12 Books to Help Middle Graders Stomp Out (or Deal With) Bullying

Share these books with your middle grade students during National Bullying Prevention Month in October and all year long to show them examples of tweens dealing with and standing up to bullying.

Statistics show that bullying most often happens in middle school. Specifically, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 28 percent of 6th through 8th graders reported being bullied during the school year in 2019. October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness and encourage prevention. Share these books with your middle grade students all year long to show them examples of tweens dealing with and standing up to bullying.


 Friend Me by Sheila Averbuch. Scholastic Audio. ISBN 9781338673227. 
Gr 6 Up–Roisin finds it hard to make friends and fit in at her new middle school. Zara, one of the popular girls, doesn’t make it any easier for her, and targets Roisin daily through online bullying and even takes it as far as physically attacking her in the bathroom. Middle school students will all be able to relate to the characters in this suspenseful novel that takes a not-so-distant futuristic approach to online bullying and mean girl behavior. The ease of being able to bully someone from the privacy of a screen is a form of bullying many kids today are experiencing or witnessing. VERDICT A valuable addition to any middle grade audiobook collection.

Camp Scare by Delilah S Dawson. Delacorte. ISBN 9780593373262. 
Gr 5 Up–Seventh grader Parker Nelson is heartbroken to discover a mean girl, Cassandra, is a part of her new camping group. Trying to escape the cruel bullying inflicted on her at school, Parker had jumped at the chance for a scholarship to attend Camp Care, where she was assured that absolutely no bullying was allowed. This turns out to be far from the case. VERDICT An easy-to-digest horror camp romp with a deeper message about the impact of bullying and ostracization.

Racing Hearts by Melinda Di Lorenzo. Orca. ISBN 9781459836808. 
Gr 6 Up–A grieving teen decides to join a triathlon, despite facing anti-fat bullying, and falls in love in this hi-lo novel. Sienna is plus-sized and has been the target of anti-fat bullying. Di Lorenzo walks an excellent line of showing that Sienna’s experience of bullying is real, but that other students are capable of respect and kindness. VERDICT A quick hi-lo love story for readers who know sports are for people of all sizes.

[Read: Back to School Means Bullies, Too: These Recent Books are Here to Help]

Starfish by Lisa Fipps. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. ISBN 9781984814500. 
Gr 5 Up–A charming novel in verse about a girl struggling with self-worth. Ellie is a middle school girl who is bullied every day for her weight. Whether it comes from classmates, siblings, or even her mother, Ellie is constantly bombarded with comments about her size. True joy comes in watching Ellie gain confidence in herself and standing up to the bullies, even when they’re family. VERDICT A must-have for libraries serving teens and tweens.

 Garvey’s Choice: The Graphic Novel by Nikki Grimes. illus. by Theodore Taylor III. Wordsong. ISBN 9781662660023. 
Gr 4-9–Garvey wants to connect with his father, but feels as though his dad can’t accept him for who he is. Garvey’s dad and sister criticize his eating habits, adding to insecurities he feels as a result of bullying at school related to his weight. His best friend Joe, who is also Black, is caring and supportive; a new friend, Manny, who has albinism, helps Garvey learn to ignore bullying and “crank up the inside volume.” VERDICT This format will attract new readers to a poetic, powerful story of growth. Highly recommended.

Best Frenemies Forever by Megan McCafferty. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338722499. 
Gr 3-7–Sophie, newly best-friendless, is wading through a lonely summer and dreading seventh grade when confident neighbor Kaytee moves in. Kaytee will never know that Sophie has been ditched by her former best friend and is the target of ongoing bullying by the popular, social media-savvy squad that her former friend has joined. This is a sequel in the “Mercer Middle School” series, but can stand alone for new readers. The girls’ friendship rings true, as do the instances of bullying and the lingering hurt of a friendship ending unexpectedly. VERDICT Despite some shortcomings, the always-relevant topic of friendship drama makes this title an acceptable choice where there is need.


 Invisible (Spanish Edition) by Eloy Moreno. Nube de Tinta. ISBN 9788417605537.
Gr 6 Up–A boy lies in a hospital bed as he heals from his injuries, unable to clearly remember what has brought him there. As days pass, the memories come back. Through flashbacks, readers witness as his bullying becomes an everyday event that makes other students laugh, as teachers look away and pretend it is not a big deal. VERDICT This impactful novel provides an up-close look at bullying and its consequences, and is a must-have for upper middle grade and young adult Spanish-language collections.

Bedhead Ted by Scott SanGiacomo. ­illus. by author. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780062941329. 
Gr 2-5–Ted and his best friend Stacy are not excited to return to school for fourth grade. Stacy, who is Black, is teased because of his name, while Ted, who is white, is targeted by bullies because of his bushy, bright red hair, which grows uncontrollably owing to “overactive hair follicles.” VERDICT Friendship and belief prevail over bullying and doubt in this mostly realistic story with a touch of fantasy. Highly recommended for middle grade graphic novel collections everywhere.

Yonder by Ali Standish. Harper. ISBN 9780062985682. 
Gr 5 Up–Jack Bailey became a hero to Danny Timmons three years ago, but a lot has changed in that time. One thing that hasn’t changed is the bullying Danny has faced at the hands of a classmate. When 15-year-old Jack defends Danny, his hero status grows in Danny’s eyes, and the two become friends of sorts. Then Jack disappears. Danny’s quest to discover what happened to Jack opens his eyes to the bullying and prejudice all around him and make him question what it means to be brave, and what really makes a hero. VERDICT This is a quiet yet powerful, story told through flashbacks over the span of several years. Recommended for general purchase.

The Kate in Between by Claire Swinarski. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780062912701. 
Gr 5-7–Kate McAllister and her childhood best friend, Haddie, have stopped hanging out since Kate became science lab partners with popular Taylor, who pulls Kate into a new group of cool friends. But when the new friend group focuses their teasing on Haddie with a game of keep-away that sends her falling through thin ice to retrieve her hat, Kate jumps to the rescue. The video Taylor films of Kate rescuing Haddie goes viral, and Kate is thrust into the media spotlight as the poster child for anti-bullying. VERDICT With a well-developed protagonist, this book tackles bullying, friendship, and parental roles. For library collections seeking books covering issues of social media and social justice.

The View from the Very Best House in Town by Meera Trehan. Walker/Candlewick. ISBN 9781536219241. 
Gr 4-6–Middle school friendships, discrimination, bullying, and the pressures of meeting parental expectations are all examined through the triple perspectives of middle-schoolers Sam and Asha, and the mansion that looms large over their neighborhood. Short chapters and easy vocabulary give readers multiple perspectives of how bullying starts, its devastating effects, and how adults can unknowingly pressure young people into behavior that causes pain. VERDICT A thought-provoking look at bullying and social pressures through the eyes of its victims and of an inanimate, yet opinionated, mansion that will ring true with many readers.

Say It Out Loud by Allison Varnes. Random. ISBN 9781524771515.
Gr 4 Up–Charlotte dreads the beginning of middle school. Then a bullying incident on the bus involving another student Ben occurs and Charlotte's good friend Maddie bravely reports it to school administrators. When the bullies then seek revenge on Maddie, Charlotte is afraid to defend her friend and that inaction drives an impenetrable wedge between the girls. VERDICT The book could also serve as a springboard for topics such as bullying (cyber and physical) and even plagiarism.

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