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
This is the story of an unlikely friendship and coming of age.
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
If you haven't read much Louis Sachar, prepare to laugh! He truly writes some funny children's books.
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
Another great science fiction story (and Newbery Medal winner), this is the story of Jonas.
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
Tragedy transforms Esperanza's life from one of great riches to one of hard labor in this historical fiction novel.
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
A story of friendship and loss, this amazing novel is the story of a fifth grader (Jesse) who becomes friends with a girl from school after she beats him in a race.
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