The best middle grade books for a 5th-grade book group

Danielle Svetcov Author Of Parked
By Danielle Svetcov

The Books I Picked & Why

Counting by 7s

By Holly Goldberg Sloan

Book cover of Counting by 7s

Why this book?

I read this book at least three times while writing my book, Parked, trying to crack its code: i.e. how could a book be so sad (the main character loses both parents on the same day) and, at the same time, so funny, strange, comforting, and familiar? There’s an unforgettable scene on a rooftop involving broken bottles. So so good. 

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When You Reach Me

By Rebecca Stead

Book cover of When You Reach Me

Why this book?

I’ve never met a kid who didn’t love this book. Friendship, game shows, a little romance… The time-travel aspect, alone, will keep you up at night, trying to figure out how the story-loop is working. Also, the author does a magical job portraying New York City of the 1970s as both menacing and cozy, like every bodega and diner is manned by a grouchy but kind attendant who will save you in a pinch. Keep an eye out for the “strawberry shaped objects”.

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To Night Owl from Dogfish

By Holly Goldberg Sloan, Meg Wolitzer

Book cover of To Night Owl from Dogfish

Why this book?

An entire book group of girls decided to try sleep-away camp after reading this hilarious title. Constructed entirely of emails between anxious Avery Bloom (NYC) and gonzo Bett Devlin (Los Angeles), it’s about an unlikely friendship that is aided-and-abetted by the existence of the Internet and summer camp…and theatre…and love-at-first-sight…and unvarnished truth.

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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

By Elizabeth George Speare

Book cover of The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Why this book?

This is a Newbery winner that stands the test of time. Set in 1687, it tells the story of Kit Tyler, a pampered 16-year-old who moves to Connecticut from the Caribbean after her grandfather dies and discovers what Puritan life is really about: dressing plainly, deferring to men, hiding your intelligence and imagination, and going to church -- a lot. Any reader with a sense of independence will devour it. 

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Nooks & Crannies

By Jessica Lawson, Natalie Andrewson

Book cover of Nooks & Crannies

Why this book?

One part farce, one part tragedy, one part mystery – Nooks & Crannies is for fans of Roald Dahl who love watching the downfall of fiendishly evil authority figures at the hands of soft-spoken, highly intelligent children. That’s the essence of Nooks & Crannies, with lead character Tabitha Crum so used to being kicked around, underfed, and underappreciated that her only friend is a mouse named Pemberley. I loved the audiobook for this title, read by a British actor with a perfect “stiff-upper-lip” delivery. 

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