15 can’t-go-wrong books for middle-grade readers

When it comes to a great gift for kids, you can’t go wrong with a book. Not only are they the gift that offers a ticket to a whole new world, but they’re easy to wrap and they last forever.

With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of 15 terrific Australian picks for middle-grade readers (aged 8-13), whether they like their stories “real”, rooted in history or wrapped up in fantasy and adventure.


The First Summer of Callie McGee by A. L. Tait
In her first contemporary middle-grade novel, bestselling author A. L. Tait delivers a mystery about growing up, figuring things out and solving the puzzle of who you are. It’s the last summer before Callie starts high school and she’s been dragged along to yet another “family friends” holiday. Determined to change her nerdy reputation, Callie sets out to make waves but nothing is quite as she expects.


Mr Bambuckles Remarkables (series) by Tim Harris (illustrated by James Hart)
There are now five books in this delightfully funny series full of weird and wonderful characters that younger middle-grade readers will love. The adventures of Mr Bambuckle and the class in room 12B combine humour and heart.


We Run Tomorrow by Nat Amoore and Mike Barry
Bestselling author Nat Amoore joins forces with acclaimed graphic novelist Mike Barry to bring you the story of four kids (and four superheroes) who are taking their futures into their own hands. Underneath this fast-paced narrative full of humour, adventure and unexpected twists and turns is a serious exploration of children’s rights.


One Wrong Turn by Chenee Marrapodi
One for the dancer in your life! Set in an elite dance academy, this coming-of-age novel is about overcoming pressure, standing up for yourself and the joy of ballet. Amelia is a ballerina on the rise and all set to take the lead role in the annual production – but when Valentina arrives from Italy, the competition gets fierce.


Being Jimmy Baxter by Fiona Lloyd
Jimmy’s home life isn’t brilliant, but when he and Mum run away to a new life, things go from bad to worse. Through it all, the gentle, funny voice of Jimmy shares a moving story with moments of absolute delight. A powerful novel about surviving the odds, unlikely friendships and the magical music of Elvis.


Get Your Act Together, Doris Kozlowski by Jo Dabrowski
Doris is good at pretending to be just like everyone else, and she has a plan to get through Year Six: keep her head down, keep her family away from the school, and keep her best and only friend, the perfect Felicity. But when Felicity ditches her for the popular girls, Doris needs a new plan. Mayhem ensues in this hilarious, touching middle-grade debut.


How To Be Prime Minister (And Survive Grade Five) by Carla Fitzgerald
A very funny, timely story of what happens when Harper’s dad becomes prime minister – and sneaks off when he discovers he’s terrible at the job. But he’s left his phone behind, and so Harper (with her little sister Lottie) secretly takes his place. Can she prove a kid can lead the country better than a grown-up?


Millie Mak The Maker by Alice Pung
Nine-year-old Millie Mak has a superpower – she can take everyday objects and turn them into something new, beautiful and useful. Through her creativity and clever thinking, Millie also deals with friendships, family challenges and more. A gorgeous edition for younger middle-grade readers – particularly those who love craft.


Bored (series) by Matt Stanton
There are now three books in this hilarious series about the complicated business of being a kid. Matt Stanton has a magic touch with middle-grade readers and this series will make sure kids are anything but bored.


Pearly and Pig (series) by Sue Whiting
This middle-grade series has mystery, adventure and a heroine you’ll want to cheer on. It also has a talking pig. Well, a pig that talks to Pearly Woe, who can speak several languages, including talking to animals. But has Pearly got what it takes to be part of the Adventurologists’ Guild? There are currently two adventures in the Pearly and Pig series.


Wylah The Koorie Warrior (series) by Jordan Gould and Richard Pritchard
Wylah’s adventures have been 40,000 years in the making. She’s a warrior and a hero, and all her best friends are giant megafauna animals. There are now two books in this imaginative adventure series, inspired by First Nations history and grounded in culture.


The Elston-Fright Tales (series) by Reece Carter
Reece Carter’s debut novel A Girl Called Corpse took the world by storm with its layers of spookiness, magic and adventure. The second novel set in that world, The Lonely Lighthouse of Elston-Fright is out now, and gives centrestage to Flip Little for a magical seaside adventure.


The Rebels of Mount Buffalo by Helen Edwards
This time-slip debut novel shines a light on a very interesting moment in Australian history with a story that brings in themes of early feminism, managing grief and finding your courage. Drawing on the true history of Mount Buffalo and Guide Alice, it’s a beautiful story for historical fiction fans.


The Mud Puddlers by Pamela Rushby
Twelve-year-old Nina is unhappily staying in London with her Aunt Bee, an intertidal archaeologist when she finds herself stranded in time, in the Blitz in 1940. Will she ever find her way back?


Tumbleglass by Kate Constable
Thirteen-year-old Rowan is helping her older sister Ash paint her bedroom when she discovers a mysterious ring that transports them both back in time to 1999, to a party being held in the very same house! But Rowan unwittingly disrupts the laws of time, and must travel back through the history of the house to save her sister.

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