In addition to my elementary book + gift guide, this year I wanted to add a separate middle grade gift guide for kids who are ready for longer chapter books and more complex ideas. Similar to the elementary gift guide, many of these books are the first in a series so that, if kids love the first book, they have a built-in incentive to keep reading! The gifts I’ve chosen here include fewer toys and more games, accessories, or kits that can help kids explore an area of interest. These books and gifts are aimed at ages 10-14, although that depends on the individual child and their reading level and interests.
My daughter has always loved music and plays the violin and she was absolutely enchanted with The Mystwick School of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury. She could not put this book down and is eagerly awaiting the second book in the series, The Midnight Orchestra, that comes out next summer. The book centers on a boarding school that teaches young musicians to create magic with their music. A prospective student, Amelia, feels like she failed at her audition but is accepted to the school on a trial basis. When a mysterious, magical storm begins to threaten the school, Amelia will have to decide if she ready to be herself and help save her school. This book has magic, mystery, and music and is sure to appeal to any young musician on your gift list.
This musical rainbow sticker is only the beginning of the cute, music themed items offered by the seller MusicallyMinted on Etsy. They also have adorable t-shirts, sweaters, pins, and more, all reasonably priced and most of them with a musical theme. My teenager loves to decorate her water bottles, notebooks, and instrument case with items that show off her interests so I will definitely be buying several of these stickers and pins to add to her stocking this year.
So far, I haven’t included many graphic novels in these gift guides, but New Kid by Jerry Craft is the exception. This Newbery Medal winning graphic novel tells the story of Jordan Banks, a seventh grader who’s parents have recently enrolled him in a new, prestigious private school. As one of the few students of color at the school, Jordan begins to feel like he doesn’t fit in, either in his neighborhood or his school. This is the rare book that is both fun to read and deeply thought provoking on issues of identity, race, and class. There is now a second book in this series, Class Act, about an eighth grade student at the same school, or you can buy both books as a box set.
In New Kid, Jordan loves drawing and telling the story of his life through the cartoons he creates. If you know a child with a similar passion for drawing, ArtSnacks might have the perfect gift. ArtSnacks is a monthly subscription box of art supplies and snacks. The monthly subscription box is packed with high quality art supplies each month, or you can buy a single box from a previous month. This box from September would be wonderful for anyone who loves to draw or sketch. It includes a mixed media drawing pad, a set of very high quality drawing pens, a black brush pen, a set of brush markers in 6 colors, a sketching pencil and sharpener, and lots more.
I couldn’t find the exact book that my daughter used to learn coding over the past year, but Coding for Kids by Matthew Teens looks very similar. This book teaches kids the basics of coding using Scratch (a teaching programming code developed at MIT) and then builds on those skills to teach the basics of Python (a coding language used in real-life programming). My daughter thrived with this method of learning to code and still enjoys creating games in both Scratch and Python.
Bloxels are a set of colored plastic cubes and a board that can be used to set up games that can then be played on a connected Ipad. Although this isn’t really coding, Bloxels use some of the same concepts as coding and help kids build logic and spatial reasoning skills. This set just includes the Bloxel blocks, instructions, and a board to set the blocks in, an Ipad is needed to make them work.
Tilly Pages loves her grandparents bookshop, Pages & Co., and finds comfort reading the books she finds there. But when characters from her favorite books start showing up in the shop, and Tilly discovers that she can enter into books with them, her world changes forever. Can this new ability help her solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance? Pages & Co.: The Bookwanderers by Anna James is the first in an exciting series of adventure stories that will captivate any book-loving tween who has ever dreamed of entering the world of their favorite books.
I have always loved the idea of bookmarks that double as a book tracker to record the books you read, but I was especially intrigued by these beautiful bookmarks from Sproutts shop on Etsy. Not only are these gorgeously illustrated with watercolor images of bookshelves, but they are also made of sturdy, biodegradable paper embedded with wildflower seeds. After filling out your bookmark, if you no longer want to keep it, just plant it in your backyard and watch the flowers grow! I bought a pack of these bookmarks for stocking stuffers this year and they were so beautifully made that I’m tempted to keep them for myself!
I included Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan in my list of back-to-school chapter books this year, and here it is again on this gift list because it is just so good! Told from the perspective of two 5th grade boys at Albert Einstein Elementary School, Save Me a Seat explores themes of identity, bullying, and the assumptions we make about others. Although Ravi and Joe come from different backgrounds (Joe has lived his whole life in the same town and Ravi has recently move to the U.S. from India) they are both struggling to fit in and make friends at the beginning of the school year. At first, they are put-off by each other and their perceived differences, but eventually the two boys team up to take up their mutual bully and maybe gain a friend.
Save Me a Seat uses food as a way of showing both things Joe and Ravi have in common (they both love M&M’s) and the differences that are ultimately their strengths. Universal Yums snack subscription is a fun way to introduce kids to new flavors while also learning a little about different cultures. Each box includes several snacks from a specific country (there is a choice of box sizes with different numbers of snacks) plus a booklet with trivia and games to learn about the country. While Universal Yums is a subscription box, you can choose to just subscribe to one month for only $18 and get a single box of snacks. However, a 6 month or year subscription would be a fun, educational monthly surprise for any kid!
Listified! by Andrew Pettie is a book from Encyclopedia Brittanica that presents fascinating facts in the form of 300 lists. Most of the lists are focused on science themes such as the 10 largest dinosaurs, 20 animals that have been in space, or 8 steps to unearthing a fossil. My son checked this book out from the library and spent the next week spouting all kinds of interesting facts. By presenting information in quick-to-read lists, Brittanica has created an accessible treasure trove of information that will keep kids coming back for more!
Reading Listified! just might inspire your reader to try making some lists of their own. My 52 Lists Project by Moorea Seal is a journal for kids that encourages them to write about their life in the form of lists. Whether you know a tween who can’t stop writing, or one who needs an extra push, this open-ended journal provides writing inspiration in a non-threatening format. Pair with some unique pens for extra fun points!
The graphic novel All Summer Long by Hope Larson is a classic coming of age story about 13-year old Bina. Bina and her best friend Austin have always spend summers working through a bucket list of fun summer activities. This year, however, Austin is headed off to soccer camp and Bina is on her own. She tries to fill her time with practicing guitar, watching TV, and even hanging out with Austin’s older sister, who also loves music. When Austin returns home, Bina still feels a distance between them that they can’t seem to overcome. With glowing illustration and insightful writing, All Summer Long perfectly captures the growing pains of the early teenage years and all the changes that come with this age.
During one pivotal scene in All Summer Long, Bina attends a rock concert with Austin’s sister and her boyfriend. Bina’s mother lends her a beloved leather moto jacket for the occasion. For a cruelty-free, vegan version of this wardrobe staple, Zara offers this unisex Faux Leather Biker Jacket in sizes up to 14.
In the eponymous house of Greenglass House by Kate Milford, 12-year old Milo is planning to spend a relaxing, winter vacation with his parents. Their house is not just a house though, it is an old smugglers inn with an ancient and storied past. Soon the past seems to return in the form of several strange guests, seeking shelter from the winter storm. When object begin to go missing, Milo must work with the cook’s daughter, Meddy, to unravel a dangerous mystery. The ending of Greenglass House was a truly shocking surprise to my family and I when we first read the book, and the tale that lead up to it is just as thrilling.
Greenglass House takes place during a particularly cold, stormy winter holiday and Milo spends quite a bit of time curled up with a hot mug of cocoa. These positive vibes mugs from Anthropologie are generously sized to hold plenty of cocoa, or other hot drinks, and their sunny, positive messages will brighten any morning. Pair one of these mugs with some flavored hot cocoa stir spoons for a cozy treat worthy of the most blustery of days.
There are lots of kids books out there about the elements and chemistry, but The Elements Book: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Periodic Table stands above the rest. This book takes what could be a rather dry subject and really make sit come alive. My kids appreciated that this book had actual photos of what each element looks like, whenever possible. Instead of just seeing photos of things that contain that element, they actually got to see what a chunk of sulfur or iron looks like in its raw form. The facts about each element are also arranged in an engaging format that seems to draw kids in. We have had this book for over a year now and I still sometimes find my kids poring over the pages, comparing and categorizing the various elements.
Kids in this middle grade age group are old enough to really get into some of the science that might be to messy or dangerous for the younger ages. The Science Academy Ultimate Chemistry Set is great for older kids who are responsible enough to measure, mix, and experiment independently. This set includes the chemicals, instruments, and instructions needed to conduct over 12 experiments, plus a lab station to keep everything organized. Each experiment includes a mini-lesson in chemistry basics such as acids and bases, density, or chemical solutions.
Eva Evergreen comes from a family of witches, her mother is even a Grandmaster witch, but Eva herself only has a small pinch of magic. In order to become a novice witch and keep what little magic she has, Eva must complete a magical quest and prove that she has been helpful in some way. At the same time Eva starts out on her quest, a mysterious storm called The Culling threatens the land. Will Eva’s little bit of magic be enough to save her friends from The Culling and earn her the title of Novice Witch? Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is a whimsical, warm tale set in an enchantingly realistic magical land. The second book in this series, Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch came out earlier this year and promises to be just as magical as the first.
I have to admit that I have never actually played the board game Broom Service but I have read wonderful things about it and I know that games made by Ravensburger tend to be very high quality. I am planning to buy this game for my own family this year and will update my recommendation once we’ve played it, but I couldn’t resist including it here as it seemed a perfect companion for Eva Evergreen. From what I have read, the game centers on each player trying to collect the correct ingredients to make a potion and deliver the completed potion to those who need it. I have also read that it is fairly quick to play and suitable for a wide age range of players.