The best middle grade books about unlikely friendships

Anna Humphrey Author Of Megabat
By Anna Humphrey

The Books I Picked & Why

The Wild Robot

By Peter Brown

Book cover of The Wild Robot

Why this book?

A robot named Roz opens her eyes for the first time to discover she’s all alone on a remote island. She soon learns that the only way to survive is by befriending the wild animals who live there, but they’ve never seen a robot before, and it’s no easy task. 

Written in short, sweet chapters that read almost like picture books, this book has a soothing rhythm, yet doesn’t shy away from addressing the harsher elements of life in the wilderness. It’s funny, honest, heartwarming, and thought-provoking: all my favorite things in a book for young readers! 

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Inspector Flytrap

By Tom Angleberger, Cece Bell

Book cover of Inspector Flytrap

Why this book?

This was the first book my son (a reluctant reader) ever snuck off with to read on his own after bedtime, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Husband and wife Tom Angelberger and Cece Bell make an unstoppable creative duo in this delightful series about a venus flytrap who solves the world’s greatest mysteries. 

The only trouble is he’s a houseplant, so he can’t walk. No worries! Enter Nina, a helpful goat/assistant who pulls him everywhere on a skateboard... except there’s more trouble: she’s a goat, so she keeps eating the clues. It’s as goofy and delightful as it sounds and, best of all, once you’ve finished the first there are two more hilarious books to look forward to. 

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By Kenneth Oppel, Sydney Smith

Book cover of Inkling

Why this book?

Adventure awaits when an inkblot from one of Ethan’s dad’s sketches comes to life and leaps off the page. Sydney Smith’s inky illustrations add to the fun of this fast-paced and funny story about friendship and family. And because Inkling loves to read/eat up ink, and he takes on the mood of whatever text he’s just devoured, it’s also a cool and clever introduction for kids to some classics and to different genres of writing. 

What’s more, the book ends on a note that suggests a sequel that I can’t wait to read!

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Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

By Kate DiCamillo, K.G. Campbell

Book cover of Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Why this book?

I love everything Kate DiCamillo writes, but I especially adore the oh-so-quirky Flora & Ulysses. Self-described cynic Flora is shocked and concerned to see a neighbor suck a squirrel up her new vacuum cleaner. Although largely unharmed, the squirrel, who she names Ulysses, is transformed. In fact, it looks like he might have superpowers—unconventional though they may be. He can lift heavy objects, fly and.... write poetry? Holy unanticipated occurrences! What follows is an offbeat story about friendship, family, and a really ugly lamp, interspersed with adorable comic-style sequences that depict Ulysses conquering villains, defending the weak, and vanquishing evil... sort of. 

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Harry the Poisonous Centipede

By Lynne Reid Banks

Book cover of Harry the Poisonous Centipede

Why this book?

I love bugs, and there just aren’t enough books out there about them. Harry the Poisonous Centipede is one my kids asked for over and over when they were little, and that I happily read them again and again. 

When Harry and his best friend George go up the Up Pipe, they find themselves in the dangerous world of the hoo-mans. My kids loved seeing the world through a centipede’s eyes, not to mention their unique centipedish way of speaking, and the scrapes Harry and George get themselves into (and out of) are incredibly entertaining. 

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