The Best Middle Grade Books of All Time

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Are you looking for some of the best books for your middle schoolers? Are you looking for a mix of middle school classics and the best middle grade fantasy books?  If this is you, you’re in the right place.

Don’t wait for your child’s teacher to send a book list home.  Imagine coming back from work to find your child not watching television or playing video games but instead, reading a book.

Use this list of the best middle grade books of all time to keep your child enthused and interested in reading.  Here you will find everything from educational fiction novels to middle school novels to teach in the classroom.  Keep reading to see some of the best books to share with the middle schooler in your life.

By the way, this isn’t our first rodeo when it comes to rounding up middle school favorites. After you’re done, if you enjoy this post, explore our posts on the  best books for 6th grade, best books for 7th grade, and best books for 8th grade.

Our Favorites for the Best Middle School Grade Books of All Time

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

When Claudia decides to run away, she knew that she couldn’t do it traditionally. Therefore, she must find someplace to run to.  The place Claudia settles on is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Claudia takes her little brother, and she is off.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is included in this list for the themes it includes as well as having a great storyline. There are several themes that children can benefit from included in this book, and these include family, wealth, and even dissatisfaction.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Bored with her life, twelve-year-old Claudia Kincaid is ready for a big change.
  • Humor, suspense, intrigue and their problems acknowledged seriously, but not somberly.
  • All readers hope for in a book.

Last update: 2024-06-15

Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine

The Goosebumps series is loved and read by children all over the world.  All the stories in the series fall into the category of horror fiction for kids.  The novels center around children who end up in scary situations.  The first book in the 235-book series is Welcome to Dead House, which was released in 1992. There were also several spin-off series which were created from the original Goosebumps books. Welcome to Dead House follows the Benson family as they move into a new house in Dark Falls. However, everyone else in the town is dead.  Kids will have to read the story to find out if the Benson Family is next.

This series makes this list because even now it is a popular series that children enjoy and look forward to reading.  The books use real settings and things like theme parks, houses, and everyday objects but give them a sinister twist.

On Sale
The Classic Goosebumps Series 20 Books Collection Set By R. L. Stine
  • R.L. Stine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Scholastic (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-15

Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler

The Boxcar Children tells the story of four orphaned siblings.  The title of the series gets its name from the boxcar where the kids, Violet, Benny, Henry, and Jessie, make their home in the woods. The series takes the reader through their adventures and even introduces them and the readers to their long-lost grandfather.  The book follows the children through their new life and the experiences they get into. The first book in the series is self-titled, The Boxcar Children. In this story, readers meet all the children and ultimately see how they got their name.

This series is a part of this list because The Boxcar Children is an exceptional read for middle schoolers.  They also introduce children to chapter books. Though it started as only 19 books, there are now more than 150 titles that make up the collection.

On Sale
The Boxcar Children Mysteries Boxed Set 1-4: The Boxcar Children; Surprise Island; The Yellow House; Mystery Ranch
  • Albert Whitman Company
  • Warner, Gertrude Chandler (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2024-06-15

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

The Outsiders is the story of the Greasers, a gang in the rural parts of Oklahoma.  They are made up of Ponyboy, Darry, Two-Bit, Johnny, and Sodapop.  This group of friends is consistently at odds with a rival rich teen gang called the Socs.  The Socs find enjoyment in messing with and beating up the Greasers.  Though this is the norm for both groups, one event changes everything.

Though the references may be older for children growing up today, The Outsiders includes many themes that kids may face today.  These themes include violence, loyalty, and differences in class. This book is an excellent read for older middle school students. The book also brings to light the division of communities and schools.  The Outsiders was also adapted into a movie in 1983, which some schools actively watch in class.

The Outsiders
  • S. E. Hinton (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 04/20/2006 (Publication Date) - Viking Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-14

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda centers around a young name Matilda.  Though she is an average, sweet young child, her parents, unfortunately, find her to be an annoyance. Unfortunately, her teacher, Miss Trunchbull, who hates kids, does not see differently. Matilda must learn to deal with her teacher. However, after being attacked by Miss Trunchbull, she must find a way to give her a taste of her own medicine.

Matilda is a fun fiction story for children.  However, though the plot is entertaining for kids, there are themes which can equate to real-life within its pages.  These include education, family, fear, and loyalty.  These themes are present throughout the actions of Matilda and Lavender during their friendship.  Ms. Honey also exemplifies the love and support that Matilda may not be receiving from her family.  Overall it is an excellent read for adults and children where many themes can be pulled from the pages.

On Sale
  • Dahl, Roald (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 08/16/2007 (Publication Date) - Viking Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-15

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Florence Atwater and Richard Atwater

Mr. Popper’s Penguins is the classic humorous tale of Mr. Popper, a house painter, and his penguins. Mr. Popper is a vacant faced man who paints the homes of Stillwater. One thing many people do not know is that Mr. Popper dreams of going to Antarctica.  He uses the winter season to read travel books and dream of his journey.  That is until one day a small piece of the Antarctic comes to him.  Mr. Popper is sent his very own penguin who he affectionately names Captain Cook.  Mr. Popper soon becomes famous in Stillwater, thanks to his little black and white friend. One penguin soon turns into many, and the Popper’s Performing Penguins group is born.

Mr. Popper's Penguins is a whimsical little story of friendship and adventure.   This book comes highly recommended by parents, teachers, and kids.  This novel is an excellent option for children who usually don’t like to read as it is enjoyable and highly entertaining.

On Sale
Mr. Popper's Penguins (Newbery Honor Book)
  • Atwater, Richard (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 11/02/1992 (Publication Date) - Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-15

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is the story of Esperanza Cordero.  Esperanza is a young girl growing up in the Latino part of Chicago, a place where Esperanza does not want to live.  Though the house is a step above their previous residence, it is still small and rundown.  She dreams of growing up and owning a home of her own, one that is not on Mango street. The book also goes into stories of her neighbors to paint a full picture of her neighborhood.

The House on Mango Street is a coming of age story, and readers are experiencing life with Esperanza.  At the start of the story, Esperanza is 12 years old but continuously maturing throughout the story.  The story follows her as she not only makes friends and develops her first crush, but as she navigates more dangerous waters like sexual assault. There are several themes present which students face on a regular.  These include innocence, identity, and even class.  These themes make this one of many great middle school novels to teach.  This book is beloved by many and taught in classrooms around the country.

The House on Mango Street
  • Sandra Cisneros (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 110 Pages - 04/03/1991 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-14

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate You Give is the story of 16-year-old Starr Carter.  Starr, unlike many of her friends, must learn to live on the fence between two worlds.  These worlds include the one she lives in; poverty filled community and the one she attends her suburban prep school in.  Her world is forever changed when she witnesses one of her closest friends be killed by a police officer. Her friend. Khalil is unarmed at the time of his death.  Much like in the climate of today’s society, Khalil is misconstrued in the media as a thug or hoodlum.  It is up to Starr to shine a light on the truth behind what happened on that day.  She can stand down and live in fear of the police, or she can speak her truth.  This book is a great read for middle schoolers, especially middle school black boys as they begin to grow and are subsequently deemed as someone to be afraid of.  This book is included on this list because it is a topic that we cannot ignore and that some children may at one point face. No matter your race, there is a message for everyone within this story.

The Hate U Give: A Printz Honor Winner
  • The Hate U Give Hardcover – February 28, 2017
  • Hardcover Book
  • Thomas, Angie (Author)

Last update: 2024-06-14

The Runner-Ups for the Best Middle Grade Books of All Time

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry takes place during the Depression in Mississippi. The story follows the Logan family, but most importantly, Cassie Logan as they attempt to navigate the injustices and racism that black people face in the south.  The Logan family, unlike many others, have their own land, something significant to their family.  This land gives them luxuries that many black southerners do not have.  Throughout the story, Cassie and her brother learn why this is important after a series of night riders and burnings.  They also learn how treatment differs between them and their white counterparts.

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is an essential contribution to literature and the African American experience. The book not only tells the story of an important part of history but how having a loving family can shape and mold Cassie and her brother’s identities.

On Sale
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
  • Taylor, Mildred D. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 04/12/2004 (Publication Date) - Puffin Books (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-14

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit

Tuck Everlasting is the story of Winnie Foster, an eleven-year-old girl who was kidnapped by Jesse Tuck and his family. Before being taken, Winnie lived in her family home and was watched by her Grandmother. However, she never explored beyond the gate of their yard. On her first venture out of the yard, she is spotted and kidnapped. They kidnap Winnie because she has found their secret, a spring which allows its drinkers to live forever.  Jesse and his family are over 500 years old.  Though she has been abducted, they soon win Winnie over, and she must help her new friends in the wake of their troubles.

Tucker Everlasting is a fictional fantasy that can be relatable to young readers.  Winnie initially lives stifled by the rules of her family and is met with the Tuck family who lives outside the realm of these rules.  The story is one of death and loyalty with an emphasis on growing up.  Many readers say that it is an engaging story, and some even call it a thoughtful fairytale.

Tuck Everlasting
  • 160 Pages, Ages 10-14
  • By Natalie Babbitt
  • Trade Paperback

Last update: 2024-06-15

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain 

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a literary classic.  It follows the adventures of two friends, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn.  The story takes place in Missouri, where we find Tom.  Tom lives with his aunt and brother Sid.   The account details Tom’s scam to get Sunday school tickets, his love for a new girl in town, Becky Thatcher and many more acts of mischief.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is said to be one of Mark Twain‘s most celebrated novels. The book is filled with symbolism and is an engaging yet fun read. The work is set in Mark Twain’s home state and is autobiographical as many of the characters are derived from his own life. Though Tom can be seen as a sneaky trickster, he, in essence, represents an all-American boy.  There are several themes present in this novel with the most prevalent being maturity, and in some instances, hypocrisy.

On Sale
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Twain, Mark (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 168 Pages - 12/04/2020 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-14

The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin

The Baby-Sitters Club series are the perfect books for growing young girls and one of the best book series for tweens.  The stories follow a group of girls, Kristin, Claudia, Mary Anne, Anastasia, Dawn, Mallory, Jessica, Abigail, Logan, and Shannon.  The girls all live in Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Much like the title, the girls run a babysitting business called the BabySitters club. Each of the novels is told from one of the respective girls and provide stories dealing with a multitude of issues that young growing girls face.  These include things like divorce, family drama, illness, relationships, and more.

The first book in the series is Kristy's Great Idea.  This book goes into depth on how the club starts and introduces readers to the four founding members of the Babysitters Club.  In total, there are 213 books with 131 of them being from the original series.  The books are great coming of age stories for young girls which they will find engaging and relatable.

On Sale
Baby-Sitters Club SET: Books 1-12
  • Ann M. Martin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 2100 Pages - 01/01/1997 (Publication Date) - Scholastic ( various publication dates) (1997) (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-15

The Value Picks for the Best Middle Grade Books of All Time

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bud Not Buddy is the story of Bud.  Bud is a ten-year-old boy who goes on a search to find his father.  However, the only thing Bud knows about him is what he thinks his mother told him.  Though she never explicitly said much, he feels as if he has a clue to run with.  Bud Not Buddy takes place in the thirties in Flint, Michigan. This book is a simple read, yet still a story of courage and bravery.  It is the winner of several literary medals and though fiction, highlights factual events including the Great Depression.

On Sale
Bud, Not Buddy: (Newbery Medal Winner)
  • Curtis, Christopher Paul (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 01/08/2002 (Publication Date) - Yearling (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-15

Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees centers around character Lily Owens.  Lily, whose mother was killed, is forced to flee her home after her mother figure, Rosaleen, angers the town’s biggest racists.  Taken in by three women, beekeepers, from her mother’s past, Lily begins to uncover stories of her mother’s history and the beauty in bees.  This strong trio of women forever changes her life.

The Secret Life of Bees is a compelling story engulfed in divine femininity. It encompasses racism, love, and the power of a strong female community.  This book is a fantastic read for female students as they grow into their womanhood. The book has sold millions, and it was even adapted into a motion picture.

The Secret Life of Bees
  • Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees: A Novel, paperback
  • Kidd, Sue Monk (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2024-06-14

The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

The Series of Unfortunate Events follows three siblings who are also known as the Baudelaire orphans.  The children, Sunny, Violet, and Claus all lead very dark and unfortunate lives in which minimal good happens to them.  After their parents are killed in a fire, the children are sent to live with Count Olaf, a distant relative.  As the series goes on the children uncover a variety of information about their parents and their family.

All the stories have a dark, gothic-like vibe.  They are told with massive amounts of sarcasm and dark humor. Book 1 provides the origins of the orphans and begins to tell the story of their family.  Many parents rave about how much their children enjoyed the story and want to purchase the set after merely reading the first book.

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
  • Snicket, Lemony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 05/06/2003 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-15

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars follows the story of a 16-year-old cancer patient, Hazel. Despite the shrinking of her cancerous tumor, Hazel’s condition is terminal.  To accept her diagnosis, Hazel attends a support group of other dying teenagers.  It is here where she meets and falls in love with Augustus Waters.

There are several themes present in the story, which include pain and suffering and even acceptance, as each teen must learn to accept their fate.  This story is bold and gut-wrenching but also funny, tragic, and even romantic.  Your child won’t be able to put it down.

The Fault in Our Stars
  • Green, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 04/08/2014 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-06-14

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is all about one teen’s journey through high school.  The book is told in a series of letters.  These letters are hard and sometimes disturbing.  They can also be pleasant and funny.  Charlie's stories are centered around all of his firsts which take place while in school.  These firsts include dates, friends, family drama, sex, and even drugs.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age story.  It recounts the experience of one boy as he grows and matures. This book is perfect for eighth graders to read as they make their transition into their teenage lives.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Excellent gift item
  • It is made up of premium quality material.

Last update: 2024-06-14

Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart is a three-book trilogy which includes Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath.  The three books follow the main character, Meggie.  Meggie’s life is forever changed when she realizes that she and her dad can speak life into fictional characters as they read aloud. This ability is referred to as Silvertongue.  The books follow the father, daughter duo as they begin to realize their powers as well as help and defeat characters which have sprung to life from the books.

The stories are whimsical and adventurous. Family is a major theme found in all of the books as well as friendship.  The books are full of fantasy and provide creative plot lines.  Many parents say that the plots are suspenseful and would make great gifts for older middle schoolers.

On Sale
Inkheart (Inkheart Trilogy, Book 1): Volume 1
  • Great product!
  • Funke, Cornelia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2024-06-14

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series follows the adventures of Greg Heffley and the Heffley family.  The stories are told through the use of Greg’s diary as he navigates through middle school.  The series of books follow Greg, his family, and his best friend Rowley as they deal with girls, bullies and growing up. In the first book, self-titled, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, we are introduced to Greg, his bf, his school, and even his problem.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a middle school favorite which is often assigned as summer reading or classroom reading.  The series illustrates the struggles of being a kid.  The books are filled with scribbles and handwritten notes much like those you would find in a real diary. The stories are not only available in print but online as well as in film.

On Sale
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1
  • Brand New in box. The product ships with all relevant accessories
  • Hardcover Book
  • Kinney, Jeff (Author)

Last update: 2024-06-15

Summary of the Best Middle Grade Books of All Time

Putting everything together, in this guide we reviewed the following:

Product Number Of Pages
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 176
The Classic Goosebumps Series 20 Books Collection Set N/A
The Boxcar Children Books 1-4 672
The Outsiders 224
Matilda 240
Mr. Popper's Penguins 160
The House on Mango Street 110
The Hate U Give 464
Tuck Everlasting 160
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 168
Baby-Sitters Club SET: Books 1-12 2100
Bud, Not Buddy 288
The Secret Life of Bees 352
The Fault in Our Stars 352
Inkheart (Inkheart Trilogy) 576
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 224
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry 288
Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography 240
The Perks of Being a Wallflower 224

There are a variety of books on this list for children with a multitude of interests.  For the horror lover, there is the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine yet for the mystery lover there is The Boxcar Children series.  If you are looking for books for a more advanced reader, The Outsiders or The House on Mango Street are two great options. Though these are just a few of the most popular middle school books, this is a great list to start with for yourself, your student, or your child.  The books on this list are great options to peek the interest of new readers. If you’re looking for summer reading or books to read aloud, look no further. These books come highly recommended by parents, teachers, and even students.

Looking for more grade specific lists? Check out our guides to the best 6th grade reading list, best 7th grade reading list, and best 8th grade reading list.

If you’re struggling to teach your kids about money, check out these book picks.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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