best chapter books for kids, best books for 4th grade, 4th grade reading list, 5th grade reading list

Best Books for Grades 3-5, Recommended by Kids

Best Books for Kids in Third Grade Through Fifth Grade (by kids)

My 4th grader helped to compile this list of favorite books she recommends for 3-5th graders. I have also vetted this list for content. I feel that some topics such as death, cruelty, poverty, when dealt with a heavy hand are best suited for when kids are a little older, say Middle School. These books, even though they cover these heavy topics, are still uplifting.

The Secret School by Avi. Ida Bidson becomes a teacher at 14-years-old when her teacher at her one-room schoolhouse has to leave due to a family illness. This is a Newbery Award Winner! My oldest highly recommends it! [ages 8-12]

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall. Her first book, The Penderwicks, won a Newbury Award. It’s a fantastic book but the sequel is even better. In this book, the girls try to find a wife for their dad. I think I was more excited than my daughter when the sequel came out! [ages 8-12]

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney. When Eben McAllister is challenged by his pa to discover wonders in his small farming community, he finds the extraordinary in a doll, a bookcase, a saw, a table, a ship in a bottle, a woven cloth, and more. [ages 7-12]

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume. [ages 8-11]

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. [ages 8-11]

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. Historical fiction about the author’s own grandmother who settled in Wisconsin during the 1860’s and their adventures getting along with the local Native Americans. [ages 8-12]

The BFG by Roald Dahl. [ages 8-11]

Matilda by Roald Dahl. (ages 8-11)

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh. A true story about Sarah Noble, a brave 8-year-old pioneer child, who must leave her mother and siblings to accompany her father to the wilds of Connecticut while he builds a house for their family. Can Sarah keep her courage up when faced with Indians? With large type and short chapters, this Newbery Honor book is perfect for younger readers. Older readers might compare this to Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, another true story about a pioneer girl who befriends Indians. [ages 6-10]

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Probably one of the best books I have ever read. An amazing and uplifting story. [ages 8-12]. A note of caution, A Tiger Rising also by Kate DiCamillo also won a Newbury Honor award but I didn’t think the content was suitable for ages 8-10. The realism is just too …real, and sad. A Tale of Desperaux was also difficult for my 4th grader to get into. She thought it was boring.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. My daughter’s 3rd grade teacher recommended this book and my daughter also said she loved it. It’s great for 3rd grade girls because this is when social issues such as cliques can form. [ages 8-11]

My Side of the Mountain series by Jean Craighead George. This series is about Sam Gribley living unhappily in New York City who runs away to some forgotten family land in the Catskill Mountains. He learns to live off the land with the help of a kindly librarian, a falcon baby, a flint and steele, penknife, and a ball of cord. He is joined by his sister in book two, and book three chronicles Frightful’s migration journal south. [ages 8-12]

Julie of the Wolves series by Jean Craighead George. My mom friend highly recommended this series. She’s reading it with her two girls and they all love it. [ages 7-12]

The Doll People by Laura Godwin (a three book series). [ages 8-11]

Umbrella Summer by Jan Graff. When her older brother dies unexpectedly less than a year ago, Annie reacts by excessive worrying. It’s not until a new neighbor moves in, with a secret of her own, that Annie is able to close the “umberella” of her sadness and let the sunshine in. [ages 8-12]

Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill. Technically, this is historical fiction about a teacher who goes to rural Alaska and transforms the lives of the children at a one room schoolhouse. [ages 8-11]

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath. Everyone in Coal Harbor, British Columbia is convinced that 11-year-old Primrose Squarp is an orphan after her mother sets sail after her fisherman father during a big storm and both don’t return except Primrose who knows they will return deep inside her heart. Her uncle Jack is recruited to take care of her and he is convinced that Coal Harbor can be converted from a dying fishing village to a tourist destination. Primrose’s faith in her parents’ return tests the patience of those around her as she fails to accept their “death” by asking the doubters, “Didn’t you ever believe anything just because you knew it was true?” [ages 8-12]

The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. A princess gets the gift of being ordinary and that turns out to be the best gift of all. [ages 8-11].

Savvy series by Ingrid Law. For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a “savvy” -a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it’s the eve of Mibs’s big day. [ages 8-12]

Fairy Godsister by Liz Kessler. My oldest said to include this book; it’s one of her favorites. [ages 8-12]

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth by e. l. konigsburg. For anyone who has had to move to a new town and stuggle to make new friends and fit in, this is the perfect read. A Newbury Honor Book, not quite in the same league as From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, this is a great book about girl friendships…and witchcraft. [ages 9-13]

The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin. This is the sequel to The Year of the Dog in which Pacy learns that her best friend is moving to California, faces prejudice including her own as a new “fresh-off-the-boat” Chinese boy joins her class, and struggles to fit in. [ages 7-11]

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Grace Lin is the Amy Tan for the elementary school set. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is an Asian-American version of the Percy Jackson series starting with The Lightening Thief. Where Riordan weaves in Greek Mythology into his plot, Grace Lin uses Chinese Folk Tales into a wonderful, inspiring and heart-warming story that teaches all of us to just… BELIEVE. This book was listed twice as a favorite book on my kids’ elementary school newspaper. [ages 8-12]

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord. 8-year-old Shirley Temple Wong immigrates to America and, after a bumpy adjustment, finds that America is the land of opportunity by discovering baseball, Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers. [ages 8-12]

Rules by Cynthia Lord. A really wonderful story about a girl whose special needs brother and special needs friend help her to discover the courage to just be herself. [ages 8-11]

The Pharaoh’s Secret by Marissa Moss. [ages 9-12]

Midnight for Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo. Another “Harry Potter”-like series that my oldest loves. [ages 9-12]

Shiloh series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. An excellent and award winning series about a boy rescuing a dog from his abusive neighbor. [ages 9-12]

The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park. Set in 15th century Korea, Korea’s Golden Age, two brothers — one skilled in kite making and the other skilled in kite flying — combine their skills to compete in a kite flying contest on behalf of the king. [ages 7-12]

Seesaw Girl by Linda Sue Park. Set during the Yi Dynasty, considered the Golden Age of Korea, the seesaw girl illustrates lives and limitations of women in a noble family. [ages 8-11]

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. Set in 12th century Korea during the Koryo era, an orphan who ends up working for a celebrated celadon potter is able to realize his own potential. [ages 8-12]

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. I have just discovered this Newbery Award-winning author and I have to say he’s an amazing story teller. A Year Down Yonder is the Newbery Award winning book, and it’s the sequel to A Long Way From Chicago. While this book is set in a small country bumpkin town during the Great Depression, it’s a hilarious story about fifteen-year-old Mary Alice who is sent to live with her Grandma for a year during the Great Depression while her parents get situated. Grandma Dowdel is a force to be reckoned with; her resourcefulness is matched by her heart of gold and Mary Alice’s year is filled with enough drama to fill a newspaper. A Long Way from Chicago is from Mary Alice’s older brother’s perspective during their eight summers at Grandma Dowel’s farm and the antics they got into. It also gives a gentle history on how the Great Depression impacted their community. [ages 8-12]

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins. Set in Bangladesh, a sickly rickshaw driver’s daughter strives to earn money for her family. [ages 8-11]

The Lightning Thief series by Rick Riodan. This is “Harry Potter meets Greek Mythology” and it’s a fantastic read! It’s such a page-turner that I stayed up to 2 a.m. to finish it! Percy Jackson is an ADD, dyslexic 6th grade hero who has trouble staying in school because, as it turns out, he’s no ordinary human but a half-blood related to one of the big three in Greek Mythology. He must find and return Zeus’ lost lightening bolt to prevent WWIII. This series makes Greek Mythology come alive so I’ve included an Usborne Greek Mythology book that is easier and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology for those who want more details as well. The level of difficulty is slightly easier than Book 1 of Harry Potter; this book is 375 pages long, normal sized type. [ages 8-14]

Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. You’d have to be living under a rock for over a decade not to know about Harry Potter. We just saw the exhibit at our Museum of Science and it was terrific! We went Christmas Eve to avoid the crowds and the museum was still half-full. My 4th daughter is now racing through the series now…I thought she didn’t read these books earlier because they were too scary. She said it was because she didn’t own them. Well, the 7 book series is $48.97; that’s a pretty good price. [ages 7-adult]

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan. [ages 8-11]

Holes by Louis Sachar. [ages 9-12]

Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta. [ages 9-12]

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This book is deceptively thick because it’s 250+ pages of illustrations that tell part of the story that I call “The Phantom of the Opera” of children’s literature. Set in 1930’s Paris, Hugo Cabret is an orphan with a talent for all things mechanical. The key to his future, he believes, is unlocking the secret of an automaton “wonder.” With other interlocking stories that weave together, this is a riveting story about the power of friendships, magic and perseverance. [ages 8-12]

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan Long Shang. [ages 9-12]

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee, an orphan and an athlete of legendary acclaim, breaks the racial barrier existing between two neighboring towns. [ages 8-15]

The Last Giraffe series by Lauren St. John. A mom friend highly recommends this series. [ages 6-10]

The All-Of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. Apparently the newest American Girl doll is based on this book so maybe it’s more well-known now. The first book is the only one in print, but you can find the rest of the series at your public library or used on Amazon at sometimes exorbitant prices: More All-Of-A-Kind Family, All-Of-A-Kind Family Downtown, All-Of-A-Kind Family Uptown, Ella of All-Of-A-Kind Family.

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles. My daughter’s 3rd grade teacher’s favorite book in the world. Ruby Lavender spends the summer dealing with the absence of her beloved grandmother, who is visiting family in Hawaii. It obliquely deals with death, but in an uplifting way. The book manages to be hilarious and poignant at the same time. [ages 8-11]

Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles. My oldest daughter’s well-read friend says that this is her new favorite book of the year. Last year, her favorite book was Love, Ruby Lavender but she says this book is better and funnier. It’s about a 10-year-old girl named Comfort whose family runs a mortuary. Despite a spate of deaths in the family and other wacky adventures, the story is both hilarious laugh-out-loud and poignant. [ages 8-11]

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

best chapter books for kids, best books for 4th grade, 4th grade reading list, 5th grade reading list

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Theresa

    My daughter loved Rules by Cynthia Lord, Because of Winn Dixie, Savvy and many of the other books on your list. I was excited to see “Umbrella Summer” on here because I *just* ordered that book…I have to look through with my daughter and see which of the books she has not read that interest her! Thanks!

    • To Therea,
      I’m glad my list was helpful. Umbrella Summer didn’t win awards like Rules, Because of Winn Dixie or Savvy but I’m surprised that it didn’t. It’s an under-the-radar good book with the same feel as Rules.

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