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Middle-Grade Books From the '80s That Are Still Worth Reading

Share part of your own childhood with these classic books from the '80s

Tina Cha
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Published on: October 16, 2020

Cute little Asian girl reading a book in the living room at home

That book is so last-century

I have learned that a surefire way to have my middle-grade reader refuse to open what could be the best book she has ever read is to hold it up and say, “I loved this book when I was your age!”

This utterance is typically met with skepticism, possibly an eye-roll, because what I like couldn’t possibly be cool.

Go straight to the books:

  1. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” by Judy Blume
  2. Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love” by Francine Pascal
  3. Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls
  4. Homecoming” by Cynthia Voight
  5. Locked in Time” by Lois Duncan
  6. Dear Mr. Henshaw” by Beverly Cleary
  7. The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and Mean Janine” by Ann M. Martin

So it was a surprise earlier this summer when I saw that my daughter had put Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” on hold at the library. I later learned she had heard about the book, not from a trusted parent, but from a middle-grade book published in 2017, Alan Gratz’s “Ban This Book.” Gratz has the right idea: To get a kid to read a book, tell them they shouldn’t read it.

I have been skimming the same reading-level books as my daughter for some time now. It provides us with some common ground and gives me a way to be part of something she’s passionate about. I like to know what she’s comprehending and help explain troubling or questionable characters or scenes.

After my daughter read the Judy Blume classic, we discussed it lightly. I would have discussed it more in-depth with her but, truthfully, I couldn’t remember much of it. I sheepishly started the book again because I wanted to see if the novel, first written in 1970, had withstood the test of time.

It got me thinking about the other books that we, as a collective group of kids in the ‘80s, read and raved about. Do they still hold up, or should I end my pursuit of pushing books published last century? I took a week and reread some favorites and am here to tell you, yes and no. Read on.

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