16 lesser known but still AMAZING books for middle school | Elements of Elementary
16 Lesser Know but still AMAZING books for Middle School
Books are my thing, obviously. I teach about them, I read them, I blog about them, and nothing makes me happier than finding that perfect book that a student hasn't already heard about. Here are my top 16 awesome books that are not well enough known in my opinion. These are books I haven't seen in student's hands, on co-workers bookshelves, or in blogs or on social media. I bought all of these on my own for myself and my students, (with two exceptions) and love each of them equally. You may have heard of some of these, but I'm willing to bet you aren't familiar with all of them!

1. How I Came to be a Writer by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
             Everyone knows about Shiloh, but most teacher's I've met have never heard about her child-friendly autobiography. This is a quick and fun non-fiction read about the struggles and triumphs of life and writing.
Great for: students who love biographies, non-fiction, awesome women, and writing

2. & 3. Face-Off at the Alamo and Panic in Pittsburgh by Roy MacGregor
            I had to include two of these, because they are both so much fun. MacGregor has created a hilarious, slightly miscehvious middle school hockey team that manages to get into trouble and solve mysteries along the way. I did receive these books for my classroom from the author, but I would have eventually found these and purchased them anyways.
Great for: students who love hockey, mystery, and humor

4. Protecting Marie by Kevin Henkes
           Fanny had to give up her wonderful, beautiful dog because it disrupted her father's painting business too much. She is given another chance when her father brings Marie, a new dog, into her life. Fanny must overcome her sadness and mistrust in order to befriend and protect this new charge.
Great for: students who love dogs, animals, and sappier stories

5. The Chicken Doesn't Skate by Gordon Korman
            Milo is working on his science fair project - a live exhibit of the life cycle - when disaster strikes! When his chicken hatches, most of the students decide to befriend it. Henrietta the chicken quickly becomes the mascot of the school's hockey team, whose championship game is about the same times as the science fair. The school must band together to save their mascot before he becomes chicken nuggets!
Great for: students who love animals, hockey, and humor

6. Ravenmaster's Secret: Escape from the Tower of London by Elvira Woodruff
           Eleven year old Forrest Harper lives in the shadow of the Tower of London, helping his father tend to the ravens. He dreams of someday being able to prove his strength and loyalty by guarding prisoners in the tower. He gets his chance unexpectedly when a Scottish Rebel is captured, but the prisoner turns out to be the rebel's daughter instead! Forrest ends up facing a difficult choice - will he allow his new friend to be executed, or will he commit treason to help her escape?
Great for: students who love historical fiction, suspense

7. The Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato
            Frankie is a twelve year old whose world is falling apart. Her father is in love with a crazy zookeeper from Washington, D.C., her brothers are terrible, and school is worse. In an effort to fix her life, she begins writing anonymously to the woman, trying to ruin her father's relationship. In the end, she gains more than she bargains for from her correspondence.
Great for: students who love fiction, books about change, and coming of age stories

8. The Golden Door by Emily Rodda
            One of my all-time favorite books! This is a fantasy page turner that will enthrall almost every reader. Rye's world is under attack, and his older brothers are missing. The only thing left for him to do is to lie about his age and join the government mission to stop the skimmers from attacking the city. He hopes the flying dragons don't eat him before he finds his brothers and returns home, but finds a world much larger and stranger than he had imagined.
Great for: students who love fantasy, dragons, and adventure

9. The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones
            Max's grandmother used to tell him wondrous stories of the now-extinct owls and what the world was like before the Destruction. His teachers and the government wanted him to think something totally different, however. The owls were evil, they preached, and he was allergic to the sun and must never see the light of day. This is a fun, suspenseful post-apocalyptic tale that is not too gruesome or violent for middle school readers, with fun twists and turns.
Great for: students who love fantasy, post-apocalyptic, and plot twists

10. The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica: The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
            Someone is kidnapping the children from the Archipelago of Dreams, and John, Jack, and Charles must return to save them. They discover a plot to find a Dragonship, which would mean disaster for the Archipelago. There is lots of myth, legend, and adventure woven into this fun tale, which is book 2 of the Imaginarium Geographica. (I don't own book 1 yet, which is why I couldn't feature it, but the library has it!)
Great for: students who love fantasy, dragons, and adventure

11. Den of Thieves by Julia Golding (A Cat Royal Adventure)
            With the Royal Theater closed, Cat is asked to take her acting on the road and join a dance troup in France. Once there, she discovers that she is expected to spy upon the French and report back to London during the first days of the French Revolution. Her friends are captured, and Cat may be next!
Great for: students who love historical fiction, suspense, action, and spies

12. The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda
            Yes, Ms. Rodda gets 2 books in here, they are just that good! Leo inherits a magical music box from his great aunt, but he is always careful to follow the rules. When his cousin comes to visit, however, one of the first things she does is play with the box, which unwittingly releases a trapped sourceress and unlocks a hidden world!
Great for: students who love fantasy and adventure

13. Phoenix Rising by Karen Hesse
            Nyle has lost much in her young life, but she is happy living with her grandmother. An accident at the nearby power plant shakes up her world as she has to deal with masks, evacuations, and contaminated food. Once she adjusts to all of that, her grandmother decides to rock her world once more and take in two of the accident's survivors, a young woman and her son. Nyle has to choose how she will accept this change, and if it will finally break her.
Great for: students who love fiction, hope, and a classic story line

14. Hatching Magic by Ann Downer
            A small wyvern is hunting for a nice place to lay her eggs when she accidentally stumbles into a time hole that dumps her in 21st century Boston. An adventurous race begins as evil and good sorcerers, magicians, and a few mortals hunt for the magical creature.
Great for: students who love fantasy, dragons, and time travel

15. The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
            Asha and Carey have just graduated from high school, and are trying to raise money. They start selling t-shirts to advertise for their club, the Latte Rebellion, which helps raise the awareness of mixed-race students. The plan takes off overnight, and Asha finds herself drowning in her own viral revolution. 
Great for: students who love reading about other ethnicities, cultures, and social causes

16. Winter's Bullet by William Osborne
            Tygo is forced to help the Nazis loot abandoned Dutch homes in order to survive after his father is killed in teh war. The Resistance wants to recruit him badly, but he knows that he must not join them if he wishes to live. He discovers a hidden refugee and finds out about a treasure hunt adventure, and has to make a choice whether to risk his life for wealth and a possible end to the war, or to live in relative safety working with the enemies he finds evil.
Great for: students who love WWII, historical fiction, action and suspense

What awesome, "underground" books do you love to read, or keep for your kids?