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30 Fantastic 5th Grade Books To Get Your Child Ready For Middle School

Moving from elementary school to middle school brings a lot of change. Children will be meeting new people, learning new things, and embarking on the next chapter of their life.

It’s exciting, but it can also feel a little overwhelming!

30 Fantastic 5th Grade Books To Get Your Child Ready For Middle School

A good book can help kids prepare for these changes. Books introduce children to a whole new world of perspectives and experiences, helping them find their voices and discover themselves.

In this guide, we’ve chosen 30 of our favorite books for 5th graders. From classic tales to modern perspectives, we think these books will engage the imagination and the mind.

1. Wonder By R. J. Palacio

August Pullman might not look like everyone else but he wants nothing more than to be treated like a normal kid.

Having been homeschooled due to his facial deformity, Auggie enters mainstream school with hope and excitement. Unfortunately, not everyone is as welcoming as Auggie had hoped.

Wonder is an honest look at bullying as well as a heartwarming celebration of empathy and acceptance. 

2. The Giver By Lois Lowry

The community in which Jonas lives seems idyllic, with choice removed and difficult memories banished.

But when Jonas is given the role “Receiver of Memory” he discovers the dark secrets that lie behind his world. Even difficult emotions are better than no emotions at all.

Tackling a complex topic with striking simplicity, The Giver teaches children to be curious and questioning.

3. Fish In A Tree By Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally might not know how to read but she’s not going to let anyone at school find out. That’s why she’s a troublemaker, a disruptor, someone who’s skilled at causing distractions.

After all, who can cure dumb?

When Mr. Daniels notices that behind the mischief is a smart and creative kid, he helps Ally recognize her true potential.

This is an excellent book for any child who has felt left behind at school.

4. Bridge To Terabithia By Katherine Patterson

When new kid Leslie beats Jesse in a race at school the two soon become close friends.

Leslie is smart and creative, transforming Jesse’s world with the imaginary kingdom of Terabithia and newfound courage. But when tragedy strikes, Jesse finds he has a lot to learn about life.

A modern-day classic, Bridge to Terabithia is a heartfelt exploration of grief.

5. I Am Malala: (Young Readers Edition) By Malala Yousafzai

When Malala was just 10 years old, the Taliban took control of her home and her once peaceful life was destroyed.

The Taliban told girls they couldn’t go to school and that they had to stop their education. When Malala defied them, she was shot while riding the bus to school.

No one expected Malala to survive, but she pulled through and became a global spokesperson for the importance of education.

This autobiographical account reminds us why knowledge is so powerful.

6. The Secret Garden By Frances Hodgson Burnett

When Mary’s parents die and leave her orphaned, she’s sent to live with her uncle in a grand house on the Yorkshire Moors.

The house itself is riddled with mysteries and locked doors, so Mary finds an escape in the vast gardens surrounding the manor.

But within the gardens lies a secret garden, guarded by tall walls and a locked key. What will Mary find inside?

7. Starfish By Lisa Fipps

Ellie is bigger than the other girls. Ever since making a big splash — literally — at her 5th birthday pool party, she’s felt ashamed of her size.

Her only escape is the water. In the pool, she can take up as much space as she wants. Will she ever learn to show the same confidence on land? 

As a novel in verse, Starfish is better for advanced 5th graders who are eager to read new types of stories.

However, for any kid who has felt self-conscious about their body, this story can help them find their courage.

8. The City Of Ember By Jeanne DuPrau

Ember was built as the last city for a struggling human race, but 200 years later and the lamps that light the city are going out.

Without light to live by, Ember, and the last of humanity, will be lost. Can Lina and Doon save their home?

The City of Ember is a powerful dystopian that gets the reader thinking. It’s also the first part of a series and will leave you wanting more!

9. Beyond The Bright Sea By Lauren Wolk

The islands that 12-year-old Crow calls home are beautiful but isolated. Orphaned at just hours old, Crow’s only companions are her carer Osh and her neighbor Miss Maggie. 

Growing curious about the world around her, and the mysteries of her own birth, Crow embarks on a journey to find life beyond her home.

Beyond the Bright Sea is a fascinating and moving read that teaches children about belonging and identity.

10. Where The Red Fern Grows By Wilson Rawls

Billy has always dreamed of owning two dogs to accompany him as he roams his Ozark home.

When he finally saved enough money to purchase the pups — Old Dan and Little Ann — the three become a tight-knit pack and their prowess as hunters brings them renown.

But tragedy and heartbreak await for Billy in this classic children’s novel that’s perfect for adventure fans. 

11. A Wrinkle In Time By Madeleine L’Engle

Meg Murry has never quite fit in, and after a stormy night brings an unusual stranger to her kitchen, she’s forced to journey even further out of the ordinary.

Along with her younger brother Charles and classmate Calvin, Meg must travel through space and time to find her missing father.

A sci-fi epic, A Wrinkle In Time is ideal for advanced readers looking for a challenge.

12. Pay It Forward By Catherine Ryan Hyde

12-year-old Trevor McKinney thinks he can change the world. His idea is simple. He does three good deeds for three different people, then asks them to return the gesture.

But instead of helping Trevor, he wants them to “pay it forward” — do good deeds for more people in the community.

Pay It Forward is a story of spreading kindness and goodwill that encourages empathy.

13. The Diary Of A Young Girl By Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl is a powerful story of life under the worst of circumstances. Forced to hide in a secret attic to avoid persecution by the Nazis, Anne’s diary is a vivid descriptor of her everyday existence.

Capturing hope and humor among the fear, The Diary of a Young Girl can help guide tough discussions with growing children.

14. Restart By George Korman

Chase doesn’t remember how he hit his head, but that isn’t much of a surprise. In fact, Chase doesn’t remember much of anything, including what his life was like before the accident. 

But while some kids would see it as a disaster, for Chase, his sudden amnesia seems like a benefit. Who was Chase? And, more importantly, who will he become?

15. The Sign Of The Beaver By Elizabeth George Speare

At just 13 years old, Matt is left alone to guard his family’s cabin in the Maine wilderness.

He’s terrified yet determined, but when a stranger steals Matt’s supplies, things seem bleak.

Until he meets Attean, a Native American from the Beaver tribe. Attean teaches Matt how to live with the wild and about how different things were before the arrival of white settlers.

16. Clean Getaway By Nic Stone

There are a few rules you need to know before going on a road trip with G’ma. Don’t forget your suitcase, leave your phone behind, grab G’ma’s treasured Green Book, and buckle up!

Journeying through the American South with G’ma is an exciting prospect, even if she’s acting stranger than usual.

A wild ride that teaches children important lessons from American history, Clean Getaway is a sparkling caper with a heartfelt message.

17. James And The Giant Peach By Roald Dahl

After his parents were eaten by a rhino, James is sent to live with his horrible aunts. Until an accident with some magic crystals causes strange things to happen with the peach tree…

On a journey through the country courtesy of an oversized peach, James makes friends with the Grasshopper, Ladybug, and Centipede that call the fruit their home.

A classic children’s story that gets your imagination growing!

18. Harbor Me By Jacqueline Woodson

Behind the closed doors of the ARTT Room (A Room To Talk), it’s much easier to say what’s on your mind.

And for the 6 kids that use ARTT for weekly meetings, the outlet of these conversations can provide hope and courage.

Harbor Me is a touching story that offers a glimpse into the different lives children might encounter in middle school.

19. Smile By Raina Telgemeier

An accident at Girl Scouts leaves Raina with her teeth and her confidence shattered. What follows is a series of surgery, braces, retainers, and even some embarrassing false teeth headgear.

All that and Rainer has to navigate fake friends, confusing boys, and a major earthquake!

A funny and creative graphic novel, Smile teaches us about finding our place in the world.

20. The War That Saved My Life By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

When an opportunity to sneak away from a stifled life in a one-bedroom apartment appears to Ada, she grabs it while she can, despite her twisted foot.

Ada is sent to England to flee the war, where she finds a new life of freedom and excitement.

The War That Saved My Life is a poignant story about family and adversity. 

21. Hatchet By Gary Paulsen

Brian is traveling to visit his father when his plane crashes and he’s stuck alone in the wilderness. All he has are his clothes, an old windbreaker, and his hatchet.

With minimal supplies but plenty of courage, Brian battles to survive in the wild.

A modern classic, Hatchet is a tale of growth and resilience that will appeal to adventurous kids.

22. Holes By Louis Sachar

It’s a family curse that’s landed Stanley Yelnats at Camp Green Lake, a boys’ detention center where everyone is asked to dig holes day in and day out.

And not just any holes. They need to be exactly five feet wide and five feet deep.

There might not be a lake at Camp Green Lake, but there’s definitely something fishy going on. Can Stanley figure out just what they’re digging for?

23. Number The Stars By Lois Lowry

As Nazi forces descend on Denmark, the lives of the Jewish population are at risk. 10-year-old Annemarie might be safe, but her best friend Ellen Rosen is not.

To protect her from the Nazis, Annemarie’s family takes Ellen in and hides her as one of their own.

A tale of heroism and bravery, Number the Stars is an emotional read and a modern classic.

24. Bud Not Buddy By Christopher Paul Curtis

Life in Flint, Michigan, in 1936 is hard for a lot of people, but for 10-year-old Bud, things are even more tricky.

He has no mother, he’s on the run, and he’s hoping a series of flyers can help him find his father.

But Bud also has his own suitcase, rules to make life more fun, and a whole heap of determination. What could go wrong?

25. Tuck Everlasting By Natalie Babbitt

The Tuck family have all found the secret to everlasting life — a spring with waters that grant immortality. When Winnie Foster discovers the Tuck’s secret she has a decision to make.

Should she drink the water and live forever? Or is there a dark side to eternal life?

A modern children’s classic, Tuck Everlasting raises important questions for young minds.

26. Rules By Cynthia Lord

For 12-year-old Catherine, it seems like everything revolves around her little brother and his autism. He’s embarrassing to be around, which is why Catherine has spent so long trying to teach him the basic rules of life. 

One summer, Catherine has a chance to meet some new friends. And she might discover that “normal” isn’t quite as simple as she thought it was! 

27. Walk Two Moons By Sharon Creech

During the long trip from Ohio to Idaho, 13-year-old Salamanca entertains her grandparents with the tale of Phoebe Winterbottom.

Phoebe’s story is one of mystery and lunacy, and the search for her missing mother.

As the story of Phoebo unfolds, so does Salamana’s life story  — and her desire to reunite with her own mother. A moving book that weaves two narratives into a compelling tale.

28. Black Boy Joy By Kwambe Mbalia

Something a little different, Black Boy Joy consists of 17 separate stories from 17 black authors.

Each story is a tale of happiness and wonder in black boyhood, from finding your first-day-of-school outfit to traveling in an intergalactic race.

Every voice in Black Boy Joy bursts with happiness. It’s the perfect book for putting a smile on your face.

29. Al Capone Does My Shirts By Gennifer Choldenko

Life on Alcatraz might be pretty unusual for most kids, but for those who live on the isolated prison island, it’s just home.

Moose and his sister, along with the other kids of Alcatraz, aren’t hardened criminals. They’re just the children of people who work for the prison.

Still, life in a prison presents some new challenges. Luckily, there’s always an infamous criminal or two to help out!

30. Esperanza Rising By Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza lived a privileged life on her family’s ranch in Mexico. But things change dramatically when tragedy forces Esperanza and her family to flee Mexico for a California labor camp. 

It’s a tough adjustment, but Esperanza must find a way to overcome her new circumstances. Her life depends on it. For children, Esperanza Rising is an impactful reminder of the power of hope.

Further reading: How to create a successful homeschooling lesson plan for 5th grade.


A good book can help children navigate the twists and turns of growing up.

We hope these books not only spark their imagination but also teach them something new, as well as encourage a lifelong love of reading!

You may also like: 4th Grade Books For Your Children

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Should A 5th Grader Read Every Day?

It’s recommended that 5th graders aim to read between 15 and 20 minutes outside of school every day. The best way to encourage reading is to help kids find a book they love!

What Level Should A 5th Grader Be Reading At?

The right reading level for a 5th grader will depend on which scale you use. For example, a 5th grader should have a DRA level of around 50. However, make sure to tailor reading choices for each child.

What Lexile Level Should A 5th Grader Read At?

The suggested Lexile level for a 5th grader is typically between 800 and 1000.

Simon Lewis

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