The best middle grade books about “chosen” families

Jacci Turner Author Of Bending Willow
By Jacci Turner

The Books I Picked & Why

Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery

Book cover of Anne of Green Gables

Why this book?

This is one of my favorite books of all time. Anne, an orphan, mistakenly gets sent to the wrong family and ends up finding a forever home. I love Anne because she is smart and resilient, even though she has a penchant for getting into trouble. She is a rich and memorable character and the whole series will keep you hooked.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

By J.K. Rowling, Mary Grandpré

Book cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Why this book?

I’ll admit it, I’m a Potterhead. The thing is when I speak in schools I’m finding more and more kids have not read the Potter Series. They are missing out! What I love about Harry is he is a kid anyone can relate to. He’s not the smartest, or most athletic, or best looking, but he is extremely loyal to his friends. Through them and an odd collection of others, he finds a family to belong to as well.

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Counting by 7s

By Holly Goldberg Sloan

Book cover of Counting by 7s

Why this book?

Yep, another orphan. Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. I love this book because it deals with the issue of grief in a way that is real but not so harsh that middle school kids can’t read it. The protagonist has creative ways of caring for herself while trying to find her forever family.

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Esperanza Rising

By Pam Muñoz Ryan

Book cover of Esperanza Rising

Why this book?

I love this book because it is historical fiction about a time and place I didn’t know anything about. Esperanza grew up in a rich family in Mexico, but disaster leads her and her mother to flee to a farm labor camp in California. Esperanza is another resilient girl, overcoming obstacles and growing from hardship. She learns to take a stand against injustice.

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Orphan Train

By Christina Baker Kline

Book cover of Orphan Train

Why this book?

I hesitated to put Orphan Train in this category because it is not really, in my opinion, middle-grade fiction. When I saw it listed as such in Barnes and Noble, I was quite shocked. It deals with a historical fact, that "Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?"

I learned a fact of history I was completely ignorant about. I saw in the historical and contemporary storylines (it goes between the two) the resilience of those who have had rough lives and are trying to find forever families. It is a story about harsh realities and with hope and resilience.

It is a fascinating story, but has some really harsh elements. I suggest a parent read this story to determine whether or not it is appropriate for your child or young teen.  

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