The best middle grade books for girls trying to change the world

Who am I?

I'm a Mexican writer and illustrator based in Los Angeles. I was always a bookish kid! Growing up I loved reading contemporary books, mostly about fearless girls trying to change the world! In my career, I’ve had the privilege to work creating cover artwork for a lot of middle-grade books, which in turn leads me to read a lot of really great stories. As a bonus, as the industry has become more diverse, so have the stories of outstanding girls, making the middle-grade space even more amazing than it was when I was a kid.

I did the cover art for...

Book cover of From the Desk of Zoe Washington

What is the book about?

From the Desk of Zoe Washington is one of my favorite middle-grade books I’ve ever read. Zoe’s story is full of nuance, bravery, and an unbeatable can-do attitude, as she uncovers the mystery of whether her father was really the perpetrator of the terrible crime that put him behind bars.

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The books I picked & why

Vote For Effie

By Laura Wood,

Book cover of Vote For Effie

Why did I love this book?

There is something about Effie that truly captures what it is to be a person who cares. In a world in which young people are often told that not caring is the mark of coolness, Effie stands out as an optimist hell-bent to create a better world for all. In this wonderful book, we follow Effie’s adventures as she finds herself in a new school trying to make real meaningful change for her and all of her new friends, in a wonderfully entertaining and heartwarming story that had me in tears a few times and rooting for Effie from beginning to end. 

By Laura Wood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vote For Effie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2020.

Join Effie Kostas as she fights to become Student Council
President in her new school.
With a campaign team of loveable misfits, she tackles the truly important subjects:

gender imbalance,

outdated school conventions...

and good-looking boys stealing the last slice of chocolate
cake at lunchtime.

A laugh out-loud
rallying call for switched-on kids everywhere.


By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Book cover of Matilda

Why did I love this book?

This book captured my imagination as a child and it just never let go! Matilda is a true whimsical classic, that is delightful and smart and that makes you feel like you can do anything. There are so many things I love about this book, and as a bookish girl myself, Matilda’s connection to books and reading made me feel seen in ways I didn’t feel seen before. It’s a book about standing up for yourself and being true to who you are no matter who’s against it.

By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Matilda as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Puffin Audiobooks presents Roald Dahl's Matilda, read by Kate Winslet. This audiobook features original music and sound design by Pinewood film studios.

Matilda Wormwood is an extraordinary genius with really stupid parents.

Miss Trunchbull is her terrifying headmistress who thinks all her pupils are rotten little stinkers.

But Matilda will show these horrible grown-ups that even though she's only small, she's got some very powerful tricks up her sleeve . . .

Kate Winslet's award-winning and varied career has included standout roles in Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland, Revolutionary Road and The Reader, for which she…

Book cover of Margarita in the Spotlight

Why did I love this book?

This is an odd one out, because it’s in audiobook form. Margarita is a part of her uber-famous country star sister and gets thrown into the limelight when the label gets into hot water for not being inclusive enough. This audible original truly shines with its amazing story and wonderful music! Personally, I liked the way the story tackles Margarita’s struggles to figure out her place within Latin culture and processing the feelings of what that means for her.

By Maria Frazer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Margarita in the Spotlight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This middle grade story has it all: humor, heart, and country music - including original songs!

Margarita McCoy plays banjo and sings backup in her stepsister Stephanie McCoy’s wildly popular country music band. 

Margarita isn’t particularly passionate about music, but she loves Stephanie and would do anything to help her - and that includes being thrust into the media spotlight after an article in the New York Times calls out country music for its lack of diversity. Since Margarita’s father is Mexican American, the McCoys' record label wants to use her to show that they aren’t as whitewashed as the…

Book cover of Sofía Acosta Makes a Scene

Why did I love this book?

This book is absolutely brilliant, a wonderful commentary on really difficult current social issues that doesn’t feel like a school lesson, it follows the story of Sofia Acosta, daughter of ballet-obsessed Cuban immigrants who have great hopes for her daughter, as she begins to question her place in ballet, her community and the world at large, and all the really complicated choices people make as they grow up.

By Emma Otheguy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sofía Acosta Makes a Scene as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A poignant, coming of age story about a Cuban-American girl trying to figure out where she belongs--both in her ballet-loving family and the wider world. Perfect for fans of Front Desk and Merci Suárez Changes Gears.

It’s a good thing Sofía Acosta loves dreaming up costumes, because otherwise she’s a ballet disaster—unlike her parents, who danced under prima ballerina Alicia Alonso before immigrating to the suburbs of New York. Luckily, when the Acostas host their dancer friends from Cuba for a special performance with the American Ballet Theatre, Sofía learns there’s more than dance holding her family together. Between swapping…

The Night Diary

By Veera Hiranandani,

Book cover of The Night Diary

Why did I love this book?

Another book that had me in tears more than once, The Night Diary is a beautifully crafted story told in the background of India’s partition. It’s a book about the hard choices people make in hopes of a better future, through the eyes of twelve-year-old Nisha, as she reflects on the loss of her old life, her country, and the search for meaning. Nisha is a heroine worth reading and learning from. I sure learn a lot from this book, and I hope you do too!

By Veera Hiranandani,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Night Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it's too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha…

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