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Thursday, May 24, 2012

For Katie (& You): A Middle Grade Recommendations List

Earlier today I had a young girl named Katie (hi, Katie!) message me on Goodreads asking for recommendations. I get this request fairly frequently, and I'm always a little at a loss. I mean, where to begin? I'm sure there are books I'm going to forget, or genres that will be under-represented. And there are so many books I haven't read - what about all of those? Do I recommend them even though I haven't read them? And what about the ones I haven't even heard of?!?
So this time, I did something different: I asked everyone on Twitter and Facebook what their favorite Middle Grade/Juvenile reads were, and I put them together with mine, and made this EPIC LONG LIST that is really just the beginning.
So. The following list, for Katie and for everyone else, is compiled of books that I and people I trust recommend. They're loosely categorized where ever I saw fit, but if you see an error, let me know. Hope you find some good books to love on it!
[And I even linked it! Each link goes to the book's Goodreads page so you can find out more about it.]

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter (which is based on The Secret Garden, which I also recommend), and though I haven't read it, I'd also recommend The Kneebone Boy, which is also by Potter, and looks really good.
Chained by Lynne Kelly - This is a recent release set in India, and though I haven't read it, but a number of people recommended it and it looks outstanding. Not sure if it's contemporary or not, but looks good!
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - This is a bit of a mystery, and has one of my favorite, most unique narrators.
A Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - SO. GOOD.
The Outsiders, Tex and everything else by SE Hinton - The Outsiders is her most famous work, and credited with starting the YA genre, but Tex is my favorite book of hers, though I love all of them. (They can be a bit grown-up, though...)
Tangerine by Edward Bloor - This book took me by surprise; I didn't expect to like it, and I loved it.

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose - this book is told in verse, and I've heard nothing but good things about it!
With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo - I haven't read this, but it's high on my wishlist, and others mentioned it.
Fever: 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson - this is about a yellow fever epidemic in 1700's America. Really great historical.
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi - I read this book in school, and I was so against it in the beginning. I was convinced I wasn't going to like it for some reason, and I ended up loving it.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly - this was an excellent historical read with a really strong, smart main character.
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, one of my all-time favorite books; I was 11 when I read it for the first time, and I've read it countless times since.
The Secret Garden, as I said, as well as A Little Princess, both by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - this should probably be under Contemp/Realistic, but I think by now it can be called a classic, and a well-deserved one.
The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder - lots of people recommended this one, and I've read it more times than I can count.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, if you haven't read them. So  good. A lot of people love The Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor, too, which is a spin on Carroll's classic.

Percy Jackson series - many of us recommended these! They're based on Greek mythology, which I love.
The Mapmaker and the Ghost by Sarvenaz Tash - I haven't read this, but this recent release was the most recommended book from the Tweeps!
Remarkable by Lizzie K Foley - Haven't read this one (it was recommended by author Zoraida Cordova, and it looks really good!)
Savvy & Scumble by Ingrid Law - I highly recommend these!! I'm putting them under adventure, but they are quirky fantasy  books, too.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart - lots of people recommended this one
Heist Society by Ally Carter - this is a fun heist/almost-adventure-y story, and good contemporary read, too.
The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword and a number of other books by Robin McKinley - this was recommended by a few people, myself included!
The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
39 Clues series which is written by a whole bunch of authors, a different one each book, and is a big puzzle.
Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen - this, too, is one I expected to hate and ended up loving.
The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer - love these!
Gregor the Overlander series (Underland Chronicles) by Suzanne Collins <-- who wrote The Hunger Games! This is her lesser-known middle grade series, and I've heard nothing but good about it.

The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce, or anything else by her. If you read nothing else on the list, pick up something by Tamora Pierce. The first Alanna book (from the Song of the Lioness series) changed the way I read and the things I looked for in a female main character. Stellar.
The Graveyard Book  & Coraline, both by Neil Gaiman, who is fantastic.
Eyes Like Stars and the rest of the story, by Lisa Mantchev - this is a really inventive series that uses plays (especially Shakespeare - but never in a boring way! It's very, very fun!)
Plain Kate by Erin Bow - this is a really good fantasy with a historical feel and a great cast of characters.
Aurelia & Exile (both by Anne Osterlund) - I haven't read either of these (yet), but the both look excellent and come highly recommended. And I'm Goodreads friends with Anne, who has great taste in books and always recommends cool things!
Thirteenth Child by Patricia C Wrede (and a number of other things by her) - such an engaging fantasy!!!
Anything by Roald Dahl - lots of people recommended Roald Dahl books, so I figured you can't go wrong no matter what you pick (though can I put in a push for The Witches, James and the Giant Peach and Matilda!)
Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver - a bit of a ghost story, sounds really good and lots of people recommended it.
Anything by Lemony Snicket, Tony di Terlizzi, and anything age appropriate by Holly Black.
The Giver by Lois Lowry (anything by Lowry, actually) - This isn't really Sci-Fi, but I didn't know where else to put it - it's dystopian and I didn't want to start a category for that, but it's worth a read FOR SURE...
...and while I'm mentioning the few dystopian books that aren't too adult for middle graders, read the Chaos Walking trilogy (starts with The Knife of Never Letting Go) by Patrick Ness. I ADORE these books.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu - Based on The Snow Queen, this was one of my favorite reads of last year.
A Curse Dark as Gold  by Elizabeth C Bunce - neat retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, set during the Industrial Revolution.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer - This is a really interesting sci-fi take on Cinderella.
Juniper Berry by MP Kozlowsky - this reminded me a bit of Coraline. Not necessarily a fairy tale, but has that feel. Really good, and definitely a bit dark...
Princess Academy & the Books of Bayern (starts with The Goose Girl), or anything else for kids/teens by Shannon Hale, all of which are either based on fairy tales or have that feel.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow (one of my favorite fairy tale retellings!) The Princess of the Midnight Ball (and the rest of the series); Tuesdays at the Castle; the Dragon series (starts with Dragon Slippers) - all of these are by Jessica Day George, and they all come highly recommended by me and by a bunch of the people I asked.
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy - this one is a fun twist on all of those "Princes Charming" we see popping up in fairy tales!
[Edited 7/10/13 to add] The Princess Curse and The Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell. I hadn't read anything by Haskell when I made this list, but now that I have, she is firmly on the list. INFACT, I'd name The Princess Curse among my favorite fairy tale retellings, period!

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke - I absolutely adored this.
Rapunzel's Revenge and the rest of the series by Shannon Hale, who I mentioned above.
Robot Dreams and Bake Sale by Sarah Varon - these are nearly wordless/actually wordless, really inventive, and super awesome.
Shirley by Kaoru Mori - this is about a teenaged Victorian-era maid, and is super cute and well-detailed.
Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre - This was super fun with awesome characters, and I really need to get around to reviewing it already...

And there were so many other books people recommended that I haven't read and don't know too much about (and a couple I didn't like, though I know other people do), so I don't want to leave those out:
Septimus Heap
Ella Enchanted
The False Prince
The Books of Elsewhere
Tomorrow Girls
Cirque du Freak
Popularity Papers
At the Sign of the Sugared Plum
Ordinary Magic
Harriet the Spy
Dork Diaries
The Penderwicks
The Grimm Legacy
Monster High
The Girl Who Could Fly
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
the Tillerman Saga
The Dark is Rising series
The Ranger's Apprentice series
The View from Saturday
Dead End in Norvelt

and anything by
Margaret Peterson Haddix
Sharon Creech
Gail Carson Levine
Rick Riordan
Jane Yolen
Judy Blume
Patrick Carman
and Mary Downing Hahn

Hope this helped (not just Katie, but any of you looking for good middle grade/juvenile reads), and if you have any you think must be on the list, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS!! =)

Much thanks to Alexa, Amber, Ashley B., Ashley M., Ashley P., Candy, Cecelia, Christian, Daph, Dan, Emily, Jamie, Jenn, Joann, Kristen, Liz A., Liz V., Minda, Reads4tweens, Resa, Sara, Shannon, Vanessa and Zoraida!  I know I missed some, but you all were fabulous and enthusiastic suggesters, and I <3 you for it. =D


  1. I love your list, and I've definitely added some new titles to my TBR list! A couple other awesome middle-grade books are Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis and practically anything by Wendy Mass.

  2. The Secret Garden! I definitely read that a few times and remember LOVING it. Man, I wanted my own secret garden.

  3. I wanted my own secret garden too, Liz (still do).
    And Dickon. I always loved Dickon.

  4. I adored a recent release by Christopher Healy -- The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.

    Actually reviewed it on my blog... *shrug*

    Anyway, I loved it. Quirky take on all the old fairy tales, full of fabulous characters. You'll wonder why you never pictured the Princes Charming this way before. ^^ Definitely recommend it.

  5. I wish I had a list like this growing up! Anything Gary Paulsen and Joan Lowery Nixon. They were my two favourite authors when I was that age.

  6. Oops. Hero's Guide was supposed to be on the list; I must have missed it somehow, SP. :)

    And agreed, Erika!

  7. Thanks for making this list Misty! I am super excited to expand my ever growing to be read pile. I would add Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH. I loved that book in Junior High.

  8. This is a great list! Thanks for so many recommendations. I am definitely going to check out quite a few of these.

  9. thanks SO SO SO much for making this for me! My book list is ever growing and I can't wait to read them all! you are so sweet for putting this together for me!

  10. Depending on the reader, I'd be careful recommending Alanna to middle grade readers. The writing and length is right, but the content could seriously piss off a tetchy parent, so just be careful! Why? There's quite a bit of sex in the later books, not graphic so far as I remember, but still a controlling parent would not be okay with it.

  11. I'm going to add a MG triology I came along by chance working at the library.

    100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. It's the story of Henry, who is forced to spend the summer in Henry, Kanasas, with his Uncle Henry, and finds 100 little cupboards doors in the wall of his room - and they lead to different worlds...

  12. Loving this list, I'll have to check a bunch of these out. I'm going to add some that I loved like 43 Old Cemetery Road by Kate Klise, The Riley Bloom series by Alyson Noël, Zombie Tag by Hannah Moskowitz and A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. That's all for now, though there are some great ones that just came out that I'm looking forward to devouring!


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