Four Excellent Middle-Grade Novels

I didn’t read a whole lot of middle grade novels until I became an elementary school librarian and now it’s one of my favorite levels to read from. It’s just amazing to see what a gifted author can do in 150 pages.

If you’re looking for a couple of books to read (or for your 8-14 year-old) to read over the summer, here are four I’ve enjoyed recently.

middle grade novels

middle grade novels

Barn Boot Blues by Catherine Friend – One of the things that I found difficult when I was a librarian is how LONG many of the newer middle-grade novels are. For some kids, that is great, but others just are intimidated by something more than about 100 pages (and frankly, so so many of those fat novels could have used some editing, I think), and it’s especially difficult for books aimed at readers over about 10.

This book clocks in at a nice 140 pages and has a twelve-year-old protagonist. After her parents realize their dream of living on a farm, Taylor quickly decides – with the prodding of a new friend – to take matters into her own hands and convince them to move back to the city. Just a fun, quick read. 

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard JacobsonJenny, who has excellent taste in books, recommended this one, and then I realized I had a copy from TLA stashed away in Ella’s closet (where advance copies go to die, apparently). I took it on our cruise and loved every second of it.

Jack knows his mother is unpredictable (bi-polar although the book never specifically says so), but even he is shocked when he wakes up in his tent in Maine to discover that she’s disappeared after the first night of their long-planned trip. With virtually no supplies and trying to stay away from people who might recognize him as the runaway being touted on television, Jack tries to figure out where he might possibly find his mother. Such a GOOD good story.

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea – I heard nothing but great things about this book and it really was terrific. It is told from the point of view of seven different fifth graders, as they begin a new school year with Mr. Terupt (a new teacher). Each of them come with their own baggage and respond to Mr. Terupt differently and he, in turn, deals with each of them differently. And then a big event at school changes everything for these students and their teacher. (Duhn, Duhn, Duhn. . . ).

I wondered a little bit if this is one of those books that appeal more to adults than to children, but. . .I haven’t asked around enough to know. So if YOUR child reads it, can you tell me what they thought about it? Inquiring minds need to know.

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm – I only know Holm from the Babymouse series, so it was fun to read this historical fiction novel about a girl sent to live with distant relatives during the Great Depression and sets off with her cousins to find buried treasure. This book is funny, sweet, and not too long. Definitely a winner.




And if you’d like a printable copy of this list that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!

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  1. Just in time!! My 11 year old was saying that she needed some good reading material to start off the summer… we're off to the library today! (Although in our entire library system, Barn Boot Blues is not available. Bummer.)

  2. There is another Mr. Terupt book coming out this fall. And, Holm's other historical fiction books are also wonderful if you're looking for something to read.

  3. I read Turtle in Paradise last summer and loved it! I'll have to find the others at the library. I second Emileah's (Tina's comment)-Holm's other HF books are well-worth reading.

  4. If you like this one you should read “Paper Things” By Jennifer Richard Jacobson!!!! It is a great heartwarming story.

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