Middle Grade Witch Stories

WITCHES

Nothing says Halloween like witches. These books are perfect for kids who love a good scare. J. A. White loves witches and two of his books appear on this list. Roald Dahl’s book is the classic. Kelly Barnhill wrote the Newbery winner. You can’t go wrong with these Halloween picks.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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Each year an infant is left in the woods as a sacrifice for the witch. Each year she shows up to rescue the infant. She has no idea why helpless children are abandoned. She usually feeds the child starlight, but this year she makes a mistake and feeds her moonlight. This produces a magic so strong that she decides to raise the child herself. Strong plot and characters.

The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White

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In De’Noran, witches are hanged. Such was the fate of Kara’s mother. When chasing a bird into the forbidden forest, Kara finds her mother’s grimoire, a book of spells. The pages are blank, but a witch can think a spell onto the page. Kara has her mother’s ability, but so does her nemesis Grace whose father wants to destroy all witches.

NightBooks by J. A. White

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There’s a witch living in Alex’s apartment building and she kidnaps children. Alex is her next victim. Each night he is forced to read a scary story from his personal notebooks. Soon he will run out of stories. He must write new ones or risk being turned into a figurine on the shelf like the children before him.

The Witches by Roald Dahl

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Luke and his grandmother are staying at the same hotel where a witch convention is being held. It’s hard to tell a witch from an ordinary person, but one thing is for sure. They hate children. The head witch has concocted a formula that will turn children into mice. Luke concocts his own plan to stop them. A timeless classic that remains one of the best witch stories for children.

Took by Mary Downing Hahn

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When Daniel’s dad lost his posh corporate job, he moved the family to a poor town in West Virginia. As if the culture shock isn’t enough, the old house they bought is giving off bad vibes. The girl who lived there 50 years ago went missing, supposedly kidnapped by a witch. Now his sister is missing and it’s up to Daniel to save her. Hahn is queen of scary for kids.

The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh

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Mary, an orphan, thinks she’s lucky when she gets adopted by Madam Z. Things are a little strange, but overall not bad. Then the stable hand informs her that Madam Z is a witch who eats children. Madam Z has grown fond of Mary and agrees not to eat her. Mary remains suspicious, but it’s the stable hand who turns on her. Based on the Russian fairytale of Baba Yaga.

Nightmares! By Jason Segel

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Charlie has always liked the purple mansion on the hill, but never wanted to live there. Now his dad has remarried and his stepmother owns the house. They move in and Charlie is having nightmares about a witch. He’s convinced his stepmother is a witch. When he crosses over into the Netherworld, where nightmares live, he finds out that his stepmother has nothing to do with his nightmares.

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

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Tom is the 7thson of a 7thson. His destiny is to be a Spook’s apprentice. His job is to rid the countryside of witches and ghosts. His first mistake is accidentally freeing the witch buried in the Spook’s yard. His second mistake is killing her, enabling her spirit to possess people. A dark, spooky book boys will like too.

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Middle Grade Football Stories

Football

With the outstanding writing going on in sports fiction, you don’t have to be a guy or play  sports to love some of these books. Trust me. Some of these have edge of your seat action. Any Mike Lupica, Tim Green or John Feinstein book is a crowd pleaser. For younger fans, check out the humorous books in the list.

Serious Football

Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica

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Nate Brodie is such a great quarterback that his friends call him “Brady,” after Patriot’s QB Tom Brady. Lately the stress is affecting his game. His family is struggling financially and his best friend is going blind. Top that with the chance he has to win a million dollars at the Patriot’s Thanksgiving Day game, and his fear of interception is understandable.

Game Changers by Mike Lupica (series)

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Ben is an all-around athlete. He’s a jack of all trades in football, but he wants to be the quarterback. The problem is that the coach’s son is the QB and he’s struggling. Ben, being the great guy he is, tries to help Shawn improve his game, but in the end, Ben is going to make the winning play.

Football Genius by Tim Green (series)

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Troy has a secret talent. He can predict plays. With his favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, in a losing streak, he knows he can help them. Instead of being thrilled, the defensive coach has him banned from the field. Fortunately, defensive linebacker, Seth Galloway, believes in his ability and devises a plan to get the call past the coach.

The Walk On by John Feinstein

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Everyone knows new kid Alex Myers is the best QB on the team. Starting QB Matt Gordon knows it. Head Coach Matthew Gordon knows it. But Coach Gordon is in it for himself, not the team. He will rule with an iron fist and lie if needed to keep his son in the starting position.

Payback Time by Carl Deuker

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Mitch is a school reporter looking for something interesting. He finds it when he shows up at football practice and notices a new kid with a killer arm. Both the new kid and the coach downplay his abilities, but he’s always brought in at the end of the game to bring the team back for a win. When the city newspaper edits any mention of the new kid’s stellar plays, Mitch knows something big is going on.

Pop by Gordon Korman

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While practicing throws at the local park, Marcus is tackled out of nowhere by a large middle-aged guy. They begin meeting every day for coaching sessions. Then Marcus finds out that Charlie is a former NFL player and the father of the quarterback at his new school. As Charlie’s behavior gets more and more bizarre, Marcus finds out he has Alzheimer’s, possibly from years of head injuries.

Humorous Football

The Rookie Bookie by L. Jon Wertheim

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Mitch loves numbers. Mitch loves watching football games. If you put them together you have a get rich quick scheme. Realizing Indiana kids are big football fans, he sets up a betting operation where he can’t lose money. He has good intentions, but he soon learns that gambling is a no-no.

King of the Bench: Control Freak by Steve Moore (series)

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Steve is king of the bench in every sport. After benching it in baseball, he’s made it onto the football team as the ball holder for the kicker, an easy position. Steve is convinced that he can control the plays with an old video game controller. When he is forced onto the field, he is desperate for his friend to get his hands on the controller.

Historical Football

Yard War by Taylor Kitchings

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Trip Westbrook just wants to play football. It doesn’t matter to him if you’re black or white, if you’re good. Dee is good, but he’s black. It’s 1964 Mississippi and the racism in his neighborhood becomes apparent when he asks Dee to play a game with his friends. His parents initially want to keep the peace, but realize they have to take a stand for what’s right.

Laugh Out Loud Middle Grade Series

Humor

Needing a good laugh? These books are beyond hilarious and guaranteed to hook the most reluctant reader. Did you like Diary of a Wimpy Kid? These are as good or even better. As Steve, King of the Bench, would say, “No brag. It’s just a fact.”

The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry (series)

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The 8thgraders are going to Washington, DC. Wyatt and Matt have been warned to stay out of trouble or they will be going home. Before the plane lands, Matt has them in trouble. He steals something important from two guys on the plane and now they are being stalked. Matt is convinced there’s a plot to blow up the White House. Now Wyatt is stuck on the worst class trip ever.

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson (series)

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Rafe hates school. To spice things up a little he decides to break every rule in the student handbook. It doesn’t stop him from being bullied by Miller the Killer, but at least he gets noticed by Jeanne Galletta, the prettiest girl in school. He’s not exactly helping himself pass 6thgrade, but he can draw like nobody’s business.

King of the Bench: No Fear by Steve Moore (series)

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Steve has no athletic ability, but he decides to try out for his school’s baseball team to please his dad. He does well enough to make the team, but during tryouts another kid is beaned in the nose and rushed to the hospital. Now Steve has a fear of the ball. Coach benches him for the whole season, but during the championship game a series of events puts Steve at bat at a critical moment.

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald (series)

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This book is a conversation between Charlie Joe and you, the reader. His goal is to pass on to you all the strategies he has learned to get out of ever having to read. But now that he’s in middle school it’s getting harder and his friend Timmy is refusing to read the books for him anymore. The end of the year project is coming up and he needs help fast.

Liar, liar by Gary Paulsen (series)

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Kevin is an expert at lying. Teachers love him because he lies so well. It’s ok to lie because lying either makes people happy or it helps them learn a lesson. Now he’s in 8th grade and a girl he’s never thought twice about suddenly has his attention. He will do whatever it takes, including lying, to make her see that he would be the perfect boyfriend.

The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Locker Hero by Rachel Renee Russell (series)

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Max is being bullied by “Thug” Thurston after he accidentally vomited on him in PE class. After school, at the start of a 3-day weekend, Thug locks Max in his locker. Everyone’s gone. No one knows he’s there. Amazingly Max gets out, but there are burglars in the school. They have found his dad’s rare comic book. Now his misadventure includes getting it back.

The Qwikpick Papers: Poop Fountain by Tom Angleberger (series)

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Lyle’s parents manage the Qwikpick gas station and always work on Christmas Day. Marilla is a Jehovah’s Witness. Dave is Jewish. Christmas Day is boring. The first task of the newly formed Qwikpick Adventure Society is to plan an adventure for Christmas Day. Lyle never dreamed they would be breaking into the sewage plant to get a look at the famous poop fountain.

Marty Pants: Do Not Open! By Mark Parisi (series)

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Marty Pants makes it clear that he’s an artist, like it or not. When his cat brings him a partially chewed note that says, “an alien is observing you,” his over-analyzing brain suspects Mr. McPhee when he sees the word “annihilate” on his computer. It’s up to Marty to expose his teacher and save Earth.

Geeked Out by Obert Skye (series)

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Sarcasm in the extreme. Earth is in ruin after a movie sequel from a popular book series is so bad that fans take to the streets in a zombie-like protest. Supplies are in short demand, leading to a supply war at school. The geeks decide to play a prank on the jocks, who always win, but it backfires. While in hiding, the geeks are bitten by spiders that give them superpowers. Suddenly, everyone wants to be a geek.

Middle Grade Animal Stories

Animal Stories

Books with talking animals are nothing new. You need look no further than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Charlotte’s Web to get examples of the best. We are fascinated by the question, “What goes on in the minds of animals?” Look to these authors for a possible glimpse into their world.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

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Peter rescued Pax 5 years ago and he’s taken care of him ever since. But now his dad is off to war, Peter is off to his grandfather’s and Pax must return to the forest. In a gut-wrenching opening scene, Peter throws a toy into the woods then drives away. Both fox and boy have one goal. To find each other again.

Wing and Claw by Linda Sue Park (series)

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Raffa belongs to a family of apothecaries. When he discovers a rare red vine in the forest, he’s shocked to learn that it not only has healing properties, but also enables animals to talk. He uses it to heal a bat, but learns that if used improperly if can have devastating effects.

Wildwood by Colin Meloy (series)

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This one is a long fantasy adventure. When five crows swoop in and abduct Prue’s baby brother, she sneaks into the Impassible Wilderness to steal him back. This forest is home to both humans and talking animals. A deposed governess is trying to gain back power by raising an army of coyotes and feeding infant blood to an ivy vine that will destroy the forest.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

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Ivan is a gorilla at a rundown mall zoo. He befriends an old elephant and a dog that comes and goes. When a new baby elephant arrives at the zoo, Stella makes Evan promise to do whatever it takes to get her to a better home. Using the drawing skills he learned from the janitor’s daughter, he sets about keeping his promise.

The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

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Number 13 is a foxlike groundling at Miss Carbunkle’s Orphanage for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. Conditions are deplorable. Birdlike orphan, Trinket, renames him Arthur and helps him escape to Lumentown to find his parents. He settles in with a group of thieves and ends up exiled to the sewers.

The Tale of Despereux by Kate DiCamillo

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Despereux is a mouse who loves all things in the human world, especially the princess. Roscuro is a rat living in the dungeon, but wanting to live in the light. Mig is a servant girl who wants to be a princess. The lives of these three characters are going to insect in the most amazing way.

Foxcraft by Inbali Iserles (series)

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When a band of ruthless foxes leave Isla without a family, she sets out to find them. A fox named Siffrin finds her and saves her from a dog. The Elders have tasked him with finding Isla’s brother Pirie. Together they evade the ruthless fox band by practicing foxcraft magic.

Classics

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

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Classic telling of the runt pig, Wilbur, who is saved by Fern and later sold to a local farmer. When he realizes, what the farmer intends to do with him, the spider Charlotte steps in to help by spinning words in her web like “Radiant” and “Some Pig.” Eventually her plan succeeds and he is saved from the slaughter.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (series)

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Four siblings are sent to the countryside during the London bombings, discover a magical wardrobe while playing hide and seek. They enter a magical world called Narnia where animals talk and an evil witch-queen turns her enemies to stone and keeps the land frozen in Winter. Only Aslan can help the children save Narnia.

Middle Grade Robot Stories

 

Robots

Like every genre, science fiction comes in all flavors. Most people don’t realize that there is humor, as well as seriousness, to be found in science fiction. Science fiction is usually near the bottom of the list for popularity. If you want to turn kids on to science fiction, steer them toward books by popular authors such as James Patterson, Tom Angleberger and Gordon Korman.

Humorous Sci-Fi Books

House of Robots by James Patterson (series)

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Samuel’s mom invents robots. Their house is full of them. Samuel is ok with it until his mom makes a robot to go to school with him. At first the robot is a geek and a total embarrassment. His mom reprograms the robot, and to Samuel’s surprise, he realizes that robots can be friends.

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger

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Fuzzy is a robot sent to Vanguard Middle School to improve its artificial intelligence. Maxine takes it under her wing and teaches it everything she knows. But BARBARA, the school’s AI software, is tasked with improving the school’s rating. Max, her friends, and now Fuzzy aren’t meeting her standards, so she’s on a mission to get rid of them.

Ungifted by Gordon Korman (series)

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Donovan is a prankster. When an unintended prank becomes his downfall, the superintendent mistakenly writes his name on the list of students going to the gifted school. It doesn’t take the gifted students long to realize that Donovan is anything, but gifted. He makes his talents clear, however, when he brings down the rival school’s robotics team.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (series)

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When a cargo ship of robots sinks, only one lands safely on an island. Roz has no programming. She learns by watching. At first the animals are afraid of her, but she learns nurturing skills, and ends up saving many of the animals on the island. Sweet story, full of illustrations.

Cats vs. Robots by Margaret Stohl

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The Robot Federation and Feline Empire have been at war forever. Now each of them want the singularity chip to extend their lives. Meanwhile, twins Max and Min are just as different as the cats and robots. One loves to build robots and the other rescues cats. This war is coming to their house.

Serious Sci-Fi Books

The Search for Wondla by Tony Diterlizzi (series)

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Eva Nine lives underground with her robot mother. When her compound catches on fire she has to exit to the world above ground where she has never been. With her robot mother and several other species she meets along the way, she goes in search of other humans and the answer to the question “Where am I?” Full of amazing illustratons.

Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix (series)

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Twins Nick and Eryn have just learned that their mom is getting remarried. They are ok with this until they find out the man she is marrying has kids that have never been mentioned in the two years they’ve known him. Weirder still, both sets of step siblings will never live in the house at the same time. The truth is bigger than Nick and Eryn could have even imagined.

Watchdog by Will McIntosh

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Vick and Tara are on their own after the economy tanks. Their dad leaves town and their mom dies unexpectedly. They spend their days rummaging through the dump to find junk Tara can use to build robots. One of her robots is a highly advanced dog named Daisy. When her talent is discovered, she’s kidnapped with the intent of using her tech skills to build a watchdog empire.

The Boy at the End of the World by Greg van Eekhout

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The earth has survived man’s environmental destruction far into the future. Scientists saved human DNA in special pods and now they are being awakened. Fisher is the only survivor in his ark, along with a robot tasked to help him survive. Together they go in search of other humans in order to repopulate the earth.

Middle Grade Fractured Fairytales

Fractured Fairytales

Fractured fairytales are the latest and greatest in fairytale literature. They present themselves in many different ways. Some are set in modern times. Some combine many tales into one. Some crossover between reality and make-believe. Fairytales continue to be very popular with all ages. Check out these books for a modern twist on an old favorite.

The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley (series)

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Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are descended from the famous Grimm brothers. All the fairytale characters are immortal and now live in Fairyport, NY. Things are constantly going amuck and their grandmother is a detective who solves crimes committed by the bad characters. A giant is on the loose, their grandmother has been kidnapped, and it’s up to the girls to solve the crime and find their grandmother.

Half Upon a Time by James Riley (series)

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When May falls through a fiery portal and lands at Jack’s feet, she insists that he help find her kidnapped grandmother, Snow White. Jack obliges and off they go into the Black Forest chased by a giant. They eventually are also accompanied by a wolfman and Prince Philip. They are on a quest to find the magic mirror which will tell them where Snow White is being held captive. Many iconic fairytales characters have supporting roles.

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer (series)

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Twins Alex and Connor are leading a typical, but sad life after their father dies. This changes when their grandmother gives them an enchanted book of fairytales. The book is a portal to fairytale land and they quickly find themselves inside the book. In their quest to find nine enchanted objects for the wishing spell, they meet the fairytale characters they’ve grown up with.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (series)

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This is truly a dark tale. Grisly comes to mind. Hansel and Gretel run away from home to find better parents. They jump from home to home, trying to find a better life without success. Appendages are cut off, murders are witnessed, children are boiled, Hansel becomes a wolf, and dragons are slayed. Full of adventure. Just be prepared for the gore.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (series)

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Every year for the past 200 years, kids have been kidnapped to attend the School for Good and Evil to be trained in villainy or heroism. Sophie has worked hard at being a perfect girl, so she can become a fairytale princess. Her unattractive, cynical, friend Agatha doesn’t want any part of it. As it happens, both girls are kidnapped, but Sophie is dropped in the School for Evil and Agatha is dropped in the school for Good. Has a mistake been made or is each girl where she truly belongs?

Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst (series)

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Julie’s mother is Rapunzel, her grandmother is a witch, and there’s an ominous vine stashed under her bed. It doesn’t make sense to her until the vine escapes and engulfs the town. The wild is back and new fairytales are being written. Julie must go in and rescue her mother while taking caution to prevent becoming a permanent character in fairytale land.

Flunked by Jen Calonita (series)

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Gilly is a cobbler’s daughter living in a shoe in Enchantasia. Since her father is not making enough to feed the family, Gilly resorts to thievery. She’s caught and sent to Fairytale Reform School, headed up by Cinderella’s reformed stepmother. She’s a free spirit and gets under the skin of one professor in particular, Snow White’s evil stepmother. Something’s not right and rather than lay low, Gilly decides to piece together the strange events going on at FTRS.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman (series)

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The New York Circulating Materials Repository lends objects from books, not the books themselves. As a new employee, Elizabeth is excited when she is finally given access to the Grimm Collection. The evil queen’s mirror is there along with the invisibility cloak from the 12 princesses, but some of the objects aren’t working. It appears someone is stealing the real objects and replacing them with fakes.

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly

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Belle is being held captive in the Beast’s palace. Things are improving and he gives her permission to use the library. She finds a mysterious book that is a portal to a beautiful place called Nevermore. She meets the countess who tries to convince her to stay forever. Each time Belle visits, it’s harder to return to reality. What Belle doesn’t know is that the Countess is not who she seems and she has made a bet on Belle’s life.

Middle Grade Fairytale Retellings

Fairytale Retellings

We all love the classic fairytales, but the retellings are even better. They entertain us with all the backstory that the Grimm brothers and H. C. Andersen left out. Check out these retellings and if you love them, try out some of the other fairytales by the same authors.

Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

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This is the tale of Rumpelstiltskin’s youth and the backstory of how he ended up spinning straw into gold for the miller’s daughter. He’s not the grumpy old man you think, but rather a small boy who only knows the first part of his name. Known only as Rump, he is bullied relentlessly by the miller’s kids. Now the miller’s daughter must figure out his full name if she is to keep her baby.

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison

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This is the adventurous tale of what happened to Rapunzel after she escaped the tower with Jack. Having been sheltered her whole life, she begins her journey knowing very little about how the world works. Most importantly, she learns that the woman who has taken care of her from birth, may not be the kind-heartened woman she thought she was.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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Ella’s engagement to the prince is not turning out as she had hoped. She isn’t allowed to do anything for herself. She is only meant to be an ornament on the prince’s arm. When the prince sends Ella to the dungeon, she realizes that escape is her only option. She’d rather be poor and free than rich and confined.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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When Ella was born, a fairy gave her the gift of obedience, not realizing the ramifications. Ella must obey every order, no matter how insignificant. When her father remarries, her stepmother and stepsisters, use the “curse” to thwart Ella’s attempts to see the prince.

The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker

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Princess Emeralda has no interest in the egotistical Prince Jorge. When she goes to the swamp to hide from him, she meets a talking frog. He insists that he is a prince and only needs her kiss to break the spell. Emma finally relents, but it goes all wrong. She is turned into a frog as well, and now they must find the witch to fix the spell.

The Wide-Awake Princess by E. D Baker

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When Princess Gwen, aka Sleeping Beauty, gets the spinning wheel curse at birth, her parents decide that her younger sister Annie should have a spell to make her immune to all magic. Gwen pricks her finger as expected and the entire castle falls asleep except Annie. It’s up to Annie to find Gwen’s true love to break the spell.

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

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Something cruel is lurking in the woods where Rose and Snow live. Their father and friend have disappeared. There is a bear who is strangely friendly and then a larger than normal fox appears. There are hunters and bandits, but worst of all is the rude dwarf who ridicules them every time they save him. There is more to this dwarf than meets the eye.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

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This is a retelling of the Snow Queen. Hazel is unpopular at school, but semi-popular Jack has always been a true friend. When he gets a piece of glass in his eye at recess, he begins to act differently toward her. Then he suddenly disappears with a woman dressed in white in a sleigh pulled by wolves. Hazel knows something is wrong and she must rescue him.

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

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Reveka is an herbalist apprentice trying to unlock the mystery of the 12 princesses. Every morning they wake up with bloody feet. Anyone caught trying to spy on the princesses ends up in a deep sleep. The only person who can witness the nightly occurrence is someone invisible, so Reveka works to create an invisibility potion for herself.

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Middle Grade Medieval Books

 

Medieval

Medieval historical fiction is a hard sell for most kids. For a “sure thing” try Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince. For reluctant readers who need a quick read try either of Karen Cushman’s books or Sid Fleischman’s The Whipping Boy. They are short and full of humor. The rest are for true historical fiction fans.

Girl in a Cage by Jane Yolen

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Marjorie is a princess of Scotland. Her father, Robert the Bruce and England’s king, Edward Longshanks, are enemies. Longshanks captures Marjorie and keeps her in a wooden cage where she is to be brought to the village square to be tormented by the villagers. She remains strong and resolute throughout her ordeal.

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

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Hysterical tale about a bratty prince who can’t lawfully be punished and the whipping boy who takes it for him. When the prince decides to run away, he takes his whipping boy with him. As misfortune would have it, they fall into trouble and must get out of it together. Full of fun and humor.

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman

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When a poor village girl is discovered in a dung heap by the town midwife, she eagerly accepts some scraps of food in exchange for her service as the midwife’s apprentice. Beetle proves to be a quick learner and all is well until she runs into trouble with a difficult delivery. Feeling like a failure, she sets out on her own to try to find her place in life. Full of fun and humor.

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

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Utterly hilarious tale about a strong-willed girl who must use her wit and cunning to send her would be suitors fleeing. Her father’s only requirement is that her future husband be rich. Love her sassy vocabulary, especially when she exclaims “Corpus bones” in frustration.

Crispin by Avi

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13-year-old Crispin is on his own after his peasant mother dies. A local clergyman summons him to inform him that his true name is Crispin and gives him a cross that belonged to his mother. Immediately the priest turns up dead and Crispin is accused of the crime. A corrupt government official is chasing him down and has put a bounty on his head. As Crispin will eventually learn, it has nothing to do with the murdered priest.

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

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Sage is an orphan who, along with two other orphans, has been kidnapped and sent to the home of a nobleman. The king and queen are dead. The country is on the brink of war. And the heir to the throne is missing, presumed dead. Nobleman Connor devises a plan to pass off one of the orphans as the missing prince. Nice twist ending.

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz

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The king is chasing after three children and their dog. The story of how this absurdity came to be is laid out in alternating tales by various characters at the local inn in a way that is reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales. It all begins with a dog who is revered as a saint and ends with a Jewish Bible being saved from a mass book burning. Full of humor and satire.

Incantation by Alice Hoffman

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Jews are persecuted in medieval Spain, forced to live separate from Christians. Estella believes her family is Christian, but as neighbors turn against one another and her best friend accuses her family of being Jewish, she learns the truth. Her family converted to Christianity long ago, but that’s no longer good enough and her mother and brother must die.

The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

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Boy is a hunchback who takes care of the animals for his ailing master. When a pilgrim shows up and demands that Boy go with him to carry his pack, Cook agrees to let him go. Boy learns that the pilgrim is traveling to different churches to steal seven relics of St. Paul, ending at his tomb in Rome. Action packed adventure.

Middle Grade Criminal Justice Stories

Criminal Justice

Juvenile delinquents make some of the best characters. There’s nothing like a good redemption story to help you see the good in the world. From classics like Holes, to newcomers like Scar Island, there’s a book on this list that’s calling you.

Holes by Louis Sachar

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Stanley Yelnats has bad luck. When he gets caught with a pair of shoes belonging to a famous basketball player, he gets sent to a juvenile detention center in the middle of the desert. The warden is meaner than a snake and makes the boys dig holes all day in the hot sun. A great cast of characters, superb writing, and a most unusual story make this a book everyone will enjoy.

Scar Island by Dan Geimenhart

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When Jonathan arrives at the Alcatraz-like reformatory facility for boys, he quickly realizes that he may as well be in Hell. The Admiral rules with an iron fist. When all the adults die in a freak lightning storm, the boys decide to hunker down and deceive the delivery boat driver into believing everything is normal. What follows is a Lord of the Flies type scenario where the boy who takes charge is just as mean as the admiral.

House Arrest by K. A. Holt

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As 12-year-old Timothy sees it, he didn’t have a choice when he stole money to pay for his infant brother’s medication. His mom couldn’t afford it and his brother needed it. His probation officer and therapist require Timothy to keep a journal. Through the journal entries, we see the thoughts of a boy who is trying to square his sense of right and wrong with society’s. Written in verse.

 Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

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Cole Matthews has anger issues and is on his way to becoming a juvenile delinquent. After seriously injuring a classmate in a fight, he is given the choice of jail time or spending a year alone on an isolated Alaskan Island in a Native American reform process called Circle Justice. After he botches things on the first day, he is given a second chance on the island.

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

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Arthur isn’t coping well with his father’s death, so when he sees James the junk man wearing his father’s old hat, he doesn’t think before he throws the brick. In court, James asks the judge to let Arthur serve his punishment by doing community service hours helping James. James gives Arthur a list of 7 junk things he needs to find around the neighborhood. At first Arthur is angry, but James’ advice and coaching end up being just what Arthur needs.

Peak by Roland Smith

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Peak loves to climb. When he gets caught climbing a skyscraper in New York, the judge agrees to let him off if he leaves the states with his dad, a famous extreme mountain climber. He takes Peak to Mt. Everest where he is leading an expedition to the summit. Within feet of the summit, Peak must decide if he deserves to be the youngest person to summit Mt. Everest.

Pilfer Academy by Lauren Magaziner

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Pilfer Academy is a boarding school that trains kids to be thieves. Everything in the school is stolen. The food is stolen. The mansion is stolen. Even the kids are stolen. George ends up here after being kidnapped by a couple of idiots in an ice cream truck. Must appreciate incompetent adults and satirical humor.

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

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Alcatraz. Some kids would think it’s cool to live several hundred yards from the most famous criminals in the world. But not Moose Flanagan. When his father takes a job as prison guard and electrician, Moose’s world takes a turn for the worst. All he wants to do is play baseball, but instead he has to put up with the egotistical, scheming daughter of the warden.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

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11-year-old Perry has lived in prison his entire life while his mother serves time. When the district attorney, who happens to be his best friend’s stepdad, finds out, he removes Perry from the prison. He thinks he’s helping Perry catch up on a life he missed out on, but Perry loves his mom and the other inmates and just wants to go back to the life he loved.

 

 

Middle Grade Basketball Stories

Basketball

Kids who like sports books need look no further than Mike Lupica. He writes stories about basketball, football and baseball. He has several series that cover all three sports. They are Game Changers, Comeback Kids, and Home Team. This list covers a variety of different writing styles for different ages and are sure to satisfy young sports fans.

Athlete vs. Mathlete by W. C. Mack (series)

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Owen and Russell are fraternal twins. They are great friends, but have little in common. Owen is a basketball star. Russel is a brainiac. When the new coach sees how tall Russell is and demands that he try out for the team, Owen is willing to give him some pointers. But when Russell realizes he has some skill in blocking, Owen’s jealousy gets the best of him.

The Million Dollar Shot by Dan Gutman (series)

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Eddie has met his match in Annie. She can sink any shot. When both their parents lose their jobs, he and Annie decide to enter a poetry contest to win a chance to make a million dollar shot at the NBA finals. Someone is trying to sabotage his chances, but he is determined to nail it.

A Whole New Ball Game by Phil Bildner (series)

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Rip and Red are looking forward to 5th grade and basketball tryouts. Rip has dreadlocks and Red has autism. Despite their differences, they are great friends. On the first day of school they don’t what to think of the new teacher. He has long hair, tattoos, and unconventional teaching methods. When the same teacher shows up to coach basketball, they know they are in for big surprises.

Crossover by Kwame Alexander (series)

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Josh and Jordan are twin basketball stars. They are best friends who do everything together. When Josh is distracted by a new girlfriend, Jordan gets jealous and vents his frustration on the court. When he’s suspended from the team, his chance to be in the playoff may not happen. Written in verse.

Travel Team by Mike Lupica

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Danny Walker is short, but he knows how to play basketball. When he is cut from the travel team over kids who aren’t as good, Danny’s dad, Rich, is sure it is an excuse to get back at him. The travel team coach and Rich were rivals back in high school. Rich steps up to coach a rival travel team with Danny as the star player.

Play Makers by Mike Lupica (series)

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Ben and his team have just come off an amazing championship game in football. Now they are hoping to do the same in basketball. The problem is rival, Chase Braggs. His ego and nonsportsmanlike behavior is getting in Ben’s head and their team is losing. Ben must get his head back in the game or his team is going to lose.

Last Shot by John Feinstein (series)

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Stevie and Susan Carol win a contest that allows them press access to the Final Four championship game. While backstage, they overhear a player being blackmailed to throw the game. When they report back to the lead newsmen, they don’t offer any help to the young reporters, so they decide to investigate and uncover the truth on their own.

Fade Away by Maura Ellen Stokes

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Sam and Reagan are best friends both on and off the court. When Reagan suddenly dies, Sam is grief-stricken. She is having a hard time moving on with her life without her friend. School is tanking, basketball isn’t the same and Sam is feeling Reagan’s presence a little too strongly. Sam must learn to move on with her life despite the loss of her best friend.

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay

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Andi is a short girl, but she loves basketball. Since her school doesn’t have a girls’ basketball team, the best she can get is practice time with the boys’ team. She is excited when she learns that her Pilipino half-brother has finally received clearance from the British government to move to London. She knows he is tall, but 8ft. tall is more than she bargained for.