The best books for middle grade readers about getting picked on for being different

Lauren A. Mills Author Of Minna's Patchwork Coat
By Lauren A. Mills

The Books I Picked & Why

The Hundred Dresses

By Eleanor Estes, Louis Slobodkin

Book cover of The Hundred Dresses

Why this book?

I love this heart-felt story with the rough lesson about doing nothing when someone is bullied. Wanda Petronski is a new girl at school who wears the same faded, wrinkled dress every day. When she hears other girls discussing pretty dresses she whispers to the most popular girl that she has one hundred dresses at home. This begins the constant teasing and questioning all about her dresses. One day Wanda does not show up at school and the classmates receive a letter from her father saying that they’ve moved where there are others with funny names like theirs. The one hundred dresses Wanda had drawn at home are then shared for the art contest. It is too late to apologize and the narrator decides she will never again stand by and do nothing.

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The Moorchild (Aladdin Fantasy)

By Eloise McGraw

Book cover of The Moorchild (Aladdin Fantasy)

Why this book?

I absolutely love this book and have both listened to it and read it more than once. There are so many layers and insights especially for those who feel out of place and are bullied for being different. It is about a girl who is half-human and has Moorfolk (faerie) banished from the fae for her inabilities and exchanged for a human baby. As she grows, her odd abilities are noticed and feared. Despite the taunting and blood-thirsty actions of the village folk, she gives of herself and ultimately takes the risk to retrieve her adopted parents’ human baby. She has the inner strength to venture out and be her unique self.

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A Little Princess

By Frances Hodgson Burnett

Book cover of A Little Princess

Why this book?

This classic has been a childhood favorite and unique in that a pampered wealthy girl left at a boarding school by her father goes from riches to rags and her character grows with it. I love how kind she remains to all and uses her imagination to tell stories to herself and her attic mate to battle the brutal hardships they are enduring. Of course, she is at last rewarded in the end. It is such an inspiring story to use one’s imagination and fortitude to endure difficult times and to be generous and kind to others despite your own suffering. 

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

By Mildred D. Taylor

Book cover of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Why this book?

I listened to this book while driving home to Massachusetts from Virginia and was so engrossed I nearly had an accident. It takes place during the 1930’s depression in Mississippi and told from the point of view of Cassie, a smart and resourceful 9-year-old black girl. Her innocence and integrity create a contrast to the experiences of cruel racial intolerance of the neighboring white people. It is told very realistically and is a must-read no matter what background you are from. 

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Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery

Book cover of Anne of Green Gables

Why this book?

I wish I had read this classic as a child. I first read it when David Godine asked me to illustrate it in 1989 (unavailable now except for the recent Lithuanian edition). Who could not love the spirited 11-year-old orphan girl who was mistakenly adopted by the Cuthberts who wanted a boy? I love the way the eccentric Anne creates the life she wants through her imagination and despite her sorrowful beginnings and what she sees as her shortcoming (her carrot-red hair). Her colorful language and her love of life and beauty are infectious and she eventually wins over those who oppose her. 

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