What 1st Grade Reading Books Are Available Online?
Reading is important for kids of all ages, whether they’re reading on their own or hearing stories from teachers, parents and the other adults in their lives. It’s especially important for first graders because they’re still learning language, and reading helps them understand the sounds and patterns words make.
You can shop for books in stores, check them out from libraries and even buy them online, but you can also find free or inexpensive digital books for kids online. Reading them is as easy as visiting one of these websites. Some may require a membership signup, but for most of them, you can go straight to the link and start reading.
Wilbooks offers free digital books for kids ages pre-K through third grade and reading levels A through M. You can also sort their books by collection or series. For example, there are books that are Common Core-approved, Spanish language books, joke books, alphabet books and more.
Many of the books are free to read online. However, for a monthly fee or annual subscription, you can receive physical books in the mail and access educational printables. Individual, school and classroom accounts are all available. If you want to stick to the dozens of free books available, click on the one you like, and it will appear in a pop-up window. Once it does, you can start reading.
At FunBrain , you’ll find a selection of books for elementary and middle grades, including some of the popular books and series that kids love the most. Look for titles like Judy Moody , Diary of a Wimpy Kid , Smashie McPerter , Amelia , Stink and more. Each title gives a suggested grade level range.
However, if you’re reading with your child, you may find that you want to work your way through all of the books, even the ones for older kids. The FunBrain site also has games for kids of ages and videos like Kidz Bop , Teen Titans Go! and Highlights Kids . It also has informative videos on topics like getting along with siblings or dealing with bullies. The site even has a section on math.
Created by Oxford University Press, Oxford Owl offers a free site for parents and children to use at home, as well as a membership version for teachers and schools. The home version offers a free eBook library for kids ages 3 to 11, including both fiction and nonfiction.
You can also browse by series or Oxford Reading Level. Beyond books, the Oxford Owl site offers a blog with advice for parents and kids on topics like summer reading and what to expect when school starts. There are math games and phonics guides, and you’ll find a selection of activities to do at home, sorted by age and grade level.
One of the most well-known sites where you’ll find free online books for kids is Storyline Online . It’s won several awards, including an Emmy, and it’s been endorsed by the American Library Association.
The site is filled with some of the most popular kids’ books, and rather than read them yourself, you can watch a video of a celebrity like Kevin Costner, Eva Longoria or Betty White read them to you. Each book has its own activity guide, and you can buy the books from the site if you’d like to own a physical copy.
International Children’s Digital Library
The International Children’s Digital Library has one of the biggest selections of kids’ books online. Choose from more than 4,000 titles in approximately 60 languages. You can narrow the selections down by age, length of book, topic and other categories.
You can even search for books that are from each continent. If you sign up for a free account, you can create a virtual bookshelf with your child’s favorites so that you can find them easily when you want.
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The Ultimate List of Books for 6th Grade Readers
When it comes to picking the best books for your 6th graders, you might feel overwhelmed. It can be challenging to figure out where to start finding books that sixth-grade students will find engaging and meaningful while still covering all the standards you want to teach. That's where this list of 6th grade books will come in handy!
These books for 6th graders are perfect for any teacher (or even parents) looking to make sure their students are reading engaging and meaningful texts. These books cover a broad range of genres, themes, and topics to appeal to every reader.
Here is my Ultimate List of Books for 6th Graders.
What you'll find on this page:
The 30 Books Every 6th Grader Should Read
Like the reading lists I've created for 5th graders , this list is shared in no particular order. For each book, I've tried to share a brief overview along with some resources that you can use to teach the text as a novel study or in book clubs.
In addition, I've shared a link to purchase the text on Amazon, so you can add it to your classroom library if you don't already own it.
This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links, which helps to support the blog.
1) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
If you're looking for classic 6th grade books, this is one of my favorites. Published in 1950, this children's fantasy novel has become a classic and is now an equally famous film. It tells the story of four English children during World War II who move to the country and discover a wardrobe that leads them to another world — Narnia — ruled by a cruel White Witch!
Like a fairy tale for middle schoolers, this book has many engaging characters and fantastic themes sure to spark conversations in your classroom.
Buy the Book: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Get the Novel Unit: The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe Novel Unit
2) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
In this book, Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe are introduced to strange happenings by the reclusive Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. The trio joins them on an unexpected journey through time and space where they must tangle with IT — the brain of a dark force!
Your sixth graders will love the fun dynamics of the characters and the suspense as they travel through galaxies to save Charles Wallace. A Wrinkle in Time also features great themes such as friendship, courage, and individuality.
Buy the Book: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Get the Novel Unit: A Wrinkle in Time Novel Unit
3) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
This book tells the story of a sixth-grade girl named Miranda who receives messages from an unknown source. The book leads the reader through some unexpected twists and turns as Miranda navigates her way through middle school and life while uncovering more about the mysterious messages she is getting.
I purposefully put this book after A Wrinkle in Time , as the story makes many connections to the classic text. However, there are so many reasons this book is perfect for your classroom and offers a number of opportunities to discuss aspects of the author's craft, including foreshadowing and suspense.
If you're looking for 6th grade books that will keep your readers on their toes, this is a great choice. After students finish reading, they'll likely want to go back and connect all the dots. I've even had a few students re-read the entire book after they finished!
Buy the Book: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Get the Novel Unit: When You Reach Me Novel Study
4) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The Lightning Thief tells the story of twelve-year-old Percy Jackson, who discovers he is a demi-god after his mother realizes she cannot control him. Soon, he is whisked away to Camp Half-Blood, where he learns about his divine father and his many trials while also taking on the dangerous quest of retrieving Zeus' stolen lightning bolt.
With great characters and action scenes, this book is sure to be loved by your 6th graders and is an excellent connection to Greek Mythology.
Buy the Book: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Get the Novel Unit: The Lightning Thief Novel Study
5) The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This is one of the greatest books for 6th graders, in my opinion. It’s set during WWII when Ada, a young girl born with a club foot, is sent away from London to escape Hitler's bombs.
Alone but determined, she makes her way to the country where she meets Susan Smith — someone who teaches her that nothing is impossible for those willing to work hard enough to achieve their goals!
Buy the Book: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Get the Novel Unit: The War that Saved My Life Literature Unit
6) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
One of several books written by this author, A Little Princess tells the story of a young girl whose father went off to fight in India years earlier, leaving her with nothing but a hope that he would return one day.
However, when he finally does arrive, the girl is forced to work as a maid and endure horrible conditions. Her life takes another turn when she discovers a secret about her father's fortune — yet she remains kind and generous!
In my opinion, this book is the best place to begin as it is full of compelling characters and themes, including kindness, hope, endurance, and determination.
Buy the Book: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Get the Novel Unit: A Little Princess Novel Study
7) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Published in 2000, this book tells the story of Leo Borlock, who is about to attend middle school for the first time. One day he sees a new student with blue hair and strange clothes — Stargirl. He's fascinated by her lack of conformity, and soon, they become friends.
However, when their classmates ostracize her because of her differences in behavior, Leo becomes her champion.
This book is so beautifully written and tells an important story about kindness, uniqueness, and friendship in the face of bullying. It would be a great addition to any classroom library!
Buy the Book: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Get the Novel Unit: Stargirl Novel Study Unit
8) The 6th Grade Nickname Game by Gordon Korman
This book tells the story of middle-schooler Matthew Hollis as he navigates his life as a sixth-grader.
During this time, he plans to create nicknames for everyone in his class — including himself. However, things quickly go downhill when he realizes that the name will not help him or his classmates get along!
Perfect for 6th graders, this book will teach them the importance of self-reflection and empathy. It also helps students to see how stereotypes can affect relationships with others.
Buy the Book: The 6th Grade Nickname Game by Gordon Korman
Get the Novel Unit: The Sixth Grade Nickname Game Novel Study
9) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Another classic on this list of 6th grade books, by this point in their education most students are familiar with The Wizard of Oz. However, most haven't read the actual book!
One of the oldest books on this list is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written in 1900. It has since been turned into a popular film, and television series as Dorothy and her dog Toto make their way to visit mysterious and powerful people — including the Wicked Witch, Glinda the Good Witch, and the Cowardly Lion!
They meet many interesting characters who help or hinder them along their way on their journey.
As old as it is, this book is a must-read not only because it's exciting; I find it particularly helpful in comprehension and discussion. With the wide availability of the movie, you can also use this title to compare across different media. The book is much different than the movie!
Buy the Book: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Get the Novel Unit: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Novel Unit
10) The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Avi's tale about a young girl who has been raised only to know a lady's life begins with her finding herself aboard a ship that is headed towards America.
Naturally, she's nervous — especially when we realize how easily some people on board take advantage of her! Isolated and afraid, Charlotte is unsure who she can trust. As a result, she must learn to depend on herself and trust her instincts to save an innocent man and safely finish the voyage.
Buy the Book: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Get the Novel Unit: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle Novel Study
11) Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
Set in the colonial era, this book is based on the true story of the Jamestown colony. Centered around the story of an orphaned young man named Samuel, the reader is exposed to the harsh realities of transatlantic travel during the period. When he is taken on as an apprentice for John Smith, his luck changes and he begins to learn what it takes to survive, and thrive, in the New World.
This book has great historical content and would be perfect for any 6th grader interested in books set during this time period.
Buy the Book: Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
Get the Novel Unit: Blood on the River Novel Unit (Coming Soon)
12) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Now a popular movie, The Hunger Games takes place in a future society that has risen out of the destruction.
Told through the perspective of Katniss Everdeen, it centers around an annual televised event in which two “tributes” are chosen from each district to fight in a battle that only one person can survive.
Great for 6th graders, this book offers the perfect opportunity to discuss themes including injustice, freedom, sacrifice, and survival.
Buy the Book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Get the Novel Unit: The Hunger Games Novel Study (Coming Soon)
13) Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Another example of historical fiction is engaging and relevant to current events, Fever 1793 tells the story of a teenage girl, Mattie Cook, as she works to help her family's coffeehouse grow and thrive.
In the midst of this, however, Philadelphia is struck with a terrible fever that is destroying thousands of lives and spreading rapidly, including Mattie's childhood friend.
Although it's a work of fiction, Fever 1793 has been hailed as a realistic depiction of life in America during this time. Therefore, it is an excellent book for 6th grade students to read and compare the impacts of Covid to that of yellow fever.
Buy the Book: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Get the Novel Unit: Fever 1793 Novel Study
14) War Horse by Micheal Morpurgo
Historical fiction is a great genre of books for 6th graders to read because many are studying world or US History at this point. This is a World War I novel told from the perspective of Joey, a horse.
After being sold to the British cavalry by his previous owner, Joey spends time in different homes until he ends up serving in various battles with the men he has come to know as a friend.
The unique point of view is a great chance to explore how narration impacts the reader's understanding.
Buy the Book: War Horse by Micheal Morpurgo
Get the Novel Unit : War Horse Novel Guide
15) The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Another science fiction book, this dystopian novel for 6th graders is the first book in the Book of Ember series, The City of Ember is the story of a young girl named Lina who happens upon the secret of an underground city that is in danger of being destroyed.
Although it has been around since 2003, this book has become quite popular with educators as an engaging dystopia title. I would definitely recommend this for anyone looking to use authentic literature with 6th graders.
Buy the Book: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Get the Novel Unit: The City of Ember Literature Unit
16) Refugee by Alan Gratz
Refugee is a newer novel, but it is a powerful story that lends itself to many excellent conversations in the classroom. Written by Alan Gratz, the story is unique in that it weaves together three different periods and three stories – all with a shared theme.
While fictional, the harrowing tales of Mahmoud, Isabel, and Josef explore the trials and tribulations many refugees face. Although this book is difficult to read in many ways, it offers unique opportunities to make connections to the lived experiences of refugees today.
Buy the Book: Refugee by Alan Gratz
Get the Novel Unit: Refugee Book Study (Coming Soon)
17) Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
In Al Capone Does My Shirts , Moose Flanagan is an average sixth grader living in Alcatraz.
However, as his parents increasingly become involved in the national debate over prison reform, he finds himself moving from his home and going to school there – on the island!
As a result of this sudden change in his lifestyle, Moose must learn how to get by while also trying to make friends and fit in.
Buy the Book: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Get the Novel Unit: Al Capone Does My Shirts Novel Study (Coming Soon)
18) The Bicycle Spy by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Another excellent historical fiction text set during World War II, The Bicycle Spy is the story of a young man with dreams of competing in the Tour de France.
Throughout the story, he becomes more aware of the impacts of the Nazi invasion and realizes he can no longer sit on the sidelines. After learning his family is in danger, he must take on a mission to use his cycling skills to save a friend.
Buy the Book: The Bicycle Spy by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Get the Novel Unit: The Bicycle Spy Novel Study
19) One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
One of several amazing books by Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer is the story of a young girl in the late 1960s who is sent to spend the summer with her mother.
However, when they embark on the trip by themselves, they end up at a training session for black revolutionaries that will change their lives forever.
Buy the Book: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Get the Novel Unit: One Crazy Summer Novel Study
20) The Giver by Lois Lowry
While this is not the first time I've recommended The Giver , this book has a lot to offer sixth graders that will likely go over the heads of younger readers. In this story, a young boy discovers that his seemingly perfect society hides some dark secrets.
In this gripping tale, the main character must decide whether he is willing to fight for change or accept what has been taught to him throughout his life.
Buy the Book: The Giver by Lois Lowry
Get the Novel Unit: The Giver Novel Unit
21) Rules by Cynthia Lord
Cynthia Lord's book Rules is another excellent option for sixth-grade book clubs or novel units. The story centers on twelve-year-old Catherine and the difficulties she faces trying to navigate her relationship with her brother diagnosed with autism.
Because of the nature of his condition, he struggles with social cues and boundaries – often in unexpected ways that can be humorous or frustrating for those around him. To help him, Catherine creates a book of rules for interacting.
However, as the story goes on, Catherine realizes that she can't just rely on a set of books rules to keep her brother safe.
Buy the Book: Rules by Cynthia Lord
Get the Novel Unit: Rules Novel Unit
22) Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
For some reason, graphic novels and comics are still relatively unpopular reading materials for school groups – something which I hope will change soon!
In this story, the main character, Astrid, struggles with whether she wants to embrace her newfound love of Roller Derby or if she should continue focusing on her traditional, age-old artistic passion.
Buy the Book: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Get the Novel Unit: Roller Girl Graphic Novel Study (Coming Soon)
23) My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
My Side of the Mountain is a great novel choice for students interested in nature, but it is also great for conversations about the struggle for independence that many middle school students feel.
In this story, young Sam Gribley leaves his home and family after being forced to take on more responsibilities than he feels ready for. As a result, he embarks on a journey to build a new life for himself deep in the forest.
Over time, he learns how to make shelter, hunt for food, and create a sustainable lifestyle that allows him to retain his independence without feeling completely alone.
Buy the Book: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Get the Novel Unit: My Side of the Mountain Novel Unit
24) The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
While a relatively new release, this book has already won a handful of awards..and rightfully so. Coyote has been through some pretty tough situations that no kid should have to deal with. Still, when she learns that a beloved park in her neighborhood is set to be demolished, she devises a plan to get back home and retrieve the memory box her mom and sisters buried there years ago.
With a cast of unique characters and an engaging plot, your students will love this story.
Buy the Book: The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
Get the Novel Unit: The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise Book Unit
25) Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
Another book by Rita Williams-Garcia, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground is the tale of how a young boy learns to come to terms with his grandfather's death. After running away, Clayton faces a number of challenges when he loses his most prized possession – a harmonica given to him by his grandfather.
As he works to come to grips with his losses, he realizes that running away won't solve his problems.
Buy the Book: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
Get the Novel Unit: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground Novel Study (Coming Soon)
26) Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Pam Munoz Ryan's books are classics for a good reason. In this book, Esperanza moves to America after her father is killed. She tries her best to adjust to the new lifestyle that she has been thrust into – but the added pressures of oppressive laws and poverty make it harder than she might have imagined.
Esperanza jumps at the opportunity to earn money by working on a ranch but soon discovers that it is no easy job.
Buy the Book: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Get the Print or Digital Novel Unit: Esperanza Rising Novel Study
27) Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The story of The Holocaust is a difficult one to teach students about at any age. Still, books that feature young characters can be especially effective because they allow for a more personal connection to these books.
In this book, ten-year-old Annemarie learns about the Nazi occupation from her friend Ellen – who has Jewish roots.
The pair embarks on a dangerous journey that allows them the opportunity to save Ellen's family.
Buy the Book: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Get the Novel Unit: Number the Stars Novel Study
28) Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
This book, the story of a young offender in juvenile detention who is sentenced to isolation on an island off Alaska as part of a new system to address behavior, is another excellent choice for conversations about independence.
Although he initially hates the idea of being so far away from home, through his trials and tribulations he begins to find that being alone is a good thing – and he also learns the importance of connection.
Buy the Book: Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
Get the Novel Unit: Touching Spirit Bear Novel Guide (Coming Soon)
29) Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Set in the segregated South, Stella by Starlight is the story of a young girl dealing with racial tensions and the impending violence surrounding the civil rights movement.
Stella is harassed at school, and she is unsure of how to speak up or defend herself – but soon learns that she has to stand up for what she believes in if she ever wants to feel safe again.
Buy the Book: Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Get the Novel Unit: Stella by Starlight Novel Study (Coming Soon)
30) So B. It by Sarah Weeks
This coming-of-age story features Heidi, a 12-year-old girl, as she grapples with the challenges of understanding who she is. Her mother's cognitive disability prevents her from saying much, which means Heidi only has a few things to go on. One of them is the meaning of the made-up word her mother keeps saying, “soof.”
Working to understand who she is and where she comes from, Heidi begins piecing together the story of her upbringing.
Buy the Book: So B. It by Sarah Weeks
Get the Novel Unit: So B. It Novel Study
Now you've seen the 6th grade books – Are you ready to plan your novel unit?
I hope this list has sparked some ideas for 6th grade books to add to your classroom library and your next novel unit.
While you're here, grab my free novel study planning roadmap to get step-by-step support to plan a high-quality literature unit for your sixth-grade students whether you're in the classroom or homeschooling. Whether you're planning your first novel study or just looking for new ideas, you'll love this great tool.
Check out my Reading Lists for Other Grades Below
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Mrs. Beers Language Arts Classroom
My middle school ELA blog featuring student engagement strategies, classroom ideas, and lesson plans for language arts teachers.
An ELA Teacher’s List of Best Books for 6th Grade
I find 6th grade students are all over the map when it comes to reading. Some love reading and never want to put their books down, some read because they “ HAVE to”, and others love to share their “ HATRED ” for reading!
As a teacher who was part of the latter in 6th grade, I keep a short list of all-time favorites in my teacher toolbox . These books are capable of turning even the most apathetic students into engaged readers. Funny enough, my reading-transformation began around this age. I was helping my school librarian stamp check-out dates on library day. Another student borrowed a copy of the The Babysitter’s Club series, and the cover caught my eye. It was that one simple moment that transformed me as a reader! One breakthrough book can build a lifetime love of reading, so every year my goal is to lead my students to find their “BEST BOOK EVER!”
So-onto my list…I must admit that I am a realistic and historical fiction nut! I love knowing that stories have or can actually transpire, so my list of best 6th grade reading books is full of these genres. I am really honest about books with my students because it helps them understand that even though I am a reading teacher, I can struggle with books, too. I often share that except for the Hunger Games series and Among the Hidden, science fiction can be a challenge for me to stick with. Dare I say that I was not a big fan of Harry Potter after the first two novels?!
Below is my list of the 15 best books for 6th graders. As an ELA teacher, these are my tried-and-true tools for unlocking the reader buried within all of my students. You’ll notice I have created novel study units for each of these texts due to my strong LOVE for these books!
Best Book #1: Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Freak the Mighty is a great back-to-school novel for instructing both the theme of friendship and fiction reading strategies. Your 6th graders will enjoy reading about Maxwell and Kevin’s transformation from social outcasts into the unstoppable Freak the Mighty.
Freak the Mighty Novel Study Unit
Book #2: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Tuck Everlasting is a great on-level fit for 6th grade readers, or as reading intervention for 7th and 8th grade. Your students will be on the edge of their seats as Winnie Foster accidently learns the Tuck’s family secret of immortality!
Tuck Everlasting Novel Study Unit
Best Book #3: Crash by Jerry Spinelli
My go-to novel for young football players is Crash by Jerry Spinelli. It is the ideal novel to share with in 6th grade since it has humor, witty characters, a relatable setting and plot, and an unexpected finish.
Crash Novel Study Unit
Best Book #4: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Esperanza goes from being a wealthy Mexican landowner to an impoverished immigrant laborer. This historical fiction novel centers around the theme or perseverance and your students will be rooting for Esperanza every step of the way!
Esperanza Rising Novel Study Unit
Best Book #5: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Bud is foster child who dreams of finding his biological father. After spending four years with the Amos family, Bud finally embarks on his quest. Your class will love reading about Bud Caldwell’s adventures and rooting for him to get the happy ending he deserves.
Bud, Not Buddy Novel Study Unit
Best Book #6: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Jerry Spinelli writes an exciting and inspiring narrative about the risks of fame and the power of a first true love. Jerry Spinelli novels are Middle school teachers, be assured that this Jerry Spinelli novel is a safe bet.
Stargirl Novel Study Unit
Best Book #7: Among The Hidden
If you are looking for a high-interest science fiction novel, Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix is the perfect pick. Your students will be captivated by Luke Garner’s dilemmas and adventures as a third child in a society where each family are forbidden to have more than two.
Among The Hidden Novel Study Unit
Best Book #8: Woodsong by Gary Paulsen
Woodsong is a memoir that features Gary Paulsen’s journey to the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska. This engaging, shorter-chapter narrative, takes readers from the time he first gets his dogs to the point where he realizes how little he understood about nature until he traveled over one-thousand miles with them. 6th graders won’t be able to put down this collection of his anecdotes from his memoir.
Woodsong Novel Study Unit
Best Book #9: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I read the Hunger Games with my students every year. This is one book that always sparks engaging discussions with students. There are endless resources available for teachers but I have used Tracee Orman’s novel unit for several years now.
Best Book #10: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
I use Love That Dog as a FUN way to teach poetry and engage my student writers. It is a tried and true novel/poetry unit for National Poetry Month. Very few 6th graders are fans of poetry, but this book will change their perspective and show them how much fun poetry can be.
Love That Dog Novel Study Unit
Best Book #11: The Lottery Rose by Irene Hunt
The story of Georgie Burgess will touch the hearts of your readers. Georgie isolates himself and assumes a tough persona in order to hide the pain of being abused. Once Georgie is given a new home, food to eat, books in his hands, and the affection he has always wanted, your students will be rooting for him and the progress he makes.
The Lottery Rose Novel Unit
Best Book #12: Rules by Cynthia Lord
This heart-warming story of a sister who puts her brother’s needs ahead of her own will encourage your 6th graders to consider the feelings of others. This is a great novel to teach the concept of inferring as the actions of Catherine prompt thoughtful reflection and questioning. The book’s theme about life’s unpredictable turns will lead to some great classroom discussions.
Rules Novel Study Unit
Best Book #13: Wonder
Wonder is quite simply a MUST READ for this age group! This story has certainly grown in popularity since the movie was released, but it’s the BOOK that 6th grade teachers love because it offers an array of different teaching angles.
Wonder Novel Study Unit
Best Book #14: Smile
Your 6th graders will absolutely DEVOUR this high-interest graphic novel. Raina, the main character, is struggling to adjust to adolescence and nothing ever seems to go her way. It is a great book for reminding us all that sometimes we have to deal with frustrating things in life, but those challenges will make us stronger and able to determine what is important in life.
Smile Novel Study Unit
Best Book #15: Missing May
This short chapter novel is an “easy win” to motivate students who get intimated by longer reads. The story details the challenges of a family coping with the loss of their matriarch. Shared from the perspective of Summer, May’s 12-year-old niece, the follows family and friends as they navigate through the grieving process.
Missing May Novel Study Unit
More Best Book Lists: 50 Best Books for Middle School Readers Diverse Books for Middle School
Looking for a fun activity to work into your literature studies? Here is a FREEBIE character analysis resource to use with your students…
Which texts here are on your list of all-time favorite books to share with 6th graders? Hopefully you discovered a few new ideas to explore! Now, race to your library and GRAB these AMAZING works! Your students will thank you!
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25 Must-Read Books for 6th Graders
I want to read most of these myself, but I guess I’ll share with my students too!
While there are always classic tried-and-true books for 6th graders we share with students, I always love looking for books that could become new classics. It’s not easy to find the time to go through everything that’s been published in the last few years, however, so we’ve saved you some time with this list. Below you’ll find historical fiction, memoir, nonfiction, and fiction books for 6th graders guaranteed to awaken your students’ imagination and love of reading.
(Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!)
Must-Read Books for 6th Graders
1. lies i tell myself by beth vrabel.
When Raymond is sent across the country to spend the summer with his grandparents, it throws his entire world out of order. While he normally likes letting other people do the adventuring, he finds himself needing to break out of his shell and show everyone how brave and untroubled he can be.
Buy it: Lies I Tell Myself at Amazon
2. Wayward Creatures by Dayna Lorentz
Gabe wasn’t trying to start a small forest fire when he set off fireworks in the woods. He just wanted his friends and family to stop spending so much time in their own busy lives and pay attention to him. But now, he finds himself in a restorative justice program that is making him go back to the forest to repair some of the damage his prank caused. When he meets a coyote named Rill who was hurt by the forest fire, Gabe learns the importance of caring for those around us.
Buy it: Wayward Creatures at Amazon
3. The Ultimate Riddle Game for Kids: A Mind-Bending Book to Test Your Logic by Zeitgeist
For our kiddos who love puzzles, logic problems, and mind-bending riddles, this is one of the books for 6th graders that has everything. The brainteasers will ignite their curiosity and build their problem-solving skills. Perfect for kids who need a bit of an additional challenge, early-finishers, or anyone who loves testing their brain with fun, engaging puzzles.
Buy it: The Ultimate Riddle Game for Kids at Amazon
4. Thirst by Varsha Bajaj
This is one of the books for 6th graders that might be eye-opening for many students. In Mumbai, Minni’s family (along with thousands of other families) only has access to water for a few hours a day. When she discovers the powerful people who have access to water all the time and are keeping it from everyone else for money, she has to decide what to do. Should she come forward and expose this crime even if it puts her and her family at risk, or should she stay quiet?
Buy it: Thirst at Amazon
5. Holler of the Fireflies by David Barclay Moore
Javari knows that life is going to be different when he leaves his home in Brooklyn to go to a STEM camp in West Virginia, but his first few days in the small Appalachian town are still a shock. Throughout the summer, he will learn a lot about science, technology, engineering, and math, but that’s not all. When he befriends Cricket, a local boy who is an occasional thief and activist, he realizes he’s in for a summer he’ll never forget.
Buy it: Holler of the Fireflies at Amazon
6. The Fort by Gordon Korman
Gordon Korman knows how to write books kids love, and The Fort is no exception. When five middle schoolers discover an abandoned bomb shelter, they know they’ve found the best hideout ever. As they fix it up and make it their own, they discover the true meaning of friendship, secrets, and trusting each other.
Buy it: The Fort at Amazon
7. 96 Miles by J.L. Esplin
Their dad trained them to survive anything, but brothers John and Stew Lockwood are unprepared when a massive blackout strikes while their father is out of town. After being robbed of their supplies, the brothers must walk 96 miles through the desert for help. As they do, they’ll question their father’s obsession with self-reliance and what it means to be there to help out others.
Buy it: 96 Miles at Amazon
8. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Perfect for your nonfiction lovers or for your reluctant readers who love their sneakers, this young readers edition of Nike founder Phil Knight’s memoir is engaging and real. Beginning with how he refused to give up hope after he was cut from his high school baseball team to how he started Nike with $50, this is one of the books for 6th graders that will have your students hooked.
Buy it: Shoe Dog at Amazon
9. Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King
When Mac realizes that all the copies of a book he’s supposed to read for class have been censored by the school, he is outraged. When he complains to the principal, he’s told to not make such a big deal out of it. But Mac knows that censorship is wrong, and he’s not going to sit around and do nothing. This is one of the great books for 6th graders for jump-starting important questions about censorship.
Buy it: Attack of the Black Rectangles at Amazon
10. Two Degrees by Alan Gratz
A searing look at the climate crisis told through the perspectives of three young people. Akira is coping with raging wildfires in California. Owen is faced with a polar bear hunting far too close to residential areas in rural Canada. And Natalie hunkers down with her family as a massive hurricane barrels toward her Miami home. These three young people share more in common than climate disasters. Will they survive long enough to discover what that connection is and what it means for them and the world?
Buy it: Two Degrees at Amazon
11. Tumble by Celia C. Pérez
Twelve-year-old Addie knows she should be thrilled when her stepfather asks to adopt her. She really wants to say yes, but she has so many questions about her biological father. After discovering he and even more members of her family are famous luchadores (lucha libre wrestlers), she sets off to get to know them. As she does, she learns a lot about what being part of a family truly means.
Buy it: Tumble at Amazon
12. Sweet Valley Twins adapted by Nicole Andelfinger
Graphic novels are the perfect way to introduce the Sweet Valley Twins to a new generation. Elizabeth and Jessica are just about to start middle school, and they’re sure they’ll be as inseparable as ever. But while Elizabeth is ready to organize a school newspaper, Jessica wants to start an exclusive Unicorn Club. What will happen when they realize they might not have as much in common as they thought?
Buy it: Sweet Valley Twins at Amazon
13. Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega
Twelve-year-old witchling Seven dreams of being part of one of the most powerful covens with her best friend. But when it comes time to be assigned her coven, the worst thing imaginable happens: She’s not given a coven and is instead is deemed a Spare! How will she and the other Spares save their reputations and earn their rightful place as full-fledged witches?
Buy it: Witchlings at Amazon
14. Ravenfall by Kalyn Josephson
Ravenfall Inn is a sprawling, magical B&B at the crossroads of the human world and the Otherworld. Thirteen-year-old Annabella Ballinkay and her family have run the B&B for generations, using their psychic powers to help and protect their guests. Annabella’s powers have always been a bit different from the rest of her family. But when Colin, a 14-year-old searching for his missing older brother, shows up at Ravenfall, her powers might be just what is needed.
Buy it: Ravenfall at Amazon
15. The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander
This powerful story follows Kofi, a boy in Ghana in 1860. Kofi loves his life and his family, but one day everything is turned upside down. This is one of the perfect books for 6th graders to pair with discussions about the lives and experiences of Africans prior to them becoming enslaved and shipped to the Americas.
Buy it: The Door of No Return at Amazon
16. Wildoak by C.C. Harrington
Maggie will do almost anything to avoid speaking. Her stutter makes talking to others embarrassing and exhausting. Her father wants to send her away to a special hospital for “treatment,” but her mother suggests a few weeks with her grandfather in Wildoak Forest. Even though Maggie barely knows her grandfather, she accepts this offer as the better of two rotten choices. When she meets an abandoned snow leopard cub in the forest, she is caught up in an adventure she could never have imagined.
Buy it: Wildoak at Amazon
17. Iceberg by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Hazel is traveling all alone on the famous ship Titanic . Her mother is sending her to the United States to work in a factory so that she might send money back home to help her family make ends meet. But Hazel hasn’t told anyone that she secretly wants to be a journalist, and she’s planning on writing a story about the Titanic ‘s maiden voyage that will land her a job with a newspaper. Then she could earn enough money to send home without having to work in some smelly factory. With the help of some new friends aboard the ship, Hazel explores the Titanic , but when disaster strikes, she has to worry more about surviving than about the story she wanted to tell.
Buy it: Iceberg at Amazon
18. The Swifts by Beth Lincoln
Shenanigan Swift understands that her family gave her an unusual first name for a reason. Shenanigan Swift: Little sister. Risk-taker. Mischief-maker. But when the annual family reunion is shook by a horrible accident (or mysterious crime?), Shenanigan decides she is going to be more than what her family expects of her—she’s going to be a detective.
Buy it: The Swifts at Amazon
19. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
We love historical fiction stories about events our students probably don’t know much about, and this one is a perfect choice. Set in 1947 India, 12-year-old Nisha is struggling to come to grips with what’s happening in her homeland. Newly independent of British rule, her country has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. This is causing tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders. Nisha’s family decides it’s too dangerous to remain in what is now Pakistan, and so they become refugees, heading toward India. As she travels, Nisha writes letters to her deceased mother that tell the story of their journey and her hopes to find a home.
Buy it: The Night Diary at Amazon
20. The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
Eleven-year-old Ella is a new student at the Arcanum Training Institute, a school for children who can perform magic. She can’t wait to learn everything that she can, but some at the school think that the type of magic Ella can do—conjuring—is dangerous and wrong. When a violent criminal escapes a nearby prison with the help of a Conjurer, some at the school think Ella might be to blame. With the help of her new friends and her growing powers, Ella has to set things right and clear her name.
Buy it: The Marvellers at Amazon
21. The Elephant Girl by James Patterson and Ellen Banda-Aaku
Perfect for students who loved The One and Only Ivan and Because of Winn-Dixie , this novel tells the story of Jama and the baby elephant named Mbegu she befriended. When the baby elephant’s mother kills someone after being frightened by poachers, Jama and the baby elephant are blamed. Jama will have to find a way to save Mbegu’s life, even if it means reaching out to a boy at her school that no one else will talk to.
Buy it: The Elephant Girl at Amazon
22. Rise of the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
This fantasy fairy tale is a perfect book for 6th graders who love anime or fantasy, or are just looking for something different. Deep in the endless woods, two brothers, one good and one evil, started a school. They choose students to attend either the School for Good or the School for Evil. Best friends Sophie and Agatha are excited to attend the schools. Sophie has dreamed of attending the School for Good and Agatha the School for Evil. But when they arrive, they’re placed in the wrong schools … and that changes everything.
Buy it: Rise of the School for Good and Evil at Amazon
23. Wild Bird by Diane Zahler
In 14th-century Norway, the plague has destroyed the entire village of Skeviga. To stay alive, Rype, the only one left, must embark on a sweeping adventure across Europe. He joins an English ship captain’s son and a band of musicians in search of a brighter future and a new home.
Buy it: Wild Bird at Amazon
24. Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow
Simon wants to be a normal kid, but he’s famous for being the only student to have survived a school shooting. In an attempt to escape this horrible reality, Simon’s parents move their family to the National Quiet Zone, the only place in America where the internet is banned. Here, Simon expects his life to be quiet and a little boring, but when he meets scientists searching for extraterrestrials, things start to get interesting.
Buy it: Simon Sort of Says at Amazon
25. The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh
Thirteen-year-old Matthew is miserable. The pandemic has everyone trapped at home. His dad is stuck overseas, and his mom has moved his 100-year-old great-grandmother into their house. Then he finds an old photo in his great-grandmother’s belongings. It gives him a clue to her hidden past. This leads to a family secret that shatters his life. The novel is historical fiction that flashes back to the 1930s. It sheds light on the Holodomor, a famine that killed millions of Ukrainians. The USSR covered it up for decades.
Buy it: The Lost Year at Amazon
Looking for even more fantastic book recommendations? Check out our big list of 50 Refreshing and Relatable Books to Teach in Middle School for even more books for 6th graders to add to your classroom library.
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My favorite books for 6th graders.
I am by no means the absolute expert on the best books for certain age groups, but now that I have spent a solid amount of time in each 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade as a reading and writing teacher, I definitely have my favorites for each group.
If you want to read my favorite books for 5th grade, click here.
Even more so, this is probably one of the most asked questions I get on instagram, email, and TPT questions. Teachers always want to know the best books for their age group.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I will not even once kind of even sort of mention reading levels. I don’t subscribe to that kind of thinking, and since most of these are read aloud anyway, levels don’t matter. That is a blog post for another day (and would honestly take pages of work for me to get through, because I have pretty strong feelings about that).
When I say who these books are for, I am simply going on what grade levels I have read them with and we’ve enjoyed reading them together.
These are my favorite books to read with sixth graders. Back then, when I loved a book, I would usually make an accompanying reading unit. I will link my affiliate links on Amazon for each book, and if I have a unit, I will link to that on TPT.
When I taught fifth and sixth, I was always looking to teach all the genres, books that had movies to go with them, and just all around good books. When I went from fifth to sixth, I was also doing my best to try and make my 6th graders feel more grown up (because of how they wanted to feel) but also remembering they’re still just kids.
A LONG WALK TO WATER
I Book on Amazon (Affiliate Link) I Socratic Seminar Reading Unit on TPT I
I honestly can’t remember what drew me into this book, but I ended up reading it right before I became a sixth grade teacher and fell in love. I loved how it was based on multiple true events, stories, and people. Even more so, Ioved how it could teach students about being thankful for what they have, and giving back when they can. When I taught 6th grade, it was just a really hard year, but my kids were so enthralled by this story that many even went on line to read about Salva’s water initiatives, and some even wanted to donate. It was probably one of the most impactful stories I’ve ever read with a class.
THE MAZE RUNNER
I am going to be SUPER honest about The Maze Runner. I have a super love-hate relationship with it. I personally love The Maze Runner series. I think it’s a great middle grade/middle school series. Every year, when I have let my 6th grades pick a book from the class set options I have, every single year they pick The Maze Runner. I think 6th graders are drawn to it because it’s more mature, but not so young adult that it’s inappropriate.
The struggle is that it’s a long books and takes a long time to build. And every year I question why I let them choose it because about halfway through they just want to be done. BUT then every year, the last 1/4 of the book, they are completely hooked and beg for more and LOVE watching the movie. Even more so, many end up reading more of the books in the series.
So every year, I swear off of it, and every year I come back to it. It truly never disappoints, and it honestly teaches me and the kids the importance of sticking with some books.
THE FINEST HOURS
Non-Fiction books are not my favorite (the exception is teacher professional development books) but each grade I teach I REALLY try hard to find at least one good non-fiction novel for us to read together. Even more so, I love when there’s a movie :). The Finest Hours really is a great non-fiction book to read with middle school students. The story lines are a little hard to follow at first, because there were multiple boat rescues needed all at the same time, but the kids get so into it after a while. They want to know who gets saved and how. Even more so, it’s great to read about what happened after the boat rescues took place, and how it impacted the lives of those involved.
I have about five author that I could seriously start and run the ultimate fan clubs for. Kwame Alexander is one of them. If you are not reading or suggesting his books to middle schoolers, you all are totally missing out. His books are written in verse, he has diverse and complex characters that SO MANY kids can relate to, and the story lines are so good. Basketball was my life growing up, so The Crossover might be my favorite, but every time he releases a book, I devour it. Seriously, if you get nothing else out of this post, just go get one of this books, like yesterday.
My third year of teaching 5th grade, I had the best teaching partner. She taught me about so many great historical fiction books and this was one of them. I read it, but didn’t have a chance to teach it with my 5th graders, but thought it would make a great one to read with my 6th graders. It was. My 6th graders were entranced about and intrigued about the lack of knowledge by some when treating yellow fever, but also with the knowledge of many who did know how to treat it. We fell in love with multiple characters, and I have become a BIG Laurie Halse Anderson fan ever since.
I Book on Amazon (Affiliate Link) I Socratic Seminar Reading Unit on TPT I
I will be completely honest and say that this book was hard for my class and I to get through because it was my first year of teaching and I was horrible about sticking to read aloud. I will be honest and say that I also don’t LOVE the writing, but I think the message is truly beautiful and I know a lot of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers love this book.
AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE
I Book on Amazon (Affiliate Link ) I Socratic Seminar Reading Unit on TPT I
It shouldn’t be surprising that this is one of my favorite books to teach with 5th and 6th graders. So many people are hesitant to teach it. I promise you totally will be shocked how many kids have no idea about the books or the movies. They love all the fun stuff we do with it in my classes. Here’s a blog post all about it.
FREAK THE MIGHTY
I Book on Amazon (Affiliate Link) I Socratic Seminar Reading Unit on TPT I
Here is another book that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that it’s on my list of favorites. It is THE ONLY book that I have taught in all the grades I’ve taught (5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th). I think it’s perfect for 6th or 7th, BUT if I was only a 5th grade teacher I would still teach it. It is probably my favorite book ever.
This book honestly kind of fell in my lap. It went on sale on Scholastic so I bought a class set. I had recently read Swindle by Gordan Korman and loved his writing. My fifth graders LOVED it. It’s funny, relatable, and has great themes, including recognizing that everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
I’m not afraid to admit that when I like a book, then I create a reading unit for it. Below you can get all of these reading units in two different money saving bundles.
CLICK HERE for the reading units growing bundle or CLICK HERE for the 6th grade year-long curriculum.
All my 6th grade units are bundled with my 7th and 8th grade reading units to save you even more money if you teach 6th grade and one or both 7th and 8th grade too! Click here or click the image below to see the BIG bundle!
I also have another blog post about how I teach all the CCSS standards through novels. I don’t treat them as novel studies, but rather they become my “anthology” for teaching all the standards. Click here or on the image below to be taken to the blog post.
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50 Must-Read Books For Sixth Graders
Welcome to Amy’s Bookshelf! Here, teachers will find carefully curated book lists for each grade level from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Moving forward, new lists filled with book recommendations will be published weekly. Sometimes, these lists will be organized around a specific theme, like a holiday or seasonal event. Other times, they will feature rockstar books – books practically guaranteed to get your students reading.
Before jumping into reading recommendations, a few words about how books are selected.
First, it is so important that teachers prioritize reading interest over reading level. Students will often choose to read well above or below their reading level if they are particularly interested in a book or topic. Teachers only hurt students by limiting them to a specific selection of titles grouped according to an arbitrary number or level. Think of the books on these lists as starting places for you and your students, but if a student wants to read up (or down), that is a-ok.
Also, please note that these lists lean heavily toward modern selections as opposed to the classics many teachers are familiar with. A true renaissance is happening in children’s literature today, and the books coming out are truly exciting. One of the factors that makes this such an exciting time for kid lit is how diverse the selections are in terms of genre, characters and subject matter. These lists will feature fiction and nonfiction selection as well as graphic novels, novels written in verse, and more.
Any book list or classroom library worth its salt includes books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, racially diverse characters, characters with disabilities, characters in the foster care system, characters from a wide variety of socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, and so on. Importantly, the diversity of the characters doesn’t always need to be the focus of the literature – in other words, a book featuring a black character or gay character doesn’t need to be about those individuals exploring their blackness or their gayness; those characters can have kid problems that apply to all children regardless of their race or sexual orientation. Similarly, students should be encouraged to read stories featuring people of diversity all year long – not just during a month set aside to celebrate a specific heritage.
One final note: today’s children’s literature does not shy away from frank discussions of gender, race, sex, sexuality, abuse, mental illness, and more – nor should it. I will not censor books from these lists based on these controversial areas. What books you recommend will depend on the specific district you work in and your clientele. I encourage you and your students to read widely without fear.
Just so you know, Bored Teachers may get a small share of the sales made through the Amazon affiliate links on this page.
For many students, sixth grade means leaving elementary school behind and bravely walking into the world of class periods and lockers and social cliques. There is a lot of growing up that happens during the tween and pre-teen years, and these stellar books are perfect for budding adolescents.
by Jerry Spinelli
Get it HERE .
In Paul’s town, when boys turn 10, they become “wringers” – their job is to wring the neck of birds shot down by hunters. Being a wringer is an honor, but Paul despises the thought of hurting a living creature, especially after he winds up with a pet pigeon. This remarkable book is about standing up for your beliefs, and it’s a wonderful rite of passage book for students on the cusp of adolescence.
2. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead
This is a lovely, soft picture book about a man whose job it is to retrieve messages in bottles washed ashore by the sea and make sure they are delivered. The only problem is, the Uncorker longs for a letter to be addressed to him. One day, sure enough, a party invitation is tossed in by the waves.
3. Roller Girl
by Victoria Jamieson
Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, while her best friend Nicole signs up for dance camp. Previously, the two of them have done everything together. As the summer rolls on, the girls drift apart and Astrid finds herself physically and mentally challenged by the demanding sport she has chosen.
by R.J. Palacio
August (Auggie) Pulman has been homeschooled his entire life because he has a severe facial deformity and his parents want to protect him from the stares of other children. But when fifth grade rolls around, Auggie is determined to give school a shot. The stares and mean kids, teasing and bullying are inevitable, but Auggie is such a force of nature that it all turns out right in the end.
5. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
by Tom Angleberger
Dwight is the weird kid in class. Dwight folds an Origami Yoda and, with Dwight as its mouthpiece, Yoda gives all sorts of good advice to the kids in his class. This is the first in a four-book series, and the short chapter books are very reader-friendly and are designed to read like a school notebook, complete with doodles and margin notes.
6. The Green Glass Sea
by Ellen Klages
Dewey will be spending the summer with her mathematician father, who is working on a “gadget” alongside J. Robert Oppenheimer and a team of other scientists. The gadget is, of course, the first nuclear bomb. The novel culminates with a test bomb detonation in White Sands, where the gravity of this new weapon sinks in.
7. Doll Bones
by Holly Black
Doll Bones is about three young friends who must give a porcelain doll a proper burial as the doll is rumored to contain the ashes of a dead girl. It’s a mix of slightly creepy ghost story and coming of age story.
8. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Stargirl arrives on the scene of Mica High School and the school is immediately enchanted by the young girl who does not conform. Soon, though, Stargirl’s differences become a problem and she is faced with tremendous pressure to become just like everyone else.
9. The Watsons Go to Birmingham
by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watson family travels to Birmingham in the summer of 1963, hoping that Grandma can straighten out 13-year-old Byron, who is something of a delinquent. Their visit coincides with the Birmingham church bombing, so this is historical fiction set against the backdrop of an engaging family with carefully rendered characters.
10. Dave the Potter
by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier
This is a gorgeous picture book biography about a man named Dave, a slave who made pottery and etched his poetry into his creations. Extensive notes at the end of the book go over what little history remembers about Dave and includes photos of some of his pottery.
11. One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance
by Nikki Grimes
Author Nikki Grimes pairs her original poetry with poems from the Harlem Renaissance. Each poem is accompanied by art from today’s most influential black illustrators.
12. The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
Charlie’s father returns home injured from the war in Afghanistan, where he was working as a journalist. Charlie’s family embarks on a road trip from the west coast to the east, seeking a specialist for Charlie’s father.
13. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
by Pablo Cartaya
13-year-old Arturo is a Cuban-American living in Miami. His summers follow a predictable pattern until a land developer moves to town, threatening to shut down his grandma’s restaurant. With the help of the girl next door, Arturo discovers – and uses – his voice through community activism.
14. The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade
by Jordan Sonnenblick
Maverick’s dad left him a toy sheriff’s badge, which Maverick keeps with him to remind him of his father. The badge also inspires Maverick to right the small injustices he sees in his sixth – grade life.
15. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Red is the neighborhood wish tree. For years, people have written their wishes on cloth scraps and tied them to Red’s branches. Red has many stories he can tell. This particular story of Red’s is about a new family that moves to town, a family that isn’t immediately accepted by the rest of the community.
16. A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle
Get it HE R E .
A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbery Medal. It begins with the words “It was a dark and stormy night…” when Meg Murray heads to the kitchen for a midnight snack. Strange visitors arrive with the storm, claiming to know the whereabouts of Meg’s disappeared scientist father. Meg and some family and friends set off on a rescue mission which involves space and time travel. This is the first in five books known as the Time Quintet.
17. Maniac McGee
by Jerry Spinelli
Jeffrey, whose parents were killed when he was three, has had enough. One day, he runs away from his cruel aunt and uncle, looking for a new place to call home. Along the way, Jeffrey encounters a series of trials and somehow manages to come out on top in each one, earning him the nickname Maniac.
16. Tuck Everlasting
by Natalie Babbitt
Winnie Foster discovers a spring on her family’s property that grants immortality, and she meets members of the Tuck family who have drunk from the stream. Winnie must decide whether she, herself, wants immortality.
17. The Bridge to Terebitha
by Katherine Paterson
Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke are the fastest kids in fifth grade, and they bond over their love of running. They spend their time imaging a magical land called Terabith i a. Tragedy strikes, and while readers adore this book, it also lives on as monumentally sad.
18. The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins written
by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Brian Selznick
Victorian-era artist Waterhouse Hawkins built the first life-sized models of dinosaurs the world had ever seen after years of extensive fossil study. He is known for larger-than-life ideas, including the New Year’s Eve party that he hosted inside the life-sized model of an iguanadon . Dinosaur lovers everywhere will love this quirky true story.
19. Gracefully Grayson
by Ami Polonsky
Grayson may look like a boy on the outside, but inside, she is sure she is a girl. This is an important book about a transgender girl deciding to share a secret with the world in the hopes of finding her true self.
20. Ashes to Asheville
by Sarah Dooley
Fella’s mother dies an untimely death, but because the marriage act is a few years away, she is not permitted to stay with her sister Zany or her mother’s partner, the family she has been raised with. Instead, she is sent to live with her blood relatives. One day, Zany shows up on Fella’s new doorstep and the girls embark on a journey to scatter Fella’s mothers ashes as she wished them to be.
21. As the Crow Flies
by Melanie Gillman
Charlie is 13, gay, and black. She finds herself spending her summer at a Christian camp, and it is here where she starts to question what was once a bedrock faith. She finds the church doesn’t have much r oom for someone in her diverse shoes and isn’t sure how to handle it.
22. House Arrest
by K.A. Holt
Timothy makes a bad decision to steal a credit card in order to buy infant formula for his baby brother. He is placed on house arrest and ordered to keep a journal. House Arrest is Timothy’s journal, which is written in verse.
23. Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt
Another novel by the author of House Arrest, this one is also in verse and also worth a read. This is a story about bullying, which the main character, Kevin, does pretty well. But someone decides to turn the tables on Kevin, who learns a thing or two about how to treat people.
24. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
Percy is sent to Camp Half Blood, where he learns that the father he never knew is none other than Poseidon, God of the Sea. This makes Percy a demigod. Soon, Percy finds himself on a quest along with demigod Annabeth to stop a war between the gods from breaking out. Author Rick Riordan continues the Percy Jackson storyline in subsequent books and then delves into Norse, Roman, and Egyptian mythology in other related book series.
25. Revolution is Not a Dinner Party
by Ying Chang Compestine
Ling lives in China in 1972, at the end of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Her father teaches her English in secret, and she dreams of visiting America. One of Mao’s officers moves into the same apartment complex as Ling’s family, and slowly neighbors start disappearing or turning on each other.
26. Absolutely Normal Chaos
by Sharon Creech
This is a prequel to Walk Two Moons, which appears on the fifth – grade list. In this story, Mary Lou is assigned to keep a journal over the summer, but her summer turns out to be an exciting one, as readers can appreciate as they follow along with Mary Lou.
27. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank records two years of her life in Nazi Germany. Anne is a young Jew growing up during Hitler’s regime. Anne and her family live in secret in an annex, and her diary chronicles the entire event from an adolescent’s perspective. It’s become a classic on middle school reading lists.
28. The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett and illustrated by Tasha Tudor
Mary Lennox is an orphan and is sent to live at her uncle’s mansion. The mansion and her uncle contain many secrets. Mary finds a garden hidden away on the surrounding property and breaks in, determined to bring the garden back to its former splendor.
29. Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song
by Kathryn Erskine and illustrated by Charly Palmer
Miriam Makeba was a singer during the pinnacle of South African apartheid. She was nicknamed Mama Africa and used her voice to speak out against the unjust, segregated system.
30. Bronze and Sunflower
by Cao Wenxuan
When Sunflower’s father dies, she is taken in by a family with another only child named Bronze. Bronze and Sunflower become best friends, and this is the story of their two families weaving into one. This story is translated from Mandarin.
31. The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book 1)
by Rick Riordan
From the author of the bestselling Percy Jackson books comes a new trilogy about Norse mythology. Magnus finds out he is the son of a Norse god, and he is summoned to Asgard as the gods are preparing for war.
32. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
This story of an unlikely friendship has much to say about bullying. Maxwell, a giant boy who is bullied for being stupid, and Freak, a tiny boy with a genius brain, become friends. The two opposites teach kids at their school – not to mention readers at home – that what really matters is the size of your heart.
33. Nothing But the Truth by Avi
This book was published in 1992 but i increasingly relevant in today’s era of “fake news.” This book is a compilation of letters, dialogues, and other multi-genre documents surrounding one student’s choice to hum during the national anthem at his school. The reader’s job is to figure out what really happened by combing through the various biases in each account.
34. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas
by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by Maris Wicks
This graphic novel is a look inside the careers of three of the world’s most famous primatologists.
35. Older Than Dirt: A Wild but True History of Earth
by Don Brown and illustrated by Dr. Mike Perfit
This book tackles geology – from the Big Bang to the formation of the planet to the various geologic activities going on today – with humor and fun illustrations.
36. Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
Living with a bipolar mother makes life difficult for Addie, who lives a life without moderation. Her mother takes an all or nothing approach to most everything, and Addie is just waiting for her turn at a normal life.
37. The Glass Sentence (The Mapmaker’s Trilogy, Book 1) by S.E. Grove
Sonia comes from a line of explorers who have been mapping the world ever since what is known as the Great Disruption occured. This was the moment in time when each of the continents were sent to different time periods. Sonia’s parents disappear and she sets out to find them.
38. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
In Fablehaven, mythical creatures live out their days to prevent the extinction of their species. When siblings Kendra and Seth find out that their grandfather is the caretaker of the animals, they are in for an adventure!
39. Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages
Katy Gordon isn’t allowed to play Little League – even though she is undeniably the best pitcher – because she is a girl. So Katy sets out to prove that girls can – and have! – played baseball throughout history. This book is both Katy’s story and an interesting history of women in baseball.
40. The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
Brothers Caleb and Bobby meet their new neighbor, Styx Malone, who convinces them to start the Great Escalator Trade; that is, trading one little thing for something a bit better and a bit better until you hold more treasure than you dreamed possible. Soon, though, the boys are in over their heads.
41. Anne of Green Gables
by L.M. Mongomery
Anne of Green Gables was written at the turn of the twentieth century and has been loved ever since. Anne is a spunky redheaded orphan who turns the lives of siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert upside down. The Cuthbert’s were hoping for a boy to help tend their farm until Anne comes along and wins their hearts.
by Gary Paulsen
Bothered by modern machines that replace the old ways, Russell takes a shaman’s sled dogs on a powerful journey of self-discovery.
43. You Go First
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Charlotte, who lives in Pennslyvania, and Ben, who lives in Louisana, meet online while playing Scrabble. Though hundreds of miles apart, they find their middle school lives intersect in many different ways.
44. Loving vs. Virginia
by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Shadra Strickland
In 1967, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter brought their case in front of the Supreme Court – they wished for their interracial marriage to be recognized by their home state of Virginia. This book is in verse, with photographs of historical documents illustrating the pages.
45. A Possibility of Whales
by Karen Rivers
Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher lives her life dreaming about things that might be possible. For instance, she might see whales off the coast today, or she might one day get to meet her mother who left when she was just a baby.
46. Every Shiny Thing
by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison
Lauren and Sierra are best friends separated by circumstance. Sierra is sent to a foster care facility and Lauren to a boarding school for teens on the austism spectrum. Together, the two try to find a way to battle injustice. Half of this novel is written in prose, the other half in verse.
47. Life As We Knew It (Book 1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer
In this four-book series, the world is rocked after an asteroid smacks into the moon and knocks it closer to earth. The resulting natural disasters are catastrophic – tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions. This story is told through teen Miranca’s journal entries over the course of a year.
48. The Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Milo is the adopted son of the innkeepers of the Greenglass House. One wintery evening, the doorbell rings and rings, and soon the inn is overflowing with secretive strangers with stories about the house.
49. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
At the start of seventh grade, Bridge, Emily, and Tab are struggling to avoid breaking their long-ago pact to never fight and be friends forever. Can they survive the growing pains of middle school and remain friends?
by Jason Reynolds
Four kids are chosen for an elite middle school track team. They are each from vastly different backgrounds but come together to attempt to qualify for the Junior Olympics. Author Jason Reynolds has written a book for each kid in the track series: Ghost, Lu, Patina, and Sunny.
Other book lists from Amy’s bookshelf you’ll love:
- 50 Must-Read Books for Kindergarteners
- 50 Must-Read Books For First Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books for Second Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books For Fifth Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books For Sixth Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books for Seventh Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books for Eighth Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books for Ninth Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books for Tenth Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books for Eleventh Graders
- 50 Must-Read Books for Twelfth Graders
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60 Exceptional Books for 6th Graders
Today, it’s all about the best books for sixth graders (and can I say, this is quite the sweet spot). At age 11, these kids are often confident readers who are eager to explore a variety of genres. Many of them can handle problem books and really enjoy realistic fiction. Still, of course, they’re still reading their graphic novels and short books, as well as engaging series. That’s why I’ve tried to include all of these on this list. You’ll find comics, problem books, funny stories, short books, long books, middle-grade mysteries, and even series on this list of books for sixth graders. I’ve worked hard to make it a good mix of books with boys on the cover and girls as well.
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60 Terrific Books for 6th Graders
Here are 60+ fabulous books for 6th graders:
Published: March 10, 2015
Astrid and Nicole are best friends who do nearly everything together. Until Astrid’s mom takes them to watch roller derby. While Astrid can’t get enough of the cool girls and all the derby action, Nicole is immediately put off. So when Astrid signs up for junior derby, Nicole chooses a ballet elective instead. However, Astrid never tells her mom that she’s derby rolling instead of doing ballet with Nicole. Things get more difficult when Astrid realizes that roller derby is no joke — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Will she make it? Roller Girl is an action-packed exploration of roller derby, the thrill of finding a passion, and the power of perseverance.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
Published: January 8, 2019
A girl named Coyote, a dad named Rodeo, a boy, a cat, and several other eclectic characters with stories deeper than the surface make up the cast of this heartwarming road trip story. This book is incredible. With one of the most remarkable (no pun intended) protagonists I’ve read in a while, TRJOCS handles dying, grief, and family excellently. It’s one of those books that brings your heart joy even while it’s breaking it.
Be Real, Macy Weaver
Published: July 12, 2022
Macy Weaver has trouble keeping friendships, and as readers quickly discover, most of this is her fault. Whenever she meets someone she likes and wants to be accepted by, she starts to copy them — their style, preferences, and even mannerisms — and sometimes pretends to be someone she isn’t to impress them. This usually puts off her new friends. Unfortunately, when her family moves from South Carolina to Maryland, Macy continues this behavior. At school, Macy weaves a tale of her mom being a fashion photographer and is roped into keeping up appearances to impress Brynn, a girl at her school. But Brynn already has a best friend, Grace, who is unconvinced by Macy’s antics, and wants to get to the bottom of things. This is an engaging, realistic, and creative middle grade novel about identity, fashion, and friendships.
Ten Thousand Tries
Published: July 13, 2021
Golden Macaroni is having a tough year. First, he really wants to get bigger and become the captain of his middle school soccer team. As a dedicated Messi fan, he’s putting in ten thousand hours of soccer practice to become as good as Messi. His former soccer star father has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). His best friend, Lucy Littlehouse, is also moving away from her home next door to Golden’s. Despite his dad’s obvious deterioration, Golden stubbornly believes his dad will improve. How will he cope with everything on his plate — and the heartbreaking challenges ahead of his family? Ten Thousand Tries is a moving, heartwarming story about family , friendship, community , soccer, and the love of a father.
Published: February 28, 2023
Lina is finally moving to the US to reunite with her parents after five years apart. She’d been living with her grandmother in China, but now her grandmother is ill, and her parents want her to come to North Carolina with them and her little sister Millie. But when she arrives, nothing about their life is as her parents have told her. They live in an apartment, not a house like her mom said, and her parents owe a ton of back rent after the pandemic. Her dad is an organic farmer, and her mom is trying hard to launch a bath bomb business with little capital. Things aren’t any easier at school with Lina’s poor English. When she finally finds a graphic novel she loves, and her teacher wants the class to read it, influential parents at her school are determined to stop it from being read. Will Lina use her voice? Finally Seen is a moving, inspiring, and insightful middle grade book about immigration, family, and sisterhood .
Published: March 7, 2023
Avery has SIX siblings and is feeling squished at home, so she’s crushed when her older brother Theo gets the first chance to room alone. She has to share a room with her younger siblings, Pearl and Max. On top of that, she often babysits the youngest three siblings. Her dad is a teacher, and her mom is studying to become a programmer, so things can be hectic at home. Avery decides to get a job so she can earn money and set up a basement bedroom. But just when she’s finding her groove, it appears that the family will have to move to another city — away from the friends and neighborhood Avery has come to love. Squished is a heartwarming, relatable middle grade book about being part of a large family , navigating sibling relationships, and adjusting to change .
Published: February 5, 2019
Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself? This middle grade graphic novel is an excellent choice for tween readers who love the graphic format and are looking for more Black middle grade books.
Published: May 2, 2017
Real Friends is Shannon Hale’s graphic memoir of her middle school experience with real friends — and girls who weren’t quite friends. Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends since Shannon came out of her shell in early elementary school. She had earlier been the shy middle child who never felt like she quite fit in anywhere. But with Adrienne, it was like she could finally exhale. But when Adrienne starts hanging out with the popular girl, Jen, Shannon suddenly doesn’t know where she fits in anymore. Shannon Hale’s Real Friends is a realistic, moving depiction of the roller coaster that middle school friendships can be, and how affirming it can be to find true friends.
Every Missing Piece
Published: May 26, 2020
Maddy Gaines is an anxious girl still coping with the grief of her father’s death — and also adjusting to her new stepfather. One day, Maddy sees on the news that a boy named Billy Holcomb has gone missing. Then several weeks after, she runs into another boy who looks a lot like Billy, except his hair is different and he’s taller than Billy was, and oh — his name is Eric. Maddy would love to report her hunch to the sheriff, but she’s practically known as the girl who cried wolf. So she decides to watch and wait. While she’s waiting, she and Eric become friends. Will Maddy get to the bottom of the Eric/Billy situation? And will she find a way to open her heart despite her worries? Every Missing Piece is a sensitive, moving, and heartwarming middle grade book about managing anxiety and adjusting to a new step-parent .
Other Words for Home
Published: May 28, 2019
Young Jude is uprooted from her life in Syria in the midst of the civil unrest. She and her mother (who is pregnant) move temporarily to Cincinnati to live with her uncle and his family. Jude is sad to leave behind her country, best friend Fatima, father, and brother who’s involved in various protests in Syria. In America, Jude — who used to be the best English student in Syria — has to join an ESL class and deal with questions about her hijab. She’s also trying to build a relationship with her cousin who feels culturally adrift, unable to speak Arabic and knowing little to nothing about Syria. Still, Jude finds good things in America and learns how brave she can be. Good for anyone looking for stories set in Syria, fans of Hena Khan’s Amina’s Voice, and anyone searching for a story with a brave female protagonist.
Published: April 6, 2021
Magic Pointdexter is her family’s “ugly duckling.” Her father is an ex-NBA player, her sister a famous cheerleader, and her late grandmother was also a ceiling-shattering cheerleader. Magic is awkward, chubbier than your typical cheerleader, and loves sweets more than anything else. But she’s decided: she’s going to cheer camp to try her hand out at becoming a Honeybee. Magic is struggling with getting fit and flexible enough, learning stunts, dealing with the breakup of a lifelong friendship, and trying to figure out who she wants to be. Can she survive Planet Pom Poms? Squad Goals is a feel-good summer camp story perfect for fans of friendship stories, summer camp tales , and coming-of-age books.
The Cool Code
Published: November 8, 2022
When Zoey’s parents decide she’ll go from homeschooling to in-person middle school, she’s nervous about fitting in. Fortunately, she has one major skill: coding. Having been exposed to computers and coding earlier, Zoey builds a mobile app called The Cool Code, which uses artificial intelligence and data to predict which outfits she should wear, what to say in conversations, and even which kids to befriend if she wants to be popular. But letting an app decide your social interactions gets complicated pretty quickly. The Cool Code is a fun, STEM-centered graphic novel about fitting in, being yourself, and finding your tribe.
The Best Worst Summer
Published: May 4, 2021
The Best Worst Summer follows two sets of kids three decades apart. In the present, Peyton and her family have just moved from Minneapolis to a small town named Lake Springs, leaving her best friend and their summer soccer camp tradition behind. But her summer gains new life when she discovers a box of secrets: a cryptic note to a friend, half of a “best friends” necklace, a playlist and several other items. Meanwhile, in 1989, best friends Jessica and Melissa plan to bury a time capsule. Jessica is an adopted Korean girl — one of the only Asians in her small town — and Melissa’s mom is hiding some deep secrets about their family. When the secret unravels, the girls’ lives are forever changed. That is until Peyton finds their time capsule in the present. As we read Melissa and Peyton’s perspectives, the story alternates between past and present. This is a charming, engaging middle grade novel that manages to blend historical and contemporary fiction.
Counting by 7s
Published: August 29, 2013
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.
Last Gate of the Emperor
This is a middle grade Afro-futuristic sci-fi novel co-written by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen. Yared Heywat lives in Addis Prime, a rundown reimagined Ethiopian city. Yared is a frequent competitor in an augmented reality game set in the city, sometimes ditching school. But just when he seems to be getting the upper hand, the game rules change and Yared has to sign in using his real name. Halfway through the game Yared is suddenly being pursued by real-life law enforcement simply for being Yared. Forced to join forces with his rival, a girl called the Ibis, Yared and his pet bionic lioness have to get to the bottom of the attack and in the process learn some shocking information about Yared’s identity. Last gate of the Emperor i s a propulsive sci-fi adventure set in an Afrofuturistic city, perfect for fans of The Black Panther ‘s Wakanda.
Where You’ve Got to Be
Published: September 13, 2022
Nolie feels like the odd person out amid changes. Her sister Linden, who’s only 14 months older seems to have grown up overnight, ditching the seashell necklace their grandmother gave them. And now her best friend, Jessa thinks Nolie’s nickname is too babyish and she should really go by her full name, Magnolia instead. She also wants to include a new cooler friend in their duo and give Nolie a complete makeover. To top it off, Nolie doesn’t seem to have a “thing” that she’s good at or particularly passionate about. With all those emotions brewing, Nolie makes a poor choice to start stealing things from several people. Can she find her way? Where You’ve Got to Be is an engaging, immersive, and relatable middle grade book about dealing with changing circumstances.
Sunny Side Up
Published: August 25, 2015
Sunny Lewin has been packed off to Florida to live with her grandfather for the summer. At first she thought Florida might be fun — it is the home of Disney World, after all. But the place where Gramps lives is no amusement park. It’s full of . . . old people. Really old people.Luckily, Sunny isn’t the only kid around. She meets Buzz, a boy who is completely obsessed with comic books, and soon they’re having adventures of their own: facing off against golfball-eating alligators, runaway cats, and mysteriously disappearing neighbors. But the question remains — why is Sunny down in Florida in the first place? The answer lies in a family secret that won’t be secret to Sunny much longer.
Big Apple Diaries
Published: August 17, 2021
Big Apple Diaries is Alyssa Bermudez’s graphic memoir detailing her life experiences in New York City between the 7th and 8th grades. Her middle school years also coincide with the attack on 9/11 and the book documents the impact on her and her circle. Prior to that, though, Alyssa is an average tween who attends a Catholic co-ed school, likes doodling, and has a crush on a schoolmate named Alejandro. Her parents are also divorced, so she spends time between each of their apartments in New York. B ig Apple Diaries is a relatable and enjoyable coming-of-age graphic memoir .
Call Me Adnan
Published: June 13, 2023
Adnan loves table tennis, his family, and the aviation alphabet. He’s color blind, left-handed and has a big sister and little brother, with another sibling on the way. When his family take a summer trip so he can compete in a tennis tournament, an unbelievable tragedy occurs, shattering their life as they know it. I don’t like sad stories. Life is hard enough, but the author drew me into this story and I couldn’t stop reading. The verse format is enjoyable and provides a wide enough window into the plot and characters. Most importantly, this story is very hopeful, despite the tragedy. If you love verse novels and don’t mind a tearjerker, this is a perfect summer story for you. Heads up for sibling loss and child drowning.
A Duet for Home
Published: April 5, 2022
12-year-old June, her younger sister Mabel, and her mother are forced to move into Huey House, a homeless shelter in New York City. June’s mother has become non-verbal since their father died a few months ago, so June has to care for Mabel on her own. At Huey House, June meets Tyrell and the two form a friendship on the back of their shared love for music. June also starts getting viola lessons from a next-door neighbor. But just when she’s finding her footing at Huey House, she finds out through Tyrell that the government is trying to get people out of the home before they’re ready and sending them to unsafe neighborhoods. Can June and Tyrell make a difference? A Duet for Home is a warm, realistic, and inspiring middle grade book about homelessness , grief, and a love of music .
The Mysterious Benedict Society
Published: April 1, 2008
“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children–two boys and two girls–succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.
Published: May 10, 2022
In Duet , we meet a young goldfinch, Mirabelle. Mirabelle lives with her mother and brothers in a nest next to a piano teacher’s house. Mr. Starek, the piano teacher, is now aged but has received a new student, Jin, who does not seem pleased to be taking lessons from Mr. Starek. After weeks of reluctance, Jin starts to play, and surprisingly, Mirabelle joins in, forcing Jin to notice her. Soon, the two begin to create duets together during Jin’s practice sessions. When Jin and Mirabelle find out that Mr. Starek’s late sister might have a special piano in her foreclosed home, they band together in a new way to investigate and solve a decades-old mystery about Frederick Chopin’s piano. Duet by Elise Broach is an enrapturing, unique story about music , friendship, history, and birds — especially goldfinches.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Published: January 14, 2020
Twelve-year-old Zoe Washington’s summer is off to a rough start. She’s not speaking to one of her best friends, for one. Her other best friend is away at summer camp and the third one has moved away. But things get more complicated when she finds a letter in the mail from her incarcerated birth father. The only problem is that he’s in jail for something “very bad” and Zoe has never met or spoken to him before. As she starts to write to Marcus, Zoe realizes that things might not be so black and white — not with her friend Trevor, and certainly not with Marcus. While she learns more about Marcus, she also spends part of her summer interning at a pastry shop. This is a moving, true-to-life middle-grade novel that highlights just how potent perseverance can be — even when you’re just twelve. This book is one of those middle-grade novels that tackles issues without taking away the joy of the mundane.
What if you realized that you can’t seem to maintain friendships? When this happens to Eleni in Dear Friends , she decides to embark on a challenge to revisit and revive her top five failed friendships. As life would have it, just as the process starts, her oldest childhood friend and BFF, Sylvie, starts pulling away from her. Can Eleni get to the bottom of things and recover her friendships before the start of middle school? Dear Friends is a highly relatable, summery middle grade book about what it means to be a good friend and maintain strong friendships.
I LOVED this book and found it impressive, especially for a debut novel. Wyman’s writing feels so genuine, probably because it’s based on her experience with jaw malocclusion in childhood. I read all 300+ pages in one sitting and was breathless at the end. Max is getting bullied by kids at school for her jaw problems, and her kid sister is one of the bullies. Her parents’ relationship is strained. Her dad works nights and is an alcoholic, and her mom is a chain smoker. Yet, they do their best for the kids, and it’s the kids’ normal. Eventually, Max finds her voice and stands up to her bullies in the best way.
Published: October 30, 2018
Isabella is mixed race, figuring out her identity, and is now also caught between both parents as she alternates between her divorced parents’ houses. This is a great story with many important themes — being biracial, coping with parental divorce and remarriage, being black in America, classical music, family — and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in those themes. Heads up that this book features a racially-motivated shooting. Also, please pass on the audio — the narration is pretty subpar.
Published: March 31, 2020
When Ross is diagnosed with a rare lacrimal gland cancer (in his eye), it’s like a new trial for his seventh-grade existence. Add to that the fact that his mom died from cancer years before, he’s going blind in one eye, his best friend is moving away soon, and mean kids at school are making terrible memes about his illness, and you have a dumpster fire of a year waiting to happen. Or is it? Wink by Rob Harrell is a brilliant, funny, and thoughtful middle grade book about navigating a cancer diagnosis in 7th grade.
Out of Range
Published: June 7, 2022
In Out of Range , sisters Abby, Emma, and Ollie can’t seem to get it together. After months of squabbling, their parents ship them off to summer camp together to figure out their issues. The girls succeed in ignoring each other most of the time, but a hike gone wrong on their last day forces them to work together against hunger, near-drownings, and bear attacks. The story alternates between the past and the present so readers can see what went wrong with the sisters and watch them make their way back. Out of Range is a heartfelt survival middle grade book about sisterhood , tween angst, and identity.
Published: August 31, 2021
Fast Pitch is a companion title to Nic Stone’s Clean Getaway , which I really enjoyed! It stars Scoob’s crush Shenice, an U12 softball team captain whose concentration is shot when she stumbles upon a decades-long family mystery. Shenice and her team are preparing to win the Fastpitch World Series, when she discovers that a crime her great-grand father was accused of — which cost him his reputation and place in the Negro leagues — may have actually been a set-up all along. And now, Shenice is the only one who can clear his name. Fast Pitch is a fast-paced, poignant sports mystery about family, racism, and community.
Out of My Mind
Published: March 9, 2010
Eleven-year-old Melody is not like most people. She can’t walk. She can’t talk. She can’t write. All because she has cerebral palsy. But she also has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but NO ONE knows it. Most people—her teachers, her doctors, her classmates—dismiss her as mentally challenged because she can’t tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by her disability. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow.
Ready Set Dough
Published: October 17, 2023
Ambitious sixth grader Zoe Sparks loves to write and enjoys brainstorming ideas for her journalism class. There’s only one problem: Her at-home computer is so unreliable that it just stops working one day. Fortunately, her school is organizing a cookie dough fundraiser, and guess what the top seller prize is? A WordPro laptop — and orange (her favorite color) at that! Zoe is determined to outsell everyone, especially her nemesis Amaya. But soon, her ambition begins to impact her balance and her friendship with her BFF Felix. I adored the voice in this one and finished it in one day. One of my favorites in 2023 and also UNDER 200 pages!
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Published: June 25, 2013
When Kyle learns that the world’s most famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, has designed the town’s new library and is having an invitation-only lock-in on opening night, he’s determined to be there! But the tricky part isn’t getting into the library—it’s getting out. Because when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route!
In the Beautiful Country
Published: June 28, 2022
Living in 80s Taiwan with her mother, Ai Shi (Anna) eagerly anticipates living in the beautiful country (the US) where their father moved a few months ago. As she gives away her favorite clothes and toys to cousins in preparation for the move, she can’t help but brag about the new life awaiting them. But she’s in for a shock when they arrive at their cramped apartment. Her father was conned into buying a failing fast-food restaurant, and Anna’s parents struggle to make ends meet. At school, she feels like an outsider since she can barely speak English. On top of that, her parents are dealing with some unkind customers who mistreat them because they’re Asians. Can Anna find her way? This is a moving, poignant, and lyrical verse novel about immigration, identity, food, and family.
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen
Published: February 25, 2020
Vivy Cohen is an autistic, baseball-obsessed girl who really wants to play the sport. Unfortunately, her mom is holding back because she’s a girl and she has autism. But when Vivy writes to a famous Black baseball player as part of her social skills homework, things start to change. For one, VJ Capello writes back, and the two become pen pals. Then, a Little League coach asks Vivy to join his team. As they overcome unique hurdles, Vivy and VJ soon realize that they’ll need to put up a fight for the sport they love. Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! is an endearing middle grade book about the love of baseball, life with autism, and figuring out your strengths.
I Can Make This Promise
Published: October 1, 2019
All her life, Edie has known that her mom was adopted by a white couple. So, no matter how curious she might be about her Native American heritage, Edie is sure her family doesn’t have any answers. Until the day when she and her friends discover a box hidden in the attic—a box full of letters signed “Love, Edith,” and photos of a woman who looks just like her. Suddenly, Edie has a flurry of new questions about this woman who shares her name. Could she belong to the Native family that Edie never knew about? But if her mom and dad have kept this secret from her all her life, how can she trust them to tell her the truth now?
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
Published: May 1, 2018
I enjoyed this book so much, which says a lot for a Math hater! Lucy acquires savant-level math skills after being struck by lightning as a child. She also becomes obsessive-compulsive and reclusive after the incident. So her grandmother insists she goes to middle school for at least a year, in addition to other social requirements. The narration of this book is so well done! I can’t recommend it enough for math lovers, but everyone will enjoy following Lucy’s social miscalculations and her journey to seeing how much having people in your life can enrich it.
Published: August 16, 2022
In Tumble , we meet 12-year-old Addie, who lives with her pregnant mom and stepdad. Her stepdad wants to adopt her (but only if she wants) and Addie loves him but can’t shake the curiosity about her biological father, especially because her mom is so hush-hush about it. While investigating, she discovers that her father is part of a famous wrestling family living on a nearby New Mexico ranch. As Addy gets to know her father, Manny, her cousins, grandparents, and uncles, she learns that family can be complicated. This is a poignant, exciting, and heartrending middle grade book about family secrets , wrestling culture, and identity.
One Last Shot
Published: May 5, 2020
One Last Shot follows 12-year-old Malcolm who has an anxious streak and never feels good enough, especially for his dad. It doesn’t help that his parents are always arguing, and Malcolm is typically caught in the middle. Malcolm’s father loves competitive sports (especially baseball) and is disappointed when Malcolm decides to stop playing because he isn’t good at it and does not enjoy it. But he finds some respite when Malcolm becomes interested in miniature golf — and actually enjoys it. As usual, Malcolm’s father goes overboard, hiring a coach called Frank and signs Malcolm up for a tournament. The book alternates between the events of the tournament day and past events leading up to the tournament as Malcolm and Frank forge a sweet friendship, Malcolm befriends a smart girl named Lex, and his parents relationship deteriorates. I enjoyed this moving story of learning to listen to one’s inner voice.
Clues to the Universe
Published: January 12, 2021
Clues to the Universe follows two kids, Ro and Benji. In this debut middle grade book told from two points of view, Ro and Benji become lab partners and form a pact to help each other achieve their goals. For Ro, that’s building the rocket she and her dad always meant to build before he died a year ago. And for Benji, it’s not getting a failing grade in science by tacking on to Ro’s science project. But when Benji discovers that a popular comic artist is his estranged father, Ro insists on helping Benji reunite with his father. This is a heartfelt middle grade debut about a sweet, unlikely friendship, STEM, the grief of losing a parent, and the joy of finding one.
Published: August 2, 2022
Five different students have yet to complete their community service for a school offense and must explain why (as well as what they did) to their principal. Thus, these five seemingly socially invisible kids each share from their perspectives how they got in trouble — and readers are definitely in for a ride. There’s George, the smart kid who is Latino but can’t speak Spanish; Sara, the loner; Dayara, the tough kid, Miguel, the baseball player; and Nico, the rich kid. The story is told in Spanish and English. It is a powerful, heartwarming graphic novel about immigration, homelessness, racism, and finding your tribe.
Louisiana’s Way Home
Published: October 2, 2018
In this companion to Raymie Nightingale , Louisiana Elefante’s grandmother wakes her up in the middle of the night because “the day of reckoning has arrived.” Although Louisiana has always gone with her granny’s flow, this time, she resists. She doesn’t want to leave her friends and her cat, Archie behind. Still, her grandmother is adamant. What follows is an often-funny, occasionally heartbreaking, and all-round heartwarming tale. Louisiana is overall a more interesting character than Raymie was. She’s bursting with personality and has an offbeat sense of humor. I also enjoyed the development of both Louisiana’s and her granny’s character and this sequel didn’t at all seem forced as some can be. As a welcome bonus, the narrator of this audiobook is excellent — her Southern accent is spot-on and makes Louisiana come to life. This is especially useful in the mid-sections of the book which seem to lull a bit.
Honeybees and Frenemies
Published: June 4, 2019
Flor’s parents’ mattress store is struggling this summer, and her parents are fighting more than ever. The summer seems to get brighter when she gets to be in their town’s local honey pageant with her frenemy (former friend turned bitter enemy) Candice. The girls’ friendship was ruined when Flor won the pageant in third grade, and Candice (the runner-up) suggested that she only won because she was half-Indian. Can the girls make it work now? And will Flor make it through the summer with her family intact? Honeybees and Frenemies is a warm, humorous, and relatable middle grade book about bees , family, and frenemies.
Published: October 19, 2021
When Nimra joins public school after years in Islamic school, she’s not expecting to become 1/4th of Barakah Beats, a popular boy band in her school. But that’s what happens. When her BFF (at least to Nimra) stops acting so BFF-y after Nimra decides to wear her hijab to public school, Nimra is desperate to keep their friendship. Even if it means joining a boy band when it conflicts with her Islamic beliefs. Can Nimra find a way to use her voice without going against her values or hurting her new friends and bandmates? Barakah Beats is an engaging middle grade book about balancing your faith with your passions while finding your tribe.
Published: May 3, 2022
RWhat if all you wanted for the summer was to go to camp with your best friends and draw comics in peace — BUT your parents thought it was better to go to Honduras, where they’re from, instead? That’s Sue’s dilemma in Miss Quinces . And then, on top of that, she finds out that her family is throwing her a surprise Quincenera against her wish. Will Sue survive the summer? Miss Quinces is an engaging, immersive graphic novel about identity, Latin-American culture, a love for art , and family.
Published: March 14, 2017
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
Hearts and Crafts: Squad Goals
Published: March 1, 2022
Squad Goals (Hearts & Crafts #1) is the first in a new middle grade series about Mackenzie Miller, a new seventh-grader who calls herself a “maker.” Mackenzie loves projects especially when they involve crafting artsy things or planning things. After her parents’ divorce and her father’s remarriage, it’s just Kenzie and her mom and Kenzie wants her mom to find a boyfriend. Last year, her BFFs also dumped her and Kenzie is convinced she can try to win them back this year while working hard to make new friends. In the spirit of making, she quickly finds herself embroiled in a fundraiser to help get some of the Band kids in her school (she’s also in Band) new instruments. But can Mackenzie balance it all? Squad Goals (Hearts & Crafts #1) is a relatable, enjoyable middle grade book about crafting, friendships, and letting others help you.
Miosotis Flores Never Forgets
Published: October 26, 2021
In Miosotis Flores Never Forgets , young Miosotis biggest problem is getting her dad to let her get a dog. Papa insists that Miosotis score higher in Math and Science, even though she’s more of a B student. Soon, though, Miosotis’s woes begin to compound when she discovers that her sister Amarillis may be hiding something from their family. Can Miosotis save her sister? Miosotis Flores Never Forgets is a realistic middle grade book about the impact of domestic violence , identity, and culture.
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid
Published: January 25, 2022
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid follows new sixth grader, Max. Max is fat and on his first day of school becomes a target for school bully and eighth-grader Johnny “Pro.” Max’s mom is a single mother and his only friend Luca is poor and wears worn hand-me-downs. When Max gets fed up with being bullied, he decides to write to imprisoned supervillain, Master Plan for advice and help. Master Plan comes up with a step-by-step guide to stop Max from being bullied and elevate his social status — maybe even helping him get closer to the girl he likes. But when Max’s fortune starts to change, it threatens his friendship with Luca. Worse still, he realizes that supervillains rarely offer help without needing something in exchange. This is a refreshing, action-packed middle grade novel about body positivity , friendships, and bullying .
Join the Club, Maggie Diaz
Published: May 17, 2022
New seventh-grader Maggie Diaz is not the most organized person. But she’s trying to become her best self this school year so she can win her parents’ trust and get a new phone by the end of the year. She soon finds out that getting on honor roll is not that easy. Worse still, Maggie’s dealing with so many changes. Her best friends have joined after-school clubs to pursue their interests and have little or no time for Maggie (who can’t seem to find her interests). Since her Abuelo died, her Abuela has become her roommate and Maggie just wants some alone time! Will Maggie find her place and “join the club”? This is a lively, engaging debut (with illustrations!) about finding your place and passions when everyone else seems to be miles ahead in the game.
Published: July 19, 2022
Twins Luisa and Fernando find their paths diverging as they enter sixth grade. Luisa will attend middle school in the US just across the border from Fernando’s school in Mexico. There, they face different but equally pressing challenges that threaten to tear them apart. win Cities is a fascinating look into Mexican culture, life as a twin, and finding your own identity.
Published: April 2, 2024
This is a poignant graphic memoir about a year in Kathy McCleod’s life. Kathy is half-Thai and half-American and has older parents than her peers. She constantly feels out of place throughout the year she recounts in the memoir, so when her father gives her a diary to document her feelings it feels like a much-needed outlet. She likes pizza and American food more than Thai food. In Thailand a neighbor thinks she isn’t American because she doesn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes. In Maine, her family spends more time together but she also feels like people view them differently because they’re mixed. As time passes, Kathy realizes that she’s not the only one who feels out of life and that it takes time to figure out who you want to be. This contemplative memoir will appeal to fans of Almost-American Girl and Be Prepared .
Published: November 14, 2023
Claire is on vacation with both her parents in Maine, observing the widened rift between both of them as they go solo on activities, sometimes dragging her with either of them. Finally, her mom confesses to her that she’s planning on leaving her dad — exactly two seconds before she collapses due to a ruptured brain aneurysm. When Claire’s mom comes to, she doesn’t remember her last conversation with Claire and is forever changed emotionally and mentally. Now, Claire must cope with these changes while moving forward with the burden of her mom’s secret. This is a lovely verse novel with a book-loving protagonist who learns a lot about aneurysms after her mother’s experience. It will be invaluable to kids whose parents have experienced medical emergencies. There’s also a blossoming friendship with a boy, although it never progresses past platonic. Despite the age of its protagonists, this felt firmly middle grade to me.
The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman
Orthodox Jew Shaindy lives in a tight-knit Jewish community but feels invisible and socially inept. No one at school particularly dislikes her, but no one tries to befriend her or return her friendliness either. She envies her next-door neighbor Gayil who is beloved and excels academically, but she also wants to befriend and be Gayil. So when Gayil invites her to set up pranks on several students and teachers at their school, Shaindy is just happy to be in the inner circle. Unfortunately, the mischief quickly turns into something malicious as Shaindy realizes that Gayil’s pranks are designed to hurt her targets, and Shaindy is on the list of targets. This is an intricately plotted, strongly character-driven story about the inner lives of tween girls and the human emotions of envy. Although at times bogged down by detailed portrayals of Jewish tradition, this book is exceptionally engaging and truly unique.
The Wild Journey of Juniper Berry
Published: August 15, 2023
Juniper and her family live off the grid, and she loves it. Her mom has warned her that life in “society” is stressful, but Juniper’s older sister still wants to try living there. Unfortunately, regardless of the family’s desires, they all have to move to the nearest town when their youngest family member becomes seriously ill. Juniper’s dad even has to work to pay the hospital bills while the girls live with their uncle and his daughters, with surprising outcomes for Juniper and her family. This is a heartwarming story that delivers spot-on observations about acceptance, belonging, and social shape-shifting.
Published: September 19, 2023
It’s 1998 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In the middle of the Sri Lankan Civil War, Kavi is dealing with her own personal upheavals. Her mother has remarried her father’s best friend after his death and is expecting a new baby. Meanwhile, Kavi is getting sent to the city on a scholarship to an elite private school. There, she starts telling lies about a life of wealth and grandeur– small at first, then bigger and bigger — to fit in with the rich kids until she begins to lose herself. I Am Kavi is a touching verse novel about a young girl adapting to changes in her world and finding her voice amidst the Sri Lankan civil war.
Published: November 21, 2023
This stunning graphic novel follows Cinzia, an Avvisi’s/newswriter’s apprentice living in sunny Sianerra. Cinzia and her mestra write news stories/pamphlets to the city, but not everyone likes it when they tell the truth. After an edition exposing the ruling family for extortion, Cinzia and her Mestra are arrested at night, and she has to join forces with the princess to fight back against censorship. Ink Girls is a beautiful graphic novel about activism, speaking the truth, and speaking up despite censorship.
Published: May 9, 2023
Alex loves soccer and playing for her city’s Rec League. Her coach is nice, and she has many good friends on the team. But during one of the games, a coach from an elite league spots Alex and convinces her mom to let Alex play for his team. Her dad isn’t the picture, and their family finances are tight, so Alex wants a soccer scholarship shot for college in the future and accepts the offer. But when she starts playing for the team, she notices disturbing things like her coach verbally abusing the players, talking down to the girls because of their gender, and punishingly working them out when don’t perform to his standards. Her mom is too busy trying to please her boyfriend to notice. Can Alex and the team stand up to Coach Austin? This is a sporty, enjoyable, and inspiring middle grade book about sports spirit and standing up for oneself.
Maid for It
Published: September 5, 2023
After years of dealing with opioid addiction, Franny’s mom is finally sober and on the right track with a cleaning job and a cozy apartment upstairs from a laundromat. But then she gets in an accident and has to be prescribed opioids again, sending Franny into a frenzy. Franny starts doing her mom’s cleaning jobs behind her back — even blackmailing a school rival into working with her — to ensure they don’t run out of money. But she soon learns that worrying about adult problems isn’t her job. Maid for It is an informative, gripping, and accessible middle grade book about living with a parent recovering from addiction.
Coop Knows the Scoop
Published: July 7, 202 0
When a dead body is found in Coop’s small town, he and his best friends Justice and Liberty are intrigued and want to help solve the mystery. But the stakes get even higher when Coop’s grandfather is accused of murdering the victim (who turned out to be Coop’s missing grandma!). Can Coop get the scoop on this mystery and save his grandfather before it’s too late? Coop Knows the Scoop is a thrilling middle grade mystery with a rollercoaster of a narrative and seriously high stakes.
Which of these books for sixth graders have you read and enjoyed? And which other ones would you recommend?
More Books for 6th Graders
- Books for 11 year old boys
- Great books for 11 year olds
- My favorite graphic novels for 11 year olds
- Mystery books for 6th graders
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- About Afoma Umesi
Afoma Umesi is the founder and editor of Reading Middle Grade where she curates book lists and writes book reviews for kids of all ages. Her favorite genre to read is contemporary realistic fiction and she'll never say no to a graphic novel.
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November 10, 2020 at 2:07 pm
I love Louisiana’s Way Home! 🙌
August 13, 2021 at 10:35 am
Love this list! My daughter is entering 6th grade next month! LOVED Greenglass House!
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