“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” – C.S. Lewis
Young adult books have been all the rage for a few years now. Every movie seems to be based on a popular book for teens. I am all for this trend, although I am ready for something besides dystopian love triangles. But some of my favorite books were written with even younger readers in mind. Books for the middle grade years have some of the most imaginative stories out there. When you can’t rely on shock value, as is the case with many best sellers for adults, you have to be even more creative in the story you write.
I’ve already reviewed Wonder and I’m just going to assume that you’ve read the Harry Potter series, Narnia books, and Anne of Green Gables (Just don’t tell me if you haven’t, that hurts my feelings). So I want to focus on some of the other great middle grade books out there.
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The Giver by Lois Lowry
The OG dystopian novel for young people. This is a book that becomes more powerful when read as an adult. I remember reading this in 5th grade or so and liking the story but now when I read it, it’s a total gut punch. Do yourself a favor and skip the movie version.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry strikes again. She is annoyingly talented like that. I’m so glad that this book is still taught in schools. The story of Danish citizens helping thousands of Jews escape to Sweden during WWII is just as good now as the first day I read it.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
A Newbery Award winner that started my love of historical fiction as a child. Kit Tyler struggles to fit into the strict lifestyle of colonial New England. Her self-confidence and ability to speak up for herself make her an immediate target.
The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This is a recent book that I ADORED. A young handicapped girl and her brother escape from an abusive mother. Ada uses the evacuation of children to the country during the Blitz in WWII to run away from a miserable life.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A little boy is raised by a rag tag group of ghosts. Guys, this book has one of the most upsetting first few pages, I’m warning you, it’s bad. BUT it immediately turned into one of the most gorgeous books about love and loss. It’s original and funny and I love it, it is one of my all-time favorites.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Some parents don’t like their kids to read Matilda because they think it encourages kids to misbehave. Of course anyone who has ever met a child knows that this is why children LOVE it. Matilda stands up for justice against her abusive teacher and parents. I can’t think of a better reason to stand up to grown-ups. The movie version of this is okay but the stage musical is absolutely delightful.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
A well-deserved recent Newbery Medal winner. This story made me laugh out loud and cry, and it’s narrated by a Gorilla. Soooo it must be pretty good.
Beauty by Robin McKinley
This is my absolute favorite version of the Beauty and the Beast story. I get just as much enjoyment from it now as I did when I was 10 years old. Robin McKinley’s beautiful imagination makes her take on the classic tale unique.
Originally published November 12, 2015