Are you wondering what middle grade and young adult book series your young reader is exploring? Like many bibliophiles, I’ve worked in numerous bookstores, once as the manager of the children’s department. Parents always asked the same question.
What is my middle grade/young adult reader reading now?
I applaud the parents who ask this question. I learned a lot from the books I read in my formative years, and I love to see a parent who wants to stay involved in their child’s learning through reading. Here are 3 middle grade and young adult book series that I often recommend to parents to read with their middle grade/young adult reader.
1. Anything By Rick Riordan But Definitely Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
My middle grade reading niece and nephew introduced me to Rick Riordan. I’ve read Percy Jackson, the Kane Chronicles, and Magnus Chase now thanks to them, and all I can say is – Rick Riordan, where were you when I was a kid!?!?!
With the latest superhero craze thanks to some big name companies and their proliferation of the entertainment industry, middle grade and young adult readers are more interested in these comic book turned movie heroes based on mythology than ever.
So why not give them a book that tells the real story of these gods in a relatable way?
Riordan does just that. Percy Jackson tackles the Greek gods. Kane Chronicles covers Egypt. (If you’re an Indiana Jones fan, you might want to start here.) But what is different about Magnus Chase is Riordan’s handling of several critical issues faced by youth today.
Magnus Chase embodies the classic down on his luck, ostracized orphan who suddenly discovers he is destined for greatness. Every little kid who has been picked on in a lunch room has had this fantasy. But Riordan takes it to today’s youth by adding in homelessness, drug addiction, and gender topics. You may back away at this point, but I’m going to grab your hand and make you stay.
Your kids are discussing these things everyday at school, on the bus, and on social media. Instead of pretending these topics don’t exist, why not help control the narrative your child is hearing so they are informed and educated before any hyped up tabloid talk of the bus hits them?
Because Riordan presents all of these subjects in a clear, non-judgmental way, kids are allowed to both learn about the issue and to feel they are accepted because a character in a book is just like them.
2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I chose this series for two reasons:
a.) The story is set up by the Holocaust and the tragedies experienced by those who were forced to flee their homes to save their lives.
b.) It celebrates one of my favorite themes: all kids are weird and all kids are awesome.
Let’s start with the Holocaust. The main character, Jacob, has always heard the story of how his grandfather was forced to flee Europe because of the terror the Nazis orchestrated against the Jews. While this is a cover up for the grandfather’s true story, it opens the subject of the Holocaust in an approachable, understandable manner for young people to grasp. This is important in an age when the horrors of WWII are beginning to fade through time, and the terms “Nazi” and “holocaust” are being bandied about in such a way as to lose their effectiveness and meaning.
It’s vitally important to keep alive the history of the Holocaust and the atrocities waged against Jews. A story like Miss Peregrine’s is a great way to begin to keep that dialogue going with your child. Encourage them to discuss Jacob’s grandfather and the very real danger he was attempting to flee. The destruction on human life the Nazis reaped must be understood by future generations, or we are doomed to face it again.
Now for those weird kids. I was probably the weirdest kid of all time. I look back at young Jess and wish someone would have given her a clue. But oh well. I had books to tell me I was okay. And that’s what Miss Peregrine’s does. The entire school is filled with kids with special powers that to the outside world make them just weird. That’s the beauty of what Riggs does here. He doesn’t just make the weirdness okay; he makes it awesome. I love any book that can do this because it’s tough being a kid, and you really just need to hear it from someone that being weird is okay.
3. 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
This is a middle grade book series that I think flies under the radar entirely too much. This series is pure fantasy just like the books I used to read as a kid. Remember A Wrinkle in Time? The House with a Clock in its Walls? There is something about pure fantasy that is so important to stoke the imaginative fires in a young reader. It’s vital for young readers to develop a sense of wonder, to ask questions of the mundane, to push the boundaries, because young people are the future of our world and we need the free thinkers who will discover cures for ravaging diseases and ways to save our planet from destruction.
100 Cupboards follows the story of Henry, a young boy who moves to Kansas to live with his aunt and uncle because his parents have disappeared. You quickly pick up on the fact that Henry’s parents don’t really want him, and that something is different about Henry. Enter a wall of hidden cupboards, three mischievous cousins who are afraid of nothing, and an uncle reminiscent of George Bailey with a secret past of his own, and you have a fantasy adventure book series not to be missed.