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Top 10: Best Standalone Books for 5th Graders by 5th Grade Girl

Best Books for 5th Grade by my 5th Grade Daughter

Well, it happened and I could not be more excited. My reluctant reader is now tearing through books faster than I. Her reluctance to read began in first year during that terrible year where the teacher was absent so often that there were actually substitutes for substitutes. She also has a natural inclination to be as far away from the limelight as possible and this included reading aloud, even just to me. Ok, especially to me because she hated being corrected and slowing down to decode and frankly, reading books where the difficulty level was correct but the plot was a snooze. Those were some tough years trying to get her to read.

The solution was very simple. We needed a changing of the guard and her dad took over reading with her night. He is infinitely more patient and less stressed out by her lack of enthusiasm to read. It totally freaked me out and this is not the right attitude! That was 5 years ago, and we made it through but not without sweat and tears. The poor child is our oldest so she bears the brunt of our (OK, my) anxiety.

I guess the beauty of parenting is it’s a marathon, not a sprint and that parenting mistakes can be corrected with and perhaps with only a little permanent damage from crazy Type A parenting. Thank god my husband is not like me!

But I digress. I went through the books that my kid likes that were part of a series but she only liked the first book (and I’ll get her feedback as to why), and then added in standalone chapter books that she liked as well to round out the list. Sadly, there were books that I chose from Fuse #8 Production‘s excellent post on predicting the 2011 Newbery Winners but we differed in opinion on several of them (I liked them but she didn’t). I’m hoping that she’ll change her mind later, but don’t hold your breath.

How about you and your child? What books are you guys reading and loving that would be great for 5th graders (or even 4-7th?). Please leave a comment!!

Honorable Mention

Normal Ten Miles Past by Frances O’Roark Dowell

This book just arrived hot of the presses and, of course, my daughter was the first to read it (I am so behind! My nightstand looks like a tower of books about to topple over). She has been reading lots of great books lately (see below) and she ranked it as worthy of that list. I was slightly surprised that she liked it only because the main character is in high school but she’s only in 5th grade. I guess we are officially in YA (Young Adult) territory now!

This is her take on the book.

Her:”It’s really funny mom. The mom in the book is a crazy blogger like you.”

Me: “Is she crazy and she blogs? Or is she crazy because she blogs.”

Her: “[Laughing hysterically] You bloggers are all crazy. Just read it.”

Me: “Hmmm… another back handed compliment. Thanks a lot kid!”

Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman

My daughter, surprisingly, LOVED this funny realistic fiction chapter book and insisted that I add it to her list. I read it and also enjoyed it and the reason why I am surprised that she liked it so much is that the protagonist is a boy and storyline revolves around science and nerds, normally stuff that is of low interest to her. But I think that the reason why she loved it is because it is really funny. She also liked it because even though Gabe is a nerd, his cool stepbrother still likes him (and in fact, Gabe realizes just how cool he is despite his very high I.Q.).

Top 5: She Loved the First Book but Hated the Sequel – Mostly Action Adventure Chapter Books

The reviews are by my 11 year old daughter in 6th grade.

5. ?? We wracked our brains but only came up with 4. We will add another book when she discovers it.

4. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I never really loved Uglies but it was my book club book but I did like the ending. I borrowed Pretties but I didn’t it because it was too futuristic.

3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I liked A Wrinkle in Time a lot but I didn’t like A Wind in the Door as much because it wasn’t as exciting.

2. Savvy by Ingrid Law

I didn’t like Scumble because it wasn’t about the same characters as Savvy. I liked Savvy because it was funny and I liked the characters a lot more.

1. City of Ember and People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

I liked those two because they were really exciting and it was more about how the people of Ember got underground, but the Prophet of Yonder was more about before the disaster and the Diamond of Darkhold was not as exciting.

Top 5: Best Standalone Books that She Read This Year – Mostly Realistic Fiction

5. Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams

It was sad but it was really good and I loved their adventure with the diary that they found.

4. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

I’m not sure why I liked it but I just did. It has a slow beginning but it gets more exciting by the end.

3. The Summer of Moonlight Secrets by Danette Haworth* This is a realistic fantasy chapter book.

I liked it because it was sorta mixes folk tales with modern day. I also liked the characters a lot because they were funny.

Schooled by Gordon Korman

I loved this book because it was really funny.

1. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Shang

I liked it because even through she thought things didn’t go her way, she ended up realizing how lucky she actually was.

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

GIVEAWAY: A copy of Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman. To win please leave a comment on why you want or need the book. This chapter book will go to the person with the most persuasive comment.

My going-into-6th-grade daughter thought this book was hilarious and she lent it to a friend who agreed. It’s a great coming of age story about embracing yourself that appeals to boys and girls!

Congrats to Jemi! She won the very funny chapter book Nerd Camp!

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Have you tried any Diana Wynne Jones books? If she likes Madeline l’Engle, she may take to those too. Try Howl’s Moving Castle.

  2. Great list! It’s really all about finding that perfect ‘homerun’ book for kids and suddenly they’re readers!

    I teach grades 5/6 & I’ll have to get a copy of this one for my classroom!!

    I read aloud a lot of books to my students. Their absolute favourite this year was Dogsled Dreams by Terry Lynn Johnson (realistic adventure with humour). Next are: Ranger’s Apprentice (adventure set in medieval times with great humour too), The Giver (dystopian world – don’t give up if the first couple of chapters don’t enthrall her – it’s magic!), Earthling Hero (fun sci-fi adventure set here on earth in a realistic setting). The Divide series is also very popular.

    Hope you keep finding great books for her to love! 🙂

    • To Jemi,
      Thank you so much for your book suggestions!!! I will suggest them to my daughter. I know that everyone in her 6th grade class will read The Giver and I’ve heard of Ranger’s Apprentice but haven’t read it yet. We are always looking for more books for her. I hope she tries out your suggestions this summer. I will try to score them at my library.

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