Middle grade books about dementia, whether from aging or a disease like Alzheimer’s aren’t nearly as popular as I wish they would be. Usually, an aging relative’s dementia is part of background information and we don’t see how it impacts our protagonist. Happily, there are several books for middle schoolers that take a more focused approach where dementia and memory loss are concerned — and I’ve been able to round up 20 of the best.
If you’ve been looking for middle grade books about dementia, Alzheimer’s or memory loss and challenges of aging, this is the list for you. It features tweens dealing with dementia in grandparents, older relatives and friends, and in one case early onset Alzheimer’s in a parent.
Best Middle Grade Books About Dementia
Here are 20 best middle grade books about dementia, Alzheimer’s and memory loss:
The Memory Keeper
Published: October 15, 2019
All Lulu Carter wants is to be seen. But her parents are lost in their own worlds, and Lulu has learned the hard way that having something as rare as HSAM—the ability to remember almost every single moment in her life—won’t make you popular in school.
At least Lulu has Gram, who knows the truth about Lulu’s memory and loves her all the more for it. But Gram has started becoming absentminded, and the more lost she gets, the more she depends on Lulu…until Lulu realizes her memory holds the very key to fixing Gram’s forgetfulness. Once Lulu learns that trauma can cause amnesia, all she needs to do to cure Gram is hunt down that painful moment in Gram’s life.
With her friends Olivia and Max, Lulu digs into Gram’s mysterious past. But they soon realize some secrets should stay buried, and Lulu wonders if she ever knew Gram at all. It’s up to Lulu to uncover the truth before the only person who truly sees her slips away.
Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field
Published: March 2, 2021
Eleven year-old Peter Lee has one goal in life: to become a paleontologist. Okay, maybe two: to get his genius kid-sister, L.B., to leave him alone. But his summer falls apart when his real-life dinosaur expedition turns out to be a bust, and he watches his dreams go up in a cloud of asthma-inducing dust.
Even worse, his grandmother, Hammy, is sick, and no one will talk to Peter or L.B. about it. Perhaps his days as a scientist aren’t quite behind him yet. Armed with notebooks and pens, Peter puts his observation and experimental skills to the test to see what he can do for Hammy. If only he can get his sister to be quiet for once — he needs time to sketch out a plan.
The Space Between Lost and Found
Published: April 28, 2020
Cassie’s always looked up to her mom, a vibrant woman bursting with grand ideas. Together they planned to check off every dream on their think-big bucket list, no matter how far the adventures took them. The future seemed unlimited.
But then came the diagnosis, and Mom started to lose her memories. Even the ones Cassie thought she’d never forget. Even Cassie’s name.
Cassie tries her hardest to keep Mom happy . . . to focus on math lessons and come up with art ideas that used to burst off her pen. But as Mom’s memories dimmed, so did Cassie’s inspiration. She’s even pushed away Bailey, the one friend who could help make things okay.
So, Cassie decides to take action. It’s time for one last adventure… even if it means taking a big risk to get there.
Merci Suarez Changes Gears
Published: September 11, 2018
Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.
Merci Suarez Can’t Dance
Published: April 6, 2021
Seventh grade is going to be a real trial for Merci Suárez. For science she’s got no-nonsense Mr. Ellis, who expects her to be a smart as her brother, Roli. She’s been assigned to co-manage the tiny school store with Wilson Bellevue, a boy she barely knows, but whom she might actually like. And she’s tangling again with classmate Edna Santos, who is bossier and more obnoxious than ever now that she is in charge of the annual Heart Ball.
One thing is for sure, though: Merci Suárez can’t dance—not at the Heart Ball or anywhere else. Dancing makes her almost as queasy as love does, especially now that Tía Inés, her merengue-teaching aunt, has a new man in her life. Unfortunately, Merci can’t seem to avoid love or dance for very long. She used to talk about everything with her grandfather, Lolo, but with his Alzheimer’s getting worse each day, whom can she trust to help her make sense of all the new things happening in her life? The Suárez family is back in a touching, funny story about growing up and discovering love’s many forms, including how we learn to love and believe in ourselves.
Published: February 20, 2018
Foster Sumner is ten years old. He likes toy soldiers, tadpole hunting, going to school, and the beach. Best of all, he likes listening to his dad’s stories.
But then Foster’s dad starts forgetting things. No one is too worried at first. Foster and Dad giggle about it. Dad goes out for milk and comes back with cat food, when the cat has been dead for five years. But then the forgetting gets worse. And suddenly no one is laughing anymore.
Rule of Threes
Published: May 11, 2021
An interior design enthusiast, twelve-year-old Maggie Owens is accustomed to living her life according to her own precise plans. But when she learns about Tony, a mysterious half-brother her own age who needs a place to stay, any semblance of a plan is shattered. Tony’s mom struggles with an addiction to opioids, and now she’s called upon Maggie’s dad—who is also Tony’s dad—to take him in. On top of everything, Maggie must also come to terms with the Alzheimer’s afflicting her beloved grandmother.
While Maggie can strive for—and even succeed in—a picture perfect design, when it comes to family, there is no such thing as perfection. To work through the sudden struggles rocking her world, Maggie must learn the importance of having an open heart.
Forever This Summer
Published: July 6, 2021
Georgie has no idea what to expect when she, Mama, and Peaches are plopped down in the middle of small town USA–aka Bogalusa, Louisiana–where Mama grew up and Great Aunt Vie needs constant care.
Georgie wants to help out at the once famous family diner that served celebrities like the Jackson 5 and the Supremes, but everyone is too busy to show her the ropes and Mama is treating her like a baby, not letting her leave her sight. When she finally gets permission to leave on her own, Georgie makes friends with Markie–a foster kid who’d been under Aunt Elvie’s care–who has a limb difference and a huge attitude.
Then Markie asks Georgie to help her find her mom, and suddenly summer has a real purpose. But as Georgie and Markie’s histories begin to entwine, Georgie becomes more desperate to find the truth. But words spoken cannot be taken back and once Georgie knows the truth, she may even find a way to right past wrongs and help Aunt Vie and Markie out after all.
The Lotterys Plus One
Published: March 28, 2017
Sumac Lottery is nine years old and the self-proclaimed “good girl” of her (VERY) large, (EXTREMELY) unruly family. And what a family the Lotterys are: four parents, children both adopted and biological, and a menagerie of pets, all living and learning together in a sprawling house called Camelottery. Then one day, the news breaks that one of their grandfathers is suffering from dementia and will be coming to live with them. And not just any grandfather — the long dormant “Grumps,” who fell out with his son so long ago that he hasn’t been part of any of their lives.Suddenly, everything changes. Sumac has to give up her room to make the newcomer feel at home. She tries to be nice, but prickly Grumps clearly disapproves of how the Lotterys live: whole grains, strange vegetables, rescue pets, a multicultural household… He’s worse than just tough to get along with — Grumps has got to go! But can Sumac help him find a home where he belongs?
Published: October 7, 2020
How to Go on an Unplanned Road Trip with Your Grandma:
Grab a Suitcase: Prepacked from the big spring break trip that got CANCELLED.
Fasten Your Seatbelt: G’ma’s never conventional, so this trip won’t be either.
Use the Green Book: G’ma’s most treasured possession. It holds history, memories, and most important, the way home.
What Not to Bring:
A Cell Phone: Avoid contact with Dad at all costs. Even when G’ma starts acting stranger than usual.
Just Like Jackie
Published: January 2, 2018
For as long as Robinson Hart can remember, it’s just been her and Grandpa. He taught her about cars, baseball, and everything else worth knowing. But Grandpa’s memory has been getting bad—so bad that he sometimes can’t even remember Robbie’s name.
She’s sure that she’s making things worse by getting in trouble at school, but she can’t resist using her fists when bullies like Alex Carter make fun of her for not having a mom.
Now she’s stuck in group guidance—and to make things even worse, Alex Carter is there too. There’s no way Robbie’s going to open up about her life to some therapy group, especially not with Alex in the room. Besides, if she told anyone how forgetful Grandpa’s been getting lately, they’d take her away from him. He’s the only family she has—and it’s up to her to keep them together, no matter what.
Hour of the Bees
Published: March 8, 2016
While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.
Half a Chance
Published: February 25, 2014
A moving middle-grade novel from the Newbery Honor author of Rules, now in paperback!When Lucy’s family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera’s lens, as her father has taught her — he’s a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet his high standards? When she discovers that he’s judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special — or only good enough.As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn’t want to see: his grandmother’s memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives . . . including her own.
Published: October 6, 2009
RUN RUN RUN. That’s what twelve-year-old Annie loves to do. When she’s barefoot and running, she can hear her heart beating…thump-THUMP, thump-THUMP.
It’s a rhythm that makes sense in a year when everything’s shifting: Her mother is pregnant, her grandfather is forgetful, and her best friend, Max, is always moody. Everything changes over time, just like the apple Annie’s been assigned to draw a hundred times.
The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones
Published: October 25, 2016
Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody. . . .
The Last Grand Adventure
Published: March 20, 2018
t’s 1967 and twelve-year-old Bea is in need of some adventure. Her mother is off in San Francisco, while her father has just gotten remarried in Los Angeles. Bea has gained a younger stepsister, and she’s not thrilled about her blended family. So when her ailing grandmother, Pidge, moves to an Orange County senior-living community and asks if Bea would spend the summer helping her get settled, Bea is happy for any excuse to get away.
But it turns out, her grandmother isn’t interested in settling in. What she really wants is to hop a train back to Atchison, Kansas—where she thinks she’ll be reunited with her long-missing sister: Amelia Earhart. And she wants Bea to be her sidekick on this secret trip.
At first, Bea thinks her grandmother’s plan is a little crazy. But Pidge has thirty years of letters written in “Meelie’s” unmistakable voice, all promising to reunite. This might be the adventure Bea needs…
With letters in hand, Bea and Pidge set off on their quest to find Amelia. But getting halfway across the country proves to be more of an adventure than either of them bargained for. And their search for Amelia leads to some surprising truths about their family—and each other.
Roll with It
Published: October 1, 2019
Ellie’s a girl who tells it like it is. That surprises some people, who see a kid in a wheelchair and think she’s going to be all sunshine and cuddles. The thing is, Ellie has big dreams: She might be eating Stouffer’s for dinner, but one day she’s going to be a professional baker. If she’s not writing fan letters to her favorite celebrity chefs, she’s practicing recipes on her well-meaning, if overworked, mother.
But when Ellie and her mom move so they can help take care of her ailing grandpa, Ellie has to start all over again in a new town at a new school. Except she’s not just the new kid—she’s the new kid in the wheelchair who lives in the trailer park on the wrong side of town. It all feels like one challenge too many, until Ellie starts to make her first-ever friends. Now she just has to convince her mom that this town might just be the best thing that ever happened to them!
Published: February 25, 2020
Mercy lives in modern-day Pietermaritzburg, South Africa with her eccentric foster aunts―two elderly sisters so poor, they can only afford one lightbulb. A nasty housing developer is eying their house. And that same house suddenly starts falling apart―just as Aunt Flora starts falling apart. She’s forgetting words, names, and even how to behave in public. Mercy tries to keep her head down at school so nobody notices her. But when a classmate frames her for stealing the school’s raffle money, Mercy’s teachers decide to take a closer look at her home life.
Along comes Mr. Singh, who rents the back cottage of the house on Hodson Road. When he takes Mercy to visit a statue in the middle of the city, she learns that the shy, nervous “Mohandas” he tells stories about is actually Gandhi, who spent a cold and lonely night in the waiting room of the Pietermaritzburg train station over a hundred years ago. It marked the beginning of his life’s quest for truth…and the visit to his statue marks Mercy’s realization that she needs―just like Gandhi―to stand up for herself.
Mercy needs a miracle. But to summon that miracle, she has to find her voice and tell the truth―and that truth is neither pure nor simple.
Published: December 30, 2019
The Unteachables are a notorious class of misfits, delinquents, and academic train wrecks. Like Aldo, with anger management issues; Parker, who can’t read; Kiana, who doesn’t even belong in the class—or any class; and Elaine (rhymes with pain). The Unteachables have been removed from the student body and isolated in room 117.
Their teacher is Mr. Zachary Kermit, the most burned-out teacher in all of Greenwich. He was once a rising star, but his career was shattered by a cheating scandal that still haunts him. After years of phoning it in, he is finally one year away from early retirement. But the superintendent has his own plans to torpedo that idea—and it involves assigning Mr. Kermit to the Unteachables.
The Unteachables never thought they’d find a teacher who had a worse attitude than they did. And Mr. Kermit never thought he would actually care about teaching again. Over the course of a school year, though, room 117 will experience mayhem, destruction—and maybe even a shot at redemption.
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.
Published: September 14, 2010
Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project-or else she won’t be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country sectionals race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee’s control, like her own procrastination, but others aren’t, like Biana Rinaldi’s attempts at sabotage and Nonna’s declining health. If it weren’t for her best friend Zig, Gee wouldn’t have a chance at finishing. His knowledge of trees and leaves in their rural Vermont town comes in very handy- as does his loyalty to Gee. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, things like leaves and cross-country meets suddenly seem less important.
There they are: 20 of the best middle grade books about dementia, memory loss, and Alzheimer’s. I would love to make this list longer, so if you’re an author or reader who know a *middle grade* book with dementia as a sub-plot, let me know in the comments! Or send me an email at [email protected]!
More Book Lists
- Middle grade books about grandparents
- Tween books featuring inter-generational relationships
- Middle grade books about death and grief