So You Want To Read Middle Grade? – by Sarah Bean Thompson

Middle Grade has been around for a long time, but the term “middle grade” seems fairly new. I’ve found that lots of people looking for books don’t always understand the term middle grade – which is really just a fancy way of defining children’s literature and books for the older elementary/young middle school set. And when you think about it that way, most everyone can name a middle grade book they’ve read – either as child or an adult –  that they would recommend to others. So that’s where the idea of So You Want to Read Middle Grade as a series was born. I wanted to give librarians, bloggers, teachers, authors, publishers, and parents a chance to share their favorite middle grade titles.


As a youth services librarian, I get asked if I can recommend a “good book” all the time. And “good book” can mean so many different things to so many different people! Parents and kids are always looking for something new to read and there’s no way one librarian can read every book in the library-even though I might try! That’s why sharing recommended titles with others is so valuable. It increases my knowledge of books to suggest and offers even more ideas of books I want to check out myself. Sharing recommended reads is also a great way for people to get started in a genre or area they’re not familiar with. Since the rise of Harry Potter, more and more adults are turning to children’s books and discovering that there are many wonderful gems! But how is someone to know where to start if they haven’t read children’s lit since their own childhood? Or what if they’ve read lots of middle grade and are looking for something new? Sharing recommended titles is a great way to start a conversation with book lovers about the books we love-and why we love them. Besides, there’s nothing better than someone reading a book you recommended!


So what are some of my favorite middle grade titles? I have so many I love, but here a few near and dear to my heart:

Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Maybe it was because I shared the same name as the main character, or maybe it was because living on the Kansas prairie sounded like fun to third grade me. But Sarah’s spirit and energy, Anna’s cautious love for her new mother, and Caleb’s enthusiasm made me love this book. I still want to visit Maine someday because of Sarah.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

This book holds the distinction of being the first full length audiobook I remember listening to as a kid. Every night in fourth grade I would fall asleep listening to this book. I checked it out from my library multiple times. I was enamored with Claudia and Jamie’s adventure and since I couldn’t run away to a museum, the next best thing was reading about it. This is my go-to suggestion for kids wanting a good book to read. It’s also the reason I always check the bathroom before locking up the children’s department at night!

Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin

Cats with wings? I’m sold! This is a very short little book, but it was another one I checked out multiple times from the library. I loved the mixture of an animal story with a touch of fantasy and who can resist cats that have wings?

What are some of your favorite middle grade reads?

Sarah Bean Thompson is a Youth Services Manager and blogs at You can find all the So You Want to Read Middle Grade Series posts on her blog.