Motherhood

Help! What Kids’ Chapter Books Do You Like?

We’ve written a lot about children’s books, but now that the boys are getting older, I’m curious what chapter books you like…

Growing up, I LOVED The Boxcar Children and all things Ramona and OF COURSE The Baby-Sitters Club. Like a totally normal 10-year-old, I would lie behind our sofa, squeezing against the wall, and read for hours — hidden from the rest of the world.

But, to be honest, I’ve been having a hard time getting the boys into chapter books. They still love picture books (the New York Times says you’re never too old), and Toby enjoyed Charlotte’s Web — but I want to find more that will really excite them.

So question for the group:

What do the middle grade kids in your life like to read? I would so appreciate recommendations!

P.S. Our most beloved children’s books, and a motherhood mantra.

(Photo by Guille Faingold/Stocksy.)

  1. Seraphim says...

    I am late to this, but can highly recommend:
    The Explorer by Katherine Rundell; and
    Front Desk by Kelly Yang
    I have a 10-year old daughter and a 7-year old son – both kids loved both of these books, and have read them repeatedly.

  2. Megan says...

    Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott kicks off a series about a kid who lives in NYC and discovers his Ma has magical powers and knowledge of mystical creatures and worlds. My kids (7 and 4) were both completely spellbound when I read it aloud this spring. Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins gave us a great chance to practice empathy with the main character and can stand alone but also has a few follow-up books in the series.

  3. Kim says...

    I’m so late to this, but wanted to say The Vanderbeekers Series has been our newest favorite. It takes place in New York and is so lovely. I read aloud to my kids until they won’t let me anymore, so I have read so many chapter books over the last 15 years. We still read picture books, too, though, no matter how old we get :)

  4. jehanara haider says...

    A to Z Mysteries are a hit with my 7 year old, who has been glued to books thanks to quarantine and being an only child…

  5. Ashley says...

    I’m not sure if you can easily find these in the States, but all the kids here in Australia love any books written by Anh Do. Weir-do series, Hot Dog series, and Wolf Girl series.

    Also, great classic series is The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.

  6. Rosalie says...

    I’m so late to this, but I think Toby would like Crash by Jerry Spinelli. One summer years ago, I led a literacy class as part of a summer program for elementary students, and I didn’t know what to do for the fifth grade boys. My mom gave me Crash, and I just read it to them over the course of the summer, and they LOVED it. Crash is the name of the main character, and he’s a bully, but he starts changing for the better. It’s so so good, and I highly recommend it for that age!

  7. Suz says...

    We first read many of these books/series as bedtime read alouds, followed by innumerable quiet time/car trip listens via Libby/hoopla, and hopefully will be read independently by my 6 yo & 8 yo soon.
    The Serpent’s Secret – first in the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond Series by Sayantani DasGupta.
    The Jumbies – first in a Trilogy by Tracey Baptiste inspired by Haitian folklore.
    Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
    Howell’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
    Ronja the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren (what the Studio Ghibli series on Prime after!)
    Easier Readers:
    Catwings Series by Urusala K Le Guin (also the first three Earthsea books as read aloud)
    Dragons in a Bag (and it’s sequel – The Dragon Thief) by Zetta Elliot
    The Jaden Toussaint Series by Marti Dumas (Jaden is a kindergartner but the books are engaging for older children as well)
    Akissi: Tales of Mischief graphic novel series by Marguerite Abouet

  8. Sam says...

    I will forever recommend the Zoe and Sassafras series, by Asia Citro! The protagonist is a girl, she is smart, curious, kind, the stories combine magic and science, and they are super entertaining!

  9. Brittany says...

    Anything by Judy Blume or Roald Dahl! And you can’t go wrong with Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, and Sideway Stories from Wayside School! I also deeply love Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Written in the early 1900s, but the adventures of Anne and the lessons never get old. To this day (as a 32 year old adult) I still will sit down and watch the movie PBS made and I recommend the book (and the rest of the books in the series) to anyone looking for early chapter books. It’s a book and story that has stayed with me more than perhaps any book from that time of my life. I also loved My Side of the Mountain, the Giver, Number the Stars, Little House on the Prairie, and Babysitter’s Club as a kid. I read a lot. Lol

  10. Lindsey says...

    I’m a little late to comment but I have a 10 year old who DEVOURS books! And a 8 and 4 year old who could listen to me read outlaid for hours. Heres a few series that saved us this past year…

    Animorphs
    Spy School
    Wings of Fire
    Keeper of the Lost Cities
    Percy Jackson
    Harry Potter
    Hunger Games

    Harry Potter is superb but darker, best to save for last. Spy School was excellent and Keeper of the Lost Cities was a hidden gem recommended by our local bookstore… it captivated all three of my kids – two boys and a girl – and me too! We were reading it together every spare moment we had.

  11. RS says...

    I loved the books of John Bellairs when I was around 10-11. They were scary, be warned, but it was in a good way, and everything always came out fine. House with a Clock in Its Walls is a good place to start.

  12. Sonia says...

    I’m a bit late to this comment thread, but my kids (boy 10 girl 8) just listened to the audio book of the first three books of the Wizards of Once, as read by David Tennant. They absolutely loved it.

  13. Val says...

    My daughter loves the How to train your dragon series. There are 12 books in all.

    David Walliams books are also a hit. They remind me of Roald Dahl books.

  14. Lilly says...

    Do people reed out loud chapter book for their kids? Maybe it’s something wrong with me but reading out loud THAT much makes me so out of breath, I just cannot do it! I’m a fast silent reader btw.

  15. Molly says...

    My kiddos love the Dragon Masters series, the Dog Diaries series, the Framed! series by James Ponti, and The Vanderbeekers. xo

  16. Charlie says...

    1. THE BOXCAR CHILDREN – I loved these so much!
    2. ANYTHING BY “AVI” – magic, smart. True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle will forever be my most memorial badass young woman character.
    3. ANYTHING BY “IVA IBBOTSON”
    4. HANNAH BANANA

    Question:
    I vaguely remember reading this series when I was younger for teens about a warrior princess(?). She discovers she has powers and has a crystal necklace to protect her. I vaguely remember that she mastribates in the book! I can’t for the life of me figure out what it was…. Any ideas?

    • Katelyn M. says...

      Could it be the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce? She disguises herself as a boy to train and become a knight. (She has magic, and a crystal necklace… don’t recall masturbation specifically but definitely touches upon sexual relationships…) If this isn’t it I would encourage you to read it/anything by Tamora Pierce (they are right up there with HP for my YA all time favourite book series)!

  17. Caitlyn says...

    We’ve loved most series by the British author Enid Blyton, especially Mallory Towers and Famous Five.

  18. Maggie says...

    My kids are 5 years apart so it was always challenging to find a story that appealed to both of them on our commute to school – 30 minutes each way! We all absolutely loved Whittington ! (turns out it was a Newbury award winner but we didn’t know that initially.). The narrator is a battered tom cat whose narration is very compelling. Still one of their favorite reads and they are now 25 and 19 years old!

  19. Laura says...

    Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides are perfect for Grade 3 readers who want to explore more – science, Egypt, Rome, space, etc. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (and the series) have been a hit with kids, Junie B. Jones series is always read obsessively and Galaxy Zack is great for when the ‘space stage’ hits. I teach G3 (ages 8-9) and it’s fascinating to see what hits/sticks/flops with the readers each year.

  20. A says...

    The Vanderbeeker series by Katina Yan Glaser is great. They may be more a read aloud if your kids are new to chapter books. The Alvin Ho series is great and funny and is at a 2nd-3rd grade reading level. My 8 yo son has read all the I Survived series and also likes the British Horrible Histories series, although those are a little more difficult. Roald Dahl is great. I read them all to my son and now he reads them to me. He loves historical fiction and doesn’t mind difficult subject matter. We just finished “The Blackbird Girls” by Anne Blackman which was great but touches on some difficult subjects. We both found it very moving. He’s reading “A Boy Called Bat” to me which is about an autistic boy who bonds with a baby skunk. In school he’s reading “The One and Only Ivan” which is wonderful but also a bit of a tear jerker. Over the past year or so I’ve started recoding all the books we read together in a journal and noting whether he’s read the book to me or I’ve read to him.

  21. My kids are super into the Owls of Ga’Hoole series right now. Frindle was also a huge hit, and were reading the Growly series as well. Oh, and Tuck Everlasting and Search for Delicious. My boys are 11 & 8.

  22. Sam says...

    Every Roald Dahl book we’ve read has been a huge hit. They are especially good for read aloud. The Twits is short and easy to get through in a few evenings and The BFG is probably our favorite family read ever.
    Lesser know books we’ve loved are The Unstoppable Astrid, about a young girl living in a small village in Norway. And Tumtum and Nutmeg which follows the adventures of two middle aged mice after they take two human children into their care.
    Read Aloud Revival is a great resource for finding books and they even have a quiz you can take to find a book for your kids based on their interests.

  23. Jennifer Forshee says...

    My daughter loves the Bad Kitty series. It’s really funny and has great illustrations.

  24. Kelly says...

    I’m a big fan of audiobooks, especially full cast ones, for entertaining the whole family in the evenings. If you search “BBC” in your library app, they produce some of the marvelous ones, like The Wind in the Willows. I remember my brothers particularly enjoying “The Monsters of Morley Manor” by Bruce Coville. Comic books are also great for that age! A big Calvin and Hobbes anthology is a great gift. I was a big fan of Artemis Fowl, and anything by Eva Ibbotson or Diana Wynne Jones.

  25. Alina says...

    Will you turn this into a post with recommendations by age groups?!

    We just finished our very first chapter book. My five year old loved Charlotte’s Web and it was my first time reading it too. We’re ready for the next!

  26. Lauren says...

    Sorry if this has already been suggested by my graphic novel obsessed 9 yr old is now making his way through the Spy School series. He was reluctant to read a book without any graphics but is now super into them! He loves the plots and giggles at the “romantic” parts.

    • Kate Gilles says...

      Yes to Roald Dahl! Just finished reading Danny the Champion of the World to my kids for bedtime. We also recently discovered Zooey and Sassafras series. My son loves the Pandamonium series (Stuart Gibbs) and Percy Jackson, which has gotten him super into Her mythology :)

    • Kate Gilles says...

      Doh – my reply was supposed to go above, but when your son is done with Spy School, try Gibbs’s other books!

  27. Katie says...

    The Vanderbeekers series by Karina Yan Glaser. Sweet and quirky, plus Amy Poehler has optioned the rights for a movie!

  28. Winnie says...

    Tomie DePaola chapter books and
    Berenstein Bear books were wonderful for my kids when they graduated to chapter books

  29. T says...

    An Epic ebook subscription was the best thing to get my nine year old reading more. Yes, he reads a lot of graphic novels on there, but he also explores chapter books, history, and biographies with no pressure. I think the playful app design and curated categories make it a bit more fun to explore new topics. He constantly surprises me with his choices.

  30. Yes to all of the above but also…
    Anything Kate Dicamillo! Also, if you want to read together, you ALL will love The Penderwick series and The Incorrigibles of Ashton Place, also a series. I cannot recommend them enough! As for reading solo… my kids (9 and 11) have always been avid readers but they prefer graphic novels. So many good ones and they read them over and over. I’ve just accepted that… at least they are reading, right? I think the chapter books will come eventually. I do force them to read some that I know are great though. My 9 year old just started The Witch of Blackbird Pond and she’s loving it… but I had to twist her arm to start it.

  31. Amy says...

    The “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshis has ignited my 10 year-old stepson’s love of reading. Last year I started reading to him at bedtime, and we recently spotted him reading silently by himself! We have also bonded over researching the actual events and sharing the stories with the rest of the family.

  32. Ivy says...

    I LOVED Little House on the Prairie. That was my first foray into chapter reading. Also really liked Roald Dahl books like Matilda, too.

  33. carson says...

    Has anyone tried book subscriptions? I used to get them as a little kid and loved them but I think there is much more to choose from nowadays. I’ve heard of OwlCrate and Beacon Boxes but no idea if they are good. I also had a kids science magazine subscription – cannot remember what it was but getting those books/mags in the mail were no doubt why I became a huge reader as a kid and still see each book as a gift today.

    • Gretchen Kim says...

      I recommend Litterati! Many age options, we get two different
      boxes for my kids ages 7 and 11, and we love most all the books that we get!

  34. Kaley says...

    My boys LOVE the Captain Underpants and DogMan books. Dogman is more of a graphic novel, but still uses chapters. They’re funny for us to read with them too!

  35. Kristian Olson says...

    More for Anton than Toby, but every single one of the first and second graders I had over my years of teaching loved The Magic Tree House series. Maybe I missed someone else reccing them before but- they got kids to read for sure!