Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Books I Won't Let My Kids Grow Up Without -- Middle-Grade Fiction

I'm finally continuing my series of posts on books that I feel are essential for my kids to read, or at least try.  My list for Junior Fiction is here, and I intend to do lists of picture books, early readers, and YA in the future, as I have time.

This list is of what I think of as "Middle-Grade Fiction," books aimed at kids around ages 11-14.  Obviously, some kids might be ready for this level before age 11, and continue to enjoy these after they're older than 14.  I've read some of these aloud to my 4-, 6-, and 8-year-olds and they understood them well enough.  But 11-14 is the age group I think of as being ready for these, as regards to both reading level and emotional maturity.

Once again, this is entirely based on my own reading experiences and what I think my kids will be ready for in a few years.  I like most of these enough to own a copy.

Across Five Aprils and Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Anne of Green Gables and the entire series by L. M. Montgomery

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite d'Angeli
The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (I liked several books in the series)

The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

The Hound of the Baskervilles and the other Sherlock Holmes stories by A. Conan Doyle

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (and so many of his books are amazing!)

A Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
The Little House in the Big Woods and the rest of the series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Mother-Daughter Book Club and the rest of the series by Heather Vogel Frederick (though the kids age, so the rest of the series is aimed more at teens)
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (and the sequels are worth a read too)

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (and the whole series is fun)
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Where the Lilies Bloom by Bill and Vera Cleaver
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum 

There are sooooooo many good books for this age range, and I'm probably forgetting some I love.  But these are all such wonderful books, aren't they?

Do you have any recommendations for this age group? I'm always looking for more good books!


  1. No "A Wrinkle in Time"? Or is that an older book? And "The Chronicles of Prydain"?

    1. I read both of those when I was that age!

    2. Terrible confession: I've read 3 or 4 of L'Engle's books and wasn't very interested in or charmed by any of them. Which is why they aren't on my personal "must" list. However, I've never tried the Prydain books, and will have to look into those. Thanks!

  2. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh . . . so many old friends on this list :-)

    "The Good Master" by Kate Seredy is another book I really loved when I was around 11. Also, "The Winged Watchman" by Hilda van Stockum is SO GOOD (it's about a family living in the Netherlands in WW2).

    1. Jessica, I remember liking "The Good Master" fairly well. Haven't heard of "The Winged Watchman" before -- thanks for the recommendation!

    2. I also really want to read "The Borrowed House" by Hilda van Stockum (another WW2 novel), but have never gotten a chance yet. She's a fantastic author.

    3. My TBR list just gets longer and longer...

  3. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I've read only two of these - Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes, and neither one I appreciated at the time. LOL! I wonder if different generations each have their must-read books, or if it's simply reader preference based on what each individual grew up on?

    1. DKoren, probably some of it is different generations -- possibly some of these didn't exist when you were this age. But it's also reader preference, I'm sure!

    2. Yeah, I haven't even heard of most of those, so might have come out after I was an adult. And my reading experience was unusual, in that I seem to have jumped from young books to adult books. Age 11 was when I discovered Alistair MacLean, and that was that. Piers Anthony followed, and if it wasn't MacLean or scifi/fantasy, I didn't read it. I still have all the books I owned from childhood on through high school, and I was just scanning my shelves looking for this level of book, and there really aren't any.

    3. You know, I feel like Junior Fiction and Middle Grade Fiction are kind of recent phenomenons. I mean, there were books for these age levels before -- Bobbsey Twins, Happy Hollisters, Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc. -- but not so very many like we have now. Maybe?

  4. I love children's fiction and have a huge list of books that I have read over the years. It's easily 600+ titles. When I was growing up I could read a stack of books in a week. I have read many of the books on this list. Love that you have The Wheel on the School on here! I also like "Far Up the Long Canal" by her. Have you read any by Elizabeth Enright? I love her Melendy family series. The Mitchells series by van Stockum is also excellent. Both "Enemy Brothers" and "The Reb and the Redcoats" by Constance Savory also remain always at the top of my list. And "Tom's Midnight Garden" by Phillipa Pearce. I could go on and on...

    1. Phyl, that's awesome! I was the same -- my library limit was I could only take out as many books as I myself could carry without dropping.

      I haven't read "Far Up on the Long Canal," but I'll look for it.

      I've got the Melendy books on the junior fiction list I did a couple months back. So delightful!

      The others you mention, I haven't read, but I'll see if the library has any of them. Thanks!

  5. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White! (MY favorite book as a child.) :-) Little Women, The Tales of Beatrix Potter (perhaps better for your Junior Fiction list), Tarzan of the Apes...

    1. Jillian, I've got two of E.B. White's books on the junior fiction list I posted a couple months ago, but not Charlotte's Web because that one always made me grumpy, and also... I don't like spiders. Yes, these lists are subjective.

      Little Women will pop up on the YA list.

      Beatrix Potter I've always associated with younger kids, though I'm not sure why. It would work for junior fiction too.

      Tarzan I think of more for teens, though really, it would probably work here too. In fact, come to think of it, my son might dig those soon.

  6. "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" I think that's the title and spelling. Great book about a brother and sister who intentionally get locked in a museum and live there while sleuthing a literary mystery. Reminds me of a cross between two movies: The Terminal, and DaVinci Files, only aimed at 'tweens in a pre-computerized world.

    Also loved 'Champions Don't Cry', but it may be out of print. Good story about a girl trying hard to be a tennis champ, despite setbacks.

    Black Beauty & Black Stallion.

    Nancy Drew series. Devoured the whole series during my fifth grade year.

    Mary Poppins and Bambi - both books a bit harder edged than Disney's iterations as cartoons, especially Bambi. I read it as a 7-year old, and some of imagery of the human/animal interactions (scary, heartless hunters vs humane hikers) still remains.

    Toby Tyler. (And his dog run away to join the circus.)

    Freckles. (A disabled boy and how he fits into turn-of-the-century society.)

    Mrs. Mike (true-life story of a woman who married a Yukon man and moved to Alaska when it was a frontier territory.)

    Peter Pan! Loved that book. Also 101 Dalmations.

    And you mentioned Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved, loved, loved that series. Bought it for my daughter, but she was already kidnapped by the computer, and I worked nights, so we both missed out big time. I really loved Farmer Boy.

    All of these stories come with life lessons, and none are icky-poo sweet. Oh, forgot to mention the Hardy Boys!

    Sorry for the long post. Shouldn't ask a reader for her suggestions! LOL!

    1. RICO! Is it you, my friend??? Hello!!!! I want to hug you. Imagine I'm hugging you right now.

      I love The Mixed-Up Files... and The Black Stallion -- both are on the list of junior fiction books I posted here a couple months ago.

      I should probably have put both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys here. I loved the latter more, but I read all of both series I could find.

      I remember Toby Tyler!

      The Mary Poppins books always freaked me out a little, though they freaked my mom out more, I think. I was always miffed they weren't as funny as the movie. Bambi depressed me.

      Farmer Boy is my favorite of the Laura books too!!!

      And yes, Peter Pan and 101 Dalmations -- how did I leave those off? And Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang by James Bond's own Ian Fleming -- so much better than the movie.

      I love long comments! Especially from you :-)

  7. Lilies of the Field. City At World's End (sci-fi), and yes, A Wrinkle In Time is a must-read.

    1. Do you mean Lilies of the Field by William Edmund Barrett, or Where the Lilies Bloom by Bill and Vera Cleaver? If the latter, I'm putting that on the YA list.

      And yes, yes, I know I should put A Wrinkle in Time on here. I just didn't think of it because I've never managed to like it much.

  8. Love this list!

    Anne of Green Gables, The Bronze Bow, Doctor Dolittle, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Sherlock Holmes, Little House on the Prairie, A Little Princess, Peter and the Starcatchers, Pollyanna, The Wheel on the School, Where the Red Fern Grows, and The Wizard of Oz are all so much fun.

    My mom has read has read at least 11 of these to me or my siblings.

    Hmmmm, as for recommendations-- Mara, Daughter of the Nile and The Hobbit. :)

    1. Thanks, Meredith! You and your mom have good taste ;-)

      I've been hearing a lot of good things about Mara, Daughter of the Nile, and it's on my TBR list. I actually put The Hobbit on my junior fiction list instead because it seems like people who read it first when they're ten or younger tend to love it more than those who come to it older.


  9. I remember 5 Little Peppers :^)
    I took up the family tradition with my older step daughter grades 1-4. Her absolute favorite were the Harry Potter books. The ones read by herself were the Lemony Snickitt
    series.The books are short, so she didn't feel overwhelmed by them.The Potter books just looked Too Big.

    When I was young, no older than 10, someone gave me an enormous box of what was dozens of 'board books.' They weren't like today's toddler books. They had full color heavy covers,were a 100 pages or so, very cheap paper that cracked as you turned the pages. They've turned to dust now. Maybe I can track them down.The 2 series I remember were Brenda Starr and Trixie Belden. Trixie was a clever teen who solved mysteries by her wits.Brenda was a journalist who solved them with a little secret of her own:by pressing a nerve in her wrist, she became invisible. There was a 3rd Series - Honey something.Plus all sorts of singles like WWll combat dogs.Have any of you seen any of these? If the paper has been boxed up in an attic or a dry cellar.maybe they're salvagable.

    This middle age is the range when I got involved in World mythology which is still with me.

    1. Kelda, I Can't Wait to introduce my kids to the world of Harry Potter. Really really really really looking forward to that :-)

      I loved Trixie Belden! An older girl cousin of mine gave me her collection when she went to college -- like the first 30 books! I was just the right age for them too, and devoured them. I've always liked her better than Nancy Drew. Nancy was a leeetle too prim for my taste, I guess.

  10. Yes! This is such a good idea! Most of these books I have on my shelf and reread to this day, and I hope that one day my children will want to read them as well.

    1. Laura, that's awesome! I've been buying up books for all ages since I was a kid, saving them to re-read myself and for my own kids in the future. (I've also been convinced since childhood that one day I would have to move Far Away, and would need to take All The Good Books along with me. That hasn't happened yet, but you never know.) It's been so fun as my three discover these stories I love! And they don't love all of them, but I figure with three kids, the odds of each book getting enjoyed by at least one kid are fairly good.


What do you think?

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)