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Tween

Middle Grade Books Both You and Your Tween Can Enjoy

by Dena McMurdie

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Photo credit: Cavan Images, Cavan Collection/Getty Images

There’s no question that the isolation of the pandemic was hard on everyone. Reading books together helped my kids and I adjust to being confined to our house 24/7. It helped stave off boredom, gave us something to talk about, and reduced the inevitable brain-drain kids get from not being in school. And though the world is slowly opening up again, this little moment of connection is something we still do. Sometimes, I’ll read aloud to my tweens, but other times, we’ll read the same book on our own and then discuss it afterward. It’s like our own little book club.

If you’re interested in starting an informal book club with your kids, or a virtual one with their friends, here are some fantastic books to check out.

  • girl stuff.

    by Lisi Harrison

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    Pre-teens that enjoy realistic fiction will love the girl stuff series! Seventh grade poses the ultimate challenge to friends Fonda, Drew, and Ruthie — keeping their friendship intact. This series tackles middle school head-on with gifted classes, first crushes, popular kids, and friendship drama.

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  • The Anti-Book

    by Raphael Simon

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    Home Alone meets The Phantom Tollbooth in this coming-of-age novel for tweens. Consumed with anger at everyone and everything, Mickey wishes that the world would disappear. But when his wish comes true, he finds himself trapped in the bizarre world he created inside a blank book. It will take courage and the help of a new friend to find his way home again.

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  • Paper Heart

    by Cat Patrick

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    Unable to get past the grief and guilt caused by her best friend’s death, Tess heads to Wyoming to spend the summer with her cousins. With the help of her cousin and a new friend, Tess starts to heal. This heartfelt companion novel to Tornado Brain offers hope to readers dealing with grief.

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  • What Lane?

    by Torrey Maldonado

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    This middle grade novel is a fascinating look at the unique challenges faced by mixed-race children. It’s an excellent book to read with your pre-teen or book club to jump-start conversations about racism, biases, and expectations. Readers will be captivated by Stephen’s story as he tries to figure out how he fits into society.

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  • The Elephant’s Girl

    by Celesta Rimington

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    If you’re looking for a magical story the whole family can enjoy, this is an excellent choice. It’s about a girl named Lex who lives in a zoo and can speak to the wind. When one of the zoo’s elephants sends her a telepathic message, it pushes her beyond the zoo’s border on a quest to find out who she is and where she came from.

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  • The Star Outside My Window

    by Onjali Q. Raúf

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    Get ready to feel all the feels when you read this book. After their mother disappears, Aniyah and her little brother live in foster care. But Aniyah believes her mum is still watching over her, and a mysterious star in the night sky seems to confirm her theory. A global competition to name the star will take Aniyah on an emotional and literal journey that has a lasting impact. This unforgettable story is a must-read!

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  • Take Back the Block

    by Chrystal D. Giles

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    Friendship, determination, and activism combine into a highly readable story about a boy who wants to save his neighborhood from a real-estate developer. With everyone arguing about what to do, Wes’s community and friendships change in ways that nobody expects. This book shines a light on gentrification and the people who get displaced in the process.

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  • Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom

    by Matthew Swanson, illustrated by Robbi Behr

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    Fans of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid will adore this funny story about a boy tackling his enormous to-do list. When a fortune cookie makes Ben think he’s living his last day on Earth, he rushes to complete everything on his bucket list. Humor, adventure, and plenty of shenanigans make this book a delight to read!

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  • The War That Saved My Life

    by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

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    Read about another unusual time in history when societies went to extreme measures to keep their vulnerable populations safe. During World War II, siblings Ada and Jamie are sent from London to the countryside and placed in the care of a woman named Susan. Each of the characters suffers from grief, loss, or abuse, but they find healing and hope together. This moving story will be a favorite that you'll want to read again and again.

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  • Fish in a Tree

    by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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    Lynda Mullaly Hunt writes heartfelt stories about kids growing up and discovering who they really are. Fish in a Tree is one of my favorites. Ally has dyslexia and can't read, but she manages to hide it from everyone around her. When her new teacher sees through her act and offers to help, Ally must face her fears and learn to be kind to herself.

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  • The Letter for the King (Netflix Original Series Tie-In)

    by Tonke Dragt

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    The best part of reading a book with a Netflix adaptation is that you can have a watch party afterward. With magic, friendship, and an honest-to-goodness quest, this adventure novel will sweep you away to another world. Join Tiuri as he risks everything to travel through rivers and cities to deliver a letter that has the power to save his kingdom from doom. Then, relive the adventure again with the Netflix adaptation.

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  • The Westing Game

    by Ellen Raskin

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    My tween daughters and I fell in love with this imaginative and captivating book. When Samuel W. Westing dies, he sends 16 people on a race to solve puzzles, crack clues, and win a fortune. Filled with suspense and humor, both you and your kids will get sucked into the mystery of the Westing Game.

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  • Bloom

    by Kenneth Oppel

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    Read about a different sort of pandemic-one filled with alien plants that invade the Earth through raindrops. As the plants take over the world, devouring animals and people and releasing toxic pollen, three young teens discover they are immune to the plants. They have to figure out the reasons behind their immunity before the plants destroy everything. This suspenseful and oddly relatable science fiction novel will keep you and your kids on the edge of your seats.

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  • Beverly, Right Here

    by Kate DiCamillo

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    You can't go wrong with one of Kate DiCamillo's books. This beloved author brought us classics like Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux. Pick up her newest novel and go on a journey of self-discovery with Beverly as she meets new people, finds love (not the mushy kind), and runs away from home (again). Set in the same world as Raymie Nightingale, you'll meet new characters and see some familiar ones as well.

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  • Holes

    by Louis Sachar

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    Every kid (and their parents) should read this modern classic and now is the perfect time to do it. Wrongfully convicted of a crime, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake, which isn't a lake at all. It's a work camp where the residents are forced to dig holes all day, every day. It doesn't take long before Stanley starts to wonder about all the holes and goes looking for an answer.

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  • The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane

    by Kate Oshaughnessy

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    If you like music, reality TV, and road trips, you should read this delightful novel with your kids. When Maybelle discovers that her dad is a radio DJ in Nashville, Tennessee, she decides to enter the singing competition he will be judging. But first, she has to get to Nashville. With the help of her uptight neighbor and a bully from her trailer park, Maybelle sets out on a journey to find her dad and forms an unlikely family along the way.

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  • Poison in the Colony: James Town 1622

    by Elisa Carbone

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    If you like historical fiction, you'll want to get your hands on a copy of this book and its companion novel Blood on the River: James Town 1607. Virginia has a special ability that could save her fledgling colony from conflict with the Algonquin tribe - or get her accused of witchcraft. With nobody to protect her, Virginia must be strong, stand up for herself, and prove her worth to the colony's leaders.

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  • A Crack in the Sea

    by H.M. Bouwman, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

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    Send your kids on a magical journey with this historical fantasy novel. It's about a boy who can talk to fish, a portal between worlds, and a man desperate to open it. This is the first book in a series of three intertwined stories about a magical realm called Second World and the kids who live there.

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