The best middle grade books about father-daughter relationships

Who am I?

Father-daughter relationships have always fascinated me. I wrote my first book to explore what it might be like for a girl to have a father with whom communication is, if not easy, possible. Although my own father was around when I was growing up, he was a distant figure. A mechanical engineer, he lost himself in ruminations on machines and mathematics and was made still more distant by his alcoholism. As a kid, I tried to glean from books what having a “regular” father might be like. I still haven’t figured it out, but I love seeing other authors capture the formative effects of this particular parental relationship. 


I wrote...

Learning to Fall

By Sally Engelfried,

Book cover of Learning to Fall

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old Daphne is sent to stay with her estranged father, a recovering alcoholic who helps her rediscover their shared passion for skateboarding. But Daphne can’t overcome her fears—and trust her dad again—until she learns what really happened when he didn’t show up for her at a skatepark years ago. The way Daphne’s dad tells it, skating is all about accepting failure and moving on. But can Daphne really let go of her dad’s past mistakes? Either way life is a lot like skating: it’s all about getting back up after you fall. 

The books I picked & why

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Prairie Lotus

By Linda Sue Park,

Book cover of Prairie Lotus

Why this book?

This historical novel has been heralded as a fresh look at the era of the Little House books, and it does a wonderful job of looking at frontier life in Dakota Territory in 1880 from the perspective of Chinese-American Hanna. It’s also an examination of a daughter trying to navigate an often prickly relationship with her white father, made even more difficult after the death of Hanna’s Chinese-Korean mother. I love Hanna’s careful study of everyone around her—observances that are borne from a need to protect herself from racism, but which are also windows to empathy and understanding. Despite her father’s resistance to Hanna following her dream to become a dressmaker, Hanna prevails, using her knowledge of her father’s own nature to win him over.

Prairie Lotus

By Linda Sue Park,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Prairie Lotus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Prairie Lotus is a powerful, touching, multilayered novel about a girl determined to fit in and realize her dreams: getting an education, becoming a dressmaker in her father’s shop, and making at least one friend.

Acclaimed, award-winning author Linda Sue Park has placed a young half-Asian girl, Hanna, in a small town in America’s heartland, in 1880. Hanna’s adjustment to her new surroundings, which primarily means negotiating the townspeople’s almost unanimous prejudice against Asians, is at the heart of the story.

Narrated by Hanna, the novel has poignant moments yet sparkles with humor, introducing a captivating heroine whose wry, observant…


From the Desk of Zoe Washington

By Janae Marks,

Book cover of From the Desk of Zoe Washington

Why this book?

I love questions about what ties us to our families. Is it blood? Time? Love? Zoe has always thought of her stepdad as her dad, but when she discovers a letter from her imprisoned birth dad, whom she’s never met and assumed had forgotten about her, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about her family.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

By Janae Marks,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked From the Desk of Zoe Washington as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 Kids Indie Next List * Parents Magazine Best Book of the Year * Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book of the Year * SLJ Best Book of the Year * Kirkus Best Book of the Year * Junior Library Guild Selection * Edgar Award Nominee * Four Starred Reviews * Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year * An Indie Bestseller *

From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating story full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right—even in the face of great…


Dad's Girlfriend and Other Anxieties

By Kellye Crocker,

Book cover of Dad's Girlfriend and Other Anxieties

Why this book?

Ava and her dad have the kind of relationship that would have fascinated me at the age of twelve, because they get along great! Ava doesn’t remember her mother; it’s always been just her and her dad. When Dad introduces Ava to the Girlfriend, Ava’s anxiety disorder kicks in and she can’t stop her thoughts from spiraling into all the negative possibilities. I love the way Crocker uses humor to gently poke at some of Ava’s fears (killer ground squirrels!) while never belittling them and even offering tips on dealing with anxiety at the end of some chapters. This is a great look at how changing relationships and blending families can be a challenge to process for kids and adults alike.

Dad's Girlfriend and Other Anxieties

By Kellye Crocker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dad's Girlfriend and Other Anxieties as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anxiety has always made Ava avoid the slightest risk, but plunging headfirst into danger might be just what she needs.

Dad hasn't even been dating his new girlfriend that long, so Ava is sure that nothing has to change in her life. That is, until the day after sixth grade ends, when Dad whisks her away on vacation to meet The Girlfriend and her daughter in terrifying Colorado, where even the squirrels can kill you! Managing her anxiety, avoiding altitude sickness, and surviving the mountains might take all of Ava’s strength, but at least this trip will only last two…


Some Places More Than Others

By Renée Watson,

Book cover of Some Places More Than Others

Why this book?

It can be difficult for kids to see their parents as real people, and that’s why I love Some Places More Than Others. When Amara finally convinces her parents she should get to go on a trip with her dad to New York City’s Harlem to meet the grandfather she’s only spoken to on the phone, she uncovers the fact that her dad and her grandfather haven’t spoken in twelve years. I love the depiction of Amara’s father as a person in his own right, someone with a history and his own problems and how, as Amara slowly unravels the mysteries of her father’s past, she begins to understand herself better too.

Some Places More Than Others

By Renée Watson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Some Places More Than Others as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Newbery Honor- and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Renée Watson comes a heartwarming and inspiring novel for middle schoolers about finding deep roots and exploring the past, the present, and the places that make us who we are.

All Amara wants for her birthday is to visit her father's family in New York City--Harlem, to be exact. She can't wait to finally meet her Grandpa Earl and cousins in person, and to stay in the brownstone where her father grew up. Maybe this will help her understand her family--and herself--in new way.

But New…


One Jar of Magic

By Corey Ann Haydu,

Book cover of One Jar of Magic

Why this book?

Haydu is a master at using fantasy as a metaphor for real-life trauma. What I love about One Jar in particular is Haydu’s delicate pacing as Rose, who has always idealized her father, slowly comes to the realization that he’s been manipulating her into believing she’s destined for a special kind of magic and—in an even more devastating betrayal—has made her believe there is only one definition of special. When Rose doesn’t measure up to that definition, she blames herself until the evidence against her father becomes too overwhelming to ignore. It’s a masterful portrait of an abusive parent using divisiveness to keep everyone in their place, and of a young girl rising above her father’s machinations and redefining “special” for herself.

One Jar of Magic

By Corey Ann Haydu,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked One Jar of Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the critically acclaimed author of Eventown comes a hopeful and empowering tale set in an enchanting world of magic and mysterious family secrets-perfect for fans of Anne Ursu, Rebecca Stead, and Wendy Mass.

Magic is like a dream. Delightful. Terrifying. Unreal.

Rose Alice Anders is Little Luck. Lucky to be born into the Anders family. Lucky to be just as special and magical as the most revered man in town-her father. The whole town has been waiting for Rose to turn twelve, when she can join them in their annual capturing of magic on New Year's Day and become…


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