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Middle Grade Books We’re Loving in 2020

Our favorite books in 2020 for middle grade, elementary, or middle school readers, including fantasy, magical adventures, modern and historical fiction.

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Looking for some some of the best middle grade books to read in 2020? The book list below includes some of our favorites in 2020 for middle grade, elementary, or middle school readers. Some are new 2020 middle grade books, while others are classic books that kids and adults will always enjoy.

Piles of origami cranes are scattered around the house.

Giggles erupt from my daughter’s silent bedroom, and she races out to read me the line that caused the outburst.

She walks into walls on her way down to breakfast, blind to everything but the book in front of her eyes.

This is life with a middle-grade bookworm and it is fantastic.

The middle grade years were when I fell in love with books. My favorites from that time are especially dear to me–some I read so many times I could practically recite them.

So I know just how important great books are to my third grader right now. And I have a feeling that the books she reads now, in 2020 and while isolated because of coronavirus, may stick with her even more.

She is struggling like everyone, but luckily she does not seem to be struggling to read.

We’ve read so many great books this past year, and we have so many more look forward to.

She is finding escape, adventure, imagination–all things that are helping her through this time. If you have a kid who could use some of the same, I hope you find some amazing middle grade novels for them on this list.

Books for Middle Grade, Elementary, and Middle School Readers in 2020

Author: Sue DiCicco and Masahiro Sasaki
Source: Publisher (Tuttle)

This book came to us at exactly the right time. My daughter had just finished reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes at school and was thrilled to have the complete story from Sadako’s brother. She read this three times, back to back, and has been busy making origami paper cranes ever since.

We’re looking for a good place to hang her crane collection outside, as a symbol of hope and healing.

Author: Shannon Hale

In a fictional kingdom, a mountain community steeped in the traditions of quarrying is divined as the home of the next princess. The village girls are ordered to a princess academy, where they will learn to behave as royalty. One will be selected as princess at the end of a year.

This isn’t a frills and lace princess story. Miri, the main character, is smart and industrious. We read this book aloud, as well as the next two (Palace of Stone and The Forgotten Sisters), and we spent a lot of time discussing the economics and politics that drive the drama.

Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’ve read this series countless times and my girls are loving these books just as much. None seem to resonate in 2020 like The Long Winter. The isolation, loneliness, and fear of the endless, brutal winter feels similar to our coronavirus isolation. The comparisons give the kids food for thought when they’re feeling frustrated.

Author: Garth Stein

I love The Art of Racing in the Rain, so I was excited to read this children’s adaptation of the book with my daughter. Enzo, the dog who narrates, has an unforgettable voice and we loved talking about how a dog might see the world. Reading this aloud is tough at the end–it’s a tearjerker–but it was worth it.

Author: Kate DiCamillo

After young Louisiana Elefante’s granny hustles her out the door in the middle of the night, they don’t make it far before they are sidelined by Granny’s toothache. While Granny recovers, Louisiana becomes a part of the lives of the people in town, and they too work their way into her heart. When she learns some devastating news about her past, she must determine: what defines a person? A family? A home?

Southern charm and quirky characters abound , made all the better by the audio narration–I highly recommend that format. 

Author: Aisha Saeed

Amal is a young Pakistani girl who loves school, enjoys her family, and has high hopes for her future as a teacher. But after a brief flare of temper toward the wrong man in the market, Amal is pressed into servitude at the home of her village’s corrupt landlord to pay off her debt.

Hopeless, helpless, and lonely, Amal sees her dreams slipping away. As she learns more about the Khans, she must make difficult decisions that could have far-reaching effects.

This is a wonderful middle grade book to introduce young readers to the life of a girl in Pakistan who discovers the depths of her own courage.

Author: Cindy Callaghan

My third grader loves this series about three girls who find a magic cookbook. They become “protectors” of the magic and the powerful recipes they cook help them solve mysteries and get in and out of various scrapes.

I haven’t read this book, but my girls and I love the Amazon Prime series based on these books. It’s a great friendship story and my girls are always ready for some magic.

Author: Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

Another favorite of both my daughters, this series is another one that takes their love of magical stories and adds a lighter touch than Harry Potter. They love discussing the magical creatures in these books, and they aren’t as scary for my youngest child who is more sensitive to darker stories.

Author: Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson has occupied many hours that otherwise might have been spent in boredom during Covid lockdown. My daughter’s 3rd-grade class has been reading this aloud, and she’s jumped ahead and almost finished the rest of the series. (She also loves the two movies that were made and is very disappointed that the film series wasn’t finished. I guess they weren’t well-received? She was thrilled to learn that they’re now making a television series!)

Mythology has never been my thing, but I love that this series has taught her about it in a way that’s meaningful to her. She’s started reading about lesser-known gods and goddesses on her own and she knows more about them than I ever will.

Reading with Your Kids?

Make reading time more meaningful with this parent/child book journal. Track the books you read together and reflect on your reading. Record:

  • What happened in the book
  • Favorite characters and parts of the book
  • News words
  • Feelings 
  • Favorite quotes
  • 1-5 star ratings

Kids can choose whether to write or draw their responses, making this journal perfect for kids of all ages. 

Middle Grade Books We're Anticipating

Author: Matt Harry

This book is next in our read-aloud plans and we are both so excited. Both this book and the next in the series, Cryptozoology for Beginners (kindly provided by the publisher, Inkshares), are beautiful and intriguing as physical objects. The stories seem to have all the elements my daughter loves: magic, friendships, interesting creatures, and big adventures–and this one is about a book! We’re hoping this lives up to its “great for Harry Potter fans” hype.

Author: Cindy Callaghan
Source: Publisher (Aladdin)

My oldest daughter couldn’t wait to read this new book from the author of Just Add Magic. This one doesn’t have the magical elements, but I anticipate that the relationship between the sisters in this book will be just as wonderful as that of the friends in Just Add Magic.

Author: W.W. Marplot
Source: Publisher (Waxing Gibbous Books)

When the daily lives of a group of middle school friends are suddenly invaded by mythical creatures, the kids are determined to learn why. They find themselves in the middle of a battle.

Fantasy, mythical creatures, and magical adventures are my daughter’s favorite things right now, so she started jumping up and down when I asked if this book interested her. I hope it lives up to her enthusiasm!

Middle grade books we are loving in 2020



    1. Yes, I just listened to The One and Only Ivan! Planning to read it with my girls soon (I think I heard they’re making a movie?). There is a new one called The One and Only Bob that I’m also looking forward to.

      Funny thing about Wishtree: we own it, but my youngest daughter has never let me read it to her. She just carries it around with her everywhere and “reads” it to herself. It will be an exciting day when she’s able to do so 🙂

      1. Yes – they were making a movie based on The One and Only Ivan! It is supposed to be released in August. I believe it was originally going to be in theaters, but now with theaters closed it is being released on Disney+. We definitely want to read The One and Only Bob as well. He was such a fun character.

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