If your kid is an avid reader, chances are they make their way through every book of their favorite series long before the next one is published. The next time they complain that they have nothing to read, why not offer them a novel that you enjoyed during your own childhood? They just might find themselves a new favorite author (and you’ll get that little thrill of nostalgia that comes from watching your child enjoy something you enjoyed as a child).

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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Paperback $8.99

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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’BrienAs a kid, I was drawn to this book by first seeing the 1982 movie, The Secret of NIMH. It begins with an immediately gripping dilemma—Mrs. Frisby, a widowed field mouse, seeks help to save her home and from a farmer’s plow. She can’t move because her son Timothy is sick with pneumonia. She asks a group of escaped lab rats to help her, and learns that the experiments these rats underwent made them super intelligent, capable of reading and engineering a technologically advanced society.


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The Headless Cupid, by Zilpha Keatley SnyderThis 1972 Newberry Honor book concerns a blended family—a novel concept for children’s books at that time. When his father marries a new wife, the eleven-year-old protagonist, David Stanley, moves with his three younger siblings to a creepy old country house. This provides the perfect setting for his occult-obsessed new stepsister, Amanda, to rile them all up with tales of a poltergeist that inhabits the house, and demonstrate that one of the younger kids has psychic abilities. David thinks Amanda’s making it all up for attention—or is she? If your kids like this one, there are three other books about the Stanley family for them to enjoy.


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Where the Red Fern Grows

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Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson RawlsSome people remember Bridge to Terabithia as the saddest novel they read as a grade schooler, but for me, Where the Red Fern Grows takes the prize. It’s only sad because it’s so good—any kid will be swept up in this vivid, evocative story about Billy Colman growing up poor in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. Billy has his heart set on a pair of coonhounds, and he saves up money until he can buy them. Billy carefully trains his dogs Old Dan and Little Ann to hunt raccoons, forming an intense bond with them in the process. Readers will form a similar bond with these dogs.


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Power of Three, by Diana Wynne JonesWhen the Harry Potter novels first came out and I heard the premise of them, I thought, wait, a school for witches and wizards? That’s just like Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones. Wynne Jones was the premier British fantasy novelist when I was a kid, and her books should cast a spell over today’s middle grade readers as they did over those in the ’80s. She wrote dozens of novels, many of them in the Chrestomanci series that presaged Harry Potter. The stand-alone novel that I remember most vividly is Power of Three, about three siblings living in a magic-imbued version of an English moor. Two of the siblings discover they have magical powers, while the third, Gair, believes he does not. The three are drawn into a quest to save the moor by collaborating with their enemies, the Giants and the Dorig.

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The Pushcart War, by Jean Merrill and Ronni SolbertThis funny novel by Jean Merrill with wonderful illustrations by Ronni Solbert has been endearing to generations of kids ever since it was published in 1964. It’s told in the form of a future historical report about a war that broke out between truck companies and pushcart owners. When traffic in New York City becomes intolerable, the truck companies get together and decide to eliminate all the other vehicles on the roads, beginning with pushcarts. But the feisty pushcart owners decide to strike back, assaulting the truck’s tires with pea shooters. Publishers have updated the date of the war from 1976 to 1988 to 2036 so new generations of kids get the future reference.

What MG novels from your childhood are you excited for your kids to read?