Middle school is a time of change and with that comes transitioning to more mature and complex reading topics. Whether true stories, graphic novels, or timeless stories by bestselling authors, this list of 34 book recommendations should be must-reads for your advanced sixth graders.
This coming-of-age story is about a girl who isn’t pretty but wants to be that way. She has the opportunity to become pretty and no longer remain an “uglie”. She runs into some bumps along the way. This book about friendship and confidence is great for advanced sixth graders or seventh graders.
2. Al Capone Does My Shirts
This book is a Newberry Honor chapter book and is perfect for middle school-aged students. When a young boy has to move to the island where Alcatraz prison is, he must adapt. There is a character with special needs in this book and the author does an incredible job weaving this into the storyline as well.
The young boy in this story uses his voice a lot! He tells random facts and knows much trivia. When he loses his voice, he doesn’t know what he will do. Including a little bit of all the best things in a book, like detailed characters, emotions of happiness and sadness, and an incredible journey of a storyline, this adventure story makes it ideal for advanced 6th graders.
4. I Have Lived A Thousand Years
Living in a concentration camp, a young girl tells her original story of misery and sadness, but she manages to keep a positive outlook and remains full of hope. This chapter book is great for gifted children, antiracist children, and all middle school readers.
5. Red Scarf Girl
A beautiful memoir told about a young girl in China with an ideal life, she must learn to adapt when her world is turned upside down. Gifted children and middle school readers will enjoy reading her original story about the actual details of her life from back in 1966.
6. Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice
Phillip Hoose brings to life a true story that is often overlooked and undervalued. Based on the events in the life of Claudette Colvin, this chapter book tells her story and how she took a stand to help end segregation in her southern town. In the original stories, she shares tales of her courage and bravery.
Just because the school banned cell phones, doesn’t mean these middle schoolers can’t find a way to communicate. They begin utilizing sticky notes as a means of communication. Perfect for grade levels in middle school, this book is funny and engaging.
8. Punching Bag
Telling his true story of pain, abuse, and living in poverty, this coming-of-age story is perfect for advanced sixth graders, as well as seventh grade and above. This timeless story is one many readers will be able to relate to and engage in.
9. Free Lunch
Award-winning author Rex Ogle brings us another original story in Free Lunch. Students in 7th grade and 8th grade, as well as advanced 6th graders, will enjoy reading a book that brings authentic and genuine content about a hungry student. He receives free lunch at school and struggles to find his place to fit in with the other students. He is in a predominantly wealthy school, yet he lives in poverty.
10. The Island
This adventure story follows a boy who is simply trying to find himself. In a world where he wants to be alone and in nature, he discovers an island. He leaves home every morning and rows to the quiet island to be alone. Too bad his quiet adventure does not stay that way. He runs into some bumps along the road.
11. The River
Sequel to Hatchet, this incredible book follows Brian back into the wilderness where he survived for so long on his own. Bestselling author, Gary Paulsen, creates a captivating story that will get even reluctant readers interested in watching Brian face more challenges and figure out how to survive alone all over again in different circumstances.
12. The Summer of My German Soldier
This emotionally charged novel is one that will show what it means to open your heart and embrace others, even when they are different. This timeless story follows a young girl who befriends a prison escapee when her town hosts a prison camp for German prisoners and cares for them in World War II.
13. A View from Saturday
Award-winning and bestselling author, E.L. Konigsburg, brings us a chapter in the form of four short stories. Each story is about a different member of an academic bowl team. Perfect for advanced sixth graders, this story tells how a team of sixth graders goes on to beat a team in 7th grade and then a team in 8th grade.
Birthdays are a big deal. Turning ten is a major deal in his little town, but Palmer isn’t looking forward to it. He is dreading it until he gets a special sign and realizes it is time to move on and grow up some.
15. The Hunger Games
Bestselling author Suzanne Collins brings us the Hunger Games trilogy. In a world where competition means life or death, Kat is ready to take her sister’s place on the chopping block. Does she have what it takes to survive?
16. Harry Potter Series
Harry Potter is one of the most well-known book series in the world. In a world of magic and wizardry, Harry adapts to life and takes charge in his new school. He learns about hope and a sense of belonging. Middle school readers will be captivated by the magic and sorcery in these books.
Another book filled with magic and a mystical world, Echo brings children together to participate in the challenges of survival. Complete with a unique musical aspect, this book is sure to inspire young readers in middle school.
Jackson has been homeless and had to live with his family in their car before. When money starts to get scarce again, they may have to resign to living in the van again. Luckily, no matter how bad life gets, he knows he can rely on Crenshaw, his imaginary cat.
19. Book Scavenger
In this scavenger hunt of a book, we meet Emily. She is a young fan of an incredible author. When the author finds himself in a coma, Emily will come to his rescue. Emily and her friend use the clues they have to get to the bottom of things.
20. I am Malala
In a book of extreme courage, this book is written by the youngest person to ever be a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Using her voice to stand up for her rights almost cost her her chance at life. She was wounded but recovered and continued to speak out for women’s and girls’ rights to education.
21. A Wrinkle in Time
In an odd twist of fate, a family encounters a stranger in their home one night. The stranger speaks of a wrinkle in time and how it can take you back. The family sets out on a quest to find their missing father.
22. Counting by 7s
Willow is obsessed with certain things, like counting by 7s. She also has an extreme interest in medical conditions. She finds herself totally alone and must learn how to adapt to life in a world where she already struggles to find her place.
23. The Bridge Home
Four children, two sets of siblings, find comfort and friendship in each other in this award-winning story. After running away from home, two young girls find a bridge to live under but encounter two young boys already living there. They find a way to make life work, until illness hits.
24. The Red Pencil
When attacks break out in her town, a young girl must find the courage and bravery to make it to a safe camp. She is worn down and losing optimism when a simple red pencil begins to change her outlook. This story is inspired by true events.
The graphic novel is a great example of how hard it is to fit in and find your place in middle school. As the sixth-grade girl in the story quickly learns, she endures an injury and her teeth are damaged badly. She faces bullies and meanness as she heals but she also learns it is not the end of the world and that she will be alright after all.
26. Ella Enchanted
A modern-day Cinderella story, Ella Enchanted tells of a young girl given a spell of following directions and obeying. She goes through life doing just that. One day, she decides it is time to break the curse and makes it her mission to do just that.
Two totally opposite friends form an unlikely and unique bond. One is homeless and living in an orange van, while the other is wealthy in a larger home. One wants to save the other, but they soon realize life is a great journey that they take on together.
28. All Our Yesterdays
Told in a unique way by the same character but at two different times in life, this book is a great example of choice and emotion. Someone has to die. By killing someone before they have the chance to make terrible decisions and cause hurt and heartache. But will this actually happen?
29. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Hugo is an orphan living in a train station. He lives quietly and undercover. He steals what he needs, but one day two people enter his life and shake things up. He discovers a secret message from his dead father and he sets out to solve this mystery.
30. Percy Jackson Series
This book series is well-loved and wildly popular among middle school readers. Percy Jackson, the main character, has some trouble in his life. He can’t stay focused and begins to imagine things. Or does he?
31. The City of Embers Series
When the world is ending a girl finds a secret message that she is confident will hold the key to surviving. This fiction tale is a great book that will leave readers begging for more. There is an entire series to read through.
Full of magic and power, this chapter book is another award winner. In this first book, we meet Mibs as she prepares to turn thirteen and receive her power. When a tragic accident happens, this may change things for Mibs and her family.
33. The Phantom Tollbooth
Magic and a phantom tollbooth appear in his bedroom and Milo goes right through it. What he finds on the other side is interesting and new. His once bored and dull life is suddenly full of adventure and excitement.
The main character has the worst luck at school. Middle school is not easy. He gets into trouble and meets a lawyer with magical powers. Together, they go on an adventure they will never forget.
35. The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)
Caroline’s parents disappeared when she was only four, and she sets off on a wacky and whimsical journey to find her missing husband. Through word games, anagrams, and a whirlwind adventure, readers follow Caroline’s quirky quests. An engaging puzzle of a story, it’s sure to stimulate the brains of advanced 6th graders.
36. Navigating Early
A post-World War II story of two boys, Jack and Early, who embark on an adventurous journey in search of a great black bear. Through their quest, they uncover tales of pirates, and hidden clues, and discover the true meaning of friendship. It’s a tale of self-discovery and camaraderie, making it an excellent read for the young and inquisitive.
Roy Eberhardt is new to Florida, and he isn’t quite fond of it until he encounters a mysterious running boy with no shoes. Soon, Roy finds himself on a mission to save a population of endangered burrowing owls. This environmental mystery novel filled with humor and suspense is perfect for advanced readers looking for a heartwarming tale.
Set during the Revolutionary War, the story follows the life of a young slave girl named Isabel. Her desire for freedom is palpable, but circumstances bind her in chains. This gripping tale of hope and courage, full of history and depth, will resonate with mature 6th graders.
39. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Set in 1899, the book is about a young girl named Calpurnia who forges a close bond with her grandfather as they explore the natural world together. A story highlighting the struggles of being a girl in a time when women had specific roles, it’s an inspiring read for those ready to challenge societal norms.
40. The Secret Keepers
Trevor discovers an old wristwatch with a secret power. Soon, he finds himself pursued by villains, and he must unravel the watch’s mysteries to save himself. This riveting tale of adventure and suspense will keep advanced readers on their toes.
41. The Boundless
The story unfolds on a luxurious train traversing across the continent. Will, a young boy, possesses a key to a train car filled with treasures. But danger lurks in every corner as thieves are after the same treasure. This exhilarating adventure will captivate those with a taste for suspense and thrill.
42. Three Times Lucky
Mo LoBeau, with her irresistible charm, leads the town into solving a murder mystery. Raised by the Colonel and Miss Lana, Mo’s life takes a turn when a detective comes to town. This southern mystery with a good dose of humor is sure to delight 6th graders with a knack for unraveling mysteries.
43. The Secret of the Old Clock
Nancy Drew, an aspiring detective, embarks on her first mission to solve a mystery involving a missing will and a ticking clock. This classic detective story offers twists and turns that will engage the young investigator in every advanced reader.
44. One Crazy Summer
Set in the 1960s, three sisters travel to Oakland, California, to meet the mother who abandoned them. They soon get involved in the Black Panther movement. This poignant story of family, identity, and civil rights is thought-provoking and a must-read for mature readers.
45. The Crossover
A novel in verse, it tells the story of twin brothers who are star basketball players. Their relationship gets tested when they face challenges on and off the court. Through lyrical storytelling, the narrative delves into themes of love, family, and coming of age.
46. The Underneath
A tale of friendship, love, and courage; this story is about a cat and a hound dog who befriend each other and live underneath an old porch. Together, they face dangers and unravel old secrets. With its lyrical prose, it’s a captivating read for those looking for depth and emotion.
Stargirl is a story about a unique girl who is unapologetically herself. When she starts attending a new school, she captures everyone’s attention, including that of Leo, who falls in love with her. This heartwarming tale explores themes of individuality, non-conformity, and acceptance.
48. Moon Over Manifest
Abilene, sent to Manifest, Kansas by her father in the summer of 1936, discovers a hidden box filled with old letters, leading her on a quest to piece together the town’s past. A mix of mystery, history, and personal discovery, it’s a spellbinding tale that advanced 6th graders will relish.
49. The Tale of Despereaux
A brave mouse, a disgruntled rat, and a simple serving girl weave a tale of adventure, darkness, love, and redemption in this captivating novel. This intricate fairy tale with its multi-layered characters offers a rich reading experience for those ready to dive deep.
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50. The Mysterious Benedict Society Series
When an ad in the newspaper seeks gifted children for a unique mission, four talented kids – Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance – respond to the call. They soon find themselves recruited by the brilliant but enigmatic Mr. Benedict. To succeed in their mission, they’ll need to combine their unique abilities and solve complex puzzles, all while combating a dangerous and concealed enemy. As advanced 6th graders dive into this intriguing series, they will be challenged to think critically and appreciate the beauty of teamwork and friendship.