Books for Reluctant Readers – Middle Grades (Ages 8-12/13)

A few weeks ago, a mother who reads my blog sent me a message through my contact me page and asked if I could do a blog post about good books for an 11-year-old reluctant reader (male). I decided to take the idea and “run” with it. I decided to make a series of posts of books and series that appeal to different age groups, particularly ones that are favored by reluctant readers.  This particular one covers that middle grade area (approximately ages 8-12/13). I will later create a post for younger readers (ages 4-8) and teen readers (ages 13-19). These lists will be for all genders, that way you can spot good reads whether they’re traditionally aimed at boys or girls.

I cannot take all the credit for this list. I found some of my recommendations on various lists on Goodreads, I had a huge amount of help from the members of the Facebook Group: ALA Think Tank, and I also conferred with one of our youth librarians here at Ann Arbor District Library. I’m very thankful for Laura’s and the Think Tank group members’ suggestions! I’m not as familiar with middle grade fiction as I am books for the younger grades (something I’m trying to remedy!). Without all of those who chipped in with their ideas, this post would have never come about!

Individual Suggested Titles for Middle Grade Reluctant Readers

The above titles all have one thing in common – they all contain short bits of information that can be read a little bit at a time. There are other “fact” books that middle graders and tweens like such as the Guinness Book of World Records and the World Almanac.  There are other books similar to Two-Minute Mysteries as well such as Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark or even the Encyclopedia Brown & Choose Your Own Adventure series, though those maybe be too “easy” to read.


These three titles are all considered great books for reluctant readers who are middle grade girls. I personally have read the first two. Ella Enchanted was okay. I liked it well enough, but The Secret Garden is my number one favorite book ever. Other titles similar to these include The Little PrincessThe Railway Children, Everything on a Waffle, and Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin.

These three titles are considered great for all reluctant middle grade readers. The only one I’ve read personally is The Giver and I highly recommend that one. Wonder is on my “to-read” list, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it.  Other titles that are similar to these are Island of the Blue Dolphins, Number the Stars, and The Bridge to Terabithia.

These three titles are all considered great for reluctant readers who are middle grade boys, though I would recommend them for all. They’re funny and fantastical and just fun! Other titles that could be included are FrindleHoles, and Hoot.

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Series Recommended for Middle Grade Reluctant Readers

The three series above were the most recommended series for reluctant middle grader readers outside of Harry Potter.  One of my colleagues actually went so far as to state that she has never found an 11-year-old boy who did not like the Ranger’s Apprentice series. Being neither an 11-year-old boy or someone who deals with them on a regular basis, I have no idea if this holds true outside of her library system, but it’s worth a shot, certainly!

These three series all deal with fantasy and science fiction. The two on the ends are fantasy while the middle one is science fiction. They’ve all come highly recommended. Other similar series are The Sisters Grimm, The Heroes of Olympus, Chronicles of Narnia, and the Wrinkle in Time novels.

These three series traditionally appeal more towards girls, but if you’ve got a boy who’s interested in horses, Saddle Club might be a good fit. Other series like these include: The Frog Princess series, the Abby Hayes series, the American Girl series, and the Alice series.

These three series are supposed to be absolutely hilarious. I’ve never read any of them so I can’t say one way or the other, but that’s what I’ve been told.


The “Guys Read” series by Jon Sciezka is aimed specifically at boys. They’re short stories designed to grab and keep the attention of boys in the middle grades. You can also visit the website at


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Authors that Often Appeal to Middle Grade Reluctant Readers

These three authors are big draws for reluctant readers who are into sports. They all have different sports series and some even cover the more “unusual” sports for kids like extreme sports, go-kart racing, etc. You can also check out Jake Maddox who has a sports series as well.

These three authors are great for those who are into fairy tales. I’ve personally read some of Gail Carson Levine’s work and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have not tried the other two authors, but I may in the future as I like fairy tale retellings.

These three are other authors that came up in the course of my gathering information for middle grade reluctant readers. You can also check out Kate DiCamillo and Louis Sachar.

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Graphic Novels for Middle Grade Reluctant Readers

I do not want to leave out graphic novels and books that have a similar style. They’re wonderful reading tools for children who do not seem to like books without pictures as much. I’ve chosen a few series, a few stand-alone and a few that a children’s librarian at my library called “Graphic Novel-esque”. These are books that still have lots of pictures in them but they also have more text than a traditional graphic novel.

These three series were repeatedly named as good graphic novel series. I’m not a huge fan of graphic novels (I have nothing against the genre, they’re just not really my cup of tea), but even I loved the Amulet series. It’s one of the only graphic novel series that have ever gotten my attention and held it throughout the whole book. Big Nate also has a novel series that has been written as well.  Other series to check out include HildafolkExplorer (written by the same author as the Amulet series), JellabyBabymouse, and Lunch Lady.

These three series are what you would call “Graphic Novel-esque” series. They have lots of graphics for those who are totally into graphic novels but they also have a bit more text. Similar series include Dork DiariesAmelia’s Notebooks, and The Origami Yoda series.

These three are “stand alone” graphic novels. El Deafo is Cece Bell’s memoir about growing up with a hearing loss. Raina Telgemeier is a favorite among pre-teen girls. The title from Jim Ottaviani is an example of a non-fiction graphic novel.

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These are a few of the many, many options out there for reluctant readers in the middle grades. Over the next month or so, I’ll be posting a similar list for younger readers and one for teens. Check them out and hopefully they’ll get your reluctant reader into reading!

Monika Schröder – INTERVIEW

Along with inviting me to read her middle grade book, Be Light Like a Bird, Monika Schröder graciously agreed to answer some questions as an interview for me! Thank you for being willing to do that!

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Question #1: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a certain number of words or pages? How does music/other noise affect your concentration?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I set aside about three to four hours a day to spend with my work in my studio. I am not always putting words on paper, but I stay “in the zone.” I need absolute silence.


Question #2: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or are you firmly in control of where the story is going? Similarly, do you outline your books or let the plot take you where it wants to go?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I usually have an idea of the broad plot line and the ending. But after I got stuck with this method, I am now becoming more of a planner.


Question #3: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: The number of revisions varies. I re-wrote my first novel, THE DOG IN THE WOOD, 37 times. Now I don’t need that many revisions any more. But my new book, BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD, also went through several revisions.

Yes, time is the best revision helper. It is always good to set a manuscript aside and then go back to it with fresh eyes. My husband, a former English teacher, is always my first reader. I appreciate his comments and once all his suggestions are incorporated I send my manuscript to my agent, who then gives his input.

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Question #4: Your latest book, Be Light Like a Bird, is set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Did you travel to the Upper Peninsula to do research for the book? If not, how did you make sure you got all the details of what life is like there correct?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My husband is from Michigan and we used to spend part of our summers at his family’s cabin near Sault Ste. Marie. In fact, my husband and I got married up there. We inherited the cabin and still own it. So I was familiar with the setting when I wrote the book.


Question #5: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My first novel was rejected by the first editor I sent it to and I spent several years rewriting it. Yes, it takes tenacity to get published. My second and third book were published by the legendary Frances Foster, an editor with her own imprint at Farrar Straus Giroux. When she passed away it pulled the rug from under me. She was not only my editor but also my mentor and friend. After her death I had to find an agent and BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD was rejected several times. So, even though I already had published three novels, I experiences set-backs. Sometimes it is hard to keep up the hope. Again, my husband is a great help. He coaches me through times of self-doubt and he is a great fan of my work.

(Blogger’s Note: I, for one, am super glad that you kept trying with Be Light Like a Bird because it really is phenomenal.)


Question #6: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I do read my reviews. It is painful to read bad reviews but in most cases I can find a kernel of truth in them. I might not agree with the weight a reviewer gives a certain aspect of the book, but I try to look at the issues raised with a clear eye.

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Question #7: What are some great books/authors you’ve read recently?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I am a big fan of Avi’s work and I also loved Louis Bayard’s first book for kids, LUCKY STRIKES.


Question #8: What hobbies do you have/enjoy?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I tend to a big flower garden and I look forward to gardening season starting again soon. I also love to bake and cook.


Question #9: Do you like to travel? If so, what was your favorite location to visit?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My husband and I worked and lived overseas for 16 years. We have travelled a lot during those years. Now that we live in the US we don’t travel as much any more. But we recently visited Jekyll Island in Georgia and found it very beautiful.


Question #10: What is your favorite part of the writing/editing/publishing process? What is your least favorite?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My least favorite part of the process is writing the first draft. It is agonizingly slow and I have to force myself to keep on writing without looking back too much before I have reached the end of one whole draft. And that draft is usually very bad and then I make it better. I love revising, but my favorite part is probably when someone offers me a contract to publish my book.

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Once again, I’d like to say a huge “THANK YOU” to Monika Schröder for agreeing to answer my questions. Be sure to check out her newest book, Be Light Like A Bird!