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Realistic Fiction Books For 5th Graders: The Definitive List

Looking for the best realistic fiction books for 5th grade? Here are some great realistic fiction books for 5th graders with both chapter books and picture books. These realistic children’s books include both contemporary realistic fiction books as well as historical realistic fiction books. Ideas for fifth grade teachers looking for realistic fiction books including lesson plans and activities! Great realistic fiction for 5th graders.

If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!

Realistic Fiction Books For 5th Graders

There are so many great fantasies, fairytales, folktales and fables for 5th graders. It’s also important sometimes for third graders to have realistic fiction books. There’s a place and time for all kinds of book, this list of realistic fiction books for fifth graders is sure to have something for every and any situation you need.

Realistic Fiction Children’s Picture Books:

Here are the best realistic fiction picture books for 5th graders.

Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna

Tommy Tittlebottom sees Mr Peabody taking an apple from Mr Funkadeli’s fruit market and is very surprised that he doesn’t pay. Then Tommy sees it happen again and decides that Mr. Peabody is a thief. Word spreads quickly around the town. When Mr Peabody arrives at the baseball ground, ready for the usual Saturday game, only Billy Little turns up and he soon explains what has happened. It is then up to Mr. Peabody to teach Tommy about the importance of truth and the power of words.

Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Climbing aboard the New York bound Silver Meteor train, Ruth Ellen embarks upon a journey toward a new life up North– one she can’t begin to imagine. Stop by stop, the perceptive young narrator tells her journey in poems, leaving behind the cotton fields and distant Blue Ridge mountains.

Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the colored car is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view. As they travel, Ruth Ellen reads from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, reflecting on how her journey mirrors her own– until finally the train arrives at its last stop, New York’s Penn Station, and the family heads out into a night filled with bright lights, glimmering stars, and new possiblity.

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

Watch the days and seasons pass as the wind blows, the fog rolls in, and icebergs drift by. Outside, there is water all around. Inside, the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his family unfolds as the keeper boils water for tea, lights the lamp’s wick, and writes every detail in his logbook.

Step back in time and through the door of this iconic lighthouse into a cozy dollhouse-like interior with the extraordinary award-winning artist Sophie Blackall.

Emily by Michael Bedard


What if your neighbor were the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson? And what if one day she sent a letter inviting your mother to pay her a visit? A little girl who lives across the street from the mysterious Emily gets a chance to meet the poet when her mother goes to play the piano for her. There, the girl sneaks a gift up to Emily, who listens from the landing, and in return, Emily gives the girl a precious gift of her own—the gift of poetry.

Proud As A Peacock, Brave As A Lion by Jane Barclay

As questions come from a young grandchild, his grandpa talks about how, as a very young man, he was as proud as a peacock in uniform, busy as a beaver on his Atlantic crossing, and brave as a lion charging into battle. Soon, the old man’s room is filled with an imaginary menagerie as the child thinks about different aspects of wartime. But as he pins medals on his grandpa’s blazer and receives his own red poppy in return, the mood becomes more somber.

Outside, the crowd gathered for the veterans’ parade grows as quiet as a mouse, while men and women — old and young — march past in the rain. A trumpet plays and Grandpa lays a wreath in memory of his lost friend. Just then, the child imagines an elephant in the mist. “Elephants never forget,” he whispers to his grandpa. “Then let’s be elephants,” says the old man, as he wipes water from his eyes and takes his grandson’s hand. A really great book for Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

Looking for the best realistic fiction books for 5th grade? Here are some great realistic fiction books for 5th graders with both chapter books and picture books. These realistic children's books include both contemporary realistic fiction books as well as historical realistic fiction books. Ideas for fifth grade teachers looking for realistic fiction books including lesson plans and activities! Great realistic fiction for 5th graders.
PIN ME

Akiak by Robert Blake

What happens when you can’t control your life? How do you take control of your fate? When she hurts her paw on the fourth day of the race, Akiak can no longer compete in the Iditarod—the famed dogsledding race through 1,151 miles of Alaskan terrain. Her musher has no choice but to leave her behind. The rules say once a dog is dropped from the race, it may not rejoin the team. But ten-year-old lead dog Akiak doesn’t know the rules, and nothing will stop her from catching up to her team. Akiak has never won the race before. Will she be able to help her team win this time? A great book to read in winter or to talk abou the Iditarod race in March.

Someday by Alison McGhee

A mother’s love leads to a mother’s dream — every mother’s dream — for her child to live life to its fullest. A deceptively simple, powerful ode to the potential of love and the potential in life. A book about teaching kids that no matter how young or old, we always need our mothers. The perfect book for Mothers’ Day! Literally everyone will be in tears by the end of the book.

Waiting For the Biblioburro by Monica Brown

Ana loves stories. She often makes them up to help her little brother fall asleep. But in her small village there are only a few books and she has read them all. One morning, Ana wakes up to the clip-clop of hooves, and there before her, is the most wonderful sight: a traveling library resting on the backs of two burros‑all the books a little girl could dream of, with enough stories to encourage her to create one of her own.
 
Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, award-winning picture book creators Monica Brown and John Parra introduce readers to the mobile library that journeys over mountains and through valleys to bring literacy and culture to rural Colombia, and to the children who wait for the BiblioBurro.

Grace For President by Kelly DiPucchio

“Where are the girls?” When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides to be the first. And she immediately starts off her political career as a candidate the school’s mock election. But soon, she realizes that she has entered a tough race. Her popular opponent claims to be the “best man for the job”–and seems to have captured all the male votes–while Grace concentrates on being the best person. In this timely story, author Kelly DiPucchio not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system, but also teaches them the value of hard work, courage, and independent thought–and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.

Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon

An incredible story about the Christmas Truces during World War 1.

Teach Us Your Name by Huda Essa

Embracing the diversity of our names is one of the first steps we can take to show our appreciation of diversity and inclusion. Everyone has a name and every name has a story. Teach Us Your Name focuses on the many stories and ways we can all connect by helping children take pride in their many identities and to utilize the opportunity to learn from others. This book lends itself to countless invaluable discussions about cultural norms, languages, unconscious bias, and much more.

Nadia’s Hands by Karen English

When Nadia is chosen to be a flower girl in Auntie Laila’s traditional Pakistani wedding, her hands are decorated with beautiful designs made with mehndi, and she comes to understand the rich culture she has inherited.

Islandborn by Junot Diaz

When Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island.  As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.” A great book for talking about immigrants and immigrant communities.

Boxes For Katje by Candace Fleming

After World War II there is little left in Katje’s town of Olst in Holland. Her family, like most Dutch families, must patch their old worn clothing and go without everyday things like soap and milk. Then one spring morning when the tulips bloom “thick and bright,” Postman Kleinhoonte pedals his bicycle down Katje’s street to deliver a mysterious box – a box from America! Full of soap, socks, and chocolate, the box has been sent by Rosie, an American girl from Mayfield, Indiana. Her package is part of a goodwill effort to help the people of Europe. What’s inside so delights Katje that she sends off a letter of thanks – beginning an exchange that swells with so many surprises that the girls, as well as their townspeople, will never be the same.

Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson

Apples, ho!

When Papa decides to pull up roots and move from Iowa to Oregon, he can’t bear to leave his precious apple trees behind. Or his peaches, plums, grapes, cherries, and pears. Oh, and he takes his family along too. But the trail is cruel. First there’s a river to cross that’s wider than Texas, then there are hailstones as big as plums, and then there’s even a drought, sure to crisp the cherries.

Luckily Delicious (the nonedible apple of Daddy’s eye) won’t let anything stop her father’s darling saps from tasting the sweet Oregon soil. A hilarious tall tale from the team that brought you Fannie in the Kitchen that’s loosely based on the life of a real fruiting pioneer.

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson

In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. “Written” by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures.

You can try a sample lesson and activities for Sidewalk Flowers FREE by signing up below:

That Book Woman by Heather Henson

Cal is not the readin’ type. Living way high up in the Appalachian Mountains, he’d rather help Pap plow or go out after wandering sheep than try some book learning. Nope. Cal does not want to sit stoney-still reading some chicken scratch. But that Book Woman keeps coming just the same. She comes in the rain and in the snow. She comes right up the side of the mountain, and Cal knows that’s not easy riding. And all just to lend his sister some books. Why, that woman must be plain foolish—or is she braver than he ever thought? If you want to talk about the importance of libraries and reading, this book is perfect!

The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Nicky is convinced that his summer with his grandmother in the Wisconsin woods is going to be the worst summer ever. She cooks food that he doesn’t like, there’s an art studio where her living room should be, and he’s expected to do chores—including fishing, the most boring chore ever.

But one afternoon, while Nicky is trying to catch their dinner, a raft drifts down the river towards him. The raft has a calming magic about it, affecting both Nicky and the wildlife of the river and woods. Through the raft and the adventures it brings him on, Nicky finds new common ground with his grandmother, a fellow river rat, who encourages him to explore his newfound talent for art.

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.

Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self-love and empowerment. This powerful, poetic picture book will resonate with readers of all ages. A great book about identity and for Asian American Heritage Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for Eyes That Kiss in the Corners HERE

Marching With Aunt Susan by Claire Rudolph Murphy

An inspiring story of the fight for women’s suffrage, based on the experiences of a real girl.
All Bessie wants is to go hiking with her father and brothers. But it’s 1896, and girls don’t get to hike. They can’t vote either, which Bessie discovers when Susan B. Anthony comes to town to help lead the campaign for women’s suffrage. Stirred to action, Bessie joins the movement and discovers that small efforts can result in small changes―and maybe even big ones. A great book for Women’s History Month.

Gittel’s Journey by Leslea Newman

Gittel and her mother were supposed to immigrate to America together, but when her mother is stopped by the health inspector, Gittel must make the journey alone. Her mother writes her cousin’s address in New York on a piece of paper. However, when Gittel arrives at Ellis Island, she discovers the ink has run and the address is illegible! How will she find her family? Both a heart-wrenching and heartwarming story, Gittel’s Journey offers a fresh perspective on the immigration journey to Ellis Island. The book includes an author’s note explaining how Gittel’s story is based on the journey to America taken by Lesléa Newman’s Jewish grandmother and family friend.

The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin

Kameeka yearns to continue her hula hooping competition with her rival, Jamara, rather than help prepare for Miz Adeline’s birthday party, and “the itch” almost ruins the party before the girls learn who the real winner is.

One Little Bag by Henry Cole

From a tall tree growing in the forest–to the checkout counter at the grocery store–one little bag finds its way into the hands of a young boy on the eve of his first day of school.

And so begins an incredible journey of one little bag that is usedand reusedand reused again.

In a three-generation family, the bag is transporter of objects and keeper of memories. And when Grandfather comes to the end of his life, the family finds a meaningful new way for the battered, but much-loved little bag to continue its journey in the circle of life. A great story for Earth Day to talk about recycling.

An Angel For Solomon Singer by Cynthia Rylant

Solomon Singer is a middle-aged man who lives in a hotel for men in New York City. One night his solitary wanderings take him into a restaurant where he reads these words on the menu: ”The Westway Cafe — where all your dreams come true. ” A soft-voiced waiter (metaphorically named Angel) welcomes him and invites him back. Each night Singer returns, ordering food and, silently, ordering his wishes for the things he remembers from an Indiana boyhood.

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki

A Japanese American boy learns to play baseball when he and his family are forced to live in an internment camp during World War II, and his ability to play helps him after the war is over.

America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven

The White Table is set in many mess halls as a symbol for and remembrance to service members fallen, missing, or held captive in the line of duty. Solitary and solemn, it is the table where no one will ever sit. As a special gift to her Uncle John, Katie and her sisters are asked to help set the white table for dinner. As their mother explains the significance of each item placed on the table Katie comes to understand and appreciate the depth of sacrifice that her uncle, and each member of the Armed Forces and their families, may be called to give.

Galimoto by Karen Williams

Kondi, a seven-year-old African boy, decides to make a galimoto — a toy vehicle — out of scraps of wire. He finds some wire…but it’s not enough, so Kondi searches out more….Gentle text and…soft watercolors capture the essence of life in a contemporary African village.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Each kindness makes the world a little better

This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Side and the Caldecott Honor winner Coming On Home Soon. With its powerful anti-bullying message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they’ve put it down.

Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock

Caldecott medalist Mordicai Gerstein captures the majestic redwoods of Yosemite in this little-known but important story from our nation’s history. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt joined naturalist John Muir on a trip to Yosemite. Camping by themselves in the uncharted woods, the two men saw sights and held discussions that would ultimately lead to the establishment of our National Parks.

Wishes by Mượn Thị Văn

An arresting, poetic journey and a moving reflection on immigration, family, and home, from an acclaimed creative team.

Wishes tells the powerful, honest story about one Vietnamese family’s search for a new home on the other side of the world, and the long-lasting and powerful impact that makes on one of the youngest members of the family. Inspired by actual events in the author’s life, this is a narrative that is both timely and timeless. Told through the eyes of a young girl, the story chronicles a family’s difficult and powerful journey to pack up what they can carry and to leave their world behind, traveling to a new and unknown place in a crowded boat.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Late one winter night a little girl and her father go owling. The trees stand still as statues and the world is silent as a dream. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father calls to the mysterious nighttime bird. But there is no answer. Wordlessly the two companions walk along, for when you go owling you don’t need words. You don’t need anything but hope. Sometimes there isn’t an owl, but sometimes there is.

Four Feet Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams

When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one.

As the girls go about their routines — washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America — the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.

Undocumented by Duncan Tonatiuh

Undocumented is the story of immigrant workers who have come to the United States without papers. Every day, these men and women join the work force and contribute positively to society. The story is told via the ancient Mixtec codex—accordion fold—format. Juan grew up in Mexico working in the fields to help provide for his family. Struggling for money, Juan crosses over into the United States and becomes an undocumented worker, living in a poor neighborhood, working hard to survive. Though he is able to get a job as a busboy at a restaurant, he is severely undercompensated—he receives less than half of the minimum wage! Risking his boss reporting him to the authorities for not having proper resident papers, Juan risks everything and stands up for himself and the rest of the community.

Contemporary Realistic Fiction Children’s Books:

Outside In by Deborah Underwood

Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.
Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made and the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us, and reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that await us all . . . outside.

Just Ask by Sonia Sotomayor

Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.

In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.

Playing From the Heart by Peter H. Reynolds

When a young boy begins to play on his family’s piano, reveling in the fun of plunking the keys, his father signs him up for lessons so that he can learn to play properly. With his father’s encouragement, Raj learns notes, then scales, then songs, and finally classical pieces that his father can recognize and be proud of. But the more Raj practices and the more skilled he becomes, the less he enjoys playing, until he grows up and stops playing altogether. But when his father becomes ill and asks Raj to play for him, will Raj remember how to play from the heart?

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

It can be a little scary to be small in a big city, but it helps to know you’re not alone. When you’re small in the city, people don’t see you, and loud sounds can scare you, and knowing what to do is sometimes hard. But this little kid knows what it’s like, and knows the neighborhood. And a little friendly advice can go a long way. A great book about seeing a things in another’s eyes as the child attempts to find her lost cat.

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

Watercress by Andrea Wang

Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can.

At first, she’s embarrassed. Why can’t her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family’s time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress. A great book about Asian Americans and family history.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her. But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.

Hike by Pete Oswald

Take to the trails for a celebration of nature — and a day spent with dad.

In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive — and closer than ever — as they document their hike and take their place in family history. In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child, with resonant themes for Earth DayHike is a breath of fresh air.

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles

Discover this poignant, timely, and emotionally stirring picture book, an ode to Black and brown children everywhere that is full of hope, assurance, and love.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

As a young boy, Bao and his father awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. Thi Bui’s striking, evocative art paired with Phi’s expertly crafted prose has earned this powerful picture books six starred reviews and numerous awards.

Crown by Derrick Barnes

The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!

Going Down Home With Daddy by Kelly Lyons

“On reunion morning, we rise before the sun. Daddy hums as he packs our car with suitcases and a cooler full of snacks. He says there’s nothing like going down home.”

Down home is Granny’s house. It’s where Lil Alan and his parents and sister will gather with great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Down home is where Lil Alan will hear stories of the ancestors and visit the land that has meant so much to all of them. And down home is where all of the children will find their special way to pay tribute to their family history. All the kids have to decide what they’ll share, but what will Lil Alan do?

What If Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick

What if everybody chose to be kind?

If you tell someone that they can’t play with you, there’s no harm done, right? But what if everybody said that? What if everybody forgot to be kind―and made fun of other kids’ artwork at school, or told a fib, or refused to share with a person in need? The world wouldn’t be a very nice place to live. But what if everybody thought before they spoke, so the world would be a kinder place? Kids need to learn to be kind to each other which is why this is one of the first September read alouds I do during social emotional learning time!

Carmela Full Of Wishes by Matt De La Peña

When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true–she’s finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panadería, until they arrive at the Laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make. Another one of my favorite September read alouds especially for Hispanic Heritage Month!

A Stone For Sascha by Aaron Becker

This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth. In his first picture book following the conclusion of his best-selling Journey trilogy, Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the private, personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia — and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again.

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad

With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of the hurtful, confusing words of bullies, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for “want,” just “need,” when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants.

A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts

Finders keepers, right? When Ruben picks up someone’s lost money, he finds out how hard it can be to do the right thing.

Ruben feels like he is the only kid without a bike. His friend Sergio reminds him that his birthday is coming, but Ruben knows that the kinds of birthday gifts he and Sergio receive are not the same. After all, when Ruben’s mom sends him to Sonny’s corner store for groceries, sometimes she doesn’t have enough money for everything on the list. So when Ruben sees a dollar bill fall out of someone’s purse, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s not one dollar or even five or ten—it’s a hundred-dollar bill, more than enough for a new bike just like Sergio’s! But what about the crossed-off groceries? And what about the woman who lost her money?

Realistic Fiction Chapter Books:

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Roll With It by Jamie Sumner

Ellie’s a girl with cerebral palsy who tells it like it is. That surprises some people, who see a kid in a wheelchair and think she’s going to be all sunshine and cuddles. The thing is, Ellie has big dreams: She might be eating Stouffer’s for dinner, but one day she’s going to be a professional baker. If she’s not writing fan letters to her favorite celebrity chefs, she’s practicing recipes on her well-meaning, if overworked, mother.

But when Ellie and her mom move so they can help take care of her ailing grandpa, Ellie has to start all over again in a new town at a new school. Except she’s not just the new kid—she’s the new kid in the wheelchair who lives in the trailer park on the wrong side of town. It all feels like one challenge too many, until Ellie starts to make her first-ever friends. Now she just has to convince her mom that this town might just be the best thing that ever happened to them!

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Caitlin has Asperger’s. The world according to her is black and white; anything in between is confusing. Before, when things got confusing, Caitlin went to her older brother, Devon, for help. But Devon was killed in a school shooting, and Caitlin’s dad is so distraught that he is just not helpful. Caitlin wants everything to go back to the way things were, but she doesn’t know how to do that. Then she comes across the word closure–and she realizes this is what she needs. And in her search for it, Caitlin discovers that the world may not be so black and white after all.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest.

But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

Life is harsh on the teeming streets of Chennai, India, so when runaway sisters Viji and Rukku arrive, their prospects look grim. Very quickly, eleven-year-old Viji discovers how vulnerable they are in this uncaring, dangerous world. Fortunately, the girls find shelter–and friendship–on an abandoned bridge that’s also the hideout of Muthi and Arul, two homeless boys, and the four of them soon form a family of sorts.

While making their living scavenging the city’s trash heaps is the pits, the kids find plenty to take pride in, too. After all, they are now the bosses of themselves and no longer dependent on untrustworthy adults. But when illness strikes, Viji must decide whether to risk seeking help from strangers or to keep holding on to their fragile, hard-fought freedom.

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public” — in order to head off David’s embarrassing behaviors.But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

It’s the start of a new year at Snow Hill School, and seven students find themselves thrown together in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.

They don’t have much in common, and they’ve never gotten along. Not until a certain new teacher arrives and helps them to find strength inside themselves—and in each other. But when Mr. Terupt suffers a terrible accident, will his students be able to remember the lessons he taught them? Or will their lives go back to the way they were before—before fifth grade and before Mr. Terupt?

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return.

Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for goodbyes.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are.

Linked by Gordon Korman

Link, Michael, and Dana live in a quiet town. But it’s woken up very quickly when someone sneaks into school and vandalizes it with a swastika. Nobody can believe it. How could such a symbol of hate end up in the middle of their school? Who would do such a thing? Because Michael was the first person to see it, he’s the first suspect. Because Link is one of the most popular guys in school, everyone’s looking to him to figure it out. And because Dana’s the only Jewish girl in the whole town, everyone’s treating her more like an outsider than ever.

The mystery deepens as more swastikas begin to appear. Some students decide to fight back and start a project to bring people together instead of dividing them further. The closer Link, Michael, and Dana get to the truth, the more there is to face-not just the crimes of the present, but the crimes of the past.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
 
Thus begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules—like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space—her swimming pool—where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet.

Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.

Conclusion: Best Realistic Fiction Books For 5th Graders

What are some of your favorite realistic fiction books for 5th graders? Are there any must read realistic fiction books for 5th graders that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!

If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!

Looking for the best realistic fiction books for 5th grade? Here are some great realistic fiction books for 5th graders with both chapter books and picture books. These realistic children's books include both contemporary realistic fiction books as well as historical realistic fiction books. Ideas for fifth grade teachers looking for realistic fiction books including lesson plans and activities! Great realistic fiction for 5th graders.
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Other Great 5th Grade Read Aloud Stories

Looking for other great 5th grade read alouds? Here are a few more to explore:

30 Best 5th Grade Read Alouds

40 Narrative Nonfiction Books For 5th Grade

9 New Back to School Books for 5th Grade

27 Black History Month 5th Grade Books

32 Picture Books for 5th Graders

Summer Reading List for 5th Grade

Books for 5th Grade Reading

20 Earth Day Projects For 5th Graders

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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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