Best Books for Middle-Grade Readers

The Best Books for Reluctant Middle-Grade Readers

Middle-grade readers run the gamut of being big fish at the elementary school pond to dipping their toes into the wild waters of middle school. Without a doubt, it’s an age of big change. To that end, middle-grade books can help your child to find adventure, comfort, insight, and connection throughout this amazing (and sometimes scary) time in their life.

But if your child would rather eat a whole plate of raw broccoli than open a book, you might wonder how you can spark a love of reading in your reluctant reader. 

For that, our Literati middle-grade experts have come up with a list of books that will hook even the most hesitant reader. Soon enough, you and your kid will be constructing pillow forts for long, cozy reading sessions. Ready to discover the best books for middle-grade readers?

The Misadventures of Max Crumbly #1: Locker Hero

How does New York Times best-selling middle-grade author Rachel Renée Russell describe her latest series? “Home Alone, but at school!”

Part chapter book, part graphic novel, The Misadventures of Max Crumbly series is one of the best books for fifth graders nervous about middle school. It’s presented as middle-schooler Max’s personal diary, filled with journal entries, doodles, comics, and drawings about his life. 

In the first installment, Locker Hero, Max taps into his inner superhero. After being shoved into a locker (again) on a Friday night, Matt’s escape attempts land him smack-dab in the middle of a burglary. What’s a wannabe superhero to do? 

How about a night filled with crime-foiling shenanigans that would make Kevin McCallister’s pranks look as elementary as a “Kick Me!” sign?

“The main message is ‘be the hero you’ve always admired!’” Russell says. “Be a superhero in your family, be a superhero in your community, be a superhero in your school. You don’t need powers!”

Why will my kid like this book?

  • If your child is nervous about diving into middle school, they’ll love how Max finds humor and truth in every situation.
  • This book is perfect for kids who love comics or reminisce about picture-book days.
  • Shenanigans to befuddle burglaries? It’s every middle-grade reader’s dream!

This Is Not A Science Book

You might be thinking, “Hmm, okay… then what is it?”

Full disclosure: there’s science in this book. But a more accurate title would be This Is An Adventure Book.

This is easily one the best non-fiction books for kids—especially those who would rather do the dishes than open a book. By stealthily sneaking science into drawing, sketching, building, and coloring activities, Clive Gifford ignites excitement for science with a book you’re meant to get dirty. 

This inventive and creative book is packed with engaging exercises in a fun, relatable voice you’ll never find in a science textbook. Readers will discover astronomy, physiology, and physics through activities and illustrations. But remember: this isn’t a science book… 

Why will my kid like this book?

  • This book isn’t just meant to be read—This is Not a Science Book is designed to bring science off the page and into the real world, with interactive elements that entertain for hours.
  • It’s perfect for readers who have a hard time sitting still long enough to read a chapter.
  • Reading this book doesn’t have to be a solo activity—This Is Not A Science Book is full of fun activities the whole family can do together! 

Dear Sister

“Dear Sister,

They told me to write you a Three Months Old note for your baby book.
Here you go.


P.S. The reason I signed From is because I’m not sure I love you yet. Time will tell.

P.P.S. It’s not looking good so far.”

Alison McGhee’s Dear Sister is a testament to the good, bad, and the beauty of siblinghood.  This collection of hilarious, brutally honest, and loving notes and drawings from a big brother to his baby sister span across a decade, starting from the sister’s birth to her 10th birthday. Watching the two characters grow up through Brother’s notes is a novel experience for middle-grade readers, but that doesn’t make the voice any less relatable. 

Why will my kid like this book?

  • McGhee’s novel plays beautifully with the graphic novel form, rendering each page like a keepsake and a story at once.
  • It’s funny. But not just “lol” funny. We’re talking snort-laugh-on-the-bus-so-loud-people-look-at-you-weird funny. Brother’s observations and goofy comics are smart and relatable, especially for older siblings.
  • Because this should be required reading for children who, once in a while, need to remember how beautiful it is to walk life’s journey with a sibling.

The Lost Rainforest: Mez’s Magic

Magical worlds. Rainforest adventure. A sinister evil threatening everything our hero holds dear. Hilarious banter with… panthers? 

Yes, The Lost Rainforest: Mez’s Magic has it all!

The first in Eliot Schefer’s The Lost Rainforest series transports middle-grade readers to a lush and complex magical world through the eyes of Mez, a young panther with magical powers. Mez must leave the comforts of her den behind, make new friends outside of her own species, and take down an evil that threatens her rainforest home. 

This book will hook even the most cautious readers with its exhilarating plot, captivating descriptions, and relatable characters. Plus, Schrefer does a wonderful job imbuing this fantasy world with real facts about the importance of ecosystems.

Why will my kid like this book?

  • If your kid loves doing the voices for your family pet, they’ll love this series of animal protagonists.
  • If your child can’t get enough of magical adventures in video games or movies, they’ll be absolutely thrilled by Eliot Scherfer’s series.
  • Magical panthers aside, this book tackles topics that your child deals with all the time—fear of new things, navigating new friendships, and the love of home—if just in a furrier form. 

It’s Never Too Late to Love Reading

Whether you choose to spark a love of experiments with This Is Not A Science Book or find a segue from picture books to chapter books with Max Crumbly, one of these middle-grade favorites might be the key to unlocking your child’s inner bibliophile.

After all, it just takes one book to fall in love with reading. 

And how excited does your kid get when a package comes in the mail just for them? Use that excitement to inspire a lifelong love of reading! Here at Literati, each subscription box is curated for your child’s age group and interests.

The monthly subscription box includes:

  • 5 age-appropriate books (a different theme every month)
  • Book swag like collectible art, personalized stickers, and surprise extras!

Keep the books your child loves, and return what they don’t. Through Literati’s middle-grade reading subscription club, Club Phoenix, you and your child can discover new stories and genres together.

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