The best middle grade books with strong female protagonists

Who am I?

Whatever story I’m telling, I try to write female characters who are smart, funny, kind, and ultimately empowering; characters that drive the narrative, not the other way around. It is really important for me that my female characters have agency – that they actively move the story forward, make decisions and step up. Those are the kind of stories I like to read too. The books on this list are some of my favourites and all contain strong female protagonists. I hope you enjoy.

I wrote...

Girl (in Real Life)

By Tamsin Winter,

Book cover of Girl (in Real Life)

What is my book about?

Girl (in Real Life) is a funny and heartfelt novel exploring the highs and lows of online fame from award-winning author Tamsin Winter. Eva's parents run a hugely successful YouTube channel, and Eva is the star of the show. But she is getting sick of being made to pose in stupid mum-and-daughter matching outfits for sponsored posts. The freebies aren't worth the teasing at school. And when an intensely humiliating "period party" post goes viral, Eva is outraged. She's going to find a way to stop the channel, even if she has to sabotage it herself.

“Winter's funny and thought-provoking third novel vividly evokes the sense of powerlessness and exposure on the flip side of viral fame.” The Guardian

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The books I picked & why

The Shark Caller

By Zillah Bethell,

Book cover of The Shark Caller

Why did I love this book?

I have always been fascinated by sharks, so to read the story of Blue Wing, who lives among them, was an absolute joy. Set on an island near Papua New Guinea, this is a heartbreaking story, beautifully and originally told, that explores grief, friendship, forgiveness, and our relationship with nature. I’ve traveled and swam with sharks near where this book is set and it was so special to revisit those places in the book. But it’s Blue Wing’s selflessness, wisdom, and bravery that make this book utterly unforgettable. 

By Zillah Bethell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?



Dive beneath the waves with this spell-binding adventure of friendship, forgiveness and bravery, set on the shores of Papua New Guinea, perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell and Eva Ibbotson.

"I want to be able to call the sharks. Teach me the magic and show me the ways."

Blue Wing is desperate to become a shark caller, but instead she must befriend infuriating newcomer Maple, who arrives unexpectedly on Blue Wing's island.

At first, the girls are too angry to…

The Land of Roar

By Jenny McLachlan, Ben Mantle (illustrator),

Book cover of The Land of Roar

Why did I love this book?

As someone who has always had a somewhat overactive imagination, as soon as I heard the premise of this book – a land created by twins Rose and Arthur that comes to life – I was hooked. The Land of Roar is filled with incredible things – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards! But it is also filled with their childhood fears, personified by the truly terrifying Crowky. This is a heart-in-your-mouth series with a celebration of childhood adventure at its heart. 

By Jenny McLachlan, Ben Mantle (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Land of Roar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first in a new children's fantasy adventure series, full of imagination, humour and heart, and with echoes of Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Neverending Story and Jumanji.

The Land of Roar is perfect for children aged 8 to 12, and can sit on their bookshelf next to Nevermoor, Wizards of Once and How to Train Your Dragon. Readers can bring their fantasy world to life and meet dragons, unicorns, mermaids and more in this beautifully illustrated children's book.

Believing is just the beginning ...

When Arthur and Rose were little, they were heroes in the Land of…

Where The World Turns Wild

By Nicola Penfold,

Book cover of Where The World Turns Wild

Why did I love this book?

Where the World Turns Wild plays on one of my biggest fears about the future – a world without nature. Juniper and her little brother Bear live in a walled city where nature has been almost completely eradicated following the outbreak of a disease. What remains is a tightly controlled and terrifying society that they must escape. Juniper’s bravery and her capacity for survival are driven by the fierce, protective love she has for her little brother. This is an adventure story like no other and one I have returned to time and again.

By Nicola Penfold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where The World Turns Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Animals, trees, flowers, our city forbids them all...
Juniper Greene lives in a walled city from which nature has been banished, following the outbreak of a deadly man-made disease many years earlier. While most people seem content to live in such a cage, she and her little brother Bear have always known about their resistance to the disease, and dream of escaping into the wild. To the one place humans have survived outside of cities. To where their mother is.
When scientists discover that the siblings provide the key to fighting the disease, the pair must flee for their lives.…

Book cover of Sisters of the Lost Marsh: the atmospheric new story from Waterstones Prize-shortlisted author Lucy Strange

Why did I love this book?

I absolutely adore Lucy Strange’s books and her latest one, Sisters of the Lost Marsh, is a gloriously Gothic mystery with sisterhood at its centre. The story is about a family of six sisters reigned over by their tyrannical father. When one of the sisters goes missing, 12-year-old Willa decides to take matters into her own hands and uncover what happened. This book is a beautiful blend of mystery, folktale, and feminism and one I simply could not put down. 

By Lucy Strange,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sisters of the Lost Marsh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Waterstones Prize-shortlisted author of Our
Castle by the Sea comes a gorgeously gothic story, perfect
for fans of Emma Carroll and Frances Hardinge ...

'My book of the year. This is storytelling so secure and shining
that you can almost feel the glow.' HILARY MCKAY,

'I absolutely love this book ... Lucy Strange is a wonderful,
accomplished writer whose books stay with you long after you
have finished reading.' NATASHA FARRANT, COSTA BOOK

Life is hard for Willa, Grace and Freya, and their…

The Ice Garden

By Guy Jones,

Book cover of The Ice Garden

Why did I love this book?

This is an absolute heartstopper of a novel. The protagonist, Jess, has a rare skin condition that means she is allergic to sunlight. Even the tiniest exposure can cause her serious injury and pain. She lives her life in a world of loneliness and shadows, but is desperate for an adventure. When she sneaks out one night she discovers a garden of ice that will change her life forever. Not only did I love the magic of this novel, I loved Jess’s humour and I was weeping for her towards the end. A wonderful book that really touched my heart.

By Guy Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tom's Midnight Garden meets The Secret
Garden in this mystical, classic-feeling adventure!

'A beautiful book that touches on friendship and the unbreakable
bond between a protective parent and her child.' THE

'Elegant, assured, sad and hilarious' GUARDIAN

Jess is allergic to the sun. She lives in a world of shadows and
hospitals, peeking at the other children in the playground from
behind curtains. Her only friend is a boy in a coma, to whom she
tells stories.

One night she sneaks out to explore the empty playground she's
longed to visit, where she discovers a beautiful impossiblity: a

5 book lists we think you will like!

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