The best middle grade books to fall into

Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson Author Of The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow
By Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson

Who am I?

We have been writing middle-grade and children’s picture book reviews on Fairday’s Blog for about 12 years. We started our book blog when we began our journey to publish The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow. In attending book shows, like the BEA, The Children’s Book Fair, various writing conferences, and book events, we were able to meet and interview many of the authors whose books we reviewed. It has been fascinating and fun to get the scoop on the story behind their stories and understand the books on a deeper level. We’ve read and reviewed many books on our path to publishing the Fairday Morrow books, and it’s been amazing connecting with readers and authors all over the globe and sharing our stories.


I wrote...

The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

By Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, Roman Muradov (illustrator),

Book cover of The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

What is my book about?

Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s certain she’ll die of boredom.

As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past. Before she can unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where a series of clues takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure.

The books we picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Phantom Tollbooth

By Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (illustrator),

Book cover of The Phantom Tollbooth

Why this book?

The Phantom Tollbooth is a book that masterfully opens the reader’s mind to different perspectives through his brilliant storytelling. Milo is a character who you learn to love as he winds his way through a divided world desperate to find Rhyme and Reason.

Norton Juster was a master at scene setting- taking an idea or concept and showing it in a unique way that resonates meaning. I gained insight into my feelings about certain situations. I was immensely entertained by the story, and certain scenes in the book will stick with me forever. The illustrations by Jules Feiffer are fantastic.

The power to show another person what you mean lies in crafting a good story. The Phantom Tollbooth is a book that takes the reader on a whirlwind journey along with Milo as he tries to stop a divided kingdom of words and numbers from collapsing. Norton Juster weaves his tale along the twisty turns Milo takes on his journey, and you can’t help but follow along in pursuit of Rhyme and Reason. I highly recommend this fascinating book!


The Real Boy

By Anne Ursu, Erin McGuire (illustrator),

Book cover of The Real Boy

Why this book?

I absolutely loved this book! Anne Ursu has a brilliant way with words. The Real Boy was the second book I picked up by this author- Breadcrumbs was the first, and I was hooked on Ursu’s unique and genuine style of storytelling. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves stories that tie in legends and whisk you off on a magical adventure.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon

By Kelly Barnhill,

Book cover of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Why this book?

Each year the people of the Protectorate leave a baby in the woods as a sacrifice. Xan, the witch, is kind and saves the babies, giving them to families who will love them. Until there is one baby she doesn’t give away and both of their lives are changed forever. The story and characters sucked me right into another world. I couldn’t put this book down! I loved thinking about the way the story was told and the way information was presented. There were a lot of layers to this book and I enjoyed making my way through each one. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a modern-day fairytale.


The War That Saved My Life

By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley,

Book cover of The War That Saved My Life

Why this book?

I got lost in the pages of this middle-grade historical fiction book. Ada’s character tugged at my heart and I was completely invested in her story. The cruelty her mother showed her added to the dangers of the war going on around her, and I rooted for Ada to survive and thrive. As she and her younger brother fled from London to the countryside I was hoping they would find safety and love. The storytelling is masterful and readers will feel like they are in the story with Ada. This is a book that will stay with you after you turn the last page.


Gregor the Overlander

By Suzanne Collins,

Book cover of Gregor the Overlander

Why this book?

I know better than to judge a book by its cover. Still, I didn’t want to read Gregor the Overlander when I first saw the cover. It was recommended for 5th graders and I read it so I would be able to talk to my students about it. I am so glad I did because I loved the story, characters, and world building. When Gregor and his sister, Boots, fell through the grate in the laundry room I was right there with them. The world they discovered was so well described that I felt like I was in the Underland meeting the cast of characters that awaited them. The prophecy that involves Gregor made me nervous and excited, as I hoped he would be able to do what he needed to do. This is an adventure that will become a favorite of fantasy lovers!


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in sibling, disability, and witches?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about sibling, disability, and witches.

Sibling Explore 143 books about sibling
Disability Explore 33 books about disability
Witches Explore 85 books about witches

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Lord of the Rings, Wool, and Neverwhere if you like this list.