15 Best Classic Books For 5th Graders Update 05/2022

Classic Books For 5th Graders

The Giver

by: Lois Lowry – (Houghton Mifflin, 1993)

The Giver

There are four books set in the same place and time as The Giver, which won an award. The show takes place in a world that is so different, so interesting, and so shocking that it’s hard to believe. It looks at a society where there is no pain or war. There is only one person who has memories and knowledge of the past. This has been done, but it has taken away from their individuality. Only that person can truly understand pain, beauty, and color. In time, Jonas, 12, sees that this utopia has a lot of drawbacks. People from books one and two come back in the third and fourth books. It’s a great book for kids who are just beginning to think about big issues like conformity, risk, and courage.

Watch the movie? The 2014 movie mostly follows the book’s plot, but Jonas grows up from a tween to a teen.

A dystopian world story, suspense, and rebels with a cause are all things that kids who like these kinds of stories will like.

Old Yeller

by: Fred Gipson – (Harper & Bros., 1956) 144 pages.

In Texas, Travis looks after his mother and younger brother when his father goes on a cattle drive. A dirty yellow dog shows up and wins over the family by showing that he is a good guardian. Even though Travis has to be an adult when Old Yeller meets a wolf that is rabid, he still has to make some hard choices.

Watch the movie? Check out the Disney movie from 1957.

Kids who like heart-wrenching animal stories will love this book.

Pippi Longstocking

by: Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by: Michael Chesworth and Louis S. Glanzman – (Puffin Books, 1945) 160 pages.

Pippi Longstocking doesn’t have parents, but she has a monkey, a horse, and a lot of energy for crazy adventures. This is how it works: Two kids who live next door are amazed by her lifestyle. Envious kids all over the world love this sassy, unsupervised hero from Sweden who throws food, stays up all night, and does what she wants.

It’s great for kids who like classic stories.

The Phantom Tollbooth

by: Norton Juster, illustrated by: Jules Feiffer – (Random House, 1961) 255 pages.

A lot of kids say this is “the best book ever.” This is fantasy at its very best, they say. When Juster wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, he used a lot of irony and thought to make it a masterpiece. Give this book to your child and let the wave of words and numbers take them into a world of magic. A clever, almost impossible-to-describe book that you may already know about, but it’s too important to not talk about here.

It’s great for kids who like classic stories.

The Secret Garden

by: Frances Hodgson Burnett – (J.B. Lippincott Company, 1911) 288 pages.

The Secret Garden

If you’re an orphan, you’ll be angry at the world when you arrive at a run-down house on the British moors. As she learns more about the mansion’s secrets, like an invalid cousin, an abandoned garden, and a family’s sad history, she starts to open her heart a little bit. It is as healing for him as it has been for Mary when she shows her cousin the garden. The young people and the garden grow together as the lonely mansion becomes a home for everyone.

Watch the movie? Check out the 1993 movie with Maggie Smith as Mrs. Medlock.

It’s great for kids who like classic stories.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by: Lewis Carroll – (Macmillan, 1865) 192 pages.

Alice takes a tumble down a rabbit hole and finds herself in a world of strange creatures, complicated riddles, and crazy adventures. It’s likely that most kids have read about Alice’s journey and met characters like the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts. But there’s no better way to enjoy Lewis Carroll’s original work than to read and see it for yourself. Some people may find it easier to read the tongue twisters aloud with someone else.

Watch the movie? Tweens might like the crazy 2010 version with Johnny Depp as the Hatter.

It’s great for kids who love the silly.

The Black Stallion

by: Walter Farley – (Random House, 1991) 187 pages.

A storm causes their ship to sink, leaving Alex Ramsey on a desert island with a wild, Arabian black horse. A horse and a boy become friends during their fight for survival, and even after they’re rescued and taken to New York, they still feel close to each other. They set up a match race between “the Black” and two champion thoroughbreds. Henry and the trainer were impressed by the horse’s speed.

Horse-loving kids would be great for this.

The Black Stallion can be found at your library.

The Red Badge of Courage

by: Stephen Crane – (Dover Publication, Inc., 1990) 112 pages.

As a soldier in the Civil War, Henry Fleming is 18. He doesn’t feel like a hero or a patriot when he fights in his first major battle. Instead, he is afraid, ashamed, cowardly, and afraid for his own safety. When he runs away from the slaughter, he sees his friend die of blood loss and is hit in the head by another deserter. He goes back to his regiment, where he is hungry, exhausted, wounded, and disillusioned. The next day, he leads them bravely into battle. Many people think this book is the first anti-war novel because of how it shows fear in a realistic way and how it doesn’t sugarcoat it.

Children who like stories about war and the Civil War.

The Martian Chronicles

by: Ray Bradbury – (Simon & Schuster, 2012) 256 pages..

The Martian Chronicles

Humans want to live on Mars. Disputes start up with the red planet’s original, yellow-eyed people, who live in a civilization built around canals that bring water from the ice caps. Germs from Earth soon kill off most of the Martians, allowing a few humans to live there while global nuclear war wipes out the rest of the world. These short stories, which are organized into 24 in chronological order, are filled with scientific information as well as a critique of colonization’s cruel ethics.

Children who like science fiction that criticizes society will like this.

Captains Courageous

by: Rudyard Kipling – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013) 164 pages.

His father is a multimillionaire from the United States, and Harvey Cheyne Jr. has been spoiled and rude. He washes overboard from the deck of an ocean liner on a transatlantic cruise. He was saved by Portuguese fishermen, and now he has to share the work of the high seas with his salty, rambunctious shipmates. His character grows up to be a self-reliant, responsible young man because he thrives on the challenges and enjoys the camaraderie.

Perfect for: Children who like to have funny adventures.

The Yearling

by: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by: N. C. Wyeth – (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967) 405 pages.

Jody Baxter’s family owns a farm in the Florida backwoods, which is full of alligators, wolves, bears, and angry humans. Jody is lonely, so his parents let him adopt an orphaned fawn that he takes care of and calls his best friend. The deer grows quickly and eats the corn crop. During this coming-of-age story, Jody’s loyalty is split between his family and his animal friend.

Children who like animals and living on a farm.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by: Mark Twain – (Barnes & Noble Classic Series, 2008) 336 pages.

When he was a young, troubled teen in the 1840s, he had a lot of fun but also had a lot of heart. This is the story. Huck and Jim, a runaway slave, leave their small town in Missouri. Huck’s father is drunk and violent, and his religious, hell-threatening guardians want to kill him. Huck and Jim flee the town with Jim. The two people are rafting down the Mississippi River, and they keep getting into trouble. They have to be clever, brave, and loyal to each other to get through it. This book has been praised for its witty, simple language, humanitarian worldview, and scathing critique of Southern antebellum racism and hypocrisy.

Kids who have a sense of adventure and a strong sense of right and wrong will love this game.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by: Mark Twain – (MacMillan Collectors Library Books, 2017) 264 pages.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

During the 1840s, a small-town Missouri boy had a lot of fun getting into trouble. His adventures are described with wry humor, timeless characters, and social commentary. There are grave robbers, people who skip school, a church that gets fooled, kissing girls, people who run from home, a haunted house, and getting lost in a labyrinthine cave in the story. It’s a classic story about clever, brave boys who want to be free in a world that’s too polite for them.

Children who love thrilling stories and smart-aleck characters will love this book. It’s great for them.


by: William H. Armstrong, illustrated by: James Barkley – (Harper & Row, 116) 1969 pages.

As an African-American sharecropper in the Deep South, this is the story of how racism and its consequences led to poverty, hunger, and imprisonment. It was set in the late 1880s. Sounder is their dog. For example, he is an example of what it takes to keep a family together when it’s going through a rough time. Because of a schoolteacher’s kindness, the teenage son learns how to read and write. Montaigne’s book on morality helped him do this.

Animal lovers, history buffs, and kids who like good stories will love this book.

The Indian in the Cupboard

by: Lynne Reid Banks – (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 1985) 192 pages.

His great-grandmother had a key that was very old. Omri uses it to lock a small plastic Indian figurine in a medicine cabinet. Then… magic! The toy turns into Little Bear, an Iroquois brave who is very alive and wants to fight. Omri, Little Bear, Patrick, Patrick’s best friend, and Boone, a reanimated cowboy toy who hates Little Bear, have a lot of fun together. In this story, there are lessons about responsibility, ethics and friendship. It also shows how Native American culture is very different from that of the rest of the world.

Children who like the idea of their toys becoming real.

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