All children need to see both themselves and their peers in stories. Diversity in storytelling can include more than race or religion. Stories capture and share the experience of children with different abilities, socio-economical statuses, learning differences, and cultures. Reading diverse books teaches children a valuable skill, empathy.
We selected four outstanding middle grade novels that share an experience that maybe your child will resonate with or allows them to see the world from a different perspective.
Shelter by Christie Matheson
Perfect for grades 4-6
Maya, her younger sister, Gabby, and her parents use to live in a quaint cottage in the city. Her dad use to be a writer and would cook them delicious homemade meals. Maya use to have sleepovers with her best friend, Abby. Maya's mom use to be an art teacher. But all of that changed when her father was in an accident.
After her dad was struck by a car on his bike, her mom was unable to care for Gabby and keep a full-time job. Then the landlord decided he wanted to sell the home they were living in. These are a few of the circumstances that led to Maya and her family becoming homeless and living in a shelter.
The reader follows Maya for one full day of her life, experiencing Maya's situation as homeless child in San Francisco. Debut author, Christie Matheson, brings to light Maya's variety of emotions, including shame, guilt, sadness, bravery and hope. This story draws you in and doesn't let go until the final word.
Stuck by Jennifer Swender
Prefect for grades 3-5
Austin is always the new kid. He and his mom have moved so many times over the years, he has learned to stay under the radar at every school. Austin thinks this new school will be the same but when he meets Bertie, a bright, bubbly, razzmatazz classmate, things change.
The cool part about this new school is Safety Squad, a group of 5th grade students who help younger kids get on the bus, assist at the crosswalk, and monitor halls. With their laser lemon vest, Austin and Bertie have a goal of being picked for the squad next year. But Austin is hiding a secret, he struggles to read. When he finds out students have to pass a Safety Squad test, things look more tumbleweed brown then laser lemon. In this delightful middle grade read, Austin finds that learning differently from his peers doesn't have to mean he can't reach similar goals.
A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
Perfect for grades 4-6
Addie is autistic. She hears, feels, and sees things others don't. Her older sister, Keedie, is also autistic and is her role model and protector in a world that is not build for neruodivergent thinkers.
When Addie learns about the witch trials that happened right in her small Scottish town of Juniper, she becomes passionate about learning everything that occurred. She sees the women accused of witchcraft as women like her, different and misunderstood. Addie, her sister, and her new fried, Audrey, begin a campaign to create a memorial in town on behalf of those persecuted.
In this debut middle grade novel, the reader will join Addie's journey to give a voice to the voiceless and experience life from a new perspective.
Swag is in the Socks by Kelly J. Baptist
Perfect for grades 5-8
Xavier is thrilled to finally be in the 7th grader because he can apply for and join the Scepter League, a group his dad and great uncle were in when they were his age. Since his parents are not around, he lives with his 16-year-old sister, Shannon, and great-aunt, Kat. His great-uncle, Frankie Bell, comes and goes from the home as he is a spontaneous musician.
The Scepter League is a group for boys and young men in the school district who exemplify and exhibit social responsibility, honor, respect, and leadership. Xavier's goal has been to get into the league but when he doesn't do great in the interview process, he knows he needs to step up his leadership game and find something that is his "thing".
Lucky for him, Frankie, starts sending letters and outlandish socks from the road. At first, Xavier thinks the socks are weird and the letters cryptic. But once he starts following Frankie's advice, things start to change for him.
This story is beautifully written. Readers will connect with Xavier's struggles, such as hard life situations, his stutter and a lack of confidence and cheer him on as he begins to believe in himself and find his swag.