14 Fantastic Chapter Books for Fifth Graders
by Jennifer Garry
Looking for the perfect book for your fifth grader? You’ve come to the right place!
Fifth grade sits on the cusp of so many things: it marks the end of elementary school and the beginning of middle school. It’s an in-between zone, right in the middle of being a little kid and teen. And it’s a time when kids should just be kids — and dip their toes into deeper waters, too.
These 14 books include something for everyone: mystery, humor, sports, the intersection of thoughts and feelings, and so much more.
Black Boy Joy
Seventeen Black male and non-binary writers share their stories of Black boyhood in this essential anthology. Authors like Jason Reynolds, Jerry Craft, and Kwame Mbalia share celebratory stories, comics, poems, and more—making it a must-have for every type of reader.
As captain of the only all-Black softball team in the league, Shenice is determined to lead her team to the championship. She gets distracted when she learns her great-grandfather’s baseball career-ending crime might have been a setup. Determined to uncover the truth about her ancestor, her focus on the game slips. Can she clear her great-grandpa’s name and help take home the championship?
Midnight at the Barclay Hotel
A weekend away at a haunted hotel turns into a murder mystery when the guests learn of Mr. Barclay’s demise—and that they are all suspects. Three kids team up to figure out who the culprit is, uncovering secrets about the hotel and its guests along the way. This fun and fast-paced story is an excellent introduction to mystery novels.
This novel in verse is about Ellie, an 11-year-old girl who struggles with self-acceptance after years of fat-shaming. The criticism comes from everywhere: kids at school, her mom, and even strangers. As a result, she tries to fly under the radar and avoids attracting unwanted attention. With a new friend by her side and the support of a few caring adults, can she learn to accept herself?
The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story
When Alice’s parents get divorced, her mom takes a job at Blackwood House as a live-in nurse to a wealthy older woman. After they move into the big, spooky house, things quickly turn strange. First, the housekeeper’s daughter tells her that her bedroom is haunted. Then, they find a dollhouse replica of Blackwood House filled with dolls that look like real girls. Soon, Alice becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of the girls in the dollhouse and what might have happened to them.
In this book by National Book Award-winner Jacqueline Woodson, a diverse group of kids meets weekly to talk in a safe, adult-free space. They start off discussing bullying incidents and end up tackling significant, timely issues like immigration, incarceration, race, and identity. This hope-filled book is a fantastic starting point for many essential discussions.
The Night Diary
Told through letters to the mother she lost as a baby, The Night Diary follows 12-year-old Nisha and her dad as they escape from Pakistan in 1947, after India’s partition. Half-Muslim and half-Hindu, home and identity become complicated concepts for Nisha almost overnight.
Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Merci and her brother are not like the other kids at Seaward Pines Academy. While their peers come from wealthy families, Merci and Roli are on scholarship. To complicate matters, Merci must put up with mean girls, boy problems, and friendship drama at school. At home, her grandfather’s behavior becomes erratic, and she knows that her family is keeping a secret from her. While touching on classic middle school issues, this book also tackles classism, family, and culture.
Flora and Ulysses
Flora and Ulysses is one of my all-time favorite middle grade books. Cynical, comic-loving Flora saves an unsuspecting squirrel from her neighbor’s vacuum — only for the critter to emerge with superpowers. Hilarious and heartfelt, it follows the two unlikely friends on an adventure with comic-style illustrations.
Fish in a Tree
Ally never learned to read, but she has always hidden it by causing disruptions in class — until Mr. Daniels sees through her antics and meets her where she’s at. As Ally pushes through her shame and past bullies, her confidence grows, and she realizes she’s more than her dyslexia. This book is an uplifting read—especially for kids who struggle in school.
The Cardboard Kingdom
No “best of” list for kids is complete without a graphic novel that can pull in reluctant readers. The Cardboard Kingdom is a classic tale about kids being kids. Sixteen children from one neighborhood use cardboard and their imaginations to create an entire world for themselves. Through their play, the kids explore their identities and touch on friendship, divorce, bullying, and so much more.
Not quite a decade old, Wonder is already a classic that led to a movie, a graphic novel, and the Choose Kind movement. The story revolves around Auggie, a fifth-grader with a facial difference starting mainstream school for the first time. Told from different points of view, it’s a story of friendship, courage, and kindness.
After abruptly moving from sunny Los Angeles to London during the Cold War, Janie visits her local apothecary for a homesickness cure. The apothecary’s son, Benjamin (who dreams of being a spy) quickly becomes the most exciting thing in her new life. When his dad gets kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must protect a 700-year-old book from Russian spies, save the apothecary, and prevent a nuclear disaster.
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer
Theo Boone might be only 13, but he dreams of being a lawyer and even gives legal advice to kids at school. But when he gets involved in a murder trial, he must risk everything to expose the truth and deliver justice. The first in a series from John Grisham, this book will catch the attention of mystery lovers and aspiring lawyers alike.