The Top Nine Middle Grade Books from 2016 (Plus One from 2015)

Maya Angelou once said, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his needs, is good for him.” Middle grade readers are eager to read books with strong characters, rich details, and a unique storyline. Putting the right book in the hands of a middle grade reader is an exciting challenge. The books on this list are some of the most frequently checked out and talked about books in my library and are, I hope, books that are helping to form future readers, one page turn at a time.

  1. Anderson, John David. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. Walden Pond, 2016.

Ms. Bixby is one of those amazing, life-changing teachers—the kind we all strive to be. In Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, we learn about Ms. Bixby through the eyes of Topher, Brand, and Steve. These students love Ms. Bixby for very different reasons, which are slowly revealed throughout the book. One day Ms. Bixby announces that she will not be able to finish out the school year. The students are devastated, but Topher, Brand, and Steve make it their goal to give her the best day ever on her last day of school. What follows is a heartbreakingly funny quest through the town as they gather supplies and work toward their goal. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day is a reminder of the lasting effect that really great teachers have on their students. Be sure to read this book with a box of tissue nearby.

  1. Angleberger, Tom, and Cece Bell. Inspector Flytrap. Harry N. Abrams, 2016.

Inspector Flytrap is a detective who only tackles “BIG DEAL” cases. With the help of his trusted assistant, Nina the Goat, Inspector Flytrap does his best to help his community solve only the biggest mysteries. Nina, unfortunately, has a bad habit of eating the evidence, but Flytrap can’t fire her because he depends on her for transportation to the crime scenes. Three books have been published, and fans are already pleading for more. These books are great for introducing students to mysteries as the books are made up of several shorter mysteries with crazy and unpredictable solutions. Angleberger and Bell have created a hilarious illustrated series that is perfect for second and third grade readers.

  1. Beasley, Kate. Gertie’s Leap to Greatness. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness is Kate Beasley’s debut novel, and it is a great one. Gertie Reece Foy is a fifth grader whose goal is to be the greatest fifth grader in the universe. Gertie lives with her great-aunt Rae while her dad works on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Gertie’s mom is absent, so Gertie wants to show how amazing she is in hopes of winning some love and affection. During the summer, Gertie discovers a zombie frog and thinks it will be her ticket to starting off fifth grade with a bang. But when a new girl, Mary Sue Spivey, shows up, Gertie knows she must compete for the position of greatest fifth grader. This book is full of brilliantly funny and heart-wrenching moments that make readers want to reach into the book and give Gertie a hug. Gertie’s Leap to Greatness would be a fun read aloud or would be great to put into the hands of that student who just wants to be noticed.

  1. Brown, Peter. The Wild Robot. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016.

Peter Brown is best known for his picture books like Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and The Curious Garden. The Wild Robot is his first chapter book. Roz is a robot who first opens her eyes on a remote island. She doesn’t know where she’s come from or how she arrived at the island, and she wonders what reason she has for being there. Roz quickly adapts to life on the island, learning to communicate with all the wildlife, even the wildlife that doesn’t trust her at first. Roz becomes a valued member of the island community, and life is good, until the people who created her show up to take her back. A war breaks out on the island between Roz’s creators and her new friends as they try to protect Roz. Friendship, acceptance, survival, and the clash between technology and nature are just a few of the themes eloquently woven into the fabric of this book.

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Works Cited

Anderson, John David. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. Walden Pond Press, 2016.

Angleberger, Tom, and Cece Bell. Inspector Flytrap. Harry N. Abrams, 2016.

Beasley, Kate. Gertie’s Leap to Greatness. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

Brown, Peter. The Wild Robot. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016.

Hodder, Bridget. The Rat Prince. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

Holm, Jennifer L. Full of Beans. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016.

McMann, Lisa. Going Wild. HarperCollins, 2016.

Pennypacker, Sara. Pax. Balzer+Bray, 2016.

Sachar, Louis. Fuzzy Mud. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2015.

Urban, Linda. Weekends with Max and His Dad. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016.

Mary Jo Staal is a pre-K–5th librarian at Hudsonville Christian School in Hudsonville, Michigan.