Middle grade series seem to be the primary source of middle grade reading options sometimes. I don’t think my eldest daughter, 10, has read a stand-alone book in months. Every book selection she is drawn to, or that I suggest for her, is a series of some sort.
This is also becoming true for my younger daughter. To see a list of chapter books that are great for read-alouds and independent reading with a younger audience, check out this list of amazing chapter book series!
The best part about a good series is that once you get hooked on the first book, you can have two or three others already waiting for you to read them. The worst part is when the series is not yet finished. Then you end up with at least a one-year waiting period after a cliffhanger ending. (Anyone else grow up waiting about 100 years for the last book of the Harry Potter series to come out?!)
Not all of the series on this list have been part of my daughter’s reading repertoire—this is a hodge-podge of favorites from both of our preferences with mom approval.
Perhaps my favorite part about this list is the range of genres that it covers. Find your favorite and dig in! Whether you like realistic fiction, myths and legends, mysteries, or historical fiction, there’s a series for you.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is a family-oriented middle grade series that is also a great read-aloud.
The stories of five siblings with various skills, abilities, and interests center in their Harlem neighborhood and explore topics of family, friendship, honesty, neighborliness, beauty, and kindness.
The first book finds the family on the verge of homelessness just before Christmas due to a curmudgeonly, home-bound landlord. Their first plan is to be overwhelmingly kind to him so that he’ll change his mind. As their efforts progress, the siblings learn more about his life, and they realize their challenge is much greater.
The second book finds them creating a community garden. In the third book they are on a mission to find a place for their mom’s bakery – and a home for a few rescue animals.
The dynamic personalities of each child create a fantastic blend of compassion and creativity that sometimes go awry but always find a solution of sorts in the end. Along with the Weasley family of Harry Potter fame, the Vanderbeekers are one of my all-time favorite large families in literature.
The Mysterious Benedict Society middle grade series by Trenton Lee Stewart
If your child likes riddles and mysteries, then The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is a good match. A group of child prodigies are carefully selected through a series of unusual tests to become a team. Much of their purpose is initially shrouded in mystery, but then the larger challenge emerges. Will they be able to combine their unique talents and problem-solving capabilities to save the world?
Side note: this is the only series I’ve ever posted on my Instagram page and received a strong “Oh! My kids hate this series!” I was surprised by the response since I enjoyed the first book so much, but the series does seem to stir a strong love-it-or-hate-it reaction. Sometimes those are the most interesting books to put in the hands of kids.
The Gaither Sisters middle grade series by Rita Williams-Garcia
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia has one of my absolute favorite set of sisters in literature. The eldest, Delphine, is my absolute favorite though. In One Crazy Summer the girls fly to California to spend time with their biological mother, Cecile.
Unsure of what to expect, Delphine, Vonetta and Fern board a plane, mind their manners as Big Ma told them, and land in Oakland, California. As it turns out, their mother is still not much of a nurturing type and the girls have several adventures in their new area but none are as formative as their time spent with the community outreach of the Black Panthers. Delphine and her sisters learn more about their family and U.S. history in one summer than they imagined.
P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama follow One Crazy Summer with equal balance of character development and historical context. The characters are dynamic, and the stories emphasize family, identity, and history in unforgettable story arcs. One of my favorite series and definitely a fantastic group of sisters. If you have a sister, you’ll relate strongly to at least one of the trio.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon series by Grace Lin
Author Grace Lin weaves Chinese myths into a greater narrative in each of the three books of this middle-grade series. The first book is called Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.The second book, Starry River of the Sky, was my favorite. The third book is When the Sea Turned to Silver.
They are all exquisite. In each book, the protagonist faces a series of challenges for which the solutions are intwined with the myths.
The storytelling of the primary narrative and the telling of the ancient tales are beautifully integrated. As if that is not enough to recommend these lovely books, the interior illustrations are truly works of art.
The Crimson Five middle grade series by Jackie Yeager
The Crimson Five series by Jackie Yeager follows a group of students as they build inventions for an international competition. Readers follow a team of inventors as they compete for a chance to enter a prestigious academy. Each book creates a new challenge as the group of friends grow, learn, and compete while facing external obstacles. Part STEM-based problem-solving and part mystery, each book in the series challenges both sides of the brain.
Start with Spin the Golden Light Bulb, then Flip the Silver Switch. Pop the Bronze Balloon is coming soon!
The Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich
Louise Erdrich writes this exquisite historical fiction series as an #ownvoices author. She incorporates authentic Native American history and experience in a dynamic coming-of-age narrative that spans generations. We read the first book, The Birchbark House, as part of one of our U.S. History units. My youngest daughter loved it so much we went ahead and read all five books.
Omakayas is the young protagonist and she recounts her year with the Ojibwe people in The Birchbark House. Following seasons and rituals, the characters continue their familiar routines while also acknowledging changes brought by the “chimookoman” (white people). In the end, their lives move through adversity and Omakayas finds her calling. A coming-of-age story built around the topics of family, community, courage, and adversity.
Books two through five continue Omakayas’ life story though jumping through various seasons and years. She and her family continue to push west, she grows, marries, and has two twins of her own. Without a doubt, our absolute favorites were the two books at the end about her boys – Chickadee and Makoons. Though thinner books than the others in the series, these two are nevertheless poignant stories that had us laughing every-other chapter.
Hope one of these becomes your next favorite! What middle-grade series are on your favorites lists?
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