The best middle grade books about sensitive topics

Who am I?

I have always loved realistic fiction that shows characters navigating tricky real-world situations and reaching inside themselves to be their best – as friends, children, siblings, etc. As a writer of stories for children, I write the kinds of books I love to read, the ones that make readers ask themselves, what would I do if I were in that situation?  I think it’s important to show all our stories, past and present, from different places and viewpoints, so that we can learn from one another and become our best selves.


I wrote...

Miosotis Flores Never Forgets

By Hilda Eunice Burgos,

Book cover of Miosotis Flores Never Forgets

What is my book about?

Miosotis Flores is excited about three things; fostering rescue dogs, goofy horror movies, and her sister Amarilis' upcoming wedding. But her papi wants her to care about school more than anything else, so they strike a deal – if Miosotis improves her grades in two classes, she can adopt a dog of her own in the summer.

Miosotis dives into her schoolwork, and into nurturing a fearful little pup called Freckles. At the same time, she notices Amarilis behaving strangely – wearing thick clothes in springtime, dropping her friends in favor of her fiancé, even avoiding Miosotis and the rest of their family. When Miosotis finally discovers her sister's secret, she faces some difficult choices. What ultimately matters most--what Miosotis wants, or what's right for the ones she loves?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Before We Were Free

Hilda Eunice Burgos Why did I love this book?

I was fascinated by this gripping story about a twelve-year-old girl living in the Dominican Republic in 1960 because, while it is fiction, it is based on a very real and scary time in the history of the DR. My parents grew up in the DR under the dictatorship that was still in place in 1960, and Julia Alvarez does a beautiful job showing readers how young people and their families were impacted by that regime, as well as the bravery and hopefulness of those who fought for their country’s freedom.

By Julia Alvarez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Before We Were Free 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?

PURE BELPRÉ AWARD WINNER • ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE’S 100 BEST YA BOOKS OF ALL TIME • AN ALA-YALSA BEST BOOK FOR YOUNG ADULTS 

From renowned author Julia Alvarez comes an unforgettable story about adolescence, perseverance, and one girl’s struggle to be free while living in the Dominican Republic under the rule of a dictator. 

Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her twelfth birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have immigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her…


Book cover of The Moon Within

Hilda Eunice Burgos Why did I love this book?

I love how this book presents a girl’s first period as a beautiful and positive experience, while realistically showing her fear and nervousness as she anticipates this event. The main character is so relatable: she’s unsure about her first crush, she has a snarky rival, and she struggles to be supportive when her best friend needs her the most. This book in verse is musical, magical, and hard to put down.

By Aida Salazar,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Moon Within 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?

The dazzling story of a girl navigating friendship, family, and growing up, an Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? for the modern day, from debut author Aida Salazar.

****Four starred reviews!****

* "A worthy successor to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret set in present-day Oakland." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Celi Rivera's life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend's exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.

But most of all, her mother's insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It's an…


Book cover of Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna

Hilda Eunice Burgos Why did I love this book?

I was enthralled by this book about a twelve-year-old girl escaping war-torn Mexico in 1913. I love how Petra is tough and fiercely protective of her grandmother and her younger siblings, and how she will stop at nothing to keep them safe. She is driven by the desire to go to school and learn to read, and she always confidently holds her head up high, no matter what obstacles are thrown her way. 

By Alda P. Dobbs,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna 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?

2022 Pura Belpré Honor Book NYPL Best Book of 2021 Texas Bluebonnet Master List Selection NPR Best Book of 2021

Based on a true story, the tale of one girl's perilous journey to cross the U.S. border and lead her family to safety during the Mexican Revolution.

"Wrenching debut about family, loss, and finding the strength to carry on."—Booklist, starred review

"Blazes bright, gripping readers until the novel's last page."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Vital and perilous and hopeful."—Alan Gratz, New York Times bestselling author of Refugee

It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna's mama has died while the Revolution rages…


Book cover of One Crazy Summer

Hilda Eunice Burgos Why did I love this book?

I fell in love with eleven-year-old Delphine right away. It’s 1968 and she and her two younger sisters fly from NYC to California to meet the mother that abandoned them years ago. Like always, Delphine must look out for her sisters because they can’t count on their mom for that. The characters in this book come to life in such a believable way, from the kids at the community center run by the local Black Panthers to the grandmother back in New York whose scoldings and values are forever running through Delphine’s mind. From start to finish, this book is an absolute gem.

By Rita Williams-Garcia,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked One Crazy Summer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She's had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their…


Book cover of Gaby, Lost and Found

Hilda Eunice Burgos Why did I love this book?

I was moved by this book about an eleven-year-old girl whose mother has been deported. Gaby is kind and genuine, and her friends are great too. She wants nothing more than to get her mother back and to save an abandoned cat from the shelter where she volunteers. I love how real her feelings and her actions are, and how she grows in the story. And, of course, reading about all the cute dogs and cats at the shelter made me feel warm and fuzzy!

By Angela Cervantes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gaby, Lost and Found 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?

Gaby comes to the WISH line! Wanted: One amazing forever home for one amazing sixth grader.

"My name is Gaby, and I'm looking for a home. Having the nicest clothes or cell phone isn't important, but I'd like to have a cat that I can talk to when I'm home alone." When Gaby Ramirez Howard starts volunteering at the local animal shelter, she takes special pride in writing adoption advertisements. Her flyers help the cats and dogs there find their forever homes: places where they'll be loved and cared for, no matter what. Gaby is in need of a forever…


You might also like...

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

Book cover of The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

Alexander Rose Author Of Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.

Alexander's book list on Zeppelin airships

What is my book about?

From the author of Washington’s Spies, the thrilling story of two rival secret agents — one Confederate, the other Union — sent to Britain during the Civil War.

The South’s James Bulloch, charming and devious, was ordered to acquire a clandestine fleet intended to break Lincoln’s blockade, sink Northern merchant vessels, and drown the U.S. Navy’s mightiest ships at sea. Opposing him was Thomas Dudley, an upright Quaker lawyer determined to stop Bulloch in a spy-versus-spy game of move and countermove, gambit and sacrifice, intrigue and betrayal.

Their battleground was the Dickensian port of Liverpool, whose dockyards built more ships each year than the rest of the world combined and whose merchant princes, said one observer, were “addicted to Southern proclivities, foreign slave trade, and domestic bribery.”

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Washington's Spies, the thrilling story of the Confederate spy who came to Britain to turn the tide of the Civil War-and the Union agent resolved to stop him.

"Entertaining and deeply researched...with a rich cast of spies, crooks, bent businessmen and drunken sailors...Rose relates the tale with gusto." -The New York Times

In 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, two secret agents-one a Confederate, the other his Union rival-were dispatched to neutral Britain, each entrusted with a vital mission.

The South's James Bulloch, charming and devious, was to acquire…


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