Best book series for 5th graders — ever
Anne of Green Gables
by: L. M. Montgomery - (L.C. Page & Co., 1908) 198 pages.
The hook: Anne Shirley is a spirited 11-year-old orphan who can’t believe her luck when she’s sent from the orphanage to live with a pair of unmarried siblings on Prince Edward Island. Her hopes for a real home are dashed when her new guardians, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, tell her that the orphanage has made a mistake — they wanted a boy to help them run the family farm. But gregarious, red-haired Anne wins friends on the island, even if her big imagination and unusual upbringing leads her to make mistakes, like wearing wildflowers in her hair to church and adding liniment to a cake instead of vanilla. Kids will connect with this sweetly old-fashioned coming-of-age tale and its numerous sequels.
Want to see the movie? Check out the acclaimed 1985 CBC miniseries, which closely follows the plot of the book.
Perfect for: Kids with big imaginations.
by: Eoin Colfer - (Disney-Hyperion, 2010) 944 pages.
The hook: Artemis Fowl is no regular kid. He happens to be an evil genius — a criminal mastermind with high-tech toys — and all of 12 years old. Delve into the murky underworld of fairies, elves, and other sprites as they battle Artemis in his relentless quest for the fairyfolks’ pot of gold.
Perfect for: Kids too jaded to be entertained by old-fashioned fairies and elves.
The Brotherband Chronicles
by: John Flanagan - (Puffin Books, 2012) 464 pages.
The hook: Hal, 16, has been waiting for the day when he can start brotherband training, a rite of passage where he’ll compete against other boys in weapons and navigation skills. But when Hal is stuck on a team of misfits, he must rally his leadership skills to whip his crew into shape. What follows is a thrilling series of pirate adventures (full of age-appropriate action) as Hal and his crew come into their own. Tweens — especially boys — who love survivalist stories or pirate romps often get hooked on this series, which is a spin-off of the popular Ranger’s Apprentice books.
Perfect for: Tweens who like adventures on the high sea.
The City of Ember
by: Jeanne DuPrau - (Random House, 2003)
The hook: For the past 241 years, no resident of the entirely subterranean Ember has seen daylight. Carefully designed to preserve life in the face of impending disaster, the city now feeds a population with dwindling supplies. The original plan had been for residents to return to the Earth’s surface, but now no one recalls how to get there. Teens Lina and Doon, newly assigned to the first jobs as messenger and pipe works laborer, embark on a plan to find the way out.
Perfect for: Idealists with a strong sense of what’s right, and what could be.
Cirque Du Freak
by: Darren Shan - (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2002) 266 pages.
The hook: Macabre, funny, and action-packed, this series follows a traveling freak show with wolf-man, snake-boy, Larten Crepsley, and a giant spider.
Perfect for: Kids ages 10 and up drawn to dark, twisted tales filled with eccentric characters.
by: Donald J. Sobol - (Puffin Books, 2007) 96 pages.
The hook: Son of the local police chief, Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown has a head for trivia and a nose for mysteries. When he’s not helping out the neighborhood kids with his detective agency, he’s helping his father crack cases around the dining room table. Each book in this 29-book series follows the same formula, with every chapter devoted to its own mystery. Encyclopedia Brown gathers the clues and reaches his verdict, but the how of the mystery is tucked in the back of the book, encouraging kids to find their own answers. Young readers love trying to beat Encyclopedia Brown to the solution.
Perfect for: Budding sleuths and wanna-be detectives.
The Giver series
by: Lois Lowry - (Houghton Mifflin, 1993)
The Hook: Little known as a series, the award-winning book The Giver is actually the first of a quartet of books set in the same place and basic time. Set in a world so different, so intriguing, so shocking, the series explores a society with no pain or war. But this has been achieved at the cost of individuality, feelings, and memories — only one person has memories and knowledge of the past. That person alone understands pain, pleasure, beauty, and color. Chosen as the new holder of memories, 12-year-old Jonas gradually sees the costs of this utopia. The books are loosely linked with the third and fourth reintroducing characters from books one and two. It’s a wonderful series for older kids on the cusp of grappling with the big issues such as conformity, risk, and courage.
Perfect for: Kids who like dystopian societies, suspense, and rebels with a cause.
Keeper of the Lost Cities
by: Shannon Messenger - (Aladdin, 2013) 512 pages.
The hook: Sophie, a 12-year-old telepath, knows she’s different. But it’s not until she meets Fitz, a boy who shares her powers, that she learns the full story: she’s really an elf who’s been hidden in the human world. This discovery forces Sophie to leave her life behind for a new one that’s full of exciting possibilities but threatened by treacherous secrets. This five-book series is a wonderful introduction to fantasy with a fast-moving plot that keeps veteran readers hooked but is still accessible to younger or more reluctant readers. More sensitive tweens may find some of the themes to be emotionally intense, but it’s nicely balanced with adolescent humor (like glittery unicorn poop!).
Perfect for: Tweens who enjoy strong female characters.
My Side of the Mountain
by: Jean Craighead George - (E.P. Dutton, 1959) 192 pages.
The hook: Teenager Sam Gribley is tired of living in a cramped apartment in New York City, so he takes off for the Catskills. Sam’s level head and wilderness knowledge serve him well in the mountains, and it helps that his parents approve his adventure. As Sam prepares to survive the winter inside a cozy hollow tree, word starts to spread about the wild boy living on his own. The highlight of the book, which includes lots of small vivid details about living off the land, is how Sam bonds with — and trains — a Peregrine falcon named Frightful.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1969 film, which changes some of the details of the book but stays true to its spirit.
Perfect for: Kids who appreciate nature’s quiet beauty and seek alone time.
The Mysterious Benedict Society
by: Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by: Carson Ellis & Diana Sudyka - (Little, Brown and Company, 2007)
The hook: Each extraordinary in different ways, Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance get recruited to the Benedict Society, a secret group formed to solve a mystery that has global ramifications. Whether they’re using one of their gifts (puzzle solving, photographic memory, incredible athleticism, fierce defiance (yes, that comes in handy) or a gift for rhyming), the gang of brave, intelligent kids must infiltrate a mysterious and potentially dangerous organization, seemingly run by kids.
Perfect for: Gifted kids who like to solve mysteries and kids who like stories about friendship.
Find our favorites at your local library: The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
The Princess Diaries
by: Meg Cabot - (Harper Avon, 2000) 256 pages.
The hook: No one is more surprised than Mia Thermopolis when her father announces that he is the heir to the throne of the tiny European country Genovia. Suddenly, the shy, awkward high school freshman has to worry about princess lessons with her imposing grandmother in addition to passing algebra and catching the eye of a cute senior boy. Tweens who gravitate to light and funny fiction will enjoy following Mia’s account of her transformation into a princess in this book and its sequels.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2001 film and its 2004 sequel starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews.
Perfect for: Kids who dream of suddenly becoming royalty.
by: John Flanagan - (Puffin Books, 2006) 288 pages.
The hook: Will has always imagined being a knight, so when he’s picked instead to be an apprentice to the mysterious Ranger, Halt, he’s devastated. Skilled with bows and arrows and with a knack for going unseen, the Rangers are wildly different than the knights Will looks up to. But as his training concludes, Will finds himself using his new skills on a series of adventures to save the kingdom of Araluen from an evil lord bent on destroying it. This long-running series (and its spin-off series, The Brotherband Chronicles) draws in even reluctant readers with action-filled plots and strong character development.
Perfect for: Tweens who like to get lost in different worlds.
The Underland Chronicles
by: Suzanne Collins - (Scholastic, 2003)
The hook: Is your child hungering to read The Hunger Games but you want to delay kid-kill-kid diet just a little longer? Author Suzanne Collins’ tale of Gregor’s adventures in the Underland will give your child a taste of Collins’ engrossing imagination without dropping her into the “Arena.” When 11-year-old Gregor jumps in an air duct after his baby sister falls through, the siblings find themselves in an eerie subterranean world of talking bats, rats, and insects — far from the basement of their New York City apartment. Honor, betrayal, and love all battle it out for Gregor’s heart as one ordinary boy is called on to do extraordinary things. By book 5, Code of the Claw, Gregor is not ordinary and the survival of the Underland is in his hands. Parents may not “get” this story, but it’s like nectar for the grade-schooler’s hummingbird mind.
Perfect for kids with a yen for excitement and a growing sense of their own power to change the world.
Find our favorites at your local library! Start at the beginning with Gregor the Overlander. You’ll want to go in order. Next up is Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane and Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods.
by: Colin Meloy, illustrated by: Carson Ellis - (Balzer + Bray, 2012) 576 pages.
The hook: When her baby brother, Mac, is kidnapped by a murder of crows, 12-year-old Prue McKeel must enter the Impassable Wilderness to try to get him back. Along with her friend Curtis, they discover an enchanted world full of battle-ready coyotes, talking birds, and other strange creatures who are shockingly different from the animals they’re familiar with in their sheltered life in Portland, Oregon. While the pair work to rescue Mac, they soon find a missing baby brother is just the beginning of the dark goings-on in Wildwood. This compelling and imaginative trilogy — written by the lead singer and songwriter of the quirky folk-rock band The Decemberists — features whimsical Edward Gorey-esque illustrations and a gothic feel that’ll appeal to fans of darker tales, like A Series of Unfortunate Events or Coraline.
Perfect for: Tweens who like dark and whimsical tales with a Victorian flair.