Tween

17 Books 4th, 5th, and 6th Grade Teachers Should Have in Their Classrooms

by Kari Ness Riedel

As the founder of Bookopolis.com, a social network where kid readers share book reviews and recommendations, I get a unique peek into what books elementary and middle school kids are loving these days.

Teachers often ask me for new books they should have in their classroom library. Understandably, they don’t have time to keep up on all the new titles released every year. While classics like Little House on the Prairie and The Hardy Boys are a great addition to any bookshelf, to motivate kids to read, it’s important to keep bookshelves stocked with the latest favorites.

Here are 17 books that 4th, 5th, and 6th graders can’t wait to get their hands on when it’s independent reading time.

  • For kids who love realistic fiction:

  • Fish in a Tree

    by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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    Sixth grader Ally Nickerson has always dreaded school. She’s been called “dumb” by her classmates and is considered a troublemaker by her teachers. She’s great at math and art but she’s never let anyone know her darkest secret: She can’t read. Everything changes when she gets a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, who realizes she struggles with dyslexia, and she befriends two other misfits at school, Keisha and Albert. This is an emotional and uplifting story about celebrating the uniqueness in everyone.

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  • Short

    by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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    Julia is very short for her age, but she learns the size of her character matters more than her height during a summer spent as a Munchkin in the local production of the “Wizard of Oz”. She gets to know a diverse group of adults including a few with dwarfism and her 70-year-old neighbor. Julia’s insights about her life and the world are charming and laugh-out-loud funny.

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  • George

    by Alex Gino

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    George might look like a boy, but she knows she’s a girl. When her school puts on a production of Charlotte’s Web, she wants to be Charlotte but isn’t allowed to try out since she’s not a girl. This is the catalyst she needs to come to terms with the feelings she’s always had. This is an approachable book for young readers about being transgender and the power of friendship and acceptance.

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  • For kids who love historical fiction:

  • The War That Saved My Life

    by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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    Set in England during World War II, this is the emotionally charged story of Ada, a 9-year-old with a clubfoot who has been made to feel that she is unworthy of love and a normal life by her own mother. When she flees London, and the coming bombing raids, with her younger brother and the other poor city kids sent to live with families in the countryside, she gets a taste of freedom she has never experienced. During her time in the country, Ada realizes she has more value and potential than she was led to believe in her old life. Historical wartime events and facts are beautifully woven throughout this heartfelt story of transformation and redemption.

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  • Stella by Starlight

    by Sharon M. Draper

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    Eleven-year-old Stella lives in a tight-knit community in the segregated South in the 1930s. When she and her brother witness Ku Klux Klan activity, she is thrust into an awakening about the world around her and the struggle to stand up for what is right. This is a gripping story that emphasizes the power of courage, resilience, and creativity, and teaches readers about a difficult point in American history.

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  • Wolf Hollow

    by Lauren Wolk

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    Twelve-year old Annabelle has always known a life of kindness and hard work in her small Pennsylvania town. Things change when a cruel girl, Betty, moves in with her grandparents. A terrible event occurs and Annabelle finds herself on an adventure to unravel the mystery of what really happened. Set in 1943, it delves into heavy topics like bigotry, prejudice, and the lasting impact of war. This is a complex and heart-wrenching story that shows how compassion can overcome bullying. It’s a great pick for mature readers who love thought-provoking books.

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  • For kids who love modern fairy tales:

  • Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk

    by Liesl Shurtliff

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    Kids love these modern takes on familiar stories. This tells the “true” story of the adventures that Jack and his sister Annabella had when they climbed up the beanstalk. It is funny, full of action, and offers sweet lessons about courage and perseverance. If students like this one, there are two more fantastic books by the same author: Rump and Red.

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  • A Tale Dark and Grimm

    by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Dan Santat

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    Hansel and Gretel escape the oven and wander into several other well-known Grimm’s fairy tales. A witty narrator gives readers a fresh, albeit gruesome, take on classic stories. Kids who enjoy a bit of blood and gore and appreciate a dark sense of humor absolutely love this book.

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  • The Jumbies

    by Tracey Baptiste

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    Corinne doesn’t believe in jumbies, evil creatures that come out of the island’s woods to eat people, until they start attacking her village. She learns from a good witch that she has magical powers that can stop the jumbies. Based on a Haitian folktale, this is a great book for kids who love creepy stories with heroines that use bravery and loyalty to save the day.

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  • For kids who love mysteries:

  • Book Scavenger

    by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

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    Emily and James, two book- and puzzle-loving kids, go on a quest around San Francisco to find out what happened to Garrison Griswold, the inventor of the Book Scavenger game (which is like geo-caching with books). This book is full of ciphers to be cracked and mysteries to be solved. Kids can even play “Book Scavenger” in real life and seek and hide their favorite books around town.

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  • The Great Greene Heist

    by Varian Johnson

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    This book has been called “’Ocean’s 11’ for middle schoolers.” Jackson Greene is known as a smooth operator. He’s sworn off pulling pranks — that is, until the girl he likes is in trouble. He assembles a group to pull off the biggest con yet to save the day. It is fast-paced, humorous, and full of likeable characters.

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  • Spy School

    by Stuart Gibbs

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    Ben Ripley thinks he’s just a typical brilliant, nerdy middle school student until he realizes his magnet school is actually a recruiting ground for the junior C.I.A. Young readers love this funny, adventure-filled story of Ben’s escapades as an accidental undercover spy on a mission to stop a secret enemy organization.

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