13 Joy-Filled Middle Grade Titles for Tweens’ Summer Reading | We Are Kid Lit Collective

From magical school fantasies to hilarious sibling stories, these 13 selections will keep middle schoolers turning pages during summer break. Complete with graphic novels, biographies, and poetry, this list has something for every tween.



School Library Journal has proudly partnered with We Are Kid Lit Collective to share and promote the group’s 10th annual summer reading recommendations. In the next couple of weeks, SLJ will publish individual posts featuring their recommendations for picture books, transitional books, middle grade, and young adult titles.

Amid all the challenges and disruptions that our youth face, we’re releasing our 10th We Are Kid Lit Summer Reading List as a message to young readers: We see you. We hear you. We are with you. You motivate us every day to keep moving the needle by elevating narratives that feature Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices while being inclusive of intersectional queer and disability representation and limiting the harms of biases and microaggressions.

From magical school fantasies to hilarious sibling stories, these 13 selections will keep middle schoolers turning pages during summer break. Complete with graphic novels, biographies, and poetry, this list has something for every tween.

CLAYTON, Dhonielle. The Marvellers. (The Conjureverse: Bk. 1). Holt. 2022. ISBN 9781250174949.
Ella Durand is the first Conjurer to integrate the Marveller’s Arcanum Training Academy. She finds their magic to be as similar to her own as it is different, while her classmates just find her different. Suspicion and intrigue grow when criminals escape and one of the school’s teachers disappears. Ella’s classmates assume her guilt, but Ella works to prove them wrong.

CRAFT, Aimée. Treaty Words: For As Long As the Rivers Flow. illus. by Luke Swinson. Annick Pr. 2021. ISBN 9781773214962.
This lyrical short story, published in a novella-type format, follows an Anishinaabe grandfather and granddaughter. They spend time near the river discussing the relationship among earth, nature, and humans.

EDELMAN, Claudia Romo & J. Gia Loving. Hispanic Star en español: Sylvia Rivera. illus. by Cheyne Gallarde. tr. by Terry Catasús Jennings. Roaring Brook. 2023. ISBN 9781250840158. SP
This biography of Rivera, an activist and drag queen, highlights the many ways she showed up for her trans community during a seminal time in the American Gay Rights Movement. Includes important and age-appropriate discussions on transphobia, racism, and classism within LGBTQIA+ spaces and communities.

HAYNES, Clarence A. & Jennifer Sabin. The Legacy of Jim Crow. (True History). Penguin Workshop. 2022. ISBN 9780593385999.
This is a solid introduction to the ways Jim Crow laws, along with other forms of systemic anti-Blackness, were baked into all facets of our society. Haynes begins chapters by highlighting famous Black people, showing the ways each person has excelled in their field despite Jim Crow’s legacy on their lives.

HOHN, Nadia L., ed. The Antiracist Kitchen: 21 Stories (and Recipes). illus. by Roza Nozari. Orca. 2023. ISBN 9781459833432.
This nonfiction title blends food, cultures, stories, and communities to spark conversations about racial justice and intergenerational solidarities. Author and illustrator biographies and a glossary are appended.

JONES-QUARTEY, Ofosu. Love Your Amazing Self: Joyful Verses for Young Voices. illus. by Ndubisi Okoye. Storey. 2022. ISBN 9781635865479.
This collection of mindful verses covers a range of topics, from loving yourself to having fun, and encourages readers to learn, take pauses, and embrace kindness, acceptance, and solidarities.

KASSIS, Reem. We Are Palestinian: A Celebration of Culture and Tradition. illus. by Noha Eilouti. Crocodile. 2023. ISBN 9781623717254.
Palestinian author Kassis and Palestinian Canadian illustrator Eilouti celebrate their heritage and culture in this vibrant book. It is divided into seven sections—geography, cultural symbols, major figures, agriculture, cuisine, performing arts, and history and religion. Covering everything from tatreez embroidery to Dabke folk dancing, the book also profiles Palestinian intellectuals, such as poet Mahmoud Darwish and scholar Edward Said.

KING, Thomas. Borders. illus. by Natasha Donovan. Little, Brown Ink. 2021. ISBN 9780316593069.
In this graphic novel, a young Blackfoot boy and his mom plan to go visit his sister in Salt Lake City, Utah. They make it to the land between the U.S. and Canada border, but when they try to enter either country, they are asked to declare their citizenship, which is Blackfoot. The guards, unaware of treaties between the tribes and the countries, will not let the boy and his mother into the U.S. or back into Canada.

LAPENSÉE, Elizabeth. Rabbit Chase. illus. by KC Oster. tr. by Aarin Dokum. Annick Pr. 2022. ISBN 9781773216195.
In this retelling of Alice in Wonderland, nonbinary Anishinaabe middle schooler Aimée gets lost while on a class trip to offer gifts to Paayehnsag, the water spirits known to protect the land. Distracted by a white rabbit, Aimée enters an alternate dimension populated by traditional Anishinaabe figures and must help Trickster hunt dark water spirits to find their way back home. Anishinaabemowin is sprinkled throughout this graphic novel.

LIU-TRUJILLO, Robert. Art of Rob. illus. by author. Come Bien Bks. 2022. ISBN 9780996717816.
A sketchbook that provides a glimpse into the doodles, drawings, and paintings of the titular author, illustrator, and artist. Short stories, lettering, and how-to-draw activities are included in this art book that also highlights images of BIPOC people throughout history.

NIMR, Sonia. Thunderbird. tr. by M. Lynx Qualey. (Thunderbird: Bk. 1). Center for Middle Eastern Studies UT Austin. 2022. ISBN 9781477325810.
Noor, an orphaned young Palestinian girl, lives with her uncle and his family. They might be more accepting of her if they didn’t think she was starting the fires that seem to mysteriously happen around her. But Noor’s life changes when she realizes she’s being called on to save the world. Accompanied by a djinn cat, she travels through time to gather magical feathers and complete her task. Along the way, she learns Palestinian history.

ROSELLÓ, Jarod. Red Panda & Moon Bear. illus. by author. (Red Panda & Moon Bear: Bk. 1). Top Shelf Productions. 2019. ISBN 9781603094443.
Through their alter egos Red Panda and Moon Bear, two Cuban American siblings embark on a series of adventures to save the day and their South Florida town. Spanish words are sprinkled throughout this graphic novel.

VARGAS, Rodrigo. The Do-Over. illus. by Coni Yovaniniz. (Do-Over: Bk. 1). Harper/Clarion. 2023. ISBN 9780358394044.
In this graphic novel, Peruvian American Mariana Gutiérrez moves from California to Ohio after her mother’s death. Despite being close to extended family, she feels anxious about starting anew and making friends. But classmates Zoe and Everly seem promising; together, they even start up a hairstyling business called True Colors. But can they navigate bumps in the road to success in business, friendship, and family?

Sam Bloom is a children’scollection development librarian at the The Lane Libraries in Butler County. Edith Campbell is a librarian at Indiana State University. Ariana Hussain is a teacher librarian at the Blake School, Hopkins, MN. Dr. Sujei Lugo is a children’s librarian at the Boston Public Library and an independent researcher. Lyn Miller-Lachmann is an award-winning author and translator of children’s books.

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