Black middle-grade books are a rarity. Trust me, in sourcing the books for this book list, it was hard to find recommendations. Thankfully, this is changing slowly as more Black authors come on the scene. This is by no means an exhaustive list but simply one filled with books I’ve read and a few I’m hoping to read soon. The list also doesn’t include a lot of fantasy titles, but there are a few great Black fantasy books.
Sometimes Black people and Africans need books about mundane issues. So whether it’s books about female friendships or even about food — sign me up. In this list of Black middle-grade books, you’ll find only books by Black authors featuring Black protagonists.
I’ve included everything from contemporary to historical middle-grade fiction.
Click on the book covers to go their Amazon pages.
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100 Black Middle-Grade Books (Middle-Grade Books By Black Authors)
Here are 100 best Black middle grade books by Black authors:
Betty Before X
Published: January 2, 2018
In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.
The Braid Girls
Published: June 13, 2023
In The Braid Girls, Maggie’s summer is off to a rocky start when her parents announce that she has a half-sister—a daughter her father never knew about until now. Callie’s presence throws off soft-spoken Maggie’s dynamic with her outspoken best friend Daija, even more when Callie joins their hair-braiding business.
The Harlem Charade
Published: January 31, 2017
WATCHER. SHADOW. FUGITIVE.
Harlem is home to all kinds of kids. Jin sees life passing her by from the window of her family’s bodega. Alex wants to help the needy one shelter at a time, but can’t tell anyone who she really is. Elvin’s living on Harlem’s cold, lonely streets, surviving on his own after his grandfather was mysteriously attacked.
When these three strangers join forces to find out what happened to Elvin’s grandfather, their digging leads them to an enigmatic artist whose missing masterpieces are worth a fortune-one that might save the neighborhood from development by an ambitious politician who wants to turn it into Harlem World, a ludicrous historic theme park. But if they don’t find the paintings soon, nothing in their beloved neighborhood will ever be the same.
When Winter Robeson Came
Published: January 11, 2022
When Winter Robeson came to visit his cousin, Eden in the summer of 1965, he had another agenda. Winter is a 13-year-old boy visiting Los Angeles from Mississippi. Unbeknownst to Eden and her family, Winter isn’t just there to see Disneyland — he’s looking for his father J.T. Robeson who came to LA 12 years ago and never returned. Eventually, he gets Eden to help him on his search. Not long after, the Watts Riot erupts.
Not an Easy Win
Published: February 28, 2023
In Not an Easy Win, young Lawrence has had the odds stacked against him for so long. He and his mom and little sister went from living in Charlotte, NC to finally moving in with his grandma while his father is incarcerated. To make matters worse, Lawrence keeps getting picked on at school and getting into fights which results in his getting expelled. While he’s home, he starts going to the town’s rec center where he learns to play chess. But a boy there keeps trying to get Lawrence to fight. Can he find a way to secure a win for once?
When Life Gives You Mangoes
Published: October 20, 2020
When Life Gives You Mangoes is set in a small island village, Sycamore Hill. Clara can’t remember anything that happened in the last year and readers can immediately tell that everyone around her is concerned about this and about her in general. She spends most of time with her best friend Gaynah, playing games sometimes with the other island children. We learn that she used to surf, but she’s now terrified of the water and won’t even dip her toes in. But then, a new girl, Rudy, comes to their small village, where no one ever visits. As she tries to befriend Clara, a few secrets are revealed.
The Many Fortunes of Maya
Published: January 24, 2023
This book is all about Maya who enjoys playing soccer, but especially so because it makes her sports-obsessed dad happy. She’s convinced herself that to be a great soccer player and be picked by a junior league, she needs to stop focusing on the other thing she loves (but won’t admit to loving as much): playing her flute. But when her parents tell her they’re separating and friendship with her bestie starts to evolve with the addition of a third friend, Maya begins to feel really lost and it’s tough to figure out what she wants. Thankfully, she has a trusty wheel of fortunes she made from fortune cookie fortunes she’s collected over time. But can they help Maya find her way?
The Last Mirror on the Left
Published: October 20, 2020
Unlike the majority of Logan County’s residents, Missus Nedraw of the Rorrim Mirror Emporium remembers the time freeze from The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, and how Otto and Sheed took her mirrors without permission in order to fix their mess. Usually that’s an unforgivable offense, punishable by a million-year sentence. However, she’s willing to overlook the cousins’
misdeeds if they help her with a problem of her own. One of her worst prisoners has escaped, and only the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County can help bring the fugitive to justice.
This funny and off-the-wall adventure is perfect for readers of Jonathan Auxier and Lemony Snicket.
Love Like Sky
Published: November 6, 2018
G-baby and her younger sister, Peaches, are still getting used to their “blended-up” family. They live with Mama and Frank out in the suburbs, and they haven’t seen their real daddy much since he married Millicent. G-baby misses her best friend back in Atlanta, and is crushed that her glamorous new stepsister, Tangie, wants nothing to do with her.
G-baby is so preoccupied with earning Tangie’s approval that she isn’t there for her own little sister when she needs her most. Peaches gets sick— really sick. Suddenly, Mama and Daddy are arguing like they did before the divorce, and even the doctors at the hospital don’t know how to help Peaches get better. It’s up to G-baby to put things right. She knows Peaches can be strong again if she can only see that their family’s love for her really is like sky.
Figure It Out Henri Weldon
Published: January 17, 2023
In Figure It Out, Henri Weldon, Henrietta Weldon feels out of place in her family. Her brother is always off doing his own thing, and her sister, Kat, seems to always be frustrated with her inability to figure certain things out on her own or keep their room clean. Henri’s mom is studying for her PhD and she and her dad want Henri to do well at school, especially now that they’re mainstreaming her out of her special school to public school. Henri has dyscalculia and struggles with processing math problems.
As she settles into her new school, she befriends a group of foster kids whom her sister can’t stand. Then she decides to join the soccer team (which her parents are super uncomfortable with — studies are the priority) and she’s writing a poem to submit to the school’s magazine. On top of all her commitments, she has to keep her room clean (to prevent Kat from killing her) and keep her grades up since they don’t have the funds to send her back to a special school. Can Henri figure it out?
Published: March 1, 2022
This should be an exciting time for Caprice. She has been offered a place at the school of her dreams, where she’s just had a fantastic summer. But this great opportunity coincides with a lot of internal doubt and the disturbing news that her long-estranged grandmother has fallen ill and may be near death. As Caprice tries to figure out her future, she is pulled back toward her past, and the abuse she endured from her uncle when she was little — an abuse she’s never told anyone about.
With extreme sensitivity and honesty for middle-grade readers, Coe Booth has written a painful but ultimately healing novel about finding support from your parents and friends, articulating your truth, and choosing your own path.
Published: October 30, 2018
This is a great story with many important themes — being biracial, coping with parental divorce and remarriage, being black in America, classical music, family — and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in those themes.
Just one thing: Don’t do the audio. It’s narrated by the author, and her voice acting skills did not do the book justice. Unfortunately the “voice” of the protagonist is forever ruined for me
Link + Hud: Heroes by a Hair
Published: March 7, 2023
Brothers Lincoln and Hudson Dupré are constantly pretending to be on one adventure or another–and destroying their home in the process. Until their parents get an experienced babysitter who wrangles both boys using unconventional methods–much to their dismay. Their plot to get rid of her yields unexpected results. This hilarious graphic novel-prose hybrid shows the brothers’ imaginations in panels and the real story as plain text with illustrations.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Published: January 14, 2020
Twelve-year-old Zoe Washington’s summer is off to a rough start. She’s not speaking to one of her best friends, for one. Her other best friend is away at summer camp and the third one has moved away. But things get more complicated when she finds a letter in the mail from her incarcerated birth father. The only problem is that he’s in jail for something “very bad” and Zoe has never met or spoken to him before.
As she starts to write to Marcus, Zoe realizes that things might not be so black and white — not with her friend Trevor, and certainly not with Marcus. While she learns more about Marcus, she also spends part of her summer interning at a pastry shop.
New Kid (Graphic Novel)
Published: February 5, 2019
Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.
As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?
Published: September 27, 2022
13-year-old Rain is dealing with several issues. First, her best friend has been acting like a frenemy lately. Then, she’s just so sad all the time and can’t stop feeling negative about her body — thinking she’s ugly and too big. Her single source of solace is her family. When the thoughts become too tough to handle, her mother and brother Xander, especially, bring light to her day, even without knowing her challenges. But when Xander gets beaten up in a racially motivated attack during a potential college visit, Rain feels the walls closing in on her. Can she and her family find their way back to normalcy?
Published: August 31, 2021
Fast Pitch is a companion title to Nic Stone’s Clean Getaway, which I really enjoyed! It stars Scoob’s crush Shenice, an U12 softball team captain whose concentration is shot when she stumbles upon a decades-long family mystery. Shenice and her team are preparing to win the Fastpitch World Series, when she discovers that a crime her great-grand father was accused of — which cost him his reputation and place in the Negro leagues — may have actually been a set-up all along. And now, Shenice is the only one who can clear his name.
Something to Say
Published: July 14, 2020
Eleven-year-old Jenae doesn’t have any friends—and she’s just fine with that. She’s so good at being invisible in school, it’s almost like she has a superpower, like her idol, Astrid Dane. At home, Jenae has plenty of company, like her no-nonsense mama; her older brother, Malcolm, who is home from college after a basketball injury; and her beloved grandpa, Gee.
Then a new student shows up at school—a boy named Aubrey with fiery red hair and a smile that won’t quit. Jenae can’t figure out why he keeps popping up everywhere she goes. The more she tries to push him away, the more he seems determined to be her friend. Despite herself, Jenae starts getting used to having him around.
But when the two are paired up for a class debate about the proposed name change for their school, Jenae knows this new friendship has an expiration date. Aubrey is desperate to win and earn a coveted spot on the debate team.
There’s just one problem: Jenae would do almost anything to avoid speaking up in front of an audience—including risking the first real friendship she’s ever had.
Published: January 3, 2023
Sincerely Sicily features young Panamian-American Sicily who’s dealing with a major social upheaval: she’s changing schools. After planning to coordinate first-day-of-school outfits and looking up each other’s schedules, she won’t be attending the same middle school as her best friends (the group calls themselves the Tether Squad).
At the new school, Sicily, fortunately, reconnects with an old friend and decides to do her first school project on the culture of the Panamanian people. But her classmates protest the fact that she — a Black girl–can’t possibly be Latin American. Sicily is rattled. Add to that a new crush that threatens to ruin her new friendship and an Abuela who thinks her braids are “ghetto” and it’s looking like a tough year for Sicily. Thankfully, she’s also rediscovering her love for writing just in time.
Published: September 15, 2020
In Turning Point, we reunite with the Pirates Cove gang (minus a few) — mostly Mila, Mo, Sheeda, and Tai. This book focuses on Monique (Mo) and Rasheeda (Sheeda)’s friendship and how it changes over a summer when both girls are drawn into different pursuits. Mo is off at a ballet intensive with Mila, while Sheeda is stuck at church (with her church “friends”) feeling like she has no life.
At the ballet intensive, Mo comes face to face with her competitive attitude which is fueled by feelings of not “fitting in” with the mostly white, skinny ballet dancers. Even though she makes a couple of friends (who basically lovingly force her to befriend them), she’s insecure at times, afraid to be vulnerable because everything feels so different. On the other hand, Sheeda is desperate for something new. Unfortunately, she falls into a risky situation with Mo’s brother whom she happens to have a crush on.
Genesis Begins Again
Published: January 15, 2019
In Genesis Begins Again, thirteen-year-old Genesis grapples with intense self-hate worsened by her father’s verbal abuse and her grandmother’s backward ideologies about skin color. Readers first meet Genesis when she brings her “friends” home for the first time. In an embarrassing turn of events, they arrive to meet all her belongings in the street. The landlord has put Genesis’s family out because her gambling, alcoholic father defaulted on the rent, again.
Things seem to look up for their family when they move into a posh neighborhood. Genesis makes new friends, joins the school choir, and even gets a helpful math tutor. Yet, her self-hate follows her.
Be Real, Macy Weaver
Published: July 12, 2022
Macy Weaver has trouble keeping friendships, and as readers quickly discover, most of this is her fault. Whenever she meets someone she likes and wants to be accepted by, she starts to copy them — their style, preferences, and even mannerisms — and sometimes pretends to be someone she isn’t to impress them. This usually puts off her new friends. Unfortunately, when her family moves from South Carolina to Maryland, Macy continues this behavior.
Besides her friendship struggles, Macy also has issues at home. Her mom (who’s the reason why they’ve moved — she’s gotten into college) is never home, and her dad is stretched at work and rarely home. At school, Macy weaves a tale of her mom being a fashion photographer and is roped into keeping up appearances to impress Brynn, a girl at her school. But Brynn already has a best friend, Grace, who is unconvinced by Macy’s antics, and wants to get to the bottom of things. How long before Macy is forced to come clean?
We Are Family
Published: August 31, 2021
Jayden Carr has been training all summer to be ready for Hoop Group—the free afterschool basketball program where his hero, NBA superstar Kendrick King, got his start. But when his beloved coach tells him there’s not going to be a Hoop Group this year, Jayden is heartbroken.
And he’s not the only one. Coach Beck’s daughter, Tamika, was planning to be the first girl ever to start for the squad. Chris King, Kendrick’s only nephew, spent the summer bragging that his uncle was coming home just to watch him play. For Anthony Pierson, Hoop Group was supposed to be his way out of trouble. And for Dexter Donyel, all 4’6” of him, Hoop Group was his chance to finally be part of a team, instead of just watching from the stands.
For each kid, Hoop Group was more than just a chance to ball; it was an escape, a dream, a family. Now their prospects seem all but impossible—but then the world hasn’t met Jayden, Tamika, Chris, Anthony, and Dex before. Determined to have their shot, the five new friends scrap, hustle, fight, and play hard to save their season to prove that sometimes a chance is all it takes.
It’s an inspiring, original middle grade story from NBA superstar LeBron James and acclaimed author Andrea Williams that channels the many relatable challenges so many young kids face.
The first step to winning is getting out on the court.
Published: August 29, 2017
Patina is the second book in the Track series by Jason Reynolds. I loved the first book, Ghost and even recommended it in this list of middle-grade books about sports. After Patina’s dad dies and her mom loses both legs to diabetes, she and her sister move in with her uncle and his wife Emily. The girls call Emily “Momly.” The move means that Patina has to go to a posh new private school, leaving behind her best friend, Cotton. Her one bright spot is running track with her friends.
Patina suppresses most of her grief for her dad and mother and focuses on looking after her sister, even if Emily is fully capable. Things start to change at school when her teacher assigns her to a group project with three other girls. Also, at track practice, she’s forced to rely on her team when they begin practicing the relay baton hand-over.
Published: October 10, 2023
It seems like Sage’s whole world is on fire the summer before she starts seventh grade. As house after house burns down, her Bushwick neighborhood gets referred to as “The Matchbox” in the local newspaper. And while Sage prefers to spend her time shooting hoops with the guys, she’s also still trying to figure out her place inside the circle of girls she’s known since childhood. A group that each day, feels further and further away from her.
But it’s also the summer of Freddy, a new kid who truly gets Sage. Together, they reckon with the pain of missing the things that get left behind as time moves on, savor what’s good in the present, and buoy each other up in the face of destruction. And when the future comes, it is Sage’s memories of the past that show her the way forward. Remember Us speaks to the power of both letting go . . . and holding on.
Ways to Make Sunshine
Published: April 28, 2020
In Ways to Make Sunshine, Ryan Hart and her family are moving to a new (old) house because her dad lost his post office job and his new job doesn’t pay as much. Ryan is unhappy about the change for many reasons. She liked their old house, and even though she has her own room in this new house, this house is a smaller bungalow, which means there will be no stairs to play on. She also fears that it will be too small to entertain guests, because Ryan loves to create new recipes — and cook them!
Still, there are small joys. She doesn’t have to change schools and is still close enough to one of her best friends. With the new house, and selling one of their cars, her parents can better deal with their financial struggles. Throughout this slice-of-life book, Ryan learns how to believe in herself, enjoy public speaking, be a bigger person, and love who she is.
Class Act (Graphic Novel)
Published: October 6, 2020
Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted?
To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it’s hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn’t know how to keep the group together.
As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?
Published: October 24, 2023
Sparkle Moore is destined to be a star. Her mother is determined to turn her and her younger sister, Nova, into social media influencers and budding superstars. And after her dad has lost work as a sitcom actor, Sparkle wants to do whatever she can to help her family financially, too.
But at the onset of middle school, Sparkle begins losing her hair—first her lashes, then her eyebrows, and then small circular bald spots appear in various sections on her head. It’s hard enough having to go to school and hide her diagnosis from her friends—all while they’re trying out for big roles in the school play—but Sparkle quickly has to deal with weird medications, itchy wigs, and lost opportunities her mom has wrangled, including a big shampoo commercial.
Despite everything she might do to hide what’s happening, and all her work keeping her friends together, when Sparkle’s secrets start coming to the surface—Sparkle has to come to terms with the changes in her life and show her classmates and her family what she can do with or without hair.
Published: April 19, 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.
Take Back the Block
Published: January 26, 2021
In Chrystal Giles debut middle-grade novel, young Wes is getting ready to take back the block! Wes is your average sixth grader, except his style is fly. He may not win awards for being the best at math, but he will win the Best Dressed award. He also has a great crew of friends with whom he has lived in Kensington Oaks all his life. His parents believe in getting involved with social activism and are always dragging Wes to one protest after another.
After initial major resistance to neighborhood activism, Wes is forced to dive in when developers threaten to tear down his neighborhood. The attempt at gentrification begins to divide the community as some members elect to sell their properties while others flat out refuse. Up close and personal with the effects of gentrification, Wes and his friends are moved to use their voices.
Treasure Island: Runaway Gold
Published: October 3, 2023
Three kids. One dog. And the island of Manhattan, laid out in an old treasure map.
Zane is itching for an adventure that will take him away from his family’s boarding house in Rockaway, Queens. So when he is entrusted with a real treasure map, leading to a spot somewhere in Manhattan, Zane wastes no time in riding the ferry over to the city to start the search with his friends Kiko and Jack and his dog, Hip-Hop.
Through strange coincidence, they meet a man who is eager to help them find the treasure: John, a sailor who knows all about the buried history of Black New Yorkers of centuries past—and the gold that is hidden somewhere in those stories.
As a vicious rival skateboard crew follows them around the city, Zane and his friends begin to wonder who they can really trust. And soon it becomes clear that treasure hunting is a dangerous business…
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero
Published: August 18, 2020
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero has been on my TBR for a while, so it was a pleasure to finally read it! Isaiah’s father has died, leaving behind Isaiah, his mom, and his younger sister, Charlie. Isaiah’s mom is so depressed she’s lost her job — and started drinking too many bottles of wine. Isaiah realizes that they need money if they’ll ever move out of the motel where they’ve had to live since being unable to pay for their home.
Thankfully, Isaiah has his father’s books of poems (even if his own words won’t come anymore), his best friend Sneaky who sells candy at school (and lets Isaiah be his business partner), and the kind people who look out for him once they realize he’s in need. In the end, will Isaiah be the hero of his story?
Some Places More Than Others
Published: September 3, 2019
Some Places More Than Others has been on my TBR since the second I heard about it. It felt a bit like a dream come true to see that Kindle pre-order come through!
Eleven-year-old Amara lives in Oregon with her parents. Her dad works for Nike which scores her literally everything from their collection as soon as it drops. Her mom designs clothes for her boutique store — and she’s expecting a second child after multiple miscarriages.
But Amara’s nervous about welcoming a new baby. She’s also dying to visit Harlem, New York where her dad is from. Unfortunately, neither of her parents are particularly thrilled about her desire. Amara’s desire to go is heightened when she discovers that her father hasn’t spoken to his father since the day she was born — and her grandmother died.
But when a school assignment requires that she share family relics, stories, and basically where she comes from, her parents allow her to visit with her dad.
Published: May 17, 2022
After she and her dad move from Brooklyn to Florida, Bree is excited for her first day in middle school. But also, she’s super anxious about whether she’ll make friends and fit in. Thankfully, she makes a new friend in the housing complex where they live. Unfortunately, when Bree goes to choose her math club elective, it’s fully booked. As a math lover who can’t swim, she’s crushed to hear that the only elective left is swim 101.
At first, Bree avoids getting in the water, but after a near-drowning in her housing complex, an elderly neighbor (who used to be part of her swim team) decides to coach Bree. Bree gets so good that she joins her swim team, but can the team get past the drama and win?
Keeping It Real
Published: October 19, 2021
Keeping It Real is Paula Chase’s latest upper middle grade offering. It follows Marigold Johnson, daughter of the media moguls who own Flexx Unlimited. Marigold’s friend and crush, Justice hates their private school where both kids are part of the token number of Black kids. Marigold on the other hand tries to conform to white expectations and fit in with the kids and both she and Justice quarrel about this regularly.
When Justice gets into Flexx Unlimited’s fashion program for teens, Marigold wants to get in as well to avoid summer boredom and spend time with Justice — despite warnings from both parents that she may not fit in with the other kids who are from lower income families. But when her parents get her into the program, one girl in particular, Kara can’t seem to stand Marigold. Add that to the tension between Marigold and Justice and Mari’s summer internship seems more stressful than inspiring.
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.
Paula Chase explores complex issues that affect many young teens, and So Done offers a powerful message about speaking up.
What Momma Left Me
Published: January 8, 2019
What Momma Left Me is Renee Watson’s debut middle-grade novel. At this point, I believe I’ve read all her books except this Watch Us Rise, which she co-wrote with Ellen Hagan. I adore Watson’s writing and this book is no different.
Serenity and her brother, Danny, have to move in with their grandparents after her mother’s death. Their father is nowhere to be found and the kids have to deal with their grief while adjusting to a new lifestyle — new school, new friends, new routines — with their mother’s parents. Their grandfather is a preacher and both grandparents are ardent churchgoers. The story is told from Serenity’s point of view as she tries to make sense of life through her poetry in English class.
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.
Published: September 4, 2018
Bryan loves comics and hanging out with his mom — and even his big sister sometimes — with no drama. His dad has a temper and has been in jail for some misdemeanor. Now though, he’s on parole, and it seems like things may be looking up. But when a new boy his age, Mike, worms his way into Bryan’s family, it appears Bryan may have a new friend.
However, Mike is a bit of a daredevil and gets Bryan into skipping school and riding on top of trains. Mike is also jealous when Bryan befriends other people and tries to egg him into starting fights. Mike’s idea of manhood is not being “soft,” being ready to fight whenever. Still, it appears no one else can see anything wrong about Mike. Should Bryan keep his friendship? Should he absorb Mike’s idea of masculinity?
Published: September 7, 2021
Things are looking partly cloudy for Madalyn Thomas and her family. After being out of work for the last 7 months, her dad has found work in another state and her mom’s schedule as a social worker has become more packed from taking on overtime. Madalyn’s parents send her to live with her Great Uncle Papa Lobo during the week to allow her to attend school in a different district because of security issues at her former school. But as the only Black girl in class, Madalyn faces a new set of challenges at this new school.
Published: April 14, 2020
Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules–and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . .
So what’ll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his–and who should be with him.
Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.
Published: January 24, 2023
Trev would do anything to protect his mom and sisters, especially from his stepdad. But his stepdad’s return stresses Trev—because when he left, he threatened Trev’s mom. Rather than live scared, Trev takes matters into his own hands, literally. He starts learning to box to handle his stepdad. But everyone isn’t a fan of his plan, because Trev’s a talented artist, and his hands could actually help him build a better future. And they’re letting him know. But their advice for some distant future feels useless in his reality right now. Ultimately, Trev knows his future is in his hands, and his hands are his own, and he has to choose how to use them.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet
Published: September 19, 2017
MICHAEL B. JORDAN TO DIRECT MOVIE ADAPTATION!
SIX STARRED REVIEWS!
It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.
His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world.
David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge—of adolescence, of grief, of violence—and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors.
Tristan Punches a Hole in the Sky
Published: October 15, 2019
Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s notebook. Tristan chases after it–is that a doll?–and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
Paradise on Fire
Published: September 14, 2021
Addy is haunted by the tragic fire that killed her parents, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother. Now, years later, Addy’s grandmother has enrolled her in a summer wilderness program. There, Addy joins five other Black city kids—each with their own troubles—to spend a summer out west.
Deep in the forest the kids learn new (and to them) strange skills: camping, hiking, rock climbing, and how to start and safely put out campfires. Most important, they learn to depend upon each other for companionship and survival.
But then comes a devastating forest fire…
Addy is face-to-face with her destiny and haunting past. Developing her courage and resiliency against the raging fire, it’s up to Addy to lead her friends to safety. Not all are saved. But remembering her origins and grandmother’s teachings, she’s able to use street smarts, wilderness skills, and her spiritual intuition to survive.
Eb & Flow
Published: March 14, 2023
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.
Simon B Rhymin’
Published: March 2, 2021
Simon B Rhymin’ is the story of 11-year-old Simon Barnes (aka Notorious D.O.G.), a shy kid who loves to rap. His best friend Maria (aka Ri-Ri) is a talkative Latina who often has to stand up to Simon’s bullies. His other best friend, C.J. is mostly chill, but also supportive of Simon. Simon’s parents also support his rapping, but he still doesn’t feel confident about rapping in front of strangers.
Simon is content to stay in the shadows until he meets his fifth grade teacher, Mr. James who wears funky bow ties and tennis shoes — and also RAPS. Mr. James gives the class an oral presentation project and tells them to speak on an issue (any issue) close to their heart. Moved by Sunny a vivacious, homeless man in his neighborhood, Simon decides to look into homelessness and learn more about the people — beyond the “homeless” descriptor. But can he even present… orally?
Published: November 3, 2020
Serena’s best friend JC has to take a break from school for a kidney transplant, and Serena is looking forward to visiting her in the hospital after the surgery, as school ambassador. But when she catches a cold, her hopes are deflated as another girl Lani is sent instead of her. After the visit, Serena notices that Lani and JC have developed a friendship, and her relationship with JC seems to have diminished in intensity.
Eventually Serena steps down from her role as ambassador because she is unable to share the role with Lani like the school wants her to. The school then puts her on the school senate (probably to make up for her not being ambassador anymore) where they work on a group project about Egypt. In the meantime, Serena is working to start vlogging on YouTube where she shares her life with her viewers. Her sister, Fallon is a camera aficionado and helps her with the process. Throughout the story, Serena works on finding a good place in her friendship with JC while balancing working with Lani, Harrison, Cameron, and the other kids in her school and senate.
The Magic in Changing Your Stars
Published: August 4, 2020
Eleven-year-old Ailey Benjamin Lane can dance—so he’s certain that he’ll land the role of the Scarecrow in his school’s production of The Wiz. Unfortunately, a talented classmate and a serious attack of nerves derail his audition: he just stands there, frozen. Deflated and defeated, Ailey confides in his Grampa that he’s ready to quit. But Grampa believes in Ailey, and, to encourage him, shares a childhood story. As a boy, Grampa dreamed of becoming a tap dancer; he was so good that the Hollywood star and unofficial Mayor of Harlem, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, even gave him a special pair of tap shoes.
Curious, Ailey tries on the shoes . . . and instantly finds himself transported to 1930s Harlem. There he meets a young street tapper and realizes that it’s his own grandfather! Can Ailey help the 12-year-old version of Grampa face his fears? And, if Ailey changes the past, will he still be able to get home again? Featuring an all-African-American cast of characters, and infused with references to black culture and history, this work of magical realism is sure to captivate and inspire readers.
Cookies & Milk
Published: May 24, 2022
Ellis Bailey Johnson has the summertime blues. Instead of hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing his harmonica, Ellis has to help bring his dad’s latest farfetched, sure-to-fail idea to life: open the world’s first chocolate chip cookie store.
They have six weeks to perfect their recipe, get a run-down A-frame storefront on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard into tip-top shape, and bring in customers. But nothing goes according to plan, especially when family secrets start to surface. Can Ellis bake up a happy ending?
A Soft Place to Land
Published: September 14, 2021
Joy Taylor and her family have moved into an apartment complex because her dad lost his job and their mortgage is too expensive to keep on one income. Now Joy has to share a room with her little sister and hear her parents fight every day about the work her dad chooses (or chooses not to do). Her only respite is the nice kids in the building and the hideout they introduce Joy to.
One of the kids befriends Joy and they even start a dog-walking business together. But when Joy finds a sad message on the hideout wall, she’s determined to find out the person in need, but her good intentions cause more harm than good.
The Only Black Girls in Town
Published: March 10, 2020
Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only Black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.
Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.
When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.
Before the Ever After
Published: September 1, 2020
Before the Ever After is Woodson’s latest Coretta Scott King award winner — and a well-deserved win too. ZJ’s dad is a popular pro American footballer. He has a awesome crew of male friends who feel like family. Life seems pretty good until his dad comes home early from a game with an awful headache.
The headache is joined by disturbing symptoms like forgetfulness, aggression, spacing out, and general confusion. The book is set in 1999-2000 when there was just a growing awareness of CTE. ZJ’s mom is worried because she knows a few other football friends of his dad who have had the same symptoms. As ZJ tries to get through each day, not knowing whether it’ll be a good day for his dad or a bad one, he finds comfort in family, comfort, and community.
Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion
Published: September 27, 2022
Ruby is an 11-year-old future entomologist who loves studying insects and playing video games with her neighborhood friends. When she sees a strange bug in her bedroom and shares a picture of it on social media, suspicious agents appear at her door to re-capture the now missing insect. Soon, all the metal in her neighborhood begins to disappear as Ruby and her friends realize there’s more to the strange bug. This was a lot of fun and will appeal to fans of STEM stories and books about robots.
Published: October 7, 2020
William “Scoob” Lamar is hoping to make a clean getaway with his white G-ma. Especially because his dad is mad at him after an unpleasant school incident and subsequent suspension. At first he’s happy to be spending time with this G-ma, but soon, he realizes that this isn’t quite the trip he expected.
As Scoob and G-ma travel through the US South, G-ma lets him into family history: his grandfather’s life, G-ma’s misdeeds and what life was like when Black people needed the Green Book to move through the US.
Playing the Cards You’re Dealt
Published: October 5, 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.
Then Ant’s best friend gets grounded, and he’s forced to find another spades partner. And Shirley, the new girl in his class, isn’t exactly who he has in mind. She talks a whole lot of trash — way more than his old partner. Plus, he’s not sure that his father wants him playing with a girl. But she’s smart and tough and pretty, and knows every card trick in the book. So Ant decides to join forces with Shirley — and keep his plans a secret.
Only it turns out secrets are another Joplin Man tradition. And his father is hiding one so big it may tear their family apart…
Published: April 6, 2021
In Squad Goals, Magic Pointdexter is her family’s “ugly duckling.” Her father is an ex-NBA player, her sister a famous cheerleader, and her late grandmother was also a ceiling-shattering cheerleader. Magic is awkward, chubbier than your typical cheerleader, and loves sweets more than anything else. But she’s decided: she’s going to cheer camp to try her hand out at becoming a Honeybee. Her best friend and child star Capricorn is coming with her (mostly for moral support — Cappie is an athletic, talented dancer). But once they arrive at camp and get sorted into teams by ability, Magic and Cappie’s friendship starts to show cracks.
While Magic is bonding with the “Stumble-bees” (her cheer group) and maybe making progress with her crush, Dallas Chase, Capricorn is carried away befriending the cool girls in the camp. Magic is struggling with getting fit and flexible enough, learning stunts, dealing with the breakup of a lifelong friendship, and trying to figure out who she wants to be. Can she survive Planet Pom Poms?
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.
Jayla Jumps In
Published: September 1, 2020
When eleven-year-old Jayla finds out that her mother used to be a Double Dutch champion, she’s stunned. Her mom, who’s on doctor’s orders to lower her blood pressure, could move like that?!? Jayla decides to follow in her mom’s footsteps, thinking that maybe double Dutch can make her stand out in her big, quirky family. As she puts together a team at school and prepares to compete, Jayla finds that Double Dutch is about a lot more than jumping rope―and it just might change her life in ways she never imagined. Full of hilarious family dynamics and plenty of jump rope action, Jayla Jumps In follows one girl’s quest to get her mom healthy and find her place in her community.
One Crazy Summer
Published: January 8, 2010
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.
Just Right Jillian
Published: February 1, 2022
Jillian is a shy fifth grader put to the test when her teacher suggests she join the Mind Bender quiz competition. Her class is also learning about chick development and incubating a few too! As Jillian works to improve her mindset and use her voice, she also has to deal with the grief of losing her grandmother, her mom’s lupus flares, and helping out a friend dealing with his own family challenges. Will Jillian get it right?
Too Many Interesting Things Are Happening to Ethan Fairmont
Published: November 14, 2023
Ferrous City is suddenly a lot more interesting—in fact, a little too interesting for Ethan Fairmont.
Ethan’s beloved neighborhood is full of new faces. Lifelong residents are being priced out of their homes, and new businesses are replacing old favorites. At school, Ethan finds a rival in new-kid Fatima, an inventor who is just as science savvy as him. She even has TWO patents! Then there’s the mysterious real estate agent with way too many questions for Ethan. Not to mention the extraterrestrial-obsessed Jodie and his “Aliens Are Here” club.
It’s all too much for Ethan and he begins to miss Cheese, his adorable six-eyed alien pal, even more. Fortunately for Ethan and his friends Kareem and Juan Carlos, distraction comes in the form of a top-secret project. Cheese left a communication device under Ethan’s bed before exiting the planet. There’s just one problem: they can’t figure out how it works!
The Parker Inheritance
Published: March 27, 2018
When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding its writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.
So with the help of Brandon, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert’s history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter’s promise before the answers slip into the past yet again?
Published: August 30, 2016
Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill.
Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?
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.
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?
Last Gate of the Emperor
Published: May 4, 2021
Yared Heywat lives in Addis Prime, a rundown reimagined Ethiopian city. Although Addis Prime is light years ahead of our current tech scene, it still has remarkable technology, from holovids (which allow holograms of kids to attend classes, instead of the actual kids) to sky sailing transportation. However, several unreasonable rules seem to stifle more than they protect the people. Plus, no one ever believes the stories Yared tells about a long-lost city in the sky named Axum — stories his uncle Moti shared with him.
Yared is a frequent competitor in an augmented reality game set in the city, sometimes ditching school — much to Uncle Moti’s chagrin. But just when he seems to be getting the upper hand, the game rules change and Yared has to sign in using his real name. Halfway through the game Yared is suddenly being pursued by real-life law enforcement simply for being Yared. Forced to join forces with his rival, a girl called the Ibis, Yared and his pet bionic lioness have to get to the bottom of the attack and in the process learn some shocking information about Yared’s identity.
A Good Kind of Trouble
Published: March 12, 2019
Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.)
But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what?
Shay’s sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn’t think that’s for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum.
Shay is scared to do the wrong thing (and even more scared to do the right thing), but if she doesn’t face her fear, she’ll be forever tripping over the next hurdle. Now that’s trouble, for real.
Published: April 2, 2018
Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshiping, basketball star his sons look up to.
A novel in verse with all the impact and rhythm readers have come to expect from Kwame Alexander, Rebound will go back in time to visit the childhood of Chuck “Da Man” Bell during one pivotal summer when young Charlie is sent to stay with his grandparents where he discovers basketball and learns more about his family’s past.
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.
Published: October 1, 2018
In front of her followers, Daphne is a hilarious, on-the-rise vlog star. But at school Daphne is the ever-skeptical Annabelle Louis, seventh-grade super geek and perennial new kid. To cope with her mom’s upcoming military assignment in Afghanistan and her start at a brand new middle school, Annabelle’s parents send her to a therapist.
Dr. Varma insists Annabelle try stepping out of her comfort zone, hoping it will give her the confidence to make friends, which she’ll definitely need once Mom is gone. Luckily there is one part of the assignment Annabelle DOES enjoy–her vlog, Daphne Doesn’t, in which she appears undercover and gives hilarious takes on activities she thinks are a waste of time. She is great at entertaining her online fans, yet her classmates don’t know she exists. Can Annabelle keep up the double life forever?
Black Boy Joy
Published: August 3, 2021
Black boy joy is…
Picking out a fresh first-day-of-school outfit.
Saving the universe in an epic intergalactic race.
Finding your voice—and your rhymes—during tough times.
Flying on your skateboard like nobody’s watching.
And more! From seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors comes a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood.
Published: June 6, 2017
What happens when your BFF becomes your EFF . . . EX-Friend-Forever? When seventh-grader Mango Delight Fuller accidentally breaks her BFF Brooklyn’s new cell phone, her life falls apart. She loses her friends and her spot on the track team, and even costs her father his job as a chef.
But Brooklyn’s planned revenge—sneakily signing up Mango to audition for the school musical—backfires when Mango not only wins the lead role, but becomes a YouTube sensation and attracts the attention of the school’s queen bee, Hailey Jo. Hailey Jo is from a VERY wealthy family, and expects everyone to do her bidding. Soon Mango finds herself forced to make tough choices about the kind of friend she wants to have . . . and, just as important, the kind of friend she wants to be.
Jada Johnson, International Girl Detective
Published: September 3, 2021
Jada and her family have joined her father on a business trip to Italy. When an ancient scepter is stolen from a museum right in front of her eyes, Jada becomes more than a witness. Aided by clues in verse, a puzzle, Snapchat photos and WhatsApp messages from an anonymous amica, Jada and her new friend, Carlo, search for the scepter in and around Rome. Along the way, they must fend off attacks of a Roma girl, a Bulgarian henchman and others intent on doing whatever it takes to stop them from finding it. Can Jada recover the scepter and uncover the thief before it’s time to leave Rome? Join Jada on an adventure that takes her to underground catacombs, jet skiing on the Mediterranean Sea, scuba diving in a volcanic lake and to Rome’s famous monuments as she solves a mystery and saves her father’s business deal in the process.
Planet Middle School
Published: September 13, 2011
For twelve years, Joylin Johnson’s life has been just fine. A game of basketball with the boys-especially her friend Jake-was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirt, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then, everything suddenly seemed to change all at once. Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. Jake is acting weird, and basketball isn’t the same. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from . . . where? What lengths will Joy go to–and who will she become–to attract his attention?
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!
The Swag Is in the Socks
Published: November 2, 2021
Xavier Moon parents are both incarcerated. Xavier is not the steal-the-spotlight kind of guy. He’s often in his room playing video games or watching stuff happen from his bedroom window. He also has a stutter that he’s working on — and he has braces.
The one thing Xavier really wants is to be a part of is the Scepter League, the elite after-school club that only accepts confident, exemplary tween boys. His father, great uncle, and grandfather are all alumni. But when Xavier doesn’t get in, he’s determined to prove to the club leaders that he can be a League boy. Fortunately, the cool socks that his great uncle Frankie Bell keeps sending him seem to be winning him popularity votes.
Published: March 18, 2014
With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander.
Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.
Summer in the City
Published: March 31, 2020
Where Mango goes, drama is sure to follow! It’s summer break, and Mango is content to spend her time babysitting her brother, hanging with her friend Izzy, and binge-watching movies late into the night. Then she runs into her drama teacher, who has some big news: their middle school play Yo, Romeo! is headed to the stage in New York City . . . and he wants Mango for the lead role! After overcoming her mom’s initial reluctance—and with some firm rules established—Mango goes off to Brooklyn to stay with her Aunt Zendaya in a teeny apartment and prepare for her theatrical debut. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but soon Mango must confront homesickness, insecurity, and the all-important question of what it means to be a good friend—especially when you’re far away from the people you love.
Published: October 23, 2018
Lu was born to be cocaptain of the Defenders. Well, actually, he was born albino, but that’s got nothing to do with being a track star. Lu has swagger, plus the talent to back it up, and with all that—not to mention the gold chains and diamond earrings—no one’s gonna outshine him.
Lu knows he can lead Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and the team to victory at the championships, but it might not be as easy as it seems. Suddenly, there are hurdles in Lu’s way—literally and not-so-literally—and Lu needs to figure out, fast, what winning the gold really means.
Stuntboy, in the Meantime
Published: November 9, 2021
Portico Reeves’s superpower is making sure all the other superheroes—like his parents and two best friends—stay super. And safe. Super safe. And he does this all in secret. No one in his civilian life knows he’s actually…Stuntboy!
But his regular Portico identity is pretty cool, too. He lives in the biggest house on the block, maybe in the whole city, which basically makes it a castle. His mom calls where they live an apartment building. But a building with fifty doors just in the hallways is definitely a castle. And behind those fifty doors live a bunch of different people who Stuntboy saves all the time. In fact, he’s the only reason the cat, New Name Every Day, has nine lives.
All this is swell except for Portico’s other secret, his not-so-super secret. His parents are fighting all the time. They’re trying to hide it by repeatedly telling Portico to go check on a neighbor “in the meantime.” But Portico knows “meantime” means his parents are heading into the Mean Time which means they’re about to get into it, and well, Portico’s superhero responsibility is to save them, too—as soon as he figures out how.
Only, all these secrets give Portico the worry wiggles, the frets, which his mom calls anxiety. Plus, like all superheroes, Portico has an arch-nemesis who is determined to prove that there is nothing super about Portico at all.
Published: August 27, 2019
In Dough Boys, we reunite with the kids of Pirates Cove, this time through the eyes of Rollie and Simp. The boys work as lookout boys for Coach Tez’s crew of drug dealers, but both feel differently about the gig.
Rollie is getting more interested in music and his love for drumming and is less enthusiastic about working for a drug lord. Simp on the hand is working to rise in rank. He’s especially interested because he loves playing for Tez’s basketball team and hopes to play for the NBA in the future. Unfortunately, basketball is now connected with drug dealing. The disconnect between the boys’ desires eventually begins to wear on their friendship.
The Season of Styx Malone
Published: October 16, 2018
Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.
Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. Styx promises the brothers that together, the three of them can pull off the Great Escalator Trade–exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets–secrets so big they could ruin everything
As Brave As You
Published: May 3, 2016
Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck, Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he hides it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).
How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.
Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?
Published: February 1, 2022
After an entire young life of enslavement, twelve-year-old Homer escapes Southerland Plantation with his little sister Ada, leaving his beloved mother behind. Much as he adores her and fears for her life, Homer knows there’s no turning back, not with the overseer on their trail. Through tangled vines, secret doorways, and over a sky bridge, the two find a secret community called Freewater, deep in the recesses of the swamp.
In this new, free society made up of escaped slaves and some born-free children, Homer cautiously embraces a set of spirited friends, almost forgetting where he came from. But when he learns of a threat that could destroy Freewater, he hatches a plan to return to Southerland plantation, overcome his own cautious nature, and free his mother from enslavement. Loosely based on a little-mined but important piece of history, this is an inspiring and deeply empowering story of survival, love, and courage.
For Black Girls Like Me
Published: July 30, 2019
Makeda June Kirkland is eleven years old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda’s family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena— the only other adopted black girl she knows— for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda’s sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can’t seem to find one real friend.
Through it all, Makeda can’t help but wonder: What would it feel like to grow up with a family that looks like me?
Through singing, dreaming, and writing secret messages back and forth with Lena, Makeda might just carve a small place for herself in the world.
Published: March 13, 2018
In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with a mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence.
But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty.
President of the Whole Fifth Grade
Published: October 5, 2010
When Brianna Justice’s hero, the famous celebrity chef Miss Delicious, speaks at her school and traces her own success back to being president of her fifth grade class, Brianna determines she must do the same. She just knows that becoming president of her class is the first step toward her own cupcake-baking empire!
But when new student Jasmine Moon announces she is also running for president, Brianna learns that she may have more competition than she expected. Will Brianna be able to stick to her plan of working with her friends to win the election fairly? Or will she jump at the opportunity to steal votes from Jasmine by revealing an embarrassing secret?
This hilarious, heartfelt novel will appeal to any reader with big dreams, and the determination to achieve them.
Published: August 28, 2018
It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat–by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them–everything from Esteban’s father’s deportation and Haley’s father’s incarceration to Amari’s fears of racial profiling and Ashton’s adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.
The Order of Things
Published: June 6, 2023
Eleven-year-old April Jackson loves playing the drums, almost as much as she loves her best friend, Zee, a violin prodigy. They both dream of becoming professional musicians one day. When Zee starts attending a new school that will nurture his talent, April decides it’s time for her to pursue her dreams, too, and finally take drum lessons. She knows she isn’t very good to start, but with Zee’s support, she also knows someday she can be just as good as her hero, Sheila E., and travel all around the world with a pair of drumsticks in her hand.
When the unthinkable happens and Zee suddenly passes away, April is crushed by grief. Without Zee, nothing is the way it’s supposed to be. Zee’s Dad isn’t delivering the mail for his postal route like he should. April’s Mom is suddenly dating someone new who is occupying too much space in their lives. And every time April tries to play the drums, all she can think about is Zee.
April isn’t sure how to move on from the awful feeling of being without Zee. Desperate to help Papa Zee, she decides to secretly deliver the mail he’s been neglecting. But when on her route she discovers a classmate in trouble, she doesn’t second guess what she knows is the right thing to do.
Stella By Starlight
Published: January 6, 2015
Stella lives in the segregated South—in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years.
But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community—her world—is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.
Catching a Storyfish (Novel in Verse)
Published: September 20, 2016
Keet knows the only good thing about moving away from her Alabama home is that she’ll live near her beloved grandfather. When Keet starts school, it’s even worse than she expected, as the kids tease her about her southern accent. Now Keet, who can “talk the whiskers off a catfish,” doesn’t want to open her mouth.
Slowly, though, while fishing with her grandfather, she learns the art of listening. Gradually, she makes her first new friend. But just as she’s beginning to settle in, her grandfather has a stroke, and even though he’s still nearby, he suddenly feels ever-so-far-away. Keet is determined to reel him back to her by telling him stories; in the process she finds her voice and her grandfather again.
Out of My Heart
Published: November 9, 2021
Melody, the huge-hearted heroine of Out of My Mind, is a year older, and a year braver. And now with her Medi-talker, she feels nothing’s out of her reach, not even summer camp. There have to be camps for differently-abled kids like her, and she’s going to sleuth one out. A place where she can trek through a forest, fly on a zip line, and even ride on a horse! A place where maybe she really can finally make a real friend, make her own decisions, and even do things on her own—the dream!
By the light of flickering campfires and the power of thunderstorms, through the terror of unexpected creatures in cabins and the first sparkle of a crush, Melody’s about to discover how brave and strong she really is.
Published: October 4, 2016
Garvey’s father has always wanted Garvey to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in astronomy, science fiction, reading—anything but sports. Feeling like a failure, he comforts himself with food. Garvey is kind, funny, smart, a loyal friend, and he is also obese, teased by bullies, and lonely. When his only friend encourages him to join the school chorus, Garvey’s life changes.
The chorus finds a new soloist in Garvey, and through chorus, Garvey finds a way to accept himself, and a way to finally reach his distant father—by speaking the language of music instead of the language of sports.
Last Last Day of Summer
Published: April 2, 2019
Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town—and each other—before time stops for good.
Published: June 13, 2023
This book follows the students and staff at Benjamin Banneker College Prep. When the kids get asked to compete in seven different challenges testing their science, art, and sports skills, their competitive edges get riled up. But there’s a twist: they have to work in groups (which these genuis-level smart kids all hate). But as they work together, they learn more about each other and realize that it’s just as fun to work together. I liked this debut — and it’s even better on audio (full cast!).
Published: April 10, 2018
Sunny is just that—sunny. Always ready with a goofy smile and something nice to say, Sunny is the chillest dude on the Defenders team. But his life hasn’t always been sun beamy-bright. You see, Sunny is a murderer. Or at least he thinks of himself that way. His mother died giving birth to him, and based on how Sunny’s dad treats him—ignoring him, making Sunny call him Darryl, never “Dad”—it’s no wonder Sunny thinks he’s to blame. It seems the only thing Sunny can do right in his dad’s eyes is win first place ribbons running the mile, just like his mom did. But Sunny doesn’t like running, never has. So he stops. Right in the middle of a race.
With his relationship with his dad now worse than ever, the last thing Sunny wants to do is leave the other newbies—his only friends—behind. But you can’t be on a track team and not run. So Coach asks Sunny what he wants to do. Sunny’s answer? Dance. Yes, dance. But you also can’t be on a track team and dance. Then, in a stroke of genius only Jason Reynolds can conceive, Sunny discovers a track event that encompasses the hard beats of hip-hop, the precision of ballet, and the showmanship of dance as a whole: the discus throw. But as he practices for this new event, can he let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside?
Stir It Up
Published: August 1, 2011
Thirteen-year-old Anjali’s life is rich with the smell of curry from her parents’ roti shop and an absolute passion for food. More than anything, Anjali wants to be a chef who competes on a kids’ cooking reality TV show. But Anjali must keep her wish a secret from her family, who thinks Anjali’s passions are beneath her. Thank goodness for Deema, Anjali’s grandmother, whose insight and love can push past even the oldest family beliefs. Woven with recipes that cook up emotions and actual culinary recipes that make food, this like many Black middle-grade books is as delicious as it is satisfying.
There you have them: 100 of the best Black middle-grade books. I hope you’ve found a couple to add to your TBR. I focused on finding fun, but insightful contemporary picks and a many on this list (such as Paula Chase’s SO DONE & DOUGH BOYS) are personal favorites.
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Have you read any of these great Black middle-grade books? If you like this list, you’ll enjoy this list of Asian middle-grade books.