Classic Books for Middle School that will Challenge Tweens

Are classic books for middle school on your tween’s reading list? There is a lot of debate about what makes a book a classic. For this list, I chose books that were written well over fifty years ago and have stood the test of time, meaning they’ve continued to be read over generations. As I look for the best books for middle school, classics are definitely on the list.

Sadly, many people shy away from reading classics. They feel they are too difficult to understand because they use often use unfamiliar language since they were written so long ago. I didn’t want my girls to think any book was out of reach, so I began introducing classics into our home school when they were in elementary school. They’ve read many on their own now and definitely have an appreciation for them.

Challenge Middle Schoolers with these 5 Excellent Classics For our second month of our 2016 Reading Adventure, I’ve decided to focus on the classics. I began introducing classic books into our home school when they were in elementary school. Now my tween and teen have a real appreciation for them.

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So, even if you or your children aren’t really a fan of the classics, I’d encourage you to give them another try. There are many to choose from, so hopefully, you’ll find one that grabs them and teaches them something.

Middle School Classic Books

Classic tales run the gambit from coming of age stories to death-defying adventures. That’s why I’m confident you’ll be able to find a story that interests your tween. Here are some classic books I think your middle schooler will enjoy reading.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and Other Stories (Twentieth-Century Classics)


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

In this classic, Mark Twain paints a picture of a small rural town in the nineteenth century. It centers around Tom, a rebellious boy who lives with his Aunt Polly and is constantly getting himself into trouble thanks to his fondness for pranks.

As we follow along on his many adventures, we see clearly what life and childhood were like in a time long since forgotten.

The Call of the Wild/White Fang by Jack London

Both of these stories, set in the frozen northern territory, are told from the perspective of the dogs. In The Call of the Wild, Buck is kidnapped from his comfortable life in California and sold to a sled dog owner in the Yukon. Many cruelties are inflicted upon him as he’s passed from owner to owner. However, his strong spirit keeps him going. Eventually, he breaks away from the rough life he has endured and finds a way that he can live wild and free.

White Fang centers around a lone dog/wolf cub who must find a way to survive in the harsh Canadian wilderness. He eventually becomes a part of an Indian tribe and is domesticated. However, his life is full of cruelty and brutality at the hands of the men who “own” him. But White Fang has an unbreakable spirit and eventually finds a kind master who turns him into a loving dog.

The Hobbit
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Illustrated


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit is one of the most acclaimed classic adventure and fantasy stories that’s bound to capture the attention of tweens and teens.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who rarely leaves his hole because he is content to live his small, unassuming life. His world is turned upside down when a wizard named Gandalf and a group of dwarves show up on his doorstep to take him away on an adventure. They need help capturing the treasure that’s being held by Smaug, a large dragon. For some reason, Bilbo joins them on their quest, unaware of all that awaits him.

This is a wonderful story of an unlikely hero.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Rebecca Rowena Randall lives with her two spinster aunts in the fictional village of Riverboro, Maine. Rebecca is an intelligent, imaginative, and rambunctious child who eventually charms everyone around her.

While reading, we watch Rebecca growing up, blossoming into a young lady whose talents and perseverance help her create a better life for herself.

The Secret Garden (HarperClassics)
Treasure Island (Signet Classics)


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Mary Lennox suddenly becomes an orphan and is sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, whom she has never met, in England, at Misselthwaite Manor. As she tries to settle into her new life, Mary befriends Dickon, a peasant boy, and they spend their days investigating a secret garden they found on the Manor grounds.

She is also surprised to come across her cousin, Colin, a sickly boy who has been shut up in his room. The three children become friends and thanks to the garden, each other, and a few caring adults, they each blossom in their own way as they spend more of their time in the garden, together.

Young Jim Hawkins lives in a seaside town in South England with his mother and ill father. He helps watch over the family inn, Admiral Benbow. After an old sea captain named Billy Bones dies while staying at the inn, Jim finds a treasure map among his belongings.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Jim shows the map to the family doctor and they decide to set sail. Jim joins the crew of the Hispaniola, along with Dr. Livesey, his friend Squire Trelawney, as well as some locally hired deckhands. Together, they head toward Treasure Island, where Jim is sure he’s going to find gold waiting there for him.

During the journey, he realizes that they’ve actually boarded a pirate ship after he overhears the cook, who is actually the pirate Long John Silver, plotting a mutiny. He learns that the crew is determined to steal the treasure once they reach the island.

Can Jim find the gold and bring it home safely to help his family? Does he have what it takes to fight off the dangerous pirates who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the map and the treasure?

Older kids will enjoy this swashbuckling tale of pirates, danger, and treasure.

These classic tales are definitely worth the effort. Hopefully, you’ve found a story or two that you’re excited to introduce to your older kids.

Additional Books for Middle School

Looking for even more books your middle schooler will enjoy? Check out these

Using Technology to Support Reading

Do you love the idea of expanding your child’s reading list, but getting her to sit down with a book ends up being a hassle? Consider switching over to audiobooks. They’re a lifesaver for some families, including those who love “reading” together. Kids can listen on their devices or you can play books in the car as you travel together.

If you haven’t ventured into electronic books with your tween yet (whether audiobooks or a Kindle), I encourage you to consider it, especially if you want to raise enthusiastic readers. When you embrace the format that fits your child best, ultimately, it will help them get swept up in a great story. And bonus, some classic stories can be downloaded for free to Kindle devices.

Which one of these classic books for middle school is your tween reading first?

Megan Zechman
I love homeschooling! Learning is a way of life for our family. Most days you will find us exploring our Central Florida community, having fun while learning. I am constantly looking for new and interactive ways to engage my older children.
Megan Zechman
Megan Zechman
Megan Zechman

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