There should be a government program where, as soon as kids finish elementary school, they get picked up and sent to a lab, where scientists can put them in a deep freeze until they’re old enough for high school.” For their own good. –Trent, from Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff, two days before he starts sixth grade. His mom said that.
If this statement resonates with your middle schooler, here are 16 books that accurately show the ups and downs of middle school and how to get through them. They range from funny to sad and dramatic.
Middle School Bites
by Steven Banks, illustrated by Mark Fearing
A vampire bat bites Tom the day before sixth grade starts. Also, there’s a werewolf in the picture. As well as, oh yeah… A dead person! Talk about bad luck! Getting into Vam-Wolf-Zom isn’t going to get you out of middle school. Tom grits his teeth and tries to fit in. You can get a lot done with just some help from your best friend, Zeke. This new show is both zany and relatable.
All’s Faire in Middle School
by Victoria Jamieson
Her parents work at the Renaissance Faire, and Imogene has been home-schooled. She’s been there for the first 11 years of her life. Impy, the girl who wants to be a knight, is now in the jousting ring at school. She has a lot to learn. Impy’s family now looks weird, and not everyone is real. The question is, will she be able to get back to her true, heroic self when she goes against her values in order to fit in?
The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School
by Kristin Mahoney
On the first day of school, I’d like to say that I saw someone I knew. It wasn’t. That’s the first part of Gus’s advice to her little sister, Lou. And who better to tell you how to deal with middle school than someone who has already been through it? When you’re in middle school, The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School is both funny and real. It perfectly reflects both the pains and joys of going out on your own.
Lights, Camera, Middle School!
by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm
A new Babymouse book, Tales from the Locker, is out now. In this book, the sassy mouse that we all know and love is going to middle school! Things like labels and new gadgets are what she finds when she goes to her friend’s place of work. Even so, Babymouse has her own style, and she shows it by joining a film club and writing a big movie script. It’s not just cell phones and school plays you’ll find in other books in the series. Babymouse has more chances to be herself, too.
Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk!
by Greg Howard
He started a talent agency when he was 12 years old. Mikey Pruitt is very entrepreneurial, and so he started the agency. Julian Vasquez, an eighth-grader who goes by the name Coco Caliente, shows Mikey that he can come out of the closet and be loud and proud when he wants to.
by Jacqueline Woodson
It’s hard to pick just one book by Jacqueline Woodson to read. Harbor Me is a great start for new and soon-to-be middle schoolers. You can read more about Harbor Me here. In what they call the “ARTT Room,” six students meet every week to talk about the things they can’t talk about outside: deportation fears, the incarcerated parents of their friends, racial insults, and more. They call it “A Room to Talk.” This is a powerful reminder that sometimes our friends can be the best people to help us out.
by Torrey Maldonado
It can be hard for middle-schoolers to decide what to do, especially when old friends grow and change. That’s what Bryan is going through, as his friend Mike tries to push him into ideas that Bryan thinks are foolish and risky. Bryan looks to his favorite comic book superheroes to help him find the right way to go.
by Carrie Firestone
A good example of this would be when Molly Frost notices that girls at school (unlike the boys) always have to dress in a certain way, and some girls more often than others. Molly Frost learns that she can use her voice when things seem unfair to her. When Molly starts a podcast about the subject, people start to talk about it.
Stand Up, Yumi Chung!
by Jessica Kim
If you have ever been completely misunderstood, Yumi Chung is the person you need to talk to. At school, everyone makes fun of Yumi because she is shy. At home, her parents want her to get good grades so that she can go to a private school. That’s not what Yumi wants to do. All she wants to do is stand up and give the best stand-up set of her life. One summer, Yumi goes for what she wants, even though it might make other people angry.
by Lisa Bunker
When Zenobia July moves to Maine, she starts a new school year. She’s living her true gender for the first time, and she’s making new friends in coding club. An anonymous bully starts posting nasty things on the school website, and Zenobia knows she can put an end to the hate and help her school get back on its feet.
Totally Middle School
edited by Betsy Groban
This collection of short stories from favorite authors gives readers a wide range of middle school experiences. It talks about important issues like peer pressure and cultural barriers in fun ways (text messages, emails, and a mini graphic novel). It will make your reader feel like he or she is important, and he or she will be very entertained as well.
Lost in the Sun
by Lisa Graff
In this powerful story, Trent starts sixth grade in the wake of a freak accident that killed his classmate and left Trent with a lot of bad thoughts. This is how it works: Despite the fact that most people will never have to deal with this kind of tragedy, Trent’s worries about how people will see him, his efforts to find good after he does bad things, and his struggle to figure out how to act when he’s angry and lost are very relatable.
Fish in a Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally, a sixth-grader, has a hard time at school. Most teachers think she’s “dumb” and a “pest,” but when she joins Mr. Daniels’ class, things change. It changes her life when this teacher learns that she has dyslexia and brings out the best in her. Moving: It’s about friendships, how to deal with problems, and how to appreciate the uniqueness of each of us in a story that will make you cry.
by Rebecca Stead
A group of seventh-graders, named Bridge, Tab, and Emily, are the focus of the story. They deal with typical middle school issues like taking selfies, liking boys, staying friends when your interests start to diverge, and having divorced parents. This story goes a little deeper, though. When you know who you are, you can deal with the people who think that you should be a certain way.
by Mike Lupica
Michael, who is 12, throws a lot of heat when he pitches. He doesn’t have a birth certificate to show that he is old enough. Since his father died, he has been left alone. He lives with his 17-year-old brother and is always afraid that he will be sent to foster care or back to his home in Cuba. Sports and family drama are mixed in with the typical friendship and school problems that middle schoolers have to deal with, too.