The 50 Best Multicultural Middle Grade Novels of 2021

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Best Multicultural Middle Grade Novels


Part 3 of our ‘Best of 2021’ series! Following our lists of The 100 Best Picture Books of 2021 and The 30 Best Multicultural Chapter Books of 2021, here is our selection of this year’s best multicultural middle grade novels!

These gorgeous middle grade books cover a wide range of subjects, styles and ethnicities. Enjoy browsing!

The 50 Best Multicultural Middle Grade Novels of 2021

Playing the Cards You’re Dealt
by Varian Johnson

NEW Multicultural Children's Books October 2021

Ten-year-old Anthony Joplin has made it to double digits! Which means he’s finally old enough to play in the spades tournament every Joplin Man before him seems to have won. So while Ant’s friends are stressing about fifth grade homework and girls, Ant only has one thing on his mind: how he’ll measure up to his father’s expectations at the card table… until he discovers that his father is hiding a secret so big it may tear their family apart… Playing The Cards You’re Dealt is a heartfelt, hopeful story that explores themes of toxic masculinity and family legacy. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 150 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys

Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds
by Samira Ahmed

On the day of a rare super blue blood moon eclipse, twelve-year-old Amira and her little brother, Hamza, attend a special exhibit on medieval Islamic astronomy. While stargazer Amira is wowed by the amazing gadgets, a bored Hamza wanders off, stumbling across the forbidden Box of the Moon. Amira can only watch in horror as Hamza grabs the defunct box and it springs to life, setting off a series of events that could shatter their world—literally. Amira & Hamza is a thrilling fantasy adventure intertwining Islamic legend and history. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 33 Children’s Books about Ramadan and Eid

Eye Spy: Harper’s Beginning
by L. Clayborne & K. Harris

NEW Multicultural Children's Books October 2021

Harper Ellison, school mischief maker and home prankster, never thought that one prank would land her in the principal’s office, let alone on an unexpected trip to Mexico to learn about her heritage. At first it was a perfectly normal vacation until her mom goes missing and Harper gets kidnapped by a spy agency that reveals the truth about her mami’s disappearance. Written by two 10-year-old girls, Eye Spy: Harper’s Beginning is a high-action espionage adventure with some unexpected twists. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: 24 Children’s Books set in Mexico

Keeping It Real
by Paula Chase

NEW Multicultural Children's Books October 2021

Marigold Johnson can’t wait to attend a special program at her family’s business, Flexx Unlimited, for teens who love fashion. But she quickly realizes that she’s out of place compared to the three other trainees—and one girl, Kara, seems to hate her on sight. As tension builds and the stakes at the program get higher, Mari uncovers exactly why Kara’s been so spiteful. And she also discovers some hard truths about herself and her family… Keeping It Real is a powerful middle-grade novel that explores the themes of betrayal, conformity, and forgiveness. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 250 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Girls

Red, White, and Whole
by Rajani LaRocca

Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked—Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”—but they are a universe apart. When Reha finds out that her Amma is very sick, she is determined to make well again by being the perfect daughter. Red, White, and Whole is a heartbreaking yet hopeful novel in verse about a girl whose life is turned upside down when her mother is diagnosed with leukemia. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 180+ Asian & Asian American Books For Children & Teenagers

Simon B. Rhymin’
by Dwayne Reed

Eleven-year-old Simon Barnes is constantly spitting rhymes in his head. He dreams of becoming a world-famous rapper that everyone calls Notorious D.O.G. For now though, he’s just a Chicago fifth grader who’s small for his age and afraid to use his voice. But when his new teacher assigns the class an oral presentation on something that affects their community, Simon must face his fears. Written by America’s favourite rapping teacher, Simon B. Rhymin’ is a humorous and heartwarming underdog story about a young rapper whose rhymes help bring his community together. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 60+ Children’s Books About Legendary Black Musicians

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna
by Alda P. Dobbs

It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna’s mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. When her papa is dragged away by soldiers, Petra, her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito flee north through the unforgiving desert. Through battlefields, hunger and fear, Petra will stop at nothing to keep her family safe and lead them to a better life across the U.S. border—a life where her dreams could finally become reality. Based on a true story, Barefoot Dreams is the gripping tale of one girl’s perilous journey during the Mexican Revolution. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: 24 Children’s Books set in Mexico

Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year
by Nina Hamza

Ahmed Aziz is having an epically bad year. After his dad gets sick, the family moves from Hawaii to Minnesota where his dad grew up. Ahmed can’t imagine a worse place to live. He’s one of the only brown kids in his school. And as a proud slacker, Ahmed doesn’t want to deal with expectations from his new teachers. But when he starts learning about his uncle, who died before Ahmed was born, he gets more insight into his family’s history might which is an upside, as his dad’s health hangs in the balance and the school bully refuses to leave him alone. Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year is a hilarious and poignant tween debut about dealing with bullies, making friends, and the power of good books. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 20 Multicultural Children’s Books about Bullying

Cuba in My Pocket
by Adrianna Cuevas

“I don’t remember. Tell me everything, Pepito. Tell me about Cuba.” When the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 solidifies Castro’s power in Cuba, twelve-year-old Cumba’s family makes the difficult decision to send him to Florida alone. From the author of 2021 Pura Belpré Honor Book The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, comes Cuba In My Pocket, a sweeping, emotional middle grade historical novel about a twelve-year-old boy who leaves his family in Cuba to immigrate to the U.S. by himself, based on the author’s family history. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: 36 Children’s Books set in the Caribbean

Forever This Summer (Love Like Sky)
by Leslie C. Youngblood

Georgie has no idea what to expect when she, Mama, and Peaches are plopped down in Bogalusa, Louisiana–where Mama grew up and Great Aunt Vie needs constant care. Georgie wants to help out at the once famous family diner that served celebrities like the Jackson 5 and the Supremes, but everyone is too busy to show her the ropes. When Markie –a foster kid who’d been under Aunt Elvie’s care– asks Georgie to help her find her mom, the summer suddenly has a real purpose. Sequel to acclaimed Love Like Sky, Forever This Summer is about family, identity, and learning to stand up for what’s right. ~ African – Middle School

Sisters of the Neversea
by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Lily and Wendy have been best friends since they became stepsisters. But with their feuding parents planning to spend the summer apart, what will become of their family? Little do they know that a mysterious boy has been watching them from the oak tree outside their window. A boy who intends to take them away from home for good, to an island of wild animals, Merfolk, Fairies, and kidnapped children, to a sea of merfolk, pirates, and a giant crocodile. A boy who calls himself Peter Pan. Sisters of the Neversea is a beautifully reimagined story that follows Native American Lily and her stepsister on a high-flying journey of magic, adventure, and courage to a fairy-tale island known as Neverland. ~ Diverse – Middle School

Related: 100 Native American Children’s Books

The Magical Imperfect
by Chris Baron

Etan has stopped speaking since his mother left. His father and grandfather don’t know how to help him, and his friends have given up on him. When he is asked to deliver a grocery order to the outskirts of town, he meets Malia Agbayani, also known as the Creature due to the eczema on her face. Her grandmother, a refugee from the Philippines befriended Etan’s Jewish grandparents after they had escaped the Holocaust. Etan thinks he has cure for Malia’s condition, if only he can convince his family and hers to believe it too. But even if it works, will these two outcasts find where they fit in? The Magical Imperfect is a powerful novel-in-verse about friendship, family and finding your place in the world. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 40 Filipino American Books for Children & Teenagers

That Thing about Bollywood
by Supriya Kelkar

You know how in Bollywood when people are in love, they sing and dance from the mountaintops? Eleven-year-old Sonali wonders if they do the same when they’re breaking up. The truth is, Sonali’s parents might be separating. Sonali’s little brother, Ronak, is not taking the news well, constantly crying. Sonali would never do that. It’s embarrassing to let out so many feelings, to show the world how not okay you are. But then something strange happens… The Thing About Bollywood is a magical middle grade novel about an Indian American girl whose world turns upside down when she involuntarily starts bursting into glamorous song-and-dance routines during everyday life. ~ Asian – Middle School

From the same author: Strong As Fire, Fierce As Flame

Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South
by Wade Hudson

NEW Multicultural Children's Books October 2021

Born in 1946 in Mansfield, Louisiana, Wade Hudson came of age against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. From their home on Mary Street, his close-knit family watched as the country grappled with desegregation, as the Klan targeted the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and as systemic racism struck across the nation and in their hometown. Amidst it all, Wade was growing up. Getting into scuffles, playing baseball, immersing himself in his church community, and starting to write. Most important, Wade learned how to find his voice and use it. Defiant is a compelling memoir about the resilience it took to grow up Black in segregated America. ~ African – Middle School

Related: NEW 2021 Black History Books For Children & Teenagers

Merci Suárez Can’t Dance
by Meg Medina

Seventh grade is going to be a real trial for Merci Suárez. For science she’s got no-nonsense Mr. Ellis, who expects her to be a smart as her brother, Roli. She’s been assigned to co-manage the tiny school store with Wilson Bellevue, a boy she barely knows, but whom she might actually like. And she’s tangling again with classmate Edna Santos, who is bossier and more obnoxious than ever now that she is in charge of the annual Heart Ball. One thing is for sure, though: Merci Suárez can’t dance—not at the Heart Ball or anywhere else! In Merci Suárez Can’t Dance, follow-up to award–winning Merci Suárez Changes Gears, the lovable protagonist takes on seventh grade, with all its travails of friendship, family, and love. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: Multicultural 2021 ALA Award-Winning Children’s & YA Books

It Doesn’t Take a Genius
by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Emmett and his older brother Luke have always been “Batman and Robin,” but at the historic Black summer camp Luke is ignoring his little brother who struggles in swim class and the “It Takes A Village” entrepreneurship class. Without his brother to turn to, Emmett must find friends who’ll help him plan something spectacular for the end-of-camp awards celebration. Along the way, Emmett learns that there can be many ways to define family. It Doesn’t Take A Genius is a hilarious and moving coming-of-age story that explores the intersection between self and community and the complexity of Black identity. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 150 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys

by Reem Faruqi

When her family moves from Pakistan to Peachtree City, all Nurah wants is to blend in, yet she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts. And in the water Nurah doesn’t want to blend in. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais—who is going through struggles of his own in the U.S. Yet when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates. Unsettled is a warm and powerful coming-of-age story about family and belonging. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 15 Children’s Books set in Pakistan

We Belong
by Cookie Hiponia Everman

Stella and Luna know that their mama, Elsie, came from the Philippines when she was a child, but they don’t know much else. So one night they ask her to tell them her story. As they get ready for bed, their mama spins two tales: that of her youth as a strong-willed middle child and immigrant; and that of the young life of Mayari, the mythical daughter of a god. Both are tales of sisterhood and motherhood, and of the difficult experience of trying to fit into a new culture. We Belong is an extraordinarily beautiful novel-in-verse that weaves a dramatic immigrant story together with Filipino mythology. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 40 Filipino American Books for Children & Teenagers

Pippa Park Raises Her Game
by Erin Yun

When Korean American Pippa Park gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself. Now she has to juggle old and new friends, a crush, and the pressure to get As and score points while keeping her past and family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened. Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a wonderful middle grade novel about family, friendships, bullying, and identity. ~ Asian – Middle School

Also available: Pippa Park: My Journal About Life

Welcome Back, Maple Mehta-Cohen
by Kate McGovern

NEW Multicultural Children's Books October 2021

Maple Mehta-Cohen loves dictating stories into her recorder—especially the adventures of a daring sleuth who’s half Indian and half Jewish like herself—but words on a page just don’t seem to make sense to her. Despite all her clever tricks to hide her reading troubles, Maple has to repeat fifth grade. She is devastated—what will her friends think? Maple uses her storytelling skills to convince her classmates that she’s staying back as a special teacher’s assistant. But as she navigates friendships and her reading challenges, her deception becomes harder to keep up. Welcome Back, Maple Mehta-Cohen Readers is a heartwarming story about friendship, creativity and self-love. ~ Diverse – Middle School

Related: 21 Middle Grade Novels With Multiracial Characters

Maya and the Robot
by Eve L. Ewing

Maya’s nervous about fifth grade. For the first time since kindergarten, her best friends Jada and MJ are placed in a different class without her, and introverted Maya has trouble making new friends. When she finds a robot named Ralph in the back of Mr. Mac’s convenience store closet, she uses her science skills to get him up and running. A whole new world of connection opens up as Ralph becomes a member of her family and Maya begins to step into her power. Maya and the Robot is a touching story about adapting to change, and the magic of ingenuity. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 50+ Multicultural STEAM Books for Children

Soul Lanterns
by Shaw Kuzki

Every year Nozomi and her family attend the lantern-floating ceremony in Hiroshima to honour those lost in the bombing. People write the names of their deceased loved ones along with messages of peace, on paper lanterns and set them afloat on the river. This year Nozomi realizes that her mother always releases one lantern with no name. She begins to ask questions, and when complicated stories of loss and loneliness unfold, Nozomi and her friends come up with a creative way to share their loved ones’ experiences. Soul Lanterns is a poignant story about loss, compassion, and community. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 33 Multicultural Children’s Books about Peace

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
by Kaela Rivera

Powerful spirits roam the desert town of Tierra del Soand and threaten humankind. But Cecelia Rios thinks there is more to the criaturas, much to her family’s disapproval. After all, only brujas—humans who capture and control criaturas—consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible crime. When her older sister is kidnapped by a criatura, Cece is determined to bring her back. For that, she has to become a bruja herself—while hiding her quest from her parents, her town, and the other brujas. Thankfully, the legendary criatura Coyote agrees to help her on her journey. Full of Mexican-inspired mythology, Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is a vivid middle grade fantasy full of adventure, magic and heart. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: 24 Children’s Books set in Mexico

Ophie’s Ghosts
by Justina Ireland

Ophelia Harrison used to live in a small house in the Georgia countryside. But one night in November 1922 a cruel act took her home and her father, and Ophie learned that she can see ghosts. Now Ophie and her mother are living in Pittsburgh and working in an old manor house. Daffodil Manor is haunted by memories and prejudices of the past—and ghosts as well. As Ophie forms a friendship with one spirit whose life ended suddenly and unjustly, she wonders if she might be able to help—even as she comes to realize that Daffodil Manor may hold more secrets than she bargained for. With an unforgettable protagonist, Ophie’s Ghosts is a sweeping tale of the ghosts of our past that won’t stay buried. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 250 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Girls

Squad Goals
by Erika J. Kendrick

Magic Olive Poindexter has big shoes to fill. Her mother was a professional cheerleader, her father is a retired NBA legend, her big sister is the new face of the Laker Girls, and her grandmother was the first Black cheerleader at Valentine Middle School. In order to follow in their footsteps, Magic first has to survive Planet Pom Poms, the summer cheer camp where she’ll audition for a spot on the HoneyBee squad. But with zero athletic ability and a group of mean girls, Tragic Magic is a long way from becoming the toe-touching cheerleader heroine she dreams of being. Squad Goals is a charming middle-grade novel about making new friends, finding your place, and learning to embrace your inner Magic. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 250 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Girls

The One Thing You’d Save
by Linda Sue Park

If your house were on fire, what one thing would you save? When a teacher asks her class this question, some students know the answer right away. Others come to their decisions more slowly. And some change their minds when they hear their classmates’ responses. A lively dialog ignites as the students discover unexpected facets of one another—and themselves. With authentic dialog and knowledge of tweens’ priorities and emotions, The One Thing You’d Save is a stunning novel-in-verse that capture the diverse voices of a middle school class. Illustrated with black-and-white art. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 180+ Asian & Asian American Books for Children & Teenagers

The Last Cuentista
by Donna Barbara Higuera

NEW Multicultural Children's Books October 2021

Petra Peña wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita. But Petra’s world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to this new planet – and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister Collective has taken over, bent on erasing the sins of humanity’s past. Petra alone now carries the stories of our past, and with them, any hope for our future. Can she make them live again? The Last Cuentista is a gripping journey through the stars, to the very heart of what makes us human. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: Pura Belpré Award Winners 1996 – 2021

by Matt Wallace

MJ knows what it means to hurt. Bruises from gymnastics heal, but big hurts—like her dad not being around anymore—don’t go away. Now her mom needs to work two jobs, and MJ doesn’t have friends at school to lean on. When MJ learns that her neighbour, Mr. Arellano, is a former luchador and runs a wrestling school, she has a new mission in life: join the school, train hard, and become a wrestler. But threats to shut the school down put MJ’s new community at risk. What can she do to help? Bump is a moving middle grade nove about finding the courage to fight for what you love. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: 18 Multicultural Children’s Books about Fear and Courage

Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field
by Angela Ahn

Eleven year-old Peter Lee has one goal in life: to become a paleontologist. Okay, maybe two: to get his genius kid-sister, L.B., to leave him alone. But his summer falls apart when his real-life dinosaur expedition turns out to be a bust, and he watches his dreams go up in a cloud of asthma-inducing dust. Even worse, his grandmother, Hammy, is sick, and no one will talk to Peter about it. Armed with notebooks and pens, Peter puts his observation and experimental skills to the test to see what he can do for Hammy. Told in short, accessible journal entries, Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field is a humorous and poignant middle grade book that will win readers’ hearts. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 50+ Multicultural STEAM Books for Children

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids
by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In a high school gym full of colour and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. Young protagonists will meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog). Edited by award-winning author Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ancestor Approved is a collection of intersecting stories by both new and veteran Native writers that bursts with hope, joy, resilience, and pride. ~ Diverse – Middle School

Related: 100 Native American Children’s Books

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For
by Veera Hiranandani

Twelve-year-old Ariel Goldberg’s family’s Jewish bakery runs into financial trouble, and her older sister has eloped with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision that strikes down laws banning interracial marriage. As change becomes Ariel’s only constant, she grapples with both her family’s prejudice and the antisemitism she experiences, while learning to define her own beliefs. How To Find What You’re Not Looking For is a deeply moving historical fiction novel about family, identity, and finding your own voice. ~ Diverse – Middle School

Related: 70+ Picture Books about Mixed Race Families

by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

NEW Multicultural Children's Books October 2021

Katrina doesn’t know any of the details about her past, but she does know that she and her parents are part of the Witness Protection Program. Whenever they have to move on and start over, she takes on a new identity. A new name, a new hair color, a new story. Until their location leaks and her parents disappear. Forced to embark on a dangerous rescue mission, Katrina and her new friend Parker set out to save her parents―and find out the truth about her secret past and the people that want her family dead. Concealed is a thrilling action adventure middle-graders will love. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: Pura Belpré Award Winners 1996 – 2021

Finding Junie Kim
by Ellen Oh

Junie Kim usually tries not to draw attention to herself. But when racist graffiti appears at her middle school, Junie must decide between staying silent or speaking out. When Junie interviews her grandparents for a history project, she learns about their unbelievable experiences as kids during the Korean War. Junie comes to admire her grandma’s fierce determination to overcome impossible odds, and her grandpa’s unwavering compassion during wartime. And as racism becomes more pervasive at school, Junie taps into the strength of her ancestors and finds the courage to do what is right. Finding Junie Kim is a powerful reminder that we can overcome hardship and emerge triumphant. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 100 Children’s Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination

The Samosa Rebellion
by Shanthi Sekaran

Muki Krishnan shares a bedroom with his grandmother, who has just arrived on the island of Mariposa from India. Shortly after, the president divides citizens into ‘Butterflies’—families who have lived in Mariposa for three generations—and ‘Moths’, who, like Muki’s family, are more recent immigrants. Soon a camp is built to imprison Moths before sending them away. When Paati is taken there, Muki discovers that a secret rebellion is underway, and realizes that rescuing Paati will be the fight of his life. The Samos Rebellion is a timely novel about racism, classism, and xenophobia. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 180+ Asian &  Asian American Books For Children & Teenagers

Mighty Inside
by Sundee T. Frazier

NEW Multicultural Children's Books October 2021

Melvin Robinson wants a strong, smooth voice that lets him say what he wants —especially to his crush Millie Takazawa, and Gary Ratliff, who constantly puts him down. But the thought of starting high school is only making his stutter worse. And Melvin’s growing awareness that racism is everywhere—not just in the South where a boy his age has been brutally killed by two white men, but also in his own hometown of Spokane—is making him realize that there are times when one needs to speak up. When his moment comes, can Melvin be as mighty on the outside as he actually is on the inside? Mighty Inside a moving coming-of-age story about a Black boy in 1950s America. ~ African – Middle School

Related: The 50 Best Multicultural Middle Grade Books Of 2020

Amina’s Song
by Hena Khan

Amina has loved every minute of her vacation in Pakistan — the food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family. She is sad to leave, but also excited to share the wonders of Pakistan with her friends back in Greendale. But they don’t seem overly interested in her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen? Companion novel to the award-winning Amina’s Voice, Amina’s Song is once again about using your voice to bridge places, people, and communities —this time across continents. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 15 Children’s Books set in Pakistan

Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai
by Debbi Michiko Florence

When Jenna gets dumped, it confirms what she learned from her parents’ messy divorce: Relationships are risky and only lead to disappointment. So even though she still has to see her ex-boyfriend Elliott at newspaper club, Jenna is going to be totally heartless this semester — no boys, just books. But soon Jenna is starting to realize that being a loner is kind of, well, lonely. And letting people in might just be a risk worth taking. Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai is a funny, sweet story of crushes, competition, and the confusing reality of middle school. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 180+ Asian & Asian American Books For Children & Teenagers

The Insiders
by Mark Oshiro

At Héctor’s new school, being gay couldn’t make him feel more alone. Most days, he just wishes he could disappear. And he does. Right into the janitor’s closet. (Yes, he sees the irony.) But one day, when the door closes behind him, Héctor discovers he’s stumbled into a room that shouldn’t be possible. A room that connects him with two new friends from different corners of the country—and opens the door to a life-changing year full of friendship, adventure, and a little bit of magic. The Insiders is a hopeful and heartfelt coming-of-age story for anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: 75+ Multicultural LGBTQIA Books For Children & Teenagers

The Sea in Winter
by Christine Day

Ever since Maisie Cannon hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions, she’s been feeling down and hopeless. Maisie is not excited for the family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up. But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean? The Sea In Winter is an evocative and heartwarming novel about a Native American girl struggling to find her joy again. ~ Diverse – Middle School

Related: 100 Native American Children’s Books

Shaking Up the House
by Yamile Saied Méndez

Ingrid and Winnie López have lived in the White House for eight years, but now their friends Skylar and Zora Williams are about to move in with their mom, the president-elect. What the Williamses don’t know is that incoming presidents’ families are often pranked by the folks they’re replacing, and Ingrid and Winnie take that tradition very seriously. When the four girls get wrapped up in an ever-escalating exchange of practical jokes, can they avoid an international incident? Shaking Up The House is a hilarious and heartfelt middle grade novel about a friendly prank war at the White House that spirals out of control. ~ Diverse – Middle School

Related: 18 Multicultural Children’s Books About Voting & Elections

Indiana Bones
by Harry Heape

Indiana Bones is a shaggy dog with a difference. He’s got superpowers and can sniff out criminals and – with his young friend and owner, 12-year-old Aisha – solve mysteries that would flummox the world’s more expert detectives! In their first case, they are on the trail of treasure hidden centuries ago by a legendary knight known as The Lonely Assassin, an adventure which takes them all the way to Egypt and the Pyramids. Indiana Bones is a hugely inventive new middle grade series from one of the funniest authors in the business. ~ Diverse – Middle School

Related: 10 Laugh-Out-Loud Funny Multicultural Picture Books

Clues to the Universe
by Christina Li

Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves building rockets with her dad. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket. Benjamin Burns can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago. Ro and Benji befriend each other in science class, and Ro even figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place? Clues To The Universe is a heartfelt debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 50+ Multicultural STEAM Books for Children

Marcus Makes a Movie
by Kevin Hart

Marcus is NOT happy to be stuck in after-school film class . . . until he realizes he can turn the story of the cartoon superhero he’s been drawing for years into an actual MOVIE! There’s just one problem: he has no idea what he’s doing. So he’ll need help, from his friends, his teachers, Sierra, the strong-willed classmate with creative dreams of her own, even Tyrell, the local bully who’d be a perfect movie villain if he weren’t too terrifying to talk to. Marcus Makes A Movie is a hilarious illustrated middle grade novel about never giving up on your goals, even when nothing’s going your way. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 150 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys

The Hungry Ghosts
by Miguel Flores

Witches have been banned from Arrett for years. Which is why Milly has tried to ignore the tingling light that appears in her palm anytime she conjures up a wish. She has too many responsibilities as the oldest girl at St. George’s Orphanage to get caught up in magicks. Sweet, quirky Cilla, though, has always longed for that power, even if it could be dangerous for her. Milly has always kept an eye out for her, but then Cilla is kidnapped by an angry, exiled witch who believes she’s the one with magicks—not Milly. The Hungry Ghosts is a captivating tale of magic, found family, and the power of being yourself—even when the world asks you to change. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: Pura Belpré Award Winners 1996 – 2021

The Magical Reality of Nadia
by B. Youssef & C. R. Daly

Nadia loves fun facts. Here are a few about her: She collects bobbleheads (77 so far!). She moved from Egypt to America when she was six years old. The hippo amulet she wears is ancient… as in it’s literally from ancient Egypt. She’s going to win the contest to design a new exhibit at the local museum. Because how cool would that be?! But then a new kid shows up and teases Nadia about her Egyptian heritage. When her amulet starts glowing, she soon discovers that it is holding a helpful — and hilarious — secret. Can she use it to confront the new kid and win the contest? The Magical Reality of Nadia is a humorous and heartfelt story about prejudice, friendship, empathy, and courage. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 18 Multicultural Children’s Books about Fear and Courage

While I Was Away
by Waka T. Brown

In order to improve her Japanese, twelve-year-old Waka is sent to Tokyo for a few months to live with her strict grandmother. Plucked from her straight-A-student life in rural Kansas, she faces the culture shock of a lifetime. Waka struggles with reading and writing in kanji, doesn’t quite mesh with her distant Obaasama, and gets made fun of at school. Even though this is the country her parents came from, Waka has never felt more like an outsider. If she’s always been the “smart Japanese girl” in America but is now the “dumb foreigner” in Japan, where is home…and who will Waka be when she finds it? While I Was Away is an empowering middle grade memoir that takes readers on a journey to 1980s Japan. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 180+ Asian & Asian American Books For Children & Teenagers

A Soft Place to Land
by Janae Marks

After Joy’s dad lost his job, the family moves into a tiny apartment with shared bedrooms, and tense arguments between Mom and Dad. Hardest of all, Joy doesn’t have her music to escape through anymore. Without enough funds, her dreams of becoming a great pianist have been put on hold. But then Joy discovers the complex’s best-kept secret: the Hideout, a cozy refuge that only the kids know about. There Joy starts exchanging secret messages with another kid in the building who also seems to be struggling, until—abruptly, they stop writing back. What if they’re in trouble? Joy is determined to find out who this mystery writer is. A Soft Place To Land is a compelling story of connection, mystery and hope. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 18 Multicultural Children’s Books about Friendship

The Comeback: A Figure Skating Novel
by E.L. Shen

Twelve-year-old Maxine Chen is just trying to nail that perfect landing on the ice. Then a bully at school starts teasing her for her Chinese heritage, leaving her stunned and speechless. And at the rink, she finds herself up against a stellar new skater named Hollie, whose grace and skill threaten to edge Maxine out of the competition. With everything she knows on uneven ice, will Maxine crash under the pressure? With a spunky protagonist, The Comeback is a stirring middle grade novel that examines racism, female rivalry and friendship, and the universal need for love and support. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 100 Children’s Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination

Paradise on Fire
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Haunted by the tragic fire that killed her parents, Addy is left to be raised by her grandmother. Years later, her grandmother enrolls her in a summer wilderness program where Addy joins five other troubled Black city kids. Deep in the forest the kids learn new skills: camping, hiking, rock climbing, and how to start and safely put out campfires. Most important, they learn to depend upon each other. When a devastating forest fire starts, it’s up to Addy to lead her friends to safety. Paradise On Fire is a powerful coming-of-age survival tale exploring issues of race, class, and climate change. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 250 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Girls

Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares
by Tehlor Mejia

Six months after Paola Santiago confronted the legendary La Llorona in Paola Santiago and the River of Tears, life is nothing like she’d expected it to be. She is barely speaking to her best friends, Dante and Emma, and what’s worse, her mom has a totally annoying boyfriend.  When Dante’s abuela falls mysteriously ill, it seems that the dad Pao never knew just might be the key to healing the eccentric old woman. Pao’s search for her father will see her encounter new monsters and ghosts, a devastating betrayal, and finally, the forest of her nightmares. Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares tells a wild and wondrous story that combines creatures from folklore with modern-day challenges. ~ Hispanic – Middle School

Related: 24 Children’s Books set in Mexico

Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero
by Saadia Faruqi

Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas. He is determined to win the regional robotics competition this year. But with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks around the corner, this is going to be more difficult than he thought. With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and protests against the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy—and his friendships—in the face of heartache and prejudice? Yusuf Azeem Is Not A Hero is a poignant and timely story about discrimination, identity and hope. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 180+ Asian & Asian American Books For Children & Teenagers

Being Clem (The Finding Langston Trilogy)
by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Clem can make anybody, even his grumpy older sisters, smile with his jokes. But when his family receives news that his father has died in the infamous Port Chicago disaster, everything begins to fall apart. Clem’s mother is forced to work long, tough hours as a maid for a wealthy white family. Soon Clem can barely recognize his home–and himself. Can he live up to his father’s legacy? The final book in the award-winning trilogy, Being Clem masterfully recreates mid-twentieth century America through the eyes of three boys: Langston, Lymon, and, now, Clem. ~ African – Middle School

The whole trilogy: The Finding Langston Trilogy

Pahua and the Soul Stealer
by Lori M. Lee

Pahua Moua is a lonely eleven-year-old Hmong girl with the unique ability to see spirits. One day she accidentally untethers an angry spirit from the haunted bridge in her neighbourhood. When her brother suddenly falls sick and can’t be awoken, Pahua fears that the bridge spirit has stolen his soul. She returns to the scene of the crime with her aunt’s old shaman tools, hoping to confront the spirit and demand her brother’s return. With its unforgettable characters, unique nature-based magic system, breathtaking twists and reveals, and climactic boss battle, Pahua And The Soul Stealer offers everything a fantasy lover could want. ~ Asian – Middle School

Related: 180+ Asian & Asian American Books For Children & Teenagers

Amari and the Night Brothers
by B.B. Alston

Amari Peters always believed her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton. Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton. First in a trilogy filled with Black Girl Magic, Amari and the Night Brothers is an exhilarating debut middle grade fantasy. ~ African – Middle School

Also available: Amari and the Great Game

Take Back the Block
by Chrystal D. Giles

Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That–and hanging out with his crew and playing video games–is what he wants to be thinking about, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to. But when a real estate developer wants to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighbourhood Wes has lived his whole life, everything changes. The grownups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. But Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known. With an irresistible protagonist, Take Back The Block explores themes of community, gentrification, justice, and friendship. ~ African – Middle School

Related: 150 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys

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