The best middle grade fiction books with female protagonists who are curious about the world around them

The Books I Picked & Why

The Thing About Jellyfish

By Ali Benjamin

Book cover of The Thing About Jellyfish

Why this book?

Narrated in the present day with journal entries and flashbacks, The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin introduces a young girl named Suzy who secludes herself after losing her best friend to a drowning accident. One of the best parts of this book is Suzy’s ability to deep dive into the wonder she has for science, particularly jellyfish, which becomes the spark for her finding her way back into the lives of the people she’s been trying to avoid. The reader experiences Suzy’s grief with her, and by the end, feels the healing and hope that comes from the support of those around us.

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Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery

Book cover of Anne of Green Gables

Why this book?

This classic, set in the late 19th century in the fictional town of Avonlea, introduces one of the most interesting and curious characters in literature for young people. Adopted at the age of 11, Anne Shirley is thrilled to have a family and new friends, and through her desire to experience the world at its fullest, she persuades those around her to do the same. Anne’s desire to absorb the world around her is infectious and enjoyable to read; even through struggles and disappointments, her energy jumps off the page. Readers of all ages will view the world through optimistic eyes and feel fueled to go out and appreciate their surrounding world for the joy it brings.

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Wolf Hollow

By Lauren Wolk

Book cover of Wolf Hollow

Why this book?

This historical novel set in 1943 features brave and curious Annabelle who lives in Wolf Hollow, Pennsylvania. She and her family befriend a man living as a hermit since WWI, and the reader sees how empathy can change a person’s perspective. While featuring issues of bullying, lying, and trust, the vivid imagery from Wolk’s words bring out the beauty in even the ugliest events. The descriptions of farmland, woods, and walks home from school, make readers feel as if a time that has passed is as real as the world outside their front door. 

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Julie’s Wolf Pack

By Jean Craighead George

Book cover of Julie’s Wolf Pack

Why this book?

This novel is a sequel to Julie of the Wolves and Julie by the same author, but what sets this third book apart is that it is from the perspective of Julie’s wolf pack featured in the previous novels. George studied Inuk and Eskimo culture as well as the relationships of wolves in a pack, which led to a visceral and fascinating story of how wolves survive and interact with one another and with the courageous titular character. Vivid scenes transport readers to the Alaskan tundra, where they can consider a relationship of understanding between humans and animals.

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This One Summer

By Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki

Book cover of This One Summer

Why this book?

This graphic novel is intended for an older audience, but I wanted to include it for readers who like to read “up.” Two friends meet every summer at Awago, which is a small beach town. This summer is different, as they realize the world around them might be the same, but they’ve changed; they’re growing up. As they face questions related to family relationships and personal physical changes, the world around them suddenly seems much bigger. The images are dark purple and blue, and they provide a great introduction to reading comics for all ages.

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