4 Books Every Middle Schooler Should Read

The Boxcar Children had a boxcar to hide out in. The Pevensie kids had a magical wardrobe. Jesse and Leslie had Terabithia. Me? I had my very own tree fort.

When I was a kid, summer meant tucking a book under my chin and climbing up the big elm in the front yard. About two-thirds of the way up was my reading spot—a “V” between branches that was cozy enough for me to be able to turn the pages of my latest read without having to hang on.

The old elm tree has been cut down since then, and even if it were still standing, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t fit in my old reading spot. There comes a time, after all, when you’re too old to enter the wardrobe. But even now that I’m a grown-up, when the days get longer and the fireflies signal the start of summer, I make a list of all the books I want to read before September arrives.

If you’re like me, perhaps you’re looking for some summer reads to transport you to another world—whether for your kids or for the kid in you.

Something Old: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

a_wrinkle_in_time_digest_2007This is a book that doesn’t fade with age. It was a favorite from my tree-fort days, and as an adult I continue to peel back the delicious layers of story, as well as the intriguing exploration of space and time. A classic for the whole family.


Something New: The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall


I’ve heard these books described as “modern classics,” and that seems exactly right. They have all the charm, understated humor, and familial love of Little Women, but in a contemporary setting. You will find yourself cheering for the Penderwick children, laughing with them, and wishing you could join their adventures.


Something Borrowed: The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

wednesday-warsI checked out this audiobook from the library on a whim, and as soon as I finished, I promptly checked out every other Gary Schmidt I could find. This is the story of the trouble-prone yet incurably likable Holling Hoodhood, a seventh grader growing up in the shadow of the Vietnam War. It’s funny and inspiring—often on the same page.


Something Blue: Larger-than-Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall

larger-than-life-laraThis story is a delight on so many levels. On one level, it’s simply a compelling story, with a protagonist you’re pulling for with every fiber of your being. On another level, it will spark timely and relevant conversations about bullying and true friendship. On top of that, the narrator, Laney, communicates the elements of a story (plot, characters, climax, etc.) as they happen. Finally, it’s an allegory of the most beautiful kind of sacrificial love. I used to be a middle school language arts teacher, and I wish I’d had this book then. I’d have made it required reading for all my students.

Wherever you and your kids find yourselves this summer—on the beach, by a pool, in the air-conditioning, or nestled into your favorite tree—I hope you find some delightful reads to enjoy together.


Stephanie Rische is a senior editor of nonfiction books at Tyndale House Publishers, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Marriage Today, and Significant Living magazine.

Stephanie is a retired serial blind dater who happily exchanged her final blind date for a husband. Since getting married, she has been reaping the benefits of having a live-in dishwasher emptier, a homemade ice cream concocter, and a humorist-in-residence. Several years into this marriage gig, Stephanie is still trying to learn the finer points of sharing the covers.

She and her husband, Daniel, live in the Chicago area, where they enjoy riding their bikes, making homemade ice cream, and swapping bad puns. You can follow Stephanie’s blog at


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