10+ Awesome and Diverse Reads For #MiddleGradeMarch 2023

To participate in #middlegrademarch 2023, I’ve compiled a list of ten diverse Middle-Grade reads! There are many wonderful middle-grade books from which to choose and even though I haven’t read extensively in middle grade, these titles are stories that I’ve recently read and thought were exceptional because of their themes and diversity. Reading builds understanding and compassion. This is updated from a previously published post on March 2, 2021.

10+ Awesome and Diverse Reads For #MiddleGradeMarch 2023

(top view) picture of a middle grade child reading on a recliner covered with a reddiish knitted afghan

Image Source: Canva

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Often, children fall in love with reading in Middle Grade. Was this your experience? Children in Middle Grade have “learned to read” and they can fully immerse themselves in the world of words as they “read to learn” and “read for enjoyment.” They have more autonomy to choose their own reading material and can pursue individual interests. Many stories promote great family read-aloud experiences (or buddy reads). As a bonus, most Middle-Grade stories have heartfelt themes without the mature content and/or profanity of YA.

What theme do you think Middle Grade books have in common?

For adults, Middle-Grade books make the perfect palate cleanser or fit the description of books that can be read in a day. If I’m feeling myself sliding into a reading “slump,” I often seek out a recommended Middle-Grade read to stimulate my reading life once again. I love that Middle-Grade books almost always end on a hopeful note. This theme of hopefulness is one of the main reasons I love reading Middle-Grade. I strongly believe that great Middle-Grade literature can be enjoyed by adults! Here’s an entire post devoted to why I love MG.

In addition to the above reasons to read Middle-Grade literature, I appreciate the authors who write diversely for Middle-Grade readers and write on difficult themes or topics in an easy-to-read and understandable manner. If we buy and read more Middle-Grade diverse literature, it will encourage publishers and writers to produce more. I think it’s important for children to see themselves in literature.

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #ThrowBackThursday.

Middle-Grade Literature

(in no particular order, the first 10 in this list are suitable for most middle grade readers with minimal or no content warnings)

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming cover

A poignant childhood memoir. My review of Brown Girl Dreaming here.

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (cover) ....girl on bike

Merci experiences being a minority on scholarship at an exclusive private school, accepts changes in her beloved grandfather’s health, and gains confidence while finding her voice. My Goodreads Review.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Front Desk by Kelly Yang (cover) ...young girl talking on the phone standing behind a desk

Mia helps her immigrant parents manage a motel, and the story has strong themes of family, poverty, immigration, friendship, determination, resourcefulness, problem-solving, and following your dream. My Goodreads Review

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (cover).... two hands palms facing readers that are brightly decorated wtih drawings

Amal is a determined and brave girl, and in this story we learn about her experience of forced indentured servitude. My review of Amal Unbound here.

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Piecing Me Together

Similar themes to The Hate You Give By Angie Thomas.

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

(content warnings may apply to both)

Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (cover)Stella by Starlight cover (two young African American girls watching a cross burn)

Jefferson’s Sons and Stella by Starlight are two excellent examples of diverse reads for Middle Grade. Jefferson’s Sons explores slavery and Stella’s story includes themes of prejudice and racism. Both provide opportunities for thoughtful discussions. (brief Goodreads review of Stella)

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist and the sequel, Isaiah Dunn Saves the DayIsaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly Baptist (cover) Image: the back view of a middle grade boy wearing a blue superhero cape and holding a pencilIsaiah Dunn Saves the Day by Kelly J. Baptist (cover) Image: A young African American boy (with blue cape) and girl stand looking at the camera

Love the themes in these poignant reads. My review of Isaiah Dunn here and Isaiah Dunn Saves the Day here.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thannha Lai

Inside Out & Back Again y Thannha Lai (cover) ....a girl holding onto a tree trunk with one hand on a breezy day

I love this poetic and poignant refugee and immigrant story of Ha and her family told in free verse. (my Goodreads review) I loved the themes of acceptance, understanding, friendship, and anti-bullying.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost by Jason Reynolds (cover) Black text on a yellow background....a young African American boy is running off the page

Thanks Afoma at Reading Middle Grade for great middle-grade recs! Ghost (reviewed here) is the first in a sports (track) series.

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Regugee by Alan Gratz (cover)...back view of a child rowing a boat in a story ocean

I recommend Refugee for mature Middle-Grade readers and older. This riveting story is told from three perspectives over three different time periods and features three different locations (Syria, Germany, and Cuba). This compelling story provides the opportunity for thoughtful discussion, and I’ve heard that teachers are using it in their classrooms to promote understanding and empathy. My review of Refugee here. It’s one of the best middle-grade books I’ve read. If it’s been a long time since you’ve experienced a middle grade read, start here!

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
(Mature MG/YA With Content Warnings)

My review of Ghost Boys here.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (cover) Image: a graphic image of street lights and an African American boy's face from the eyes up all against a red background with white text

Bonus Picks (because who can stop at 10?)

Other Favorite Middle-Grade Books:

(some are diverse and some are not)

A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

More to the Story by Hena Khan

Wishtree and Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

Louisana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Lemons by Melissa Savage

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

The Next Great Jane by K.L. Going

#MiddleGradeMarch 2023 QOTD:

Have you read any of these titles?

If you were to pick one book off this list to read, which would you choose?

May I enthusiastically encourage you to read a book from this list in March?

What’s your favorite or last Middle-Grade read?

Do you have recommendations for me?

Imagination Soup has compiled a resource of additional titles for children of all ages.

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

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  1. I have read three of these based on your previous recommendations, Carol. I have now added several to my spreadsheet of MG books recommended. Excellent list.

  2. Fab list! Haven’t read these MG yet, but Refugee by Alan Gratz sounds great! As for my latest read MG it is Solve Your Own Mystery: Time Thief by Gareth P. Jones! Which I would highly recommend if you like Choose Your Own Adventure books. Plus, also The Amazing Edie Eckhart by Rosie Jones, about a girl with cerebral palsy discovering there is a whole world and that she can do a lot of things on her own!

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