New Year, New School: Great Choices for the Upper Elementary Set


It’s back-to-school time!  If you haven’t returned to the classroom already, you will very soon.  Here are some intermediate fiction suggestions for children in grades 4-6 to make the school year even more fun.  In each book, the main character is starting a new school.

El Deafo by Cece Bell
In 2015, with this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, author Cece Bell earned Newbery Honors and an Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids.  Bell relates her personal experience as a deaf child in first grade joining a classroom of children without hearing issues.  She wears a hearing aid strapped to her chest which opens up her auditory world, but makes her feel awkward socially and hampers her quest to find a true friend.  Interestingly, the hearing aid also allows her to hear her teacher’s conversations wherever she is in the school.  This becomes Cece’s “superpower”, and as a result she dubs herself “El Deafo”.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
In this graphic novel, Roan is just starting middle school.  His application to pilot school was rejected and instead he has accepted a surprising invitation to attend the mysterious Jedi Academy, where he finds he’s the oldest student.  Apart from Yoda, many of the characters in this new series are entirely unrelated to the cast of the Star Wars films, but are equally intriguing.  Much more than a take-off of a popular franchise, this novel/comic diary tackles some important school-age issues, such as friendship, bullying and perseverance.


The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The experiences that eleven-year-old Ellie encounters as she starts middle school include more than just friendships ending and beginning, awkwardness and discovering new academic interests.  She also gets to know her grandfather, Melvin, who has figured out how to reverse the aging process and is now a thirteen-year-old enrolled at Ellie’s school.  This unique novel is a wonderful blend of fantasy and realistic fiction and exhibits an enthusiasm for science that should inspire any reader.  We also offer this book in compact disc and eBook formats.

The New Kid by Mavis Jukes
This novel is also about starting a new school, but with the added challenges of doing this in the middle of the school year and switching from an intimate private school to a large public school.  Eight-year-old Carson has just moved with his dad to northern California, leaving behind his grandparents and familiar places and faces.  Although at first not completely comfortable in his new surroundings, the love of his father and the acceptance of his classmates smooths the transition.  Author Jukes shows true empathy for Carson’s experience settling into a new environment and tells her tale with humor and understanding.

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