Sometimes Middle Grade is my favorite genre to read. I remember being 10 or 11 years old and suddenly realizing that the library truly was Wide Open to me–that I could pick Any Book I Wanted and no one could stop me. It was such an age of discovery for me. I’ve mentioned before that it’s the age when I discovered Stephen King, but one of the reasons he is my Living Author Boyfriend is that there is always a roughly 12 year old kid in his stories.
It’s a pivotal time in any person’s life, that middle grade age. It’s when you stop being an extension of your parents in your mind and start realizing you are a person in your own right. Such an amazing period. And when that whole ‘coming-of-age’ thing is captured well, the stories make my soul soar.
Your littles should have the opportunity to feel that when they read. They should get to experience that connection with a character, that sudden understanding that they are not the only people in the world to ever feel the way they do. Middle grade books are a great place to make character friends that stay with you always.
So what middle grade books should you have available for your littles to find that connection?
Oh, my lovelies, let me count the ways. Honestly, narrowing this list down was not as difficult for me as it was with picture books. I immediately knew of 3 that would make this list, and coming up with the other two was a no-brainer. If you want your littles to have a True Experience when reading a book, get them all 5 of these.
Seriously, y’all, we’ve read this book together 3 times. I love to break it out in the autumn, because the scene where Grandma Dowdel steals pumpkins from a neighbor is one of my favorites.
I know, what kind of lesson is that for a kid?
But there are lessons to be learned on nearly every page of this superbly well-written, heart-warming book. If you’ve never read it, it follows young Mary Alice as she leaves Chicago during the Depression to spend a year with her Grandma Dowdel in the country. Mary Alice has to attend a much smaller school where she is considered the rich city kid and put up with Grandma’s antics while trying to find her own place in the world.
Grandma Dowdel is, perhaps, my favorite character ever. She is this amazing woman who does things her way and will accept no less–she’s a tough old bird and sly as anything. Mary Alice doesn’t understand more than half of what Grandma does. But as the year passes, Mary Alice begins to see that all the crazy things Grandma does are done from love–of her neighbors, her small town, her friends. That rough exterior is just a cover. It turns out everything Grandma does is for a greater good.
Oh, my friends, That. Is. The. Stuff.
Though this is my favorite Peck novel, they’re all good, so don’t be afraid to gather up his entire collection. But start with this one. Even though it’s the sequel to A Long Way from Chicago, it is by far our favorite and can be enjoyed on its own. In fact, when we first read it, we had no idea it was a sequel. I swear!
In my house growing up, this book was almost biblical. I can’t even tell you how many times it was read to me as a child, and I always made sure I was present when it was read to my siblings. Nothing trumped the Hobbit and The Trilogy. Yeah, the Lord of the Rings was known in my house as The Trilogy, capital letters implied every time it was voiced. There was no other trilogy. There Is no other trilogy.
Does that make me a nerd?
Go ahead. Say it. I know it does. I revel in it.
Listen, I’m including this book in middle grade because I want you to read it to your littles as soon as you can. I mean, the films are fan-freaking-tastic, but the book… Well, there’s a reason it has had such an enormous following since its first publication. Bilbo’s adventures and his growth as the story moves along is about as brilliant as a hero quest can get. This is Story at its most superb.
If you want to read more about what your littles can learn from this book, take a look at my post Life Lessons from The Hobbit. If you don’t already understand, you will once you’ve read it.
Littlest and I listened to this on audio when he was 4 or 5. Middle was in public school then, so Littlest was my only constant companion. Whenever we ran errands we listened to the Penderwicks in the car. He almost cried when it ended–he liked it that much.
The cool thing about that? The Penderwicks are all girls. There’s a boy in the story, sure, but Littlest never even noticed that it was mainly about girls.
Because this book is that good. It’s one of those stories about summer that absolutely transports you back to childhood, reminding you of how long summer days are when you’re 8 or 11 and how much adventure can be had. What I loved most is that it encourages our littles to get outside and explore. You can’t have these kinds of adventures in front of a screen.
Heart-warming and funny, The Penderwicks is an obvious choice to add to your homeschool library. It really is one that will stick with your littles forever.
The Giver was my first Lowry book And my first dystopian novel written for children. It is one of those books that sears you to your soul, brands you forever, makes you look at the world and wonder how you can keep terrors like this from happening.
Dystopia is my favorite genre. It charges me, reminds me why we should always fight for our freedoms and never become complacent in the face of government.
This book is an amazing introduction to such a lesson. Sure, there’s no crime, no sickness, and no poverty in Jonas’s world. Which sounds, of course, ideal. We would all love to see an end to those things. But this isn’t an example of what we could really do as humans to overcome our worst plights (though it gives you a great place from which to teach a lesson on how we could do it without sacrificing freedom). This is a community based on hypocrisy and death. Jonas learns the truth about his world as he trains for his job as the Receiver of Memory. And he has to make a choice. Accept the world as it is or fight against the hidden tyranny?
I can’t really say anything else without giving away the good stuff. There are so many opportunities for lessons in this book. Important lessons that you really want your littles to learn.
Yeah yeah. Own this book.
You may have heard of the other books on this list, but I’m thinking not many of you have heard of this wondrous, wonderful book. I first read it when I was 10. I now own 2 copies. They are well-worn. I have read it many times. When I bought my copies, it was out of print and I had to find them used, which is awesome, because I love reading books that other hands have touched. But lucky you, it is available again, even for Kindle! Though you know me, I say get your hands on the hard copy–it’s only a few dollars more.
This fantasy book is about a young boy named Barry who finds a cave in some seaside cliffs. Problem 1: It can only be reached at high tide from the ocean. Problem 2: He almost drowned trying to reach it so his parents forbid him to swim in the ocean.
Barry is a rebellious soul. So he sets out at night to access the cave. And he gets to it. But what he finds is so much more than he expected.
Because a boy named Dido appears in the cave, and he takes Barry to the world of Egon–far below the sea, it is a land of purple water and turquoise mountains with giants and food like stardew and drinks called silver-moon tigra. People travel on rainbows and talk with brain waves and the ocean is the sky. It is fantasy at its purest, at its finest.
The best part? The differences between Dido’s world and Barry’s are used to explain how our world works. For instance, Dido explains the human nervous system and how it works to Barry while discussing why Dido can’t be hurt therefore doesn’t feel pain.
You feeling me? Davidson is teaching kids about themselves without them even realizing it.
You want to read this book. Your littles want to read this book. It is A.maz.ing.
Whenever I think of Middle Grade characters, these are the 5 books that stand out the most. I love character-driven stories, and these have that in spades, but they also have deliciously thought-out plots and lots of adventure. Just what every little needs.
If you’re wondering which three books made it to the list immediately, they were Under Plum Lake, The Hobbit, and A Year Down Yonder. For me, there is no question they are the top 3 middle grade books for your littles. But I promise the other 2 are just as good.
24 other bloggers want to give you advice in 10 Days of Tips for Homeschool Moms, so go check them out because there is so much wonderful information in this series and you don’t want to miss out on it. While you’re there, sign up to win the $150 cash prize if you haven’t already.
And read a book today. Any book.
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