For someone who plays zero sports, I sure love my middle sports books, especially when they’re middle grade books featuring girls in sports. The stories on this list feature some of my favorite sports girlies in a wide range of sports from softball to jujitsu, to swimming, soccer, and cheerleading! If you’re looking for more books featuring sporty girls, this list is for you.
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25 Awesome Middle School Books Featuring Girls in Sports
Here are 25 great middle grade books featuring girls in sports:
Published: March 10, 2015
Astrid and Nicole are best friends who do nearly everything together. Until Astrid’s mom takes them to watch roller derby. While Astrid can’t get enough of the cool girls and all the derby action, Nicole is immediately put off. So when Astrid signs up for junior derby, Nicole chooses a ballet elective instead. However, Astrid never tells her mom that she’s derby rolling instead of doing ballet with Nicole. Things get more difficult when Astrid realizes that roller derby is no joke — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Will she make it?
Published: November 1, 2022
The Tryout follows young Christina as she tries out for her middle school’s cheerleading team. As one of the few Asians in her small Texas town, Christina and her Iranian-American best friend are nervous about trying out, but determined to give their best. Unfortunately, tryouts quickly lead to heartbreak when Megan decides to partner up with another girl, leaving Christina to fend for herself. Can the girls make it work?
Nikki on the Line
Published: March 5, 2019
Thirteen-year-old Nikki Doyle feels one step closer to her pro basketball player dreams when she gets signed on to an elite-level club team. But her mother doesn’t have enough to pay for the club, and so Nikki offers to watch her little brother after school so they can save on daycare money. Unfortunately, playing for the club isn’t nearly as easy as Nikki expects.
Shorter than her teammates and suddenly no longer point guard on the new team, she feels out of place. What’s more, her new busy schedule means she can’t hang out with the team as much as she’d like. On top of that, a new genetics project at school reminds Nikki that her biological father was a sperm donor. Between juggling all her responsibilities and proving herself a valuable member of the team, it feels like everything is on the line for Nikki.
Published: March 14, 2023
It’s the 1970s, and Judi loves to shoot hoops in the driveway with her brother and his friends. She hopes she can join a basketball team someday, but her school doesn’t have a female team. So when she gets to high school, she chooses the next best thing: cheerleading with her best friend Stacey. But one day, the school announces that they’re starting a team for the girls because of the Title IX ruling.
Unfortunately, as willing as the girls who sign up are (Judi inclusive), there’s little to no funding for their team. They have to DIY their jerseys and practice only when the boys’ team isn’t using the court. On top of that, Stacey is upset that Judi has left cheerleading to play ball, and some girls want to quit because they’re so frustrated. Can Judi and the team make it work?
Published: April 6, 2021
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?
The Kate in Between
Published: May 18, 2021
Kate McAllister’s life is in need of a refresh. Her mother has left town chasing the highest tier in an MLM scheme and Kate is living with her cop dad and getting driven to school in his police car.
When a bunch of popular kids seems to welcome Kate into their clique, she is torn about ditching her longtime best friend, Haddie. Haddie marches to the beat of her own drum and could care less about being accepted. Things get complicated, however, when Kate is a passive participant in a bullying incident that leads to Haddie sinking on thin ice. Then, Kate is captured on camera saving Haddie, and the video goes viral.
While news outlets hail “Kate the Great” as a shining example for tweens who should not be bullying other kids, Kate continues to oscillate between craving acceptance from the popular kids and trying to keep her friendship with Haddie, all the while maintaining her public image by appearing in newspapers and on popular YouTube channels. But how long can she keep up the charade? And, is Kate great? Or is she a bad person?
Taking Up Space
Published: May 18, 2021
Sarah loves basketball more than anything. Crushing it on the court makes her feel like she matters. And it’s the only thing that helps her ignore how much it hurts when her mom forgets to feed her.
But lately Sarah can’t even play basketball right. She’s slower now and missing shots she should be able to make. Her body doesn’t feel like it’s her own anymore. She’s worried that changing herself back to how she used to be is the only way she can take control over what’s happening.
When Sarah’s crush asks her to be partners in a cooking competition, she feels pulled in a million directions. She’ll have to dig deep to stand up for what she needs at home, be honest with her best friends, and accept that she doesn’t need to change to feel good about herself.
Published: March 28, 2017
Rachel Brooks has finally scored a spot as a forward on her soccer team. She just needs one more doctor’s visit to check on her scoliosis — one she hopes will be the last.
Unfortunately, the doctor has bad news for her: the curve has worsened and she’ll have to wear a back brace. Worse still, she needs to be in a back brace for twenty-three hours a day. How will she still play soccer? What will her friends think? And what about Tate, the boy she’s crushing on?
To top things off, her mom (who had scoliosis as a child and is adamant on enforcing Rachel’s treatment) is having a baby soon. It also doesn’t help that her dad’s busy job as a doctor means he’s not home often enough.
The Many Fortunes of Maya
Published: January 24, 2023
Maya 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?
Coming Up Short
Published: June 21, 2022
Bea is winning at being a shortstop, finally making headway with her crush, and is excited to go to summer camp with her friends when her dad’s legal license is suspended in a town scandal. Suddenly, she develops a case of the yips and begs her parents to send her to another softball summer camp on Gray Island, where her mom grew up. Throughout the summer, Bea learns more about her parents’ previous marriages and other secrets.
Published: January 24, 2023
What’s more terrifying than being forced into a coed combat wrestling martial art by your own mother? Sixth grade.
Angie Larson hates Jiu-Jitsu. Like many twelve-year-old girls, she fails to find the glamour in a martial art that embraces zero personal space and choking as an end goal. Seriously, people choke her, drip sweat on her face, and even wrap their legs around her neck. It’s the worst. Instead, she idolizes the seemingly perfect kids at her school who do “normal” activities like dance or soccer.
But just when it seems like Angie is about to be accepted by them, her mom enrolls her in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament and begins a relationship with the sweatiest coach on the planet. And to make things more complicated, Angie develops a close friendship with a boy who is definitely not part of the “cool” crowd.
Angie must decide who she is while making some painful decisions both on and off the mat. Is she a dance girl, a soccer girl, a nothing girl . . . or a Jiu-Jitsu girl?
The Not-So-Perfect Plan (Holly Mei #2)
Published: April 4, 2023
It’s the start of a new year, and Holly-Mei Jones is determined to make the most of it. She has amazing friends, a great field hockey team, and Hong Kong at her doorstep. This semester is going to be perfect . . . right?
Maybe not. Despite their closeness last year, Holly-Mei’s friend group seems to be splintering. Desperate to bring everyone together, she ropes her friends into competing as a team in an inter-school tournament across the city.
But as Holly-Mei becomes obsessed with winning, her friends seem less interested in the tournament—and in her new attitude. Will she be able to pull off her perfect plan?
Published: August 29, 2023
Natalia de la Cruz Rivera y Santiago, also known as Nat, was swimming neighborhood kids out of their money at the local Boyle Heights pool when her life changed. The L.A. Mermaids performed, emerging out of the water with matching sequined swimsuits, and it was then that synchronized swimming stole her heart.
The problem? Her activist mom and professor dad think it’s a sport with too much emphasis on looks—on being thin and white. Nat grew up the youngest in a house full of boys, so she knows how to fight for what she wants, using her anger to fuel her.
People often underestimate her swimming skills when they see her stomach rolls, but she knows better than to worry about what people think. Sometimes, she feels more like a submarine than a mermaid, but she wonders if she could be both.
Absolutely, Positively Natty
Published: May 9, 2023
When Natty’s mom kind of takes a break from her dad and sort of the whole family, Natty and her dad move to his childhood hometown of Miller Creek. Now she’s starting middle school for the second time, this time in Miller Creek—without her mom—or her BFF. But Natty’s doing great! Really. Anything is possible. And what’s the point of dwelling on the stuff that stinks when there’s so much good stuff to think about?
Natty is absolutely, positively sure that she can turn it all around. Like 1,000 percent sure. As long as she stays absolutely positive! She’ll get her dad off the couch, make her tons of new friends, and even convince her mom to come live with them in Miller Creek. First step? Starting a pep squad to spread the good vibes.
But what happens when the leader of the pep squad has no more cheer to give?
From Lisa Greenwald comes a heartfelt and reassuring novel about the pros and cons of always looking on the bright side, the ups and downs of making a fresh start, and the power of friendship.
Published: May 9, 2023
Twelve-year-old Alex loves playing soccer, and she’s good at it, too. Very good. When her skills land her a free ride to play for Select, an elite soccer club, it feels like a huge opportunity. Joining Select could be the key to a college scholarship and a bright future—one that Alex’s family can’t promise her.
But as the team gets better and better, her new coach pushes the players harder and harder, until soccer starts to feel more like punishment than fun. And then there comes a point where enough is enough, and Alex and her teammates must take a stand to find a better way to make their soccer dreams come true.
Three Strike Summer
Published: August 30, 2022
Gloria and her family lose their farm when an unending drought leads to a lack of produce. They move to California to find work and eventually start picking peaches on a farm. The family is also reeling from the loss of Gloria’s baby brother and struggling to contain Gloria’s spunky attitude which often gets her in trouble.
At the farm, Gloria quickly discovers a baseball team (with only boys! who don’t want a girl on the team!) and is ready to do what it takes to join the team. At the same time, ripples of discontent with working wages lead to organizing that puts Gloria and her family in a precarious position.
Figure It Out, Henri Weldon
Published: January 17, 2023
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?
Up for Air
Published: May 7, 2019
Annabelle is a fantastic swimmer who happens to have learning difficulties. She’s happy to finally be getting something right when she’s moved up to the high school team in the summer. However, things get a bit complicated when an older boy starts showing her attention and her estranged father seems to want to return to her life.
Published: September 13, 2022
Thirteen-year-old Maddie is on her community’s swim team and loves hanging out with her friends at the community pool her parents run. She also has clinical anxiety and uses medications to manage it. Her one big issue is that a boy in her class, Lucas, wants to date her and won’t take no for an answer even though Maddie isn’t interested.
When she rejects his gift of a snow globe, odd vandalism incidents start happening at the pool, threatening her parents’ source of income and causing them to consider selling to a bigger sports company (which, coincidentally, Lucas’s brother is part of). Maddie feels sure that Lucas is responsible and teams up with her friend Esmeralda (Ez) to get to the bottom of the mystery. But are they on the right track?
Play Like a Girl
Published: September 27, 2022
Misty Wilson chronicles her year on the boy’s football team in her town. When she gets mocked for wanting to play football with the boys, Misty determines she’ll sign up for the team with her best friend (who’s convinced because she wants time with boys).
But the training process is rigorous, and playing football is physically challenging — especially with boys. It gets harder when her bestie gives up on Misty and their friendship. Can Misty make it work? And will she rebuild her social life?
Published: August 16, 2022
12-year-old Addie lives with her pregnant mom and stepdad. Her stepdad wants to adopt her (but only if she wants) and Addie loves him but can’t shake the curiosity about her biological father, especially because her mom is so hush-hush about it.
While investigating, she discovers that her father is part of a famous wrestling family living on a nearby New Mexico ranch. As Addy gets to know her father, Manny, her cousins, grandparents, and uncles, she learns that family can be complicated.
Twisting Backward Flipping Forward
Published: August 2, 2022
When she’s twisting backward and flipping forward on the balance beam, Claire feels on top of the world. As the best gymnast on her school team, it’s always a good time for her. Unfortunately, reading isn’t quite as easy. The words swirl and shuffle, and she can never seem to recognize them.
When her principal wants to evaluate her for dyslexia, Claire’s mom refuses, protesting against wanting her child to be labeled. But how can Claire get help if she isn’t diagnosed as dyslexic?
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?
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.
Bea Is for Blended
Published: May 4, 2021
Bea’s mother has married her school arch-nemesis’s father. Bryce (her arch-nemesis) is friends with bullies in Bea’s class and they always make fun of her best friend Maximillian who’s on the autism spectrum. Now, as if it wasn’t bad enough that Bea and Bryce share the exact same birth date, now they’ll also share a house and blended family. In the past, it was always just Bea, her mother, and her grandmother — the Embers girls — and her mother’s friend, Aunt Tam. Now Bea has three step-brothers, two dogs, and a cat, and oh a new sibling on the way!
Besides trying to integrate into a new team at home, Bea is also trying to find her place in her new middle school. She’s played on the boys’ soccer team throughout elementary school, but with the new girl, Aileyanna who’s moved next door to Bea’s family, Bea and A are hoping to start a girls’ soccer team. But there are some issues.
Coach Meesely doesn’t think that girls play as well as boys do and he’s refusing to invest in their team. Bea and A’s relationship is also rocky. Bea is judgmental about some of A’s choices, like playing soccer at home in a dress. She’s also worried that A’s soccer skills will mean her losing her midfielder position to A. Can Bea navigate new family dynamics, starting a new soccer team, and finding her place on the new team?
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There they are: 25 of the best middle grade books featuring girls in sports! Which of these books have you read? Which ones did I miss?
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