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Children’s / Middle Grade Book Recommendations

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I’m hoping you’ll all be able to help me with this. My friend is a year five teacher (so the children are all about 10) and he’s trying to find some good books to encourage them to read (the school seems to basically just have Michael Morpurgo). The only thing I could think of off the top of my head for that age is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. So I’m hoping you’ll be able to help me put together more of a selection! 

Preferably looking for more recently published books, rather than classics, and it’s fine if it features sad or difficult themes. 


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I have The Graveyard Book on my TBR, I've heard great things.


A middle-grade book I recently finished and loved, is Jemima Small Versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter. It's contemporary fiction about a smart girl who is also fat, she gets bullied at school because of her size. The book has a lovely positive message.


Wonder by R. J. Palacio

A middle-grade contemporary fiction book about a boy named August who has a facial difference. Now that he is a bit older (5th grade age, in the US) his parents decide to sent him to school for the first time.


Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Middle-grade fantasy series about a boy named Will who goes to training to be a Ranger. The first book is called The Ruins of Gorlan.


Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Middle-grade fantasy novel about a girl named Liesl and a ghost named Po.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Middle-grade fantasy. Very magical, about a girl and a witch and a village.. not sure how much to write down before it becomes spoilers but this was an amazing read in my opinion.


Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby

A middle-grade contemporary fiction about a girl named Fig who lives with her father. Her father has mental health problems and both she and he are struggling with this. I loved this. Very good message about mental health, LGBT+ and family.


I've heard some great things about some middle-grade books I have on my TBR, but since I haven't read those myself, I can't quite recommend them yet.



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As a reasonably recent ex-Year 5 teacher, these books seemed to go down best with my class:


anything by David Walliams (by far the favourite author)

Tom Gates series by Liz Pichon (maybe not so far behind DW!)

Alex Rider novels by Anthony Horowitz

The Nomes series by Terry Pratchett (Truckers etc)

The Diamond Brothers series by Anthony Horowitz (again!)

Stig of the Dump


I found Robert Westall was very popular once children had been introduced to him - they tended to be very conservative and wouldn't branch out to new authors, and Westall isn't a 'name'.


I used to read Philip Reeves's Mortal Engines to the class, which they loved, with one or two following up, but many latterly found it too much like hard work.  Equally, Kenneth Oppell's Airborn series.


I say it through gritted teeth, but Jacqueline Wilson proved popular with some of the girls.


Don't forget non-fiction - boys especially liked Horrid History, Science, Geography etc. and more visual books on 'exciting' subjects.  Library visits saw some almost fighting over the Guinness Book of Records, even if tended to be just browsed through.


To be honest, I found Yr 5 reading age declining steadily throughout the 10-12 years I taught that age group.  Back in 2010 or so, many of my class would think nothing of reading Dark Materials, Harry Potter etc, but more recently they couldn't cope with the length of these books, and gravitated towards books that previously were the preserve of Year 3/4 (Mr Stink, Horrid Henry, Diary of a 'Wimpy Kid).  Always the more mature exception of course.

Edited by willoyd

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Ah, I forgot you taught year five @willoyd! Thank you! I’ve only recently discovered that horrible science and geography exist, I used to love the horrible histories books! Although, I will admit, I also loved Jacqueline Wilson books...

It’s such a shame that schools don’t have any funding for books and it’s even more sad when kids say they don’t have any books at home. It’s really not surprising that they grow up not seeing reading as an enjoyable thing.

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