Best book series for 6th graders — ever
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 Chronicles of Narnia
by: C.S. Lewis - (HarperCollins, 1950)
The hook: Sure, they may have seen the movie already, but even so, this seven-book series — which deftly combines the supernatural and reality — is a classic that has influenced children’s literature for a half century. The protagonists, children from the real world, are magically transported to Narnia, where under the wise guidance of the lion Aslan, they play essential roles in shaping events in this alternate world’s fate (a powerful fantasy for any child). In each of Lewis’s page-turning books, all crafted in masterful prose, Narnia’s very fate hangs in the balance: Will good win out over evil?
Perfect for: Readers, 8 and up, drawn to illusive symbols and magic.
Eragon: The Inheritance Cycle, Book 1
by: Christopher Paolini - (Knopf, 2003) 528 pages.
The hook: On a hunting trip on the foreboding mountain range known as the Spine, 15-year-old Eragon finds a mysterious blue stone that turns out to be a dragon egg. The dragon hatches and brands his palm with the silver mark that signifies that the two are a bonded pair, the last dragon and dragon rider in all of Alagaesia. When terrifying visitors destroy Eragon’s farm, Eragon and Saphira set out with the town storyteller, Brom, to pursue their destiny — to defeat the evil king, Galbatorix. This is the first book in the four-book Inheritance Cycle series, which is reminiscent of Tolkien and full of ancient magic, elves, dwarves, and dragon lore. A map and glossary help kids keep track of the exotic place names and words in fantasy languages. And the fact that the author was 15 when he began writing the series may inspire young readers to get writing themselves.
Want to see the movie? The 2007 adaptation, Eragon, may help readers visualize creatures and events in the book.
Perfect for: Readers (and budding writers) of epic fantasy fiction.
Harry Potter series, books 4-7
by: J.K. Rowling - (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2002) 752 pages.
The hook: Starting with the fourth book, Harry Potter (and hopefully his fans) have matured a bit as Harry enters his fourth year at Hogwarts. While Harry and his friends have been aware of He-who-must-not-be-named, aka Lord Voldemort, for a few years, this second part of the series is when the battle between good magic and the dark arts really begins. Lord Voldemort is gaining strength and returns in human form. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione work to keep up in school and build their magical abilities to fight Voldemort, they’re also facing the dances, crushes, and first loves that come with adolescence.
Want to see the movie? Check out movies four through seven, which, like the books, now reflect the open battle against Voldemort and his followers.
Perfect for: Fan of the first three Harry Potter books who are ready to grow up with the characters.
by: Mark Walden - (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006)
The hook: This hefty series transports late elementary schoolers into a dark world of evildoers and elaborate plots. With eight books and the ninth due out in 2017, author Mark Walden has produced literally thousands of pages of over-the-top, sci-fi escapades. Recruited to the Higher Institute of Villainous Education, a secret school hidden in a volcano, the main characters Wing, Shelby, Laura, and Otto discover they’ve been recruited to become the world’s next supervillains. It may sound exciting at first but as they are held prisoners, they realize being trained as criminal masterminds isn’t what they bargained for.
Perfect for: Kids who like superhero stories and want a wild ride into the land of nefarious deeds.
Our favorites: Start it at the beginning with Higher Institute of Villainous Education. Like Harry Potter the earlier books are geared toward younger readers. Move on quickly to The Overlord Protocol, Rogue, all the way through Deadlock.
His Dark Materials Trilogy
by: Philip Pullman - (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1996) 368 pages.
The hook: The main heroine, Lyra Belacqua, along with Pantalaimon, Will, and a band of other brave souls, have been entrusted to save the universe. It’s nearly impossible to put down each of the trilogy’s three books that create a fantastical alternate reality your child won’t forget.
Perfect for: Older readers drawn to an epic (and eccentric) story of good and evil.
Peter and the Starcatchers series
by: Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson - (Disney Editions/Hyperion Books for Children, 2004)
The hook: The first three books in the series chronicle the spellbinding prequel of how a boy named Peter became the Peter Pan of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale. Each page — particularly in the first book — is riveting. All along the way, Peter and his friends encounter an incredible cast of characters, including flying crocodiles, vicious mermaids, and even Zeus and Michelangelo.
Perfect for: Pirate-lovin’ kids looking for swashbuckling on the high seas.
The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
by: Michael Scott - (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2007) 400 pages.
The hook: Twins Josh and Sophie Newman are spending the summer with their aunt and working in San Francisco while their parents are away on an archaeological dig. One day when Josh is working at his bookstore job, a black limousine pulls up and several men in overcoats step out. They kidnap the wife of the bookstore owner, an ancient metal-bound book is stolen, and Sophie and Josh must run for their lives with the bookstore owner.
A great pick for Harry Potter fans, The Alchemyst does not disappoint readers longing for another series to be excited about. The story is filled with enough battles and magic to satisfy even the most cynical teen fantasy fans. Look for the next book in the series, The Magician.
Perfect for: Kids who like fantasy stories.
by: Scott Westerfeld - (Simon Pulse, 2011) 432 pages.
The hook: A clever conceit that challenges society’s obsession with physical beauty. This four-book series takes place in a future world where looks are prized above all. When Tally Youngblood turned 12, she became an Ugly. Living in an ugly dorm, she and the other uglies are educated on their despicability. But on their sweet 16, each one will be rewarded with an operation to be made Pretty, thus beginning a life of constant pleasure. But even young Tally can see the downsides to conformity.
Perfect for: Tweens who understand that beauty’s not skin-deep.
The Five Ancestors series
by: Jeff Stone - (Random House, 2005)
The hook: In this adventure series, we meet five foster brothers who were raised in a temple by warrior monks. When their temple is destroyed by one of their former brothers, the grandmaster orders them to uncover the secrets of their past. Now, each brother must use his skills and training to discover his own destiny and the truth behind their betrayal. Young martial arts fans will love the kung-fu-filled action in this fast-paced series, which nicely balances fighting with slapstick humor. When the boys split up, each book in the series follows a different brother’s adventures. A great series that is sure to lure kids away from video games.
Perfect for: Tweens who think they’d rather be gaming than read.
The Clique series
by: Lisi Harrison - (Poppy, 2004)
The hook: This series will appeal to middle-school-age readers because it deals with many real-life experiences, from being the new kid at school to dealing with mean girls and learning how to maintain friendships.
Perfect for: Tweens dealing with the social intricacies of middle school.
Keeper of the Lost Cities
by: Shannon Messenger - (Aladdin, 2013) 512 pages.
The hook: Twelve-year-old Sophie has always felt out of place. One day she meets a mysterious blue-eyed boy named Fritz who tells her why: She’s not human. Sophie is whisked away to live with the elves in a remarkable parallel world, and discovers that she is special in that world too. In fact, the details surrounding her very existence are at the center of a dangerous mystery. This story of Sophie’s magical education and her struggles with friendship and fitting in is the first in a series.
Perfect for: Tweens who’ve ever felt they don’t belong.
The Unwanteds series
by: Lisa McMann - (Aladdin, 2011) 400 pages.
The hook: Every year in Quill, 13-year-olds are sorted into wanted, necessary, and unwanted. Wanteds will be educated and trained to join the highest levels of society. Necessaries will be trained for menial jobs. Unwanteds will be eliminated. When Alex is deemed Unwanted because of his creativity, he says goodbye to his family and prepares to die — and then discovers that there’s a magical parallel world where his abilities are valued. The first book in a series, this mildly dystopian, Harry-Potter-meets-The-Hunger-Games tale has lots of fun magical details and friendship drama to lighten the mood.
Perfect for: Kids who didn’t get into Hogwarts.