Realistic fiction has a way of sticking with its reader well into adulthood. Real scenarios, even if somewhat unlikely, make these books beloved and popular for decades.
Realistic Fiction for Grades Three to Five
These books hold massive appeal for the younger elementary aged crew. Whether the stories are dealing with real-life loss, as in Because of Winn-Dixie or things kids wish they could do (like make up a word and get everyone using it), something satisfying about imagining yourself alongside the main characters of this realistic and sometimes zany adventures. While the realistic fiction genre is not as popular for the elementary-aged set, there are still some great picks.
- Frindle by Andrew Clements is a best-selling book and soon to be featured film starring Susan Sarandon that's perfect for the third or fourth grader who likes to argue. The main character, Nick, invents a new word for a pen which upsets the adults' world around him. Kids everywhere who have disdain for their English teachers will love this could-be-real tale of ingenuity and inventive language. The book has sold over two million copies to date.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid, written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney Amulet, is a series of fifteen books about the struggles and trials of Greg Heffley's life, featuring struggles that typical kids face in school. The series is so popular, it is also now a series of movies. It is a great chapter book series for boys who can relate to and enjoy Greg's many funny adventures. Because of the illustrations that adorn most pages, it's a favorite for kids who say they don't like to read.
- Dork Diaries, written and illustrated by Rachel Renée Russell, is another New York Times best-selling series about the personal diary of Nikki Maxwell and her experience with a new school, new crush and mean girl. It has broad appeal as there isn't a kid alive who can't relate to new school jitters, crushes and mean kids. It's a wonderful story that will give kids a peek into how Nikki gets through these travails.
- Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo, is a Parent's Choice Gold Award winner and the inspiration for a 2005 film about ten-year-old India Opal Buloni and her dog, Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie is no regular dog. He opens up the door for courage and many friendships for Opal. Kids will relate to the special bond between Opal and her dog.
- Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, is about a fifth grader named Auggie, who has a facial deformity known as "mandibulofacial dysostosis." It's been read by over five million people and is heading to the big screen in a feature film starring Julia Roberts. The book reveals how a group struggles with differences by using compassion and empathy through the point-of-view of Auggie, his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend and more. The writing is so elegant, you cannot help to imagine yourself in the story.
Realistic Fiction for Grades Six to Eight
These grade levels typically don't have many series, or chapter books, in this genre but these novels are some of the most popular realistic fiction that are on best-seller lists or have won awards and medals.
- Middle School, a series by James Patterson, is about the life of Rafe Khatchadorian and the dog-eat-dog world of middle school. Your sixth, seventh and eighth graders will relate, laugh and enjoy how Rafe can survive and even triumph a little over his woes. Several books in the series have won awards including (but not limited to) Children's Choice and Parenting Choice Awards.
- Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech is a captivating story of love, loss and the complexity of human emotion. This Newbery Medal winner and Parent's Choice Gold Award winner will captivate the reader as the book weaves together two stories: the disappearance of Salamanca Tree Hiddle's mother and a story about her friend, Phoebe Winterbottom. The stories are interwoven through the context of a long road trip she takes with her grandparents where she begins to unfold the truth about her mother's disappearance. Tweens will laugh out loud and cry at Salamanca's journey.
- Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, is a best-selling story about 12-year-old Willow Chance, a genius obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, but doesn't know how to interact with people. She finds comfort in counting by 7s when she is anxious. Through a series of personal losses, she must struggle to reconnect with others to form a family among strangers. This fascinating story teaches empathy with an insight into how it is to be truly different and is relatable for any kid who has ever felt on the outside.
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson is a modern classic about friendship and loss. The book was a Newbery Medal winner and film as well as one of School Library Journal's Top 100 Chapter Books of all time. It is also among the most frequently banned books, making it well known amongst teachers and parents. The book is about fifth grader, Jess Aarons, and his friendship with Leslie Burke and their imaginary place they invent called Terabithia. When Leslie tries to cross the bridge to Terabithia and doesn't make it, it takes the love of his family and memories of Leslie to help him get through it. Kids relate to the imaginary world as it pulls them in and has them rooting for both Jess and Leslie. It's also a great example of how kids may deal with loss.
- Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is narrated by the main character, Melody, who has cerebral palsy. Melody cannot walk, talk or speak out loud, but she has a photographic memory. The narrator portrays a girl who is essentially trapped in her body. The book emphasizes empathy and gives a rare glimpse into the life and struggles of a disabled child. The book won several awards, including the Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award, as well as the Goodreads Choice Award.
A Great Start
From surviving school to heart-rendering issues like the loss of a family member, these books will show your child a window into another person's life. Whether your goal is to help develop empathy, have your child learn someone else's viewpoint, or just have him enjoy a good book, you can go wrong with these popular realistic stories.