The best middle grade books for starting a revolution

The Books I Picked & Why

Words on Fire

By Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book cover of Words on Fire

Why this book?

In late 1800s Lithuania, young Audra gets caught up in an underground network of book smugglers while fleeing from Russian Cossack soldiers and attempting to save her family. Many of Nielsen鈥檚 novels would fit well on this list, but I particularly adore the message in this book about the power of words and storytelling when fighting oppression.聽


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Refugee

By Alan Gratz

Book cover of Refugee

Why this book?

A Jewish boy in the 1930s, a Cuban girl in the 1990s, and a Syrian boy in 2015 all attempt to flee violent times in their homelands, only to face hardship and danger while searching for safety abroad. In stories about war and revolution, the perspective of refugees is often overlooked, so it鈥檚 wonderful to see those voices centered here. I also love the way the different stories (and characters) are ultimately connected.


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Making Bombs for Hitler

By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Book cover of Making Bombs for Hitler

Why this book?

Set during WWII, this novel follows a Ukrainian girl who, with other children, is forced to make bombs for the German army. The story is captivating and fast-paced, and it鈥檚 hard not to admire the protagonist, Lida, who risks everything in her fight to do what she believes is right. I think books like this are so important because they ask readers to think hard about what they would do in similar situations.聽


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The Surrender Tree/El 脕rbol de la Rendici贸n: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom/Poemas de la Lucha de Cuba Por Su Libertad

By Margarita Engle

Book cover of The Surrender Tree/El 脕rbol de la Rendici贸n: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom/Poemas de la Lucha de Cuba Por Su Libertad

Why this book?

Set in late 1800s Cuba, during their wars for independence from Spain and the first wave of reconcentration camps, this entry holds a special place on my list because it鈥檚 written in free verse. I believe poetry can capture emotion in a raw, powerful way that prose sometimes can鈥檛, and Engle鈥檚 work serves as a perfect example of this. Through alternating perspectives, this book shows readers the horrors of war alongside the power of hope and compassion.


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Number the Stars

By Lois Lowry

Book cover of Number the Stars

Why this book?

Set in Denmark during WWII, this novel has long been considered a classic鈥攁nd for good reason, too. Well-researched and heart-wrenching, the story follows 10-year-old Annemarie, who risks her life to save those around her during the Danish resistance movement. I fell in love with this book as a child, so it鈥檚 no stretch to say that it helped inspire me to someday write my own stories about revolution and resistance.


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