15 Coming-of-Age Middle Grade Novels and High-Interest Nonfiction for Tweens | We Are Kid Lit Collective

There’s something for every middle grader in this roundup curated by the We Are Kid Lit Collective. Up-and-coming chefs, family and friendship drama, and propulsive informational texts will keep tweens engaged beyond the summer months. 

School Library Journal has proudly partnered with We Are Kid Lit Collective to share and promote the group's 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.
There’s something for every reader in this roundup. Up-and-coming chefs, family and friendship drama, and propulsive informational texts will keep tweens engaged beyond the summer months. 

Collage of all of the covers


Ancona, George. Harvest. Marshall Cavendish, 2001. 
Ancona uses text and photographs to inform readers about where our food comes from, and the tireless, low-paying labor provided by immigrant workers to feed people in the United States. Details about the workers’ routine “stooped” posture as well as their sense of fashion produce a personable story.
Argueta, Jorge. Salsa: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. tr. by Elisa Amado. Groundwood, 2015. 
Whether readers are going to make it red or green, here they learn the roots and processes of creating the perfect salsa with loved ones. 
Cohen, Emi Wantanabe. The Lost Ryū. Levine Querido, 2022. 
Kohei’s father died a few years ago, so he now lives in Japan with his mother and grandfather. He has a faint memory of the big dragons that are so much larger than his own ryū, which perches on his shoulder. When his grandfather becomes ill, Kohei thinks finding a big dragon will help save his grandfather, so he goes on a quest.
Jung, Mike. The Boys in the Back Row. Levine Querido, 2020.
Korean American sixth grader Matt Park and best friend Eric Costa play in the school band, but Eric is moving away at the end of the year. When the regional school band competition takes place at the same time and place as a comic con, the two plot an adventure that the band’s most obnoxious and racist bullies threaten to thwart.
McQueen, Omari. Omari McQueen’s Best Bites Cookbook. Little Bee/BuzzPop, 2022. 
Plant-based recipes from the award-winning Jamaican/Antiguan child chef McQueen. 

Meriano, Anna. A Dash of Trouble. (Love Sugar Magic: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Walden Pond, 2018. 
Leo Logroño is the youngest of five sisters in a family of brujas who use their magic to conjure sweet treats for their popular bakery. But when Leo gets tired of waiting for her turn to join in on the family secret, she privately uses magic to help her best friend… with disastrous results. 

Nichols, De. Art of Protest: Creating, Discovering and Activating Art for Your Revolution. illus. by Diana Dagadita, Molly Mendoza, Olivia Twist, Saddo, and Diego Becas. Big Picture Pr., 2021. 
This visually striking book details the past, present, and future of protest art and the role of art in social movements and gives readers the tools to become “artivists.”
Ortiz, Simon J. The People Shall Continue. illus. by Sharol Graves. Children’s Book Pr., 2017. 
Ortiz offers an overview of the history of interactions between settlers in the United States and Native Americans. He touches upon issues of land, class, and race that continue to impact the well-being of Native Americans, 40 years after this book’s original publication date.

Raphael, Solli. Limelight. Penguin Australia, 2018. 
Raphael is an environmentalist who uses poetry as part of his activism. In 2017, he became Australia’s youngest Poetry Slam national champion. In this book, he encourages other creatives by sharing his writing process. Raphael shares writing prompts, talking them through writer’s block and the fear of speaking.
Shammas, Nadia. Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin. illus. by Nabi H. Ali. Marvel/Graphix, 2021. 
Kamala Khan has way too much going on in her life; between middle school, family, friends, writing fanfic, and being a superhero—Ms. Marvel—she is barely able to keep up. So, when a strange robot tries to infiltrate Avengers Tower, will Ms. Marvel find time to save the day when she so badly just needs a good nap?
Soontornvat, Christina. All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team. Candlewick, 2020. 
In June 2018, 12 teenage soccer players and their coach were trapped for three weeks inside a flooded cave near their home in northern Thailand. Through text, diagrams, and photos, this account of their rescue explores the coach’s Buddhist training and the local and international community that came together to get them all out alive.

Walls, Jasmine. Seen: Edmonia Lewis; True Stories of Marginalized Trailblazers. illus. by Bex Glendining. Boom! Box, 2020. 
As the first world-renown sculptor of African American and Native American Heritage, Edmonia Lewis faced much discrimination. Yet, she managed to find the inner strength to create her art on her own terms. This graphic novel tells her story.
Watson, Renée. Some Places More Than Others. Bloomsbury, 2019. 
Amara, who is one of the few Black kids in her town of Beaverton, OR, dreams of spending her 12th birthday in Harlem, where her father grew up and where her grandfather and the rest of her family live. When she gets her wish, she observes how her family’s story connects with that of the city, but she finds herself in the middle of old family wounds, including her father’s estrangement with her grandfather.
Wilson, Diane. Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector. iIlus. by Tashia Hart. Minnesota Humanities Center, 2020. 
This biography of Dakota educator, historian, and linguist Era Cara Deloria details her work in preserving the stories and languages of her peoples. 
Zhao, Katie. Last Gamer Standing. Scholastic, 2021. 
Twelve-year-old Reyna Cheng is spending the summer at Dayhold’s summer camp where she’s perfecting her gaming skills. It’s not easy being one of the few girl gamers, even harder being a Chinese American girl gamer because of all the toxic male doxing she could face. But Reyna Cheng is determined to be the last gamer standing in this summer’s junior tournament.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing