Moving on Up: 6 Gift Books for Middle School Graduates

by Denise Schipani

Photo credit: Blend Images - Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

My grandmother made a very big deal of my moving up from middle school (or junior high, as we called it then). She knew I had at least eight more years of school ahead of me, but she made sure I knew how proud she was and how many hopes she had in her heart for me, saved up from her own life. Perhaps this was because eighth grade was the end of her own formal education — she started full-time work at 13, if you can believe it!

It’s worth remembering stories like that in these days when our kids seem to be treated to moving-up celebrations every couple of years — from daycare, preschool, elementary school, and so on. Overblown hoopla and teensy graduation gowns aside, these milestones are worth celebrating, and from our perspective, they’re worth marking with a special gift. Might we suggest a good book? We’ve pulled together this list of middle-school-moving-up-worthy volumes that make great gifts for the middle school graduate in your life.

  • The Giving Tree

    by Shel Silverstein

    You may have already read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree to your child more times than you can count, but if you don’t already own it, this classic makes a wonderful gift for a newly minted teen. Why? The story is simple enough to be understood by little ones, but it will resonate afresh with a more mature child, hopefully sparking conversations about the nature of unconditional love and selflessness.

  • The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls

    by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden (The Dangerous Book for Boys), and Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz (The Dangerous Book for Girls)

    Giving one of these manuals to your middle school graduate practically guarantees a summer of risk-taking and skill acquisition. That’s the aim of the hugely popular reads. Sure, your kid learned impressive things as a middle school student, but how about making a bow and arrow? Or the kind of coin tricks that served as entertainment in the pre-video era? Also present in these books are timeless lessons in manners, civility, and responsibility.

  • I Wish You More

    by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

    Going back to picture books for a kid at this age is not about wishing they were still a tot cuddled on your lap. Well okay, maybe a little bit, but it’s more about sending a simple, powerful message of what you wish for your child as he or she continues to mature toward adulthood. To that end, I Wish You More is the ideal picture book gift. Double-page spreads feature simple wishes like “I wish you give more than take” and “I wish you more umbrella than rain.” If you get the message across, you’ve done well. If you get a cuddle out of it, that’s just a bonus.

  • Jackie’s Nine

    by Sharon Robinson

    It’s likely your middle schooler already knows the story of how Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and became a sports legend and civil rights icon. In this inspiring, ideal-for-grads book, Sharon Robinson shares her father’s top life lessons with young readers. Chapters cover Robinson’s values including courage, determination, citizenship, persistence, and justice. Sharon also features a variety of famous voices such as Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and late actor Christopher Reeve.

  • I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives

    by Martin Ganda, Caitlin Alifirenka, and Liz Welch

    I Will Always Write Back is the true story of two pen-pals: an American named Caitlin, and a Zimbabwean named Martin. The story is written in alternating chapters, with Caitlin learning just how poor and desperate Martin’s family is, and Martin learning what life is like for a kid in relatively affluent rural America. Though there’s a familiar theme about helping those less fortunate than ourselves, it’s also a story of an unlikely friendship, perfect for a child just learning how human-to-human connection really can change the world.

  • Amelia’s Middle School Graduation Yearbook

    by Marissa Moss

    And for a bit of fun, grab Amelia’s Middle School Graduation Yearbook, which is graphically designed to look like a student’s black and white composition notebook full of illustrations and photos. Within, Amelia (whom readers may know from earlier “journals”) details her angst about leaving middle school and moving on to high school without her best friend Carly. Perfect for any kid feeling that potent mix of anxiety and anticipation about what lies ahead — which describes just about all middle school grads!

Do you recommend any other books for soon-to-be high school students? Let us know in the comments section below!