25 Must-Read Books for 4th Graders
M. Lynx Qualey
M. Lynx Qualey is the founder of ArabLit.org, a website that brings together translators, authors, publishers, critics, academics, and readers around discussions of Arabic literature in translation. She works as a book critic, reader, editor, and ghostwriter. You can follow her at @arablit .
View All posts by M. Lynx Qualey
Choosing books for 4th graders can be difficult. After all, they can be as different as any other group of readers! There are 4th graders who enjoy stories in The New Yorker, and there are 4th grade readers who struggle to read independently.
This list of the best books for 4th graders aims for the 9- and 10-year-old’s sweet spot. Not too old, not too young; not too serious, not too silly.
1) Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
This award-winning novel is a book for all ages. It’s a perfect road-trip fantasy, and it’s a crowd pleaser for kids and adults.
The novel is inspired by Chinese folklore. It opens in the Village of Fruitless Mountain, where 10-year-old Minli lives with her family. Minli sets off from home in a series of nested adventures, something like a journey through 1001 Nights , but for kids.
Grace Lin is worth following anywhere.
My fourth grader also recommends Lin’s 2) When the Sea Turned to Silver and 3) Starry River of the Sky . All are family favorites.
4) Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
My 4th grader can’t stop reading this series. In the opening book, a telepathic 12-year-old has never quite fit in. Finally, she meets Fitz and discovers a different world. She must leave her old life and figure out a new one before things go very wrong.
There are currently eight books in this compulsively readable series.
5) Camp by Kayla Miller
This book would make a fun gift for a kid going off to summer camp for the first time.
It follows Miller’s popular Click, and it sees protagonists Olive and Willow nervously head off to camp.
Olive makes friends right away, but Willow struggles. This book gets both the stress and the excitement of sleep-away camp.
6) Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Magical Creatures Pop-Up by Matthew Reinhart (Author) and Robert Sabuda (Illustrator)
“Open this entrancing book and meet Shakespeare’s Queen Titania, springing up with her silver wings aflutter.” This is a delight for fans of elves, castles, hobgoblins, and trolls. It is a 3D book with both facts and fancy, brownies and menfolk and more.
7) Wildwitch: Wildfire by Lene Kaaberbøl, Translated by Charlotte Barslund
Eleven-year-old Clara is an ordinary girl, so-called. But everything changes after an encounter with a huge and frightening black cat. It scratches her, and Clara is wracked with fever. Clara’s mother knows there is only one solution, and it’s with Aunt Isa in the wild woods. A wondrous Danish fantasy, now in English.
There are currently four Wildwitch books.
8) Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliot
After his mom leaves him in Brooklyn with grouchy “Ma,” 9-year-old Max finds a mysterious package on her table. This sets in motion a series of magical events.
As it turns out, Ma just might be a real witch who must return three dragons to their magical realm.
This is an enthralling city-based fantasy for kids.
9) Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle by Hilda Eunice Burgos
Ana Maria is living in a two-bedroom in Washington Heights with her parents and three sisters. Then her parents announce a new baby is on the way! All Ana Maria wants is to practice piano and get good enough for a new school. But it’s not easy to practice with so many competing needs in one small space.
10) Wolf and Dog by Sylvia Vanden Heede, Translated by Bill Nagelkerke
Wolf and Dog are cousins. Wolf is wild and lives in a forest on top of a hill. Dog is tame and has a basket and an owner. In these nine funny short stories by the popular Flemish children’s writer Sylvia Vanden Heede, Dog and Wolf discuss the important things in life. Food, for instance, and also family and fleas.
11) The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Mya in the Middle by Crystal Allen and Eda Kaban
This third and final book in a series focuses on middle child Mya.
Like many middle children, Mya struggles to get the attention of her sleep-deprived parents. Mya’s baby sister is too cute, and her older brother is too smart. Her struggles will be familiar to many middle kids.
12) Who Can Crack the Leonardo da Vinci Code? By Thomas Brezina, Translated by Hannah Sartin
This an excellent book for the mystery-oriented 4th grader! It’s a children’s adventure book. In it, accompanied by a little dog Pablo, readers start their journey in a Museum of Adventures. From there, they travel back in time to meet the artist himself.
Using the tools provided, readers can solve seven riddles hidden inside Da Vinci’s paintings. When they do, they can save the museum from cunning villains.
13) Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya
Emilia is having a tough time. At school, she can’t focus. At home, her dad is newly home from deployment. He’s spending a lot of time alone in his studio, welding.
Eventually, Emilia and her father begin to weld together. The shared experience brings them together and helps them heal.
14) Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai
This book is a heartbreaker. In it, Jingwen has immigrated to Australia after the death of his father, along with his mother and brother. Jingwen struggles to learn English and feel motivated in class. The only thing that still makes him happy is baking pies, something he shared with his bakery owner father.
15) The Last-Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles and Dapo Adeola
This is a quirky adventure novel about cousins Sheed and Otto Alston, legendary heroes in their hometown. This book has everything that you might for a rollicking adventure: time travel, robots, time freezing, magic mirrors and familial bickering. Overall, this strange tale kept me on my toes and left me with a smile on my face.
16) Max & The Midknights by Lincoln Peirce
This half-book, half-comic hybrid is set in the Middle Ages. In it, Max is a troubadour wandering 14th century Europe in the hopes of finding an epic quest. He needs just such a quest to make him a knight.
17) Blended by Sharon M. Draper
Isabella is struggling to deal with her parents’ divorce. She’s torn between the worlds of her white waitress mother and her Black lawyer father.
Both are in serious relationships with other people and have a hard time being around each other.
Isabella’s parents finally find a way to make common cause after Isabella and her half-brother are stopped by police.
18) The Case of the Missing Auntie by Michael Hutchinson
On the list of the American Indians in Children’s Literature list of “ Best Books of the Year ” in 2019.
In The Case of Windy Lake , Hutchinson introduced four mystery-solving Cree cousins: Atim, Chickadee, Samuel, and Otter. The four of them are known as the Mighty Muskrats. In this book, the Muskrats head for the city to visit even more cousins.
19) The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
In this book, a trio of friends find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game, something like a giant Rubik’s cube. They must take it apart, and defeat the game’s architect, to save themselves and other children.
More than anything, 12-year-old Farah and her two best friends must save Farah’s baby brother Ahmed.
They do this with the help of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay. They battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats.
20) Farah Rocks Fifth Grade by Susan Muaddi Darraj
Farah is finding 5th grade difficult. A new girl shows up and starts bullying Farah’s younger brother. Farah decides she wants to deal with it on her own.
For 4th graders who are looking forward to 5th, and especially those who enjoy cooking. This book also includes the author’s recipe for hummus.
21) The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
“ The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.”
This is the first book in a best-selling series, and it follows Sophie and Agatha as they make their way into their new lives. Sophie thinks she’ll be headed for the School for Good. Agatha, it seems, will be going to the School for Evil. The two girls are surprised as their assignments are reversed.
22) Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
One of the many delights by Funke, along with her Inkheart series and her wonderful The Thief Lord.
In this book, a young dragon named Firedrake gets a frightening warning. Humans are planning to destroy his valley. All the dragons must flee, and Firedrake needs to help them look for a new home. With a lonely boy named Ben on his back, Firedrake might have a chance.
23) Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki (Author) and Brooklyn Allen (Illustrator)
The Lumberjanes is a fun adventure series. In this book, April leads her friends up a mountain. Except…they didn’t plan to run into the Cloud People.
The characters are bright and quirky, fun to spend time with, both for 4th graders and their adults.
24) The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
“Claire Martinson still worries about her older sister Sophie, who battled a mysterious illness last year. But things are back to normal as they move into Windermere Manor…until the sisters climb a strange ladder in a fireplace and enter the magical land of Arden.
“There, they find a world in turmoil. The four guilds of magic no longer trust each other. The beloved unicorns have gone, and terrible wraiths roam freely. Scared, the girls return home. But when Sophie vanishes, it will take all of Claire’s courage to climb back up the ladder, find her sister, and uncover the unicorns’ greatest secret.”
25) Arnica, the Duck Princess by Ervin Lazar, Translated by Anna Bentley
A classic Hungarian’s children’s story. In it, clever Princess Arnica loves Poor Johnny. Both are cursed by the Witch of a Hundred Faces. One must always be a duck, one must be human.
The Seven-Headed Fairy must help them, but will she come in time?
A story of friendship for children of all ages.
Find even more books for 4th graders in our list of the best chapter books for kids .
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Best Books for Fourth Graders
By fourth grade, 9- and 10-year-olds are not only devouring books, they're expanding their worldviews, too. They love reading about all kinds of families and kids in all kinds of situations and countries, living in their own time or other eras . We've selected some surefire titles in a variety of genres -- from mystery to mythology to middle school tales and more -- that we know click with kids at this age and stage of development. And some are series starts, so they keep on giving. Get ready to get hooked!
City Spies, Book 1
Diverse young, skilled misfits team up in exciting spy romp.
Boy and grandma's thrilling ride through U.S., family past.
Soaring, poignant, novel in verse hits all the right spots.
Front Desk, Book 1
Immigrant kid tackles racism, bullying in powerful tale.
Brilliantly written, inventive pre-LOTR tale.
The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1
Greek myths meet fast-paced adventure in boy-demigod tale.
Tween rescues refugees in moving magical realism tale.
Shuri: A Black Panther Novel, Book 1
Bold princess shines in African superhero adventure.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Toddler antics bug brother, amuse readers in 1st Fudge book.
The War That Saved My Life
Abused girl finds courage, family in compelling WWII story.
When You Reach Me
Perfectly voiced, mysterious sci-fi coming-of-age tale.
"Who Could That Be at This Hour?": All the Wrong Questions, Book 1
Snicket in fine form as a 12-year-old solving noir mystery.
As Brave As You
Poignant summer adventure brims with family love and hope.
Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court
Thoughtful memoir by basketball star and civil rights icon.
Becoming Muhammad Ali
Lyrical novel traces childhood, evolution of sports legend.
Soccer player faces divorce, bullies in fast-paced novel.
Brown Girl Dreaming
Captivating poems depict coming-of-age in tumultuous 1960s.
Count Me In
Powerful, appealing story about 7th grader fighting racism.
The Ear, the Eye and the Arm
Amazing adventure about siblings lost in a future Zimbabwe.
Girl finds her strengths in rich, poignant Depression tale.
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The 20 Best Books for 4th Graders
Ever struggle to find the best books for 4th graders in your classroom? Whether it is a read-aloud, novel study, or independent reading, it can be challenging to find quality novels with engaging storylines that support deep conversation and critical thinking about the text. That's why I compiled this list of the 20 best books for fourth grade.
What you'll find on this page:
Buy them for your classroom library. Add them to your read-aloud list. Build them into novel studies during ELA, or just use them for an independent study. These 20 novels are amazing reads for your fourth-grade readers.
To help you determine which books are the best fit for your class, I shared a short summary of the plot. I also shared links to the trifold novel study pack to help save you prep time. ( Read more about what a trifold novel study is here. )
I've included a variety of 4th grade level books for your below, on-level, and advanced readers. I know your fourth graders will love these great stories and you'll be ready to rock your year with a great 4th grade book list!
This post contains affiliate links. While it doesn't cost you any more to purchase books via the links provided, I earn a small commission from purchases.
1. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Out of all the 4th grade level books on this list, this one is my favorite. I can still remember reading it as a kid, and it was just as good when I picked it back up as an adult.
Here's a quick overview of the plot:
After being left behind when her community leaves their island village, a young girl named Karana must display courage and learn to survive alone.
With lots of adventure, some heartbreak, and great descriptive language, this novel will capture the imagination of your students. An added bonus is that the text is based on a true story, giving plenty of opportunities for discussion.
- Guided Reading: V
Buy the book: Island of the Blue Dolphins
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Island of the Blue Dolphins Novel Study
2. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Another personal favorite when it comes to books for 4th graders goes way back to my childhood, this novel is the adventure and independence that every kid wishes to have to have without the dangers that would come along with it!
Students follow Claudia and her little brother as they decide to run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Read how they carefully avoid detection by the museum security, manage their day-to-day existence (including budgeting), and even end up solving a mystery along the way!
- Guided Reading: S
Buy the book: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Get the No Prep Novel Study: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Novel Study
3. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
In my experience, all the students who read this book end up loving it. In fact, it is consistently selected as a favorite book when we do our book showdown at the end of each year.
After surviving a plane crash in the rugged wilderness of Canada, Brian is in the fight of his life. This story is the ultimate in survival fiction as students follow Brian's transformation from a scared, unsure boy to a strong, independent survivor. From making
From creating a fire to gathering food, Brian makes a lot of mistakes in his quest to survive, and Paulsen's writing captures the imagination of readers pulling them into Brian's journey.
- Guided Reading: R
Buy the book: Hatchet
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Hatchet Novel Study
4. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
This is such an amazing book for kids because it focuses on looking beyond our differences to see what is truly important…and couldn't we use more of that in the world today!
The story of a young boy named Auggie who was born with a facial deformity, Wonder weaves together a story of how he sees the world and the world sees him as he transitions into public school.
The author's writing helps readers examine Auggie's experiences from several lenses, and there are so many great opportunities for discussion about respecting individual differences, kindness and growing up.
Recently made into a movie, this book has truly become an instant classic that your 4th graders will love to read.
Buy the book: Wonder
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Wonder Novel Study
5. James & the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
No list of books for 4th graders would be complete without at least one novel by Dahl, and James & the Giant Peach is sure to please.
Centered around the adventures of James Henry Trotter, this spectacular fantasy novel takes place on (and inside of) a giant peach as it travels across the countryside and further!
With a host of supporting characters that are all insects with a variety of hilarious quirks, your students are sure to get a giggle from this silly story.
Buy the book: James & the Giant Peach
Get the No Prep Novel Study: James & the Giant Peach Novel Study
6. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
This one is a slightly easier read than some of the others on this list, but when it comes to engaging readers it should be #1. Each chapter shares the story from inside the classroom on the 30th floor of Wayside School.
With a wacky host of characters and a school that was built sideways (with one class on each floor), your students are sure to get a giggle out of the zany things that go on here!
While it isn't the deepest plotline ever, it is a great opportunity to discuss character traits, make inferences, and so many other important reading comprehension skills.
- Guided Reading: P
Buy the book: Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Sideways Stories from Wayside School Novel Study
7. Frindle by Andrew Clements
If you ask my students, this would be a title that is a must-have for any list of books for 4th graders!
After a little too much time doing dictionary work, Nick Allen decides to take matters into his own hands and invent a new word. Of course, his teacher doesn't take too kindly to this act of rebellion, and students spend the book experiencing the tension that results from this conflict
A great story that really helps students dive deep into conflict and the protagonist-antagonist relationship, Frindle is a realistic fiction novel you will love reading with your students.
Just be prepared. By the time your students finish the text, you might be hearing students using “frindle” in your room!
Buy the book: Frindle
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Frindle Novel Study
8. Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
If you want to teach social studies through language arts, here's a great historical fiction book to begin discussing world history.
Based on a true story, this book is about the adventures of a group of children living in Norway during World War II.
Your students will love following the suspenseful adventures of Peter and his friends as they work against the Nazi regime to smuggle $9 million in gold right past their noses. This heroic tale is a great way to link social studies and reading.
Buy the book: Snow Treasure
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Snow Treasure Novel Study
9. Save Me a Seat by Gina Weeks & Gita Varadarajan
This is a newer novel, but it is a great book that is written on a 4th grade reading level. The plot is a great opportunity to talk about friendship and kindness.
The story jumps back and forth from the point of view of Ravi, a new student, and Joe, who struggles with sensory processing.
While the boys initially don't think they have anything in common, they come to discover they aren't that different after all.
A great novel for talking about learning differences, fitting in, and avoiding assumptions.
With likable characters and situations that could be happening in your own school or classroom, Save Me a Seat is sure to be a winner with your fourth graders.
Buy the book: Save Me a Seat
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Save Me a Seat Novel Study
10. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florance Atwater
This story about Mr. Popper and his troop of penguins is the funny tale of an unusual man and his even more unusual pets. The story follows Mr. Popper as he
The story follows Mr. Popper after his life is turned upside down when he receives a penguin from the South Pole. From figuring out how to care for a penguin to having his own traveling troop of penguin performers, this book is sure to entertain.
Lots of enriching vocabulary along with opportunities to discuss reading comprehension skills- like cause and effect, inferencing, and character traits – makes this book a winner for a winter book study or read-aloud.
- Guided Reading: Q
Buy the book: Mr. Popper's Penguins
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Mr. Popper's Penguins Novel Study
11. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
A classic tale about an unusual girl who forges her own way in the world, Pippi Longstocking is a personal favorite of mine that always captures the attention of my students.
When Pippi moves into the old, abandoned house next door to Tommy and Annika, they're excited for a playmate. Little do they know the adventures that will soon unfold. With her monkey and horse by her side, Pippi turns life in their neighborhood (and community) upside down in this hilarious tale.
By the end of the book, your students will be wishing they had a friend like Pippi and be begging to read the rest of the series.
- Below Level
- Guided Reading: O
Buy the book: Pippi Longstocking
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Pippi Longstocking Novel Study
12. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
This is the story of a well-loved china bunny who is quite full of himself early on but ends up on the adventure of a lifetime that changes him. Through these experiences, Edward becomes cynical and begins to doubt whether love exists, and students are guided through his inner thoughts as he is lost or left behind time and again.
Full of emotion and told from Edward's point of view, the novel has many twists and turns as well as some heartbreak. Throughout his many misadventures, students will have many opportunities to explore character change and relationships.
A beautifully written story that touches both the heart and imagination, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a true star among novels for this age group.
- Guided Reading: U
Buy the book: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Get the No Prep Novel Study: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane Novel Study
13. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
This is the story of Roz, a robot who accidentally ends up stranded on an uninhabited island. Over time Roz begins to learn from the creatures around her and even becomes the surrogate mother for an orphaned gosling. However, it takes quite some time for the natural world to accept her as one of their own.
The 2017 Global Read Aloud selection, this story is a great science fiction selection for fourth-grade students. While it is a relatively easy read that includes some illustrations, it is a story that many of the boys I work with absolutely loved, which can sometimes be a challenge to find.
Buy the book: The Wild Robot
Get the No Prep Novel Study: The Wild Robot Novel Study
14. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
A classic tale that brings every child's fantasy to life, this is the story of Charlie Bucket. After winning a once in a lifetime contest to tour Willy Wonka's factory, Charlie is drawn into a world of wonder and imagination.
With vivid descriptions and silliness that only Dahl can bring to a children's novel, this story is a sure favorite. There are so many great opportunities to discuss character traits and practice visualization, inferring, and more.
While the text has some challenging vocabulary and made-up words (as do nearly all Dahl's books), the plotline draws readers in and encourages them to overcome these challenges because the story is just that good.
Buy the book: Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Charlie & the Chocolate Factory Novel Study
15. Sarah, Plain & Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
A historical fiction novel detailing life on the plains, Sarah Plain & Tall is a great novel for making cross-curricular connections with social studies and discussing westward expansion.
It is the story of Sarah, a woman who responds to an ad of a widower seeking a wife, and how she acclimates to life on the plains and two children. It is also the story of how the family adjusts to her after already losing their mother.
This is truly a sweet story and gives students so much to talk about. I highly recommend it for your fourth graders. (Just a word of warning – if you decide to show the movie after reading this one it has a pretty hardcore birth scene near the end. Preview it to make sure you feel it is appropriate before you show your class.)
Buy the book: Sarah, Plain & Tall
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Sarah, Plain & Tall Novel Study
16. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Another classic that is definitely a must-have for your classroom library and makes an amazing novel study is Charlotte's Web .
This is the story of a runty pig, named Wilbur, and his unlikely friendship with a spider who eventually saves him from slaughter.
With opportunities to discuss character traits and relationships, visualizing, and so many more important reading comprehension skills, this book is a winner for both the students and all those essential standards you're required to cover!
Buy the book: Charlotte's Web
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Charlotte's Web Novel Study
17. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
Another book for 4th graders that I would consider on the easier reading side is a story set to the backdrop of sibling rivalry. With a topic so many students can relate to, this realistic fiction is highly engaging for fourth graders.
The Lemonade War is the first book in this series. Students will love following the juicy drama between Evan and Jessie as they try to prove just who is the better at running a lemonade stand. With lots of ups and downs and plenty of opportunities for higher-level reading comprehension skills like inferencing, this novel is always a favorite in my classroom.
Buy the book: The Lemonade War
Get the No Prep Novel Study: The Lemonade War Novel Study
18. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Shiloh is the story of a boy and his dog…well, technically not HIS dog, but students discover that on their own while reading.
After seeing his neighbor abusing a dog, Marty discovers the pup has run away and decides to keep him. When his stern father discovers that he has the dog, things go from bad to worse leading Marty down some troublesome paths in his quest to protect his new best friend.
Along the way, he learns a lot about life and how things are never quite as simple as they seem.
Buy the book: Shiloh
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Shiloh Novel Study
19. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Who could write a list of great novels for fourth grade and NOT include at least one Judy Blume book?
Seriously, she's a fabulous writer and has some great realistic fiction that is perfect for your students.
This is the story of Peter Hatcher and his little brother, Fudge. Despite everyone else finding Fudge adorable, Peter isn't smitten with his shenanigans…especially when Fudge eats his pet turtle!
Buy the book: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Novel Study
20. The One and Only Ivan by K.A. Applegate
Great books for 4th graders offer opportunities to discuss unique points of view and engage in stories with more detailed plotlines. The One and Only Ivan is a great option if you're looking to build a deeper understanding of these skills in your students.
The story of a gorilla living in a roadside mall and arcade, Ivan has become accustomed to life behind glass. Instead, Ivan spends his time thinking about television, his friends Stella & Bob (an elephant and a dog), and art. Everything changes for Ivan upon the arrival of a new baby elephant, Ruby. As a result, Ivan's perspective on his world is turned upside down.
Buy the book: The One and Only Ivan
Get the No Prep Novel Study: The One and Only Ivan Novel Study
Ready to Plan Your 4th Grade Novel Unit?
I hope this list has sparked some ideas for books you can add to your classroom library and your next novel unit.
While you're here, grab your favorite books for 4th graders and my free novel study planning roadmap to get step-by-step support to plan a high-quality literature unit for your fourth-grade students whether you're in the classroom or homeschooling. Whether you're planning your first novel study or just looking for new ideas, you'll love this great tool.
Have enough books for 4th graders? Here are some additional reading lists for other grade levels.
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Whether you're looking to challenge voracious readers or intrigue more reluctant students, a diversified library filled with compelling, engaging texts is an essential part of any classroom. The titles in this collection have been carefully chosen by Scholastic Editors to specifically meet the needs of fourth grade learners.
For instance, The Bad Guys is a hilarious graphic novel series about a misfit crew that often fails miserably when trying so hard to be good. These are titles that reluctant or voracious readers will be sure to laugh their way through. The engaging text and fun graphics will be appealing and relevant to your students. There's also Who Would Win?: Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark — a nonfiction book that showcases facts about mighty animals. Your student will love the full-color pictures and easy-to-read scientific facts.
Filled with award-winners, favorite authors, beloved characters, and engaging fiction and nonfiction titles across a wide range of reading levels, these texts will keep students reading while also challenging them to think more deeply and make more complex connections with the books they love.
Shop these noteworthy books below! You can find all books and activities at The Teacher Store .
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20 Fantastic Fourth Grade Chapter Books
Inspiring reads for a wonderful, diverse classroom library.
Fourth grade is a magical time for reading growth. With more profound themes and complex topics, chapter books for fourth graders can inspire and stretch our readers. What’s more, these books promote strong comprehension and vocabulary development while challenging readers and keeping them engaged. In addition to realistic stories, these books offer a sprinkling of humor, fantasy, and historical fiction, reflecting the importance of reading for different purposes. With so many genres to choose from, we love the quality of these middle-grade chapter books. We guarantee you and your students will fall in love with these literary gems too.
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1. Merci Suárez series by Meg Medina
We love the heart and humor in this award-winning series by Meg Medina. Merci is a sixth grade student who experiences the many changes that come with middle school. She navigates the difficult feelings of being different at her private school because she is on scholarship. She also grapples with changing family dynamics and tries to balance her own wants and needs with her family’s expectations. Beautifully written and accessible, the series is a must-read for fourth graders. Bonus: Many readers will appreciate the inclusion of Spanish words woven throughout the story.
Buy it: Merci Suárez series at Amazon
2. Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Told from the perspective of two very different fifth grade boys, this chapter book for fourth graders will greatly resonate with readers. Joe and Ravi enter fifth grade with hope and expectations of how their year will go, only to be met with many obstacles, including the class bully, Dillon. As they confront him together, the boys connect over the course of their first week at school. The story thoughtfully addresses stereotypes and celebrates important differences in identity.
Buy it: Save Me a Seat at Amazon
3. Matilda by Roald Dahl
Delightfully clever and original, Matilda is a true classic that your fourth graders will love. Precocious young Matilda, who read Great Expectations at the age of 4, tries to use brainpower to outsmart and withstand her dreadful family. Caught in the crosshairs of the horrifying headmistress Miss Trunchbull, she seeks support and guidance from her loving and kind teacher Miss Honey. This hilarious and insightful story will hold a special place in readers’ hearts.
Buy it: Matilda at Amazon
4. The Lemonade War series by Jacqueline Davies
Readers will enjoy these compelling, realistic chapter books for fourth graders about sibling relationships and discovering our own personalities. Jessie understands the world through math and logic, while her brother Evan understands people. Although they see the world differently, both have the same goal of selling the most lemonade before school starts.
Buy it: The Lemonade War series at Amazon
5. Front Desk series by Kelly Yang
This beautiful and powerful series will make a great addition to your fourth grade reading list. Tackling challenging topics like racism, immigration, and poverty, the books expose readers to these important issues. Based on her own childhood experience, author Kelly Yang shares the complex struggles Mia and her family face with honesty and understanding.
Buy it: Front Desk series at Amazon
6. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Beautifully told, this Newbery winner is a must-read. As a captive gorilla, Ivan’s life purpose is to entertain visitors at the mall where he lives. He’s content enough to enjoy TV and treats until a young elephant named Ruby arrives and changes everything. Remembering the past and imagining a better future, Ivan makes a promise to Ruby to change their fate. The epic tale is full of longing and hope, showing us the power of friendship.
Buy it: The One and Only Ivan at Amazon
7. Fudge series by Judy Blume
Our list of chapter books for fourth graders would not be complete without a series by the iconic Judy Blume. Her spot-on portrayal of sibling relationships and the common troubles and fears kids experience hits the mark time and time again. Readers can enjoy five unique stories told from different perspectives with the same great premise. Can’t get enough of Judy Blume? Check out our list of Judy Blume books for more recommendations!
Buy it: Fudge series at Amazon
8. Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
“Scoob” and his G-ma go on an unforgettable road trip that reveals important truths about the past and their lives along the way. The emotional story is engaging and fast-moving, sure to capture readers’ attention while giving them an important look at the Civil Rights Movement. It shines a light on many difficult topics including racism and segregation in an accessible way that will inform and entertain readers.
Buy it: Clean Getaway at Amazon
9. Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski
Readers will fall in love with this fun, creative series, which offers a twist on the traditional fairy tales we know and love. Abby and Jonah “fall” into the different tales through a magic mirror and sort out things that go awry. With an emphasis on empowerment and endless adventures to entertain us, these chapter books for fourth graders will surely be a hit.
Buy it: Whatever After series at Amazon
10. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Author Kate DiCamillo explores the bittersweet nature of life in this wonderful story. Ten-year-old Opal experiences loneliness, longing, and finding connection in a new town where her dad is a preacher. When stray dog Winn-Dixie comes into her life by chance, new relationships and opportunities open up, helping her make sense of the past. Sometimes it seems that the “whole world has an aching heart,” but DiCamillo trusts readers to have the emotional maturity to deal with difficult topics. This chapter book for fourth graders would also make a beautiful read-aloud.
Buy it: Because of Winn-Dixie at Amazon
11. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Be sure to introduce your fourth graders to this one-of-a-kind classic. A mysterious tollbooth changes everything for Milo, and his perspective on life will never be the same. Philosophical yet approachable, we guarantee your students won’t have read anything like it.
Buy it: The Phantom Tollbooth at Amazon
12. The Smartest Kid in the Universe series by Chris Grabenstein
On a mission to save his school, 12-year-old Jake finds some jelly beans that turn him into a genius. Can he navigate life as a middle schooler while possessing these new skills? Fast-paced and full of adventure, this sci-fi series is a great pick for reluctant readers looking for a page-turner.
Buy it: The Smartest Kid in the Universe series at Amazon
13. Anna Wang series by Andrea Cheng
Anna would rather escape into the world of a book than deal with the challenging dynamics of fourth grade friendships. But as she comes to terms with being different from her peers as an Asian American, she learns what it means to be a good friend. Anna’s struggles at school and with her family are relatable and honest. Readers will appreciate the authenticity and realistic storylines in these chapter books for fourth graders.
Buy it: Anna Wang series at Amazon
14. Savvy by Ingrid Law
Everyone in Mibs’ family has their own unique “savvy,” a magical power that they discover at age 13. Right before Mibs uncovers hers, something terrible happens. Now she must figure out how to make things right by harnessing her new superpower. We recommend this book for its beautiful storytelling and imaginative plot.
Buy it: Savvy at Amazon
15. Frindle by Andrew Clements
Nick is a fifth grader who has a propensity to push the boundaries at school. After learning about the origin of words in English, he comes up with the brilliant idea to rename the word for pen, calling it a “frindle” instead. The new lingo catches on and spreads in the school, community, and beyond. Illustrating the power of language and word choice, this funny, clever chapter book for fourth graders is delightfully entertaining.
Buy it: Frindle at Amazon
16. Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk
After losing everything during the Great Depression, Ellie and her family escape to the woods of Maine to start a new life. Beautifully written and emotionally deep, this historical-fiction novel paints an accurate and vivid picture of life during this time.
Buy it: Echo Mountain at Amazon
17. Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi
A delightful mix of friendship, magic, and science engages readers in this enjoyable story. Exploring complicated feelings of friendship and staying true to who we are, this middle-grade chapter book appeals to readers who are looking for down-to-earth characters to relate to. Fourth graders will resonate with characters Penny Rose and Lark even when the robots they’ve designed come to life.
Buy it: Weird Little Robots at Amazon
18. I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis
Be sure to add these informational and entertaining chapter books for fourth graders to your library. With an instant hook and fast-paced action, each riveting graphic novel covers a different historical event. Your students will keep coming back to this series to learn more about important topics from the past.
Buy it: I Survived series at Amazon
19. Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Through magical realism and powerful storytelling, award-winning author Pam Muñoz Ryan beautifully portrays immigrants’ experiences in this compelling story. Missing his mother, who abandoned him as a baby, 11-year-old Max embarks on a journey to discover secrets of the past as he explores a world he could only imagine.
Buy it: Mañanaland at Amazon
20. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
It’s no surprise author Kate DiCamillo makes our list twice. This unforgettable tale of a china rabbit’s long journey back home is one of our all-time favorites. Full of hope, longing, and enduring love, this book is at once heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. Edward Tulane is a wonder, and the timeless storytelling and beautiful prose will stay with you and your students for a long time.
Buy it: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane at Amazon
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Plus, check out these fourth grade classroom ideas for more inspiration., you might also like.
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Best Realistic Fiction Books for 4th Grade Readers
Posted: November 17, 2023 | Last updated: November 17, 2023
Welcome to a world of imagination and wonder, where stories come alive and transport us to captivating realms. For 4th graders, realistic fiction opens doors to explore everyday life while engaging with relatable characters and situations. This genre not only entertains but also fosters empathy, critical thinking, and a deeper understanding of the world. Here, we've curated a list of 25 realistic fiction books ideal for fourth graders, promising adventure, emotions, and valuable life lessons.
What is Realistic Fiction?
Realistic fiction is a genre that encompasses stories set in a world that mirrors our own reality. It's characterized by narratives that could happen in real life, featuring believable events, settings, and characters. Here are key elements that define realistic fiction:
Authentic Settings: The story takes place in settings that exist in the real world, whether it's a city, town, school, or neighborhood. These settings are recognizable and relatable to readers.
Believable Plot: The events and occurrences in the story are plausible and could happen in real life. While they might be fictional, they remain within the realm of possibility without fantastical or supernatural elements.
Everyday Characters and Situations
Realistic Characters: Protagonists and supporting characters resemble people we might encounter in our lives. They have flaws, emotions, and complexities that make them relatable.
Everyday Situations: The storyline of realistic fiction books revolve around everyday life events, challenges, and relationships. It could be about family dynamics, friendships, school experiences, or personal growth.
Exploration of Themes and Issues
Tackling Real Issues: Realistic fiction books often deal with real-world issues or themes such as identity, friendship, bullying, social issues, loss, or personal growth.
Reflecting Society: It reflects the societal norms, values, and challenges of the time or community it represents. These themes provide opportunities for readers to relate and learn about themselves and the world.
Absence of Supernatural Elements
No Fantasy or Magical Elements: Unlike fantasy or science fiction genres, realistic fiction books do not involve supernatural occurrences, magic, or fantastical creatures. Realistic fiction books remain firmly grounded in the real world and can be based on historic events..
Emotional Depth: Realistic fiction stories often evoke genuine emotions in readers by portraying realistic emotional experiences and reactions.
Realistic fiction serves as a bridge between the reader's world and the fictional narrative, allowing them to engage deeply with characters and situations that reflect their own reality or that of others. It encourages empathy, understanding, and critical thinking by presenting relatable scenarios and characters within the bounds of the known world.
How to Select a Great Book for Realistic Fiction:
Selecting books for fourth graders involves considering their developmental stage, interests, and reading proficiency. Here are some tips to help choose engaging and suitable books:
Consider Reading Level and Interests
Reading Level: Look for books that align with their reading abilities. Check for recommended age ranges, Lexile levels, or ask their teacher or librarian for guidance.
Interests: Consider their hobbies, passions, or favorite topics. Whether it's mysteries, adventures, animals, or sports, finding books that resonate with their interests can make reading more enjoyable.
Diversity in Themes and Characters
Diverse Characters: Seek books that feature a main character and supporting characters from various backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. It fosters empathy and broadens their worldview.
Themes: Look for books that touch on different themes like friendship, family, overcoming challenges, or self-discovery. This variety keeps reading engaging and thought-provoking.
Series and Standalone Books
Series: For avid readers, series books can be captivating. Introduce them to well-loved series with characters that grow and evolve across multiple books.
Standalone Books: Standalone stories offer a complete narrative in one book, providing a satisfying reading experience.
Illustrated Books: For younger readers or those transitioning to longer texts, illustrated books or graphic novels can be visually appealing and help with comprehension.
Interactive Books: Books with puzzles, activities, or interactive elements can keep them engaged and make reading a fun experience.
Check Reviews and Recommendations
Reviews: Look for reviews from educators, parents, or reputable book lists for recommendations. Websites like Goodreads often provide insights into a book's content and suitability.
Personal Recommendations: Consult librarians, teachers, or parents of children with similar reading interests for personalized suggestions.
Remember, the goal is to nurture a love for reading and encourage exploration. Offering a mix of challenging and enjoyable books helps develop their reading skills while fostering a lifelong passion for stories and learning.
Great Book Recommendations for Realistic Fiction for 4th Grade Students:
A boy called bat.
This sweet and thoughtful novel chronicles Bat's experiences and challenges at school with friends and teachers and at home with his sister and divorced parents. Bat is the main characters nickname and as a kid on the autism spectrum and he falls in love with the baby skunk and they are a perfect pair. This trilogy is a proven winner in the home and classroom-kids love these short illustrated young middle grade books. The trilogy is A Boy Called Bat, Bat and the Waiting Game, and Bat and the End of Everything.
A Long Pitch Home
A sensitive and endearing and powerful story about a young Pakistani immigrant adjusting to his new life in contemporary America. Ten-year-old Bilal liked his life back home in Pakistan. He was a star on his cricket team. But when his father suddenly sends the family to live with their aunt and uncle in a new town in America, nothing is familiar. While Bilal tries to keep up with his cousin Jalaal by joining a baseball league and practicing his English, he has a hard time adjusting and wonders when his father will join the family in Virginia navigating being a new student.
A Long Walk to Water
This #1 New York Times bestselling novel is a powerful tale of perseverance and hope. A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours' walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the "lost boys" of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his great story goes on to intersect with Nya's in an astonishing and moving way.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
One summer's day, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local supermarket for some groceries-and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It's because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it's because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, as Opal admits, just about everything that happens that summer is because of Winn-Dixie. Even after 20 years in print, this is still one of the best books for readers of all ages to return to time and time again. A heartwarming tale of a young girl named Opal and her unique bond with a stray dog named Winn-Dixie, exploring themes of friendship and community.
Crossover By Kwame Alexander
The film version and series is streaming now on Disney+. The Newbery Medal winner and Coretta Scott King Award–winning middle grade bestseller! Basketball and heartache share the court in this slam-dunk novel. 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood. He's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander. This story is written in a new way of prose and is great for even the reluctant reader.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Follow Esperanza's journey from privilege to hardship in 1930s Mexico to a farm labor camp in California, showcasing resilience and the pursuit of the American Dream. Esperanza thought she'd always live a privileged life on her family's ranch in Mexico. She'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and Mama, Papa, and Abuelita to care for her. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard work, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances--because Mama's life, and her own, depend on it.
The nine Little House books have been cherished by generations of young people as both a unique glimpse into America's frontier history and as heartwarming, unforgettable stories. The Little House series has captivated millions of readers with its depiction of life on the American frontier.
While Laura Ingalls grows up on the prairie, Almanzo Wilder is living on a big farm in New York State. Here Almanzo and his brother and sisters help with the summer planting and fall harvest. In winter there is wood to be chopped and great slabs of ice to be cut from the river and stored. Time for fun comes when the jolly tin peddler visits, or best of all, when the fair comes to town.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Join Ally, a dyslexic student, as she discovers her strengths and talents with the help of a supportive teacher and friends, celebrating uniqueness, character traits and perseverance. She discovers that there's a lot more to her-and to everyone-than a label, and that great minds don't always think alike. The author of the beloved heartfelt story gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who's ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn't fit in.
Fourth Grade Rats
Fourth graders are tough. They aren't afraid of spiders. They say no to their moms. They push first graders off the swings. And they never, ever cry. Suds knows that now he's in fourth grade, he's supposed to be a rat. But whenever he tries to act like one, something goes wrong. Can Suds' friend Joey teach him to toughen up... or will Suds remain a fourth-grade wimp? Now with brand-new illustrations, this sequel to Jerry Spinelli's Third Grade Angels is a classic story of fitting in (or not) and friendship. Even reluctant readers will want to add this to their reading list asap!
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating story full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right thing-even in the face of great opposition. Zoe Washington isn't sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she's never met, hadn't heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who's been in prison for a terrible crime? A crime he says he never committed. Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. This is one of my favorite books of all time and a good book to read aloud for 4th grade up through middle school chapter books too.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Tang has a lot of secrets. Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams? This first book in this series is a must read for students to discuss cultural diversity, immigration, and how to be a good friend.
Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does-or does not-say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. This is a great realistic fiction book for advanced readers to discuss topics of violence, community, and police brutality.
Newbery winners Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly's Hello, Universe is a funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships. Told from four intertwining points of view-two boys and two girls-the novel celebrates bravery, being different, and finding your inner bayani (hero). Readers will be instantly engrossed in this relatable neighborhood adventure and its eclectic cast of misfits.
It's Like This, Cat
This 1964 Newbery Award-winning tale recaptures the excitement and challenges of growing up in the big city. After another fight with Pop, 14-year-old Dave storms out of their apartment and nearly gets hit by a car. Kate, the local cat lady, comes to the rescue, and Dave returns home with an ally: Cat, the stray tom that becomes Dave's confidante and his key to new friendships and experiences. Cat inadvertently leads Dave to Tom, a troubled 19-year-old who needs help, and Mary, a shy girl who opens Dave's eyes and ears to music and theater.
Just a Drop of Water
This touching 4th grade level and above story explores what it mean to have real friends, how you should react to a bully, and makes the events of September 11th, 2001 personal. In this story about growing up in a difficult part of America's history, Jake Green is introduced as a cross country runner who wants to be a soldier and an American hero when he grows up.
From renowned Newbery-winning author Jerry Spinelli comes a powerful story about how not fitting in just might lead to an incredible life. This classic book is perfect for fans of Gordon Korman and Carl Hiaasen. Just like other kids, Zinkoff rides his bike, hopes for snow days, and wants to be like his dad when he grows up. But Zinkoff also raises his hand with all the wrong answers, trips over his own feet, and falls down with laughter over a word like "Jabip." Other kids have their own new word to describe him, but Zinkoff is too busy to hear it. He doesn't know he's not like everyone else. And one winter night, Zinkoff's differences show that any name can someday become "hero."
This timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, from award-winning author-illustrator Jerry Craft. Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds-and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself? This middle grade graphic novel is an excellent choice for tween readers, including for summer reading.
Number the Stars
Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.A modern classic of historical fiction, Number the Stars has won generations of fans and continues to speak to today's readers.
One and Only Ivan
The #1 New York Times bestselling and Newbery Award-winning novel The One and Only Ivan is now a major motion picture streaming on Disney. This unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendship. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated book is told from the point of view of Ivan himself.
Having spent twenty-seven years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.
In the tradition of timeless stories like Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create an unforgettable story of friendship, art, and hope.
One Crazy Summer
In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. A strong option for summer reading-take this book along on a family road trip or enjoy it at home. In One Crazy Summer, eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She's had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.
This Newbery Honor Book is a heartfelt and witty story about feeling different and finding acceptance -- beyond the rules. Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She's spent years trying to teach David the rules from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public" -- in order to head off David's embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?
Sarah Plain and Tall
This beloved Newbery Medal–winning book is the first of five books in Patricia MacLachlan's chapter book series about the Witting family. Set in the late nineteenth century and told from young Anna's point of view, Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of how Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton comes from Maine to the prairie to answer Papa's advertisement for a wife and mother. Before Sarah arrives, Anna and her younger brother Caleb wait and wonder. Will Sarah be nice? Will she sing? Will she stay?
This children's literature classic is perfect for fans of historical fiction, and timeless stories using rich and beautiful language. Sarah, Plain and Tall gently explores themes of abandonment, loss and love.
Save me a Seat
Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they're both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL. Joe's lived in the same town all his life and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.
The truth is out there somewhere . . . but how far is Jack willing to jump to find it? Jack Phillips's allergy to sunshine confines him to the shadows, leaving him lonely and at risk of life-threatening burns every time he steps into the light. Shadow jumping on the rooftops at dusk makes him feel alive. And free. But Jack's condition is suddenly worse than ever and only his missing scientist dad can save him. As Jack and his new friend, Beth, begin their frantic search and delve into his dad's past for clues, they have no idea what they are about to uncover. Shocking rumors and dark secrets bombard them at every turn. Jack is brave on the roofs. But can he find the courage to face the truth? A story about friendship, family, loss, bravery and overcoming adversity.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
With more than a million copies sold, Newbery Medal winner The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a must-read for fans of classic children's literature or timeless fantasy fables.
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.
The Family Under the Bridge
The heartwarming and memorable Newbery Honor-winning book about finding family in the unlikeliest places, featuring artwork by beloved illustrator Garth Williams. This classic middle grade novel is a welcome and meaningful read, especially at Christmastime. Armand, an old man living on the streets of Paris, relishes his solitary life in the beautiful city. He is happy with his carefree existence, begging and doing odd jobs to keep himself warm and fed. With simple pleasures and no cares, what more could he need? Then one day just before Christmas, Armand returns to his favorite spot beneath the bridge to find three cold and hungry children. Although he has no interest in children, Armand soon finds himself caring for the small family. It does not take Armand very long to realize that he must do whatever it takes to get them a real home.
The Lemonade Crime
Friends, justice, and . . . lemonade? Evan and Jessie are hot on the trail of the missing lemonade-stand money. Follow this brother-sister duo as they take justice into their own hands and explore the meaning of fairness, integrity, and repairing relationships on the playground and in business in this installment of the award-winning Lemonade War series.Evan Treski thinks fourth grader Scott Spencer is their prime suspect, so he challenges him to a game of basketball. But his little sister Jessie disagrees. Her solution? Turn the playground into a full-blown courtroom with a judge, jury, witnesses . . . and surprising consequences.
The Parker Inheritance
When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding its writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.So with the help of Brandon, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert's history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets.
The Perfect Score
From the beloved author of Because of Mr. Terupt and its sequels comes The Perfect Score, a new middle-grade school story with a very special cast of unforgettable characters who discover that getting the perfect score-both on the test and in life-is perhaps not so perfect after all.
Where the Red Fern Grows
Read the beloved classic that captures the powerful bond between man and man's best friend.Billy has long dreamt of owning not one, but two, dogs. So when he's finally able to save up enough money for two pups to call his own-Old Dan and Little Ann-he's ecstatic. It doesn't matter that times are tough; together they'll roam the hills of the Ozarks.
A touching, New York Times–bestselling story about a girl and her dog, perfect for young animal lovers.
Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.
"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio
A moving narrative about Auggie, a boy with a facial deformity, navigating through the challenges of fitting in at a new school, emphasizing kindness and acceptance.
The power of realistic fiction lies in its ability to resonate deeply with young readers, advanced readers, and the entire family, inviting them into worlds both familiar and unknown. These 25 books offer a tapestry of emotions, lessons, and adventures, providing fourth graders with a diverse range of stories to explore. Through these narratives, children can develop empathy, broaden their perspectives, and discover the essence of resilience and compassion. Let these books be companions on the journey of imagination and growth, leaving an indelible mark on young hearts and minds.
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55 Inspiring Chapter Books for Your 4th Grade Readers
May 23, 2022 // by Sharayah Lynn Grattan
4th grade is the year of reading for fun and getting lost in literary worlds. From the classics, to innovative and inspiring new releases, there are so many options to choose from! Does your reader like mystery, graphic novels, or something to make them laugh? Here are our top 55 favorite chapter book recommendations to show your kids the magic of books.
1. The Report Card
Andrew Clements touches on some important issues regarding expectations and judgment around grades and success with this novel about a young girl named Nora who is ashamed of her intelligence and doesn’t want her peers to know how smart she is. This and his many other 4th grader-friendly books are great options for your young readers to feel understood and empowered to accept and love what makes them special.
This novel is part of a trilogy by the talented and award-winning author Brian Selznick. Each book in the series is packed full of adventure stories, lessons about bravery and courage, and incredible original illustrations. This book follows two separate stories of a boy named Ben and a girl named Rose who wish to live different lives. 50 years apart in time, they both set out on a journey to find themselves, which inevitably brings their stories together.
3. There’s A Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom
This book by Louis Sachar is the perfect choice for any kid going through the challenges of middle school. Trying to fit in, while also working to find and accept who you are is almost impossible when you are 10 years old. Bradley Chalker is a misunderstood 5th grader who tells lies and is hated by most of the school, except his counselor Carla. With her help and guidance, Bradley learns to embrace who he is and grow into a better version of himself.
4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
I am sure you have heard of this favorite book by the best-selling author Jeff Kinney. This 16 book series follows two late-blooming 6th grade boys as they try to survive middle school. Their challenges and relatable stories make this series a perfect addition to any classroom library.
5. Gaia Girls Enter the Earth
This relevant and inspiring two-book series by Lee Welles brings up some important issues regarding the world, big business, and courage to take a stand for what’s right. The fantasy stories follow a young girl named Elizabeth and her family’s farm when a new corporation comes to their town and things start to change. Elizabeth meets a mysterious creature named Gaia who ends up being the entity of the earth. She gains some magical powers and is called to take action and save the world! Can she do it?
6. Out of My Mind
This New York Times Bestselling book by Sharon Draper is a must-read for any and all middle schoolers. It tells the story of an 11-year-old girl named Melody who has cerebral palsy and also has a photographic memory. Because of her disability, she is unable to show people just how bright she really is, but she is determined to find a way to show everyone just how special she really is.
7. Catherine’s War
This emotionally charged narrative by Julia Billet was based on the true story of her mother in France in World War II. It follows a young determined girl, looking to find herself and pursue her passions amidst the chaos and fear of the German occupation. Her amazing adventure revolves around Catherine’s camera and how it helps her capture the moments when she has to go into hiding and change her identity to survive.
8. James and the Giant Peach
This favorite book by the one and only Roald Dahl is a classic story of James Henry Trotter, a young and unfortunate boy who gets sent to live with his mean aunts after his parents are eaten by rhinos. He ends up creating this magical world inside of a peach tree with new friends and fantastical plants that make this hilarious story one of magic and fantasy.
9. Sideways Stories from Wayside School
These funny books about the wacky sideways wayside school and the goofy characters within its crooked walls are the perfect series for any 4th grader. The humor stories at wayside school are relatable, and the biggest prank will have your kids rolling on the floor with laughter. This 4 book series is a great addition to any classroom library.
10. Escape from a Video Game: The Secret of Phantom Island
These innovative 4th grade level books are a combination of many adventure stories you can pick and choose to create your own favorite book. The unexpected twists and turns will keep your young readers engaged and on edge to see what happens next in this page-turner. There are 3 books in this series packed full of humor, fantasy, and action.
11. Who Was?
This is an inspirational and educational book series by Penguin Random House that picks a new artist, innovator, creator, activist, or another important figure as the subject of each book. One of our favorites is about the political activist Coretta Scott King, who is most famous for her participation in the Civil Rights Movement.
12. Brian’s Saga
Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson begins his Hatchet Adventure when he decides to go see his father in Canada. His plane crashes and Brian is the only person to survive. Left on his own, he must find his way through the Canadian wilderness with a few pieces of clothes and a hatchet. Will he make it out alive?
13. Timmy Failure
Stephan Pastis gives us the story of an unlikely pair running the most successful detective agency in the country. The first is a giant polar bear named Total, and the other is a young boy named Timmy Failure. Together they run Total Failure, Inc in a comical and ridiculous manner that will have your 4th grade readers laughing through all seven books in the series!
14. Endling Series
Ready for another action-packed 3-book fantasy story that will have your 4th graders on the edge of their seats? Katherine Applegate writes a compelling story about a brave dog-like creature named Byx who believes she is the last of her species. She sets off on a dangerous and exciting adventure to find more of her kind and meets new friends and enemies along the way.
Time for a heist, with this exciting escapade 8-book series by Gordon Korman. Griffin Bing gets swindled out of a valuable baseball card and is determined to steal it back! Can he get past the scary guard dog, the security system, and find his precious card with the help of his friends?
16. Moon Base Alpha
Here’s an out-of-this-world series perfect for 4th grade summer reading ! Space Case is the first book in this 3-book series about a lunar base on the moon where a group of people called “Moonies” live. When an important scientist is found dead, the main character Dash believes he was murdered. Can he crack this space case?
17. Secret Agent 6th Grader
The adventure begins when Brody Valentine, a totally normal 6th grade kid, hears a secret about his school he shouldn’t have. Now he is part of a special agency at his school to protect the secret and himself! What kind of crazy escapades will he embark on, and who will come looking for him? Find out in this 3-book series written for 4th grade readers.
18. Track Series
Time for some inspiration with this 4-book series about different running athletes on a prestigious middle school track team. Each book focuses on 1 character, their background, personal stories, and the road to success despite physical, mental, and emotional challenges.
19. Big Nate
This 8-book series tells the classic story of a small kid who always ends up accidentally causing problems for himself and others. Nate knows things will go his way soon enough, the fortune cookie told him so! His problems and goofs make a funny book perfect for 4th graders to spend their summer reading.
20. Show Me a Sign
This historical fiction book covers some important topics and questions such as racism, colonialism, what it means to be “able”, and being deaf in the 19th century. There are 6 books in the Scholastic Gold series, covering a range of educational and relevant topics great for your 4th graders to learn from.
21. Front Desk
This is the first book in a 3-part series by the award-winning author Kelly Yang. It follows Mia Tang, a smart and motivated young Asian-American girl as she and her family run a motel and try to help immigrant families that need a safe place to stay. Will Mia be able to keep up her writing, help her family, and keep everyone out of trouble?
22. We’re Not From Here
Earth is as good as nuclear waste and it’s time to look for other options. Planet Choom looks like the best bet for now, so that’s where Lan and his family go. Moving to a new planet has many challenges, not totally unlike how it feels to move from one country to another. Follow along and see how humans can fare with the Zhuri people in this reflective novel for the adventurous reader.
23. The Crossover
A Scott King Award Winner, this 2-book series tackles some hard-hitting issues on and off the basketball court. Two brothers Josh and Jordan work hard to excel in sports, and Josh is exceptional at poetry and verse. Can they rise and stay above the challenges that face their family and community, or will one mistake ruin everything?
24. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
In this classic series by the bestselling author Judy Bloom, Peter and his little brother Fudge are always butting heads in some way. Typical story of an older brother who thinks his little brother gets away with murder. Will the adults ever see Fudge for what he truly is…a menace! Read all about their wacky adventures in this 5-book series.
25. When You Reach Me
Mysterious notes, predictions of death, and the insistence on secrecy make this novel a tantalizing page-turner! This critically acclaimed 3-book series tells the story of Miranda, a 6th grade girl who keeps receiving strange notes telling her to write a true story or something bad will happen. What will she write?
26. Shadow Children: Among the Hidden
In a futuristic world where the Population Police restrict each family to two kids, Luke is his family’s third child. This means he cannot be seen, he has to live a life of invisibility in the shadows. He has been able to do this until he turns 12 and sees another girl in his neighbor’s house where there are already 2 kids. Will they be able to come out of the shadows together?
27. The City of Ember
For fans of post-apocalyptic stories, here is a 4-part series about a city in darkness where the embers of lights are fading. Two young friends Lina and Doon find a secret message they think can save the lights in the city. Will they be able to solve the clues and bring the light back, or will everything fade to black forever?
28. Brown Girl Dreaming
A moving and inspirational piece of writing by Jacqueline Woodson from the perspective of a young African-American girl growing up in the 1960s. She writes in verses that explain her feelings toward the divide between the north and south, Civil Rights ideas, and her love for writing.
29. The Tiger Rising
A classic story of heartache, friendship, and setting things free. Two kids struggling with the loss of their parents meet and embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing together with the help of a mysterious tiger in a cage.
30. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
The perfect 2-book series for 4th graders who love nature and independent reading. Callie is a young girl who adores watching and learning about plants and animals. With help from her naturalist grandpa, she is able to uncover secrets of the world around her and escape from the expectations of being the only girl in a family of 6 boys.
31. The Toothpaste Millionaire
A story of initiative, passion, and drive, great for readers looking for inspiration and information about how to start their own business. Young entrepreneurs Rufus and Kate start their own toothpaste company, and it’s doing great! But running your own business has many challenges they must overcome to manage their money and continue to expand.
Little Reeves or “Junebug” is a 9-year-old boy living in the projects and desperately wants to escape. His dream is to be a ship captain and sail far far away. As his birthday approaches, he fears trouble is lurking just around the corner, so he comes up with a crazy wish that he hopes just might come true.
33. City Spies
This thrilling, action-packed 3-book series is about a hacker named Sara who has the ability to access information and power most adults can’t. Her attempt to out her evil foster parents lands her in a lot of trouble, until one day she is rescued by a secret agent that wants to recruit her for their spy team. Mission on!
34. Count Me In
A modern-day account of how small acts can affect big change in our world. Young Karina is an Indian-American girl who is assaulted along with her grandfather and a boy named Chris because of their skin color. While her grandpa heals, Karina and Chris make it their mission to ensure this racism won’t go unseen. They begin a social media campaign that goes viral and is part of an important movement for justice.
35. One Crazy Summer
Here is a book for your 4th grader to read and discover what it felt like to be a young African-American girl in the 1960s. 3 sisters are taking a trip to visit their mother who abandoned them 7 years ago in California. When they arrive they begin to learn all about the hidden trials and concerns their family and community face.
36. Island of the Blue Dolphins
This book for 4th grade readers tackles some hard issues regarding colonization and Native American history. A young girl Karina, is the only one to survive an invasion from the Europeans on her tribe’s island off the coast of California. She is left to fend for herself for 18 years, dealing with the aftermath of her people’s demise.
37. Kimchi and Calamari
A middle school assignment about ancestry brings up a lot of personal issues for young Joseph. He was adopted from Korea when he was a baby and doesn’t know anything about his family history. Read along as he goes on a journey of self-discovery and understanding what “family” means to him.
38. How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay
In this excellent book about family and culture, Miguel has to move to Vermont after his parents get divorced. When he arrives he also gets another surprise, his eccentric aunt Tia Lola has come to help out his mom with the new house. Her visit turns into an exciting and somewhat overwhelming dose of the culture he has missed out on for most of his life.
39. Gold Rush Girl
A thrilling novel of American historical fiction set in the 1800s, starring a young girl Tory, and her ship captain father, and little brother. Tory’s father is on a search for gold that leads their ship to San Francisco. Tory was not allowed to come along, but she sneaks aboard and makes the trip. Trouble ensues for the family when her brother gets kidnapped and she must rescue him.
40. Miles Morales: Shock Waves
Miles is not only a middle school student, he is also Spiderman! In this graphic novel series by Marvel, Miles must help save his mother’s hometown after a terrible earthquake. While organizing a fundraiser, a man goes missing, and it seems that a big corporation is behind it all. Will Miles/Superman be able to figure out how everything is connected and save the day?
This award-winning fantasy story features Max, a young boy with lots of questions he wants to be answered. He hears there is a mythical gatekeeper who can show you the futures of tomorrow, and he desperately wants to learn more about his estranged mother. With his compass, and legends to guide his way, will he be able to find what he is searching for?
42. Me and My Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Understanding and Expressing Themselves
Your young reader’s guide to understanding their big emotions, and learning how to deal with them in healthy and constructive ways. It can be overwhelming being a kid and trying to process and control how we feel. This book explains strategies of breathing and communicating that can help kids feel more comfortable with how they feel.
43. Weird Little Robots
The perfect read for science-loving 4th graders and kids who like to tinker and build things! Young Penny-Rose loves making little robots, and for the most part, they are her only friends. Until she meets Lark and joins an awesome science club! Things start to get weird when she discovers her robots are alive. What will this mean for her new science social circle?
44. Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive!
This fun and informative nature facts book is inspired by the game where you say 3 things, 2 of them being true and 1 being false. This 3-book series is jam-packed with unbelievable tales of insane plants and animals with characteristics almost too absurd to believe. Can you and your 4th grade friends figure out which claims are true and which are made up?
45. Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field
An inspiring journal-style novel from the perspective of Peter Lee and his notes about dinosaurs, his sick grandmother, and his annoying know-it-all little sister. Will his dreams of becoming a paleontologist be put on hold to find out more information to save his granny Hammy?
The perfect novel for your 4th grade summer reading list . Maggie is a young girl with a preoccupied family getting ready for a new baby and taking care of her twin younger brothers. She really wants a puppy, but learns at the pet store that she is super allergic! Can she find a way to get a furry friend and not break out in terribly itchy rashes?
47. Rescue at Lake Wild
A book for animal lovers with caring and determined hearts. Madi is a young girl who loves rescuing animals in need, and she is good at it. It’s almost like she has a sixth sense for animals in danger. One day she finds two orphaned beaver kits in need of care, but there is more to their story, like who killed their mother and why is their habitat disappearing?
48. The Midnight Gang
This absurd and creative novel brings dreams to life in the children’s sick ward. A hit in the head sends Tom to the hospital where the nurses are mean and the food is bland. Little does he know what sorts of exciting mischiefs the other kids get into when the lights go out.
49. The Animal Rescue Agency: Case File: Little Claws
This bestselling 2-book series tells the story of a sly fox named Esquire who is good at completing dangerous top-secret missions. She’s used to going on chicken raids until she meets an old chicken named Mr. Pepper that changes her heart. They decide to form the Animal Rescue Agency and protect animals in danger. Who knew this would put them against the scariest animals of all, humans.
50. Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring
This inspiring and impactful novel tells the story of a young girl Paloma, who is going to Mexico for the first time to visit the hometown of her father who recently died. While she is there she sets out on a mission to find a lost ring that once belonged to Frida Kahlo, her father’s favorite artist.
A book in the companion series called Smile, by award-winning author Raina Telgemeier, tells her experiences growing up with a little sister. Siblings are never what you expect, especially when they don’t turn out how you were hoping. But when trouble enters their parent’s relationship, these sisters find more ways to relate and come together to save their family.
52. Trouble Town: Squirrel Do Bad
This 2-part graphic novel series stars little Wendy the Wanderer, who has an overprotective dad that never lets her out alone. One day he leaves and Wendy is left in the care of a very relaxed babysitter. It’s time for Wendy to explore, finally! She goes out into her quirky town to discover what there is to see and learn.
53. A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu, and You
A wacky facts book about all things gross, tiny, majestic, and colorful, perfect for readers who want to learn about the world. This fun encyclopedia for kids, has tons of cute pictures, blurbs, diagrams, and descriptions for things you may have heard of, but don’t really know all the goods about.
54. John Lincoln Clem: Civil War Drummer Boy
Based on a true account of little Johnny, a 9-year-old boy that sneaks on a train with a Union regiment heading to fight in the Civil War. The soldiers take him in and make him their drummer boy. Read and learn about how Johnny survived battles, illness, and capture from the Confederates.
55. Once Upon a Tim
Set in medieval times, this 2-book series tells the valiant story of Tim, a young peasant who dreams of becoming a knight. He will do whatever it takes to make his dream come true. So when the princess is taken by the evil Stinx, Tim sees his chance to join the royal legion of knights and change his fate.
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Reading Middle Grade
Books for Kids and Grown Ups
Short Books for 4th Graders
With the boom in books for older middle schoolers (doesn’t it feel like all the middle grade book protagonists are 12 years old?), books for older elementary schoolers and younger middle schoolers can be harder to find. In particular, short books for 4th graders seem to be few and far between.
Typically, 4th graders are itching for longer books than the early readers and chapter books 2nd and 3rd graders love. I usually recommend slightly advanced chapter books and young middle grade books with younger protagonists, a younger voice, and age-appropriate content. That’s what you’ll find on this list of short middle grade books — with the added qualifier that nearly all the books on this list are under 200 pages long!
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📚 Disclaimer in the books: Just so you know, Reading Middle Grade uses affiliate links. This means that when you shop via the links in our posts, we may earn a cent or two at no extra cost to you. Thanks for adding to our book buying fund.
The Lemonade War
Published: April 23, 2007
Evan and Jessie Treski are siblings 14 months apart. Evan has great people skills, while Jessie seems to be on the spectrum and struggles with understanding social cues. However, she’s very book-smart. She knows math and is business savvy. Every summer, the siblings do a lemonade stand — a highlight for Jessie. This year, though, after finding out that Jessie is skipping a grade into the fourth grade with him, Evan seems to be mad at her. He’s even teaming up with another classmate to sell lemonade and leaving Jessie out.
Before the kids know it, they’re in an all-out war to see who makes the most profit. I loved all the business tips in this book, and I know some people dislike books with sibling drama, but this one explores some important emotional themes, and Evan and Jessie eventually find their way to each other again. 184 pages
Lolo Weaver Swims Upstream
Published: April 25, 2023
Willow (Lolo) Weaver’s summer is not going well. Her grandfather has recently died, her grandma isn’t herself, and she’s given away her grandfather’s foster dog, Hank. Lolo’s mother is heavily pregnant, and Lolo is in summer school because she didn’t do too well in her last exams. On top of that, their lake town isn’t a lake town anymore because the lake’s been drained and smells awful now.
Lolo wants to help her grandmother feel better, and she’s convinced that getting back her grandfather’s dog will do the trick. The only problem is that the dog now belongs to someone else. So Lolo gets on Pop’s boat to steal Hank back—only to run into her summer school classmate, Noah (who’s the new dog owner).
This book is perfect for read-alouds, especially for kids in grades 3-5. Dog lovers and kids who like a good adventure with a sprinkle of mischief will love it too. 169 pages.
Fourth Grade Rats
Published: August 1, 2012
Suds is a new fourth grader and, according to their popular school chant, a Fourth Grade Rat! According to his friend Joey, fourth-graders are braver, say no to their moms, and fourth-grade boys definitely do not cry over heights or spiders. When Suds tries Joey’s tips, though, things don’t go right. I loved the narrative voice in this one and the way it manages to be funny while being an important story about what it means to be a man. It also has cute black-and-white illustrations to keep the story going. 99 pages.
Published: September 20, 2022
280 pages (verse-ish novel with very short chapters)
Odder loves to play. She loves her home in the California waters and is unafraid to take risks–until she’s attacked by a great white shark. After the attack, Odder and her friend (a fellow otter) are taken in by some scientists who rehabilitate the animals. Soon, they make Odder a surprising offer that will change her life. Based on the real-life experiences of some otters, this book surprised me pleasantly. The audiobook is so delightful, with a full cast and sound effects. It’s perfect for this age group!
Published: September 19, 2023
384 pages (super short chapters and illustrations)
Chance is a three-legged dog at the Dogtown shelter, where able-bodied dogs and robot dogs compete for attention. Thankfully, management has sort of adopted her as the house dog. When a new robot dog, Metal Head, comes to the pound, things start to change. First off, he’s determined to run away (return home). So he hatches a plan with Chance and her mouse best friend to help an older dog get adopted in exchange for helping him escape.
But things do not go to plan, and Chance, her mouse friend, and Metal Head spend a night on the streets on an emotional adventure. As someone who isn’t into animal books, I’m shocked by how much I liked this one. It’s charming, beautifully plotted, and full of suspense, heartwarming characters, and plenty of heart. It also has sweet illustrations and very short chapters. The audiobook is fantastic, with a jingle to introduce each chapter.
Published: October 1, 1996
122 pages .
Nick Allen becomes an unwitting local icon when he starts calling the pen a frindle. This is such a fun, fun book about the power of words and being creative! Great for introducing kids to chapter books and absolutely delightful!
Too Small Tola
Published: March 2, 2021
Too Small Tola is a new chapter book from Atinuke featuring three stories about a girl living with her grandmother and siblings in Lagos, Nigeria. Everyone teases Tola — sometimes lovingly — for being so small. They think she can’t lift heavy loads or do other things because of her size. But Tola’s grandmother reassures her that you can be small, but mighty, and Tola proves that she is!
Readers who appreciate an international appeal and enjoy books about bullying and grandparent and sibling relationships will enjoy this one. Bonus points for fans of illustrated stories, as this one is well illustrated.
PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together
Published: March 8, 2022
Best friends Gabby Jordan, Priya Gupta, and Mindy Park share one big thing in common: they love animals, but neither of them can have pets for one reason or another. So they decide to start a dog walking business. Unfortunately, running a business and nurturing a three-way friendship isn’t as easy as they anticipated, and soon they start to bicker more than usual.
I truly loved this graphic novel. It feels true to kids (feels like something I would’ve LOVED as a child who adored The Babysitters’ Club), and I enjoyed seeing the ethnic diversity and the parental involvement in this story. If you have kids who love animals or have an entrepreneurial streak, this is the book for them. It’s also delightfully short, and this is a series I totally plan to keep up with since every book is from a different girl’s perspective.
Ways to Make Sunshine (Ryan Hart #1)
Published: April 28, 2020
Ryan Hart and her family are moving to a new (old) house because her dad lost his post office job, and his new job doesn’t pay as much. Ryan is unhappy about the change for many reasons. Still, throughout this slice-of-life book, Ryan learns how to believe in herself, enjoy public speaking, be a bigger person, and love who she is. This is the first book in a charming series that’s perfect for kids who love Ramona Quimby.
Twig and Turtle: Big Move to a Tiny House
Published: October 20, 2020
Twig and Turtle are two sisters whose parents have just moved into a tiny house! The family has done some major downsizing — the kids even had to choose just five toys they could keep, and now they have to clean up after playing with their toys. Both girls are also adjusting to a new neighborhood and new school.
Turtle, the younger girl, seems to be adjusting well at school, making friends, and having a good time. But for the older girl, Twig, things are a bit harder. She’s self-conscious about having few clothes in rotation and being new in general. Twig is also missing their Great Dane, Bo, whom they had to leave at their Grandma’s because of the tiny house. Twig decides that she will convince her mother to let Bo move in with them again.
Stef Soto, Taco Queen
Published: January 17, 2017
Stef Soto is a middle-schooler whose family owns a taco truck, Tia Perla. Like most kids her age would be, Stef finds Tia Perla embarrassing, especially as her once-best friend Julia won’t stop teasing her about smelling like tacos. When new food truck regulations threaten her family’s business, Stef realizes just how much Tia Perla means to her. She also learns to be proud of who she is and to appreciate the good friends in her life.
I loved Stef Soto, Taco Queen, and would highly recommend it to food lovers , readers who enjoy books about the immigrant experience , and anyone whose parents have worked hard so they can pursue their dreams. Stef Soto, Taco Queen is an engaging, heartfelt, and delicious middle-grade novel.
Hans Christian Andersen Lives Next Door
Published: September 5, 2023
Andie Gladman is just trying to make it through elementary school in her small town while avoiding the class bully. She likes poetry but hasn’t felt brave enough to write hers. Until one day, a man named Hans Christian Andersen moves in next door. Andie is convinced he is THE Hans Christian Andersen.
She’s suddenly inspired to write poetry inspired by his fairy tales and shares them with him, and her world starts to brighten, but when she brings him to school for show and tell, she’s in for a rude awakening. This book was so funny. Andie is a bit odd and awkward, but readers will empathize with her desire to connect with something bigger. It’s super short and maybe not for everyone, but kids who like to write or enjoy clever, funny books will like it.
Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion
Published: September 27, 2022
Ruby is an 11-year-old future entomologist who loves studying insects and playing video games with her neighborhood friends. When she sees a strange bug in her bedroom and shares a picture of it on social media, suspicious agents appear at her door to re-capture the now missing insect.
Soon, all the metal in her neighborhood begins to disappear as Ruby and her friends realize there’s more to the strange bug. This was a lot of fun and will appeal to fans of STEM stories and books about robots.
Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel
Published: May 14, 2009
Dyamonde Daniel may be new in town, but that doesn’t stop her from making a place for herself in a jiffy. With her can-do attitude and awesome brain power, she takes the whole neighborhood by storm. The only thing puzzling her is the other new kid in her class. He’s awfully grouchy – but Dyamonde’s determined to get to the bottom of his frowning attitude and make a friend. Dyamonde is quite outspoken (not rude, just very forward), so if you don’t like sassy characters, you might not love this one.
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero
Published: August 18, 2020
Isaiah’s father has died, leaving behind Isaiah, his mom, and his younger sister, Charlie. Isaiah’s mom is so depressed she’s lost her job — and started drinking too many bottles of wine. Isaiah realizes that they need money if they’ll ever move out of the motel where they’ve had to live since being unable to pay for their home.
Thankfully, Isaiah has his father’s books of poems (even if his own words won’t come anymore), his best friend Sneaky who sells candy at school (and lets Isaiah be his business partner), and the kind people who look out for him once they realize he’s in need. In the end, will Isaiah be the hero of his story?
Perfect Pitch (Good Sports League #2)
Published: September 12, 2023
Annabella Donatello has many interests, but her top two are playing softball and acting! And now, she’s getting to act in her school’s rendition of The Lion King. But her coach says that Annabella must prioritize her team over other interests or lose her place on the team, so when a softball team meeting coincides with the school play, Annabella is in a fix.
This is the second book in a fun sports series for younger readers, and it’s a great depiction of overloaded kids and schedule wrangling. There’s also some friendship drama and a narrative arc about being honest. It’s very light-hearted and feel-good with a delightful omnipresent narrator.
Published: November 9, 2021
Austin’s mom keeps moving them whenever life gets hard, but now he’s in a new school with a nice teacher and a welcoming new friend. Unfortunately, Austin has a secret: he can’t read. He wants to become a part of the Safety Squad in his school, but he’ll need to read the manual to qualify. This is a bit of a quirky read but heartwarming book. I wish some plotlines were properly resolved at the end, but I think most kids will enjoy it regardless.
Maya and the Robot
Published: July 13, 2021
Maya and the Robot is Eve L. Ewing’s debut middle grade book. It centers a young Black girl, Maya, who’s entering the fifth grade. She’s disappointed when she’s placed in a different class than her two best friends, Jada and MJ. Quickly, it seems like they’re forming a new friend group and barely spending time with her, especially since they don’t even have the same lunch period. But things begin to look up when Maya finds a broken-down robot in the neighborhood store where she helps out. After setting the robot up to work, Maya suddenly has a new best friend, but how long will this last? And what happens when the robot, Ralph, malfunctions?
Readers should know that this book mentions a racially motivated shooting, although the scene is not depicted on the page.
The Terrible Two
Published: January 9, 2018
224 pages .
Miles is devastated to be moving from his town to another one called Yawnee Valley. He loved his town, had good friends, and, most importantly, was well-known as the best prankster around. When he arrives in Yawnee Valley, he immediately discovers that there’s already a superb prankster there — with a secret identity no less. When Miles gets out-pranked by the Yawnee Valley prankster, it starts a prank war between both kids until they decide to join forces.
At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with getting ready for a new baby, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie loves animals and thinks a new puppy to call her own is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She’s severely allergic to anything with fur!
Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd uses inspiration from her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong.
There they are: 20 of the best short books for 4th graders! Which of these books have your 4th graders read and loved? What did I miss?
More 4th Grade Books
- The best books for 4th graders
- Great books for 10 year olds
- Good books for 9 year olds
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- About Afoma Umesi
Afoma Umesi is the founder and editor of Reading Middle Grade where she curates book lists and writes book reviews for kids of all ages. Her favorite genre to read is contemporary realistic fiction and she'll never say no to a graphic novel.
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October 19, 2023 at 3:17 pm
Great options here! I also often recommend The Area 51 Files as a shorter read for 4th grade readers.
October 20, 2023 at 4:09 am
Oooh I haven’t read those. Will check them out, thank you!
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30 Best Middle Grade Books of 2023 (That Kids Will Love)
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Are you ready for my favorite best middle grade books of 2023? After reading over two hundred books, I’ve chosen my top middle grade picks from this year in the genres of fantasy, historical fiction, animal adventure, realistic fiction, mystery, adventure, and paranormal for ages 9 to 12.
Using my background as a lifelong reader, an elementary teacher with an M.A. in Education, a mom of two, and a book reviewer for over 15 years, I evaluate middle grade books on the following criteria:
- Interesting story
- Good pacing (that makes me want to keep reading)
- Excellent writing
- Middle-grade age-appropriate
- New or fresh approach to a theme or topic
Comment and let me know which middle grade books you loved this year!
Best Middle Grade Books of 2023
Things in the Basement by Ben Hatke FANTASY / GRAPHIC NOVEL 240 pages I adore this beautifully drawn and narrated adventure set in the world of…the basement! When Milo’s baby sister loses her special pink knit sock, he searches for it in the basement. The basement leads Milo to another basement, and then another basement, and to a whole labyrinth of basement worlds. He befriends a friendly skull named Chuckles, an eyeball creature named Weepie, and a ghost named Belle. Milo uses the sock’s yarn, help from his ghost friend, and his problem-solving skills to rescue his friends from the Gobbler and return home with the pink sock. This is a fantastical, magical journey of friendship , kindness , and secret worlds!
Travis Daventhorpe by Wes Molebash FANTASY / GRAPHIC NOVEL 288 pages Travis is a science-loving kid with an intelligent robot named Travbot who flies. After pulling a sword from a stone, Travis learns that he’s the prophesied hero who will defeat the evil Nol Invictus. Add in a black-hand birthmark, portals between the worlds, video-game-like character profiles, terrible swordsmanship, and intelligent dialogue, and you have a super-compelling, totally hilarious story.
Three Tasks for a Dragon by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by P.J. Lynch FANTASY 112 pages In a short middle grade novel that feels like high fantasy, our hero, Prince Lir, is tricked by his stepmom and stepbrother, a dark sorcerer, to forfeit his kingdom and embark on a quest to rescue a girl supposedly kidnapped by a dragon. Prince Lir uses his wits to avoid death by solving the dragon’s problems, like cave mold and a broken wing…and he stays alive. When the dragon fails to kill Prince Lir, the evil stepbrother arrives to do it himself. But the girl, Cethlenn, calls the wolfhounds to herself, and they save Lir just before the stepbrother dies, cursing Lir and the dragon and freezing Cethleen. Wonderfully complex language, vivid imagery, and lovely world-building, this book transports readers into a magical world of good versus evil. Will our heroes get a happy ending?
Misfit Mansion by Kay Davault July review written by my daughter Jemma Taylor FANTASY / GRAPHIC NOVEL 304 pages MISFIT MANSION is a heartwarming story about what it means to be family, even if you’re not related by blood. The “horrors” who live at the titular mansion have been told that it’s too dangerous to venture outside into the human world. But a young creature named Iris wants to give humans another chance. If you’re looking for a book about found family, learning from prejudice, and friendship, I cannot recommend MISFIT MANSION enough.
Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef FANTASY 416 pages One of the best books of 2023, the layered storytelling, plot twists, and surprises made it impossible to put down. After Marjan’s father dies, she’s alone and the owner of her dad’s veterinary practice, even though she’s only a sophomore in high school. When she’s asked to help a sick gryffin, she’s shocked to discover her father’s secret job as a mythical creature vet. She tries to unravel the lies and secrets in her father’s life, including if he was murdered, but the world of magical creatures is confusing and filled with trickery. Woven within the narrative story are her father’s Iranian folktales about mythical creatures, starting with “ Once was, once wasn’t. ” I loved the surprising ending, too.
Skyriders by Polly Holyoke FANTASY 304 pages Kie is a courier for the kingdom, riding on her skyrider, a small but fast winged horse. Her Uncle taught her the old ways of fighting the chimerae. Fearing a full chimarae invasion, her uncle sends Kie to the capital to convince the leaders to use the old ways of fighting. But she’s dismissed by the leaders who insist on their new ways — which will eventually get them killed. Meanwhile, Kie learns she can mindspeak to all skyrider steeds which helps when she and her friends (including the prince and princess) must save the city themselves. Readers will love this exciting story with an interesting plot and a brave but reluctant heroine. (I couldn’t put it down!)
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Realistic Middle Grade
The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett REALISTIC 336 pages (For this book review, I’m not going to tell you too much about the story– because it would spoil your reading experience.) Kemi adores her close-knit family, her African American artist mom, her baby sister, a baby sibling on the way, and most of all, her beloved Nigerian dad. When an asteroid threatens everyone on Earth with imminent death, Kemi and her family leave for her cousins’ house, where she starts a time capsule. The exceptional storytelling is emotional (I cried SO MUCH) and important with themes of family, racism, and values. A must-read, must-experience-for-yourself-kind-of book.
The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla 336 pages REALISTIC Maudie is an autistic girl staying with her father for the summer, but a California fire forces them from their cabin. She and her dad head south to where her dad grew up. A friend sets them up in an old camper at a campground near the beach. While her dad looks for work, Maudie works up her courage to ask an older surfer woman for lessons. She spends the summer worrying about her big secret and learning to surf, hoping to win the beginning surfer competition at the end of the summer. Maudie makes a new friend who is friendly and neurodiverse like her. All of these things help her consider that she is more than what her mom and her abusive stepdad think of her. This is a moving coming of age story of a girl who learns to thrive instead of survive.
Not an Easy Win by Chrystal B. Giles REALISTIC FICTION 256 pages The strong first-person voice draws you into Lawrence’s life, starting right after he’s been beaten up by a group of bullies, blamed for the fighting, and kicked out of the mostly-white school. His mom doesn’t care, and his granny doesn’t believe him. In fact, his Granny tells him he can’t stick around the house. An older neighbor takes Lawrence to his work at the local rec center where Lawrence helps him, does online school, and learns how to play chess . Playing chess requires focus and control, not just in the game but with his emotions, too–even when a kid at the rec center steals his stuff. Through the wisdom of his neighbor and learning to focus on chess, Lawrence finds purpose and inner fortitude that leads to his success in life and in chess. The writing is engaging; I couldn’t put this book down.
Something Like Home by Andrea Beatriz Arango REALISTIC / VERSE / FOSTER CARE 256 pages In this emotional novel in verse, Laura’s parents are in drug rehab, and she’s in foster care with an aunt she doesn’t know. She longs to go home to her parents. When she sees an abused puppy in a cage for free, she takes it home and names it Sparrow. She’s not permitted to visit her parents, but when she learns that the rehab clinic accepts therapy dogs, she starts training Sparrow. Her friend at school has sickle cell and is hospitalized, so she sneaks her dog to cheer him up. Then, her parents leave rehab early, and things seem worse than ever. This moving story is about family and healing and includes a nonbinary therapist and a mention of girls dating.
Hidden Truths by Elly Swartz REALISTIC 272 pages On a camping trip, the camper catches fire, confining Dani to a wheelchair with months of PT appointments ahead. She’s angry that she won’t get to play on the boys’ baseball team. Her best friend Eric worries that the fire is his fault if he forgot to turn off the stove. When he confesses to Dani his worries, it ruins their friendship. Dani’s new friend calls Eric a loser and bullies him on social media while Eric tries to fix things. I loved this unique plot of relatable friendship woes! This is a memorable story of friendship, growing up, and forgiveness.
Dust by Dusti Bowling REALISTIC / FOOD ALLERGIES 352 pages Avalyn, a spelling bee fanatic, lives in dry Arizona, which is supposed to be better for her asthma–until Adam moves to town, bringing pain and throat-clogging, asthma-attack-inducing dust storms. She wonders if her superpower is sensing energy– like Adam’s negative energy. As she investigates and observes Adam, she and her friends continue to be relentlessly bullied at school. She is also struggling with the challenges that come with food and environmental allergies. This story deftly addresses abuse, bullying, asthma, and allergies. The end pages also have discussion questions which will be helpful for book clubs .
No Place Like Home by James Bird REALISTIC / HOMELESSNESS / OJIBWE 320 pages Beautiful character development, vivid details, and a strong narrative voice draw you into this story about homelessness, Ojibwe culture, growing up, family, and the love of a dog . Based on James’ childhood, Opin is a sweet, hopeful boy who lives with his mom and his older brother in their car, traveling from city to city. He adores his mother, but he’s scared of his angry, violent older brother, who comes and goes as he pleases. When Opin finds a hurt dog, the love of a dog fills a friend void for Opin–until his brother takes the dog away. Despite the challenges of Opin’s life, beauty and joy are threaded throughout this compelling story that is one of the best of 2023. *Sensitive readers, there are a few swear words.
Finally Seen by Kelly Yang REALISTIC 304 pages ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS of 2023 , this middle-grade novel explores the complexities of human beings, the importance of books as mirrors and doors, the challenges of immigration, the realities of racism, and book banning. Lina’s lived with her Lao Lao for the last five years, but she moves to join her dad, mom, and little sister in LA when her beloved Lao Lao moves to a nursing home. She’s surprised that her family is struggling financially, she feels embarrassed when she speaks English (so she stops speaking,) and she feels hurt when a classmate writes mean things about her on the bathroom wall. Even still, Lina’s bright spots are a kind ESL teacher, the graphic novels she reads, and her new friends, Finn and Carla.
Saving H’Non Chang and the Elephant by Trang Nguyen and Jeet Zdung EPISTOLARY GRAPHIC NOVEL / ANIMAL RESCUE 128 pages Written like a graphic novel combined with a scrapbook, this true story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming with a beautiful emotional arc. In first-person narration, Chang describes working at a wildlife rescue center in Vietnam and meeting an abused older elephant named H’Non. She and her boss save him from maltreatment and search for a kind trainer to work with H’Non. As you cheer Chang along, you’ll learn about Vietnam, elephants, and animal rescue work. The illustrations are detailed, gorgeous, and memorable. You won’t want to miss this exceptional middle grade graphic novel with four starred reviews. It belongs in every school library!
Farther Than the Moon by Lindsay Lackey REALISTIC / SPACE / CEREBRAL PALSY 336 pages Houston wants to find a way for his brother Robbie to go to space even though there’s never been an astronaut with CP. Houston leaves Robbie behind for space camp where he meets his astronaut grandfather for the first time –and is rejected. After a week of fighting with his fellow crewmates, Houston gets surprising advice from the person he least expects–about taking responsibility for his actions and putting the crew first. This story will help you see someone as MORE than their disability and make you think bigger about inclusivity for all the Earth’s crew. This middle-grade gem is filled with wisdom, heartfelt writing, and relatable and interesting characters. It’s hands down one of the best middle grade books I’ve read this year with MUCH NEEDED representation.
How to Stay Invisible by Maggie C. Rudd REALISTIC 240 pages Raymond’s neglectful parents abandon him completely, so he takes his dog Rosie, and they camp in the woods behind his middle school. He survives on his own, foraging in dumpsters and fishing for food while attending school. When a playful coyote hurts Rosie, he meets an old man who helps them both — which is especially significant because it’s over the Christmas break when he can’t get dumpster food from school. Raymond doesn’t want to tell anyone, including the old man or his two friends at school, what he’s surviving, but the truth comes out when another boy discovers his campsite, and a snake bite almost kills him. HOW TO STAY INVISIBLE is a powerful story of grit, survival , and longing for family. I couldn’t put it down.
What Happened to Rachel Riley? by Claire Swinarski CONTEMPORARY / SEXUAL HARASSMENT Stunning, thought-provoking, and anger-inducing, this is a superbly written story about an ostracized middle school girl and the new student determined to figure out why…It’s about sexual harassment and negligent teachers (and administration) who seemingly don’t care or pay attention when girls are getting touched without consent. It’s about when what happens makes you feel shame and fear and the path out of that shame toward justice and empowerment. It’s about change IF we take action to shape the future, not sit and wait for people to start behaving better. A recommended read for middle school book clubs and everyone in middle school!
Match Point by Maddie Gallegos review written by my daughter Jemma Tayor REALISTIC ( GRAPHIC NOVEL ) 256 pages Match Point by Maddie Gallegos is one of my favorite books I’ve read in the past year, with a cute style, wholesome story, and a message about the importance of communication. They also integrate ASL into the book in a really natural and interesting way for the graphic novel medium. Rosie’s dad wants her to become the racquetball champion, but she hates the sport. When she meets Blair, a cool girl her age who plays as well, she finally starts to learn how to have fun with the game again.
Rare Birds by Jeff Miller REALISTIC / SAD 288 pages Graham’s mom moves them to Florida to wait for a heart transplant. When his mom gets approved, Graham stays with his mom’s friend and his angry son. Fortunately, at the hospital, he befriends a girl named Lou. When he finds his mom’s rare bird journal, Lou helps him search for the last bird on the list–the Snail Kite. But because there’s prize money for finding the bird, bully kids not only thwart them but endanger them–stranding Lou and Graham in a swamp with a giant alligator and no cell service. The friends’ search is filled with challenges, which they face with bravery and determination, including the truth about Lou. I loved the two-page chapter lengths and the emotional story of friendship and family that will make you cry .
Mystery Middle Grade
Night Raven: The Moonwind Mysteries written by Johan Rundberg, translated by A.A. Prime HISTORICAL MYSTERY 181 pages An excellent, page-turning mystery set in 1880s Sweden about an orphan girl named Mika whose survival skills include an eye for detail, connections, and deductions! After an abandoned baby is dropped into her arms in the middle of the night, a police detective recruits her to assist him in identifying a dead body and then investigating a prison cell — all in pursuit of a copycat serial killer. But Mika realizes it’s not a copycat. In a dangerous game of cat and mouse, she and the detective need to avoid the corrupt prison officials and the serial killer. This observant heroine is my favorite kind — resourceful, aspirational, and interesting. I can’t wait for more books in the series. (Sensitive readers: Includes the word cr*p.)
Beneath the Swirling Sky (The Restorationists) written by Carolyn Leiloglou, illustrated by Vivienne To FANTASY 305 pages Sent to his great-uncle’s house for the summer, Vincent learns his family’s big secret when his little sister Lili wanders INTO a painting–and doesn’t come out! His cousin Georgia leads him through paintings, corridors, and museums to find Lili while explaining their family’s talent –traveling into artwork to protect the art from nefarious travelers. They track Lili but are captured, too. Fast-paced and exciting with unique world-building, this art-filled , faith-implied, illustrated adventure will captivate readers from cover to cover.
Paranormal Middle Grade
Brick Dust and Bones by M.R. Forunet GHOST STORY 247 pages Marius Grey is a 12-year-old Cajun Cemetery Boy and student. But he’s also working nights as a monster hunter to earn mystic coins for a really important spell that will bring his mother back to life…and time is running out. In desperation, Marius decides to hunt one of the most dangerous monsters in the swamp, a rougarou, even though his only friend, a monstrous mermaid, doesn’t want Marius to risk his life. The story is compelling and entertaining, with a heroic main character who loves his mom more than anything. You won’t be able to put this one down!
Zombie Season #1 by Justin Weinberger PARANORMAL 240 pages This zombie story zips along with intrigue, adventure, and humor. Narrated from the perspective of three kids from the same town: one who is out after the DUSK ALERT searching for her missing dad, the other who is trying to atone for her failed zombie experiment and the last one whose parents force him to flee. When their stories converge, it’s after one meets a sentient zombie and one sees a mutated gigantic zombie who seems unstoppable. The hoard is growing and attacking with planning– and it’s not looking good for humans.
Bite Risk by S.J. Wells PARANORMAL 320 pages One of the MOST EXCITING first chapters I’ve ever read!! We’re dropped into a city where the children cage the adults and teens who turn into “Rippers,” carrying tranq guns just in case one of them escapes. Ansel “Sel” and his best friend Elena usually play cards these long babysitting nights with an old man who is one of the only adults who doesn’t turn into a Ripper. He helps them piece together the clues about a sinister plot, murder, and entrapment. I loved the non-stop action and exciting plot.
Historical Fiction Middle Grade of 2023
Nothing Else But Miracles by Kate Albus HISTORICAL FICTION Set in New York City, this is a marvelous historical fiction story about family, community, and survival. Dory’s pop leaves to fight in World War II, assuring Dory and her younger and older brother that the neighborhood will give them what they need. And that’s true–at first, even though they miss their pops. When their new landlord realizes they are living without an adult, he calls social services on them. Refusing to be separated from her siblings, Dory finds a perfect new home– a secret hotel accessible only by dumb waiter, right about their favorite restaurant. A masterpiece of storytelling.
Once In a Blue Moon by Sharon G. Flake 336 pages HISTORICAL FICTION / VERSE James Henry hasn’t left the house in months. His twin sister Hattie encourages him to start small so they can be ready for the upcoming blue moon and a visit to the Lighthouse. When James Henry eventually ventures outside to go to the lighthouse, their trip is fraught with dangers, including mean neighbor kids and racist men. Surprisingly, the perils draw James Henry farther and farther out of his shell, especially when his sister needs him, and we learn what happened that traumatized him. This lovingly written verse novel set in the historical South is a masterpiece of forgiveness, healing, and family bonds. I loved everything about this middle grade novel!
Sky Full of Song by Susan Lynn Meyer HISTORICAL FICTION 272 pages Shoshana, her mom, and her siblings flee Jewish persecution in Ukraine in 1905 for North Dakota to a mud house on the plains with her father and brother. But being Jewish isn’t always accepted, even in this new country. And Shoshana wants to fit in so much that she agrees to participate in the Christmas activities. Ultimately, Shoshana learns (with a little help from her sister Libke) to be proud of being Jewish, even when others don’t accept her. Stunning writing with a loveable main character makes this favorite middle grade book of 2023.
Animal Adventure Middle Grade
Scurry by Mac Smith ANIMAL ADVENTURE / GRAPHIC NOVEL I love the art in this graphic novel about a post-apocalyptic time with no humans and only animals. The house mice are scrounging to survive from what the humans left, but there isn’t enough food for their community. When our hero Wix leaves to scout more food, he discovers the rat’s betrayal, dangerous predators, including hawks and crows, and a strange beaver kingdom. It’s an epic animal adventure of danger, bravery, and exploration!
One and Only Ruby by Katherine Applegate ANIMAL STORY 240 pages Even though her aunties are excited, Ruby is dreading Tuskday because she associates tusks with the pain of hunters. She tells her uncles (Bob and Ivan) about her life before, her life in Africa when she was happy and loved until hunters slaughtered her herd. After that, Ruby was rescued and cared for by a kind man, then captured again by greedy black-market animal traders and sent to the zoo in the mall, where they met. Also, Ruby shares that she misses her beloved auntie Stella. Ruby’s new aunties help her honor Stella, and it helps Ruby realize that Stella was with her all along…and that she IS ready for the Tuskday growing up ceremony. One of the best middle grade books of 2023– and a beautiful addition to the series.
Adventure Middle Grade
The Wildes: The Amazon by Roland Smith ADVENTURE 240 pages Set in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, two siblings are with their conservationist scientist mom, who is reintroducing Golden lion tamarins (GLTs) into the wild. But, when their mom doesn’t return to base camp, the kids discover that she’s been kidnapped. The siblings, their bumbling tutor, and an indigenous (Kayapo) man follow the kidnappers’ trail to the mining area…and start investigating the mining camp under the pretense of tourists whose dad is sick. Great writing, excellent plotting, and a fascinating story, plus lots of information about the Amazon and endangered animals make this a standout middle grade book recommendation for 2023!
Best Picture Books of 2023
Best Nonfiction Books of 2023
Melissa Taylor, MA, is the creator of Imagination Soup. She's a mother, former teacher & literacy trainer, and freelance education writer. She writes Imagination Soup and freelances for publications online and in print, including Penguin Random House's Brightly website, USA Today Health, Adobe Education, Colorado Parent, and Parenting. She is passionate about matching kids with books that they'll love.
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- Picture Book Brain
42 New and Noteworthy Narrative Nonfiction Books for 4th Grade
- March 9, 2022
Looking for the best narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade kids? These narrative nonfiction picture books for 4th grade students will be engaging for your students! Books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about various topics such as historical figures, historical events and more for your fourth graders. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new books!
You can also check out other narrative non-fiction books for other grades in addition to my favorite narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade here.
If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community , you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!
Planting stories: the life of librarian and storyteller pura belpré by anika denise.
An inspiring picture book biography of Latin American storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian , who championed bilingual literature.
When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Planting Stor ies: The Life Of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré HERE
Without Separation by Larry Dane Brimner
Roberto Alvarez’s world changed the day he could no longer attend Lemon Grove Grammar School in the small, rural community where he lived near San Diego, California. He and the other Mexican American students were told they had to go to a new, separate school—one where they would not hold back the other students. But Roberto and the other students and their families believed the new school’s real purpose was to segregate, to separate. They didn’t think that was right, or just, or legal. One of my new favorite diverse picture books that looks at how another group of families fought to end segregation of schools. When many students have already heard about Ruby Bridges, this new look at a different fight to end segregation make it one of the best narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Without Separation HERE
The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought For Justice With Art by Cynthia Levinson
“The first thing I can remember,” Ben said, “I drew.” As an observant child growing up in Lithuania, Ben Shahn yearns to draw everything he sees—and, after seeing his father banished by the Czar for demanding workers’ rights, he develops a keen sense of justice, too. So when Ben and the rest of his family make their way to America, Ben brings both his sharp artistic eye and his desire to fight for what’s right. As he grows, he speaks for justice through his art—by disarming classmates who bully him because he’s Jewish, by defying his teachers’ insistence that he paint beautiful landscapes rather than true stories, by urging the US government to pass Depression-era laws to help people find food and jobs. In this moving and timely portrait, award-winning author Cynthia Levinson and illustrator Evan Turk honor an artist, immigrant, and activist whose work still resonates today: a true painter for the people.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The People’s Painter HERE
Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey
How does a story begin? Sometimes it begins with a dream, and a dreamer. Mary is one such dreamer. On a stormy summer evening, with five young people gathered around a fire, one of the friends, Lord Byron, suggests a contest to see who can create the best ghost story. Mary Shelley has a waking dream about a monster come to life. A year and a half later, Mary Shelley’s terrifying tale, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, is published — a novel that goes on to become the most enduring monster story ever and one of the most popular legends of all time. In creating this story, she also created the science fiction genre earning her much celebrity, making this one of my favorite children’s books about women in sports and entertainment .
Get the lesson plan and activities for Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein HERE
The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta
When George Washington Carver was just a young child, he had a secret: a garden of his own.
Here, he rolled dirt between his fingers to check if plants needed more rain or sun. He protected roots through harsh winters, so plants could be reborn in the spring. He trimmed flowers, spread soil, studied life cycles. And it was in this very place that George’s love of nature sprouted into something so much more—his future.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver HERE
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Costeau by Jennifer Berne
Before Jacques Cousteau became an internationally known oceanographer and champion of the seas, he was a curious little boy. In this lovely biography, poetic text and gorgeous paintings combine to create a portrait of Jacques Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring. An excellent book for studying the ocean through the eyes of one of its most well-known explorers.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Manfish: A Story of Jacques Costeau HERE
Grace Hopper Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark
Who was Grace Hopper? A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, naval leader—AND rule breaker, chance taker, and troublemaker. Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English.” Throughout her life, Hopper succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly was “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys. An excellent story about a gifted computer programmer for Women’s History Month !
Get the lesson plan and activities for Grace Hopper Queen of Computer Code HERE
Selena: Queen of Tejano Music by Silvia Lopez
Selena Quintanilla’s music career began at the age of nine when she started singing in her family’s band. She went from using a hairbrush as a microphone to traveling from town to town to play gigs. But Selena faced a challenge: People said that she would never make it in Tejano music , which was dominated by male performers. Selena was determined to prove them wrong.
Born and raised in Texas, Selena didn’t know how to speak Spanish, but with the help of her dad, she learned to sing it. With songs written and composed by her older brother and the fun dance steps Selena created, her band, Selena Y Los Dinos, rose to stardom! A true trailblazer, her success in Tejano music and her crossover into mainstream American music opened the door for other Latinx entertainers, and she became an inspiration for Latina girls everywhere. In addition to being one of my favorite children’s books about women in sports and entertainment, this would also be an excellent book for Women’s History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month .
Nicky and Vera by Peter Sis
In December 1938, a young Englishman canceled a ski vacation and went instead to Prague to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Nazis who were crowded into the city. Setting up a makeshift headquarters in his hotel room, Nicholas Winton took names and photographs from parents desperate to get their children out of danger. He raised money, found foster families in England, arranged travel and visas, and, when necessary, bribed officials and forged documents. In the frantic spring and summer of 1939, as the Nazi shadow fell over Europe, he organized the transportation of almost 700 children to safety.
Then, when the war began and no more children could be rescued, he put away his records and told no one. It was only fifty years later that a chance discovery and a famous television appearance brought Winton’s actions to light.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Nicky and Vera HERE
Chester Nez And The Unbreakable Code by Joseph Bruchac
As a young Navajo boy, Chester Nez had to leave the reservation and attend boarding school, where he was taught that his native language and culture were useless. But Chester refused to give up his heritage. Years later, during World War II, Chester―and other Navajo men like him―was recruited by the US Marines to use the Navajo language to create an unbreakable military code. Suddenly the language he had been told to forget was needed to fight a war . This powerful picture book biography contains backmatter including a timeline and a portion of the Navajo code, and also depicts the life of an original Navajo code talker while capturing the importance of Native American heritage .
Get the lesson plan and activities for Chester Nez And The Unbreakable Code HERE
Above the Rim by Jen Bryant
Hall-of-famer Elgin Baylor was one of basketball’s all-time-greatest players—an innovative athlete, team player, and quiet force for change. One of the first professional African-American players , he inspired others on and off the court. But when traveling for away games, many hotels and restaurants turned Elgin away because he was black. One night, Elgin had enough and staged a one-man protest that captured the attention of the press, the public, and the NBA.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Above the Rim HERE
Six Dots by Jen Bryant
Louis Braille was just five years old when he lost his sight. He was a clever boy, determined to live like everyone else, and what he wanted more than anything was to be able to read. Even at the school for the blind in Paris, there were no books for him. And so he invented his own alphabet—a whole new system for writing that could be read by touch. A system so ingenious that it is still used by the blind community today. An excellent book for studying people with disabilities .
Energy Island by Allan Drummond
At a time when most countries are producing ever-increasing amounts of CO2, the rather ordinary citizens of Samsø have accomplished something extraordinary―in just ten years they have reduced their carbon emissions by 140% and become almost completely energy independent. A narrative tale and a science book in one, this inspiring true story proves that with a little hard work and a big idea, anyone can make a huge step toward energy conservation.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Energy Island HERE
The Man Who Walked Between The Towers by Mordicai Gerstein
The story of a daring tightrope walk between skyscrapers. In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky. This picture book captures the poetry and magic of the event with a poetry of its own: lyrical words and lovely paintings that present the detail, daring, and–in two dramatic foldout spreads– the vertiginous drama of Petit’s feat.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers HERE
The Boy Who Grew a Forest by Sophia Gholz
As a boy, Jadav Payeng was distressed by the destruction deforestation and erosion was causing on his island home in India’s Brahmaputra River. So he began planting trees. What began as a small thicket of bamboo, grew over the years into 1,300 acre forest filled with native plants and animals. The Boy Who Grew a Forest tells the inspiring true story of Payeng–and reminds us all of the difference a single person with a big idea can make. Sometimes to solve a problem, it takes a little bit of effort over a long period of time. A great book for Earth Day or Arbor Day .
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Boy Who Grew a Forest HERE
Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This tribute to Mrs. Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Rosa HERE
Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood
Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Ada’s Violin HERE
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
The inspiring story of how William Kamkwamba used discarded and recycled materials to save his home and his village in Africa by building a windmill.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind HERE
For the Right to Learn by Rebecca Langston-George
She grew up in a world where women were supposed to be quiet. But Malala Yousafzai refused to be silent. Discover Malala’s story through this powerful narrative telling, and come to see how one brave girl named Malala changed the world.
Get the lesson plan and activities for For the Right to Learn HERE
The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham
Alaa loves Aleppo, but when war comes his neighbors flee to safety, leaving their many pets behind. Alaa decides to stay–he can make a difference by driving an ambulance, carrying the sick and wounded to safety. One day he hears hungry cats calling out to him on his way home. They are lonely and scared, just like him. He feeds and pets them to let them know they are loved. The next day, more cats come, and then even more! There are too many for Alaa to take care of on his own. Alaa has a big heart, but he will need help from others if he wants to keep all of his new friends safe.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Cat Man of Aleppo HERE
I Dissent by Debbie Levy
Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.
Get the lesson plan and activities for I Dissent HERE
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Wilson Bentley was always fascinated by snow. In childhood and adulthood, he saw each tiny crystal of a snowflake as a little miracle and wanted to understand them. His parents supported his curiosity and saved until they could give him his own camera and microscope. At the time, his enthusiasm was misunderstood. But with patience and determination, Wilson catalogued hundreds of snowflake photographs, gave slideshows of his findings and, when he was 66, published a book of his photos. His work became the basis for all we know about beautiful, unique snowflakes today. A really interesting biography picture book for the winter months !
Get the lesson plan and activities for Snowflake Bentley HERE
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca
When young Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Girl Who Thought in Pictures HERE
Hello I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri
There’s never been anyone like music legend Johnny Cash. His deep voice is instantly recognizable, and his heartfelt songs resonate with listeners of all ages and backgrounds. G. Neri captures Johnny’s story in beautiful free verse, portraying an ordinary boy with an extraordinary talent who grew up in extreme poverty, faced incredible challenges, and ultimately found his calling by always being true to the gift of his voice. A. G. Ford’s luscious paintings of the dramatic southern landscape of Johnny Cash’s childhood illuminate this portrait of a legend, taking us from his humble beginnings to his enormous success on the world stage.
Not all of his music is appropriate for young audiences but I do have a few songs that I recommend to go along with this book in my lesson plan. Fourth grade students really enjoy it when popular music can be added to books, and that is why this is one of my favorite narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Hello I’m Johnny Cash HERE
Marti’s Song For Freedom by Emma Otheguy
A bilingual biography of José Martí, who dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, the abolishment of slavery, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual freedom. Written in verse with excerpts from Martí’s seminal work, Versos sencillos.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Marti’s Song For Freedom HERE
Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
When Sheldon Russell Curtis told this story to his daughter, Rosa, she kept every word in her heart and was to retell it many times. I will tell it in Sheldon’s own words as nearly as I can.
He was wounded in a fierce battle and left for dead in a pasture somewhere in Georgia when Pinkus found him. Pinkus’ skin was the color of polished mahogany, and he was flying Union colors like the wounded boy, and he picked him up out of the field and brought him to where the black soldier’s mother, Moe Moe Bay, lived. She had soft, gentle hands and cared for him and her Pink.
But the two boys were putting her in danger, two Union soldiers in Confederate territory! They had to get back to their outfits. Scared and uncertain, the boys were faced with a hard decision, and then marauding Confederate troops rode in. This book is actually a true story, not historical fiction but narrative nonfiction. A truly touching story.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Pink and Say HERE
The Girl Who Ran by Frances Poletti
When Bobbi Gibb saw the Boston Marathon her mind was set-she had to be a part of it. But when the time came to apply for the marathon, she was refused entry. They told her girls don’t run, girls can’t run. That didn’t stop Bobbi. This picture book tells the true story of how she broke the rules in 1966 and how, one step at a time, her grit and determination changed the world. A really heroic part of women’s history .
Rags: Hero Dog Of World War I by Margot Theis Raven
During World War I, while stationed overseas in France with the United States Army, Private James Donovan literally stumbles upon a small dog cowering on the streets of Paris. Named Rags for his disheveled appearance, the little stray quickly finds a home with Donovan and a place in his heart. Although the Army did not have an official canine division, Rags accompanies Donovan to the battlefield, making himself a useful companion delivering messages and providing a much-appreciated morale boost to the soldiers. News about Rags spreads and soon the little dog’s battlefield exploits become the stuff of legend. But during a fierce battle near the end of the war, both Rags and Donovan are wounded. Severely injured, Donovan is sent back to the United States. And the little dog with the big heart refuses to leave his best friend’s side.
Storm Run by Libby Riddles
In 1985, Libby Riddles made history by becoming the first woman to win the 1,100-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race . This brand-new edition of Riddles’s timeless adventure story is complete with updated narrative details, sidebars on all aspects of the race, photographs, and all-new illustrations by beloved illustrator Shannon Cartwright. An inspiration to children and adults everywhere, this is a compelling first-hand account of the arctic storms, freezing temperatures, loyal sled dogs, and utter determination that defined Riddles’s Iditarod victory.
Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins
Margaret Hamilton loved numbers as a young girl. She knew how many miles it was to the moon (and how many back). She loved studying algebra and geometry and calculus and using math to solve problems in the outside world. Soon math led her to MIT and then to helping NASA put a man on the moon! She handwrote code that would allow the spacecraft’s computer to solve any problems it might encounter. Apollo 8, Apollo 9, Apollo 10 and Apollo 11. Without her code, none of those missions could have been completed. An excellent book about women in STEM !
Leave It to Abigail by Barb Rosenstock
Everyone knew Abigail was different.
Instead of keeping quiet, she blurted out questions. Rather than settling down with a wealthy minister, she married a poor country lawyer named John Adams. Instead of running from the Revolutionary War, she managed a farm and fed hungry soldiers. Not to leave the governing to men, she insisted they “Remember the Ladies.” Instead of fearing Europe’s kings and queens, she boldly crossed the sea to represent her new country. And when John become President of the United States, Abigail became First Lady, and a powerful advisor.
Mario and the Hole in the Sky by Elizabeth Rusch
The true story of how a scientist saved the planet from environmental disaster.
Mexican American Mario Molina is a modern-day hero who helped solve the ozone crisis of the 1980s. Growing up in Mexico City, Mario was a curious boy who studied hidden worlds through a microscope. As a young man in California, he discovered that CFCs, used in millions of refrigerators and spray cans, were tearing a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer. Mario knew the world had to be warned–and quickly. Today Mario is a Nobel laureate and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His inspiring story gives hope in the fight against global warming.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Mario and the Hole in the Sky HERE
Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe
Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful. This is the most memorable narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade, especially if you’re studying art and artists .
Get the lesson plan and activities for Radiant Child HERE
Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah’s inspiring true story—which was turned into a film, Emmanuel’s Gift, narrated by Oprah Winfrey—is nothing short of remarkable.
Born in Ghana, West Africa , with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability . Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Emmanuel’s Dream HERE
Danza!: Amalia Hernández And Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet by Duncan Tonatiuh
As a child, Amalia Hernández saw a pair of dancers in the town square. The way they stomped and swayed to the rhythm of the beat inspired her. She knew one day she would become a dancer. Amalia studied ballet and modern dance under the direction of skilled teachers who had performed in world-renowned dance companies. But she never forgot the folk dance she had seen years earlier. She began traveling through the Mexican countryside, witnessing the dances of many regions, and she used her knowledge of ballet and modern dance to adapt the traditional dances to the stage. She founded her own dance company, a group that became known as el Ballet Folklórico de México. A great book for Hispanic Heritage Month !
Get the lesson plan and activities for Danza!: Amalia Hernández And Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet HERE
The Poppy Lady by Barbara Walsh
When American soldiers entered World War I, Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia, knew she had to act. Some of the soldiers were her students and friends. Almost single-handedly, Moina worked to establish the red poppy as the symbol to honor and remember soldiers. And she devoted the rest of her life to making sure the symbol would last forever, most notably on Memorial Day . Thanks to her hard work, that symbol remains strong today.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Poppy Lady HERE
Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter
An elderly African American woman, en route to vote , remembers her family’s tumultuous voting history in this picture book publishing in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. Veteran bestselling picture-book author Jonah Winter and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Shane W. Evans vividly recall America’s battle for civil rights in this lyrical, poignant account of one woman’s fierce determination to make it up the hill and make her voice heard.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Lillian’s Right to Vote HERE
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows In The Bronx by Jonah Winter
Before Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her seat in our nation’s highest court, she was just a little girl in the South Bronx. Justice Sotomayor didn’t have a lot growing up, but she had what she needed — her mother’s love, a will to learn, and her own determination. With bravery she became the person she wanted to be, and with hard work she succeeded. With little sunlight and only a modest plot from which to grow, Justice Sotomayor bloomed for the whole world to see. This is one of my favorite bilingual children’s books as well if you teach in a bilingual classroom.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows In The Bronx / La Juez Que Crecio En El Bronx HERE
Paper Son by Julie Leung
Before he became an artist named Tyrus Wong, he was a boy named Wong Geng Yeo. He traveled across a vast ocean from China to America with only a suitcase and a few papers. Not papers for drawing–which he loved to do–but immigration papers to start a new life. Once in America, Tyrus seized every opportunity to make art, eventually enrolling at an art institute in Los Angeles. Working as a janitor at night, his mop twirled like a paintbrush in his hands. Eventually, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime–and using sparse brushstrokes and soft watercolors, Tyrus created the iconic backgrounds of Bambi. One of my favorite narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade about a lesser known Asian American .
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World’s Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space . This book is generally marketed for younger students, but this book is best enjoyed and understood by older students making it one of my favorite narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade.
Get the lesson plan and activities for Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos HERE
Unspeakable by Carole Boston Weatherford
When making this list of the best narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade, I wanted to include lesser known events and historicl figures. This one is becoming more well-known, but is still not widely studied. Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation’s history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa’s Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community.
News of what happened was largely suppressed, and no official investigation occurred for seventy-five years. This narrative non-fiction book sensitively introduces young readers to this tragedy and concludes with a call for a better future. A Coretta Scott King and Caldecott Honor book!
Get the lesson plan and activities for Unspeakable HERE
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders
In this deeply moving and empowering true story, young readers will trace the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today’s world. Award-winning author Rob Sanders’s stirring text, and acclaimed illustrator Steven Salerno’s evocative images, combine to tell this remarkable – and undertold – story. A story of love, hope, equality, and pride. The way that it teaches about the history of such a well-known symbol makes it one of the best LGBTQ children’s books .
Best Narrative Nonfiction Books for 4th Grade
What are some of your favorite narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade Are there any must read narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!
You can get a free lesson and activities for one of my favorite narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade, Planting Stories, here
Narrative Non-Fiction Books
Here are some of my favorite narrative non-fiction books for kids. If you’re looking for more ideas for specific grade levels I have great narrative nonfiction book lists for each grade level. Check them out here:
Best Narrative Nonfiction Books
15 Narrative Nonfiction Books for Kindergarten
21 Narrative Nonfiction Books for 1st Grade
29 Narrative Nonfiction Books for 2nd Grade
37 Narrative Nonfiction Books For 3rd Grade
40 Narrative Nonfiction Books For 5th Grade
Other Great 4th Grade Read Aloud Stories
Looking for other great 4th grade read alouds? Here are a few more to explore:
50 Best 4th Grade Read Alouds
12 New Back to School Books for 4th Grade
30 Black History Month 4th Grade Books
60 Picture Books for 4th Graders
Summer Reading List for 4th Grade
Realistic Fiction Books For 4th Graders
22 Earth Day Projects For 4th Graders
76 New and Noteworthy Read Alouds for 4th Grade
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