50 Must-Read Books For Sixth Graders

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Welcome to Amy’s Bookshelf! Here, teachers will find carefully curated book lists for each grade level from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Moving forward, new lists filled with book recommendations will be published weekly. Sometimes, these lists will be organized around a specific theme, like a holiday or seasonal event. Other times, they will feature rockstar books – books practically guaranteed to get your students reading. 

Before jumping into reading recommendations, a few words about how books are selected.

First, it is so important that teachers prioritize reading interest over reading level. Students will often choose to read well above or below their reading level if they are particularly interested in a book or topic. Teachers only hurt students by limiting them to a specific selection of titles grouped according to an arbitrary number or level. Think of the books on these lists as starting places for you and your students, but if a student wants to read up (or down), that is a-ok.

Also, please note that these lists lean heavily toward modern selections as opposed to the classics many teachers are familiar with. A true renaissance is happening in children’s literature today, and the books coming out are truly exciting. One of the factors that makes this such an exciting time for kid lit is how diverse the selections are in terms of genre, characters and subject matter. These lists will feature fiction and nonfiction selection as well as graphic novels, novels written in verse, and more.

Any book list or classroom library worth its salt includes books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, racially diverse characters, characters with disabilities, characters in the foster care system, characters from a wide variety of socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, and so on. Importantly, the diversity of the characters doesn’t always need to be the focus of the literature – in other words, a book featuring a black character or gay character doesn’t need to be about those individuals exploring their blackness or their gayness; those characters can have kid problems that apply to all children regardless of their race or sexual orientation. Similarly, students should be encouraged to read stories featuring people of diversity all year long – not just during a month set aside to celebrate a specific heritage.

One final note: today’s children’s literature does not shy away from frank discussions of gender, race, sex, sexuality, abuse, mental illness, and more – nor should it. I will not censor books from these lists based on these controversial areas. What books you recommend will depend on the specific district you work in and your clientele. I encourage you and your students to read widely without fear.

Just so you know, Bored Teachers may get a small share of the sales made through the Amazon affiliate links on this page.

Sixth grade

For many students, sixth grade means leaving elementary school behind and bravely walking into the world of class periods and lockers and social cliques. There is a lot of growing up that happens during the tween and pre-teen years, and these stellar books are perfect for budding adolescents. 

1. Wringer

by Jerry Spinelli

Wringer by Jerry Spinelli

Get it HERE.

In Paul’s town, when boys turn 10, they become “wringers” – their job is to wring the neck of birds shot down by hunters. Being a wringer is an honor, but Paul despises the thought of hurting a living creature, especially after he winds up with a pet pigeon. This remarkable book is about standing up for your beliefs, and it’s a wonderful rite of passage book for students on the cusp of adolescence. 

2. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Get it HERE.

This is a lovely, soft picture book about a man whose job it is to retrieve messages in bottles washed ashore by the sea and make sure they are delivered. The only problem is, the Uncorker longs for a letter to be addressed to him. One day, sure enough, a party invitation is tossed in by the waves. 

3. Roller Girl

by Victoria Jamieson

 Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Get it HERE.

Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, while her best friend Nicole signs up for dance camp. Previously, the two of them have done everything together. As the summer rolls on, the girls drift apart and Astrid finds herself physically and mentally challenged by the demanding sport she has chosen. 

4. Wonder

by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Get it HERE.

August (Auggie) Pulman has been homeschooled his entire life because he has a severe facial deformity and his parents want to protect him from the stares of other children. But when fifth grade rolls around, Auggie is determined to give school a shot. The stares and mean kids, teasing and bullying are inevitable, but Auggie is such a force of nature that it all turns out right in the end. 

5. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

by Tom Angleberger

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Get it HERE.

Dwight is the weird kid in class. Dwight folds an Origami Yoda and, with Dwight as its mouthpiece, Yoda gives all sorts of good advice to the kids in his class. This is the first in a four-book series, and the short chapter books are very reader-friendly and are designed to read like a school notebook, complete with doodles and margin notes. 

6. The Green Glass Sea

by Ellen Klages

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

Get it HERE.

Dewey will be spending the summer with her mathematician father, who is working on a “gadget” alongside J. Robert Oppenheimer and a team of other scientists. The gadget is, of course, the first nuclear bomb. The novel culminates with a test bomb detonation in White Sands, where the gravity of this new weapon sinks in. 

7. Doll Bones

by Holly Black

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Get it HERE.

Doll Bones is about three young friends who must give a porcelain doll a proper burial as the doll is rumored to contain the ashes of a dead girl. It’s a mix of slightly creepy ghost story and coming of age story. 

8. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Get it HERE.

Stargirl arrives on the scene of Mica High School and the school is immediately enchanted by the young girl who does not conform. Soon, though, Stargirl’s differences become a problem and she is faced with tremendous pressure to become just like everyone else. 

9. The Watsons Go to Birmingham

by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

Get it HERE.

The Watson family travels to Birmingham in the summer of 1963, hoping that Grandma can straighten out 13-year-old Byron, who is something of a delinquent. Their visit coincides with the Birmingham church bombing, so this is historical fiction set against the backdrop of an engaging family with carefully rendered characters. 

10. Dave the Potter

by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier

Dave the Potter written by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier

Get it HERE.

This is a gorgeous picture book biography about a man named Dave, a slave who made pottery and etched his poetry into his creations. Extensive notes at the end of the book go over what little history remembers about Dave and includes photos of some of his pottery. 

11. One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

by Nikki Grimes

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

Get it HERE.

Author Nikki Grimes pairs her original poetry with poems from the Harlem Renaissance. Each poem is accompanied by art from today’s most influential black illustrators. 

12. The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Get it HERE.

Charlie’s father returns home injured from the war in Afghanistan, where he was working as a journalist. Charlie’s family embarks on a road trip from the west coast to the east, seeking a specialist for Charlie’s father. 

13. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

by Pablo Cartaya

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

Get it HERE.

13-year-old Arturo is a Cuban-American living in Miami. His summers follow a predictable pattern until a land developer moves to town, threatening to shut down his grandma’s restaurant. With the help of the girl next door, Arturo discovers – and uses – his voice through community activism. 

14. The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade

by Jordan Sonnenblick

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade

Get it HERE.

Maverick’s dad left him a toy sheriff’s badge, which Maverick keeps with him to remind him of his father. The badge also inspires Maverick to right the small injustices he sees in his sixthgrade life. 

15. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Get it HERE.

Red is the neighborhood wish tree. For years, people have written their wishes on cloth scraps and tied them to Red’s branches. Red has many stories he can tell. This particular story of Red’s is about a new family that moves to town, a family that isn’t immediately accepted by the rest of the community. 

16. A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Get it HERE.

A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbery Medal. It begins with the words “It was a dark and stormy night…” when Meg Murray heads to the kitchen for a midnight snack. Strange visitors arrive with the storm, claiming to know the whereabouts of Meg’s disappeared scientist father. Meg and some family and friends set off on a rescue mission which involves space and time travel. This is the first in five books known as the Time Quintet. 

17. Maniac McGee

by Jerry Spinelli 

Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli

Get it HERE.

Jeffrey, whose parents were killed when he was three, has had enough. One day, he runs away from his cruel aunt and uncle, looking for a new place to call home. Along the way, Jeffrey encounters a series of trials and somehow manages to come out on top in each one, earning him the nickname Maniac. 

16. Tuck Everlasting

by Natalie Babbitt

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Get it HERE.

Winnie Foster discovers a spring on her family’s property that grants immortality, and she meets members of the Tuck family who have drunk from the stream. Winnie must decide whether she, herself, wants immortality. 

17. The Bridge to Terebitha

by Katherine Paterson 

The Bridge to Terebitha by Katherine Paterson

Get it HERE.

Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke are the fastest kids in fifth grade, and they bond over their love of running. They spend their time imaging a magical land called Terabithia. Tragedy strikes, and while readers adore this book, it also lives on as monumentally sad. 

18. The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins written

by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Brian Selznick

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Brian Selznick

Get it HERE.

Victorian-era artist Waterhouse Hawkins built the first life-sized models of dinosaurs the world had ever seen after years of extensive fossil study. He is known for larger-than-life ideas, including the New Year’s Eve party that he hosted inside the life-sized model of an iguanadon. Dinosaur lovers everywhere will love this quirky true story. 

19. Gracefully Grayson

by Ami Polonsky

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Get it HERE.

Grayson may look like a boy on the outside, but inside, she is sure she is a girl. This is an important book about a transgender girl deciding to share a secret with the world in the hopes of finding her true self. 

20. Ashes to Asheville

by Sarah Dooley

Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley

Get it HERE.

Fella’s mother dies an untimely death, but because the marriage act is a few years away, she is not permitted to stay with her sister Zany or her mother’s partner, the family she has been raised with. Instead, she is sent to live with her blood relatives. One day, Zany shows up on Fella’s new doorstep and the girls embark on a journey to scatter Fella’s mothers ashes as she wished them to be. 

21. As the Crow Flies

by Melanie Gillman

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman

Get it HERE.

Charlie is 13, gay, and black. She finds herself spending her summer at a Christian camp, and it is here where she starts to question what was once a bedrock faith. She finds the church doesn’t have much room for someone in her diverse shoes and isn’t sure how to handle it. 

22. House Arrest

by K.A. Holt

House Arrest by K.A. Holt

Get it HERE.

Timothy makes a bad decision to steal a credit card in order to buy infant formula for his baby brother. He is placed on house arrest and ordered to keep a journal. House Arrest is Timothy’s journal, which is written in verse. 

23. Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt

Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt

Get it HERE.

Another novel by the author of House Arrest, this one is also in verse and also worth a read. This is a story about bullying, which the main character, Kevin, does pretty well. But someone decides to turn the tables on Kevin, who learns a thing or two about how to treat people. 

24. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan

Get it HERE.

Percy is sent to Camp Half Blood, where he learns that the father he never knew is none other than Poseidon, God of the Sea. This makes Percy a demigod. Soon, Percy finds himself on a quest along with demigod Annabeth to stop a war between the gods from breaking out. Author Rick Riordan continues the Percy Jackson storyline in subsequent books and then delves into Norse, Roman, and Egyptian mythology in other related book series. 

25. Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

by Ying Chang Compestine

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Get it HERE.

Ling lives in China in 1972, at the end of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Her father teaches her English in secret, and she dreams of visiting America. One of Mao’s officers moves into the same apartment complex as Ling’s family, and slowly neighbors start disappearing or turning on each other.

26. Absolutely Normal Chaos

by Sharon Creech

Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech

Get it HERE.

This is a prequel to Walk Two Moons, which appears on the fifthgrade list. In this story, Mary Lou is assigned to keep a journal over the summer, but her summer turns out to be an exciting one, as readers can appreciate as they follow along with Mary Lou. 

27. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Get it HERE.

In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank records two years of her life in Nazi Germany. Anne is a young Jew growing up during Hitler’s regime.  Anne and her family live in secret in an annex, and her diary chronicles the entire event from an adolescent’s perspective. It’s become a classic on middle school reading lists. 

28. The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnett and illustrated by Tasha Tudor

The Secret Garden written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and illustrated by Tasha Tudor

Get it HERE.

Mary Lennox is an orphan and is sent to live at her uncle’s mansion. The mansion and her uncle contain many secrets. Mary finds a garden hidden away on the surrounding property and breaks in, determined to bring the garden back to its former splendor. 

29. Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song

by Kathryn Erskine and illustrated by Charly Palmer

 Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song written by Kathryn Erskine and illustrated by Charly Palmer

Get it HERE.

Miriam Makeba was a singer during the pinnacle of South African apartheid. She was nicknamed Mama Africa and used her voice to speak out against the unjust, segregated system. 

30. Bronze and Sunflower

by Cao Wenxuan

Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan

Get it HERE.

When Sunflower’s father dies, she is taken in by a family with another only child named Bronze. Bronze and Sunflower become best friends, and this is the story of their two families weaving into one. This story is translated from Mandarin. 

 31. The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book 1)

by Rick Riordan

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Book 1) by Rick Riordan

Get it HERE.

From the author of the bestselling Percy Jackson books comes a new trilogy about Norse mythology. Magnus finds out he is the son of a Norse god, and he is summoned to Asgard as the gods are preparing for war. 

32. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Get it HERE.

This story of an unlikely friendship has much to say about bullying. Maxwell, a giant boy who is bullied for being stupid, and Freak, a tiny boy with a genius brain, become friends. The two opposites teach kids at their school – not to mention readers at home – that what really matters is the size of your heart. 

33. Nothing But the Truth by Avi

Nothing But the Truth by Avi

Get it HERE.

This book was published in 1992 but i increasingly relevant in today’s era of “fake news.” This book is a compilation of letters, dialogues, and other multi-genre documents surrounding one student’s choice to hum during the national anthem at his school. The reader’s job is to figure out what really happened by combing through the various biases in each account. 

34. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas

by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by Maris Wicks

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas written by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by Maris Wicks

Get it HERE.

This graphic novel is a look inside the careers of three of the world’s most famous primatologists. 

35. Older Than Dirt: A Wild but True History of Earth

by Don Brown and illustrated by Dr. Mike Perfit

Older Than Dirt: A Wild but True History of Earth written by Don Brown and illustrated by Dr. Mike Perfit

Get it HERE.

This book tackles geology – from the Big Bang to the formation of the planet to the various geologic activities going on today – with humor and fun illustrations. 

36. Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

Get it HERE.

Living with a bipolar mother makes life difficult for Addie, who lives a life without moderation. Her mother takes an all or nothing approach to most everything, and Addie is just waiting for her turn at a normal life. 

37. The Glass Sentence (The Mapmaker’s Trilogy, Book 1) by S.E. Grove

The Glass Sentence (The Mapmaker's Trilogy, Book 1) by S.E. Grove

Get it HERE.

Sonia comes from a line of explorers who have been mapping the world ever since what is known as the Great Disruption occured. This was the moment in time when each of the continents were sent to different time periods. Sonia’s parents disappear and she sets out to find them. 

38. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Get it HERE.

In Fablehaven, mythical creatures live out their days to prevent the extinction of their species. When siblings Kendra and Seth find out that their grandfather is the caretaker of the animals, they are in for an adventure!

39. Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages

Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages

Get it HERE.

Katy Gordon isn’t allowed to play Little League – even though she is undeniably the best pitcher – because she is a girl. So Katy sets out to prove that girls can – and have! – played baseball throughout history. This book is both Katy’s story and an interesting history of women in baseball. 

40. The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Get it HERE.

Brothers Caleb and Bobby meet their new neighbor, Styx Malone, who convinces them to start the Great Escalator Trade; that is, trading one little thing for something a bit better and a bit better until you hold more treasure than you dreamed possible. Soon, though, the boys are in over their heads. 

41. Anne of Green Gables

by L.M. Mongomery

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Mongomery

Get it HERE.

Anne of Green Gables was written at the turn of the twentieth century and has been loved ever since. Anne is a spunky redheaded orphan who turns the lives of siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert upside down. The Cuthbert’s were hoping for a boy to help tend their farm until Anne comes along and wins their hearts. 

42. Dogsong

by Gary Paulsen

Dogsong by Gary Paulsen

Get it HERE.

Bothered by modern machines that replace the old ways, Russell takes a shaman’s sled dogs on a powerful journey of self-discovery. 

43. You Go First

by Erin Entrada Kelly

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

Get it HERE.

Charlotte, who lives in Pennslyvania, and Ben, who lives in Louisana, meet online while playing Scrabble. Though hundreds of miles apart, they find their middle school lives intersect in many different ways. 

44. Loving vs. Virginia

by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Shadra Strickland

Loving vs. Virginia written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Shadra Strickland

Get it HERE.

In 1967, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter brought their case in front of the Supreme Court – they wished for their interracial marriage to be recognized by their home state of Virginia. This book is in verse, with photographs of historical documents illustrating the pages. 

45. A Possibility of Whales

by Karen Rivers

A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers

Get it HERE.

Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher lives her life dreaming about things that might be possible. For instance, she might see whales off the coast today, or she might one day get to meet her mother who left when she was just a baby.

46. Every Shiny Thing

by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison

Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison

Get it HERE.

Lauren and Sierra are best friends separated by circumstance. Sierra is sent to a foster care facility and Lauren to a boarding school for teens on the austism spectrum. Together, the two try to find a way to battle injustice. Half of this novel is written in prose, the other half in verse. 

47. Life As We Knew It (Book 1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It (Book 1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Get it HERE.

In this four-book series, the world is rocked after an asteroid smacks into the moon and knocks it closer to earth. The resulting natural disasters are catastrophic – tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions. This story is told through teen Miranca’s journal entries over the course of a year. 

48. The Greenglass House by Kate Milford

The Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Get it HERE.

Milo is the adopted son of the innkeepers of the Greenglass House. One wintery evening, the doorbell rings and rings, and soon the inn is overflowing with secretive strangers with stories about the house. 

49. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Get it HERE.

At the start of seventh grade, Bridge, Emily, and Tab are struggling to avoid breaking their long-ago pact to never fight and be friends forever. Can they survive the growing pains of middle school and remain friends?

50. Ghost

by Jason Reynolds

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Get it HERE.

Four kids are chosen for an elite middle school track team. They are each from vastly different backgrounds but come together to attempt to qualify for the Junior Olympics. Author Jason Reynolds has written a book for each kid in the track series: Ghost, Lu, Patina, and Sunny. 

Other book lists from Amy’s bookshelf you’ll love: 

50 Must-Read Books For 6th Graders

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AuthorAmy

Veteran Member

I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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