The best middle-grade books featuring triangular friendships

Betsy Uhrig Author Of Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini
By Betsy Uhrig

Who am I?

Friendship among three kids can be fraught, as any former kid (or current parent) knows. There’s always a chance that one member will be sidelined, and that often changes on a whim. But triangles can also be remarkably sturdy in spite or even because of the personality mix and occasional conflicts. I’ve been a member of several friendship trios, successful and not, so I’ve experienced both sides (all three sides?) of the issue. My books often feature triangular friendships because they naturally give rise to complex, personality-driven bickering, which is one of my favorite things to write.  


I wrote...

Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini

By Betsy Uhrig,

Book cover of Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini

What is my book about?

When Alex’s aunt offers to pay him to point out the boring parts in her children’s book, he sees a quick way to make ten easy bucks. But her book is about a grumpy frog and a prizewinning zucchini. It doesn’t have a few boring pages…the whole thing is a snore.

Alex gives her some great ideas—like adding danger and suspense. And ditching the frogs and the zucchini. But books have to be believable as well as exciting. So he recruits his two best friends to help him act out scenes so he can describe the details realistically. This is when Alex discovers that being a stunt double for a fictional character can land you in lots of nonfictional trouble.

The books I picked & why

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Harriet the Spy

By Louise Fitzhugh,

Book cover of Harriet the Spy

Why this book?

The middle-grade classic Harriet the Spy was my favorite book as a kid. I read it so many times that my copy pretty much fell apart, and lots of tape had to be deployed to hold it together. Harriet is an aspiring writer with a great imagination, a daily neighborhood spy route, and a notebook in which she records her observations. She has two good friends: Janie, a cranky scientist; and Sport, a matter-of-fact athlete. The three seem to have nothing in common, but in spite of that, their triangular friendship is well balanced…until it falls apart, and Harriet has to put it back together by – gulp – apologizing. 


Finally, Something Mysterious

By Doug Cornett,

Book cover of Finally, Something Mysterious

Why this book?

This book had me with the title alone. Who hasn’t spent a boring school break looking for something – anything – mysterious to investigate? Paul and his two best friends live in a small town in which nothing interesting happens…until hundreds of rubber duckies appear in a nearby yard one morning. Together, Paul (the hilariously observant narrator), Shanks (tiny but tough), and Peephole (whose many fears include the sound of other people’s sneezes) figure out how all those ducks ended up on Mr. Babbage’s lawn. The friendship here is comfortable and worn in, based on fond tolerance of one another’s quirks – as the best friendships usually are. 


The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

By Adrianna Cuevas,

Book cover of The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

Why this book?

Here we have a triangular friendship among three slight oddballs, which is one of my favorite kinds. It begins and is tested in the midst of a spate of local animal disappearances. Nestor, the narrator, is new in town (yet again) and doesn’t plan to put down roots. He also has a secret: he can talk to animals (and boy, do they ever talk back!). Almost in spite of himself, he befriends classmates Maria Carmen and Talib, and with help from some fauna with plenty of attitude, the three manage to save their town from a nasty witch—and cement their friendship along the way


How to Save a Queendom

By Jessica Lawson,

Book cover of How to Save a Queendom

Why this book?

Moving away from triangles involving friends of the same age and relative size, this is a fantasy in which an orphan girl named Stub must make a perilous journey in order to – spoiler alert – save the queendom. Her companions are an overly enthusiastic young chef’s apprentice and an elderly wizard who, much to his own annoyance, is small enough to fit in Stub’s pocket due to an errant spell. The dynamic doesn’t start out very promisingly, but in the end, the three make a great team. I love the theme of friendship forming among unlike persons thrown into peril together – and having one of them be many times older (and many times smaller) than the other two is an irresistible twist. 


The Verdigris Pawn

By Alysa Wishingrad,

Book cover of The Verdigris Pawn

Why this book?

This fantasy has a thoroughly realistic triangle that starts out as a friendship between two kids and eventually draws a third in – with much confusion and some resentment along the way. Cressi and Nate are on the lowest rung of a highly stratified society. When Cressi accidentally meets Beau, the heir to the throne, she befriends him despite their differences. But it will take a dangerous trip and a lot of arguments before Nate comes around. Many friendship triangles form when a new person joins an established duo, and there’s always plenty of opportunity for sparks to fly in this situation. Making the new person the future ruler of the other two ups the spark level considerably. 


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