FANTASY / SCIENCE FICTION
OutCast by Christopher Golden and Thomas Sniegoski - Everything and everyone in the world has magic . . . except for 12-year-old Timothy. A four book series, starting with The Un-Magician. Good guys (and girls), bad guys, dragons, warriors, inventions, and more. Give this to avid readers who enjoy action-packed fantasy series and to reluctant readers who like Star Wars.
The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende - An imaginative, amazing book! Very long, very deep, so if it's too much for him on his own, read it aloud and trade off reading duty every few pages!
Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary - Start with the aforementioned title and prepare yourself for innocent hijinks with a boy and his dog. Ribsy is adorable. Companion to the Ramona Quimby series.
Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary - Otis is a third-grade goof. Companion to the book Ellen Tebbits.
Ralph trilogy by Beverly Cleary - A mouse, a motorcycle, and many adventures.
I, Houdini by Lynne Reid Banks - An escape-artist hamster has plenty of stories to tell.
Wayside School books by Louis Sachar - Start with Sideways Stories for Wayside School. Great read-alouds.
Peter Hatcher series by Judy Blume - Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing kicks off Peter's stories of life with his parents, his pets, and his little brother Fudge, who seems to get all of the attention.
Sam books by Lois Lowry - Another little brother companion series. His big sis is Anastasia Krupnik.
Everyone Else's Parents Said Yes by Paula Danziger - and the other books about Matthew Martin
Judy Moody by Megan McDonald and Stink by Megan McDonald - Judy is in 3rd grade; Stink is in 2nd grade, so the books revolving around him are shorter and easier to read.
MYSTERY / HORROR
Every single book by John Bellairs - Start with The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt, and proceed!
Coraline by Neil Gaiman - Creepy, twisted, good.
Selected titles from Goosebumps by R.L. Stine - The Girl Who Cried Monster, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Let's Get Invisible and The Haunted Mask are recommended.
MYSTERY / ACTION
The Hardy Boys - Action. Adventure. Mystery. Need I say more?
Choose Your Own Adventure - This series lets readers make their own decisions with the turn of a page. (A quick, fake example: Want to go sledding down the hill with your wild uncle? Turn to page 14! OR Would you rather follow the treasure map and walk down the hill? Turn to page 37!) Readers may get a different ending with each re-read. This is a fantastic series for reluctant readers. I am so glad that it is finally back in print!
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli - I cannot recommend this book enough! It's about tolerance. It's about literacy. It's about family. It's about belonging. It's so powerful.
DRAMA WITH FANTASY
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks - A fantastic series in which a young boy gets a cupboard with a key - and discovers that if he puts his plastic little figures in the cupboard, twists the key, and re-opens the cupboard, the figures come to life.
Anything in juvenile fiction by Matt Christopher - stories about kids playing football, baseball, basketball, soccer, extreme sports, you name it! - as well as the biographies of big-name athletes by the same author.
I have many more sports-related books on my list entitled Hey There, Sports Fan!
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
White Fang by Jack London
Call of the Wild by Jack London