Middle-grade books about anxiety are becoming more and more important, thanks to the anxious times we're living in. More people (parents, teachers, and children) struggle with clinical anxiety. While many manage their symptoms with therapy and medication, it doesn't hurt to see their stories reflected in the books they read. In the past, I made a list of middle-grade books about mental illness which included some of the books on this list. For today's list though, I'm focusing on the best middle-grade books about anxiety disorders.
The Amelia Six is the story of six clever girls who are invited to spend a night in Amelia Earhart's home because of their achievements in STEM (specifically flying and aeronautics). Although all big-time Earhart fans, each of the girls are different. There's shy, anxious Amelia (Millie) whose mom left her to go be a pilot. Then there are twins Robin and Wren who run a YouTube channel, Thea who builds things, like the side car she arrives in with her aunt's motorcycle, Nathalie and her pet rat and Cassie whose parents work at NASA.
In Raina Telgemeier's Sisters, Raina and her little sister's relationship is under the microscope. Despite having always prayed for a little sister, Raina realizes as soon as her sister comes home with her parents that things may not exactly have worked out as she planned. Her sister is a fussy baby and often moody toddler who likes to play by herself. Plus, Raina herself has to learn to share space and time -- and of course, she struggles in the beginning. The sisters squabble over the years until a three-week family road trip from California to Colorado changes everything.
I'm pleased that this list has a range of characters of different races and social backgrounds. These stories also have a variety of themes besides music. You'll find among these middle-grade music books, stories about race, homelessness, immigration, sexual harassment, anxiety, neurodiversity, and much more.
I've read and am reading or plan to read most of the titles on this list of 2020 middle-grade books. Several are also sophomore novels by authors whose debuts I loved. I hope you'll pre-order some of these or at least keep an eye out for them in your library! If you want to add more 2020 middle-grade books to your TBR, check out my first list of 2020 anticipated releases featuring 52 books!
While I was making this list, I thought deeply about what makes a "strong female protagonist" to me. None of the girls in these books are "perfect," obviously and they don't always do lovable things, but they will be scored on your heart by the last page. Even better, they'll leave you feeling you feeling inspired. You'll find fierce girls who play sports, are thrilled by science and space, solve mysteries, enjoy music, love hard, are loyal friends, courageous dream chasers, and wonderful daughters.
Guts is based on Telegmeier's experience with anxiety as a tween. After a case of the stomach flu in their family, Raina becomes terrified of vomit and vomiting. Her anxiety manifests physically as a stomachache which further exacerbates her fear of vomiting and intensifies her anxiety. Her parents take her to see a doctor who after multiple tests assures them that Raina is "healthy as a horse." Unsure what to do next, they take her to see a therapist.
Middle-grade books with Muslim characters are a rarity. If you have a Muslim reader who yearns to see themselves in books, these middle-grade books with Muslim characters are a good start. They, of course, also make for excellent windows into the lives of others, though different from ours. Beyond practicing Islam though (which is a small fraction of these books' contents), these stories cover a wide range of themes from sports to immigration to food and friendship.
In Caterpillar Summer, Cat and her brother Chicken spend a lot of time together because no one knows how to calm him down like she does. Chicken hates loud noises and is obsessed with sharks. Since their father (who was Black) died, their mom (who is White) has had to work longer hours to provide for them. It doesn't help that she actually LOVES her job and is sometimes a bit too eager to leave Cat in charge of her brother.