Find the best chapter books and middle grade books for 4th graders. These books for 9-year-old boys and girls in 4th grade are all books that I’ve personally read and recommend. They’re in every genre and about many themes and topics that appeal to kids in this upper elementary grade. ALL of these books are excellent.
Who am I to recommend good books for young readers? I’m a former teacher and teacher trainer with a Master’s Degree in Education, a teaching license, a Bachelor’s in English, and a parent of two. I’m also a writer and avid reader. (As you probably can guess.)
Fourth graders are leaving chapter books and entering the world of younger middle grade books. The difference between the two is that chapter books are usually shorter, illustrated, and about less complex topics. They will overlap in themes like friendship and family or animals and identity.
However, middle grade books are about twice as long, if not three times longer, and usually don’t have illustrations. (Although you can find good illustrated middle grade books.) The topics will be more complex — about bullying and divorce and death.
Case File Little Claws Animal Rescue Agency #1 by Eliot Schrefer
ANIMAL ADVENTURE / ENVIRONMENTALISM
Esquire Fox, a fox, runs the Animal Rescue Agency with the help of her business manager, a rooster named Mr. Pepper. Despite the prey-predator scenario, the duo travels to the Arctic to save a polar bear cub adrift at sea, separated from his mother, and hunted by a dangerous human who wants to sell him. Entertaining writing, lovable main characters with distinctive personalities, and an exciting adventure make this an excellent start to a new series.
Liberty Porter, First Daughter by Julia DeVillers
This is a light-hearted series about a girl whose dad becomes the President. We follow along as she adjusts to living in the White House, having a bodyguard, and experiences being the First Daughter. BOXED SET
Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
FANTASY / GRAPHIC NOVEL
While Jack’s single mom works, Jack takes care of his little sister, Maddy. In this modern version, Jack trades the family’s one valuable thing, his mom’s car, for seeds. Of course, everything goes downhill from there… The seeds turn in to a freaky, monster-growing garden who attacks, their neighbor friend secretly steals some 0f the seeds, a dragon appears with a dire warning; and, Maddy is kidnapped by one of the monsters! Action, adventure, intrigue, these books for 4th graders are so much fun to read! Don’t miss the sequel, Mighty Jack and the Goblin King.
Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yue
If you like mystery, adventure, and CATS, you won’t want to miss this entertaining graphic novel! Katie desperately wants to join her friends at their summer camp so to earn money, she gets a job for her neighbor Madeline catsitting 217 cats. But, something is VERY weird because these are super-smart cats with destructive behaviors and powerful abilities, not to mention that Katie finds evidence that her neighbor might be the supervillain, Moustress. Then, when the Moustress gets captured, Katie decides she and the cats must take action and save their friend.
Katerina Ballerina by Tiler Peck and Kyle Harris, illustrated by Sumiti Collina
An earnest young girl loves ballet but since her dad can’t afford lessons, she watches YouTube videos and practices in her room. After a disastrous talent shows Katerina’s dad her bravery, Katrina’s dad stretches the budget for lessons. It’s not a great start though– she shows up in red swimming suit and homemade tutu! But she makes a friend who helps her learn ballet terms and adjust to formal classes. As Katrina becomes more serious in her dancing, a competition reminds Katrina that she needs to balance both working hard and enjoying dancing.
Everyday Angel by Victoria Schwab
My daughter loves these books for 4th graders about an angel named Aria who is earning her wings by helping girls who are struggling in some way. In the first book, Aria helps Gabby. Gabby’s brother is hospitalized indefinitely and her mom is totally focused on her brother. It’s up to Aria to help Gabby at her new school and discover who she is. These are sweet, uplifting stories.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Stuck in a museum with her sister and father who is working on a sword exhibit, Ophelia’s curiosity leads her to a locked room where a boy has been trapped for thousands of years. But Ophelia doesn’t believe in magic. Except– she kind of does. She remembers how her mother used to tell her stories of magic . . . This is a breathtaking journey of loss, acceptance, hope, and friendship. Go here to see my book club guide about this book.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Poor Stanley. He’s got the worst luck of anyone — and is now sent to a youth detention camp in the desert where he has to dig holes all day long. All because of his no-good, pig-stealing great-great-grandfather. This was one of my students’ favorite books (mine, too)! You’ll love the crazy adventures as Stanley and his new friend figure out what’s happening at this supposed detention camp and escape, with only onions to eat. And yes, even that has to do with Stanley’s pig-stealing grandfather. You’ll love it.
Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere by Elise Gravel
If you LOVE kooky books for 4th graders, this book fits the bill. Olga finds a most unusual, unknown creature whom she names “MEH” after the sound it makes. She uses her deductive reasoning to figure out what it is (something new!) and what it likes to eat (olives)! But what will she do when Meh disappears? Things I love about this book: 1) the illustrations — they rock! 2) the narrator’s voice — it’s believable and funny 3) the plot — especially the mean girls who aren’t so mean after all.
What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau
Mexican-American Clara Luna doesn’t know anything about her father’s Mexican heritage until she spends the summer with her grandparents in rural Mexico. There, she discovers the beauty of her grandparents’ life and culture and grows into her own identity. This is a beautiful, important book, one that I’ve read several times and highly recommend.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
I think you already know about these books but if you don’t, they’re beautifully written fantasy adventures that will hook your kids with the magical world of Narnia. We recently listened to the series on audiobook which was even more fun to hear it read in a British accent. (Since we’re American.)
The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao
ANIMAL / FRIENDSHIP
(This is the sequel to award-winning, The One and Only Ivan…I think you could read this independently but it would be richer if you read it after the first book.) Bob’s now living in a home with the girl from the mall but he’s restless and insecure, believing he’s a fraud. When Bob visits his friends Ivan and Ruby at the zoo, a hurricane hits. Ivan gets trapped under a building, and Bob can’t find his people. As Ivan says, there’s one and only Bob to help rescue everyone. Sweet, redemptive, and adventurous, this is a story of a dog who finds himself while searching for others.
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Crenshaw is the new book from the author of The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate, and it’s another amazing story dealing with poverty. Jackson’s family is about to lose their apartment again. Although Jackson’s parents don’t tell him this, he knows the signs. He knows why they’re having a yard sale. He knows it’s not his dad’s fault for having MS but he’s mad and worried and alone. It isn’t until Crenshaw shows up and pushes Jackson to speak the truth to his parents that Jackson learns that he’s not facing this alone. Oh, and who is Crenshaw? He’s Jackson’s large, imaginary cat friend from when he was little returned to help Jackson in his time of need. I felt like it was a God metaphor. I wonder what you’ll think?
The Seven Tales of Trinket by Shelley Moore Thomas
Now that her mother has died, Trinket decides to take the map her missing storyteller father left behind and try to find him. Her friend, Thomas the Pig Boy, travels with her. Each place on the map gives Trinket a new story to tell and she imagines she could learn to be a storyteller like her father. Amazing adventures ensue. When Trinket learns the fate of her father in the seventh story, she must make a very hard decision.
The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
Hilarious. While on a class trip to Washington D.C., Wyatt and his best friend, Matt, are positive they’ve discovered a plot to blow up the White House. Wyatt’s crush, Suzanna, helps the friends make a plan, and as you can imagine, disaster and hilarity strike. I totally loved this book and know your kids (especially those who like humor) will as well.
Batman, Robin, and Howard by Jeffrey Brown
When Damian aka. Robin is sent to a new school, he immediately clashes with a kid named Howard, probably because Howard is smart and athletic just like Damian. But if they’re going to work as a team in soccer and in science, they’ll need to figure out how to get along. Fortunately, they become the best of friends. Then, when Damian’s dad, Batman, goes missing, the two of them work together to find the missing superhero and help Batman solve his current soccer-related case.
The Kicks Saving the Team by Alex Morgan
Finally, a fantastic books for soccer girls! If you have a soccer player in your house, and I think a LOT of you do, you’ll want to get your soccer lover this book –actually, buy her the entire series. Written by Olympic Gold Medalist and U.S. Soccer team member (among other things), Alex Morgan, it’s a realistic story of life, friendship, and playing soccer. Box set here.
The Curious Cat Spy Club by Linda Joy Singleton
Three kids from seemingly different social circles band together to rescue kittens that they find in a dumpster. Now their newly formed detective club wants to discover who dumped these innocent kittens. The answer surprises everyone. Each book in this lovely, well-written mystery series is about three kind kids who solve mysteries.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlie is one of the five winning children allowed to tour Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. But it’s a tour unlike any other and the other not-too-nice-kids kids strangely disappear throughout. Funny and quirky, this book remains a classic for a good reason.
Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp
You are going to ADORE Ivy and this story entirely. Ivy’s totally clueless and so very quirky. Who else would say this to her future employer, the Duchess: “You poor deluded creature . . . dying has sapped the strength from your eyes. I’m remarkably pretty, and that’s a genuine fact.” I read many parts out loud to my kids while I was reading this book – they were just so funny!! Now my kids are addicted, too. Ivy’s adventures involve a sinister ghost, a mystical jewel, and a surprising destiny.
Wild Survival: Crocodile Rescue! by Melissa Cristina Marquez
#OWNVOICES / ADVENTURE / ANIMAL RESCUE
Adrianna’s parents have an animal sanctuary and host an animal rescue that is moving from YouTube to television. On this trip, which is being filmed for the new show, the family goes to the mangrove forest of Cuba to help an injured crocodile. (The book is interspersed with factual information about all the wildlife they encounter!) Andriana messes up and gets grounded but besides saving a dog, she realizes something the grown-ups missed– that the rescued crocodile had a nest of eggs. She convinces her brother to help her save the eggs but they have a very close call with poachers, adding in suspense and a touch of danger. Engaging and interesting!
The Zombie Chasers by John Kloepfer and Steve Wolfhard
Filled with cartoon illustrations, this early chapter book series highlights the bravery of a group of friends (and siblings) who will save the world from zombies. A fun kid-powered adventure with zombies.
Charlotte Spies for Justice A Civil War Survival Story (Girls Survive) by Nikki Shannon Smith
Based on the true story of a courageous female spy in the South during the Civil War. Charlotte is a servant girl in Elizabeth Van Lew’s house, who becomes a spy for the Union. Readable, compelling, and interesting.
Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja by Marcus Emerson
I thought this was not just a great story but I loved that the main character (the ninja) is a girl. The story is easily read, written in a combo of text and comics. Great books for 4th graders!
Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
Miles’s spidey sense is whacking out when he’s at school, especially in his history class. Add to that, he’s worried he will turn out like his criminal uncle. So, Miles, who is Puerto-Rican and African American, stops being Spider-Man. Until he discovers a chilling plot of men named Chamberlain who work under the control of The Warden. Now, he must use all his skills to save the world from a racist threat. You’ll love the diversity, the two-parent family, and the complexity of Mile’s character– this is a GREAT book.
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale & Dale Hale
One of my favorite books EVER! This Rapunzel story is set in the wild west — she uses her braids to lasso bad guys while searching for her mother with her sidekick Jack.
Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley
GRAPHIC NOVEL / SLICE OF LIFE / DIVORCE
After her parents’ divorce, Jen moves to a farm with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend whose kids visit on the weekends. It’s a huge transition — she doesn’t love how bossy and whiney her stepsisters are and how annoying her mom’s boyfriend is. But she loves the chicks she takes care of and the farmer’s market. Well, she loves it until her math skills aren’t good enough to be helpful. This story gently shows the ups and downs of living with a new family in a new place.
Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior by Cube Kid, illustrated by Saboten
ADVENTURE / SCI-FI
Runt is a 12-year old with real problems. He doesn’t want to be a typical villager with the typical boring life. He wants to be a warrior like Steve. So he’s excited when his school finally agrees that the villagers might need warriors to fight back against the nightly attacks. When Steve loses everything and moves in with Runt’s family, Runt hopes that Steve will help with his warrior training. Runt’s a relatable, mostly serious, character who just wants a different life — like most kids his age and is competing for a dream opportunity. BOXED SET
Dragon Vs. Unicorns: Kate the Chemist by Dr. Kate Biberdorf with Hillary Homzie
Exciting from the first page (a fire breathing science experiment!!), these awesome new STEM chapter books for 4th graders are hard to put down. There are many things happening in Kate’s busy life every day but no matter if she’s dealing with science, the school play, or friends, she’s a determined problem solver. When she tries to figure out who is sabotaging the school musical, it’s going to take all her skills to find the culprit.
Timmy Failure by Stephan Pastis
Timmy is a clueless detective with a polar bear sidekick. Their adventures will make you laugh out loud!
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, illustrated by Todd Harris
FANTASY / HUMOR
The princes in the fairy tales aren’t as famous as their princesses but in this story, it’s all about them! Kicked out of their castles, these princes turn from bumbling idiots into heroes and save their kingdoms with hilarity and adventure!
Hero Rescue Mission by Jennifer Li Shotz
In this Hero story, Ben’s dad is captured by escaped convicts. Ben and police dog, Hero, set off to find Ben’s dad. Ben’s already injured and Hero’s too emotional to track the scent so they’re going to need help if they’re going to find his dad. Action from the first page to the last. Kids who love adventure and animals will love these books for 4th graders.
Gold Rush Girl by Avi
14-year-old Victoria sneaks aboard a ship with her father and younger brother bound for stinky, muddy San Francisco and the hope of gold. She’s surrounded by mostly men and no other kids and soon realizes that no one is getting rich but ships and people keep pouring in. Their dad leaves them in a tent for months while he searches for gold. Victoria makes the best of it but her 10-year-old brother doesn’t. Then he gets kidnapped and sold and Victoria and two friends race to rescue him. It’s an interesting, exciting story that gives readers a strong sense of setting and historical perspective.
Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake
If you like sweet stories of friendship, you won’t want to miss this new story. Prickly Badger’s life and rock studies are the most (and only) important thing in his life. Unexpectedly, he’s rudely interrupted by a new roommate, the helpful, philosophical, and curious chicken-loving Skunk. Badger wants Skunk to leave but he’s surprised when he enjoys Sunk’s cooking and company. Then after a spray incident and cruel comments he regrets, Badger fixes his mistake the two friends find that they’re better off together.
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie AbeFANTASY
You will love this captivating main character an apprentice witch who struggles with insecurity, bullying, and self-doubt. She doesn’t have a lot of magic but does have strength, even if she needs a few reminders about it. She will be able to help her city even with semi-magical skills. A sweet, magical story.
Lunch Lady by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
If you haven’t read these addictive and hilarious graphic novels, they are a must — anyone who has eaten lunch in school will appreciate the humor, even parents love these books.
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
Clayton feels happiest with his grandfather, playing the blues. Unfortunately, his mom hates everything about the blues because it represents her father’s abandonment of the family. When Clayton’s beloved grandfather dies and his mom takes his harmonica, Clayton ditches school to find his grandfather’s old band. Instead of musicians, he encounters a gang of boys and gets picked up by the police. This is a superbly crafted chapter book for 4th graders is about grief, family, and forgiveness.
Secret Coders: Get with the Program by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
SCI-FI GRAPHIC NOVEL
What’s happening at Hopper’s new school? She and her friends discover something very amazing about the birds — they’re robotic and can be controlled by numbers. Which leads the kids to go up against the scheming, evil janitor. Readers learn some basics of how to use the programming language Logo with sequence, iteration, and selection, and must apply their knowledge to help the characters. I love the interactivity, the diverse main characters, and the progressive way the authors teach the logical thinking of programming. Very well-done!
Aleca Zamm Is a Wonder by Ginger Rue, illustrated by Zoe Persico
I enjoyed this well-written, fast-paced adventure book, new chapter books for 4th graders. On her 10th birthday, Aleca accidentally discovers if she says her full name, she can STOP TIME. Which helps her on her math test. Then her Aunt Zephyr arrives and explains a few things about being a Wonder. One, other Wonders who aren’t very nice could use those time stops to find Aleca. And two, she needs to learn how to control her power so it won’t control her. And three, a 10-year old shouldn’t be in charge of the world clock.
Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, illustrated by Emily Balistrieri
As a huge fan of the movie, I was so impressed at how true to the original book, the film stayed. This sweet story is about a 13-year-old half-witch named Kiki who leaves home for her year-long apprenticeship to a town. She flies with her cat and they find a seaside town that needs a witch. There, Kiki settles above a bakery and uses her wits and magic to endear herself to the town as a helpful delivery girl. Lovely, lovely, lovely!
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid by Matt Wallace
COMING OF AGE / BULLYING
An outstanding, surprisingly philosophical, poignant story about dealing with bullies, growing in confidence, and the complexities of human beings. Matt doesn’t think he can survive 3 more years of middle school bullying so he writes supervillain Master Plan who is also a “gentleman of size”, asking for help. Surprisingly, Master Plan emails back with helpful, sage advice but is Master Plan actually looking out for Max or for himself?
Wing & Claw: Forest of Wonder by Linda Sue Park
Step into the world of a talented apothecary named Raffa. He’s horrified to discover that someone in the capital city is using the rare plant he and his cousin found to forcefully control animals. Not only that, whoever is doing this is removing baby animals from their mothers and training a bear to be a killer. When Raffa discovers who is behind it, he, his friend, and the animals he saves must escape from the city and the horrible truth.
King of the Bench No Fear! by Steve Moore
HUMOR / SPORTS
You’ll laugh out loud, no joke, at the musings and life of Steve, our narrator. He’s totally hilarious as he shares about life getting on the baseball team but developing a fear of baseball. His coach (Coach Earwax dubbed thusly because of well, you can imagine) calls everyone babe, a cool girl named Becky tries out and gets on the team, and all Steve’s teammates have the most interesting stories. Fantastically funny illustrations.
Magical Land of Birthdays by Amirah Kassem
Amirah lives in Mexico and loves cooking and baking. When her neighbor gives her an old cookbook titled The Power of Sprinkles, Amirah knows it’s the perfect cookbook for her upcoming birthday cake. Strangely, the cookbook transports her to the Magical Land of Birthdays where she meets other kids with her exact same birthdate as her who are from different areas of the world. Together they have an exciting, magical adventure that includes finding a missing B-Bud girl, parties, unicorns, and of course, cake.
Rosetown by Cynthia Rylant
REALISTIC / WHOLESOME
This is an atmospheric, small-town slice-of-life story that takes place in Rosetown, Indiana. A big part of 4th grader Flora’s life is her friendship with Yury and reading in the used bookstore where her mom works. Flora’s struggling to adjust to her parents’ separation and two different homes. No matter where she goes, she brings her cat, Serenity. Flora does things like take piano lessons and help Yury with his dog training classes. The story ends with Flora’s parents working things out and starting their own business together.
The Jolly Regina: The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Jen Hill
ADVENTURE / HUMOR
Even before their parents disappeared, Jaundice and Kale Bland loathed excitement and adventure. But their boring existence is rudely disrupted when they are kidnapped by all-female pirates. Who would have thought they could adapt to pirate life, search for their long-lost pirate parents, and return home with the exact same desire for boring as when they left? Funny and very entertaining!
Elephant Secret by Eric Walters
REALISTIC / ANIMALS
You’ll zip through this lovely story about a girl named Sam who lives on an elephant sanctuary with her father. A mysterious benefactor has paid for an elephant to become pregnant — but it’s not actually an elephant that she births, it’s a wooly mammoth cloned from DNA. Sam’s connection with the elephant is amazing, especially the baby mammoth whom she names Woolly. Things go very wrong when their benefactor forces she and her father to leave the sanctuary. As she deals with this, Sam must also come to terms with her father’s long-term girlfriend. It’s a great story that will keep animal-lovers enthralled with new knowledge about elephants and their behavior.
Of Giants and Ice by Shelby Bach
When Rory finds out that her new after-school club, Ever After School, is a fairy tale training school for characters. In fact, on her first day she fights a real dragon! We learn that all the kids will be assigned their own character in a familiar tale – and the chance to prove themselves. It’s also the beginning of acceptance for Rory – finding friends for the first time and learning about herself. Love it
If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses) by Susan Maupin Schmid
Darling Dimple is thrilled to be moved from a kitchen scrubber to an upstairs dress presser for the princess. One day, she discovers a special closet of enchanted dresses. When Darling suspects a plot against the princess she uses dresses magic to help her investigate. Who is trying to free the dragons? Who wants to take over the kingdom? This lovable heroine and a charming magical plot will enchant 9 year old readers.
The Loser’s Club by Andrew Clements
Ever been called a bookworm or a loser? Well, Alec has been called both — because he IS an avid reader. In fact, he gets in trouble for reading during class. As far as the loser comment? Alec decides to claim that word. He makes an after-school care club just for reading (not a book club because who wants to talk?), calling it the Loser’s Club. Surprisingly, the club attracts other kids (despite the name). As it does, Alec starts noticing life outside his stories — the cute girl, the needs of other kids, the feelings! Book lovers, you’ll want to read this genuine story with all your favorite books, relatable characters, and the growing pains that happen when we look up from a book.
Book Lists By Age
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