Middle Grade Read-Alouds
Most kids love being read to, and I love reading aloud. My kids loved picture books, of course, and reading easy readers and early chapter books together. My older son, Alex, started reading independently in first grade, but when he pooh-poohed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (a Christmas gift) in fourth grade, I started reading it aloud to him. It was a hit. We were about three chapters into the second Harry Potter when he took the book from my hands, told me I read too slow, and headed into his bedroom with it. Mom won again!
My younger daughter, Ashley, did not start liking to read until fourth grade (bless you, J.K. Rowling!). I had thought my days of reading aloud to my kids were over, but when she was in sixth grade, the first “Lord of the Rings” movie came out. She picked up the books, but they were a bit too difficult, so I read the entire trilogy to her—even most of the appendices! (However, we did skip most of the poems.)
As a teacher, I read to my second graders every day in the reading corner in the back of the room. My students laughed during Henry Huggins, were spellbound by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and comforted their teacher as she sobbed her way through the end of Champ, Gallant Collie.
The following middle grade books would make excellent class read-alouds. Most of them are realistic fiction, but I’ve also included historical, fantasy, time travel, and science fiction (with an alien cat). All were or will be published within the 2018-2019 school year, except for A Boy Called Bat (the third book in the Bat series was released last month). And all are books I would select for my own students if I were still teaching.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite classroom read-aloud is. Enjoy!
Birdie by Eileen Spinelli. 9780802855138. Eerdman’s. 2019. Gr 4-8.
Birdie loves birds, and they help her deal with the death of her firefighter father. She also leans on her mother, grandmother, and friends. But when her mother and grandmother start seeing other men, and her friends start dating, she feels more bereft than ever.
A Boy Called BAT (Bat, Book 1) by Elana K. Arnold. 9780062445827. Walden Pond Press. 2017. Gr 2-5.
Bixby Alexander Tam–thankfully his initials make the nickname “Bat”–finds life to be full of good and bad surprises. One day his veterinarian mom brings home a good surprise—a baby skunk that needs taking care of. Bat wants to keep the skunk for a pet, but convincing his mother may take some work.
The Collectors (Book 1) by Jacqueline West. 9780062691699. Greenwillow. 2019. Gr 4-7.
Overlooked in class, a hearing-impaired boy who collects lost or discarded trinkets discovers a dangerous underground world full of stolen wishes and the people who collect them.
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty. 9781338255843. Arthur A. Levine Books. 2018. Gr 4-6.
With her parents away on wonderful adventures, Bronte is happy living with her Aunt Isabella and her butler. After her parents are killed by pirates, she finds that they have left her a set of explicit instructions: she must deliver certain gifts to her father’s ten sisters at very specific times. And since it is a faery will, she must follow it exactly or her hometown will be destroyed. So Bronte sets off on an exciting journey through the Empires and Kingdoms.
Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome. 9780823439607. Holiday House. 2018. Gr 4-7.
After his mother’s death in 1946, eleven-year-old Langston and his father leave behind their quiet life in Alabama and move to Chicago. Struggling to fit in and missing his mother, Langston finds refuge at the local library where, unlike his library in Alabama, blacks are just as welcome as whites. There he discovers the poetry of Langston Hughes and a secret—he was named after this very poet whose work his mother loved.
Finding Orion by John David Anderson. 9780062643896. Walden Pond Press. May 2019. Gr 4-6.
Ron Kwirk feels like the odd one in his family because he is the only one in his family who is NOT odd. And the oddest one of all is his grandfather, Papa Kwirk. So when they receive news that Papa Kwirk has died, the whole family piles in the car to go to the funeral. But like his grandfather, the funeral is anything but normal, leading them on an adventure that will teach Ron some very unexpected things about his family.
Klawde : Evil Alien Warlord Cat (Book 1) by Johnny Marciano. 9781524787202. Penguin. 2019. Gr 4-6.
Wyss-Kuzz is such a horrible warlord that his feline subjects overthrew him and exiled him to the worst place in the galaxy—Earth! He finds himself in a backyard in Oregon, where hairless monsters find him. The smaller one, Raj, promises his parents that he will go to survival camp if he can keep this cat. The story alternates between Raj trying to survive camp and Wyss-Kuzz trying to build a teleportation device to get back home.
My Father’s Words by Patricia MacLachlan. 9780062687692. Katherine Tegen Books. 2018. Gr 3-6.
Struggling with the loss of their father, Fiona and Finn O’Brien, at the suggestion of a friend, volunteer at a local animal rescue shelter.
Orange for the Sunsets by Tina Athaide. 9780062795298. Katherine Tegen Books. 2019. Gr 4-7.
Friends Asha and Yesofu grow up together, never caring about the differences between them. But then, in 1972, the dictator Idi Amin expels all Asian Indians from Uganda, which thrusts Asha and Yesofu into conflict they didn’t know anything about. As the deadline for Indians to leave the country approaches, the tension grows worse as Africans cheer, soldiers line the streets, and Indians fear for the future. All the while, Asha and Yesofu worry their friendship won’t survive.
Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai. 9781250314093. Henry Holt. May 2019. Gr 3-6.
To cope with his new life as an immigrant in Australia, eleven-year-old Jingwen and his little brother, Yanghao, decide to bake every cake that his now-deceased father had planned for their new family bakery. The problem? Jingwen’s mother will not let him use the oven while she’s at work. Undeterred, the two boys go ahead with the baking and come up with elaborate excuses to keep it secret from their mother. (This book includes some comic strip illustrations, but these are short and could be projected on a screen.)
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart. 9781250196705. Henry Holt. 2019. Gr 4-6.
Twelve-year-old Coyote and her father, Rodeo, live an itinerant life as they travel the U.S. in an old school bus. Along the way, she hears that the park near her old home in Washington State is getting demolished—the park where she and her now-deceased mother and sisters buried a memory box. Coyote must then trick her father to travel back to Washington from Florida, as they pick up eclectic travelers along the way.
Ruby in the Sky by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo. 9780374309053. Farrar Straus Giroux. 2019. Gr 4-7.
Twelve-year-old Ruby Moon Hayes has a troubled home life and has no intention of making new friends in her Vermont school or neighborhood. But Syrian refugee, Ahmad Saleem, decides Ruby is his new best friend. Likewise, she meets an old recluse in a ramshackle house down the street, and the two quickly become her friends. Despite the problems she has, her new friends teach her not to be ashamed.
Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes. 9780062852540. Greenwillow. 2019. Gr 4-6.
Seventh-grader Amelia Albright goes on an adventure with a new friend, Casey, who claims to have seen the spirit of Amelia’s deceased mother. Instead of going on a spring break trip to Florida, Amelia is forced to stay home, but that week spent with her first male friend is both thrilling and daunting.
Time Sight by Lynne Jonell. 9781250117670. Henry Holt. May 2019. Gr 4-7.
A family emergency overseas sends twelve-year-old Will and five-year-old Jamie to live with family in Scotland. Using a “magic eye” book to entertain his brother, Will discovers that he has the ability to look into the past. Jamie, in an impetuous move, accidentally jumps into the past, leaving Will and their cousin, Nan, to follow the young boy. While he jumps from the Middle Ages to ancient Rome, he learns about cruelty, love, and bravery, as each jump into the history brings him more danger.
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