Rick Riordan's Books to Hook Middle School Readers

Posted by Cybil on July 19, 2017


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Acclaimed author Rick Riordan became a household name with his first young adult series Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

The first book in that now famous series, The Lightning Thief, has an average reader rating of 4.22 stars and more than 1.3 million reviews on Goodreads. It was also adapted into a movie in 2010, which made more than $200 million at the box office.

In addition to Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Riordan's written four other New York Times best-selling series: The Heroes of Olympus, The Trials of Apollo, based on Greek and Roman mythology; the Kane Chronicles, based on ancient Egyptian mythology; and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, based on Norse mythology. It's little wonder that the author has dominated the Goodreads Choice Awards, winning in the Middle Grade & Children's category for the last six years straight.

So, we thought there's no one more qualified to recommend books to hook middle schoolers on reading.

"I'm always looking for great middle grade reads!" says Riordan. "Here are five of my favorites, guaranteed to hook young readers from page one!"


Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
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"Shadow Magic is about Thorn, the wayward son of an outlaw, and Lillith Shadow, the heir of one of six ancient magical kingdoms. There should be no reason for these two to ever cross paths, but they do, and the combination is explosive. It's got all the elements of a great fantasy, rendered in a fresh, alluring, well-crafted world, with sympathetic characters and tons of mystery!"


Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon
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"12-year-old Robyn Loxley is an accomplished gymnast and an amateur tinkerer. One night, while she sneaks out to raid the local salvage yard, Governor Ignomus Crown stages a brutal coup, rounding up and 'disappearing' all members of Parliament and their families. Robyn alone escapes the purge. Hunted by the military police, unsure of her parents' fate, she is forced to flee to the nearby district of Sherwood. So begins her transformation into Robyn Hoodlum. A fantastic middle grade adventure that breathes new life into the myth of Robin Hood. If you're looking for a page-turner for young readers, check it out!"


Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
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"Collins is best known for The Hunger Games, but do yourself a favor and check out her Underland Chronicles, starting with this book. One day, Gregor falls through a grate in his laundry room and discovers an underground world populated with entire societies of rats, spiders, and cockroaches who live side by side with humans. Gregor's arrival coincides with a prophecy, and may explain the long-ago disappearance of Gregor's father. One of my son's all-time favorite middle grade books, and one of my favorites too!"


The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
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"In an alternate modern England, 'the Problem' has inexplicably caused ghosts to run rampant and disrupt the lives of mortals. Private agencies have arisen to combat the supernatural, and they rely on children as their operatives, since only their senses are keen enough to detect and combat ghosts. After a horrible accident in her home village, Lucy Carlyle flees to London where she joins a small struggling agency, Lockwood & Co. Soon they are embroiled in a mystery that may cost them their agency and even their lives. Ancient evil, unsolved murders, powerful ghosts, and nefarious mortals—this story will keep you reading late into the night, but you'll want to leave the lights on!"


The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
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"I love a good superhero story, and this is a hero I bet you've never heard of! Way back in the Golden Age of Comics, the Green Turtle was the first Asian American superhero. Now, Gene Luen Yang has resurrected his story in a funny, fast-paced graphic novel. Check it out for a fresh new action hero!"


Check out more of our back-to-school coverage:
How to Encourage Kids to Read (Plus Some Modern Children's Classics)
Great Children's Books for Young History Buffs
As Diverse Kids' Books Increase, A Chance for More Muslim Stories

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)

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Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* I agree about The Shadow Hero. Hilarious, fun graphic novel.


message 2: by Jon, Goodreads employee (new)

Jon Swartz +1 for Jonathan Stroud. I like the Bartimaeus series even more (The Amulet of Samarkand)


message 3: by Liam (new)

Liam Rick Riordan's first series of books, before he began writing more-or-less exclusively for children, was also extremely good. It is somewhat difficult to make a modern & believable version of the classic P.I. archetype, and Riordan is one of only two authors (the other being Julie Smith) who has actually pulled it off, as far as I know. It is really a shame that the 'Tres Navarre' books were not more successful...


message 4: by Phoenix2 (new)

Phoenix2 Used to read all of R. Riordan's books when I was in middle school and this list looks amazing!! I wish I was younger....


message 5: by June (new)

June Loved Gregor the Overlander, never thought I would tear up when a cockroach was killed... Also enjoyed The Screaming Staircase, but I think I enjoyed his Bartimaeus books more. Will have to track down the others, since several have been recommended to me already.


Heather Codename: ♕Duchess♕ I feel so old. Middle school reads for me were Goosebumps, Fear Street, T'witches, Babysitter Club, and Animorphs.


message 7: by Tony (new)

Tony Vynckier My 14 year old son - Tibo - loves the books in the Rick Riordan series. He can spend hours reading.
At least one way to get him away from his smartphone or playstation.


message 8: by Richp (new)

Richp I have not read Riordan or any of his recommended authors. I think they are all well past my time as a primary target for this market. But I was in this market once, and I interpret this list as a blatant ad for the segment of the market Riordan does well in.

I am certain the stuff I read 50 years (and a bit less) ago that was really good was far more varied, and much better overall, than the stuff on this list.

I think it was Amazon that bought this site, and a lot of the best is out of copyright, and that might might explain something here.


message 9: by Heather (new)

Heather Puckett Richp wrote: "I have not read Riordan or any of his recommended authors. I think they are all well past my time as a primary target for this market. But I was in this market once, and I interpret this list as a ..."

Rick Riordan is an outstanding children's author. His books have enticed many of my 6th grade students to fall in love with reading. It is a shame that you have made such derogatory remarks about books/authors that you have never read.


message 10: by Richp (new)

Richp Heather wrote: "Richp wrote: "I have not read Riordan or any of his recommended authors. I think they are all well past my time as a primary target for this market. But I was in this market once, and I interpret t..."

Fantasy may certainly be a strong majority of the middle school market these days. But historically it is not, and while some classics seem to be classics because they give Lit teachers an excuse to justify their (teachers') existence, many classics are classics because they are really good books. It is highly unlikely the 5 best are all relatively recent books in one niche genre.

BTW I did not dis any single book here, just as Riordan did not dis any book not on his list. If you want to lure more of your kids into reading, offer them a wider variety of choices.


message 11: by Heather (new)

Heather Puckett You say that you did not "dis" any book on the list. Nope, you just disregarded all five of them outright. Here is a direct quote from your original post: "I am certain the stuff I read 50 years (and a bit less) ago that was really good was far more varied, and much better overall, than the stuff on this list." Also, this very short list says they are five of Riordan's favorites that will hook middle school readers. It does not say they are the five greatest books of all time. It also does not say they should be required reading.

I am not sure where your bile for teachers comes from. I have hundreds of books in my classroom library from all different genres, and I spend a great deal of time discussing literature with my students encouraging them to find books/series/authors that they will love. Every year I have students who discover an appreciation of classic novels such as Anne of Green Gables, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Treasure Island, and The Time Machine as well as contemporary popular fiction.


message 12: by Oda Renate (new)

Oda Renate Liam wrote: "Rick Riordan's first series of books, before he began writing more-or-less exclusively for children, was also extremely good. It is somewhat difficult to make a modern & believable version of the c..."

I want to read them, I mean they have to be good they are by Riordan after all


message 13: by Oda Renate (new)

Oda Renate Also I would like to add Skulduggery Pleasant (Skulduggery Pleasant, #1) by Derek Landy
The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1) by John Stephens


Madeline (The Bookish Mutant) The Search for WondLa (The Search for WondLa, #1) by Tony DiTerlizzi

This too. Best. Series. Ever.


message 15: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary Some of these were already on my want to read list, but I'm adding the rest. I love Rick Riordan and so do my students!


message 16: by Emma (new)

Emma I work in a bookshop on the childrens' section and his novels are always popular.
The two most popular authors for that age group though will always be David Walliams and J.K Rowling and they are the bane of my working life.
I am either overrun with the things or the little blighters clear me out of stock haha!


message 17: by Isabelle (new)

Isabelle FYI, when you try to rate Shadow Magic, it instead rates Heroes of the Frontier. This seems to be a common problem on the blog when links taking you to the wrong place, so maybe links are being scrambled when the post is posted?


message 18: by Jennice (last edited Aug 13, 2017 10:42PM) (new)

Jennice I love 'the screaming staircase' by Jonathon Stroud. Its one of my favorites. A fabulous mystery ;)


message 19: by Eyla (last edited Aug 13, 2017 11:50PM) (new)

Eyla Phoenix2 wrote: "Used to read all of R. Riordan's books when I was in middle school and this list looks amazing!! I wish I was younger...."

You don't have to be young to read middle school aged books, go ahead and read them if you want. I know I will be reading a few of them


message 20: by Mary (last edited Aug 17, 2017 05:03PM) (new)

Mary Yee For middle schoolers, I recommend: Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe.


message 21: by Jani (new)

Jani Wondering when middle grade books became considered good for middle schoolers? Seems there may be a slight disconnect here ... as an example, School Library Journal recommends Shadow Magic for grades 4-6. In the school library where I work (serving 7th and 8th graders), anything pitched toward 4th or 5th graders just gathers dust. I'm always excited to see recommendations for good middle school reads, so was a bit disappointed with this list, though in fairness, I must agree that The Shadow Hero has been really popular with our students.


message 22: by Dave (new)

Dave Phoenix2 wrote: "Used to read all of R. Riordan's books when I was in middle school and this list looks amazing!! I wish I was younger...."

Don't let your age stop you. I'm 39 now and I still re-read Riordan's books as well as J.K. Rowlings. I find more books I enjoy on the Young Adult and Kids lists, than I ever have on Adult fiction lists.


message 23: by Dana (new)

Dana Mcdaniel I am 56 years old and have read or plan to read many on this list. I absolutely love The Gregor the Overlander series and just lent my set of 5 to my nephew who read them in about 10 days.


message 24: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Wilson Okay all you kids, age has nothing to do with it. Good books are good books whether pitched to kids or not. I'm over 70 and would hate to miss many of these just because I'm not "young". Read and enjoy!


message 25: by Biddy (new)

Biddy My 11 year old rising 6th grader has read all of Rick's series 3 times...need I say more?


message 26: by Pat (new)

Pat G "Wondering when middle grade books became considered good for middle schoolers? Seems there may be a slight disconnect here ... "

Pitch the books not the intended audience. My middle school students love these books and many others that are intended for younger readers. How about the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books? Do those gather dust?

Can you say gateway drug (book).


message 27: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Phoenix2 wrote: "Used to read all of R. Riordan's books when I was in middle school and this list looks amazing!! I wish I was younger...."

There's no age limit on books! If you think one is interesting, go for it! I'm 25 and have been reading tons of middle grade books the last couple of years. There are so many amazing books out there!


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