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

Why am I passionate about this?

As a shy, dreamy kid, I relied on middle-grade books to learn about the world and feel less alone. That’s why I eventually started writing them. Growing up can be hard. Being grown-up can, too. Fiction can thrill, educate, and stimulate, and I love it for those reasons. But sometimes, I want a book to assure me things are going to be okay. In case you’d forgotten that the world can be scary and unpredictable, the last couple of years probably reminded you. I continue to find comfort in middle-grade books that make my heart feel full, tender, and hopeful. I needed books like these back then, and still need them today.


I wrote...

Eden's Wish

By M. Tara Crowl,

Book cover of Eden's Wish

What is my book about?

All twelve years of Eden’s life have been spent inside an antique oil lamp. She lives like a princess inside her tiny, luxurious home, but to Eden, the lamp is nothing but a prison. She hates being a genie. All she wants, more than anything, is freedom. When she finds a gateway to Earth within the lamp, Eden takes her chance and enters the world she loves. And this time, she won't be sent back after three wishes.

Posing as the new kid at a California middle school, Eden quickly learns that this world isn’t perfect. Soon, she also finds herself in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between powerful immortals. To protect the lamp’s magic, Eden must decide where she truly belongs.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

M. Tara Crowl Why did I love 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.

By Kate DiCamillo, Bagram Ibatoulline (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The Incredible Journey meets The Mouse and His Child, an enchanting tale that begs to be read aloud.

The magical story of the adventures of a lost toy rabbit from a New York Times bestselling author, twice winner of the Newbery Medal. Abilene loves her blue china rabbit, but Edward Tulane is extremely vain and only loves himself. On a voyage from New York to London, Edward falls overboard and from there finds himself on an amazing journey. He travels with tramps, works as a scarecrow, comforts a dying child ... and finally learns what it is to truly love.


Book cover of Merci Suárez Changes Gears

M. Tara Crowl Why did I love 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.

By Meg Medina,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Merci Suárez Changes Gears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Newbery Medal
A New York Times Bestseller

“The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina’s life is one many readers will relate to. . . . Medina cruises into readers’ hearts.” — School Library Journal (starred review)

Merci Suárez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, as strong and thoughtful as Merci is, she has never been completely like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy…


Book cover of Anne of Green Gables

M. Tara Crowl Why did I love 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.

By L.M. Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Anne of Green Gables as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anne of Green Gables is the classic children's book by L M Montgomery, the inspiration for the Netflix Original series Anne with an E. Watch it now!

Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are in for a big surprise. They are waiting for an orphan boy to help with the work at Green Gables - but a skinny, red-haired girl turns up instead. Feisty and full of spirit, Anne Shirley charms her way into the Cuthberts' affection with her vivid imagination and constant chatter. It's not long before Anne finds herself in trouble, but soon it becomes impossible for the Cuthberts to…


Book cover of Meet the Austins

M. Tara Crowl Why did I love 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.

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meet the Austins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

Book one of the Austin Family Chronicles, an award-winning young adult series from Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, about a girl who experiences the difficulties and joys of growing up.

“Beautifully written, with integrity and warmth, and young people are bound to identify with the characters, each a person in his own right, and to read absorbed from first page to last. Thoroughly recommended.” ―Chicago Tribune

For a family with four kids, two dogs, assorted cats, and a constant stream of family and friends dropping by, life in the Austin family home has always been remarkably steady…


Book cover of The List of Things That Will Not Change

M. Tara Crowl Why did I love 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.

By Rebecca Stead,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The List of Things That Will Not Change as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2020
Nominated for the Carnegie Medal

Sonia and I have a lot in common. Our parents are divorced. Our dads are gay. We both love barbecue potato chips. But she is different from me in at least one way: you can't tell how she's feeling just by looking at her. At all.

When Bea's dad and his wonderful partner, Jesse, decide to marry, it looks as if Bea's biggest wish is coming true: she's finally (finally!) going to have a sister.

They're both ten. They're both in fifth grade. Though they've never met, Bea…


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Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

Book cover of Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

Felice Picano Author Of Six Strange Stories and an Essay on H.P. Lovecraft

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author

Felice's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood.

Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart.

He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano…

Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

What is this book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood. Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old, possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart. He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano…


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