Fifth grade is a year of many transitions. As students gain more maturity and life experience, they can access books that expand their minds and hearts. With the right books, the freedom to explore new genres and content can be invigorating for you and your readers. Get ready to laugh, cry, and learn alongside them as you experience these literary gems together. And as they incorporate deeper themes of hope, loss, and connection, these chapter books for fifth graders are sure to stay with your students long after they leave your classroom. But even with our highly independent readers and thinkers, we still love to include read-alouds in our instruction. Promoting discussion and understanding with students, it offers a chance to safely navigate complex topics and discover wisdom together.
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1. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
We can’t recommend this uplifting book enough! With the help of an inspiring teacher who sees her for who she really is, Ally learns how to embrace her dyslexia and believe in herself. Students will resonate with the accurate portrayal of learning differences and how hard it can feel to stand out. This important and moving story will make for a powerful discussion, and it encourages acceptance and understanding of the unique qualities that define us.
Buy it: Fish in a Tree at Amazon
2. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
A young girl named Ada and her brother escape the wrath of their abusive mom when they flee their town during World War II. To make matters more complicated, Ada has a club foot and struggles to walk. Once they are taken in by an older women, Ada lives in fear that they will have to return home. Beautiful, descriptive writing and captivating storytelling propel this emotional tale, as it details the devastation and consequences of the war.
Buy it: The War That Saved My Life at Amazon
3. Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series by Chris Grabenstein
More than anything, Kyle Keeley loves to play games and is thrilled to be picked to attend the grand opening of an innovative new library. After meeting his idol and the mastermind behind it all, Mr. Lemoncello, Kyle ends up getting more adventure than he bargained for. This book is a great introduction to these page-turning chapter books for fifth graders. The funny, engaging story will leave readers eager to experience more escapades with eccentric characters.
Buy it: Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series at Amazon
4. The Crossover series by Kwame Alexander
Don’t miss this Newbery-award winner by celebrated author Kwame Alexander. Josh and his twin brother, JB, are the stars of their basketball team. Underneath this simple backdrop comes an extraordinary story written entirely in verse. These chapter books for fifth graders explore the power of family relationships, middle school social dynamics, and, of course, basketball. An emotional read that will resonate with you and your students, this story will make an impression on everyone.
Buy it: Crossover series at Amazon
5. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Everyone assumes that because 11-year-old Melody has cerebral palsy and can’t talk, she’s not smart, but nothing could be further from the truth. Once she finds a way to communicate, the world opens up for her. Filled with hope, self-acceptance, and courage, this powerful novel is a must-read.
Buy it: Out of My Mind at Amazon
6. Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
Our list would not be complete without including a book by all-star author Kate DiCamillo. Unique and imaginative, the story of a cynical girl and a squirrel turned superhero is pure magic. Readers will appreciate the emotional nuance and maturity it entrusts to them, as well as the somewhat absurd premise. This thrilling combination makes this chapter book for fifth graders a standout.
Buy it: Flora and Ulysses at Amazon
7. When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
This fantastic graphic novel about Omar’s experience growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya is eye-opening and unforgettable. Exploring what it means to find hope and courage in the most harrowing circumstances, the story awakens our empathy for these immensely difficult experiences and inspires us on our own journeys.
Buy it: When Stars Are Scattered at Amazon
8. Best Nerds Forever by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Ghosts don’t always have to be scary—in fact, they can be downright hilarious. In this engrossing and emotional story, Finn dies in a bike accident but comes back as a ghost to learn the truth surrounding his mysterious death. Exploring themes of friendship, what it means to be alive, and how to deal with regret, the story will resonate with readers while pulling at their heartstrings.
Buy it: Best Nerds Forever at Amazon
9. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Delphine and her two younger sisters travel across the country to visit their mother, who had long since abandoned them. Set in the backdrop of Oakland and the Black Panther movement of 1968, this award-winning novel explores complex family dynamics as well as important historical events. Don’t miss this beautiful and honest story to engage and inform your fifth graders.
Buy it: One Crazy Summer at Amazon
10. The Unteachables by Gordon Korman
If you haven’t yet explored the work of talented author Gordon Korman, this chapter book for fifth graders is a great place to start. Much to his chagrin, Mr. Kermit, an ostracized teacher on the brink of retirement, is put in charge of a group of misfit eighth graders. Can he rediscover his love of teaching while helping his disheartened students finally find their voice? With a keen understanding of early adolescents and talent for character development, Korman will have you laughing and crying, all while routing for the underdog in this story brimming with humanity.
Buy it: The Unteachables at Amazon
11. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry masterfully tells the fictional story of Annemarie, a young girl in Denmark during World War II. She and her family help their Jewish best friends escape from the Nazis to Sweden. Tackling the immense topic of the Holocaust with incredible precision and tenderness, the story is evocative and heartbreaking. We recommend reading this well-deserved Newbery winner alongside your students. This is one of those rare books that will stay with you and your readers for a lifetime.
Buy it: Number the Stars at Amazon
12. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
One of four stories in a series, this one is a great choice for reluctant readers. Castle Crenshaw, aka Ghost, has always known how to run fast, especially when his life depended on it. But the last thing he expects to do is join the track team and train with teammates who are all running from something in their lives too. Honest and relatable, these chapter books for fifth graders are so much more than just another collection of sports stories.
Buy it: Ghost at Amazon
13. Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
From the distinguished author of Brown Girl Dreaming comes another wonderful title to add to your fifth grade classroom library. As a group of kids meets to share with each other their painful personal struggles, their lives open up in meaningful and unexpected ways. Sometimes being vulnerable and forming connections can make all the difference, even when the challenges we face feel impossibly daunting. This weighty but relevant book is an important read.
Buy it: Harbor Me at Amazon
14. The Cardboard Kingdom series by Chad Sell
Graphic novels just never get old. Enticing art and accessible writing contribute to the success of these entertaining chapter books for fifth graders. Kids in the neighborhood create their own imaginative characters and costumes out of cardboard boxes, which helps them process the challenges in their lives. Imaginative and clever, each chapter features a diverse character and their alter ego.
Buy it: The Cardboard Kingdom series at Amazon
15. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
We couldn’t resist adding yet another Newbery Medal winner to our list. This sci-fi story is brilliant in its originality and intricate plot. A young girl named Miranda receives mysterious notes and has to figure out who they’re from and why she’s getting them before something terrible happens. The story includes many references to the classic book A Wrinkle in Time, offering a great opportunity to read these two books together and discuss the connections between them.
Buy it: When You Reach Me at Amazon
16. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
What do you do when the only two people who understand you are killed in a tragic accident? This is the start to the remarkable story of a special girl named Willow who loses her parents and is left to navigate life on her own. She also happens to be a genius, and with that comes with its own unique challenges. As Willow figures out how to carry on, she learns who she really is by trusting new friendships and building lasting bonds. Filled with wonderful insight into grief, individuality, and how to hold onto hope, this poignant story is a must-read.
Buy it: Counting by 7s at Amazon
17. City Spies series by James Ponti
Looking for a fun, fast-paced spy series? These adventurous chapter books for fifth graders hit the mark. A team of five young secret agents from all over the world come together to fight evil, each of them bringing a unique special talent to the group. A page-turner perfect for readers who love mystery, the first installment will hook readers and get them excited about reading all four books in the series.
Buy it: City Spies series at Amazon
18. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This one definitely lives up to its hype. Auggie is a boy with significant facial differences who is returning to mainstream school after many years of being home. The rejection he experiences at school, as well as the kindness of some of his peers and teachers, gives us a glimpse at the best and worst in humanity. We love how this book beautifully promotes acceptance and shares the important implications of how we treat each other.
Buy it: Wonder at Amazon
19. Black Boy Joy edited by Kwame Mbalia
This stunning compilation of short stories written by acclaimed Black authors is filled with heart. Seventeen stories across different genres highlight what it means to find joy in our lives even when things are hard. Each unique narrative explores the positive aspects of life with authenticity and honesty.
Buy it: Black Boy Joy at Amazon
20. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
A true classic to share with your fifth graders. Sal is on a road trip with her grandparents and tells them an elaborate and strange story about her friend, Phoebe Winterbottom. As she shares Phoebe’s story, she has to come to terms with her own feelings of loss and longing. With brilliant storytelling and emotional complexity, this award-winning novel is incredibly deep and moving.
Buy it: Walk Two Moons at Amazon
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Plus, check out this list for more book inspiration for fifth graders.