Today let’s talk about how to determine the best middle-grade books of all time. (and yes, I plan on tackling a quality high school reading list soon, too)
- The Best middle-grade books of all time are timeless – the story isn’t so bogged down in some issue that would not apply 20 years later.
- Ageless: Tthe best books for middle school students are truly enjoyable (and understandable by) 1st graders and grownups alike.
- The best middle-grade books of all time are personable – it is easy to connect with the characters, both the kids and the adults.
- Moral lessons discovered, not preached, make the best middle-grade books of all time. That makes it so much more likely to have kids connecting the truth to their own lives (us too)!!
The Best Middle-Grade Books of All Time
I have been reading books for a long time. Some are awesome, and some are not. Today, I am sharing the ones that I believe qualified to be the best middle-grade books of all time. Not all are strictly Christian, but none of them are disrespectful in any way. Most actually make perfect family read-aloud materials, for 1st grade up, even if they are books for middle school students. There is even a collection of books about Libraries that are great for Middle schoolers!
Please note that this post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I may make a small commission. I only recommend books and resources that I’ve enjoyed personally, or believe that you would like. You can read my full disclosure here. You will also find information on Scripture translations there.
Biblical Fiction Books for Middle School Students
I don’t remember reading biblical fiction as a kid, maybe because there wasn’t much available? But now, yes! Here are a few amazing Biblical fiction books for middle school students!
Crossroads Among the Gentiles:
Raise your hand if you grew up on Choose Your Own Adventure books! Well now they are back, and biblical!! Crossroads Among the Gentiles is set in Jesus’ time, from the eyes of 10-12-year-olds (boys and girls) I could not put it down. Mine was an advanced Ebook from @NetGalley that was not fully formatted, but it did not matter in the slightest. It was too much fun helping a Samaritan boy and a Jewish boy and girl make wise choices.
I enjoyed all three adventure threads, and of course, I went back through several times to make all the different choices.
The Crossroads theme makes it a great tool for learning choices and consequences. Some choices were simply “what’s next” while others were definitely “right or wrong” or “obedience VS my own way” so getting to see how these Crossroads impact each character’s future I think will be a good thing for kids to observe.
The fun of seeing life in Jesus’s time, from kids, was great! A different perspective than what I usually read, so I was impressed. This was well written and makes you think.
-Good for cognitive and reasoning skills
-practicing what to do in peer pressure situations
-lots of fun!
Update: I just finished reading Crossroads in Jerusalem, courtesy of @NetGalley. Wow.
As with the last one, this Crossroads adventure does a great job of putting the reader IN the story, making the decisions. Will you follow Jesus? Be greedy? Choose safety over what’s right?
I’m so happy for this faith-based choose-your-own-adventure series. The section in the back with all of the scripture references, definitions, and “who was” “what about” sections is great! That information is presented in a way that really helps you connect the verses, adventures, truth and practicality all together.
I enjoyed being the servant girl, but the two boys’ stories were amazing. The lawyer’s assistant, in particular, brought new insight for me on the Pharisees. There were important details tucked casually into the story, which will make them stick better when studied.
Imagine… Yourself On the Scene
Imagine… The Fall of Jericho: this is a very interesting series of books. Modern kids get dropped right in the middle of epic Bible stories. I was intrigued by this, I’ve always enjoyed the “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” style Time Travel books. To do that with the Bible, and for kids, makes it even better!
Imagine… The Fall of Jericho did not disappoint. I felt Jake’s loneliness as he gets dropped off at camp without knowing anyone. When he finds himself in Jericho, he Trusts God did it for a reason, giving him the courage to stand up for what is right.
Jake’s interactions with the people he meets could be a stretch at times, but fun and action-packed all the same.
Imagine… If we could harness that courageous attitude in our daily life. Knowing that God put us here for a reason, and acting like we believed?
This was great for upper elementary school students and middle schoolers. It looks like there are several others in the series, too.
Naaman’s Servant Girl
I recently read this amazing book about the servant girl who told Naaman to go see the prophet and be healed from leprosy. Moriah’s Wings does not sugar coat anything, but is still kid-friendly. It’s very real, and engaging. You can read my full review of Naaman’s Servant here.
Middle-Grade Books for Bible Study
Diary of a Disciple
These two are basically the text of Luke and Acts, but with dynamic text and conversational interjections. Think The Message or The Amplified Bible but with the sarcastic bent of middle school humor. Not recommended for the easily offended, or extremely conservative, but it would engage most ordinary 10-15-year-olds. I think it would make an awesome opportunity to get them comparing it to a standard translation, after reading it through the first time!
Royal: Life Lessons from the Book of Esther
My friend Ami just published her Esther Bible study, specifically for middle school girls, and wow! She doesn’t gloss over the awful parts, and she challenges her readers to examine their own lives in light of the lessons learned. She covers some Deep stuff, but in a way that brand new Christians or tweens who are ready for just a bit more depth can understand, without making it light and fluffy. Not an easy balancing act!
Game Plan for Life
A Kids Game Plan for Great Choices by Michael and Christopher Ross is a 40 day Devotional for teen athletes. Using famous athletes’ stories, as well as his own (and friends) experiences, this teen writes an inspiring and actionable Devo. The section on relating to friends actually got me thinking of ways to apply those principles in my marriage, and in grown-up friendships as well.
If you have a teen who loves sports, this devotional is fun and applicable, as a family Devotional or on their own.
Nancy Rue Books
Nancy Rue has a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction for Christian Girlz who need a bit of help with the whole thing. From a Christian Girl’s Guide to Growing Up and The Beauty Book, to books for Moms of Tween girls.
The Best Middle-Grade Book Series: Historical Fiction
If you are struggling with making history come alive and be fun, here are some of the best middle-grade books of all time (pun intended). And many of them are available on audio!!
Anne of Green Gables
Yes, I have to start with Anne Shirley. It’s classic! Since it was originally printed in a Sunday school quarterly, it’s packed with good lessons. But beyond that, it’s very relatable, funny and encouraging without preaching at all.
~Turn of the last century, Canada.
~Character issues galore
Christian Heritage series by Nancy Rue
Sometimes we think that we’re the only one who has it rough or are misunderstood. Or, on top of that as kids, that our parents are too strict. Looking into the past may just be the best way to get a new perspective!
This series is really a collection of the best middle-grade book series I’ve ever read. Early American history, 5-6 books in each time period, where you almost feel like you are there. The cultural issues have value still today, and the books are well written and dramatic.
There are the Salem years, which is a very puritan, rigid time. A lot of fun and very interesting, while keeping true to the history of the time.
Then there are the Charleston years, which centers around slavery from a kid’s perspective, and the American Revolution. The Williamsburg Years also cover the Revolutionary War. I have not gotten to read these myself, but I think they look amazing!
Most of the books also have Teaching Guides, if anyone wants help going deeper into history and Christian Values, Language Arts, etc.
Kidnapped in Key West: A Florida Historical Adventure:
Flagler’s first train over all those bridges, a man arrested for stealing the payroll, and his determined son, who knows that pa didn’t do it. Proving that will put him in tons of danger, but he’s willing to do anything to save his pa, and the railroad!! Will he survive being Kidnapped in Key West?
Doctor Dolittle —The Series
You may or may not be familiar with the recent Dr. Dolittle movies, and you may or may not approve of them. Well, you will love the actual books! They are old, but oh, so good!! The Doctor travels the world and meets all kinds of interesting animals (and people).
He teaches himself their languages, learns from them, heals them, and intervenes on their behalf. In one of the books that I just re-read, The Doctor is learning a deep-sea creature’s language, and it ‘reminds him of ancient Hebrew’. Now this series isn’t blatantly Christian, but I firmly believe that if animals do have learnable languages, ancient Hebrew is a logical choice :)!
Simple and honest and kind, but packed with amazing adventures like meeting a Pushme-Pullyou (an animal like a horse with a head (and personality) on each end, to riding in a giant Glass sea snail… you can’t go wrong with Dr. John Dolittle around.
Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard:
Okay, decades later, I still remember the emotions and the plot of most of these books. I believe I have 30+ still packed up in a box. This is one orphan who doesn’t let anything hold her back. Not grief, or hardship, sometimes not even logic and rules. But Uncle Ned is usually around to protect her, challenge her to do right, and rescue her when needed. The beginning of the 1900s is an amazing time period, and with Mandie, there’s always a mystery to solve. Whether it’s at her boarding school, or as she and her friends travel abroad with Grandmother.
Marguerite Henry’s Amazing Horse Stories
Misty of Chincoteague speaks to freedom, and kindness, and determination among other things. As a horse-crazy girl growing up, I couldn’t get enough of these books. Paul and Maureen make good role models, both in their strengths and their failures. The fact that we get to follow several generations of this horse family (Misty, Stormy, Star…) makes it that much sweeter. And the history of the Chincoteague / Assateague islands themselves is so cool! Here’s a Complete Collection too!
The American Adventure Series
The American Adventure series is another amazing candidate for Best Middle-Grade Books of all time!! 40+ books, with kids from the Mayflower to World War II. Putting them center stage in many great moments of American history. My mom got a subscription for these books when we were homeschooling, and we got 2 books every month for nearly 2 years. of course, every time the box came, we devoured every page. They are short but memorable. And definitely make history come alive!
The Best Middle-Grade Books of all Time: Contemporary
If you’re looking for something a little more “Today” then these are all set more currently, with some modern gadgets and experiences:
Camp Club Girls
These girls solve mysteries and have adventures, but they also rely on God, and learn some amazing lessons along the way! They get into some tough jams, make dumb mistakes, even getting kidnapped a time or two, but they have a great track record for solving cases and learning lessons that we all need. Even me, now.
They come in sets, 4 stories from one of the girls’ points of view and, each story takes about an hour to read.
With Elizabeth, there are horses, and music and danger, and she develops responsibility, compassion, creativity, and more. I loved how appropriate scripture verses and principles were presented in the normal course of events, and felt natural, not preachy. The normal interaction with friends and family makes it both fun and encouraging.
Bailey’s the youngest Camp Club Girl. She is fearless and full of dreams. I love her spunk and curiosity. Her faith grows, and her desire to become famous is something! She’s determined and courageous. Bailey is the most likely to minimize and underestimate the danger and just take one more step. Usually solving the case, but not before getting them into some kind of hot water. In the Bailey collection, these girls get to learn practical lessons about both sheep and pottery, as well as making the spiritual connections and application of the scriptures on those subjects.
Kate is someone I could relate to, and that’s both good and bad. (which is really awesome writing!) I could see my own insecurity, busyness, and preoccupation in Kate. I end up feeling encouraged to do better and trust God more. Exactly the message that women of all ages need, especially young teens who are still forming who they are!
The mysteries are fun, as usual. Believable, learning how to be observant and not pre-judge people. My favorite was the Montana story where they go to archeology camp. Being careful how we fossilize our hearts, and making assumptions being a bad idea!
Dragons in our Midst by Bryan Davis:
This series could be controversial because of the Dragons and all, but it’s absolutely Fantastic and Faith-filled. For upper middle school and high school students, and anyone who hasn’t fully ‘grown up’ these books are exactly what we need. There’s the battle of good vs evil. There’s deception, and truth, and chivalry. Sword fighting, honor, and a boy who can breathe fire. A girl who can fly, and trust God more than most of us actually ever attempt. Here’s a full review of this and a couple of other wonderful books about faithful dragons.
The Seven Sleepers by Gilbert Morris:
This one’s a Post-Apocolypse fiction specifically for middle/high schoolers. 10 books, 10 unforgettable adventures. 7 kids tucked into cryo-tubes just before the Apocolypse, then awakened to a world transformed. Their mission, beyond just survival, is to share the gospel in a world that’s forgotten, or forbidden, the truth. It’s hard, and dangerous, and wonderful. Scary moments followed by the wonder of actually flying on the back of an eagle!
Adventures in Odyssey:
Whether you’re talking about audio adventures (perfect for car rides or quiet times) or the actual books, you can’t go wrong with Adventures in Odyssey. These kids are very real, and relatable. Mr. Whitakker has a way of helping them (and us) see what we should do, and have the courage to do it.
Maybe it’s a trip in the Imagination station to sometime in the past, (biblical or historically significant moments). Possibly it’s a mystery or an actual event in ‘real-time’ that the kids have to work out the right thing to do. Doesn’t matter. It’s always fun. Always encouraging. sometimes scary and hard and well, just like real life!!
The Cooper Kids by Frank Peretti:
The Cooper Kids get to travel with their archaeologist dad, all over the world. There are mysteries to solve, truths to unravel, danger and faith. I’ve seen it described as an “Indiana-Jones style Christian fiction for all ages” and I agree. The thrills and chills aren’t overdone, and they definitely encourage moral choices. I recently completed my collection, and I look forward to starting them with my son in a couple of years.
Spiritual Warfare Stories
The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer
Now this is an impressive adventure. following the pattern of Narnia, kids are taken from this world by magic, to learn to know God, and use their faith better here. At 30+, I couldn’t put my copy down, and almost wished it were me. There are both boys and girls, and they all have a lot to contribute. Unity and teamwork are clearly taught, and while failure is a part of the story, so are forgiveness and second chances.
Another Florida-based story, where kids get magical transport to another world. I picked these up recently, and haven’t had a chance to read them yet, but I’m very excited about them just the same.
The Best Middle-Grade Books of All Time: Sampler Platter
These are not all expressly Christian but are incredible just the same.
The Redwall series by Brian Jacques is Epic
Woodland animals in a struggle against evil, controlling, greedy creatures. Each story stands alone, but reading Redwall first will really set the stage. There are lessons on courage and kindness, hardship and loss. Sacrifice for others, and selfishness.
Mr. Poppers Penguins:
I haven’t seen the new movie by the same title, so I have no idea how they compare. The story of Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a classic, and it grows rapidly. Starting with a simple fan letter to Admiral Drake, Mr. Popper gets a pet penguin delivered to his house. soon he has 12. Keeping them cool and fed isn’t easy, in fact, it’s downright hilarious!! This one’s great for all ages!
Beverly Cleary has some of the best middle-grade book series ever!
First, the everyday lives of Ramona Quimby, an independent and imaginative girl, and Henry Huggins whose creative methods often lead to truouble. These two are neighbors, who each get their own series.
Then, The Mouse and the Motorcycle series that was made into movies! I’m re-discovering these on Audible with my 1st grader, who enjoys the stories, but won’t be ready to read them himself for a few years yet!
Encyclopedia Brown is the best boy detective ever!!
I’m not kidding. Encyclopedia Brown is really smart-and Observant, and everyone from the school kids to the local police wants his help (just don’t let the fact that his dad’s the detective fool you!). He notices things most people overlook, and would likely beat me playing one of my favorite Bookish games (Mindtrap)!
The Boxcar Children
The Boxcar Children are a family of 4 brothers and sisters who are orphans. They end up living with their Grandfather and experience more mysteries than any other family I know. With the age range of the kids, this series makes an amazing family Read Aloud. And though the movie doesn’t do it justice, it’s still a good movie!
This post is already so long, I don’t have room for all of my favorites! For instance:
- Chronicles of Narnia
- The Indian in the Cupboard
- Charlotte’s Web
- Stuart Little
- The Kid Who Ran for President
- The Sugar Creek Gang
- The Secret Garden
- Tom’s Midnight Garden
- A Little Princess
- Little Lord Fauntleroy
- Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
- The Wizard of Oz Series (WAY Better than the Movie, and actually written for kids!)
- The whole ‘Great Illustrated Classics‘ series
What is Your Pick for Best Middle-Grade Books Of All Time?
I’m very curious, what I’m missing. What would you pick for best middle-grade books of all time? Comment below and let me know! And if you have need of m9re awesome recommendations, try these 2 sites:
Read Aloud Revival is an awesome place to find book recommendations for the whole family to enjoy!
Books for Christian Girls has reviews and ratings on so many books, sorted both by genre and age group, and this young lady has done an incredible job! (I love following her on Instagram!!)