Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Great Middle Grade Diverse Books!

This is my second in a series of posts about great diverse books by age / grade level. The first post shared some of my favorites for middle school, and this post contains my favorite middle grade books (think grades 4-6th). I love giving books as gifts and hope this serves as a useful resource!

Diverse Middle Grade Books

Contemporary realistic fiction

  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds [National Book Award finalist]. Ghost is the first in a new middle grade series from talented author Jason Reynolds. The main character, who has nicknamed himself Ghost, finds himself perplexed by a track practice in progress and ends up showing off and earning a spot on the team. Ghost is struggling to find out who he is and where he fits, especially as he hides his traumatic secret from others. This is a powerful story (and quick read), and I am looking forward to the rest of the series.
  • Pickle: the (formerly) anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker and illustrated by Tim Probert. Though Ben started it all with his first prank, he realizes that he really needs a dedicated team to continue to up the ante. This diverse group of talents (and backgrounds) decide to hide behind the sham of a "League of Pickle Makers" club to get official school sponsorship. But as the pranks start to escalate, Ben and his friends need to decide what is really important and what they really want to stand for. 
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell. This sensitive autobiographical graphic novel memoir focuses on the author's experience growing up and losing her hearing at age 4, as well as her later trials and tribulations with her gigantic Phonic Ear. I think the graphic novel format (and rabbits for characters) makes this book accessible to a wide-range of readers. A great book for talking about differences and how to treat others. [Yes, this is a graphic novel with bunnies as characters, but everything that happens still fits contemporary realistic fiction for me.]
  • The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy. I fell in love with the Fletchers nearly immediately. Four very unique boys with four different voices plus their two fathers, a crotchety neighbor, Zeus the cat, and Sir Puggleton (the pug, naturally) fill out this wonderfully enjoyable realistic fiction story, reminiscent of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I really appreciated that this was a story about a very diverse family that did not make their diversity the center of the story. Instead, it is a story about finding your place, about learning who you are, and about how to throw the best Halloween party the neighborhood has ever seen! This one is a must have. (Plus there's now a sequel: The Family Fletcher Take Rock Island!)
  • Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. This is a story built around the power of differences and a celebration of one’s own culture. The co-author two-voice structure lends additional realism as does the fact that it is an author writing about her own culture and assimilation experiences. I did find it interesting (and even refreshing) that the bully in the story was also Indian-American, albeit not a recent immigrant like Ravi. It set up additional tensions and quirks to the story. The alternating narration worked to give a sense of both characters and to see, as the reader, how each misjudged the other.
  • Rules (2006) by Cynthia Lord [Newbery Honor Book and Schneider Family Book Award Winner]. This story is told from the perspective of the older sister who creates different rules and coping strategies to try and help her younger brother who has severe autism. This is a lovely (and entertaining) family story, as well as an informative look at what it means to have a sibling with a disability.
  • Out of My Mind (2010) by Sharon Draper, p. 295 is told from the perspective of the main character, Melody, who has cerebal palsy. Initially diagnosed as non-verbal, she undergoes a giant transformation through the book as she finally finds a way to successfully communicate. This is a powerful story about facing down challenges - but without falling back on a simplistic "happy ending." A great one for empathy and facilitating discussions.



  • The Jumbies (2015) by Tracy Baptiste. The story is based around Trinidadian folklore about jumbies (various forest creatures). Corinne accidentally gets the attention of the main jumbie, Severine, who realizes that Corinne is her niece. This leads to a showdown between humans and jumbies for the fate of the island. Lots of suspense, adventure, and "ghost story" elements.

History and historical fiction

  • Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis is set during the Great Depression: 1930s Michigan. Bud is on a mission to find his father, despite only slim leads, one suitcase, and a pocketful of determination. This is a charming and heartwarming book, well deserving of its many awards [Newbery winner, Coretta Scott King winner, etc.].
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan [Pura Belpré Award Winner]. Also set during the Great Depression, Esperanza must leave her home in Mexico and venture north to the United States after a tragedy. This book provides great insights into the trials and tribulations of immigrant life in California during the Depression as well as the lengths that one will go through for family.

What are YOUR favorite diverse books for middle grades?


  1. "Pickle" is new to me, I'm going to check it out ASAP! :)

  2. These all look fabulous. Pinned.

  3. I've read a few of these (EL DEAFO, RULES, BUD NOT BUDDY) but clearly I have some catching up to do on the others in this wonderful list. GHOST is next on my TBR.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...