The best books for 6th graders keep tweens reading ’til dawn. This list of books includes something for all your tweens, from fantasy to historical fiction to realistic fiction. Check out our favorites below!
The best books for 6th graders keep them reading til dawn
The best books for 6th graders are those your kids will devour and read with a flashlight under the covers long after the sun goes down. They contain plots kids can relate to and characters they can empathize with. And because your kids are growing up, so are the stories your children are reading.
After all, we’re in middle school now, friends. That means changing schools, changing classes, changing bodies, and changing friendships.
Middle school – and especially sixth grade – is not for the faint of heart. But this is where fabulous books come in.
Books for 6th graders celebrate middle school’s (not so) glory days!
Let’s be honest. Does anyone look back at their tween years fondly? I, for one, certainly do not. I had no clue how to tame my frizzy hair. Pimples sprouted on my forehead. My hands, feet, and nose grew before the rest of my Olive Oil-like limbs, and the curves suddenly gracing some of the girls’ bodies were woefully absent from mine.
Classmates started to have “relationships.”
Kids were seen holding hands in the hallway. Bar and Bat Mitzvahs dotted the calendar every weekend, and the kids with boyfriends or girlfriends got to slow dance while the rest of us looked on with awe and envy.
It was awesome, awkward, and awful all at the same time.
And this was the early nineties. Cell phones and social media didn’t exist and, thankfully, didn’t complicate an already fraught time.
Middle school is no joke
Books for 6th graders can help tremendously.
Tween novels help kids navigate awkward days
The thing I love about books for 6th graders is that they contain complex plots and characters who face similar challenges to those that so many of our kids face regularly.
When done well, books for 6th graders spark meaningful discussion on a host of topics.
Bullying. Family dynamics. Peer pressure. Identity. Racism. Disabilities. Poverty.
Kids can delve deeply into the plots, analyze how they relate to characters, and figure out what parallels they can draw to their own communities, families, and lives.
They can also learn about situations and challenges that are wholly different from those they regularly experience, which helps them build empathy and understanding. These books for 6th graders help children discover how they may have behaved in situations similar to those presented in the novel. They also teach kids what to do if they encounter similar challenges in the future.
Real kids in middle school are reflected in books for 6th graders
The best books for 6th graders reflect our children’s lives – or the kids’ lives sitting next to our children in the classroom. They are meatier, more nuanced, and sensitive to the fraught emotions that trouble our kids even on their best days.
When done right, books for 6th graders help kids navigate the world around them – and they become important lifelines through which our kids draw guidance and, more importantly, feel seen.
Check out the list of some of our favorite books for 6th graders below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Middle schoolers should read anything age appropriate that piques their interest! The novels on this list are perfect for tweens, and there are tons of options to ensure your child finds something he loves. From realistic fiction to fantasy to mystery, the great novels are endless. Choice is important to tweens, so take them to the library or bookstore and let them pick what they want to read. And don’t forget about graphic novels – kids just love them!
That’s kind of like asking me which of my kids is my favorite. There are SO many fabulous stories. As far as modern releases, I fell head over heels for Those Kids From Fawn Creek, by Erin Entrada Kelly. This one is destined to become a classic! Refugee, by Alan Gratz, is also phenomenal historical fiction and an amazing window book for many, many tweens. It’s one of my all-time favorite stories. Both of these books are featured below.
YES! Many young, avid readers have difficulty finding other bookworms with whom they can connect and share their love of reading. Book clubs are phenomenal for fostering a child’s love of reading, encouraging socialization with other readers, introducing kids to new authors and genres, and expanding how they think about and analyze stories. They also provide safe spaces for young readers to discuss the social situations and issues they face. Did you know we run a virtual book club that connects young readers in grades 5 through 7 around the country? Check out The Dawn Society here!
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RELATED: If your kiddo is looking for the best books for 4th grade, check out this link!
Our Favorite Books for 6th Graders!
Every once in a while, you come across a powerful, authentic, and moving book, one you keep thinking about long after you put it down. For me, this was that novel, and it is a must-read book for 6th graders. I read Those Kids From Fawn Creek in one hungry gulp, completely captivated by the ensemble cast, the new girl in town who throws off the rhythm of the seventh-grade classroom, and the relatable story. With themes of authenticity, self-awareness, rumors, and identity, there is something for everyone here. From deception to dreams, bullying to bravery, this story set in a small town in Louisiana is one that every tween will relate to, devour, and think about long after the story has ended.
Three seemingly separate stories merge in beautiful ways in this brilliant book. Josef is a Jewish boy living in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. All three kids are driven from their homes due to extreme danger, and all embark on unimaginable voyages toward safety and freedom. Though the stories shared many similarities, the uniqueness of each journey was made evident through the author’s meticulously researched details. This is a must-read book for 6th graders to learn about world history, provide windows into the harrowing experiences so many children face, and to recognize that, despite our differences, we all long for the same things: safety, security, and a welcoming homeland in which to establish our roots. For more fantastic survival books for kids, click here!
Oh my goodness, this phenomenal story did not let me go! Loosely based on the history of maroon communities in the South, this remarkable, unputdownable novel is the story of two enslaved children who have escaped from plantations in search of freedom. They flee through tangled vines and secret doors and sky bridges, eventually discovering a community called Freewater deep in the swamp. Here, Homer and his little sister Ada learn what it means to live a life of freedom, with a new community and friends. But when Freewater is threatened, will Homer be courageous enough to help the place he now calls home? And just as important, will he be able to get his mother off the plantation and save her, too? This novel astounded me from start to finish. It was captivating, unique, and undoubtedly one of the best middle-grade novels I’ve read recently – and certainly a favorite book of 2022.
Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, this mind-blowing story leaves you simultaneously heartbroken and hopeful. King is a twelve-year-old Black boy grieving his older brother Khalid’s sudden death. King wishes he could spend time with his best friend Sandy, but just before Khalid died, Khalid made a grave statement to King: King should not hang out with Sandy, or others would begin to believe that King, like Sandy, is gay. King abides by Khalid’s warning until the day Sandy goes missing. King’s anger at himself for abandoning his friend and his feelings that he struggles to understand leave him reeling. Then King and Sandy reunite, and the result is a testament to love, authenticity, and truth. This one shook me to my core, and it’s hands down one of the best books for 6th graders.
RELATED: For more phenomenal LGBTQ books for middle schoolers, check out this link!
If your reader loves middle-grade fantasy, this story will captivate them from the very first page! It’s apparent right from the get-go that Marya is different – and different in a good way. Maybe even a magical way. The problem is that girls can’t do magic in the town of Illyria, and Marya is considered troubled instead of magical. She is thus shipped off to Dragomir Academy, a school for wayward girls, where she and her classmates discover there is a lot more to magic than meets the eye. I loved Marya’s persistence and resilience throughout the entire story and the way she seeks to discover where she belongs in a kingdom that threatens to have no room for her. While the story is fantasy, it tackles very real issues about equality, gender, and power through magic and sorcery. A fantastic book about strong girls!
I am so amazed by how authors who write for children and tweens have an incredible ability to make tough topics feel less threatening, more accessible, and easier to understand. This is the story of Mila, a twelve-year-old girl getting far more attention on her appearance than she wants. But how can she stand up for herself when saying “no” or “stop” is so hard? What happens when people don’t believe that certain boys are harassing her? I love how this story explores how a young girl learns to find her voice and gain power over a situation that makes her uncomfortable. This story is beautiful, accessible, and a valuable discussion springboard. This novel is important for all tweens, but it is an especially vital novel for tween girls!
WOW. I’m not typically a fan of sci-fi or dystopian fiction, but this Newbery award winner blew my mind! Steeped in Mexican folklore, this is the story of Petra Pena, a young girl with dreams of becoming a great storyteller like her grandmother. There’s just one problem: Earth has been destroyed by a comet. Several hundred people have been selected to journey and create life on a new planet, and they are tasked to carry on the human race as well. No problem, right? Wrong. When Petra wakes after 300 years to discover she is the only one who remembers planet Earth, the hope of our future rests on her shoulders. Can a child prevent the sinister Collective from taking over? Can she alone carry the stories of our past? Astonishing, unique, and a stunning ode to storytelling and the power of words. This is one of our favorite books for 6th graders!
RELATED: If you are looking for fabulous mystery books for tweens, click the link!
Book banning is gripping the United States, and this timely novel explores this topic in a sensitive and gripping manner. When Donovan left a copy of The Adventurers in the kitchen, he didn’t expect his mom to read it, much less have a problem with it. After all, it was just a cool book assigned for class! Yet Donoavan’s mom takes issue with the two male main characters at the story’s heart. Believing the two boys are gay, she launches a crusade to remove the book from the school curriculum, leaving Donovan stuck in the middle. Why does it matter whether the kids are best friends or fall in love? This mesmerizing story sparks a debate between the parents who want the book removed and those who staunchly believe it should stay in the curriculum. Weaving together three unique storylines, it sparks fabulous discussion on a timely subject. This is a must for 6th graders!
At age 12, Jolene is forced to take care of herself because of her mother’s painful addiction. Jolene is lost, lonely, and finds solace in livestreamer Addie Earhart’s video adventures in her ultralight plane. When Addie, live on video, crashes one day, Jolene knows she was the only witness. Thus, she is determined to save her friend. But can Jolene survive a trek through the desert? Jolene’s story is one of mental and physical survival. Can we ever truly save others? What if we need help ourselves? How do we reclaim our lives after suffering from significant trauma? This mesmerizing story will resonate with any reader who has ever felt lost, alone, and uncertain (basically each and every one of us!)
Centered around the Korean War, this is the story of 12-year-old Sora and her family who live in North Korea under an iron set of rules. They must attend Communist meetings, and they can’t travel without a permit or speak critically of the government. The government is always watching. When war breaks out between North and South Korea, Sora’s family flees, leaving their home and everything they know. They begin walking hundreds and hundreds of miles to Busan, a South Korean city. When a bomb strikes, Sora and her younger brother suddenly find themselves alone, facing the biting cold, frostbite, hunger, and enemies without their parents to guide them. Will they ever make it to Busan? And if they do, will their family even be there? Check out this link for our full review of Brother’s Keeper!
This book presents tweens with a challenging topic – sexual abuse. But in the hands of a master like Brubaker Bradley, it is sensitively handled, poignant, and absolutely brilliant. Ten-year-old Della has always been protected by her big sister, Suki, even when their mom went to jail and they were living with mom’s boyfriend. But when that boyfriend does something terrible, the sisters need to get away — and fast. The two girls end up in foster care, and while Suki continues to do her best to protect Della, Della quickly begins to grapple with a scary discovery and thought. Who has been protecting Suki all this time? Della’s voice is powerful, insightful, and even humorous (which adds great levity to the story), and she is hands down one of the most remarkable middle-grade voices I have ever read. *Note that in addition to sexual abuse, this book also addresses suicide. For mature readers only.
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There are no words to adequately express my love for this book! This is the story of Lily, a transgender child who looks like a boy but knows she is really a girl, and Dunkin, a boy with bipolar disorder who just moved to Lily’s town. It is a story of the chance meeting between the two, their unlikely friendship, and being true to yourself despite naysayers who taunt and fear your differences. Sensitive, authentic, and as necessary as it is exceptional, this one has a place on every tween’s bookshelf. It challenges stigma, encourages truth, and will undoubtedly cause kids to stop and think before judging another’s choices. Remarkable!
This book has a unique and captivating plot, told through the eyes of best friends Cora and Quinn. Well, they were best friends, but they haven’t spoken since the horrible day a year earlier when Quinn’s brother killed Cora’s sister in a shooting at their high school. The two live next door to one another, and on Cora’s 12th birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her doorstep. Maybe if they can figure out how to travel back in time, Quinn can stop her brother from performing the hateful act that will destroy their lives forever. Will the two reconcile and find a way back in time? Will their friendship be the thing that saves them from the devastation they both experienced? This book is stunning, with two interwoven voices creating one compelling story about family, friendships, and the things we choose to believe to save ourselves and those we love.
Ivy Aberdeen’s home is flattened by a tornado. As she flees, all she manages to save is her pillow. Thank goodness, because this pillow contains her most precious possessions – fancy markers and her drawing journal, which includes sketches of Ivy holding hands with an unidentifiable girl. After the storm, Ivy’s notebook goes missing. When her pictures mysteriously begin showing up in her own locker, together with notes encouraging Ivy to be true to who she is, Ivy hopes the letters come from a girl on whom she has developed a secret crush. But is owning her truth and understanding her identity as easy as Ivy wants it to be? Ivy’s words and yearnings will be windows for some and mirrors for others, but her burning desire to understand who she is at her core will be loved and cherished universally. This is one of our favorite LGBT books for tweens! Check out our full review of Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the world here!
Oh, how I love this book for 6th graders! This is a must-read tween book, addressing bullying, objectification, and even harassment. Eve Hoffman never expected to be ranked as “the prettiest” girl on a list ranking the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade. Everyone knows Sophie Kane should be at the top of the list – even Sophie herself. Now, no one in school will stop discussing Eve’s body and appearance, leaving Eve feeling harassed and mortified. Sophie, too, feels bullied and harassed for not being at the top of the list. And Nessa wasn’t even on the list, but is she being honest when she says she doesn’t care? These three girls – an unlikely team – band together, determined to get justice on those who created the rankings. But they may discover that revenge isn’t nearly as sweet as self-acceptance and lifting up your friends.
RELATED: Looking for more great books for tween girls? Click the link!
The dismissal bell rings. What happens next? In this brilliant book, Reynolds tells a story in ten blocks, conveying how many different directions our lives take when we leave the classroom. What do we assume about the kids in this class? What do we think we know? This innovative book weaves together ten different stories in ways that are equal parts funny and poignant. From the shy girl to the jock, from the bully to the nerd, Reynolds shares just enough of each kid to help readers stop seeing labels and start seeing the person underneath. Authentic, emotional, and sensitively written, this is a not to miss book for 6th graders!
Whether in fifth grade or sixth grade, in your fifties or in your sixties, this is one of the single most important books for all readers (my mom was obsessed!). When Ellie was only five years old, she wore a whale swimsuit to a party and made a big splash in the pool. Ever since then, she has been bullied and fat-shamed about her weight. Ellie lives by a set of “Fat-Girl Rules” daily, and she only feels free in the pool. There, she’s weightless, free from the bullies at school. Yet her classmates aren’t the only ones that make Ellie feel bad about her weight. Her mom is on her case too, believing that if she criticizes Ellie enough, Ellie will be motivated to diet. Is this the “support” Ellie needs? With the help of her dad and a wonderful therapist, Ellie learns how to be her very best self — no matter her size.
Genesis hates a lot of things about herself. Most especially? Her dark, dark, skin, which even her own father holds against her. But this isn’t the only thing she doesn’t like. She also hates that her family keeps getting put out of their home because dad gambles and he loses the rent money regularly. When Genesis is forced to start over again at a new school, she not only discovers herself and a new talent, but she also finds support in a teacher who helps Genesis discover her own truth and confidence. A remarkable story for sixth graders! For more awesome books with black main characters, check out this link!
Thirteen-year-old Annabelle finds herself struggling academically at the end of seventh grade. Yet when she dives into the water, her swimming skills earn her an A+. In fact, Annabelle is the fastest girl on her middle school swim team, and due to her speed and talent, she is asked to join the high school team over the summer. This is when Annabelle’s world changes tremendously. Annabelle makes new, older friends, and her newly developed body attracts the attention of one very handsome high school boy. She wants to fit in with the older kids desperately, but after a prank she’s a part of goes disastrously wrong, the boy drops her like a hot potato, and an injury sidelines her from the pool. Who is Annabelle without swimming, and how will she figure out where she belongs? Morrison brilliantly handles that precarious time between childhood innocence and teenage confusion. For our full review of Up For Air, click here!
Sign me up for any and all ballet books! And when that ballet book is told through the eyes of a young Black girl offering a rarely seen perspective of the competitive dance world? I’m hooked. Turning Point is told from dual perspectives. Mo, a ballerina, is off to a prestigious ballet intensive with mostly White dancers, and she tries hard not to make waves. Is she imagining the racial barriers, or do they really exist? Mo’s best friend Sheeda is stuck back home with her uber-religious and very strict aunt, but what happens when Mo’s older brother starts to pay Sheeda an awful lot of attention? From friends to family to finding your voice in unfamiliar territory, there is so much to love about this important and complex novel!
This brilliant book shares Omar’s story as a young Somali refugee in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Omar and his brother Hassan have no parents, little food, and no access to medical care for Hassan, who is nonverbal. Yet one day, Omar is given the opportunity to go to school – and with that, a chance to change his future. Omar’s story is one of perseverance, courage, and indomitable spirit. Kids fall in love with this profound and important story. It is a window book for so many, a moving story that nurtures empathy and compassion. It’s an absolute must-read.
On the cusp of his Bar-Mitzvah, Ari is not only struggling with his weight but also with his parents’ separation right after the whole family picked up and moved across the country. Though he makes new friends, not everyone wants to be his pal and after an upsetting incident with some of the kids at school, his mom suggests he go on a diet. Ari thus embarks on a weight-loss journey, and as he gets more comfortable with himself physically, he also begins to change emotionally. A unique perspective on weight loss and family told in beautiful, pitch-perfect verse.
Why is the school dress code strictly enforced against some kids but not others? Why did Olivia get in trouble for wearing a tank top? Why did Liza get dress-coded but Molly did not, even though they wore the same outfit? Molly is fed up with the gross inequities she sees happening at school and decides to take matters into her own hands. The eighth graders thus begin a podcast in which the girls can tell their stories and make themselves heard. And their small act of rebellion may turn into a revolution – and you’ll want in on the action. This book explores body shaming, draconian dress codes, and girl power, and I love it! *Note that this story discusses vaping.
Joey is in a coma. Max wishes he could go back in time to remember how Joey got there. It started late one night when Max, Joey and other friends went into the woods with some older kids. But what happened after – the events that put Joey in the hospital – are a gaping mystery. When the local authorities run out of leads, Max teams up with a classmate to uncover the truth of what actually happened that night. But as the two kids uncover more and more information, it seems that some people in the community are intent on keeping that night in the dark. I love this character-driven story, the authenticity of Max’s struggle with ADHD, and the beautiful portrayal of friendships between tween boys.
This is a breathtaking novel for tweens and young teens (a Newbery Honor, mind you!) about Jade, a Black high school teen seeking to discover herself as she navigates being a scholarship kid at a ritzy private high school. Jade tackles being an outsider, faces discrimination and tries to navigate her involvement in a mentorship program she believes wants to “fix” her — all while knowing she is perfectly fine and not in need of any changing. This is a beautiful coming-of-age story, one that seamlessly weaves between self-discovery, reflection, and speaking truth to power.
Touted as an elevated Percy Jackson, this is the story of Zachary Ying, a boy who never knew much about his Chinese heritage. When Zachary learns he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China for a vital mission, he knows he is awfully unprepared for his mission. This gamer-turned-hero will make you laugh out loud as he tries to seal the leaking portal to the Chinese Underworld, but he will also leave you on the edge of your seat as he adventures through China. Can he outwit and defeat figures from history and myth? Can he finish his fated mission or will his mom become a victim if he isn’t successful in time? With Chinese history, hijinks, and lots of humor, this new fantasy rocks!
RELATED: If your reader loves middle-grade fantasy, check out the link!
Mia Tang and her parents leave China and arrive in America in search of the American Dream. But their hard work and determination doesn’t mean life will be easy. When Mia’s family finds themselves operating a motel for a cruel and exploitative owner, life is anything but what they had imagined. Mia runs the front desk at the motel, and the tougher her days are, the more she longs for an easier life. With the help of a new friend, the motel’s “weeklies,” her devoted parents, and a lucky pencil, Mia may find that she can achieve her American dreams with a hefty amount of perseverance and a whole lot of heart. A beautiful book for 10-year-olds on up, this is one of the most believed books in our school library!
This book, about two tween girls who form an unexpected friendship after the explosion at Chernobyl, was absolutely fantastic! Holy smokes! Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko are classmates, and their fathers work at the same power plant. But the girls are not friends. In fact, they are more like enemies. After all, Valentina and her family are Jewish, and as far as Oksana knows from her family, Jews are liars and cheats and cannot be trusted. But one Spring morning, the plant where their fathers work explodes. Both of their dads are critically injured, and the two girls find themselves forced together on a train without their mothers, fleeing their hometown and traveling to stay with Valentina’s estranged grandmother. As the girls face the unknown and cope with the traumatic explosion, they each have only one person to turn to — the other. This moving story masterfully shows the girls working through and moving past preconceived notions, offering a powerful look at the way the judgments and biases shaping our narratives are extraordinarily harmful.