stories make us all wish we could be in Mrs. Jewls’s class. Although not quite as irreverent, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day strikes a similarly chaotic (but also heartwarming) tone, as three friends set out to give a beloved teacher the best last day ever after she is unable to finish out the school year due to an illness. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll remember all of your favorite teachers, Mrs. Jewls included!
Roald Dahl’s books are consistent favorites, and Matilda is no exception. It’s a book for book lovers, really, with a little magic and a couple of outrageous situations thrown in (Bruce’s chocolate cake, anyone?). Enter Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, starring bookish girl Meggie and her bookish father Mo, who has the power to read characters straight out of their books! A dream come true for any bookworm… until the day that the villain of the story is suddenly transported to the real world.
Know any readers who enjoy a good scare? They’re probably fans of the Goosebumps series, in which R.L. Stine manages to create genuinely creepy stories with a little bit of silliness thrown in for fun. But Goosebumps is only the beginning; take scary storytelling to the next level with Terrifying Tales, a collection of scary stories written by some of the most notable contemporary children’s authors, including Stine himself. You might want to sleep with the lights on after this one!
The concept of “twisted fairy tales” has been around for years, but there seems to be a resurgence in middle grade books. The popular Whatever After series puts a modern spin on well-known fairy tales, from Snow White to Cinderella to the Little Mermaid. Similarly, the Sisters Grimm series follows two girls who are descendants of the famous Grimm brothers, as they solve mysteries related to the people in their town—who may or may not be fairy tale characters. Perfect for fans of long-beloved fairy tales!
Harriet the Spy is a classic; readers young and old adore bold, independent Harriet, who loves to spy on people and keeps tabs on all she observes in her notebook. If you have fans of Harriet in the house, try The Westing Game next. Readers will see a lot of Harriet’s spirit in Turtle, the fearless, ambitious heroine who is determined to solve the mystery of Sam Westing’s death and win the ten million dollar prize in his posthumous game. A brilliant puzzle-mystery with an entertaining cast of characters, this Newbery Honor book will soon become a favorite.