There are few books I can wholeheartedly recommend to every child, regardless of interests, but these are my go-to books for kids who need something new (or new to them) to read:
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. The first HP book is relatively short, and the story is interesting enough to keep most readers engaged. I have found a few kids who are very uninterested in reading anything Potter-related, but they're pretty few and far between.
- The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. This is a great book for Star Wars fans, Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans, or kids who just like unusual stories. It's also the first in a series, so kids who like this book can read the rest of the adventures as well.
- The Giver by Lois Lowry. I love to give this book to kids who haven't seen or heard of the disaster that was the movie by the same name. The book itself is one of the first dystopian stories for kids, and the open-ended final chapter leaves much for discussion and debate.
- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This is a great book for 3rd-5th graders, as it deals with school, but also time-travel, and then ending is so weird and wonderful that many kids decide to start over and read the story again now that they know how it ends.
- Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. This is a good story in that it follows a young girl with Aspergers syndrome, it involves tough choices that even kids have to make, and there's enough action to keep even reluctant readers involved.
- Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. This book takes place in San Francisco and involves lots of puzzles and brain teasers, so readers who enjoy puzzling things out will love this story.
- Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. This book is library fun! The kids in the story are playing a game that involves - you guessed it - finding a way out of the new library. It's fun, it relates to libraries, and it's a good "clean read" for patrons who need that type of book.
- Ungifted by Gordon Korman. This book is funny and celebrates kids who are average, rather than the uniquely talented special snowflakes who get so much press in other books. This is a funny story, and a heartwarming story, and it would make a great classroom read-aloud as well.
- any book by Roald Dahl. I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I love James and the Giant Peach, but I have found that just about any Dahl book, especially if it includes the illustrations by Quentin Blake, will get kids hooked and keep them reading. The books are short enough, too, that kids who can't quite tackle tomes like Harry Potter can still enjoy them.
- Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. Squirrels that write poetry, superheroes, a kid who insists he's blind? There's tons to love in this unusual story, and kids will eat it up and come back for more.
These are the middle grade books that I keep on hand in case I ever need something for a kid who just can't find anything to read. What are your go-to books for middle grade readers?