One of my favorite kinds of books to read are stories by women and about girls and women. I always yearn to see more diverse stories about Black girls — stories that aren’t about slavery or even being Black necessarily. Many of the books on this list of middle grade books about Black girls tick these boxes. In line with my preferences, you’ll find only realistic fiction on this list (although there are so many great fantasy titles — like the Amari series — centering Black girls). I’ve included both contemporary and historical fiction and mostly recent titles with a few classics. I also wanted to share stories of different kinds of Black girls — sporty, science-loving, artsy, neurodivergent, struggling with mental health, big sisters, little sister, orphans, etc. Honestly, if I wanted to list all my favorites, this list would go on and on, so take this as a sampling!
Need a printable list to take to the library?
30 Brilliant Middle Grade Books About Black Girls
Here are 30 of the best middle grade books featuring Black girls:
Published: August 31, 2021
Shenice Lockwood, captain of the Fulton Firebirds, is hyper-focused when she steps up to the plate. Nothing can stop her from leading her team to the U12 fast-pitch softball regional championship. But life has thrown some curveballs her way.
Strike one: As the sole team of all-brown faces, Shenice and the Firebirds have to work twice as hard to prove that Black girls belong at bat.
Strike two: Shenice’s focus gets shaken when her great-uncle Jack reveals that a career-ending—and family-name-ruining—crime may have been a setup.
Strike three: Broken focus means mistakes on the field. And Shenice’s teammates are beginning to wonder if she’s captain-qualified.
It’s up to Shenice to discover the truth about her family’s past—and fast—before secrets take the Firebirds out of the game forever.
Published: January 3, 2023
Sicily Jordan’s worst nightmare has come true! She’s been enrolled in a new school, with zero of her friends and stuck wearing a fashion catastrophe of a uniform. But however bad Sicily thought sixth grade was going to be, it only gets worse when she does her class presentation.
While all her classmates breezed through theirs, Sicily is bombarded with questions on how she can be both Black and Panamanian. She wants people to understand, but it doesn’t feel like anyone is ready to listen—first at school and then at home. Because when her abuela starts talking mess about her braids, Sicily’s the only one whose heart is being crumpled for a second time.
Staying quiet may no longer be an option, but that doesn’t mean Sicily has the words to show the world just what it means to be a proud Black Panamanian either. Even though she hasn’t written in her journal since her abuelo passed, it’s time to pick up her pen again—but will it be enough to prove to herself and everyone else exactly who she is?
Published: September 27, 2022
Rain is keeping a big secret from everyone around her: She’s sad. All the time. Rain struggles with her image and feels inferior to her best friend, Nara. Not even her all-star student-athlete big brother (and personal superhero), Xander, can help Rain with her dark thoughts and low self-esteem.
And when Xander becomes the victim of violence at a predominantly white university, Rain’s life and mind take a turn for the worse. But when her favorite teacher, Miss Walia, invites her to an after-school circle group, Rain finds the courage to help herself and her family heal.
Like the rain, she is both gentle and a force, finding strength to rise again.
Published: August 14, 2018
Jamila Phillips and Tai Johnson have been inseparable since they were toddlers, having grown up across the street from each other in Pirates Cove, a low-income housing project. As summer comes to an end, Tai can’t wait for Mila to return from spending a month with her aunt in the suburbs. But both girls are grappling with secrets, and when Mila returns she’s more focused on her upcoming dance auditions than hanging out with Tai.
The Probability of Everything
Published: June 27, 2023
Eleven-year-old Kemi Carter loves scientific facts, specifically probability. It’s how she understands the world and her place in it. Kemi knows her odds of being born were 1 in 5.5 trillion, and that the odds of her having the best family ever were even lower. Yet somehow, Kemi lucked out.
But everything Kemi thought she knew changes when she sees an asteroid hover in the sky, casting a purple haze over her world. Amplus-68 has an 84.7% chance of colliding with earth in four days, and with that collision, Kemi’s life as she knows it will end.
But over the course of the four days, even facts don’t feel true to Kemi anymore. The new town she moved to that was supposed to be “better for her family” isn’t very welcoming. And Amplus-68 is taking over her life, but others are still going to school and eating at their favorite diner like nothing has changed. Is Kemi the only one who feels like the world is ending?
With the days numbered, Kemi decides to put together a time capsule that will capture her family’s truth: how creative her mother is, how inquisitive her little sister can be, and how much Kemi’s whole world revolves around her father. But no time capsule can change the truth behind all of it, that Kemi must face the most inevitable and hardest part of life: saying goodbye.
Figure It Out, Henri Weldon
Published: January 17, 2023
Seventh grader Henrietta Weldon gets to switch schools—finally! She’ll be “mainstreaming” into public school, leaving her special education school behind. She can’t wait for her new schedule, new friends, and new classes.
Henri’s dyscalculia, a learning disability that makes math challenging to process and understand, is what she expects to give her problems. What she doesn’t expect is a family feud with her sister over her new friends, joining the girls’ soccer team, and discovering poetry. Henri’s tutor and new friend, Vinnie, reminds her to take it slow. One problem at a time.
If Henri Weldon has twenty-four hours in a day, and she has two siblings who dislike her four new friends, two hours of soccer practice, seven hours of classes, and three hours of homework . . . she has:
A. No free time
B. No idea how to make everyone happy
C. No time to figure it out, Henri Weldon!
Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution
Published: September 6, 2022
Lotus Bloom just wants to express herself–with her violin, her retro style, and her peaceful vibe, not to mention her fabulous hair.
This school year, Lotus is taking her talent and spirit to the seventh grade at a new school of the arts. The one where she just might get to play under the famous maestro, a violin virtuoso and conductor of the orchestra. But Lotus’s best friend, Rebel, thinks Lotus should stay at their school. Why should this fancy new school get all the funding and pull the brightest kids out? Rebel wants Lotus to help her protest, but Lotus isn’t sure. If she’s going to be in the spotlight, she’d rather it be for her music.
Then, when boys throw paper wads and airplanes into Lotus’s afro, Lotus finds herself in trouble for a dress code violation. Lotus must choose–should she stay quiet and risk her beloved hair, or put aside her peaceful vibe and risk everything to fight back?
The Many Fortunes of Maya
Published: January 24, 2023
Maya J. Jenkins is bursting with questions:
- Will she get the MVP award at this year’s soccer banquet?
- Who will win the big grill off between Daddy and Uncle J?
- When will she pass the swim test and get a green bracelet?
For answers and a dose of good luck, 12-year-old Maya turns to her Wheel of Fortunes, a cardboard circle covered with the small slips of wisdom she’s collected from fortune cookies.
But can the fortunes answer her deep-down questions? The ones she’s too scared to ask out loud? Like, where did Mama’s smile go, the real one that lit up everything around her? When will Daddy move back home? And most of all, does she have enough courage to truly listen to the voice in her heart?
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Published: January 14, 2020
Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?
A crime he says he never committed.
Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.
But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.
Published: April 6, 2021
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 oh-so-glamorous Laker Girls, and her grandmother was the first black cheerleader ever on Valentine Middle School’s HoneyBee cheer squad. Magic wants nothing more than to follow in their footsteps. But first, she 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 who have her number, Tragic Magic is a long way from becoming the toe-touching cheerleader heroine she dreams of being.
Things start to look up when her best friend Cappie joins her at camp—until Cappie gets bitten by the popularity bug, that is. To make matters worse, Magic’s crushing hard on football star Dallas Chase. Luckily, Magic’s not alone: with the help of a new crew of fabulous fellow misfits and her Grammy Mae’s vintage pom poms by her side, Tragic Magic might just survive—and even thrive—at cheer camp.
It All Comes Down to This
Published: July 11, 2017
It’s 1965, Los Angeles. All twelve-year-old Sophie wants to do is write her book, star in the community play, and hang out with her friend Jennifer. But she’s the new black kid in a nearly all-white neighborhood; her beloved sister, Lily, is going away to college soon; and her parents’ marriage is rocky. There’s also her family’s new, disapproving housekeeper to deal with. When riots erupt in nearby Watts and a friend is unfairly arrested, Sophie learns that life—and her own place in it—is even more complicated than she’d once thought.
Eb and Flow
Published: March 14, 2023
Two kids. One fight. No one thinks they’re wrong.
I don’t even hit girls . . . is what I’m thinking.
I roll my eyes, turn them to my shoes.
Shoes I’ma wear every day till they fall off my feet.
It was all just an accident!
Nobody was trying to mess up
his Stupid Ugly Shoes.
Now I’ve got my third suspension of seventh grade.
Ebony and De’Kari (aka Flow) do not get along. How could they when their cafeteria scuffle ended with De’Kari’s ruined shoes, Ebony on the ground, and both of them with ten days of at-home suspension? Now Eb and Flow have two weeks to think about and explain their behavior—to their families, to each other, and ultimately to themselves.
Maya and the Robot
Published: July 13, 2021
Maya’s nervous about fifth grade. She tries to keep calm by reminding herself she knows what to expect. But then she learns that this year won’t be anything like the last. 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.
She tries to put on a brave face since they are in fifth grade now, but Maya is nervous! Just when too much seems to be changing, she finds a robot named Ralph in the back of Mr. Mac’s convenience store closet. Once 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. In this touching novel, Eve L. Ewing melds together a story about community, adapting to change, and the magic of ingenuity that reminds young readers that they can always turn to their own curiosity when feeling lost.
Ruby Finley Vs. the Interstellar Invasion
Published: September 27, 2022
Eleven-year-old Ruby is a Black girl who loves studying insects and would do just about anything to be an entomologist, much to the grossed-out dismay of her Gramma. Ruby knows everything there is to know about insects so when she finds the weirdest bug she’s ever seen in her front yard, she makes sure no one is looking and captures it for further study.
But then Ruby realizes that the creature isn’t just a regular bug. And it has promptly burned a hole through her window and disappeared. Soon, random things around the neighborhood go missing, and no one’s heard from the old lady down the street for a week. Ruby and her friends will have to recover the strange bug before the feds do.
Ruby is the science hero we’ve all been waiting for!
Published: January 4, 2022
Bo and her mom always had their own rhythm. But ever since they moved to Harlem, Bo’s world has fallen out of sync. She and Mum are now living with Mum’s boyfriend Bill, his daughter Sunday, the twins, Lili and Lee, the twins’ parents…along with a dog, two cats, a bearded dragon, a turtle, and chickens. All in one brownstone! With so many people squished together, Bo isn’t so sure there is room for her.
Some Places More Than Others
Published: September 3, 2019
All Amara wants for her birthday is to visit her father’s family in New York City–Harlem, to be exact. She can’t wait to finally meet her Grandpa Earl and cousins in person, and to stay in the brownstone where her father grew up. Maybe this will help her understand her family–and herself–in new way.
But New York City is not exactly what Amara thought it would be. It’s crowded, with confusing subways, suffocating sidewalks, and her father is too busy with work to spend time with her and too angry to spend time with Grandpa Earl. As she explores, asks questions, and learns more and more about Harlem and about her father and his family history, she realizes how, in some ways more than others, she connects with him, her home, and her family.
Be Real, Macy Weaver
Published: July 12, 2022
Eleven-year-old Macy Weaver knows relationships are complicated. Fresh off her latest friendship breakup, she’s spent most of her summer break on her own. So when Macy’s mother decides to go back to college three states away, Macy jumps on the chance to move—anything for a fresh start.
But Macy’s new home isn’t exactly what she expected. Her mother’s never around and her dad’s always working. Lonelier than ever, Macy sets her sights on finding a new best friend. When she meets Brynn, who’s smart and kind and already seems to have her whole life figured out—down to her future as a high fashion model—Macy knows she’s it. The only problem is that Brynn already has a BFF and, as everyone knows, you can only have one.
Resorting to old habits, Macy turns one small lie into a whole new life—full of fantastic fashion and haute couture—but it isn’t long before everything really falls apart. Ultimately, Macy must determine how to make things right and be true to herself—rather than chasing after the person she thinks she’s supposed to be.
Published: May 10, 2022
Bella “Unfadeable” Fades is determined to stay out of trouble. A wiser-than-her-years graffiti artist known for tagging walls and bridges in her Indianapolis neighborhood, the Land, Bella plans to spend her summer break laying low and steering clear of anyone who might tip off to social services that she’s living on her own.
But keeping a low profile is all but impossible when Bella discovers people in high places are trying to defund the Land. She has to find a way to fight back.
Getting involved will mean putting herself out there—making connections with unlikely friends and attracting potential enemies. But if Bella doesn’t put her trust in her neighbors and learn how to bring her community together, her home—and her future—will never be the same.
Pizza My Heart
Published: January 4, 2022
Maya Reynolds has practically grown up in her family’s Brooklyn pizza shop, Soul Slice, and is a true city girl. When her family moves to a small town in Pennsylvania to open another pizza place, everything changes.
Being the new girl is hard enough. At Soul Slice 2.0, Maya is assigned delivery duty. And her first delivery is a disaster. Can you make a worse impression than tripping… and falling face-first into a rude boy’s pizza order?
When that same rude — and, okay, cute — boy shows up at her school, Maya’s convinced nothing can go right. But she may be in for some surprises. Could good friends, secret crushes, and creative pizza toppings turn Maya’s new home into her own slice of heaven?
A Soft Place to Land
Published: September 14, 2021
Joy Taylor has always believed home is the house she lived in her entire life. But then her dad lost his job, and suddenly, home becomes a tiny apartment with thin walls, shared bedrooms, and a place for 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—and one day, a film score composer—have been put on hold.
A friendly new neighbor her age lets Joy in on the complex’s best-kept secret: the Hideout, a cozy refuge that only the kids know about. And it’s in this little hideaway that 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, fast, but between trying to raise funds for her music lessons, keeping on a brave face for her little sister, and worrying about her parents’ marriage, Joy isn’t sure how to keep her own head above water.
Published: October 6, 2020
Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there’s nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?
Published: October 20, 2020
A small village on a Jamaican island.
A girl who doesn’t remember the previous summer.
A best friend who is no longer acting like one; a new girl who fills that hole in her heart.
A summer of finding fallen mangos, creating made up games and dancing in the rain.
Secrets she keeps from others…and herself.
The courage to face the truth even in the toughest of storms.
Pubished: May 17, 2022
Bree can’t wait for her first day at her new middle school, Enith Brigitha, home to the Mighty Manatees—until she’s stuck with the only elective that fits her schedule, the dreaded Swim 101. The thought of swimming makes Bree more than a little queasy, yet she’s forced to dive headfirst into one of her greatest fears. Lucky for her, Etta, an elderly occupant of her apartment building and former swim team captain, is willing to help.
With Etta’s training and a lot of hard work, Bree suddenly finds her swim-crazed community counting on her to turn the school’s failing team around. But that’s easier said than done, especially when their rival, the prestigious Holyoke Prep, has everything they need to leave the Mighty Manatees in their wake.
Can Bree defy the odds and guide her team to a state championship, or have the Manatees swum their last lap—for good?
Love Double Dutch
Published: April 3, 2018
Brooklyn middle-schooler MaKayla can only think about one thing–taking her double Dutch team all the way to the National Jump-off at Madison Square Garden. That is, until her mother breaks the news. Kayla has to spend the summer at her aunt’s house in North Carolina while her parents work out their problems . . . or decide to call it quits.
Kayla does not feel at home in the South, and she certainly doesn’t get along with her snooty cousin Sally. It looks like her Jump-off dreams are over.
Hold the phone! Turns out, double Dutch is huge in the South. She and Sally just need to find two more kids for a team. And a routine. And the confidence to stand up to the double Dutch divas who used to be Sally’s BFFs. Time to show those Southern belles some Brooklyn attitude!
Published: January 17, 2023
Twelve-year-old Brooklyn Ace is ready to take the Valentine World Scouts by storm and build her own cookie empire. She nearly won the top cookie selling spot last year and is determined to make her mom—who recently passed away—proud by coming in first this time around. With her fabulous best friends by her side, Brooklyn knows she’ll become Santa Monica’s District Cookie Queen. The crown is practically in the bag.
Then Piper Parker arrives.
Piper has a rich dad, a fancy hotel, and a drive to steal the cookie crown right off Brooklyn’s head. Before long, most of the seventh grade is under Piper’s spell. But Brooklyn is in it to win the biggest cookie war the school has ever seen. With the help of her cookie squad, her rockstar grandmother, her super cool therapist, and a lot of self-love and inner growth, maybe—just maybe—Brooklyn can end up a winner after all.
The Braid Girls
Published: June 13, 2023
Maggie’s world is turned upside down when she learns that her father, whom she admires, has a second daughter, Callie, whom no one knew existed. But she won’t let a new family member get in the way of her summer plans with best friend Daija. They’re determined to make tons of money braiding hair for kids around the neighborhood.
Daija’s always felt like she had a sister in Maggie. So she can’t let new half-sister Callie take her place! And she can’t let her interfere with their new Braid Girls business, either. She needs the money to pay for extra ballet lessons so she can go en pointe and earn a spot in the fall dance showcase, making her distant father proud at last—if she pulls this off, he’ll have to pay attention to her.
Callie’s still grieving her late mom. Now she’s leaving her old home in the Bahamas behind, including her old school and friends to move in with the father she’s never met, plus his family. When she hears of Maggie’s and Daija’s business, she sees a chance to prove her skills and a way to be accepted.
With three very different girls on board, the Braid Girls arrive to a summer camp full of kids with locs begging to be braided. Business is booming, until rival Angela shows up with her friends and starts a new braiding business—the Sistahs Who Braid. With competition heating up, the Braid Girls are sure to have an unforgettable summer.
Clouds Over Summer
Published: July 11, 2023
Stevie’s life is fluctuating rapidly. She’s starting over in a brand new middle school. Quiet and observant, it’s hard for her to make friends. Plus, her mind is too occupied. The tension in her home is building as her parents’ arguments are becoming more frequent. To top it all off, Stevie’s older cousin Naomi is coming to live with the family in an attempt to keep her from a “bad” crowd—The Black Panthers.
Stevie agrees to keep Naomi’s secrets. She’s the cool big cousin, after all, and Stevie can’t help but notice the happy, positive effect the Black Panthers are having on Naomi’s confidence and identity—just like how Mom is making decisions for herself, even when Dad disapproves.
Stevie feels herself beginning to change as well. But one thing remains the same: she loves both of her parents, and she loves them together. Can her family stay in one piece despite the world shifting around them?
Published: October 30, 2018
Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.
Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?
It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.
One Crazy Summer
Published: January 26, 2010
In One Crazy Summer, eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined.
While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.
My Life as an Ice-cream Sandwich
Published: August 27, 2019
Twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet has lived with her beloved grandfather Jeremiah in Huntsville, Alabama ever since she was little. As one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA, Jeremiah has nurtured Ebony-Grace’s love for all things outer space and science fiction—especially Star Wars and Star Trek. But in the summer of 1984, when trouble arises with Jeremiah, it’s decided she’ll spend a few weeks with her father in Harlem.
Harlem is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Hunstville, and Ebony-Grace’s first instinct is to retreat into her imagination. But soon 126th Street begins to reveal that it has more in common with her beloved sci-fi adventures than she ever thought possible, and by summer’s end, Ebony-Grace discovers that Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.
Many thanks to Carris Kane and her middle grade detective book (starring a Black female lead!), Jada Johnson, International Girl Detective. Thank you for supporting the authors and brands who make our content free for readers.
There they are: 30 of the best middle grade books with black girl leads! I’m missing many of my faves for sure, so tell me which of your favorites I missed. Any faves you see on the list?