Looking for the best books for your 5th graders? From read aloud to novel studies to independent reading, there are so many different options and it can be challenging to find quality novels that engage your students while supporting critical thinking about the text. After seeing the popularity of my post about the best novels for 4th graders, I was inspired to compile this list of the 20 best books for fifth grade.
The 20 Best Books for 5th Graders
Whether you grab a single copy for your classroom library or read aloud or you buy a whole class set for a large group novel study, these 20 novels are fantastic for fifth grade students.
For each book I am sharing below, I’ve included a short plot summary to help you determine whether it is a good fit for your classroom. I also shared links to the trifold novel study pack that can help save you prep time and ensure you’re covering those essential comprehension standards.
(If you’re new to trifold novel studies, read more about them in my What are Trifold Novel Studies? post.)
I know your fifth grade students will LOVE these great stories and you will, too! Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
1. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The main character is a girl named Ada who is born with a twisted foot. An embarrassment to her mother, she is both physically and mentally abused and kept hidden away in their dirty apartment as the threat of World War II looms closer. When her brother is sent to the countryside to escape the danger, Ada bravely decides to sneak out and join him.
This begins a chapter of Ada’s life where she learns she is capable of so much more than she thought. As she learns to ride a horse, read, and be self-confident, Ada also begins to learn what love is and discovers that she is worthy of being loved.
Buy the Book: The War that Saved My Life
Get the No Prep Novel Study: The War that Saved My Life Novel Study
2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
This sci-fi novel tells the story of Meg Murry, who feels she just doesn’t fit in. After a strange night of storms and unexpected visitors, Meg winds up on an unexpected journey to save her father that takes her through space and time.
This Newbery award-winning novel takes students on an adventure that challenges their thinking about what really exists in the world beyond their understanding.
With challenging vocabulary and great opportunities for higher level comprehension and discussions, this is the perfect novel to get your high-achieving 5th graders thinking and talking about their reading.
Buy the Book: A Wrinkle in Time
Get the No Prep Novel Study: A Wrinkle in Time Novel Study
3. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
When her best friend is left to live with her and must pretend to be Annemarie’s dead sister, they begin facing the most dangerous challenge of their lives.
Great as a companion to your social studies standards, this story really brings the challenges and hardships children and families faced during the Nazi regime to life while giving students relatable characters and high level vocabulary exposure.
If you are looking for an amazing historical fiction novel, you won’t find any more engaging and thought-provoking than this one! It is a definite must-read.
Buy the Book: Number the Stars
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Number the Stars Novel Study
4. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
With lots of emotional topics, from overcoming loss to facing death, Mattie’s character tackles some tough issues in this historical fiction novel. This novel is a perfect fit for those kids really into the popular vampire and zombie books and movies, but in this case, the plotline is all based on the outbreak that occurred in Philadelphia in the 1700s.
This book isn’t for all students, but it is a great one to engage students in thinking about how they would handle a disaster and teach some historical facts all at the same time.
Buy the Book: Fever 1793
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Fever 1793 Novel Study
5. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
The topics built into the plotline of this story include physical disabilities and learning disabilities, which makes it a great forum for having discussions about inclusion and kindness toward others.
A great book about the development of a friendship against the odds, there is lots of action and adventure in this great novel, but there is also some sadness at the end…so be prepared.
Buy the Book: Freak the Mighty
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Freak the Mighty Novel Study
6. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
After unsuccessfully trying to drive away the old golden retriever he found, Arliss ends up being saved by him. Despite the dog’s naughty antics, this act of heroism endears him to the family and forms a bond between dog and owner. This act of heroism won’t be Old Yeller’s last.
With highs and lows throughout, this touching story is one that has held up over time. Strong writing and excellent characters make it a perfect novel study for your 5th grade class.
Buy the Book: Old Yeller
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Old Yeller Novel Study
7. Rules by Cynthia Lord
Another Newbery winner, this realistic fiction book is a great read and includes a cast of characters that could be the kid in the next seat over. The story focuses on Catherine, a twelve-year-old, struggling with her brother’s autism and her desire to have a “normal life”. As the events of the story unfold, Catherine realizes that normal isn’t always what you think it is.
A great story for analyzing change across time, this story will connect with students on a number of levels and spark great discussions in your 5th grade classroom.
Buy the Book: Rules
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Rules Novel Study
8. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
A great book for those animal lovers in your classroom, this novel is the story of Billy and his two hunting companions. A classic story full of adventure, emotion, and heartbreak, this book is truly a must-read for every student.
While there will likely be tears shed, there will also be great discussions that help build students skills in literature analysis including characters and their relationships, how setting impacts plot, and more.
Buy the Book: Where the Red Fern Grows
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Where the Red Fern Grows Novel Study
9. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
This book makes students really think about whether this is such a good thing as they read about the Tuck family as they explain the challenges of their life to a ten-year-old girl named Winnie Foster after she discovers their secret. However, when a stranger follows Winnie to locate the mystical spring that brings eternal life, they must face the challenges that arise.
This is such a great novel for discussion. With lots of amazing characterization and a plotline that pulls young readers in, your students will have so much fun discussing this story and deciding whether they’d want to live forever.
Buy the Book: Tuck Everlasting
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Tuck Everlasting Novel Study
10. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
For starters, Jerry Spinelli writes some great books for 5th graders…so it was tough to decide which to include in this list. However, Maniac Magee rose to the top because it digs deep into a number of themes that are engaging and important to talk about with students.
After becoming an orphan, Jeffery Magee becomes a local legend due to his athletic ability and fearless nature. Despite this he still faces numerous conflicts (both internal and external) within the small town of Two Mills. From bullies to racism, this story covers many deep topics that are just as top of mind today as they were in the story.
Full of rich detail and opportunities to think beyond the text, this is a great choice for your fifth grade readers.
Buy the Book: Maniac Magee
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Maniac Magee Novel Study
11. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
While his father is away, Matt must learn to coexist with nature in order to survive. With the help of the Beaver clan, he begins to adapt to his new life on the frontier, but he also realizes the challenges the tribe is facing from the new settlers and the changing environment they bring.
A Newbery winner, this book is engaging and captures the reader’s imagination with lots of great vivid details. Students can really imagine themselves in Matt’s shoes as he learns to survive.
Buy the Book: The Sign of the Beaver
Get the No Prep Novel Study: The Sign of the Beaver Novel Study
12. Holes by Louis Sachar
This particular story has won numerous awards and is the tale of Stanley, a boy who is sent to a juvenile correction facility called Camp Green Lake. Full of irony (the camp is in the middle of the desert) and some interesting characters, this story captures readers early on and takes them on a wild ride as Stanley begins to wonder if the holes they are being forced to dig to “build character” are really a hunt for something else.
Buy the Book: Holes
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Holes Novel Study
13. The Giver by Lois Lowry
While it seems his life is perfect, this all changes when he is given the job of Receiver of Memory. Soon he discovers that his colorless world is not the calm, peaceful place that he grew up knowing. Instead, he must consider whether this existence is really what is best for society and face the challenging decisions that lie ahead.
There are three companion books that go along with this great novel, and I guarantee your students will be hooked once they’ve read this story. With great plot twists and unexpected events, the discussions you can have about The Giver are truly limitless.
Buy the Book: The Giver
Get the No Prep Novel Study: The Giver Novel Study
14. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
A young girl faced with the death of her father ends up having to overcome great challenges as she learns to survive without all the things she had become accustomed to (including incredibly low paying migrant work).
A great novel with a multi-cultural lens, Esperanza Rising is beautifully told with many great opportunities to explore sensory details and other aspects of writer’s craft.
Buy the Book: Esperanza Rising
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Esperanza Rising Novel Study
15. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Despite having very different life experiences, the pair is soon inseparable, and through the friendship, Jesse learns to be brave and manage his emotions.
The title comes from the kingdom they create for themselves in the woods, which they name Terabithia.
Buy the Book: Bridge to Terabithia
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Bridge to Terabithia Novel Study
16. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This story is set in a time of overpopulation, where having a third child is illegal due to food shortages. Despite this, Luke (the main character) is the third-born in his family, and as a result, he must remain hidden away in order to protect himself from the Population Police. He isn’t even allowed outdoors once the woods near his home begins to be cleared for new houses.
However, when Luke notices a face hiding in a window of a neighbor’s house, he is compelled to go find out who it is and discovers he isn’t alone as a third child.
Full of drama, excitement, and adventure, this story is a great one for even reluctant readers.
Buy the Book: Among the Hidden
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Among the Hidden Novel Study
17. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
When four siblings step through the door of their new wardrobe they discover a whole new land called Narnia. Unfortunately, this land is under the power of the White Witch and is frozen in an eternal winter. This story follows their quest as they help the Great Lion, Aslan, save the kingdom.
Buy the Book: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Get the No Prep Novel Study: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Novel Study
18. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
After surviving a plane crash in the rugged wilderness of Canada, Brian is in the fight of his life. This story is the ultimate in survival fiction as students follow Brian’s transformation from a scared, unsure boy to a strong, independent survivor. From making
From creating a fire to gathering food, Brian makes a lot of mistakes in his quest to survive, and Paulsen’s writing captures the imagination of readers pulling them into Brian’s journey.
Buy the Book: Hatchet
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Hatchet Novel Study
19. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
With a young son suffering from pneumonia and numerous other challenges, Mrs. Frisby lucks out when she encounters the rats of NIMH. These (as luck would have it) highly intelligent problem solvers develop a brilliant answer to Mrs. Frisby’s unfortunate situation.
A great read with lots of high-quality vocabulary!
Buy the Book: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Get the No Prep Novel Study: Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH Novel Study
20. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
This fantasy based on Greek mythology is a great novel that follows the story of Percy Jackson as he learns he is not just a typical 12-year-old boy. After discovering he is a demigod, Percy winds up on a quest to find Zeus’ stolen lightning bolts.
Great for students who love the Harry Potter series, this book is just the first in a whole series.
With lots of action and excitement, along with relatable characters, your students will be begging to read the rest of the series after they finish this one.
Buy the Book: The Lightning Thief
Get the No Prep Novel Study: The Lightning Thief Novel Study
I hope you found some great books to add to your classroom library or use for your next novel study. To get more great information, check me out on: