Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bookmarks: Realistic Middle-Grade Fiction

I can't keep up. I'm constantly on the look-out for good books for my children to read. But unless the recommendation comes from someone who I know has the same book values as me, I want to pre-read the books before giving them to my children. But after finally getting a book read and handing it to my children, they have it read in one afternoon and I'm back to looking for more books.

I know many of you are in the same fix. I'm sharing some of the books I have preread in the last few years in case it is helpful for your own book quests.

These are what I consider middle-grade novels since my children are 2nd to 7th grade. My list was too long for one post so I'm splitting it into realistic, fantasy, and historical fiction posts. Today's list contains some great books that will help your child gain an understanding for children who live in various life circumstances from blindness to foster care and various parts of the world from Oman to Alaska.

This is only a small number of the great books that are out there. As always, I'm hoping that you will share your favorite books with me.

The Seventeenth Swap by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Eric has no money, but he longs to buy a pair of cowboy boots for his handicapped friend. A warm story with lots of twists.

The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye
Aref doesn't want to move to Michigan, but Sidi says, that just like the turtles, Aref will come back. As Aref says good-bye to all the things he loves about living in Oman, we get to visit his home. A warm book to introduce a child to another nation through the eyes of a child.

We The Children by Andrew Clements
Is there a way to save Benjamin's school from demolition? Secret messages and codes will take Benjamin and his friends on a quest. First book in the Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series.

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally has hidden her inability to read by causing distractions, but her new teacher will not be easily fooled. Perfect book for anyone who has felt like a misfit or who wants to read a hopeful book on the power of a good teacher. I had my children read this to understand their brother's dyslexia.

The Boy Who Biked the World by Alastair Humphreys
Tom dreams of being an explorer. He decides to make his dreams come true and bike around the world from his home in England. A great way to learn geography. Part One tells of biking to Africa. Though the book is fiction, the author himself actually biked around the world.

The Worm Whisperer by Betty Hicks
Ellis longs to help earn money to pay for his dad's back surgery. When he finds a woolly worm who seems to follow his directions he plans to enter the annual Woolly Worm Race to win the $1,000 prize.

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
None of the teachers have stayed in Fred's village long. Would the smell of fish, the loneliness of the Alaskan village, or the challenges of teaching send Miss Agnes away too?

Canyon Winter by Walt Morey
After the plane crash, Peter needs to learn how to survive in the wilderness with the help of old Omar. Peter finds he has more courage than he expected.

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements
Abby is going to have to repeat sixth grade unless she completes some extra credit -including writing to a foreign pen pal. When her letter arrives in a small Afghanistan school, Sadeed's sister is chosen to write to Abby. Jumping from American to Afghanistan this book shows the connection words can bring. This book is one of Clement's school series.

Star Island Boy by Louise Dickinson Rich
Larry arrived at Star Island determined not to like his new home. But maybe the lobster-fishermen on this Maine island are different than his other foster families. Note: small amount of swearing.

Follow My Leader by James B. Garfield
An accident with a firecracker turned Jimmy's world to darkness. How would he learn to cope with blindness? Leader, his guide dog, helped Jimmy learn to function in the new world. Great book to help appreciate the gift of sight and includes a good example of loving your enemy. Note: mild swearing.

Birthdays, Christmas, fishing, and fun with cousins in a little Swedish community.

The Year of the Baby by Andrea Cheng

Anna needs to find a topic for the science fair, but her mom is worried that their newly adopted baby from China is not gaining. Can Anna and her friends help?

Find more book recommendations on the book page.

This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Some of my favorite (and appropriate) young adult books are:
    Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli
    Boston Jane books (there are three) by Jennifer L. Holm
    Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
    Lyddie by Katherine Patterson.

    They are girl books but wonderful adventure books with good morals for middle school aged girls.
    Happy Reading!

    1. Thanks! I never read any of these so I'll be looking them up!

  2. I read your blog but have never commented until today. I am 67 yrs young and I read Follow My Leader when I was around 12. What a lasting gift to have read that book for I often think of it.....it made such a impression. Thank you for allowing me to comment.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Follow My Leader is that kind of book.

  3. I hope I am not recommending books which you have recommended here previously. If so, I apologize. Here are three books I suggest:
    1) Miracles on Maple Hill, Virginia Sorensen

    2) Ready-Made Family, Frances Salomon Murphy

    3)Runaway Alice/A Nickel For Alice, Frances Salomon Murphy
    (from Bonny)

    1. Thanks so much for your suggestions. I remember reading Runaway Alice when I was a girl and enjoying it so much that I started writing a sequel - which lasted for one page!

  4. Striped Ice Cream is the story of a little girl who lives in a city with her family. American's Civil Rights movement is described through a child's eyes, and so is the family's life when it seems there's never enough money. The little girl has one fond wish for her birthday, but does anyone even remember her special day? This was written by Joan M. Lexau.

    Another story of family rising above their material circumstances, of self-sacrifice, and of perseverance and of setting a good example is by Margaree King Mitchell and James e. Ransome, Uncle Jed's Barbershop.

    Gina, your search function isn't coming up when I visit your site. Is it still available?

    1. Thanks for the book suggestions. And thanks for letting me know that the search box disappeared. I restored it and hope it works now.

  5. I read All of a Kind Family by Sidney Taylor again and again when I was a little girl. I loved how it opened up another time and another life for me. The characters are so relatable.
    Another one I loved and cried over was Welcome Home Jellybean by Marlene Fanta Shyer. It is about a boy with a handicapped sister and how he comes to love and accept her. I don't know if my boys have read it yet but my daughter loves it as much as I did!

    1. I too loved All-of-a-kind Family - but Welcome Home Jellybean is a new title to me.

  6. The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff
    The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald
    General Butterfingers by John Reynolds Gardiner
    Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
    Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
    In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robison by Bette Bao Lord
    I love finding new treasures, too. :)

  7. We love some of those, too, but a lot of your recommendations are new to me. Wish we had better libraries here!

    1. Does your library do interlibrary loan? That is how I get lots of books that my own library doesn't carry.

  8. Do you use Goodreads? They have lists of books for 8-12 year old readers. You can check the reviews if something sounds interesting.

    1. I'm not on Goodreads. But I'm sure I would enjoy it. At this point I don't need one more excuse to be online!

    2. I don't really consider it an online time waster like many of the other things out there. It is more of a service... It just takes a second to look up a book, add it to your to read list or quick check a review. I use it all the time for work, along with regular library websites to vet books. Yesterday a parent dropped off a box of 50+ books to donate...I don't have time to read them all. If it is a publisher I know and trust, then OK, but mainstream publishers i.e. non Christian ones, might have content that our school would not want to endorse.

      You can if you are interested join groups of like minded readers and then you would be coming up with ideas more in line with your own, rather than the regular public. It is also clean and no advertising.

      For my personal use, I use it just as a private list to keep track of what I have read and want to read.

    3. Thanks for the info. I'm always afraid that it will be too difficult for me to figure out without a lot of time invested but it sounds like it would be valuable.

  9. I can relate! Kylie is waiting for me to read "Julie of the Wolves" right now... so she can!
    Glad to see some recommendations on your list that I've never heard of!
    Here are some of our loved fiction...
    "Getting Near to Baby"- Couloumbis
    "The Trumpet of the Swan"- E.B. White- esp. the recording
    "The Hundred Dresses"-Estes
    "Stone Fox"- John Reynolds Gardiner- prepare to cry
    "Hank the Cowdog"- esp. the recordings... some language issues
    "The Gypsy Girl"-?- out of print, personal favorite
    "Tirzah"- Lucille Travis
    "The Golden Goblet"- Eloise McGraw
    Books by Kenneth Tomasma on Native American children
    Mik-Shrock, Charlie, 77Zebra", and
    "The Mystery of the Indian Carvings:-Gloria Repp
    Books by Mildred D. Taylor- wildly loved by our children
    "Homer Price"- Robert McClosky
    "The Sign of the Beaver"- Elizabeth George Speare
    "A Single Shard"-Linda Sue Park
    "Bristle Face"- Zachary Ball- why are the boy and dog books so sad?!
    Lois Lenski's books
    "The Borrowers" and "The Littles" books
    Patricia St. John's books
    "The Secret Cave"- Clare Bishop
    "The Wheel on the School"- DeJong- personal favorite

    1. Thanks Wendy! There are some here that I haven't read!

    2. Wendy, thank you for loving my books! I can't express what it means to an author to see that. Encouraging! You may be interested in my recent middle-grade mystery, SECRETS AT SILVER PINES INN, which is available on Amazon. ~ Gloria

    3. Glad to encourage you! Keep on!

  10. Have you ever read the Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard? They are published by Bethany House Publishers. I really enjoyed the series when I was young, and my grandma and aunt also liked reading them as well.

  11. This suggestion should probably be in Christmas books for children but it's a heartwarming read anytime. Christmas Oranges by Linda Bethers. A story about how a group of orphans discover the real meaning of Christmas.

  12. 'Summer of the Monkeys'is a wonderful book! Books by Elizabeth Enright were favorites of ours growing up.....especially the ones about the Melendy's. It's been a long time since I've read them but if I remember right they have some very mild bad language. 'From Anna' by Jean Little is a wonderful book about a little girl with vision problems that no one understood. Actually all of the books by Jean Little that I have read are very good!

  13. Thank you for the suggestions! Have you looked at the Sonlight catalogue? Lots of great suggestions there, and many are available at the library.

  14. Have you ever checked out Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson? Its a book of book recommendations. It is Christian however I did find the odd book that I still wasn't comfortable with- of course everyone has different levels of comfort. But it would give lots of ideas for things to check out. Have you ever read the Grandma's Attic series? For younger kids but we are reading them right now.

  15. Be careful with Julie of the wolves...I read it ahead of time since it was on a homeschool book list...I liked it myself except that I got rid of it because it includes a section about the arranged marriage which includes a mention of intimate adult-type situation. I had read it in middle school myself and not remembered that part...glad I pre-read it!


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