PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
This Peter Pan retelling is intense, but so good! Crazy dramatic storylines full of action and nonstop adventure; deep characters with flaws, relatability, and complex arcs; and a little bit of darkness, too (though not celebrated or promoted – the whole series is a fight of light vs darkness). . It’s definitely deep/dark/intense enough to be enjoyed by an adult, but this was read to me when I was 8 and my brother was 5 – so while it is intense, there is nothing that is inappropriate or too much for the younger audience (they just may not understand the depth as much).
The Series: Peter and the Starcatchers; Peter and the Shadow Thieves; Peter and the Secret of Rundoon; Peter and the Sword of Mercy; and spinoff novel, The Bridge to Neverland.
SAVVY by Ingrid Law
I didn’t read this series until a few years ago (so it’s not a childhood favorite of mine, per se), but I was so impressed by it! The characters are just SO much fun and the story is equally as enjoyable and captivating. The magic is gentle and unlike magic you typically read about in stories, and there are some very subtle but really cool themes that line up with Christianity as well. Wholesome and fun, and just so creatively written!
The Series: Savvy, Scumble, and Switch
A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket
Classics in my opinion, this series is just so unlike all middle grade novels. I have yet to find a writing style as distinct, unique, and quirky as Snicket’s. There are fantastic themes about growing up and independence, trust and loyalty. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are excellent role models, full of flaws no doubt, but yet demonstrate incredible bravery and integrity even under the most harrowing of circumstances. Highly recommend.
The Series: The Bad Beginning; The Reptile Room; The Wide Window; The Miserable Mill; The Austere Academy; The Ersatz Elevator; The Vile Village; The Hostile Hospital; The Carnivorous Carnival; The Slippery Slope; The Grim Grotto; The Penultimate Peril; The End.
THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart
Another example of a series full of fun adventures that teach characters valuable lessons, and a series full of genuine characters easy to root for. Well written and thorough, this was such a great series and I enjoyed it so much. Just so masterfully executed!
The Series: The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma. **There is a prequel and a 4th book in the series, but I have read neither.
THE DOLL PEOPLE by Ann. M Martin & Laura Godwin
This series was the epitome of my 8yr old self’s imagination. The story follows a family of dolls and how they keep their lives hidden from their owners, the kids, and have all sorts of grand, but dramatic, adventures. Fantastic reads for young imaginations, but yet rich stories even for older readers.
The Series: The Doll People, The Meanest Doll in the World, and The Runaway Doll
ON THE EDGE OF THE DARK SEA OF DARKNESS by Andrew Peterson (The Wingfeather Saga)
The Wingfeather Saga pretty much contains my favorite books of all time, ever. I read it for the first time when I was 8 and loved it, and have reread it countless times since, finding more to love about the series each time I read through. I cannot recommend this series enough. Here’s the synopsis: Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog Nugget. Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera…
The Series: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness; North! Or Be Eaten; The Monster in the Hollows; The Warden and the Wolf King