October 23rd, 2017


Booklist: Middle School Must-Haves

Kim, a middle school teacher, requested a booklist for middle schoolers. I started listing away and had to stop myself before I hit 100 books. Then I typed this up and just keep going.

Please feel free to ask for additional titles and/or more information about any of the books I have listed below.

First, the absolute must-haves: realistic comedies and dramas set in middle school or with characters in that age group.

Contemporary Realistic Fiction
(alphabetical by author)
Just as Long as We're Together by Judy Blume
Here's to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume
Leap of Faith by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Being Bindy by Alyssa Brugman
The Steps by Rachel Cohn
Two Steps Forward by Rachel Cohn
Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClements
Where I'd Like To Be by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Shug by Jenny Han
Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm, artwork and illustrations by Elicia Castaldi, additional artwork by Matthew Holm
- Sequel: Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Elicia Castaldi
The Creek by Jennifer L. Holm
The Misfits by James Howe
Calli Be Gold by Michele Weber Hurwitz
The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss
The Truth About Sixth Grade by Colleen O'Shaughnessy McKenna
Sixth-Grade Glommers, Norks, and Me by Lisa Papademetriou
Confectionately Yours series by Lisa Papademetriou
Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters
The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers
Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar
Yours Truly, Skye O'Shea by Megan Shull
Skye's the Limit! by Megan Shull
The Broccoli Tapes by Jan Slepian
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
Multiple Choice by Janet Tashjian
Tru Confessions by Janet Tashjian
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter by Kristen Tracy
Sequel: Bessica Lefter Bites Back by Kristen Tracy
Too Cool for This School by Kristen Tracy
Project (Un)Popular by Kristen Tracy
Sequel: Totally Crushed by Kristen Tracy
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Click Here (To Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade) by Denise Vega
Standing for Socks by Elissa Brent Weissman

. . . and series:

The Zibby Payne series by Alison Bell
#1 Zibby Payne and the Wonderful, Terrible Tomboy Experiment
#1 Zibby Payne and the Drama Trauma
#3 Zibby Payne and the Party Problem
#4 Zibby Payne and the Trio Trouble
#5 Zibby Payne and the Red Carpet Revolt

Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry
- Anastasia Krupnik
- Anastasia Again!
- Anastasia At Your Service
- Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst
- Anastasia on her Own
- Anastasia has the Answers
- Anastasia's Chosen Career
- Anastasia at this Address
- Anastasia Absolutely

The Alice McKinley series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
There are over twenty books in this series, following Alice from third grade through high school. Here are the titles set in middle school:
- The Agony of Alice
- Alice in Rapture, Sort of
- Reluctantly Alice
- All but Alice
- Alice in April
- Alice In-Between
- Alice the Brave
- Alice in Lace
- Outrageously Alice
- Achingly Alice
- Alice on the Outside
- The Grooming of Alice (the summer between middle school and high school)

Fantasy/Mystery/Science Fiction Series
Magic Zero quartet by Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski
#1 Magic Zero
#2 Dragon Secrets
#3 Ghostfire
#4 Battle for Arcanum

Owlboy series by Thomas E. Sniegoski, illustrated by Eric Powell
#1 Billy Hooten, Owlboy
#2 The Girl with the Destructo Touch
#3 Tremble at the Terror of Zis-Boom-Bah
#4 The Flock of Fury

The Brimstone Network series by Thomas E. Sniegoski
#1 The Brimstone Network
#2 The Shroud of A'ranka
#3 Specter Rising

Ghost trilogy by Bruce Coville
#1 The Ghost in the Third Row
#2 The Ghost Wore Gray
#3 The Ghost in the Brass Bed

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
#1 The Golden Compass (published overseas as Northern Lights)
#2 The Subtle Knife
#3 The Amber Spyglass
- Lyra's Oxford (short story, taking place after Spyglass)
- Once Upon a Time in the North (prequel)
- The Book of Dust (which may not be out until 2010)

The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane
#1 So You Want to Be a Wizard
#2 Deep Wizardry
#3 High Wizardry
#4 A Wizard Abroad
#5 The Wizard's Dilemma
#6 A Wizard Alone
#7 Wizard's Holiday
#8 Wizards at War
#9 Wizard on Mars

Fantasy/Science Fiction Stand-Alone Titles
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Sisters, Long Ago by Peg Kehret
The Wish by Gail Carson Levine

Mystery Must-Have
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

. . . and stock up on these authors!

John Bellairs books, including The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt
Mary Downing Hahn books, including The Doll in the Garden
Margaret Peterson Haddix books, including Among the Hidden (the first in the Shadow Children series), Just Ella, and Turnabout

The Anne Shirley octet by L.M. Montgomery
#1 Anne of Green Gables
#2 Anne of the Island
#3 Anne of Avonlea
#4 Anne of Windy Poplars
#5 Anne's House of Dreams
#6 Anne of Ingleside
#7 Rainbow Valley
#8 Rilla of Ingleside

All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor
- All-of-a-Kind Family
- More All-of-a-Kind Family
- All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown
- All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown
- Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
White Fang by Jack London
Call of the Wild by Jack London

Various titles by Noel Streatfeild, including
- Ballet Shoes
- Dancing Shoes
- Theatre Shoes

Historical Fiction
Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy
Runaround by Helen Hemphill
Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance by Marthe Jocelyn
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Maggie Valley Trilogy by Kerry Madden
- Gentle's Holler
- Louisiana's Song
- Jessie's Mountain
Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller
A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
(See the classics section above for even more historical fiction!)

Favorite Series
Nancy Drew
The Hardy Boys
The Baby-Sitters Club
Sweet Valley Twins (easy reads, yes, but far more appropriate for middle schoolers than the Sweet Valley series set in high school and college)
Junior High (which is sadly out-of-print)

Kim also asked for a shorter list for a specific boy, so I drew this up:

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Related Booklists: Gifted Middle School Readers, Clean Reads for Early Teens, If Then for Middle School, Male Protagonists in Juvenile Fiction


Totally Crushed by Kristen Tracy

All I wanted was a happy life. With my best friend. And my sister. And a great Halloween costume. And for Javier to be a better leader. And no more tasks. And an A on my Lake Pend Oreille presentation. And get As in all my classes. And all my Big Boo pictures to turn out. And also the thing with Drea and Hayes to be ancient history. I hardly wanted anything at all.

Kristen Tracy's novel Project (Un)Popular introduced readers to Perry, a seventh grade girl who was super excited to join the yearbook staff alongside her best friend, Venice. Then they met Anya, an intimidating eighth grader who tried to boss them around and get the yearbook to focus on popular kids. Perry was determined to make sure the unpopular kids got their fair share of coverage, too - even if it upset the popular older kids and made her lower on the popularity totem pole in the process.

Perry's misadventures continue in Totally Crushed, a totally worthy sequel. Social interaction can be tricky no matter how old you are, and it can definitely be tricky when you're in middle school. With her older sister off at college and her best friend dating a boy, Perry feels more alone than ever. Then a geeky girl befriends her sister (and borrows her clothes!), a boy she doesn't really like seems to have a crush on her, and her duties at yearbook keep piling on. Between the yearbook photos, school projects, social media, parental interaction, and Halloween events, it's all a little overwhelming. Perry has a great mix of good intentions and honest reactions, which get her both in and out of trouble, and Kristen Tracy's signature sense of humor is a lot of fun. If you're looking for some fun books to put in the hands of pre-teen readers, snatch up those two titles and keep your fingers crossed for a third!