Fifth grade is a transitional period. These learners are still kids in elementary school but on their way to middle school and the hormonal teenage years.
Since they are in a unique life stage, reading a book can develop their critical thinking, teach them a new concept, provoke thoughts and discussions, teach a certain culture or history, or humor them.
This is why finding the best fifth-grade books is crucial. To help, here is our list of 37 books that a fifth-grade student will enjoy reading.
1. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Fish in a Tree is among the best fifth-grade books because it helps learners become their true selves. Ally, the character in the story, has dyslexia. Since she cannot read, she invents creative ways to hide her condition until Mr. Daniel steps in.
He helps Ally learn there is no shame in her disability and helps her develop her confidence. The book will help fifth graders show kindness and value their true selves.
2. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
This historical fiction book is set in the World War II era. As the Germans try to massacre the Jews, Annmarie and her family help smuggle their Jewish friends out of Denmark to Sweden.
The family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, who is a Jew. Ellen pretends she is part of the family, and Annemarie has to help save her life.
Lois Lowry highlights the challenges of the holocaust from the eyes of a young girl without outlining the gory graphics of war. Also, Annemarie’s bravery and courage keep young readers hooked.
3. Rules by Cynthia Lord
This realistic fiction book, “Rules”, will spark conversations among fifth graders. Catherine wants to lead a normal life. However, she has an autistic brother, and it is her responsibility to teach him acceptable behavior, such as having his pants on in public.
At first, Catherine struggles with her brother’s disability and even wants to hide him from her new friend. However, she slowly learns to be optimistic and accept him regardless of his condition.
4. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
Echo is enchanting, suspenseful, and riveting. When Otto gets lost in a forbidden forest, three sisters who’ve been imprisoned by a witch’s curse rescue him. In return, Otto promises to use his harmonica to carry their spirits out of the forest, thus breaking the curse.
Otto’s harmonica lands in the hands of Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy decades later. Despite their individual challenges, playing the harmonica fills them with hope and courage. The three children are linked by music and destiny.
5. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth is a perfect fantasy for fifth-grade students who think life is boring. Milo shares the same perception, but a mysterious booth changes everything.
When he drives through the tollbooth, he discovers there is more to life. Here, he has fun meeting creatures like Tok, the dog with a clock body, and Humbug, the bragging bug. Milo even attends a banquet where he has to eat his words. He gets to make memories with his new friends, including restoring Rhyme and Reason in the Empire of Wisdom.
6. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon tells the story of Minli, a young girl who listens to her father’s stories in the evenings. One such tale is about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon.
Minli’s father explains that the old man can answer all life’s questions. Prompted by their poor state of living, Minli embarks on a journey to find the old man so he can tell her the secret to changing her family’s fortune.
7. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi Longstocking is a classic story with one classic character, Pippi. Pippi is a young, red-haired, spunky girl. She loves to play, make fun of condescending adults, and lives by herself.
She owns a pet monkey called Mr. Nilsson and a horse that she can lift with a single hand. This young girl has a wild imagination and does not conform to society’s expectations. It is as if she has a natural talent for finding adventure.
8. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
Many kids love reading The Secret Garden because it teaches the true meaning of family. Orphaned, Mary Lennox lives in her uncle’s mansion with lots of rooms. She also lives with her cousin Colin who is ill-tempered and arrogant as she is. However, when they find an abandoned garden, it captures their imagination and, with time, softens their sour souls.
9. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Walk Two Moons – Two compelling stories are intertwined into one to create this delightful tale. Sal longs to reunite with her missing mom, so she travels to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents. Sal humorously narrates the story of her friend Phoebe without learning it is similar to hers.
Sharon Creech implements humor in the book so that 5th-grade readers can laugh aloud. The book also showcases complex human emotions, including loss and love.
10. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet
Chasing Vermeer captures the attention of young readers interested in art history with its mystery, puzzles, and adventure.
Petra and Calder develop an unusual friendship as they work on their school assignments. Petra is an adventurer, while Calder is into pentominoes. When an art thief steals a Vermeer painting, the two have to apply their problem-solving skills and intuition to solve the mystery.
11. Call of the Wild by Jack London
The 5th-grade reading list would be incomplete if we left out this adventure book, “Call of the Wild”. It involves Buck, a domesticated dog who is stolen and sold into service. Life as a sled dog in Alaska forces Buck to fight to survive, become the pack’s leader, or protect his current owner. With time, Buck is unsure whether he belongs with men or in the wild.
12. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Thirteen-year-old Brian is traveling to see his father after the divorce. He catches a plane, but the pilot suffers a heart attack in mid-flight and dies. Brian crash lands in a lake and has to fight to stay alive. There’s a lot to learn in Gary Paulsen’s “Hatchet”.
At first, he feels hopeless and consumed by despair because he has nothing but his clothing, a windbreaker, and a hatchet. Nevertheless, Brian learns perseverance, positive thinking, and survival skills, which help him survive over 50 days in the Canadian wilderness.
The plane crash transforms him into a strong, independent, patient, and mature boy.
13. I am the Ice Worm by Maryann Easley
I am the Ice Worm feels like Gary Paulsen’s Classic Hatchet but in a girl’s version. The story involves Allison Atwood, whose plane also crashes as she travels from Southern California to Alaska to see her mom. An Inupiat trapper rescues her, but she is stuck in the Arctic. Allison has to adapt to the villager’s way of life, and in a way, she too changes their lives.
14. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley
This historical fiction is also among the best books for 5th graders. Born with a twisted foot, Ada is constantly humiliated and hidden out of sight by her mother. As World War II breaks, she has to sneak to join her little brother as the children are evacuated from London.
Susan Smith takes in Ada and her brother. In this new world, Ada is exposed to kindness and understanding, virtues she has not experienced before. With time, she learns to be self-confident.
15. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Freak the Mighty is a powerful story about two boys who form an unlikely friendship despite their odds. Mark, though physically strong, has a learning disability. Meanwhile, Freak is brilliant but suffers a heart condition. The two become unstoppable, and they triumph over their imperfection. The book invokes critical thinking as well as stirs up emotions.
16. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time is also part of the book list for 5th grade. This Newbery Honor book shares the story of Meg Murry, whose father has gone missing. The introduction of a disturbing stranger reveals that a tesseract exists, in other words, a wrinkle in time.
Meg, her younger brother, and her friend travel through this wrinkle in search of her father. This sci-fi novel takes 5th graders through space adventure and time travel.
17. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Growing up, Esperanza lives a privileged life with fancy dresses and attendants on call. But tragedy strikes when her father dies.
Esperanza and her mom flee the ranch and settle in a labor camp. She has to adapt to the hard labor and financial struggles to survive. Esperanza also has to rise and care for her sick mother. Little does she know there are pleasant surprises along the way.
18. Smile by Rainer Telgemeier
This graphic novel is a must-read among the best books for 5th graders. It talks of Raina, a girl who hopes to experience normalcy in sixth grade. However, this changes when she falls and injures her two front teeth.
She has to undergo surgery, wear braces, a retainer with fake teeth, and an embarrassing headgear. In addition, she has to learn how to deal with unfriendly friends and boy confusion.
Telgemeier’s “Smile” teaches young readers through Raina’s character to always feel good about themselves.
19. Holes by Louis Sachar
Among the best books for fifth grades, Holes is by far the most humorous. Stanley Yelnats (Yelnats is simply Stanley spelled backward) is sent to a juvenile detention center called Camp Green Lake; only there is no lake.
According to the warden, he has to dig holes to ‘build his character,’ while in truth, the warden is searching for something else. Louis’ writing makes this book darkly humorous for a fifth-grader.
20. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Douglas Adam’s sharp writing stands out in the best books for fifth readers, particularly for the advanced readers. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is set after the destruction of the earth to make room for a hyperspace express route. Arthur Dent finds himself displaced and then discovers his best friend is an alien.
He has to survive a hostile universe while in the company of unreliable aliens.
21. Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
The Harry Potter Series introduces 5th graders to the life of the famous wizard, Harry Potter. This fast-paced fantasy novel spans seven books to keep fifth-grade learners engaged. Major themes in the seven books include the value of humility, friendship, family, magic, power, corruption, rebellion, effects of desire, and death.
22. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
This classic fantasy also makes it into our list of 5th-grade chapter books. With six-book series, Michael Scott mystifies the immortality of Nicholas Flamel. It exposes readers to mystery, dark magic, fantasy, action, suspense, history, mythology, and more like the Harry Potter novels.
23. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
This classical fantasy is a great story for even reluctant readers due to the unforgettable characters. Dorothy and her pet dog Toto find themselves trapped in the magical land of Oz. She has to seek the wizard’s help to get home. While on her journey, she comes across Tin Woodman, a cowardly lion, and a scarecrow, characters that a fifth-grader will remember.
24. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
Winnie is tired of her mother and grandmother controlling her every move. She is happier with the Tuck family even though they kidnapped her. She then discovers that the Tucks have a spring in their home whose waters grant eternal life. Winnie has to choose whether or not to drink from the spring.
The subject of immortality will spark discussions among fifth-grade kids about what they would do.
25. The Canning Season by Polly Horvath
Polly Horvath creates an interesting, multigenerational relationship between extended family through Ratchet and her 92-year-old great-aunts in The Canning Season. When Ratchet’s mother ships Ratchet to Maine, she has to learn to live with them despite their strange family history. Soon, she understands the concept of family.
26. The Giver by Lois Lowry
It is no surprise that this thought-provoking book, “The Giver”, is a Newbery medal winner. The tale revolves around Jonas, who seems to have a perfect life until he receives his life assignment.
As the Receiver of Memory, Jonas begins to fathom the dark secrets behind his idyllic community. He discovers that society has done away with emotional depth, memories, and feelings. Jonas struggles to understand his new emotions, learns that feelings have power, and has to battle with them.
27. I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai
Malala’s inspiring memoir is a powerful story about a Pakistani girl who found herself at crossroads with the Taliban because she wanted to go to school.
At fifteen, she was shot in the head and almost died. Fortunately, her miraculous recovery got her fighting for education, and she is now a symbol of peaceful protest and a global voice for education.
28. The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
This is indeed a diary of one Jewish girl, Anne Frank. She writes about her personal experience of the holocaust and how she and her family fled their home to cloister in an old office building for two years. Sadly, someone gave away their location, and the Nazis took them to concentration camps.
Anne paints a graphic image of the world at the time, and her writing resonates with 5th graders.
29. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Where the Red Fern Grows is a timeless story about Billy, a young boy from the Ozarks who wanted to own a dog and train it for hunting. However, his mother forbids him to own and use a gun until he is twenty-one. Billy waits to come of age as he raises enough money to buy a dog. His savings buy two puppies, Old Dan and Little Ann.
Soon, the trio becomes the best hunting team with great achievement. But animal lovers are in for heartbreak because there is looming tragedy.
30. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
As one of the best 5th-grade books, Maniac Magee covers racial prejudice, inequality, homelessness, myths, and literacy.
Jeffery Magee is an unhappy orphan who runs away from his uncle and aunty to become homeless. He ends in a racially divided town where the Blacks live on one side and the whites on the other. His athletic prowess and brave acts make him a local legend, even though he faces internal and external conflicts.
Jeffrey Magee’s exploits are about reconciling the town and finding happiness.
31. Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye
Hermux, a watchmaker mouse in “Time STops…”, is content with his life. He spends the quiet nights curled up with a good book and cheese.
This changes when Linka, an aircraft pilot, brings her wristwatch for mending and catches Hermux’s attention. When a strange-looking rat comes to Hermux’s shop to claim Linka’s Watch, he refuses. He assumes Linka is in trouble and goes on a quest to find her.
32. On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck
This humorous, poignant book “On the Wings of Heroes” revolves around Davy Bowman’s life before World War II. Before then, the seasons were either summer, Halloween, or Christmas.
The war, however, changes this. Davy looks up to his dad, whose inner kid was still in play, and his older brother Bill who enlists as a pilot in the US Air Force. Billy’s decision horrifies their father because he fought in WWI, and until now, he cannot speak of the traumatic experience.
33. Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond
In Kit’s Wilderness,Kit and his family move to a coal-mining town to care for his widowed grandfather with Alzheimer’s Disease. Kit’s grandfather can recall his story and stories of the mine and narrates them to Kit.
The young boy becomes friends with Askew, whose family also has a history in coal mining. One day, the boys play a ‘game of death’ in the abandoned mine tunnels. Kit’s life changes after this.
34. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Fifth-grade students will learn about survival, unlikely friendship, and survival from this novel, The Sign of the Beaver.
Matt James, a thirteen-year-old boy, is entrusted to protect his family’s cabin. With the help of the Beaver tribe, Matt adapts to his new life and learns how to survive challenging situations.
35. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Out of My Mind is the powerful story of Melody. She has cerebral palsy and cannot walk, talk, or write. But she has an exceptional gift – her photographic memory. She remembers her experiences in detail and wants to share this with everyone. Sadly, most people only see her disability, but she is not giving up!
36. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
This is a delightful tale that intrigues even reluctant readers. Island of the Blue Dolphins tells the story of Karana, a young Indian girl left behind when her tribe sailed away. She waits for years for her people to come back, but they do not. She has to work out whether to remain on the island alone or sail in search of her people.
37. Treasure Hunters by James Patterson
James Patterson wrote Treasure Hunters with young learners in mind. It features captivating plots, humor, adventure, and short chapters to hold the interest of a 5th grader. Visit South America, Russia, China, Artic, and Germany with the Kidd siblings as they hunt for treasure and lost cities.
Jump In: These 5th-grade books make a wonderful collection for improving English fluency and mastering the tenets of the language. Add more pizzazz to their learning by providing them with writing exercises that will challenge their imagination and creativity. Follow my article here — 55 Writing Prompts For 5th-Graders That Are Enjoyable to Write.
Fun Fact: Prose is not the only reading material that improves fluency in the language. Poetry gives your 5th-grader a wider vocabulary because of the way this literary form is written. Read my top List of 33 Meaningful Poems for 5th Graders.
This list features the best 5th-grade books that a fifth grader can read aloud or read independently. Each book has its unique plot that will interest reluctant readers. As these learners transition from elementary school to middle school, a novel or two will keep them in check.
Last Updated on July 24, 2022 by Emily