While there are always classic tried-and-true books for 6th graders we share with students, I always love looking for books that could become new classics. It’s not easy to find the time to go through everything that’s been published in the last few years, however, so we’ve saved you some time with this list. Below you’ll find historical fiction, memoir, nonfiction, and fiction books for 6th graders guaranteed to awaken your students’ imagination and love of reading.
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Must-Read Books for 6th Graders
1. Lies I Tell Myself by Beth Vrabel
When Raymond is sent across the country to spend the summer with his grandparents, it throws his entire world out of order. While he normally likes letting other people do the adventuring, he finds himself needing to break out of his shell and show everyone how brave and untroubled he can be.
Buy it: Lies I Tell Myself at Amazon
2. Wayward Creatures by Dayna Lorentz
Gabe wasn’t trying to start a small forest fire when he set off fireworks in the woods. He just wanted his friends and family to stop spending so much time in their own busy lives and pay attention to him. But now, he finds himself in a restorative justice program that is making him go back to the forest to repair some of the damage his prank caused. When he meets a coyote named Rill who was hurt by the forest fire, Gabe learns the importance of caring for those around us.
Buy it: Wayward Creatures at Amazon
3. The Ultimate Riddle Game for Kids: A Mind-Bending Book to Test Your Logic by Zeitgeist
For our kiddos who love puzzles, logic problems, and mind-bending riddles, this is one of the books for 6th graders that has everything. The brainteasers will ignite their curiosity and build their problem-solving skills. Perfect for kids who need a bit of an additional challenge, early-finishers, or anyone who loves testing their brain with fun, engaging puzzles.
Buy it: The Ultimate Riddle Game for Kids at Amazon
4. Thirst by Varsha Bajaj
This is one of the books for 6th graders that might be eye-opening for many students. In Mumbai, Minni’s family (along with thousands of other families) only has access to water for a few hours a day. When she discovers the powerful people who have access to water all the time and are keeping it from everyone else for money, she has to decide what to do. Should she come forward and expose this crime even if it puts her and her family at risk, or should she stay quiet?
Buy it: Thirst at Amazon
5. Holler of the Fireflies by David Barclay Moore
Javari knows that life is going to be different when he leaves his home in Brooklyn to go to a STEM camp in West Virginia, but his first few days in the small Appalachian town are still a shock. Throughout the summer, he will learn a lot about science, technology, engineering, and math, but that’s not all. When he befriends Cricket, a local boy who is an occasional thief and activist, he realizes he’s in for a summer he’ll never forget.
Buy it: Holler of the Fireflies at Amazon
6. The Fort by Gordon Korman
Gordon Korman knows how to write books kids love, and The Fort is no exception. When five middle schoolers discover an abandoned bomb shelter, they know they’ve found the best hideout ever. As they fix it up and make it their own, they discover the true meaning of friendship, secrets, and trusting each other.
Buy it: The Fort at Amazon
7. 96 Miles by J.L. Esplin
Their dad trained them to survive anything, but brothers John and Stew Lockwood are unprepared when a massive blackout strikes while their father is out of town. After being robbed of their supplies, the brothers must walk 96 miles through the desert for help. As they do, they’ll question their father’s obsession with self-reliance and what it means to be there to help out others.
Buy it: 96 Miles at Amazon
8. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Perfect for your nonfiction lovers or for your reluctant readers who love their sneakers, this young readers edition of Nike founder Phil Knight’s memoir is engaging and real. Beginning with how he refused to give up hope after he was cut from his high school baseball team to how he started Nike with $50, this is one of the books for 6th graders that will have your students hooked.
Buy it: Shoe Dog at Amazon
9. Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King
When Mac realizes that all the copies of a book he’s supposed to read for class have been censored by the school, he is outraged. When he complains to the principal, he’s told to not make such a big deal out of it. But Mac knows that censorship is wrong, and he’s not going to sit around and do nothing. This is one of the great books for 6th graders for jump-starting important questions about censorship.
Buy it: Attack of the Black Rectangles at Amazon
10. Two Degrees by Alan Gratz
A searing look at the climate crisis told through the perspectives of three young people. Akira is coping with raging wildfires in California. Owen is faced with a polar bear hunting far too close to residential areas in rural Canada. And Natalie hunkers down with her family as a massive hurricane barrels toward her Miami home. These three young people share more in common than climate disasters. Will they survive long enough to discover what that connection is and what it means for them and the world?
Buy it: Two Degrees at Amazon
11. Tumble by
Twelve-year-old Addie knows she should be thrilled when her stepfather asks to adopt her. She really wants to say yes, but she has so many questions about her biological father. After discovering he and even more members of her family are famous luchadores (lucha libre wrestlers), she sets off to get to know them. As she does, she learns a lot about what being part of a family truly means.
Buy it: Tumble at Amazon
12. Sweet Valley Twins adapted by
Graphic novels are the perfect way to introduce the Sweet Valley Twins to a new generation. Elizabeth and Jessica are just about to start middle school, and they’re sure they’ll be as inseparable as ever. But while Elizabeth is ready to organize a school newspaper, Jessica wants to start an exclusive Unicorn Club. What will happen when they realize they might not have as much in common as they thought?
Buy it: Sweet Valley Twins at Amazon
13. Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega
Twelve-year-old witchling Seven dreams of being part of one of the most powerful covens with her best friend. But when it comes time to be assigned her coven, the worst thing imaginable happens: She’s not given a coven and is instead is deemed a Spare! How will she and the other Spares save their reputations and earn their rightful place as full-fledged witches?
Buy it: Witchlings at Amazon
14. Ravenfall by
Ravenfall Inn is a sprawling, magical B&B at the crossroads of the human world and the Otherworld. Thirteen-year-old Annabella Ballinkay and her family have run the B&B for generations, using their psychic powers to help and protect their guests. Annabella’s powers have always been a bit different from the rest of her family. But when Colin, a 14-year-old searching for his missing older brother, shows up at Ravenfall, her powers might be just what is needed.
Buy it: Ravenfall at Amazon
15. The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander
This powerful story follows Kofi, a boy in Ghana in 1860. Kofi loves his life and his family, but one day everything is turned upside down. This is one of the perfect books for 6th graders to pair with discussions about the lives and experiences of Africans prior to them becoming enslaved and shipped to the Americas.
Buy it: The Door of No Return at Amazon
16. Wildoak by C.C. Harrington
Maggie will do almost anything to avoid speaking. Her stutter makes talking to others embarrassing and exhausting. Her father wants to send her away to a special hospital for “treatment,” but her mother suggests a few weeks with her grandfather in Wildoak Forest. Even though Maggie barely knows her grandfather, she accepts this offer as the better of two rotten choices. When she meets an abandoned snow leopard cub in the forest, she is caught up in an adventure she could never have imagined.
Buy it: Wildoak at Amazon
17. Iceberg by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Hazel is traveling all alone on the famous ship Titanic. Her mother is sending her to the United States to work in a factory so that she might send money back home to help her family make ends meet. But Hazel hasn’t told anyone that she secretly wants to be a journalist, and she’s planning on writing a story about the Titanic‘s maiden voyage that will land her a job with a newspaper. Then she could earn enough money to send home without having to work in some smelly factory. With the help of some new friends aboard the ship, Hazel explores the Titanic, but when disaster strikes, she has to worry more about surviving than about the story she wanted to tell.
Buy it: Iceberg at Amazon
18. The Swifts by Beth Lincoln
Shenanigan Swift understands that her family gave her an unusual first name for a reason. Shenanigan Swift: Little sister. Risk-taker. Mischief-maker. But when the annual family reunion is shook by a horrible accident (or mysterious crime?), Shenanigan decides she is going to be more than what her family expects of her—she’s going to be a detective.
Buy it: The Swifts at Amazon
19. The Night Diary by
We love historical fiction stories about events our students probably don’t know much about, and this one is a perfect choice. Set in 1947 India, 12-year-old Nisha is struggling to come to grips with what’s happening in her homeland. Newly independent of British rule, her country has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. This is causing tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders. Nisha’s family decides it’s too dangerous to remain in what is now Pakistan, and so they become refugees, heading toward India. As she travels, Nisha writes letters to her deceased mother that tell the story of their journey and her hopes to find a home.
Buy it: The Night Diary at Amazon
20. The Marvellers by
Eleven-year-old Ella is a new student at the Arcanum Training Institute, a school for children who can perform magic. She can’t wait to learn everything that she can, but some at the school think that the type of magic Ella can do—conjuring—is dangerous and wrong. When a violent criminal escapes a nearby prison with the help of a Conjurer, some at the school think Ella might be to blame. With the help of her new friends and her growing powers, Ella has to set things right and clear her name.
Buy it: The Marvellers at Amazon
21. The Elephant Girl by James Patterson and
Perfect for students who loved The One and Only Ivan and Because of Winn-Dixie, this novel tells the story of Jama and the baby elephant named Mbegu she befriended. When the baby elephant’s mother kills someone after being frightened by poachers, Jama and the baby elephant are blamed. Jama will have to find a way to save Mbegu’s life, even if it means reaching out to a boy at her school that no one else will talk to.
Buy it: The Elephant Girl at Amazon
22. Rise of the School for Good and Evil by
This fantasy fairy tale is a perfect book for 6th graders who love anime or fantasy, or are just looking for something different. Deep in the endless woods, two brothers, one good and one evil, started a school. They choose students to attend either the School for Good or the School for Evil. Best friends Sophie and Agatha are excited to attend the schools. Sophie has dreamed of attending the School for Good and Agatha the School for Evil. But when they arrive, they’re placed in the wrong schools … and that changes everything.
Buy it: Rise of the School for Good and Evil at Amazon
23. Wild Bird by Diane Zahler
In 14th-century Norway, the plague has destroyed the entire village of Skeviga. To stay alive, Rype, the only one left, must embark on a sweeping adventure across Europe. He joins an English ship captain’s son and a band of musicians in search of a brighter future and a new home.
Buy it: Wild Bird at Amazon
24. Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow
Simon wants to be a normal kid, but he’s famous for being the only student to have survived a school shooting. In an attempt to escape this horrible reality, Simon’s parents move their family to the National Quiet Zone, the only place in America where the internet is banned. Here, Simon expects his life to be quiet and a little boring, but when he meets scientists searching for extraterrestrials, things start to get interesting.
Buy it: Simon Sort of Says at Amazon
Thirteen-year-old Matthew is miserable. The pandemic has everyone trapped at home. His dad is stuck overseas, and his mom has moved his 100-year-old great-grandmother into their house. Then he finds an old photo in his great-grandmother’s belongings. It gives him a clue to her hidden past. This leads to a family secret that shatters his life. The novel is historical fiction that flashes back to the 1930s. It sheds light on the Holodomor, a famine that killed millions of Ukrainians. The USSR covered it up for decades.
Buy it: The Lost Year at Amazon