The best middle-grade books to make you feel good about the world

The Books I Picked & Why

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

By Kate DiCamillo, Bagram Ibatoulline

Book cover of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Why this book?

No one brings the middle-grade warm and fuzzies like Kate DiCamillo. I love all of her books, but I can’t read this one without crying, which might be why it’s my favorite. 

Edward is a china rabbit. After his life with his first owner comes to an unhappy end, he is passed from owner to owner, discarded, and mistreated. Through it all, he learns and grows. His journey is devastating, but the story’s conclusion is triumphant. Highly recommended when you’re feeling unwanted or rejected, or if you’re in the mood for a good cry.


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Merci Suárez Changes Gears

By Meg Medina

Book cover of Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Why this book?

Attending a private school on scholarship among wealthy classmates, Merci Suárez never feels like she belongs. Her family has always been close, with three generations living in houses nestled next to one another, but lately, things aren’t easy at home, either. Merci’s grandfather is acting in ways she doesn’t understand, and she knows the others are hiding something from her.

I love Merci’s spirited, spunky personality and loving family. She navigates conflicts with courage, pluck, and honesty. The way she faces challenges gives me the confidence to take mine on.


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Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery

Book cover of Anne of Green Gables

Why this book?

There’s a reason this book remains popular more than a hundred years after it was published. Loquacious, red-haired, accident-prone Anne is entertaining, but also earnest, brave, and kind. She’s true to herself, and ultimately, no one on Prince Edward Island can resist that. 

Since I first read this book, I’ve been inspired by Anne’s passion and fascination with the world’s beauty. As she navigates tragedies large and small, she grows from a wild child to a graceful young adult. It feels like an assurance that with a pure heart and true intentions, somehow, things will work out.


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Meet the Austins: Book One of the Austin Family Chronicles

By Madeleine L'Engle

Book cover of Meet the Austins: Book One of the Austin Family Chronicles

Why this book?

The Austins live in rural New England, where the four children take joy in nature, do chores cheerfully, and have a club committed to nonconformity. The family’s faith and interests in the arts and sciences are weaved seamlessly into their daily life. And although death is discussed throughout, themes of light and love permeate. 

This isn’t the most well-known of L’Engle’s books, but it’s a feel-good portrait of domestic life. If I had read it when I was young, I’m sure I would have wanted to be an Austin kid. Reading it as a mother, I want to crack the parents’ code.


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The List of Things That Will Not Change

By Rebecca Stead

Book cover of The List of Things That Will Not Change

Why this book?

Bea is a kid with big feelings who’s navigating major changes. After her parents’ divorce, she finds stability in a list of constants: that each of her parents will always love her; that she’ll always have a home with each of them; that they are still a family.

I felt Bea’s waves of elation and anger so intensely that some moments made me feel like my heart might burst. Ultimately, the love and support she receives from the adults in her life helped me remember my own things that will not change.


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