A Classroom Reading List

Reading List for Creating a Classroom Reading Culture

These are titles that hooked all my students, regardless of ability. I consider these books central in launching an egalitarian reading culture.


The Crossover
by Alexander Kwame

Written in verse, The Crossover is a Newbery Medal-winning book about an African-American family featuring a basket-ball playing male protagonist.  Kwame’s book will appeal to readers who love sports, hip-hop, jazz and good story-telling. This poignent coming-of-age novel centers on the complex bonds of twin brothers in a sports-loving family, exploring their challenges on the basketball court, in school, and at home.

From our Education Editor, Kyle Redford:
“The Crossover” was a major hit with all the kids in the class, especially among the boys who struggle with reading.”


Fortunately, The Milk
by Neil Gaiman

Written for grades 3–7. 

Neil Gaiman writes an imaginative and humorous story about what happens when mom goes out of town and dad steps out to pick up some milk for the cereal and tea. Add in some dinosaurs, pirates, aliens, wumpires and you’ve got yourself a very compelling and engaging story.


Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
by Kate DiCamillo

The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is  just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry—and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.


Breakfast on Mars
Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe, editors

Breakfast on Mars is a surprise favorite in the same vein as Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read anthology series. Edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolf, this collection of 38 out-of -the-box essays by some top Middle Grade authors).

From YCDC Education Editor, Kyle Redford:
“My fifth grade students loved it so much they chose it for purchase for our class library. Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays will inspire students to think differently about the much feared assignment in elementary and middle schools around the country: essay writing.”


Graphic Novels to Please All

Jennifer Holm & Matthew Holm

“He’s a comic book-loving, twinkie-eating grade school AMOEBA trying to find his place in the world (or at least trying to make it through a school day).”

Squish comes to us from the creators of the Baby Mouse series and is geared to young people in grades 3 to 7. This time, they’ve created lots of humor out of high school and science in this graphic novel series.

Reviews for Squish:
“A perfect mix of writing that is simple enough for early readers but still remarkably snarky, clever, and entertaining. Kids will soak up the humor, tidbits of science instruction, and adventure.”
—The Bulletin 


Babymouse Series Graphic Novels
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Even though their covers are pink, and the protagonist female, boys fall for Babymouse also.

From the publisher:
“Meet Babymouse, a sassy young mouse who dreams of glamor, excitement, adventure, straight whiskers, being queen of the world….Readers will love Babymouse’s vivid imagination….and the clever illustrations and hilarious storyline of brother-sister team Matthew and Jennifer Holm.”


Amulet series
by Kazu Kibuishi (grades 3–7).

This graphic novel series about the adventures of a brother and sister duo–Emily and Navin–as they travel to new, strange worlds to save those they love.

Praise for the series:
“Five—no, three pages into Amulet and you’ll be hooked.” — Jeff Smith, creator of BONE

“The story hooks the reader; it is filled with adventure, suspense, great characters, and has above all an ending that leaves the reader wanting more. This book is written in graphic format that is a favorite of mine. The format is perfect for reluctant readers who never seem to finish a book on their own. Young adults who want to read anything they can get their hands on will also enjoy the graphics and fast paced text. The graphics make an enormous impact on the story.” — Kathie M. Josephs, “Children’s Literature”


Olympians (series)
by George O’Connor

This graphic novel series is great for young people in grades 4-9. Each book in this ultra-popular graphic novel series features a different Greek god or goddess, and will become an obsession for the Greek Mythology fans in every classroom. And maybe even make some new ones…


Bone (series)
by Jeff Smith

The Bone series is geard toward grades 3 and up. These stories follow the adventures of the Bone cousins that ensue after Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone are run out of Boneville. They get separated and lost in a vast uncharted desert and eventually find their way into a forested valley where they encounter many magical creatures. Creator Jeff Smith was inspired to learn to read by the Peanuts comic strip, and now does the same for many young readers of today with his own books.


Lunch Lady
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

A humorous graphic novel series for young people in grades 3–7.

Praise for Lunch Lady:

“The Lunch Lady books are fun, quick reads for kids, with lots of zany and culinary-inspired humor.”  —The Graphic Novel Reporter

“With its appealing mix of action and humor, this clever, entertaining addition to the series should have wide appeal.”—School Library Journal

“…a delightfully fun escapist read. Be sure to recommend this to fans of Captain Underpants.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Krosoczka’s inventive visual details, spot-on characterizations, and grade-school humor make this a standout graphic-novel series.” —Booklist


Raina Telgemeier

Smile is a graphic novel geared for young people in grades 3 to 7.

From the publisher:
“Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth, and what follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with….”


“An utterly charming graphic memoir of tooth trauma, first crushes and fickle friends, sweetly reminiscent of Judy Blume’s work….Irresistible, funny and touching – a must read for all teenage girls, whether en-braced or not.” — KIRKUS Reviews

“A charming addition to the body of young adult literature that focuses on the trials and tribulations of the slightly nerdy girl….This book should appeal to tweens looking for a story that reflects their fears and experiences and gives them hope that things get easier.” — Publishers Weekly

“Telgemeier’s book is an excellent addition to middle school literature.” — School Library Journal


Raina Telgemeier

Drama is from the same author as Smile, but this graphic novel is geared for a slightly older audience—grades 5–9.

From the publisher:

“Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon over Mississippi, she’s a terrible singer. Instead she’s the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together?”


“Hilarious. . . . Telgemeier’s graphic artist skills make this novel a pleasure to read and re-read.”  – Horn Book

With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer. Brava! –Kirkus, starred review


The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
and its sequels:
Darth Paper Strikes Back
The Secret of the Fortune Wookie
Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet

by Tom Angleberger

The “Origami Yoda” books tell the story of a sixth-grade weirdo and his mysterious ability to dispense bona fide wisdom through a Yoda finger puppet (cartoons and marginalia included). The book is structured as a collection of stories gathered by Tommy and told by kids who either believe or don’t. Ages 8–12


Diary of a Wimpy Kid
by Jeff Kinney

The popularity of the “Wimpy” series ushered in many popular spin-offs. The best thing about these humorous graphic novels is that they appeal to all reading abilities. Because everyone in the class reads (and enjoys) them, the series creates a shared experience among the students, regardless of reading abilities. Ages 8–12


Other Books Like Diary of a Wimpy Kid:

Planet Tad
by Tim Carvell

Tad has an agenda: Survive seventh grade.

He also wants to: grow a mustache, get girls to notice him, and do a kickflip on his skateboard…

But those are not the main reasons he started a blog. Tad just has a lot of important thoughts he wants to share with the world, like: Here is the first thing I have learned about having a dog in your house: Don’t feed them nachos. Not ever.


Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading
by Tommy Greenwald, illus. by J.P. Coovert

From the author’s website:
“Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader every born. He does whatever it takes to get out of reading, and so far, it’s worked out really well. But one day in middle school he gets into trouble, and fi
nds his impressive record is on the line. Will he push his luck and do whatever it takes to get out of reading, or will he finally bite the bullet and… gasp…read a book?!? “

Alvin Ho by Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham

Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce


by R.J. Palacio

Auggie is heading to 5th grade at a mainstream school. Until now, his extreme facial deformity has kept him home and safe from peer ridicule. Readers enter into Auggie’s life as he embarks upon a challenge to get his classmates to see beyond his face.


The One and Only Ivan
by Kathrine Applegate

Simply told story from a captive gorilla’s perspective. It is a sweet book  that looks at life from the other side of the cage.

From the publisher:
“Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all…and then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family.”


Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s The BFG is a short classic and really ageless because the story-telling is so good. BFG stands for Big Friendly Giant. The “F” could also have stood for funny.  The BFG, like so many of Roald Dahl’s books, is so enduring because Dahl really “got” kids.  He combined humor, kids’ worries and dreams, whimsy in every story—that is what makes these stories worth the read.


Wild Wings
by Gill Lewis

The reader takes an adventure with Callum while he tries to keep a promise to a girl and an endangered bird. Set in modern Ireland, it is a suspenseful story that explores grief, survival and respect for the natural world.


Inside Out and Back Again
by Thanhha Lai

Written in beautiful free verse narrative, the text is very accessible, but the story is deep and sophisticated. The reader follows 10-year-old Ha, her mother, and three brothers as they are forced to flee Vietnam during the war. They end up in Alabama having to make extraordinary cultural shifts.


Middle School (series)
James Patterson

Bestselling author James Patterson has created this semi-autobiographic series for young people in grades 3 to 7.

From the publisher:
“Here’s a genuinely hilarious, surprisingly poignant story of a wildly imaginative, one-of-a-kind kid that middle-school readers won’t soon forget. Blockbuster author James Patterson’s page-turning thrillers have sold millions of copies around the world. So when he turns his storytelling talents to writing for young readers, his success is no real surprise. The comic cartoony line drawings by Laura Park add to the appeal.”


Love that Dog and Hate that Cat
by Sharon Creech

Both books are written in easy-to-read free verse and are so compelling and funny that students find themselves rethinking poetry. Ages 8–12


Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys’ Favorite Authors Write about Being Boys: 

A collection of wonderful, short autobiographical stories written by favorite authors like Avi, Dan Gutman, Daniel Pinkwater, and Jerry Spinelli; edited by Jon Scieszka


Other Worlds

Other Worlds, the fourth volume in Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read anthology series for tween boys, features ten thrilling new tales of science fiction and fantasy from some of the biggest names in children’s literature.


Sports Pages

From fiction to nonfiction, from baseball to mixed martial arts and everything in between, these are ten stories about the rush of victory and the crush of defeat on and off the field. Compiled by kid-lit all-star Jon Scieszka, Guys Read: The Sports Pages is a thrilling collection of brand-new short stories from some of your favorite authors and athletes.


Guys Read: Funny Business

From the publisher:
“Ten stories guaranteed to delight, amuse, and possibly make you spit your milk in your friend’s face.”


Guys Read: Thriller

From the publisher:
“Ten original short stories of mystery, thrills, intrigue, and nefarious activity by ten of the best mystery/thriller writers of our day. Read these if you dare!”

The Series is best for older readers as independent read-younger readers need some guidance—not all stories are appropriate for elementary ages, and these stories are not just for boys. Grades 5–9


Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories of Growing up Scieszka
by Jon Sciezska

A hysterically funny autobiographical novel told with lots of visuals and exaggeration. Ages 9–12


Addie on the Inside
by James Howe

From the publisher:
“The Gang of Five is back in this third story from Paintbrush Falls. Addie Carle, the only girl in the group of friends, is outspoken, opinionated, and sometimes…just a bit obnoxious. Told in elegant, accessible verse…gives readers a look at a strong, smart, and sensitive girl struggling with the box society wants to put her in.”


The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick

A 566-page novel told mostly through illustration. Kids love this fat book; it makes them feel like “real readers.” A Caldecott Medal winner. Ages 9–12


by Brian Selznick

Like “Hugo Cabret” this book is told mostly through pictures. From the publisher: “Ben and Rose wish their lives were different. Set fifty years apart, their two stories — Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures–weave back and forth on a spectacular journey.”


Because of Winn-Dixie
by Kate DiCamillo

A simply told touching story with short easy-to-read chapters.

Other books by Kate DiCamillo:
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
The Magician’s Elephant
Tiger Rising


Rapunzel’s Revenge
by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Nathan Hale

A funny retelling of the classic tale done in graphic-novel format. Boys do like it, even though they resist it at first.


Gary Paulson

Geared for students in grades 5 to 8.

From the publisher:
“Ever since readers first met him in Liar, Liar, Kevin’s been dying to ask out Tina Zabinski, the Most Beautiful Girl in the World. But since he can barely get a word out when he’s around her, it’s been hard. And it becomes even more difficult when the school’s hunky new guy zeroes in on Tina.Then Kevin gets another one of his brilliant ideas: he’s going to take a scientific approach to figuring out how love works…and then he’ll ask Tina out. After all, love is based on chemistry and chemistry is science, right?”


Lawn Boy
by Gary Paulsen

A good short book packed with humor and adventure and a little introduction into how capitalism works. Ages 9–12

And the sequel, Lawn Boy Returns.

More books by Gary Paulsen include:
Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception, and Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Greed


Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff
by Jennifer L. Holm

The author uses everything from journal entries to refrigerator notes to tell a touching story about one girl’s challenging year. Ages 9–12


Young Adult Books

Romeo & Juliet
Gareth Hinds

This YA graphic novel by Gareth Hinds will be enjoyed by young people in grades 7 and up.

From the author’s website:
“Perhaps the greatest tragic love story of all time, Shakespeare’s tour de force of emotional and literary power, this play needs no introduction. My graphic novel adaptation underscores the universality of the drama by bringing a multiracial cast to the setting of historical Verona. The art is strongly influenced by classic European comics, with intense manga-style action scenes, as reckless young love plays out in the exquisite rhymed verse of the Bard at his best.”


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie

Simple cartoons help tell the story of Arnold Spirit, a 14-year-old Indian, who has not had an easy life.  Using his humor and sharp observation, Arnold grapples with his own ambitions, his Indian identity and the world around him.


A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
by Patrick Ness (Author), Jim Kay (Illustrator)

This robustly illustrated YA book is a powerful story about the monster, both real and imagined, that 13-year-old Conor must face.


Many titles by Jerry Spinelli seem to get students hooked on reading in the middle elementary grades.  Loser and Love, Stargirl are favorites. Spinelli’s autobiography, Knots in My Yo-Yo String, is also a surprise hit.

Teachers who recommend these titles gain a lot of credibility with their students.


Compiled by Kyle Redford

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