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Building on the Classics: Middle-Grade Reads to Add to Your Shelves

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

photograph of boy standing in front of book shelves with text, "Building on the Classics: Middle-Grade Reads to Add to Your Shelves."

by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)

We recently had the chance to chat with Jill Hames, director of the James L. Hamner Public Library and host of the Connections podcast. Our agenda? To think about classics--like Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, Wilson Rawls's Where the Red Fern Grows, Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and Fred Gipson's Old Yeller--and develop a list of books that we could recommend to fans of these tried-and-true options. (For the record, we endorse these books! We just don't want them to be the ONLY books that kids read.) Here are some recommendations that will appeal to middle-grade readers:

Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw ( |

Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon ( | - Take a look at Ashley's post.

Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s The Magisterium series (book 1, The Iron Trial, | - Here's Jen's review of the series.

Kathryn Erskine’s Seeing Red ( |

Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed's When Stars Are Scattered ( | - Check out Jen's review.

Sara Pennybacker’s Pax with Jon Klassen, illustrator ( |

Jason Reynolds’s As Brave as You ( |

Jason Reynolds’s Ghost ( | (and the Track series, - We discuss this book on our Jason Reynolds episode.

Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Ghost Boys ( | - Here's Jen's post about the book.

Aisha Saeed’s Amal Unbound ( | - We discuss this book on our 2018 Global Read Aloud episode.

Nic Stone’s Dear Martin ( | - Check out our teaching materials here.

Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early ( |

Padma Venkatraman’s The Bridge Home ( | - We discussed this novel on our 2019 Global Read Aloud episode.

Beth Vrabel’s Caleb and Kit ( | - Check out our episode "Worth All the Tears," where Sara talks about this book.

If you'd like to listen to a trailer of the episode, click here.

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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