Reading takes us all on different paths. We can travel across universes, transport ourselves into life in the big city, or take a spin in someone else’s shoes. That’s why it’s so great to read different genres. And while plenty of adults read YA novels, there’s one genre that a lot of us seem to be neglecting: middle grade!
For those of you who might not know what middle grade is, they’re novels for those who are ready to jump into reading, but aren’t necessarily old enough for YA yet. It’s usually for older elementary school kids and middle school students. That being said, there are wonderful novels out there that might seem like they are just for kids, but they can actually be enjoyed by adults too!
There are so many middle grade novels out there that I love, but I’ve had to narrow it down to some of my absolute favorites! Remember that adults can learn a lot from middle grade novels and that they’re super entertaining to read too! Check out some of my suggestions below:
Bubbles by Abby Cooper
Abby Cooper was inspired to become a writer after she saw the success of the middle grade novel, Wonder. As a teacher, Abby’s students encouraged her to write her first novel, Sticks & Stones, which was published in 2016. From there, Abby was on a roll. She ended up writing Bubbles which was published just last year. I interviewed Abby a few months ago and she gave us the inside scoop on Bubbles and spoke on her love for writing.
Bubbles follows a twelve-year-old girl who starts to see thought bubbles appear above people’s heads, like the one’s from comic books. I personally believe that any adult can relate to the feeling of insecurity. We are tough on ourselves, tougher than we will ever be on other people. The idea of thinking people are judging us as harshly as we judge ourselves is irrational, yet we all seem to do it. This novel shows us the implications of that and what happens when we start to believe people are critiquing us with so much intensity. It gives us insight and shows that we should just believe in ourselves more.
The Pendrwicks Series by Jeanne Birdsall
With a solid following made up of kids and adults alike, The Penderwicks series is like no other. The final installment of this series was only recently just released and while it’s different from the four books before it, it’s a wonderful conclusion to an incredible series. The series is timeless, real, and beautiful. Written by Jeanne Birdsall, the novels are so popular that they’ve been translated into thirty different languages.
The Penderwicks series isn’t the most well-known to those who don’t read. It’s not flashy or crazy. It’s not filled with magic and lust. Instead, it’s about an ordinary family made up of four daughters: Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty. From there, the family grows with friends becoming forever, neighbors becoming brothers, and the unstoppable growth of a blended family. The series has made me cry, laugh, and ignore responsibilities as I can never put one of these books down once I start. I usually take my time with novels, but not with these. The Penderwicks are my family when I read these books and any adult is going to love the feeling of just that alone.
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
This list wouldn’t be complete without the middle-grade series that started it all. While the Harry Potter series evolved into something much more older and darker, it began as a story about an eleven year old boy who was on his way to his first year at a magical school for witchcraft and wizardry. J.K. Rowling was rejected hundreds of times (no exaggeration) when she first tried to sell her series, but she finally got her break. If it wasn’t for her tenacity, the world would be so strangely different.
While this might seem like an obvious addition to a list such as this, there are some people who actually haven’t read this series (my significant other included). So to anyone who somehow missed this part of their childhood, or was too young or old when Harry Potter first reached success, this series still holds up and it isn’t going away anytime soon. I can’t really imagine a life without Harry Potter. It’s that much of a difference maker.
The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
Depression isn’t always the easiest subject to tackle, especially for kids. However, The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller shows what depression looks like in a family. So many adults deal with depression and anxiety that a novel like this is great for any family dealing with something that’s bigger than themselves.
The novel follows middle-schooler Natalie as she conspires to figure out a way to make her mother feel better. Although Natalie’s mother is the one going through things, the novel follows Natalie and shows how she reacts to the sudden change in her family.
After our interview with Tae, we realized that this book is for anyone of any age at any time. It’s for anyone who has ever been depressed or has known someone who has been depressed. Adults can learn a lot from this story. And although it’s deep and tackles a difficult subject, it’s still a completely entertaining read just as well.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
One of those novels that plenty of us had to read while in school, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is a spectacular novel. I reread it as an adult and it gave me a whole new perspective on this wacky mystery. No book reports, no highlighting, no analyzing… just a good read. I had liked it as a kid, but I learned how to love it as an adult.
The novel follows sixteen people after the death of multi-millionaire, Sam Westing. He has left his fortune to one of these individuals, but to find how who it is involves a dangerous and exciting game. The concept is creative, the writing is humorous and detailed, and the story is a roller coaster of emotions. This novel is perfect for anyone at any age because it’s pure, timeless, entertaining writing.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
A story about a family trying to save their home in Harlem, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser is a novel that shines brightly! The novel follows the Vanderbeerker children as they are suddenly told they have to move from their beloved house by their landlord. With no other options, the Vanderbeekers take things into their own hands as they try to save the day.
This novel is told from the perspective of all five Vanderbeeker children. That means that at some points, you’re seeing the world like a twelve year old and then at other times, you’re seeing it from the perspective of someone much, much younger. It gives so much understanding of the entire Vanderbeeker world and you get to experience every type of emotion as each character is always different from the next.
Having interviewed Karina, we learned that while this book is wonderful, there’s a sequel coming out soon! So there’s even more fun to have in the near future!
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Wonder by R.J. Palacio changed my life completely. I went from being a YA lover, to a middle grade lover within the first few pages! The way it is written, the stories that are told, the characters that have so much depth… it’s honestly my favorite book. I never thought anything could best Harry Potter in my life, but this book does. If you are going to read only one book for the rest of your life, this should be it.
The novel follows Auggie as he ventures off to school for the very first time. As a middle-schooler, he has only been home schooled his whole life due to medical issues. These medical problems have caused him to look different than his fellow classmates. The book follow Auggie, his friends, and his sister and her boyfriend throughout one whole year at his new school.
Wonder is a story about courage, empathy, and friendship. It shows that kindness is important, not just for those who you are kind to, but for yourself. I can’t say enough about this book. It’s just one of those novels that you have to read as soon as possible!
Mr. Terupt Series by Rob Buyea
Showing how much a teacher can influence the lives of students, Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea is a multi-perspective novel written about an elementary school class who gains a new teacher at the beginning of the school year. Audiences hear from girls and boys alike, learning about what’s going on in their lives and how their teacher influences them. Readers follow them throughout the years as this series continues into middle school!
Kids are vulnerable and adults don’t always see that. It’s important to realize that kids are unique. Each one lives the same 24 hours in a day as adults do. Yet, adults sometimes write kids off. But kids are smart, strong, and have honest feelings. This novel shows that.
As a teacher himself, Rob Buyea told us in his interview with us why he wrote this novel. Being a teacher influenced him so much and his life is what influenced this incredible series. It takes the concept of personal to a whole new level.
The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall
When a young girl in Cleveland ends up being brought a piglet on Thanksgiving, she knows she has to do everything she can to make sure Hamlet (the pig) becomes her forever pet pig. With The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall having shown kids to respect animals, it’s time for adults to learn the same thing too!
This novel touches on a bunch of major aspects. There’s family concerns, passion struggles, and animal rights storylines. I personally enjoyed reading this novel so much. It made me cry and laugh! I couldn’t get past some of the conflicts because it felt so beautifully real. The book was greatly written and it’s a novel that every person at any age should read.
A Handful of Time by Kit Pearson
A Handful of Time by Kit Pearson is an older novel that has held onto my soul for years. It’s a timeless story of a young girl named Patricia who is sent away for the summer to live with extended family while her parents try and figure out their divorce. Being a city girl, now thrown into lake life, the novel follows Patricia as she learns more about her mother’s past.
The beauty of this book comes from the natural way the author combines fantasy and realism. Patricia finds an old watch that throws her back in time. She’s able to be a fly on the wall of her mother’s childhood. It gives the reader (and Patricia) the chance to see the whole story. Think of it as a This Is Us, but for middle grade books. Adults will love listening to Patricia’s internal struggle and find comfort in learning more about her mother’s personal journey.
Class Action by Steven B. Frank
When we interviewed Steven B. Frank, he gave us some insight on his novel, Class Action. This is one that parents and teachers specifically should read. The novel revolves around the idea that there’s too much schoolwork for kids to handle. The fight against too much work for kids actually goes through the legal system in this novel! Readers learn all about what happens when kids and their families challenge everything they’re not supposed to.
The book is about change. But more importantly, it’s about believing in yourself enough to stand up for what you believe is right.
Steven B. Frank wrote this novel after he saw how much his daughter was struggling to complete her homework one day. She was frustrated and he wasn’t pleased. He’s also a teacher who finds the amount of homework given out to students to be excessive. This novel can inspire any adult and can also give some parents out there a little perspective.
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly has been wonderfully received by critics and audiences alike. The book, which was released last year, was chosen for the TLA Bluebonnet Award Master List. The novel has received high praise, and for good reason! It shows the complexities of being a kid, the struggles that every human goes through, and how different kids can be based on their circumstances. It also shows what happens when different people come together.
The novel follows four kids on one life changing day. Each middle-schooler is different than the next. The book is artfully written and shows empathy at its best. There’s a reason this novel has received such wonderful feedback and it’s great for both kids and adults alike!
There are so many great middle grade novels out there! So, what are you waiting for? Get to reading!