Have a group of reluctant readers? Not sure which fifth grade books to recommend? Fifth graders can be tricky to please as they’re slowly moving away from their elementary school selves and beginning to see the world in a more mature way. They’re capable of understanding and questioning texts differently than in the past. We’ve compiled a list of books that will keep your fifth grade readers engaged and chatting with one another about the lessons, questions, predictions, and thoughts they have while they read. Check out this list of favorite fifth grade books to start creating a room full of great readers!
(Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!)
1. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
When Raina trips and falls and injures her two front teeth, she’s forced to have surgery and wear braces, making sixth grade even wilder than it already was. This graphic novel, based on Telgemeier’s life, has everything from boy problems to a major earthquake.
Buy it: Smile at Amazon
2. Holes by Louis Sachar
Moving and funny with an edge, Louis Sachar’s Newbery Medal–winning novel Holes revolves around Stanley Yelnats (his surname is Stanley spelled backwards), who has been sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention center, to dig holes. Soon after picking up the shovel, Stanley begins to suspect that they are doing more than just moving dirt.
Buy it: Holes at Amazon
3. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
This is historical fiction at its finest. It’s the story of Esperanza, a wealthy girl living in Mexico, who must go with her family to the United States during the Great Depression. Esperanza’s life gets turned upside down, but she pushes through and learns that pleasant surprises can result from change.
Buy it: Esperanza Rising at Amazon
4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The hero of Wonder is Auggie Pullman, who has an extremely rare medical facial deformity. After having undergone many facial surgeries, Auggie has been homeschooled by his mother, but soon he will be attending mainstream school for the first time. This lovely story of acceptance will have every preteen rooting for Auggie the “wonder.”
Buy it: Wonder at Amazon
5. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
”I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while.” Freak the Mighty is the tale of the unlikely friendship between Max, a strong boy with a learning disability, and Freak, a brilliant, small boy with a heart condition. Together, they are Freak the Mighty: nine feet tall and ready to conquer the world!
Buy it: Freak the Mighty at Amazon
6. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Words always swirl around in Melody’s head. But due to her cerebral palsy, they remain stuck in her brain. Out of My Mind is the powerful story of an intelligent young girl with a photographic memory who cannot communicate her thoughts. No one believes Melody is capable of learning, but she eventually finds her voice.
Buy it: Out of My Mind at Amazon
7. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Moose Flanagan isn’t growing up where most kids grow up. He is a resident of The Rock, also known as Alcatraz, the infamous prison where his father works as an electrician. In an effort to help his sister Natalie, who has autism, Moose gets help from an unlikely—and notorious—new friend.
Buy it: Al Capone Does My Shirts at Amazon
8. I Am Malala (Young Reader’s Edition) by Malala Yousafzai
Want to add memoirs to your collection of fifth grade books? The inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teen who was shot by the Taliban and subsequently became an international symbol of peaceful protest, is a must. Every preteen should hear the wisdom in the words “When you’ve nearly lost your life, a funny face in the mirror is simply proof that you are still here on this earth.”
Buy it: I Am Malala at Amazon
9. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Jerry Spinelli’s classic Maniac Magee follows an orphan boy looking for a home in a fictional town in Pennsylvania. For his feats of athleticism and fearlessness and his ignorance to the racial boundaries around him, Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee becomes something of a local legend. This timeless book is essential reading for learning about social identity and finding your place in the world. If your students haven’t yet read this classic, it’s time to add it to your collection of fifth grade books.
Buy it: Maniac Magee at Amazon
10. Baseball in April and Other Stories by Gary Soto
Gary Soto uses experiences from his own life as a Mexican American growing up in California as the inspiration for 11 stellar short stories, each describing small moments that showcase bigger themes. Crooked teeth, girls with ponytails, embarrassing relatives, and karate class all are wonderful fabric for Soto to weave the beautiful tapestry that is young Gary’s world.
Buy it: Baseball in April and Other Stories at Amazon
11. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Fifth graders will enjoy Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel The Secret Garden. Mary Lennox is a spoiled orphan sent to live with her uncle at his mansion full of secrets. Generations young and old love this book, which showcases the true meaning of the word family.
Buy it: The Secret Garden at Amazon
12. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Looking for more classic fifth grade books for students to read? In this story, Jess meets the smart and talented Leslie after she beats him in a race at school. Leslie transforms his world, teaching him how to have courage in the face of adversity. They create a kingdom for themselves called Terabithia, an imaginary refuge where their adventures take place. In the end, Jess has to overcome heartbreaking tragedy in order to stay strong.
Buy it: Bridge to Terabithia at Amazon
13. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the lamps that light the city are beginning to die out. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. This classic dystopian tale will light up your heart.
Buy it: The City of Ember at Amazon
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry’s classic The Giver begins as a utopian tale but is later revealed to be a dystopian story in every sense of the word. Jonas lives in a world where society has eliminated memories, pain, and emotional depth. When he becomes a Receiver of Memory, he struggles with new emotions he’s never before felt. And as you read, so will you!
Buy it: The Giver at Amazon
15. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry does it again! Be prepared to answer lots of questions while reading this classic must-read about Annemarie, a young girl who helps keep her Jewish friends safe during the Holocaust. The details are so precise, you will feel as if you are right in the middle of the story.
Buy it: Number the Stars at Amazon
16. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
This adventure tale is another classic for your list of fifth grade books. It’s also a great example of huge character growth. Brian must try to survive the wilderness after a plane crash, but he has only the clothes on his back, a windbreaker, and the titular hatchet. Brian learns how to fish, how to build a fire, and most importantly, patience.
Buy it: Hatchet at Amazon
17. The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
History unfolds in this book set during the Civil Rights Movement when the Watsons, a family from Flint, Michigan, take a road trip to Alabama. Chock-full of family dynamics, adolescent angst, and humor, this book will encourage much discussion about what Birmingham was like in 1963.
Buy it: The Watsons Go to Birmingham at Amazon
18. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This classic diary documents the life of Anne Frank while she was in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The diary has since been published in over 60 languages. It’s a gripping and heartbreaking tale for kids and adults to read and discuss together.
Buy it: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl at Amazon
19. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Here’s another title that tops lists of classic fifth grade books. This story is an exciting tale of love and adventure that your fifth grader will never forget. Ten-year-old Billy raises hunting dogs in the Ozark Mountains. Throughout the story, young Billy encounters his share of heartbreak.
Buy it: Where the Red Fern Grows at Amazon
20. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Two heartwarming, compelling stories are woven together in this delightful tale. As 13-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle takes a cross-country trip with her grandparents, a story of love, loss, and the depth and complexity of human emotion is revealed.
Buy it: Walk Two Moons at Amazon
21. Restart by Gordon Korman
Restart is the story of a boy whose messy past gets a second chance in middle school. After falling off a roof and losing his memory, Chase must live life again and relearn who he was before the accident. But does he want to return to that boy? Not only does he ask who he was, now the question is who he wants to be.
Buy it: Restart at Amazon
22. Wish by Barbara O’Connor
If you’re looking for fifth grade books for animal lovers, check out this title. Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese spends her time making lists of her wishes. Not sure if they will ever come true, Charlie meets Wishbone, a stray dog who captures her heart. Charlie surprises herself in learning that sometimes the things we wish for may not be the things we actually need.
Buy it: Wish at Amazon
23. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally is able to fool everyone in each of her new schools into thinking she can read. But her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, sees right through her. Mr. Daniels helps Ally realize that being dyslexic is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally sees the world in a whole new way.
Buy it: Fish in a Tree at Amazon
24. Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
This is a story about courage and challenges as Kek comes from Africa to the United States, where he has very little family. America is a strange place to him as he sees and learns about things like snow for the first time. Slowly, Kek builds new friendships and learns to love his new country as he toughs out the Minnesota winter.
Buy it: Home of the Brave at Amazon
25. The Journey That Saved Curious George by Louise Borden
Fifth grade students might be too old to read Curious George picture books, but this nonfiction book about its authors is perfect for an older audience. In 1940, Hans and Margret Rey fled their Paris home as the German army advanced during World War II. This began their journey to safety all while carrying children’s book manuscripts among their few possessions. Read and learn about this amazing story that brought the beloved Curious George to the world, with original photos!
Buy it: The Journey That Saved Curious George at Amazon
26. Rules by Cynthia Lord
Twelve year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Growing up in a home with a severely autistic brother makes things really difficult. Catherine is determined to teach her brother David the “rules of life” to prevent his embarrassing behaviors in public and make her life more “normal.” Everything changes during the summer when Catherine meets some new friends, and now she must ask herself: What is normal?
Buy it: Rules at Amazon
27. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
One fifth grade class is about to embark on a year like no other as their teacher, Mr. Terupt, changes the way they view school. While Mr. Terupt helps each student achieve their fifth grade goals, the students learn it’s Mr. Terupt who needs their help the most. This book is the first of a three-book series your students will not want to put down!
Buy it: Because of Mr. Terupt at Amazon
28. Mixed Up by Gordon Korman
NY Times bestselling author Gordon Korman has done it again! Just released in 2023, Korman tells the story of two boys who are having strange flashbacks of memories that don’t seem to belong to them. At the same time, their own memories seem to be vanishing! What could possibly be happening?
Buy it: Mixed Up at Amazon
29. Posted by John David Anderson
Fifth grade is a year of growth for students. Many kids start to deal with social issues in the classroom, at recess, and on social media. This story addresses the realities most of these kids face: bullying, broken friendships, and failures of communication between kids.
Buy it: Posted at Amazon
30. Eleven by Tom Rogers
If you are looking to learn and read about the lessons of 9/11 with your students, you must check this out. Alex Douglas’ birthday is September 11. Little does he know that turning 11 on this day will be such a big deal. Never would he have imagined so much could happen on one day. Read how Alex Douglas, the boy who always wanted to be a hero, learns an unexpected lesson.
Buy it: Eleven at Amazon
31. Odder by Katherine Applegate
Looking for new Katherine Applegate titles (The One and Only Ivan, Crenshaw) to add to your collection of fifth grade books? Released in 2022, this book quickly became a NY Times bestseller. This is the story of a fearless sea otter who spends her days twirling and spinning underwater off the coast of central California. When she suddenly comes to face to face with a great white shark, she must challenge everything she believes about herself and the humans trying to save her. Inspired by the true story of a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that pairs orphaned otter pups with surrogate mothers.
Buy it: Odder at Amazon
32. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Looking for something a bit more science- or STEM-related? Ellie is an 11-year-old who doesn’t like change. She misses her best friend, fifth grade, and even her last goldfish. One day, an odd boy shows up who reminds her of her grandpa Melvin, a quirky scientist. This book delves into the wonder of science and explores questions about life and death, family and friendship, and possibility.
Buy it: The Fourteenth Goldfish at Amazon
33. Best Nerds Forever by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
One minute Finn is biking home from school and the next minute he is run off the road by a maniac in a big van. Now, Finn is a ghost and is enjoying doing lots of fun things that only ghosts can do. But he still has lots of questions: Who wanted him dead? Can he stop it from happening to others?
Buy it: Best Nerds Forever at Amazon
34. Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
This is a beautiful story of learning to love the family you have. Delsie lives with her grandmother and lately wishes she could have a “regular family.” After her old friend abandons her, Delsie befriends Ronan, who has endured trouble of his own. This book is a story of their adventures, where they learn what it means to be broken versus whole, abandoned versus loved, and much more.
Buy it: Shouting at the Rain at Amazon
35. The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Lolly Rachpaul and his mom are still mourning the death of his older brother in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then, Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything—bags and bags of LEGO bricks. When he is pressured to join a “crew” as his brother did, Lolly is faced with deciding what will be his safest choice. He falls back on his new gift to help him find an escape from the world he lives in.
Buy it: The Stars Beneath Our Feet at Amazon
36. The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
This is a hilarious adventure told in the voice of eighth grader Wyatt Palmer as he and his friends find themselves in huge trouble on their class trip to Washington, D.C. Not just trouble with their teachers, but from some mysterious men they meet on their flight. Hop on board as they try to stay out of danger and, oh … save the president of the United States!
Buy it: The Worst Class Trip Ever at Amazon
37. Linked by Gordon Korman
Link, Michael, and Dana live in a quiet town. One day, a swastika is found on the school property. Nobody can believe it. How could such a symbol of hate end up in their middle school? There are many suspects, and everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else. The students struggle to figure out a way to bring people together as opposed to dividing them even further.
Buy it: Linked at Amazon
38. Accidental Archaeologists: True Stories of Unexpected Discoveries by Sarah Albee
Science plus real-life mystery! Learn about incredible accidental finds that changed history. This book will take you on an adventure to find the most surprising discoveries made by ordinary people. You’ll find kings buried under parking lots, ancient skeletons, and a boy who found a bunch of old scrolls while searching for his lost goats!
Buy it: Accidental Archaeologists at Amazon
39. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh
You wouldn’t believe how many everyday items and foods were invented by women! What inspired them? How did they turn their ideas into reality? This book will take you through women inventors young and old with the most gorgeous illustrations! This nonfiction title geared toward girls is a perfect addition to your collection of fifth grade books.
Buy it: Girls Think of Everything at Amazon
40. When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
A magical tiger arrives in Lily’s life—straight from the Korean folktales Lily’s heard over and over. She begins to unravel a secret family history and learns her grandmother’s health depends on a deal she must make with the tigers of the past. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister, Lily must find a way to stand up to the tiger with courage.
Buy it: When You Trap a Tiger at Amazon
Love these fifth grade books? Check out our list of realistic fiction books that kids will love!
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