Need one more gift for a young person in your life? Here is a hand-picked list of books that I highly recommend for 3rd-8th grade readers. Click the book cover to read the full summary and reviews from other young readers on Bookopolis.
If you’re looking for recommendation for younger or older readers, check out our 2022 Young Adult and 2022 Chapter Book lists. Still want more ideas? Explore past Holiday Guides or lots of other curated lists organized by genre and level.
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Swift & Hawk: Cyberspies by Logan Macx
When their families are violently kidnapped, Swift and Hawk—teen experts in AI and robotics—are plunged into a life-or-death rescue mission by the secretive Möbius group. Their journey takes them from hidden tunnels beneath the British Museum to the dangerous docklands of Amsterdam in search of the mysterious ship Nightfall. Caught in a treacherous world of spies and saboteurs, Swift and Hawk will be pushed to the limit as they follow a trail that leads to the remote island of Spøkelsøy—and straight into the hands of a dark and chilling enemy. Perfect for fans of Alex Rider and Spy School series.
Sisterhood of Sleuths by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
A clever, intergenerational mystery filled with literary history, friendship, and family secrets delivers a captivating tribute to Nancy Drew. Maizy always assumed she knew everything about her grandmother, Jacuzzi. When she finds an old photo of her grandmother and two other women in an old stack of Nancy Drew books, she launches her own investigation with the help of new friends and uncovers a truth from the past that will lead to self-discovery in the present. Perfect for fans of Wendy Mass and Trenton Lee Stewart.
Futureland: Battle for the Park by H.D. Hunter
Welcome to the most spectacular theme park in the world. Everyone wants a ticket to Futureland, where you can literally live out your wildest dreams. It has always just been home to Cam Walker, the son of the park’s famous creators. When Futureland arrives at its latest stop, Atlanta, Cam is thrilled for what promises to be the biggest opening ever . . . But when bad things start happening, Cam must figure out whoever’s trying to take down his family . . . before it’s too late. Perfect for fans of Spider-Man: Miles Morales and the afro-futurism of Black Panther.
I Know Your Secret by Daphne Benedis-Grab
One of Us is Lying meets Pretty Little Liars for middle-grade readers. The email arrives Sunday night: Do exactly what I say, when I say it, or I will reveal your secret.On Monday morning, seventh graders Owen, Gemma, Ally, and Todd, who have nothing in common and barely know each other, must work together and follow the instructions of an anonymous blackmailer. None of them want to go along with the blackmailer’s instructions, but each of them have a secret they must protect at all costs. Perfect for fans of drama-filled mysteries.
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Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian Randall
When 12-year-old Pilar digs deeper into the mysterious disappearance of our cousin, she finds herself in Zafa, an island swarming with coconut-shaped demons, butterfly shapeshifters, and a sinister magical prison where her cousin is being held captive. Magic and adventure abound in this story infused with Dominican myths and legends. Perfect for fans of the Land of Stories series, Tristan Strong, and The Storm Runner.
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
11-year-old Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, where Marvellers from all around the world come together to practice their cultural arts like brewing Indian spice elixirs, practicing Caribbean steel drum hypnosis, and bartering with fussy Irish faeries. Just as she begins to find her way at the A.T.I., a notorious criminal escapes from prison, supposedly with Conjurors’ help, and her favorite teacher disappears. Ella embarks on an adventure to clear her family’s name and figure out the truth. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan, Soman Chainani, and Philip Pullman.
Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston
After finding her brother and saving the entire supernatural world, Amari Peters is convinced her first full summer as a Junior Agent will be a breeze. But between the fearsome new Head Minister’s strict anti-magician agenda, fierce Junior Agent rivalries, and her brother Quinton’s curse steadily worsening, Amari’s plate is full. So when the secretive League of Magicians offers her a chance to stand up for magiciankind as its new leader, she declines. But her refusal allows someone else to step forward, a magician with dangerous plans for the League. This challenge sparks the start of the Great Game, a competition to decide who will become the Night Brothers’ successor and determine the future of magiciankind. This is Book #2 in the series that is perfect for fans of Harry Potter, Keeper of The Lost Cities, or Nevermoor.
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The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat
As assistant to Mangkon’s most celebrated mapmaker, 12-year-old Sai plays the part of a well-bred young lady with a glittering future. In reality, her father is a conman–and in a kingdom where the status of one’s ancestors dictates their social position, the truth could ruin her. Sai seizes the chance to join an expedition to chart the southern seas, but she isn’t the only one aboard with secrets. When Sai learns that the ship might be heading for the fabled Sunderlands–a land of dragons, dangers, and riches beyond imagining–she must weigh the cost of her dreams. Perfect for fans of suspenseful and thought-provoking adventure tales or other books by Newbery Honor-winner Christina Soontornvat.
A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga
Meet Resilience, a Mars rover determined to live up to his name. Res was built to explore Mars. He was not built to have human emotions. But as he learns new things from the NASA scientists who assemble him, he begins to develop human-like feelings. When Res blasts off to Mars, accompanied by a friendly drone helicopter named Fly, he quickly discovers that Mars is a dangerous place filled with dust storms and giant cliffs. Res is tested in ways that go beyond space exploration. Perfect for fans of The Wild Robot and The One and Only Ivan.
The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar
Fished from the river as an infant and raised by a roving band of street urchins who call themselves the Crowns, 8-year-old Duck keeps her head down and her mouth shut. It’s a rollicking life, always thieving, always on the run–until the ragtag Crowns infiltrate an abandoned cathedral in the city of Odierne and decide to send Duck to pose as an apprentice to the local baker, relieving Master Griselde of bread and coin to fill the bellies and line the pockets of all the Crowns. But no sooner is Duck apprenticed to the kindly Griselde than Duck’s allegiances start to blur. Who is she really–a Crown or an apprentice baker? And who does she want to be? Perfect for fans of books by Kate DiCamillo.
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REAL KID ISSUES
A Perfect Mistake by Melanie Conklin
Max wishes he could back in time to before he was diagnosed with ADHD, before he grew to be the tallest kid in his class, and before he and his best friends went into the woods in the middle of the night. Max doesn’t remember what happened after he left his friends Will and Joey and the older kids who took them there. He’s not sure if he wants to remember. Knowing isn’t going to make Joey talk to him again, or bring Will out of his coma. Charged by the idea that he may be the key to uncovering the truth, Max pairs up with classmate and aspiring journalist Sam to investigate what really happened that night. A moving novel about friendship, responsibility, and fighting against unfair expectations, perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Erin Entrada Kelly.
Playing Through the Turnaround by Mylisa Larsen
Fifth period is hands down the best time of day because that’s when Mr. Lewis teaches Jazz Lab. So his students are devastated when their beloved teacher quits abruptly. Once they make a connection between budget cuts and Mr. Lewis’s disappearance, they hatch a plan: stop the cuts, save their class. Soon, they become an unlikely band of crusaders, and their quest quickly snowballs into something much bigger–a movement involving the whole middle school. Perfect for fans of Karina Yan Glaser and Gary D. Schmidt.
Jennifer Chan is Not Alone by Tae Keller
Sometimes middle school can make you feel like you’re totally alone in the universe…but what if we aren’t alone at all? Thanks to her best friend, Reagan, Mallory Moss knows the rules of middle school. The most important one? You have to fit in to survive. But then Jennifer Chan moves in across the street, and that rule doesn’t seem to apply. She believes in aliens–and she thinks she can find them. Then Jennifer goes missing. Using clues from Jennifer’s journals, Mallory goes searching. But the closer she gets, the more Mallory has to confront why Jennifer might have run . . . and face the truth within herself. Perfect for fans of gripping stories by Rebecca Stead or Wendy Mass.
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SOCIAL ISSUE STORIES
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US–and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises–there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home and, most importantly, finding yourself. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Aisha Saeed.
A Duet For Home by Karina Yan Glaser
From the New York Times best-selling creator of the Vanderbeekers series comes a triumphant tale of friendship, healing, and the power of believing in ourselves told from the perspective of biracial sixth-graders June and Tyrell, two children living in a homeless shelter. As their friendship grows over a shared love of classical music, June and Tyrell confront a new housing policy that puts homeless families in danger. Perfect for fans of books like Counting by 7s and Wishtree
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee
Maizy has never been to Last Chance, Minnesota. . . until now. Her Mom’s plan is just to stay for a couple weeks, until her grandfather gets better. But plans change, and as Maizy spends more time in Last Chance (where she and her family are the only Asian-Americans) and at The Golden Palace–the restaurant that’s been in her family for generations–she makes some discoveries about her family and herself. Perfect for stories packed with humor and heart like the Front Desk series.
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Moonwalking by Zeta Elliott and Lyn Miller-Lachmann
This novel-in-verse follows two boys in 1980s Brooklyn as they become friends for a season. Punk rock-loving JJ Pankowski can’t seem to fit in at his new school in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as one of the only white kids. Pie Velez, a math and history geek by day and graffiti artist by night is eager to follow in his idol, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s, footsteps. The boys stumble into an unlikely friendship, swapping notes on their love of music and art, which sees them through a difficult semester at school and at home. But a run-in with the cops threatens to unravel it all. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Jacqueline Woodson.
Northwind by Gary Paulsen
A high-stakes middle grade from the survival story master Gary Paulsen, about a young boy on the razor’s edge between life and death where the high seas meet a coastal wilderness. This stunning historical adventure, set along a rugged coastline centuries ago, does for the sea what Hatchet did for the woods, as it relates the story of a young person’s battle to stay alive against the odds. When a deadly plague decimates his fishing village, an orphan named Leif is forced to take to the water in a cedar canoe. He flees northward, following a wild, fjord-riven shore, navigating from one danger to the next. Perfect for fans of Hatchet.
Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
Before he was a household name, Cassius Clay was a kid with struggles like any other. Readers will learn about Cassius’ family and neighbors in Louisville, Kentucky, and how, after a thief stole his bike, Cassius began training as an amateur boxer at age 12. Before long, he won his first Golden Gloves bout and began his transformation into the unrivaled Muhammad Ali. Fully authorized by and written in cooperation with the Muhammad Ali estate, Becoming Muhammad Ali dynamically captures the budding charisma and youthful personality of one of the greatest sports heroes of all time. Perfect for fans of Crossover and other books by Kwame Alexander.
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The Antiracist Kid by Tiffany Jewell and Nicole Miles
What is racism? What is antiracism? Why are both important to learn about? In this illustrated book by #1 New York Times best-selling author of This Book is Anti-Racist, systemic racism and the antiracist tools to fight it are easily accessible to young readers. Perfect for fans of action-oriented books about contemporary issues.
Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide: The World’s Most Adventurous Kid by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco
Embark on a thrilling expedition to 100 of the most surprising, mysterious, and weird-but-true places on earth – and see how faraway countries have more in common than you might expect. Hopscotch from country to country in a chain of connecting attractions: Explore Mexico’s glittering cave of crystals, then visit the world’s largest cave in Vietnam. Peer over a 355-foot waterfall in Zambia, then learn how Antarctica’s Blood Falls got their mysterious color. Perfect for curious readers who love to travel.
Chasing Space by Leland Melvin
Meet Leland Melvin–football star, NASA astronaut, and professional dream chaser. In this inspiring memoir, adapted from the simultaneous version for adults, young readers will get to learn about Leland Melvin’s remarkable life story, from being drafted by the Detroit Lions to bravely orbiting our planet in the International Space Station to writing songs with will.i.am, and working with Serena Williams. Perfect for fans of inspiring, modern-day leaders.
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The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat and Joanna Cacao
Trying out for middle school cheerleader means: performing in the giant school gym, with the whole school watching, and risking total humiliation. If Christina can make it through this, she can make it through anything. As one of the only Asian American kids in her small Texas town, Christina just wants to fit in. But does fitting in actually equal belonging? Will they make the cut and survive the terrifying tryouts? And most importantly, will their friendship pull through the pressures of heated competition and rivalry? Hilarious and highly relatable, perfect for fans of Rollergirl and The New Kid.
Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega and Rose Bousamra
Marlene loves three things: books, her cool Tia Ruby and hanging out with her best friend Camila. But according to her mother, the only thing she needs to focus on is school and “growing up.” That means straightening her hair every weekend so she could have presentable, good hair. But Marlene hates being in the salon and doesn’t understand why her curls are not considered pretty by those around her. Thankfully with a few hiccups, a dash of embarrassment, and the much-needed help of Camila and Tia Ruby–she slowly starts a journey to learn to appreciate and proudly wear her curly hair. Perfect for fans of books like Sisters or El Deafo.
Lightfall: The Girl & The Galdurian by Tim Probert
Deep in the heart of the planet Irpa is the home of the wise Pig Wizard and his adopted granddaughter, Bea. As keepers of the Endless Flame, they live a quiet and peaceful life, crafting medicines and potions for the people of their once-prosperous world. All that changes one day when, while walking through the woods, Bea meets Cad, a member of the Galdurians, an ancient race thought to be long-extinct. These two unlikely friends get swept up in an epic quest to save their world from falling into eternal darkness. Perfect for fans of epic fantasy series like Amulet.
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