Reading is so important and is a huge passion of mine. I teach middle school and only have taught middle school so I am very familiar with the books on this list. This isn’t a complete list of books but this will def help you get started building your own arsenal of books that kids and teens will love.
books on this list are all diverse, and I’m not talking about race or ethnicity. Some students are for kids being bullied or who live with grandparents or kids who comes from single parent homes. You may see one particular author mentioned several times (I love his books).
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience which means I make a small commission from any purchases made through these links (at not additional cost to you)!
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team–a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves. Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons–it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems–and running away from them–until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?
Amira and Hamza Saves the World By Samira Ahmed
On the day of a rare super blue blood moon eclipse, twelve-year-old Amira and her little brother, Hamza, can’t stop their bickering while attending a special exhibit on medieval Islamic astronomy. While stargazer Amira is wowed by the amazing gadgets, a bored Hamza wanders off, stumbling across the mesmerizing and forbidden Box of the Moon. Amira can only watch in horror as Hamza grabs the defunct box and it springs to life, setting off a series of events that could shatter their world–literally. Suddenly, day turns to night, everyone around Amira and Hamza falls under a sleep spell, and a chunk of the moon breaks off, hurtling toward them at lightning speed, as they come face-to-face with two otherworldly creatures: jinn. The jinn reveal that the siblings have a role to play in an ancient prophecy. Together, they must journey to the mystical land of Qaf, battle a great evil, and end a civil war to prevent the moon–the stopper between realms–from breaking apart and unleashing terrifying jinn, devs, and ghuls onto earth. Or they might have to say goodbye to their parents and life as they know it, forever.
Pages & Co: The Bookwanderers by Anna James
Since her mother’s disappearance, eleven-year-old Tilly Pages has found comfort in the stories at Pages & Co., her grandparents’ bookshop. But when her favorite characters, Anne of Green Gables and Alice from Wonderland, start showing up at the shop, Tilly’s adventures become very real. Not only can she follow Anne and Alice into their books, she discovers she can bookwander into any story she chooses. Tilly’s new ability leads her to fun and exciting adventures, but danger may be lurking on the very next page…When new secrets are uncovered, it’s up to Tilly to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago. From debut author Anna James comes a charming and exciting adventure about a bookish young heroine, a mysterious librarian, and a magical bookshop that will delight book lovers everywhere
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime? A crime he says he never committed. Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies. When Marcus tells Zoe he is innocent, and her grandmother agrees, Zoe begins to learn about inequality in the criminal justice system, and she sets out to find the alibi witness who can prove his innocence
If you want my full review of the book, click here.
Amari and the Night Brothers
Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good. So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton–if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real. Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny–especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.
To check out my full review, click here.
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy–Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change. Skateboarding. Wiping out. Braving up. Executing complicated handshakes. Planning an escape. Making jokes. Lotioning up. Finding comfort.
But mostly, too busy walking home. Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.
To read my review of this book, click here.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous. But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life. This book has the very important theme: be careful for what you wish for.
This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell
Gain a deeper understanding of your anti-racist self as you progress through 20 chapters that spark introspection, reveal the origins of racism that we are still experiencing, and give you the courage and power to undo it. Each lesson builds on the previous one as you learn more about yourself and racial oppression. An activity at the end of every chapter gets you thinking and helps you grow with the knowledge. All you need is a pen and paper. Author Tiffany Jewell, an anti-bias, anti-racist educator and activist, builds solidarity beginning with the language she chooses–using gender neutral words to honor everyone who reads the book. Illustrator Aurélia Durand brings the stories and characters to life with kaleidoscopic vibrancy. After examining the concepts of social identity, race, ethnicity, and racism, learn about some of the ways people of different races have been oppressed, from indigenous Americans and Australians being sent to boarding school to be “civilized” to a generation of Caribbean immigrants once welcomed to the UK being threatened with deportation by strict immigration laws. Find hope in stories of strength, love, joy, and revolution that are part of our history, too, with such figures as the former slave Toussaint Louverture, who led a rebellion against white planters that eventually led to Haiti’s independence, and Yuri Kochiyama, who, after spending time in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII, dedicated her life to supporting political prisoners and advocating reparations for those wrongfully interned. Learn language and phrases to interrupt and disrupt racism. So, when you hear a microaggression or racial slur, you’ll know how to act next time. This book is written for EVERYONE who lives in this racialized society–including the young person who doesn’t know how to speak up to the racist adults in their life, the kid who has lost themself at times trying to fit into the dominant culture, the children who have been harmed (physically and emotionally) because no one stood up for them or they couldn’t stand up for themselves, and also for their families, teachers, and administrators. With this book, be empowered to actively defy racism and xenophobia to create a community (large and small) that truly honors everyone.
I personally have this book and while I don’t force my students to read them, I have it available IF they want to read it. It’s an important book but I can see how some will have a problem with it. I had to explain to a lot of the kids what anti-racist meant and if you’re confused too, it means against racism or you oppose racism.
Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man. But lately, Miles’s spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren’t meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad’s advice and focus on saving himself. As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can’t shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher’s lectures on the historical benefits of slavery and the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk. It’s time for Miles to suit up. I have personally bought this book and it has disappeared from my classroom bookshelf!
Flight of the Puffin by Ann Braden
Libby comes from a long line of bullies. She wants to be different, but sometimes that doesn’t work out. To bolster herself, she makes a card with the message You are amazing. That card sets off a chain reaction that ends up making a difference in the lives of some kids who could also use a boost–be it from dealing with bullies, unaccepting families, or the hole that grief leaves. Receiving an encouraging message helps each kid summon up the thing they need most, whether it’s bravery, empathy, or understanding. Because it helps them realize they matter–and that they’re not flying solo anymore.
What are some of your favorite middle grade books?