Back in May, the #weneeddiversebooks campaign lit a fire to fulfill the desperate need for diverse books in children’s literature. Behind the Book has always championed efforts to find diverse authors and protagonists that will appeal to students since we serve communities of color. For the Summer, we’ve created an epic list of diverse books to reflect the diversity in our city; here’s our list for middle grade (elementary and middle school) students!
In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them.
Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. When they arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.
After the worst first day back *ever*, Reggie’s been nicknamed “Pukey” McKnight at his Brooklyn school. He wants to turn his image around, but he has other things on his mind as well: his father, who’s out of a job; his best friends, Joe C. (who’s a little too White) and Ruthie (who’s a little too intense); his ex-best friend Donovan, who’s now a jerk; and of course, the beautiful Mialonie. The elections for school president are coming up, but with his notorious nickname and “nothing” social status, Reggie wouldn’t stand a chance, if he even had the courage to run.
Then Reggie gets involved with a local homeless shelter. Inspired by the clients there–especially Charlie, a five-year-old kid who becomes his official “Little Buddy”— he begins to think about making a difference, both in the world and at school. Pukey for President? It can happen . . . if he starts believing.
Queen’s house—the biggest one on 33rd Street–looks just like a castle, and in her bedroom, she has dozens of beautiful dresses and crowns. Queen thinks she’s a real queen, and she treats everyone, even her teacher, like her royal subject.
When a new kid comes to Queen’s school, riding a broken bike and wearing smelly, worn-out clothes, Queen joins her classmates in making fun of him. Her parents insist she be nice to Leroy, but Queen doesn’t see why she should. Leroy doesn’t just stink; Queen thinks he tells lies—whoppers in fact. And when he says he’s an African prince from Senegal, Queen makes it her mission to prove Leroy is an impostor.
But as she gets closer to discovering Leroy’s real story, Queen learns the unexpected from her broken bike boy: what being a good friend and “happily ever after” really mean.
Vincent Wu is Captain Stupendous’s No. 1 Fan, but even he has to admit that Captain Stupendous has been a little off lately. During Professor Mayhem’s latest attack, Captain Stupendous barely made it out alive – although he did manage to save Vincent from a giant monster robot. It’s Vincent’s dream come true… until he finds out Captain Stupendous’s secret identity: It’s Polly Winnicott-Lee, the girl Vincent happens to have a crush on.
Captain Stupendous’s powers were recently transferred to Polly in a fluke accident, and so while she has all of his super strength and super speed, she doesn’t know how to use them, and she definitely doesn’t know all the strengths and weaknesses of his many nemeses. But Vincent and his friends are just the right fan club to train up their favorite superhero before she has to face Professor Mayhem again. And if they make it through this battle for the safety of Copperplate City, Vincent might just get up the courage to ask Polly on a date.
Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kids the fact that she s Muslim is just another thing to deal with. When Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares her faith if not her culture, comes to Aliya s school, Aliya wonders even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? She s old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself?
Jackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count.
So Jackson assembles a crack team: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.
Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.
Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.
Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope—toward America.
This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.”
For twelve years, Joylin Johnson’s life has been just fine, thank you very much. A game of basketball with the boys-especially her friend Jake-was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirt, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then suddenly the world seemed to turn upside down, and everything changed at once. Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. Jake is acting weird, and basketball isn’t the same. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from . . . where? What lengths will Joy go to-and whom will she become-to attract his attention?
I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
Thirteen-year-old Lamar Washington is the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler at Striker’s Bowling Paradise. But while Lamar’s a whiz at rolling strikes, he always strikes out with girls. And Lamar’s brother is no help—Xavier earns trophy after trophy on the basketball court and soaks up Dad’s attention, leaving no room for Lamar’s problems.
Then bad boy Billy Jenks convinces Lamar that hustling at the alley will help him win his dream girl, plus earn him enough money to buy an expensive pro ball and impress celebrity bowler Bubba Sanders. But when Billy’s scheme goes awry, Lamar ends up ruining his brother’s shot at college and damaging every relationship in his life. Can Lamar figure out how to mend his broken ties, no matter what the cost?
Lionel and Anisa are the best of friends and have seen each other through some pretty tough times–Anisa’s dad died and Lionel’s dad left, which is like a death for Lionel. They stick together no matter what. So when Lionel suggests a detour through a local construction site on their way home, Anisa doesn’t say no.
And that’s where Lionel and Anisa make a startling discovery–a baby abandoned in a port-o-potty. Anisa and Lionel spring into action. And in saving Baby Doe, they end up saving so much more.
“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander.
Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.
Thirteen year old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab’s life. The only problem is that Hayaat and her family live behind the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they’re on the wrong side of check points, curfews, and the travel permit system. Plus, Hayaat’s best friend Samy always manages to attract trouble. But luck is on the pair’s side as they undertake the journey to Jerusalem from the Palestinian Territories when Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel.
We’re always on the lookout for authors in the tri-state area. If you are interested in becoming a Behind the Book author, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also browse our shelves on Goodreads.
All book summaries were taken from Amazon, and some have been edited for our lists.