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.
These 25 best middle-grade books about summer camp capture that summer feeling! While I've never attended summer camp, I love to disappear into one between the pages of middle-grade or even YA books. For this list, I tried to find books featuring summer camps and all their customs. A few of them are set at day camps, but the majority are full-on sleep-away camp books, complete with all the required drama and camp spirit.
The best middle-grade mysteries to me are those that have more than just a mystery as the plot. But, I have to admit, many great middle-grade mystery books are also just about the mystery (at least it's the central plot) -- and that's fine too. For today's list, I've included the best middle-grade mysteries as well as a sprinkling of early readers (chapter books) aimed at younger readers. I've marked which ones are part of a series, so if your kids enjoy series, you can get your hands on those picks.
Chirp was my first Kate Messner novel. Mia and her parents have moved to Vermont the summer after seventh grade to help look after her grandma. Before the move, Mia broke her arm falling off a balance beam in gymnastics. Since then, she's packed up everything related to the sport she once loved, deciding to call it quits.
So many people have told me how hard it is to find middle-grade books for boys. Okay, okay, before you think "how sexist of you!" this is a real issue -- one I've also experienced in my brief stint as an English tutor. Many boys (far from all) gravitate towards books with boys on the cover, and it makes sense -- windows and mirrors and all that. I read a lot of books by women, about women/girls, so for a while I didn't even pick up middle-grade books about boys. Thankfully, that is changing, thanks to these excellent middle-grade boy books.
In The Queen Bee and Me, Beatrix and Meg have always been a package deal -- best friends since kindergarten! Lately though, things have changed between the girls. Meg can't forget the time Beatrix froze her out when she annoyed her and she's also noticed that Beatrix can't stand it when she disagrees with any of her opinions. Still, Meg loves science and when she's invited to join a special advanced science class, she can't say no.
I define short middle-grade books as middle-grade books under 250 pages. Once we're past that 250-page mark, it can be tough for beginning or reluctant readers. Personally, I'm good until page 400 -- then my interest starts to dissolve. That's why I've made this list of middle-grade books under 250 pages! There's surprisingly a good number of short middle-grade books (I've read many on this list myself). However, I did go ahead and include a few additional picks which barely miss the mark at 256 pages but are also super quick and easy reads.
Ava Andrews is a deeply anxious middle-grader whose best friend (and mouthpiece), Zelia has moved to a different city, leaving her quite unmoored. Ava also has a rare heart condition. In Five Things About Ava Andrews, she learns to build a social life and a voice through therapy, improv classes, her dad's etiquette class (Cottilion), and activism against her neighborhood's gentrification. She also has to work on a school project with a classmate who seems to dislike her and the fact the "gets away" with not doing some class activities.
I hope you enjoy middle-grade books with multiple narrators, because I've dug deep for this book list. Most of the books here are ones I've read. I'm also splitting my list into "two narrators" and "more than two narrators" -- the more the merrier, eh? In this list you'll mostly find middle-grade books with multiple narrators from the first-person perspective. So, that means for each of these books, each chapter is probably titled by the name of the narrating character who then narrates in first person.