The best middle grade books set in Europe immerse you in European culture. I didn’t know how much I loved traveling via middle grade books until I read some middle grade books that do it well. Tanya Guerrero’s How to Make Friends with the Sea is one of those books (it’s set in Manilla, Philippines).
Today’s picks are all set in Europe! I’ve included books set in a variety of European cities from London to Barcelona, to Paris, to Brussels — and even Florence, Italy! Whether they’re on vacation, moving to a new country, on a spy adventure, or time travel mission, these kids bring the excitement to Europe.
If you’re a fan of Europe, these middle grade books set in Europe are just what the doctor ordered.
21 Best Middle Grade Books Set in Europe
Here are 21 best middle grade books set in Europe:
The 12 Dares of Christa (Florence, Paris, & London)
Christa is a holiday junkie. What’s not to love? There’s decorations! Gifts! Caroling with friends! But thanks to her parents’ recent separation, Christa’s favorite time of year is now filled with heartache. And when her mom announces that she’s taking her on a mother-daughter trip to Europe over winter vacation, Christa knows she should be excited. She just can’t imagine spending the yuletide season without her dad.
However, waiting at her hotel in Italy is a special package from her father: the first of twelve dares that take Christa to landmarks in three beautiful countries and introduce her to people who will show her that hope is alive in the strangest of places.
I Am Defiance (Germany)
Jenni L. Walsh delivers a gripping story about a real-life youth resistance group in World War II Germany, and about the power of thinking for yourself in the fight against hatred.
Brigitte tries not to ask questions. They don’t seem very welcome at her League of German Girls meetings, where she and her friends learn about their duties to Hitler’s war effort.
But she can’t help asking questions when a mysterious pamphlet appears in her mailbox: a pamphlet full of words like resistance and freedom, from a group that calls itself the White Rose. Brigitte’s father and older sister, Angelika, seem to agree with the forbidden papers — an opinion that is dangerous even to whisper at home. And when Angelika becomes involved with secret resistance efforts, Brigitte’s questions only bloom.
Could Angelika be connected to the White Rose? Is Brigitte’s family in danger of being arrested? And if she chooses a side, will Brigitte be able to take a stand?
A Night Divided (Germany)
A stunning thriller from NYT bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.A Night Divided joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content!With the rise of the Berlin Wall, Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.But one day on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Gerta concludes that her father wants her and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?
Words on Fire (Lithuania)
Danger is never far from Audra’s family farm in Lithuania. She always avoids the occupying Russian Cossack soldiers, who insist that everyone must become Russian — they have banned Lithuanian books, religion, culture, and even the language. But Audra knows her parents are involved in something secret and perilous.In June 1893, when Cossacks arrive abruptly at their door, Audra’s parents insist that she flee, taking with her an important package and instructions for where to deliver it. But escape means abandoning her parents to a terrible fate.As Audra embarks on a journey to deliver the mysterious package, she faces unimaginable risks, and soon she becomes caught up in a growing resistance movement. Can joining the underground network of book smugglers give Audra a chance to rescue her parents?
City Spies (Paris & Scotland)
Sara Martinez is a hacker. She recently broke into the New York City foster care system to expose her foster parents as cheats and lawbreakers. However, instead of being hailed as a hero, Sara finds herself facing years in a juvenile detention facility and banned from using computers for the same stretch of time. Enter Mother, a British spy who not only gets Sara released from jail but also offers her a chance to make a home for herself within a secret MI6 agency.
Operating out of a base in Scotland, the City Spies are five kids from various parts of the world. When they’re not attending the local boarding school, they’re honing their unique skills, such as sleight of hand, breaking and entering, observation, and explosives. All of these allow them to go places in the world of espionage where adults can’t.
Before she knows what she’s doing, Sara is heading to Paris for an international youth summit, hacking into a rival school’s computer to prevent them from winning a million euros, dangling thirty feet off the side of a building, and trying to stop a villain…all while navigating the complex dynamics of her new team.
No one said saving the world was easy…
My Secret Guide to Paris (Paris, France)
Nora loves everything about Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to chocolat chaud. Of course, she’s never actually been there — she’s only visited through her Grandma Sylvia’s stories. And just when they’ve finally planned a trip together, Grandma Sylvia is suddenly gone, taking Nora’s dreams with her. Nora is crushed. She misses her grandmother terribly, but she still wants to see the city they both loved. So when Nora finds letters and a Paris treasure map among her Grandma Sylvia’s things, she dares to dream again . . . She’s not sure what her grandma wants her to find, but Nora knows there are wonderful surprises waiting for her in Paris. And maybe, amongst the croissants and macarons, she’ll even find a way to heal her broken heart.
Sol Invictus (The Eye of Ra #2) (Rome, Italy)
Siblings John and Sarah barely made it home last time, but in their next time traveling adventure the challenge really heats up. Surrounded by clashing cultures on the ancient Roman frontier, they must fulfill their quest to unite the emperor with his enemy, an Alemanni barbarian, or risk being stuck in time forever.
Across the Pond (Scotland)
Callie can’t wait for her new life to start. After a major friendship breakup in San Diego, moving overseas to Scotland gives her the perfect chance to reinvent herself. On top of that, she’s going to live in a real-life castle!
But as romantic as life in a castle sounds, the reality is a little less comfortable: it’s run-down, freezing, and crawling with critters. Plus, starting off on the wrong foot with the gardener’s granddaughter doesn’t help her nerves about making new friends. So she comes up with the perfect solution: she’ll be homeschooled. Her parents agree, on one condition: she has to participate in a social activity.
A Place to Hang the Moon (United Kingdom)
It is 1940 and William, 12, Edmund, 11, and Anna, 9, aren’t terribly upset by the death of the not-so-grandmotherly grandmother who has taken care of them since their parents died. But the children do need a guardian, and in the dark days of World War II London, those are in short supply, especially if they hope to stay together. Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London to the countryside be the answer?
It’s a preposterous plan, but off they go– keeping their predicament a secret, and hoping to be placed in a temporary home that ends up lasting forever. Moving from one billet to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets and the hollowness of empty stomachs. They find comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Müller, seems an excellent choice of billet, except that her German husband’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and some of the villagers consider her unsuitable.
The War That Saved My Life (United Kingdom)
Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
Agatha Oddly (United Kingdom)
Meet thirteen-year-old Agatha Oddly – a bold, determined heroine, and the star of a stylish new detective series.
Agatha Oddlow has been a detective for as long as she can remember – she’s just been waiting for her first big case. And nothing gets bigger than saving the City of London from some strange goings-on.
With a scholarship to the prestigious St Regis School, a cottage in the middle of Hyde Park, a room full of beloved sleuthing novels, and a secret key that gives her access to a whole hidden side of London, Agatha is perfectly poised to solve the mystery of what’s going on. But just who can she trust when no one is quite who they seem…
Murder Is Bad Manners (United Kingdom)
Two friends form a detective agency—and must solve their first murder case—in this “sharp-witted debut” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) that is the first adventure in a brand-new middle grade mystery series set at a 1930s boarding school.
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are best friends at Deepdean School for Girls, and they both have a penchant for solving mysteries. In fact, outspoken Daisy is a self-described Sherlock Holmes, and she appoints wallflower Hazel as her own personal Watson when they form their own (secret!) detective agency. The only problem? They have nothing to investigate.
But that changes once Hazel discovers the body of their science teacher, Miss Bell—and the body subsequently disappears. She and Daisy are certain a murder must have taken place, and they can think of more than one person with a motive.
Determined to get to the bottom of the crime—and to prove that it happened—before the killer strikes again, Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects, and use all the cunning, scheming, and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster (United Kingdom)
It’s been five years since the Sweep disappeared. Orphaned and alone, Nan Sparrow had no other choice but to work for a ruthless chimney sweep named Wilkie Crudd. She spends her days sweeping out chimneys. The job is dangerous and thankless, but with her wits and will, Nan has managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again.
When Nan gets stuck in a chimney fire, she fears the end has come. Instead, she wakes to find herself unharmed in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature—a golem—made from soot and ash.
All You Knead Is Love (Spain)
Twelve-year-old Alba doesn’t want to live with her estranged grandmother in Barcelona.But her mother needs her to be far, far away from their home in New York City. Because this is the year that her mother is going to leave Alba’s abusive father. Hopefully. If she’s strong enough to finally, finally do it.Alba is surprised to find that she loves Barcelona, forming a close relationship with her grandmother, meeting a supportive father figure, and making new friends. Most of all, she discovers a passion and talent for bread baking. When her beloved bakery is threatened with closure, Alba is determined to find a way to save it–and at the same time, she may just come up with a plan to make their family whole again.
Hero on a Bicycle (Florence, Italy)
Italy, 1944: Florence is occupied by Nazi forces. The Italian resistance movement has not given up hope, though — and neither have thirteen-year- old Paolo and his sister, Costanza. As their mother is pressured into harboring escaping POWs, Paolo and Costanza each find a part to play in opposing the German forces. Both are desperate to fight the occupation, but what can two siblings — with only a bicycle to help them — do against a whole army? Middle-grade fans of history and adventure will be riveted by the action and the vividly evoked tension of World War II.
Astrid the Unstoppable (Norway)
Speed and self-confidence, that’s Astrid’s motto. Nicknamed “the little thunderbolt,” she loves to spend her days racing down the hillside on her sled, singing loudly as she goes, and visiting Gunnvald, her grumpy, septuagenarian best friend and godfather, who makes hot chocolate from real chocolate bars. She just wishes there were other children to share her hair-raising adventures with. But Astrid’s world is about to be turned upside down by two startling arrivals to the village of Glimmerdal: first a new family, then a mysterious, towering woman who everyone seems to know but Astrid. It turns out that Gunnvald has been keeping a big secret from his goddaughter, one that will test their friendship to its limits. Astrid is not too happy about some of these upheavals in Glimmerdal — but, luckily, she has a plan to set things right.
Nowhere Boy (Belgium)
Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stuck in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Aleppo, Syria, only to lose his father on the perilous journey to the shores of Europe. Now Ahmed’s struggling to get by on his own, but with no one left to trust and nowhere to go, he’s starting to lose hope.
Then he meets Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy from Washington, D.C. Lonely and homesick, Max is struggling at his new school and just can’t seem to do anything right. But with one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed’s lives collide and a friendship begins to grow. Together, Max and Ahmed will defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave and how hope can change your destiny.
Our Castle by the Sea (England)
Growing up in a lighthouse, 11-year-old Pet’s world has been one of storms, secret tunnels, and stories about sea monsters. But now the country is at war and the clifftops are a terrifying battleground. Pet will need to muster all her bravery to uncover why her family is being torn apart.This is the story of a girl who is afraid and unnoticed. A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy planes ripping through the skies overheard. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of Stone.
Genevieve’s War (France)
Despite the farm-work and her irritable grandmother Memé, Genevieve thinks she may have found a new home in Alsace, France, where she spent the summer of 1939. Without much to return to in New York, Gen is ready to see if this new life will make her happy.
But then World War II erupts. The Nazis conquer France.
Now everyone in Alsace must speak German, act German, and think German–or else. Even worse, a cold Nazi officer has commandeered a room in Memé’s farmhouse–and he can tell that Gen and her grandmother aren’t loyal to the Reich.
But Gen won’t be cowed. And when her friend Rémy commits an act of sabotage, she hides him in the last place the Germans will look–in the attic, right above the Nazi’s head.
The Art of Running Away (London)
Twelve-year-old Maisie is an artist. When she’s in front of her sketchbook or apprenticing at Glenna’s Portraits, the family-run art shop her grandmother started, the world makes sense. She doesn’t think about Calum, her brother who mysteriously left home and cut ties with her family six years ago, or her parents’ insistence that she “broaden her horizons” and try something new—something that isn’t art.
But when Glenna’s Portraits falls on hard times, Maisie’s plan to take over the shop when she’s older and become a lifelong artist starts to crumble. In desperation to make things right, Maisie runs away to London to reconnect with her adult brother, hoping he might be the key to saving the shop. But as Maisie learns about her family’s past from Calum, she starts to rethink everything she’s ever known. Maisie must decide not only if saving her family’s art shop is worth it, but if she can forgive her parents for the mistakes they’ve made
Glitter Gets Everywhere (London)
After Kitty’s mother dies on an inappropriately sunny Tuesday, all Kitty wants is for her life to go back to “normal”—whatever that will mean without her mum. Instead, her dad announces that he, Kitty, and her sister are moving from their home in London to New York City, and Kitty will need to say goodbye to the places and people that help keep her mother’s memory alive.
New York is every bit as big and bustling as Kitty’s heard, and as she adjusts to life there and befriends a blue-haired boy, she starts to wonder if her memories of her mum don’t need to stay in one place—if there’s a way for them to be with Kitty every day, everywhere.
Many thanks to our sponsor, Tanya Guerrero and her forthcoming middle grade book, All You Knead Is Love (Out March 30, set in Barcelona!). Thank you for supporting the authors and brands that keep Reading Middle Grade free for readers.
Have you read any middle grade books set in Europe? Which ones did you enjoy? I’d love more fun recs!
Ben Gartner says
Such a great list. Thank you kindly for including Sol Invictus! 🙂
Afoma Umesi says
My pleasure, Ben! 🙂
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says
Such a fun list! I think it’s a great idea for kids to read books that take place in places other than the place they call home.
Afoma Umesi says
I agree! I love it, even as an adult 🙂
Rachel E says
Do you think The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke would fit this list? It’s set in Venice and when I taught in Europe, I’d do it as a read aloud. Several students begged their parents to plan family vacations around visiting Venice because of it!
Afoma Umesi says
I’ve never heard of it! But if it’s set in Venice, it should fit in just fine 🙂 Thanks for the rec, I’ll look it up.
Jenna @ Falling Letters says
Hah! When I saw the title of this post, the first book I thought of was All You Knead is Love, cos I read it recently and really enjoyed the European setting 😛 Norway Boy, Astrid the Unstoppable, and Our Castle by the Sea all sound like books I should take a closer look at.
Afoma Umesi says
All You Knead Is Love is fantastic!
Irene Gruenfeld says
You are missing one of my favorite books – Bloomability by Sharon Creech set near Lugano, Switzerland. Check it out!