The best middle grade books featuring radical and epic friend groups

Kit Rosewater Author Of The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team
By Kit Rosewater

Who am I?

As a kid, I had a lot of experience having a close group of friends… and a lot of experience looking into other groups from the outside. I waded from circle to circle, trying on friendships like some people try on hats. The books I’m recommending represent the best of fictional friend groups—the groups that topped any clique I saw in real life. Reading these books made me feel like an in-kid in the best possible way. Many of the characters remain the absolute coolest people I know, and serve as inspiration for the friend group dynamics I get to explore in my own stories. 


I wrote...

The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team

By Kit Rosewater, Sophie Escabasse (illustrator),

Book cover of The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team

What is my book about?

Kenzie and Shelly have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They hang out at the park, practice their super-secret handshake, and (most important) count down the days to their roller derby debut. It looks like their dream is coming true with a newly-introduced junior derby league. But there’s a catch. To try out together, the Dynamic Duo will have to form a team of five players... in just one week! As they start convincing other girls that roller derby is the coolest thing on wheels, Kenzie has second thoughts. Why is Shelly acting like everyone’s best friend? Isn’t she supposed to be Kenzie’s best friend? And things get really awkward when Shelly recruits Kenzie’s neighbor (and secret crush!) for the team.

The books I picked & why

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Kristy's Great Idea

By Ann M. Martin,

Book cover of Kristy's Great Idea

Why this book?

While I absolutely love the recent graphic novel series, I have to give some major props to the OG Baby-sitter’s Club. These books are the perfect length to devour on a lazy Sunday afternoon. With so many adventures to choose from as each member of the group gets to play narrator, it’s impossible to not feel like a fellow babysitter handing out club flyers or herding little kids into softball teams. You may even find yourself making your very own kid kit at home and filling up a box with puzzles and games to play with the neighbor’s cat. No? Just me, then?

Kristy's Great Idea

By Ann M. Martin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kristy's Great Idea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR NETFLIX SERIES!
When Kristy Thomas has a great idea to form a BABYSITTERS CLUB
- a chance to earn money and spend time with her friends - she has
no idea how much the club will change everything.

Crank calls, uncontrollable toddlers, wild pets, untruthful clients
. . . running a business is hard work! Kristy and her co-founders,
Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey, are sure they can handle
anything. But only if they stick together . . .

EVERYONE'S FAVOURITE SERIES.


Lockwood & Co.: The Empty Grave

By Jonathan Stroud,

Book cover of Lockwood & Co.: The Empty Grave

Why this book?

Sometimes a friend group slowly forms over the course of a book. It’s a slow burn, a delicious reeling in of like souls. In Stroud’s Lockwood & Co series, readers are treated to the slow burn of the century, as the ultimate ghost-fighting crew forms over the course of five books. We get enemies to friends, friends to lovers, and a final showdown in the last installment that will have you throwing your fist up in triumph and scaring the unsuspecting bystanders around you in the dentist’s waiting room. 

Lockwood & Co.: The Empty Grave

By Jonathan Stroud,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lockwood & Co. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major Netflix series!

Want to hear a ghost story? That's good. I know a few . . .

After their recent adventures, the Lockwood & Co team deserve a well-earned break . . . so naturally they decide to risk their lives breaking into a heavily-guarded crypt. A building full of unsettled souls, it's also the final resting place of Marissa Fittes, the legendary and (supposedly) long-dead ghost hunter - though the team have their suspicions about just how dead she might be.

What they discover changes everything.

Pitched into a desperate race to get to…


Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

By Celia C. Pérez,

Book cover of Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

Why this book?

I’ve often whined about epic friend groups being featured in tons of films and not enough in books—but Strange Birds is the delightful exception that gets every detail of the cinematic friend group perfectly right. There’s mysterious invitations hidden in a library, scary treks through the woods, artistic activism in the face of wrong, and a wickedly cool group initiation featuring some mighty powerful crystals. If nothing else, the group’s shenanigans will make you want to go out and spend all your money on hoards of plastic flamingos. (Just trust me on this.)

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers

By Celia C. Pérez,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Strange Birds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When three very different girls find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, the promise of adventure and mischief is too intriguing to pass up. Ofelia Castillo (a budding journalist), Aster Douglas (a bookish foodie), and Cat Garcia (a rule-abiding birdwatcher) meet the kid behind the invite, Lane DiSanti, and it isn't love at first sight. But they soon bond over a shared mission to get the Floras, their local Scouts, to ditch an outdated tradition. In their quest for justice, independence, and an unforgettable summer, the girls form their own troop and find something they didn't know they needed:…


Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!

By Mariko Tamaki, Gus Allen (illustrator),

Book cover of Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!

Why this book?

Nothing bonds friends quite like climbing a disappearing mountain and ending up stranded on a literal cloud. The Lumberjanes series takes place at the coolest summer camp ever, which was my ultimate dream as a kid. But in addition to all the tropes we love in a camp story, the series also features magical creatures so charming that they ought to star in their own Pixar movies. Plus, the name of the camp is Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. I mean… best friend group setting ever, or best friend group setting ever

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!

By Mariko Tamaki, Gus Allen (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lumberjanes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. The five scouts of Roanoke cabin-Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley-love their summers at camp. They get to hang out with their best friends, earn Lumberjane scout badges, annoy their no-nonsense counselor Jen . . . and go on supernatural adventures. That last one? A pretty normal occurrence at Miss Qiunzella's, where the woods contain endless mysteries.

Today is no exception. When challenge-loving April leads the girls on a hike up the TALLEST mountain they've ever seen, things don't go quite as planned. For one, they didn't…


Generation Misfits

By Akemi Dawn Bowman,

Book cover of Generation Misfits

Why this book?

My Spice Girl-loving heart would have died to be in an SG fan club at my school. Back in my day, we had to settle for quick half-memorized dance routines under the monkey bars during recess. But in Akemi Dawn Bowman’s sweet story of niche interests and building a community person by person, the characters’ shared love of a music group is only the tip of a huge and fulfilling friendship iceberg. 

Generation Misfits

By Akemi Dawn Bowman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Generation Misfits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eleven-year-old Millie Nakakura is starting sixth grade at a real school for the first time in her life. Previously homeschooled, Millie dreams of finally making friends and having a little bit of freedom-though this proves tricker than she expected.

Then she spots a flyer for an after-school club for fans of Japanese pop music, which she loves more than anything else in the world. Millie makes true friends with this crew of misfits, and when of their members starts to bend under the strain of a troubled home life, the friends band together to help her get through these tough…


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