Tuesday, September 1, 2015

19 awesome books for middle-grade boys

Great books for middle grade and middle school boys. 4th - 8th graders, including reluctant readers, will love these!

We read a lot of amazing books this summer and wrote a ton of blog posts about them. But I thought it might help out all you adults if I broke up our lists into books that boys usually like and books that girls usually like.

Of course, everyone can read whatever they want to. That's the beauty of books. No discrimination! No worries! Princesses and football for everyone!

But for those of you thinking, "What do 10 year old boys usually like to read???" and "What in the world do I get a 11 year old girl who likes to read???" Well, I'm creating lists for you that are full of books that are probably a safe bet.

First up: Books that middle-grade boys usually dig. That's boys ages 9 – 12, or 4th – 8th graders. I've got funny books, thoughtful books, adventure books, graphic novels, and more! Here we go, listed from younger to older readers...

Knights of the Lunch Table by Frank Cammuso (book 1 of a series)

The Arthurian legend is reborn--in a funny, average-joe, middle-school boy and his pals! Artie King just wants to ease into life at Camelot Middle School. He’s got new lunch buddies, Percy and Wayne, and his science teacher, Mr. Merlyn, is pretty cool. But then there’s scary Principal Dagger and big bad Joe and The Horde, a bunch of brawny bullies who rule the school.

Clueless McGee by Jeff Mack (book 1 of a series)

Clueless McGee is just your average fifth-grader: snarky, awkward, and a magnet for trouble. The only difference: he's also an amateur detective. Determined to make his absent father proud, he uses the skills he's learned playing video games to solve mysteries. Only he's no Sherlock Holmes. Or Encyclopedia Brown. Or even Scooby-Doo.

When the school bully is framed for filling the orchestra teacher's tuba with macaroni and cheese, Clueless is on the case. But can he catch the culprit before he strikes again? His only obstacle, as Jeff Mack shows us in his hilarious new illustrated series, is his own ineptitude . . . questionable talent . . . and limited intelligence. No problem!

Lunch Lady by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (book 1 of a series)

Hector, Terrence, and Dee have always wondered about their school lunch lady. What does she do when she isn’t dishing out the daily special? Where does she live? Does she have a lot of cats at home? Little do they know, Lunch Lady doesn’t just serve sloppy joes—she serves justice! Whatever danger lies ahead, it’s no match for LUNCH LADY!

Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce (book 1 of a series)

Nate knows he’s meant for big things. REALLY big things. But things don’t always go your way just because you’re awesome. Nate barely survives his dad’s toxic oatmeal before rushing off to school—minus his lunch. He body slams the no-nonsense principal. He accidentally insults his least favorite teacher, the horrifying Mrs. Godfrey (aka Godzilla). And school has barely started!

Trouble always seems to find him, but Nate keeps his cool. He knows he’s destined for greatness. A fortune cookie told him so.

Timmy Failure by Stephan Pastis (book 1 of a series)

Take eleven-year-old Timmy Failure--the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large polar bear named Total. Throw in the Failuremobile--Timmy’s mom’s Segway--and what you have is Total Failure, Inc., a global enterprise destined to make Timmy so rich his mother won’t have to stress out about the bills anymore. Of course, Timmy’s plan does not include the four-foot-tall female whose name shall not be uttered. And it doesn’t include Rollo Tookus, who is so obsessed with getting into "Stanfurd" that he can’t carry out a no-brainer spy mission...

(Side note: Timmy Failure is coming to Poptropica!)

Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs (book 1 of a series)

Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and definitely unusual. After an uneventful experiment in his garage-lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions -- the robots Klink and Klank -- to life!

Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor ... until Frank’s archnemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (book 1 of a series)

This is THE book that started the craze for illustrated kids' books! It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.

Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion.

Greg says in his diary, “Just don’t expect me to be all ‘Dear Diary’ this and ‘Dear Diary’ that.” Luckily for us, what Greg Heffley says he won’t do and what he actually does are two very different things.

BONE by Jeff Smith (graphic novel)

The BONE adventures tell the story of a young bone boy, Fone Bone, and his two cousins, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, who are banned from their homeland of Boneville. When the cousins find themselves mysteriously trapped in a wonderful but often terrifying land filled with secrets and danger--and special new friendships--they are soon caught up in adventures beyond their wildest dreams.

Public School Superhero by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Cory Thomas

Kenny Wright is a kid with a secret identity. In his mind, he's Stainlezz Steel, super-powered defender of the weak. In reality, he's a chess club devotee known as a "Grandma's Boy," a label that makes him an easy target for bullies.

Then Kevin gets detention for the first time, and he is assigned the nearly impossible task of teaching one of the school’s biggest bullies, Ray-Ray, how to play chess. During their weeks of playing together, the two boys learn things about each other that lead to an unlikely friendship.

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

In the town of Zombay, there is a witch named Graba who takes in stray children, and Rownie is the youngest boy in her household. Rownie’s only real relative is his older brother Rowan, who is an actor. But acting is outlawed in Zombay, and Rowan has disappeared.

Desperate to find him, Rownie joins up with a troupe of goblins who skirt the law to put on plays. But their plays are not only for entertainment, and the masks they use are for more than make-believe. The goblins also want to find Rowan—because Rowan might be the only person who can save the town from being flooded by a mighty river. A National Book Award winner!

The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Miles Murphy is not happy to be moving to Yawnee Valley, a sleepy town that’s famous for one thing and one thing only: cows. In his old school, everyone knew him as the town’s best prankster, but Miles quickly discovers that Yawnee Valley already has a prankster, and a great one. If Miles is going to take the title from this mystery kid, he is going to have to raise his game.

It’s prankster against prankster in an epic war of trickery, until the two finally decide to join forces and pull off the biggest prank ever seen: a prank so huge that it would make the members of the International Order of Disorder proud.

Crown of Three by J.D. Rinehart

Family secrets combine with fantasy in this epic tale of battle, magic, strange creatures, power, and fate! Toronia, a kingdom composed of three realms, is wracked with civil war. Cruel King Brutan rules with an iron fist. The kingdom’s only hope comes in the form of Brutan’s illegitimate triplets, prophesied to kill the king and rule together in peace. Separated at birth and scattered throughout the realms, the triplets face a desperate fight to secure their destiny. Will they survive long enough to rule?

Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi (graphic novel)

After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids' mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals. Together with a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August "Auggie" Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.

Wonder begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi (book one of a series)

Eva Nine was raised in an underground sanctuary by the robot Muthr. But when it's destroyed, the twelve-year-old girl is forced to flee aboveground. Eva Nine is searching for anyone else like her: She knows that other humans exist because of an item she treasures—a scrap of cardboard on which is depicted a young girl, an adult, and a robot, with the strange word, “WondLa.” 

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

Kyle Keeley is the class clown and a huge fan of all games—board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the construction of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot as one of twelve kids invited for an overnight sleepover in the library, hosted by Mr. Lemoncello and riddled with lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route!

City of Orphans by Avi

The streets of 1893 New York are crowded and filthy. For thirteen-year-old newsboy Maks Geless, they are also dangerous. Bruno, leader of the awful Plug Ugly Gang, has set his sights on Maks and orders his boys to track him down. Suddenly Maks finds himself on the run, doing all he can to evade the gang, with only his new friend Willa by his side. And that’s just the start of Mak’s troubles. His sister, Emma, has been arrested and imprisoned for stealing a watch from the glamorous new Waldorf Hotel. Maks knows she didn’t do it—but will he be able to prove it in time?

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (book 1 of a series)

Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds in Quill are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination.

It’s hard for Alex, an Unwanted, to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation. 

But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artimé that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle. 

Legend by Marie Lu (book 1 of a series)

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.


How could we not include our own awesome book, right? Galactic Hot Dogs: Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway is perfect for kids ages 9-12!

Meet Cosmoe, the Earth-Boy. He’s captain of the Neon Wiener, the finest flying food truck in the galaxy. Along with his bud, Big Humphree, he spends his days cruising the cosmos and staying crazy busy…

1. Cooking up a Mega-Dog. (Dude, this hot dog is the size of a jeep!)

2. Escaping mutant worm monsters, zombie space pirates, and grumpy robots. (What the butt?!)

3. Playing Super Moon Ninja Death Jab (Turbo Ear Slap! 9,000 points!!)

4. And…PROTECTING THE GALAXY from the Ultimate Evil. (He’s kind of an awesome space guy.)

Happy reading,
the Galactic Hot Dogs crew

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Image credit: "Gripped by Terry Prachett" by Richard Leeming is licensed under CC BY 2.0.