The best novels middle-grade readers will love

Rob Vlock Author Of Sven Carter & the Trashmouth Effect
By Rob Vlock

The Books I Picked & Why

Hoodoo

By Ronald L. Smith

Hoodoo

Why this book?

This is one of those books that kept me up way past my bedtime. It’s a delicious combination of folk magic, intrigue, and African-American culture in Depression-Era Alabama that grabbed me from page one. The narrator and hero, Hoodoo Hatcher, is one of my all-time favorite middle-grade protagonists, and Smith’s amazingly descriptive writing definitely transported me through time and space to a place I never wanted to leave.


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The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1)

By Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1)

Why this book?

The first book in the Lockwood & Co. series ties together everything I love—action, supernatural peril, humor, and characters that you’ll wish you knew in real life. The world-building in Stroud’s novels is breathtaking—sumptuous, imaginative, and truly immersive. The Lockwood & Co. series has been every bit as influential to me as an author as its more well-known cousins, Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. If I had to pick one favorite middle-grade series, Lockwood & Co. would be it. 


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The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1)

By Sayantani Dasgupta

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1)

Why this book?

Combining rich, imaginative Bengali folklore, pulse-elevating action, laugh-out-loud humor, and an amazing narrative voice, this book had me hooked, literally, from the first line. (“The day my parents got swallowed by a rakkhosh and whisked away to another galactic dimension was a pretty craptastic day.”) The twists and turns in this lovely novel were utterly unpredictable and kept me guessing page after page. 


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Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

By Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Why this book?

This was my first experience with Jonathan Auxier and it made me into an instant and always fan of his books. Its fairytale-like feel and enthralling story of Peter Nimble, a blind orphan and master thief, was so wonderful to read, I experienced some serious book withdrawal when I reached the end. (Luckily, we get to spend more time in Peter’s world in Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard!) This book’s story and characters are so beautifully crafted, you’ll probably want to read this one more than once—like I did!


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Stanley Will Probably Be Fine

By Sally J. Pla, Steve Wolfhard

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine

Why this book?

This is the only realistic fiction I’m recommending on this list—and there’s a very good reason why. It’s wonderful! Pla writes a thoroughly engaging, charming book that manages both to suck readers in and, at the same time, destigmatize children who present non-neurotypically. Stanley is a loveable boy who, despite more than his fair share of challenges, manages to become the hero of his story in his own unique, delightful way. 


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