. . . plus 20 great middle
to put on your “to read” list!
What makes for a great middle grade* book club? I asked my librarian pals for their insights. Here are some tips to get you and your child rockin’ and readin’—or to help amp up your child’s book club.
For book club newbies, here’s what you need to know: book clubs can be hosted by school librarians, scouting troops, and religious youth groups, or by simply gathering together a few friends and a few good books. Set up your book group by inviting friends (or parents and kids) and discussing how you’d like to organize your group. You don’t need to over complicate things with too many rules, but agreeing on how often you want to meet, where to meet, and what kinds of books to read will give your club a solid foundation. It’s also a good idea if your readers are of a similar age and reading level.
Here are a few more ideas to add some spice:
New books on the block: As parents (or adult book club leaders), we’d love for our kids to enjoy the same books we did at their age. The Mixed-Up Files, anyone? Chronicles of Narnia? While those tales are tried-and-true, help your readers tune in to the latest middle grade releases to find new classics. Your book-clubbers will also feel “on trend” by reading what’s hot off the presses. In fact, checking out the latest books can be made into a monthly feature at your book club.
New friends, new views: Book clubs are not just about books, but also a wonderful way for kids to broaden their social circle and meet like-minded (or at least book-minded) friends. So instead of being exclusive, be inclusive and open to all kids. You’ll end up with great book buzz for your social bees! But small is also beautiful . . . if your group is small, don’t be discouraged. Most book clubs start out small and grow as word gets out.
One book, two books, three books . . . more: While most adult book clubs focus read the same book, middle graders might feel that identifying just one book for all to read is limiting. Why not let everyone read whatever they’d like to read—and then share their book with the group? For some, this approach can feel more liberating and less restrictive. And let’s face it, kids these days have enough books that they haven't read. Let your book club be a time and place to just talk books!
Snack attack: What’s a movie without popcorn? Same as a book club without snacks. For a creative twist, see if you can make food that ties in with the book you’re reading. Does the character in the book eat a special meal? Love a certain candy? If it’s historical fiction, maybe research a recipe inspired by the book’s setting. Or have on hand a bowl full of gummy (book) worms! And eating before discussing your book is a great way to fuel the discussion to follow!
Ready, set, action! And speaking of popcorn, why not make your next book choice one that has also been turned into a movie. Read the book first, then plan an outing to see (or rent) the movie. A lot of interesting discussion will be sure to ensue. Did the movie do a good job interpreting the book? Is the movie how you imagine the book to “look”? Did the director cast the right actors in the character roles? How did the screenwriter change the book’s plot? Was the screenwriter also the book’s author? For starters, read Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee, and then see the recently released Disney film Frozen. Both stories are based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.”
Be my guest! Why not host a special guest—the book’s author!—at your next book club meeting? These days, through social media, authors are approachable, and most authors enjoy engaging with their readers. Using Skype is a fun, easy, and inexpensive way to bring the author in for a visit. Start by checking out the author’s website to get contact details, then send a brief email, tweet, or Facebook message. If the author agrees, set up a time, exchange Skype details, and be sure to prepare some questions in advance such as Did you like to write when you were in school? What made you want to become a writer? What inspired you to write this book? Which character in your book is your favorite, and why? What are your favorite middle grade books?
From historical fiction to fractured fairy tales, here are some great middle grade book club reads that will get your readers reading . . . and talking.
*Middle grade books are generally intended for ages 8 to 12.
My One Hundred Adventures
by Polly Horvath
Jane is twelve years old, and she is ready for adventures, to move beyond the world of her siblings and single mother and their house by the sea, and step into the “know-not what.” And over the summer, adventures do seem to find Jane, whether it’s a thrilling ride in a hot-air balloon, the appearance of a slew of possible fathers, or a weird new friendship with a preacher and psychic wannabe. Most important, there’s Jane’s discovery of what lies at the heart of all great adventures: that it’s not what happens to you that matters, but what you learn about yourself.
by R. J. Palacio
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start fifth grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid, then you know how hard that can be. The thing is, Auggie’s an ordinary kid with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
The Case of the Team Spirit (Bad Machinery #1)
by John Allison
Shauna. Charlotte. Mildred. Three schoolgirl sleuths. Jack. Linton. Sonny. Three schoolboy investigators. Tackleford. One midsized city with a history of countless mysteries. Is there enough room at Griswalds Grammar School for two groups of kid detectives? There better be, because once these kids set their sights on solving a mystery there’s nothing that can derail them. Nothing, except maybe gossip, classwork, new football player cards, torment from siblings, stolen jackets, teachers’ wives . . . Originally published as a serialized web comic.
by Vince Vawter
An eleven-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July, he knows he’ll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything. The paper route poses challenges, but it’s a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble—and puts the boy’s life, as well as that of his family’s devoted housekeeper, in danger.
by Holly Black
Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing games of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll who curses those who displease her. But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
by Liesl Shurtliff
In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, twelve-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse. To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
by Tony Cliff
Lovable ne’er-do-well Delilah Dirk is an Indiana Jones for the nineteenth century. She has traveled to Japan, Indonesia, France, and even the New World. Using the skills she’s picked up on the way, Delilah plots to rob a rich and corrupt sultan in Constantinople. With the aid of her flying boat and her newfound friend Selim, she evades the sultan’s guards, leaves angry pirates in the dust, and fights her way through the countryside. For Delilah, one adventure leads to the next in this thrilling and funny installment in her exciting life.
Liar & Spy
by Rebecca Stead
This is a story about spies, games, and friendship. Seventh grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer’s first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: what is a lie, and what is a game? And how far is too far to go for your only friend? Readers will be guessing until the end.
The Golden Day
by Ursula Dubosarsky
When their teacher goes missing during a field trip, eleven girls grapple with the aftermath in this haunting, exquisitely told psychological mystery. The Vietnam War rages overseas, but back at home, in a year that begins with the hanging of one man and ends with the drowning of another, eleven schoolgirls embrace their own chilling history. Who was the mysterious poet they met in the Garden? What actually happened in the seaside cave? And most important—who can they tell about it?
Seven Stories Up
by Laurel Snyder
In this companion to Bigger than a Bread Box, a leap back in time and an unlikely friendship change the future of one family forever. Annie has never even met her grandmother, so when she and her mother pull into the drive of her grandmother’s home in Baltimore, Annie can hardly contain her excitement! But when she actually meets her grandma, the bitter old woman doesn’t seem like someone Annie could ever love, or miss, until one magical, stormy night changes everything. It’s impossible that Annie could have jumped back in time . . . right? But here she is in 1937—the year her grandmother was just her age!
Five, Six, Seven, Nate!
by Tim Federle
Thirteen-year-old Nate Foster has Broadway dreams, and he’s willing to sneak off to the Big Apple to realize them. Debut author Federle has firsthand experience on the Great White Way, and it shows in this heartwarming and effortlessly funny story about a boy’s attempt to better understand himself and what he hopes to get out of life.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
by Karen Foxlee
Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. But then her father takes a job in a strange museum and Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long-forgotten room. He is a prisoner of the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help. A story within a story, this is a modern day fairy tale about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never, ever giving up.
by Patricia Reilly Giff
Siria’s pop is a brave firefighter, and when Siria hears sirens, she sneaks out to chase the trucks, to bring Pop and the other firefighters luck. She’d be in big trouble if she ever got caught. Good thing her best friend, Douglas, is always by her side. As Christmas approaches, Siria suspects that someone in the neighborhood is setting fires. She has to find out who’s doing it, but when clues point to a surprising suspect, she realizes that solving this mystery will take all kinds of courage. In Winter Sky, friends, family, and a very special dog help Siria to see how brave she really is.
Jack, Frances, and Frances’s younger brother Harold have been ripped from the world they knew in New York and sent to Kansas on an orphan train at the turn of the century. As the train chugs closer to its destination, the children begin to hear terrible rumors about the lives that await them. So they decide to change their fate the only way they know how . . . they jump off the train. Perfect for fans of the Boxcar Children.
by Jerry Spinelli
Welcome to Hokey Pokey, where childhood is at its best: games to play, bikes to ride, experiences to be had. There are no adults in Hokey Pokey, just kids, and the laws governing Hokey Pokey are simple and finite. But when one of the biggest kids, Jack, has his beloved bike stolen—by a girl, no less—his entire world, and the world of Hokey Pokey, turns to chaos.
Spirit Animals: Hunted (Book 2)
by Maggie Stiefvater
The adventure continues in this second book of the epic multi-platform fantasy series. In the world of Erdas, only a rare few are able to summon a spirit animal in the way Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan have. The bond they share with their animals is a partnership that allows them to access more-than-human abilities.
One Came Home
by Amy Timberlake
In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly. But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn’t, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of “pigeoners” trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha’s blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie.
The Center of Everything
by Linda Urban
For Ruby Pepperdine, the “center of everything” is on the rooftop of Pepperdine Motors in her donut-obsessed town of Bunning, New Hampshire, stargazing from the circle of her grandmother Gigi’s hug. That’s how everything is supposed to be—until Ruby messes up and things spin out of control. But she has one last hope. It all depends on what happens on Bunning Day, when the entire town will hear Ruby read her winning essay. And it depends on her twelfth birthday wish—unless she messes that up too. Can Ruby’s wish set everything straight in her topsy-turvy world?