50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders


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.

Fourth Grade

Fourth-grade students are at a lovely sweet spot for reading. They are still young enough to be read to but old enough to read on their own, too. Children are developing their own unique interests and a number of books on this list cater to those specific interests. Whatever it is that interests your students, encourage them to seek out books beyond just those on this list and keep reading!

1. Nightsong

by Ari Berk, illustrated by Loren Long

Nightsong by Ari Berk, illustrated by Loren Long -50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders

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A baby bat is sent out into the world on his own for the first time. At first, he is fearful of the night, but along the way, he learns to use his echolocation to find his way home.

2. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art

by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art  by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre - 50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders

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This is the story of famous painter Vasya Kandinsky as a young boy. Kandinsky is known as one of the first painters of abstract art. Like most picture book biographies, this book contains excellent backmatter with more information for curious readers.

3. Locomotive

by Brian Floca

Locomotive by Brian Floca -50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders

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This book tells the tale of the construction of the transcontinental railroad in vivid detail. It’s really engaging, especially for children fascinated with how things are built.

4. The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Change Science

by Joyce Sidman

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Change Science by Joyce Sidman - 50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders

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Maria Merian was one of the world’s first women entomologists, and she was also one of the first to document the life cycle and metamorphosis of the butterfly. At the time, no one could understand why a woman would want to study bugs. Sidman’s nonfiction biography is enhanced with full-color illustrations from Merian herself. 

5. Petite Rouge

by Mike Artell, illustrated by Jim Harris

Petite Rouge by Mike Artell, illustrated by Jim Harris - 50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders

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Instead of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big, Bad Wolf, this is Petite Rouge versus Claude, the Big, Bad Gator. This retelling is written in rhyming Cajun dialect that absolutely must be read aloud.

6. Ten (the Winnie Years)

by Lauren Myracle

Ten (the Winnie Years) by Lauren Myracle - 50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders

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Winnie is about to turn 10, and that means she’s almost a middle schooler! This is the first in a series (the second is Eleven, then Twelve, and so on) and it’s a great slice of life series for tweens.

7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling - 50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders

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The Harry Potter series has a place on any booklist and this is no exception. When Harry turns 11, he finds out he is a wizard and heads off to Hogwarts. Starting the series in fourth grade allows reader to grow alongside Harry.

8. Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets compiled

by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets compiled by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth - 50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders

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Three writers, poets themselves, have written a variety of poems celebrating the work of famous poets. It’s a good introduction to poetry and contains a call to action to get readers writing their own poetry.

9. Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

by Roxanne Orgill and illustrated by Francis Vallejo

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph written by Roxanne Orgill and illustrated by Francis Vallejo - 50 Must-Read Books for Fourth Graders

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Designer Art Kane had a big idea that he made come true – he wanted to photograph a group of famous jazz musicians in front of a Harlem brownstone in 1958 for the cover of an Esquire magazine celebrating American jazz. This story is told in verse.

10. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno

10. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno

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Gay rights activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker are responsible for the rainbow flag and its use to symbolize the LGBTQIA+ community. This is the story of the birth of the flag.

11. George

by Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino

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George is transgender – she sees herself as a girl while the world sees her as a boy. She hopes that, by trying out for the part of Charlotte in the school’s production of Charlotte’s web, her family and friends will finally see her for who she really is.

12. Where the Sidewalk Ends

by Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

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Shel Silverstein’s poems have been loved by school children of all ages. While some children can be reluctant to engage with poetry, Silverstein’s poems seem to be an exception. They are clever and funny, with excellent illustrations to go along with them.

13. Coraline written

by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean

Coraline written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean

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Coraline walks through a locked door in her family’s house and discovers a new world where everything is better – except for the fact that other children are trapped there with an “other” mother and father. Coraline must help them escape.

14. The Tale of Desperaux

by Kate DiCamillo

Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

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This timeless fairy tale from Kate DiCamillo is about a mouse named Despereaux who falls in love with a human princess, which causes him to be banished to a rat dungeon. The story is a popular read-aloud for a good read.

15. Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of Papua New Guinea

by Sy Montgomery and photographed by Nic Bishop

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of Papua New Guinea written by Sy Montgomery and photographed by Nic Bishop

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Author Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop follow scientist Lisa Dabeck as she tracks and studies the elusive tree kangaroo. The photography in this nonfiction book is stunning and gives a great insider’s look at a naturalist’s life. 

16. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

by Judy Blume

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

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Fourth grader Peter has had it up to here with his toddler brother, Fudge, who gets all of his parents’ attention. He hatches a plan to divert their attention his way for a change.

17. Harriet the Spy

by Louise Fitzhugh 

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

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Harriet spends her time observing – and writing down her observations. When her notebook falls into the wrong hands, her loved ones read some of the not-too-kind things Harriet wrote about them, and she must make it right.

18. Pippi Longstocking

by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

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Pippi Longstocking, with her red pigtails that stick straight out, is always up to crazy hijinks. She’s a character who has been loved by generations of children and who continues to entertain readers today.

19. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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Ella is given a gift by a fairy, but the gift is a curse- she must obey any command she is given. Ella refuses to accept her life with this curse so she endeavors to find a way to break it. This book has classic fairy tale elements with a fun twist.

20. The Complete Book of Flower Fairies

by Cicely Mary Barker

 The Complete Book of Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker

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Cicely Mary Barker published her first Flower Fairies book in 1923, and since then, her books have been beloved by generations. This collects the flowers of all the seasons. Each flower is accompanied by a short poem and an illustration of a fairy who guards that flower. 

21. The Line Tender by Kate Allen

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

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Young Lucy follows in her mother’s footsteps. Her mother, a well-known marine biologist, died when Lucy was seven. Now, a great white shark is caught in the harbor of her Massachusetts town. Lucy raises to the harbor to see a creature her mother loved so dearly, and a new tragedy ensues.  This is a gentle coming-of-age story bound to appeal to young readers who enjoy science (or sharks!). 

22. Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

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One day, Iris, who is deaf, watches a documentary about a whale known as Blue 55. Blue 55 speaks at a different frequency than other whales and so cannot communicate with his kind. Iris feels a rush of empathy for the whale and determines she will write a song and play it for Blue 55 in person. Luckily, she has the support of her grandmother to make this happen. 

23. A Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop

A Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop

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When William starts to play with his new castle, a silver knight comes to life in his hands. Suddenly, William is whisked into the magic of the castle and joins the knight on a quest.

24. Cheaper by the Dozen

by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey 

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

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There are 12 children in the Gilbreth family, plus a father who believes the household should run as efficiently as a factory plus a mother who holds completely opposite views on discipline in the family. Hilarious antics fill the pages of this classic story that was later turned into a movie.

25. Stuart Little

by E.B. White

Stuart Little by E.B. White

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A little mouse named Stuart is raised in a house of humans. He goes on a great adventure when his friend, a bird, goes missing.

26. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

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Nine-year-old Cassie Logan narrates this story of her family in depression-era Mississippi as they struggle to keep their plot of land against all odds, including racism and financial strain.

27. El Deafo

by Cece Bell

El Deafo by Cece Bell

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This is a graphic novel-memoir in which the author shares her experience of going to school wearing a bulky, very obvious hearing aid.

28. Her Right Foot

by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Shawn Harris

Her Right Foot written by Dave Eggers and illystrated by Shawn Harris

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Her Right Foot explores the Statue of Liberty and researches the story behind her stance – Lady Liberty is poised, mid-stride, with her right foot forward. This lovely nonfiction book will tell you why.

29. Kira-Kira

by Cynthia Kadohata

Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

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A Japanese-American family moves to Georgia. The story is narrated by Katie, who looks up to her sister Lynn, who teaches her to navigate the world. Lynn is diagnosed with lymphoma, which Katie must come to terms with.

30. Bone by Jeff Smith

Bone by Jeff Smith

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This is a graphic novel series about three cousins who get lost and find themselves in an enchanted (or perhaps haunted) forest.

31. My Fox Ate My Homework

by David Blaze

My Fox Ate My Homework by David Blaze

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Jonah (Joe) Johnson is an eleven-year-old with a lot of problems! His mom lost her job so the family had to move into a house that is also being foreclosed upon. A bully is demanding that Joe does his homework for him, and to top it off, a real-live talking fox shows up in the henhouse. Joe and Fox become great friends, but, of course, mayhem ensues. 

32. Fish in a Tree

by Linda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt

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Ally is great at math and art, but her darkest secret is that she can barely read. She hides it until a middle school teacher sees through her facade and tries to help.

33. The Bear and the Fern

by Jay Miletsky and illustrated by Mary Manning

The Bear and the Fern written by Jay Miletsky and illustrated by Mary Manning

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This gorgeous picture book reads with notes of The Velveteen Rabbit. A stuffed bear becomes friends with Fern, a potted houseplant. Bear wants to go on adventures, but Fern insists that houseplants don’t move. Bear decides to help, and a story about unlikely friendships is born. 

34. How High the Moon

by Karen Parsons

How High the Moon by Karen Parsons

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Set in the Jim Crow South, young Ella doesn’t feel she belongs. She is bullied for her skin color and misses her mother, who is pursuing a singing career in a faraway city. Then, Ella’s mother invites her to Christmas, but the reunion isn’t as happy as Ella had planned. This is also a coming-of-age novel but it’s certainly bittersweet. 

35. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

by Kate DiCamillo

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

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Edward Tulane is a mean-spirited china rabbit, but beloved by ten-year-old Abilene. He is lost at sea on the family’s travels and must travel the world learning to love.

36. The Lemonade War

by Jacqueline Davies

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

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Evan and his younger sister Jessie both open lemonade stands that play to their unique character strengths. Friendly competition turns into war between the two siblings. Young entrepreneurs can learn a bit about business in this book, too.

37. Nonni’s Moon written by Julia Inserro and illustrated by Lucy Smith

Nonni's Moon written by Julia Inserro and illustrated by Lucy Smith

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Beanie struggles living so far away from family until she realizes she and Nonni both look up at the same moon no matter where in the world they live. This is a perfect picture book for children missing far-away family and friends. 

38. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

by Lynne Jonell

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell

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Emmy tries her best to be perfect, but nothing she does is good enough for her nanny. She likes to sit by the classroom rat, who is not so good. One day, the rat starts talking to Emmy, and the story gets rolling from there.

39. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

by C.S. Lewis

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Find it HERE.

Four children are sent to London to escape World War Two. While in their new house, they discover a magic wardrobe that transports them to Narnia, where they join in an epic battle of good versus evil. This is a Christian allegory and is the first book in a series.

40. Maniac Magee

by Jerry Spinelli

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

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“Maniac” Magee becomes a legend in this folktale about race relations. A young boy, orphaned at a young age, runs away from his aunt and uncle at age 8 and finds himself in the racially divided town of Twin Mills. Magee’s antics help stave off a race war that felt inevitable.

41. 11 Birthdays

by Wendy Mass

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

Find it HERE.

Groundhog’s Day for a younger audience. In 11 Birthdays, Amanda’s celebration goes all wrong. But when she wakes up in the morning, it’s her eleventh birthday…again. Can she fix what went wrong the first time? 

42. The Unwanteds

by Lisa McMann

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Find it HERE.

The Unwanteds is a bit unique in that it’s dystopian fiction for pre-teens. The young adult genre is filled with dystopian literature, but this series is firmly for upper elementary and middle school students. In this world gone wrong, 13-year-olds are sorted into two categories – Wanteds, who go to the university, and Unwanteds, who are killed. The Unwanteds follows Alex as he is declared an Unwanted. This is the first in a seven-book series. 

43. The Indian in the Cupboard

by Lynne Reid Banks

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

Find it HERE.

Young Omri accidentally transforms a toy Indian into a living, breathing (but miniature) person by placing the toy in a mysterious metal cupboard. The Indian in the Cupboard is the first of three books that get better as they go along. 

44. The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Find it HERE.

Set in the colonial era on New World soil, Kit befriends a Hannah Tupper, who is believed to be a witch by the townspeople. Kit must choose her loyalty in this classic story that won the Newbery Medal in 1959.

45. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

by Liesl Shurtliff

Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Find it HERE.

Rump discovers he has a talent for spinning straw into gold, but little does he know, the magic that allows him to spin the gold is dangerous, and Rump soon spins his way into a dark curse. He must break the spell with the help of some familiar fairy tale figures in this modern spin on a classic story. 

46. Dog Man

by Dav Pilkey

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

Find it HERE.

Dog Man is a graphic novel series from the creator of Captain Underpants. Dog Man is – you guessed it! – a part-dog, part-human superhero who fights crime and brings bad guys to justice. 

47. Savvy

by Ingrid Law

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Find it HERE.

Each member of the Beaumont family has a savvy or a supernatural power that manifests when they turn 13. Mibs is waiting for her savvy to show up when Poppa has an accident. Mibs determines to make it to the hospital to use her power to save Poppa. 

48. Hoot

by Carl Hiaasen 

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Find it HERE.

A local, beloved pancake house wants to expand, but the expansion threatens the habitat of endangered owls. A group of kids sets out to save the owls. Hoot, and all of Carl Hiaasen’s middle grade novels, reads like a sitcom – unlikely scenarios and a happy ending. 

49. Redwall

by Brian Jacques

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Find it HERE.

For the budding fantasy fan, Redwall is the first in a whopping 21-book series. The series follows the mice of Redwall Abbey as they battle against any army of rats. It’s fantasy for children with sweeping, epic notes of adventure, beloved by fans for decades. 

50. The Templeton Twins Have an Idea

by Ellis Weiner and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea written by Ellis Weiner and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes

Find it HERE.

In this fun adventure, twins John and Abigail kidnap another set of twins in order to blackmail their inventor father into turning over one of his more clever inventions. There is a second book for readers who want more Templeton Twins. 

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


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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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