The best new middle grade books about animal and human friendships

The Books I Picked & Why

The Wolf's Curse

By Jessica Vitalis

Book cover of The Wolf's Curse

Why this book?

I love this magical story with fairy tale vibes. A young boy, Gauge, is shunned by his village for being a Voyant, able to see the dreaded Wolf known to steal people's souls. Told from the omniscient perspective of the Wolf, who is misunderstood by the superstitious folk, this story is a beautiful tale of love, friendship, grief, and community. When Gauge's beloved grandfather dies, he is left to navigate his grief and mourning on his own, but soon makes friends with a village girl, Roux. The two help each other while uncovering the true secret of Wolf's role in the villagers' lives and deaths. A unique relationship between a boy and a supernatural animal. 

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By Kaela Noel

Book cover of Coo

Why this book?

A flock of pigeons rescues an abandoned baby girl and raises her. How can you not love a story that begins like this? Coo is the abandoned girl who grows up with no human contact in an abandoned rooftop rookery with her pigeon family, learning to speak Pigeon. It’s not an easy life but she’s surrounded by love. When she's discovered and brought back to civilization, she learns about human warmth and friendship for the first time, but also a dangerous plot against the pigeons in the city. Coo must marshal her resources to save her beloved pigeons while navigating new human relationships.

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Elvis and the World as It Stands

By Lisa Frankel Riddiough, Olivia Chin Mueller

Book cover of Elvis and the World as It Stands

Why this book?

In this sweet and poignant story, Elvis is a shelter kitten adopted into a home with a girl whose parents recently separated, an eager hamster, a watchdog goldfish, and an older, ornery shelter cat. Elvis just wants to reunite with his sister Etta who was left behind at the shelter, and he must also adapt to his new home and friends. Even though Elvis can’t communicate with humans, he never stops trying. The story explores memory, family, and rebuilding things that are broken, and includes a light discussion of Sept. 11.

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The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

By Adrianna Cuevas

Book cover of The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

Why this book?

What a delight of a book! Nestor Lopez is sick of moving every few years, but this time, when his dad is deployed overseas and he and his mom go to live with his grandmother, things feel different. He begins to make friends—other than the animals he can talk to and understand—but things are not what they seem. A mysterious creature that can transform itself into different animals is preying on the small town's animals and his grandmother becomes the prime suspect. Between dealing with the school bully and trying to win the trivia bowl, Nestor must gather his friends, both human and animal, to figure out how to defeat this tule vieja, a shape-shifting witch.

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Meow or Never: Wish Novel

By Jazz Taylor

Book cover of Meow or Never: Wish Novel

Why this book?

This is a heartwarming story about Avery, an anxious 12-year-old prone to panic attacks, with a secret crush on one of the popular girls in her school. In part to impress her, she auditions for the school musical, and to her horror, lands the lead role. She finds solace in a stray cat, Phantom, who hangs around the school theater, and slowly opens up to two new human friendships, including her crush. Avery learns how to become comfortable with asking for and receiving help while dealing with her anxiety, as well as figuring out how to face her stage fright.

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