Get kids books for the holidays! A list by Sarah M. Anderson

Hi Everyone! It’s the holiday season again–which means presents! And the first present goes to…

Mina Gerhart! Mina, you win a print copy of His Son, Her Secret! Send your snail mail address to!

Now, for the rest of us, obviously because we’re here, we like to read. But I’m all about getting kids to read, too. My Kid is in 5th grade and once a week, every year since kindergarten, I’ve gone into his class and read stories. (We just finished My Side of the Mountain in class the other day). After all, kids who read today are grown ups who read tomorrow.

Plus, I spend a lot of time reading to my son at home and listening to audio books in the car with him. That’s why, when people ask what I’m reading, I’m just as likely to answer Shark Wars as I am When a Scot Ties the Knot!

Falling Fiance FINAL jpegSo I am pretty darned familiar with the kinds of books that middle schoolers like–especially boys. So I thought I’d offer up books that both you AND your kid would enjoy–together, even! This is a non-exhaustive, inclusive list. Be sure to leave your recommendations in the comments to be entered to win a copy of Falling For His Fake Fiance!

Notes: Most books are appropriate for ages 8-12. Some skew older! In no particular order:

The P.K. Pinkerton novels by Caroline Lawrence–historical western mysteries set in the Gold Rush days of Nevada. P.K. is part Lakota, on the autism spectrum and gender-fluid and the books are historically accurate. Lawrence also has a Roman Mysteries series, but we haven’t gotten to those yet. P.K. Pinkerton are probably ages 10 and up–they are murder mysteries and don’t gloss over the hardships of historical living.

The Smek series by Adam Rex–If you saw the movie Home this summer,you have an idea what The True Meaning of Smekday is about. The movie was (loosely) inspired by the book and while the movie is cute and loveable–suitable for kindergartners!–the book has much more depth. The heroine is half black and the alien stuff is just funny. Rex writes some out-there stuff-his Cold Cereal book was weird! (but good! BUT WEIRD!) and there’s a sequel called Smek for President where Tip and J.Lo go off planet. So if your kids enjoyed Home but thought it was a little baby-ish, check out this series. Warning: The True Meaning of Smekday has no chapter breaks. NO CHAPTER BREAKS.

The Brixton Brothers Detective Agency series by Mac Barnett–if your kid likes Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys or Scooby Doo mysteries, this is a great series. Steve Brixton runs a detective agency from a shed outside his house and the mysteries are dangerous–but also hilarious. I read one to second graders and they loved it, so these books can be enjoyed by younger kids, too. Barnett also has a series called The Terrible Two about two practical-joker friends that’s flat-out silly and appropriate for all ages (unless they don’t like cows). Bonus: Adam Rex illustrated the Brixton Brothers books.

Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh’s Fortune by Sean O’Neill–I met O’Neill and when he told me this was a junior Indiana Jones adventure story in graphic novel form, I bought the book immediately. Set in Egypt in the 1930s, Rocket and his friend Nuri take on bad guys in tombs! My only complaint is that the sequel wasn’t ready for Christmas this year! The pictures are bright and colorful, so if you have a struggling reader, the graphic novel will be perfect!

The Origami Yoda series by Tom AnglebergerStar Wars is SUPER hot right now and this series teaches kids how to make origami Star Wars puppets! The books are set in a middle-school/junior high setting but the stories are accessible and deal with kids vs. teachers vs. the ultimate bad guy, Standardized Testing! Although the primary narrators are (white) boys the school at large is diverse and girls get an equal share of the action–and the victories. Knowledge of Star Wars is not required but it does help. I cannot tell you how many little Yodas are tucked around my house. The books are also highly ‘doodled’ so there’s always a fun picture to look at.

The Illinois Books of Richard Peck–If you’re looking for more realistic historical fiction (something curriculums are pushing now) or you live in Illinois, I highly recommend the books of Richard Peck. His books are set between 1920 (A Long Way From Chicago starts the Dowdell series) and 1960 in rural Illinois. Each is told from a kid’s point of view with a major world event happening in the background (the Great Depression, World War II) but the stories are heartwarming and funny. If you’re a fan of the nostalgia in A Christmas Story movie (leg lamps!) then this will appeal to you. Bonus–the book On the Wings of Heroes was like a trip down memory lane for my husband–the narrator has the same birthday as his father and the story was set about 3 blocks from where his mom grew up. Peck also has a lighthearted series of books starring Very Smart Mice–The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail and Secrets at Sea are set during the late Victorian era and feature mouse royalty.

Frindle and other books by Andrew Clements–middle schoolers struggling with real-life problems and coming up with inventive solutions? These books are great! Frindle is the next book I’m going to read to my Kid’s class.

There you go! Obviously, anything that gets kids reading is great–but these are all books I enjoy (unlike, say, Captain Underpants. I leave that to my husband, bless his heart.) So what about you? What books do you like to share with your kids? Remember, leave a comment with a recommendation and I’ll announce a winner in January for a copy of Falling For His Fake Fiance!

About Sarah M. Anderson

Sarah M. Anderson is an award-winning author who writes contemporary snarky and sensual romances featuring cowboys and bull riders as well as billionaires with and without babies. She won RT Reviewer’s Choice 2012 Desire of the Year for A Man of Privilege. The Nanny Plan was a 2016 RITA® winner for Contemporary Romance: Short. Sarah spends her days having conversations with imaginary cowboys and billionaires. Find out more at and sign up for the new-release newsletter at
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5 Responses to Get kids books for the holidays! A list by Sarah M. Anderson

  1. Clare O'Beara says:

    Thanks! I like to give kids presents of fantasy books about young people, especially time travel ones. That way they can learn about the past too.

  2. patyjag says:

    This is great! I passed the blog on to my daughter who has been trying to track down books for middle school boys for their charter school library. It’s a rural school that specializes in agriculture.

  3. Stacey says:

    I too have a 5th grade boy. He is really into the I survived series (and I’ve read them as well). They are based upon historic events with a fictional character, so he is receiving a dose of history while enjoying a story!

  4. Martina Arguijo says:

    I have an almost 4 yo. He is VERY into Aerospace=Nasa….lol. So one of my recommendations, which would and technically does suit 8-12 yo is, Adventures In The Real World-The Story of The Exploration of Space by Penny Clarke. It has many fun facts and pictures all while telling the time line and future of space travel and engineering….my son LOVES to “read” it. What is great is he actually knows what each page is discussing and can explain it without being able to literally read each word. My son is a genius nerd in progress. 🙂

  5. Stephanie O. says:

    I loved the Harry Potter series, but so far my 8th grader is into far different series…Divergent, City of Bones, Iron King, and the Hunger Games are just a few of her favorites. A few years ago she was really into the Charlie Bones series. She is SUCH a bookworm, and her favorite place to visit is a Library!! 🙂

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