Looking for the top middle grade books for your readers? We’ve compiled a list of the best books based on reviews from Goodreads users!
What are middle grade books?
But first, what is middle grade? Middle grade books usually are intended for kids between 8 and 12 years old. Some see this category as one that middle graders read, thus the name. But really, anyone can read anything they like and enjoy, no matter the age.
Reka Simonsen, executive editor at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, describes middle grade in a way that it “deals with the things kids are going through at those ages: friendships made and lost, family relationships changing, physical changes, a wide range of school experiences, and a growing awareness of the wide world outside of oneself and the injustices it often contains.”
Sometimes these books get incorrectly categorized. Like Simonsen says, middle grade often deals with particular things. When a book has a more complex and darker theme, often it gets categorized as young adult. But let’s not forget that you have to take in mind every piece of the puzzle. The age, the setting, the emotions behind actions, the feeling that the novel gives you, etc. If it has a more complex theme, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a middle grade book. Let’s not disrespect the category. People say “it’s for kids” like it’s something not worth their time, something “less than”. The intended age range doesn’t make it less important than the popular adult books.
Defining the Top Middle Grade Books
So how are we going to find out about the top middle grade books? I’m following the model of a previous post and navigating Goodreads in its entirety. To qualify for this list, books needs to have an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars and at least 4,000 ratings. In the case of the last category, which is the top middle grade books published in 2019, I’m adding the top titles even though they might have less than 4,000 ratings.
When it comes to series, I’m only including the first book. One single author can have a lot of top books, we know this, so I’m adding only one book per author. As for categories, we know that there are thousands and thousands of books out there, so I’m categorizing in various lists so we get a good variety of books.
Worth noting that I’m not including Harry Potter because time and time again the author has shown she is very problematic, even if the series is very dear to readers. So let’s see which are the top middle grade books on Goodreads, alright?
Top Classic Middle Grade Books
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
One of the most beloved middle grade series, I didn’t know how to include The Chronicles of Narnia. This was the first book published but as we know, chronologically, this is not the first book—that’s The Magician’s Nephew. With an average rating of 4.21 and 1,975,998 ratings, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is at the top of everyone’s list.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
It recently had a movie adaptation and with reason, because the fanbase is huge. The average rating is 4.0 with 993,142 ratings. 72% of those ratings are of 4–5 stars, which says a lot. A Wrinkle in Time is a classic that won’t be forgotten.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Who remembers the movie? Whenever you find it on TV you can’t help but stop and watch it from beginning to end. Roald Dahl has written your favorite kids’ movies, and if you didn’t know, Matilda is one of them. The average rating is 4.31 with 558,757 ratings.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I have a deep love for this story and Anne Shirley-Cuthbert. I became a fan because of the Netflix series Anne with an E, but soon after, I read the first two or three books of the series and I couldn’t help but want more and more. With a 4.25 average rating and 662,517 ratings following it, the story of the orphan Anne is one that we cannot stop loving each time we pick it up.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The creepy story of Coraline has many, many fans. An average rating of 4.06 and 437,731 ratings? This dear-to-our-hearts horror middle grade novel definitely left an impression on us.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Are you already crying after seeing the name of this book? Because I am. It left a hole in my heart and years later, I’m still not over it. Bridge to Terabithia has a wonderful movie adaptation that they should never remake to be honest. The book is so beloved by the population; having an average rating of 4.0 with 409,823 ratings
Top Contemporary Middle Grade Books
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The story of August Pullman is one you have to read. Many have!!! The average rating is 4.45 and it has 634,608 ratings to go with that big number.
I remember reading this, and owning one of my first books in English. It will bring out many emotions: sadness, happiness, joy, anger, desperation, and more. But every single moment reading it is a wonder-ful moment.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Finding a new best friend, a dog named Winn-Dixie, inside the supermarket will change Opal’s life. Because of Winn-Dixie, she will meet friends and have stories about her new hometown. It has a 4.04 average rating and 186,327 ratings.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
This book has a 4.10 average rating and 127,224 ratings. For the ones who have younger siblings and felt the sudden change of attention when they were born, Peter understands you. His little brother Fudge gets away with everything and he’s only three years old!
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Melody has cerebral palsy but it doesn’t define her. She’s going to let everyone know – somehow.
Out of My Mind has a 4.38 average rating, with 95,155 ratings. 85% of those ratings are 4-5 stars, of people who deeply enjoyed this novel and have taken a piece of it into their hearts.
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
With a 4.16 average rating and 54,410 ratings, Counting by 7s tells the wonderful story of Willow Chance, a 12-year-old genius who finds comfort with counting by 7s. When her adoptive parents suddenly die in an accident, she is left alone in this strange world where she will have to learn how to push through.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally has dyslexia, but she has gone undiagnosed for a long time, so she really thinks that she’s just dumb and can’t read. When her new teacher sees underneath the trouble maker, Ally’s confidence begins to grow. Fish in a Tree has a 4.28 average rating and 37,206 ratings.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Crossover is a novel written in verse where 12-year-old Josh Bell tells his family’s story through it. He’s good at basketball, but he’s also very good at making mad beats.
This novel has an average rating of 4.26 with 36,606 ratings. You can never go wrong with a Kwame Alexander novel.
George by Alex Gino
George is recommended so much and beloved a lot more, and I couldn’t agree more. It has a 4.05 average rating and 25,725 ratings. It’s the story of George, a trans girl who wants to be Charlotte in her class play of Charlotte’s Web, but her teacher is not letting her. With the help of her best friend, she’s going to come up with a plan to make her dream come true.
Top Fantasy Middle Grade Books
The Lighting Thief by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson is everywhere. It had movie adaptations, there is also a musical, and lots of graphic novels. But everything started back here: Percy finding out he’s a demigod. I absolutely love and adore this series and everything that came after (the sequels, the spin-offs, the new series that only mention Percy briefly).
The Lighting Thief is the first book in the series and it has 4.25 average rating with 1,799,340 ratings.
The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Chris Colfer is a Golden Globe winner because of his role as Kurt Hummel on Glee. He also writes bestselling books like The Wishing Spell. Filled with lots of magic and adventures, The Wishing Spell has an average rating of 4.23 and 85,584 ratings.
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
If you love fantasy books with princes, impersonators, and a competition, The False Prince might just be the right book for you. It has a 4.22 average rating with 67,256 ratings. It’s worthy to note that the next books in the series all have average ratings above 4.0 with a lot of ratings as well.
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
The School for Good and Evil has such an interesting concept that I can’t get enough of. Imagine a school for good and evil, to make fairytale heroes and villains. Agatha and Sophie, best friends, are about to find out their destinies.
The start of this series has an average rating of 4.02 and 55,752 ratings.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
A magical book with dragons, witches, and a moonlight-filled girl will enchant you and your life really quickly. The Girl Who Drank the Moon has an average rating of 4.18 with 39,087 ratings.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
This fantastical tale will take you on the adventure of your dreams. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon introduces Minli, a young girl who believes all her father’s tales about the Old Man of the Moon and the Jade Dragon. Are you ready to meet them all? It has an average rating of 4.27 and 33,033 ratings.
Top Middle Grade Books Published in 2019
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
Coyote and her dad haven’t been home in five years. Not after her mom and sisters died in a car crash. But when Coyote finds out her neighborhood’s park is going to be demolished, she creates this plan to travel 3,600 miles back without her father knowing…
This novel is the one with the most ratings in 2019, excluding graphic novels. It has an average rating of 4.51 with 4,680 ratings.
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Told entirely in verse, Other Words for Home is going to follow Jude and her life after she leaves Syria with her mother, and later gets to America with the idea of how it’s going to be—and finds out it’s something she didn’t expect. This middle grade novel has a 4.45 average rating and 3,776 ratings.
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds is a powerhouse in the literary world. His newest novel, Look Both Ways, is a brilliant tale told in ten stories from various perspectives of characters who know each other and go to the same school. This book has an average rating of 4.07 and 2,880 ratings.
The Unteachables by Gordon Korman
The synopsis of this book reminded me so much of the manga Assassination Classroom. It doesn’t feature any fantastical elements, tho, but what made me think of it is about a class of misfits or notorious students who do everything wrongly. They’re assigned a teacher who is worse than them and slowly will learn more about themselves.
This book has an average rating of 4.27 with 2,550 ratings.
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
The Bridge Home tells the story of Viji and Rukku, two sisters who run away to live on their own under a bridge. There they find friends and with it, a family. But soon after, things take a turn for the worst. The Bridge Home has an average rating of 4.33 and 3,003 ratings.
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Iris is the only deaf person in her school and she feels more alone than ever. But when she finds out that there is a whale who is unable to speak to others, she understands how that feels and decides to help him! Song for a Whale has an average rating of 4.26 and 1,919 ratings.
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
Sal and Gabi is one of Rick Riordan Presents books. Expect lots of fun humor, adventures, epic quests, friendship and lots of myths!
Sal and Gabi has an average rating of 4.20 with 1,493 ratings.
The Line Tender by Kate Allen
This beautiful and hopeful story of sharks, family and unlikely friendships has an average rating of 4.29 and 1,400 ratings that tells us this story is going to make us feel so much.
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
This hilarious middle grade novel starts when a butler appears at Carter Jones’s house. From there on, his life turns upside down and he has live with this know-it-all adult. This title has a 4.09 average rating and 1,294 ratings.
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
Dear Sweet Pea is Julie Murphy’s debut middle grade novel. You might know her as the one who wrote Dumplin’ and Ramona Blue. What can you expect going into this book? A 15-pound cat, an eccentric neighbor who also happens to be the town’s famed advice columnist, and a girl who is finding it really hard to know how to be, now that her parents are divorced.
This novel has an average rating of 4.08 with 1,180 ratings.
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
Genesis Begins Again is Alicia D. Williams’s debut novel that you need to pick up. This book talks about colorism inside the Black community as well as what it’s like living with a parent who verbally abuses you. This book has a 4.35 average rating and 1,121 ratings.
A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison
A Pinch of Magic will bring together three sisters who want to break an ancient curse that has been connected to their family. With an average rating of 4.14 and 1,107 ratings, this book is a must if you enjoy fantasy novels!
A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee
Some rules are worth breaking. Shay’s life is about following the rules. She wants to have everything in order, but when she enters junior high, everything changes.
A Good Kind of Trouble has an average rating of 4.23 and 1,092 ratings.
It’s important to note that when I was searching for the books for this list, most of the ones with the high ratings were by white authors. The really popular white authors. There were many authors of color that had high rating books but not enough for me to include them before the other ones.
I decided to make the last category because I know the publishing industry is changing and the book community is changing each day. I was happy to find books by authors of color for this list and I hope for this new year we can see a change too.