Tweens and Middle-Grade Books

Do you have a tween reader at home or in your classroom or library? Marketing-types define a tween as a kid between the ages of 10 and 14. But I think a tween reader is any kid that’s in-between the little kid stage and the hormonal teen stage—a reader as young as nine or as old as fifteen. The maturity level matters more than the number. It could be a thirteen-year-old girl who secretly plays with Barbies. Or a ten-year-old boy who says he’s too old for his stuffed animals, yet they find their way into his bed each night. That kid who claims to want their mother as a classroom volunteer, and when their mother makes a special effort to be there, that tween child refuses to make eye contact or answer a simple hello! Hmph. Not that I have any personal experience with that last type of tween.

So, we’re talking upper middle-grade. For tween girls, two publishers have a line targeted just for them—the Candy Apple line of Scholastic and the Aladdin Mix line of Simon and Schuster.

Here are some more great books for that in-beTWEEN reader:

THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage

 

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

 

ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

 

Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong–until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She’s not really a Murphy, but the gifts they’ve given her have opened up a new future.

 

CLOSE TO FAMOUS by Joan Bauer

 

Foster McFee dreams of having her own cooking show like her idol, celebrity chef Sonny Kroll. Macon Dillard’s goal is to be a documentary filmmaker. Foster’s mother Rayka longs to be a headliner instead of a back-up singer. And Miss Charleena plans a triumphant return to Hollywood. Everyone has a dream, but nobody is even close to famous in the little town of Culpepper. Until some unexpected events shake the town and its inhabitants-and put their big ambitions to the test.

 

 

SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS by Ellen Booraem

 

Mellie has been trying, unsuccessfully, to live down the day she told her kindergarten class she had a fairy living in her bedroom. Years later, she is still teased. So when her parents inherit her grandfather’s inn and their family moves to a new town, Mellie believes she’ll leave all that fairy nonsense behind – only to discover that her family members have been fairy guardians for generations and the inn is overrun with small persons with wings (they hate to be called fairies). Before she knows it, the family and fairies are all facing an evil temptress in disguise who wants the fairy magic all for her own. Can Mellie set things right and save the day?

 

THE UNWANTEDS by Lisa McMann

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths. Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret–behind the mirage of the “death farm” there is instead a place called Artime. In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation. But it’s a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

 

THE FARWALKER’S QUEST by Joni Sensei

 

Ariel has always been curious, but when she and her best friend Zeke stumble upon a mysterious old telling dart she feels an unexplained pull toward the dart, and to figuring out what it means. Magically flying great distances and only revealing their messages to the intended recipient, telling darts haven’t been used for years, and no one knows how they work. So when two strangers show up looking for the dart, Ariel and Zeke realize that their discovery is not only interesting, but very dangerous. The telling dart, and the strangers, leads them to a journey more perilous and encompassing than either can imagine, and in the process both Zeke and Ariel find their true calling.

 

 

INVISIBLE LINES by Mary Amato

Trevor is just plain funny, and he’s lucky he is. Because this year he needs a sense of humor. Moving to a new home is hard enough—the sign reads hedley gardens, but everyone calls these projects deadly gardens. And the move to a fancy new school is even harder—all the kids from Deadly Gardens seem to be in the same classes and keep to themselves, but somehow Trevor’s ended up in an advanced science class with kids who seem to have everything, and know everything, including how to please their strange new teacher. Someone else might just give up, but Trevor has plans. This is going to be his year.  And he is going to use whatever he has, do whatever it takes, to make it at this new school. He may not have what these other kids have, but Trevor knows he’s got some stuff to show. No one is better at juggling in soccer, and he knows he can draw—he calls himself the Graffiti Guy. But Xander, a star in the classroom and on the soccer field, has other plans for Trevor. He doesn’t like anyone trespassing on his turf and begins to sabotage Trevor at every opportunity. Who is going to believe Trevor over the school star? Is there any way that Trevor can achieve his goals against a guy who is as good at bullying as he is at everything else he does?

All descriptions are from IndieBound. Thanks to Genevieve leBotton, book guru at Indie children’s book store, Little Joe’s Books, for her suggestions for this list.

What do you offer your eager tween reader?

 

Karen B. Schwartz accidentally wrote a book for tweens (twice!). Her own tween boy swears he’ll never read his mother’s girly stories of crushes and first kisses. Mwah, sweetie!

 

 

 

12 Responses to Tweens and Middle-Grade Books

  1. Great list! I loved One for the Murphys and I really want to read Three Times Lucky. Actually, I want to read them all!

  2. Love your definition of the tween reader, Karen! I think I might be one… Definitely adding these titles to my reading list. Thanks!

  3. My 5th and 6th graders are always asking for tween books. The Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, etc. books are very popular with the girls, as well as Wendy Mass titles. Thanks for the recommendations.

    Karen B. Schwartz Reply:

    @Cathe Olson, Yes, those are great for this age too. I tried to pull only recently published for this list.

  4. So many great choices that you’ve suggested. I really liked One for the Murphys and Unwanteds.

    Karen B. Schwartz Reply:

    @Natalie Aguirre, Thanks for stopping by! So many great books for the MG tween reader.

  5. More books for the TBR pile. It’s teeeeeeetering……….

    Thanks for the great round-up, Karen!

    Karen B. Schwartz Reply:

    @Tracy Abell, better get reading! My TBR pile is out of control. :p

  6. Karen B. Schwartz

    @Janet, thanks for stopping by. Lots of fun and interesting reads for sure.

    @Jana, so glad you’ll be able to use this info for your library. Love your story of the reader fixated on Warriors, who then grew so much.

    @Akoss, your welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I have THE UNWANTEDS and THREE TIMES LUCKY on my radar.
    Thanks for the other suggestions. :)

  8. I love this post! I am a middle school librarian and I love to be able to purchase for the tween reader! I also love watching them transition from a tween reader in sixth grade to a more emotional (hormonal :)) YA reader in eighth. I have one reader that I knew in 4th grade when I was an elementary librarian who would only read Warriors books to now as an 8th grader who will pretty much read anything I give her whether it is more of a tween book or full fledged YA. I LOVE it!!

  9. Well, I don’t have a tween reader at home. But, since I write MG, I love reading these type of books. I think my favorite of those listed above would be Small Persons with Wings. It sounds like a fun read.