Middle grade books with Arab protagonists are so rare, but lately, the number has been growing (slowly, but surely). For this post, I’d like to highlight six middle grade books featuring Arab lead characters.
If you didn’t know, “the Arab World consists of 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.” (source.) Most people assume that all Muslims are Arab (so many Arab book lists end up being a list of books with Muslim leads), but this isn’t true. In fact, most of the books on my list of Muslim middle grade books are by authors of Pakistani descent.
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6 Arab Middle Grade Books to Read
Here are six middle grade books with Arab leads:
Farah Rocks Fifth Grade (Farah Rocks #1)
Published: January 1, 2020
Farah and her best friend, Allie Liu, are getting excited to turn in their applications to the Magnet Academy, where they both hope to attend sixth grade. But when new girl Dana Denver shows up, Farah’s world is turned upside down. As Dana starts bullying Farah’s little brother, Samir, Farah begins to second-guess her choice to leave him behind at Harbortown Elementary/Middle School. Determined to handle it on her own, Farah comes up with a plan–a plan that involves lying to those closest to her. Will her lies catch up with her, or can Farah find a way to defeat the bully and rock fifth grade?
Turtle of Michigan
Published: March 15, 2022
Aref is excited for his journey to reunite with his father in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Aref makes a friend on an airplane, wonders what Michigan will be like, and starts school in the United States. While he does miss his grandfather, his Sidi, Aref knows that his home in Oman will always be waiting for him.
Other Words for Home
Published: May 28, 2019
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.
At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before.
But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.
The Shape of Thunder
Published: May 11, 2021
Cora hasn’t spoken to her best friend, Quinn, in a year.
Despite living next door to each other, they exist in separate worlds of grief. Cora is still grappling with the death of her beloved sister in a school shooting, and Quinn is carrying the guilt of what her brother did.
On the day of Cora’s twelfth birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her doorstep with a note. She has decided that the only way to fix things is to go back in time to the moment before her brother changed all their lives forever—and stop him.
In spite of herself, Cora wants to believe. And so the two former friends begin working together to open a wormhole in the fabric of the universe. But as they attempt to unravel the mysteries of time travel to save their siblings, they learn that the magic of their friendship may actually be the key to saving themselves.
Wishing Upon the Same Stars
Published: February 1, 2022
When twelve-year-old Yasmeen Khoury moves with her family to San Antonio, all she wants to do is fit in. But her classmates in Texas are nothing like her friends in the predominantly Arab neighborhood back in Detroit where she grew up. Almost immediately, Yasmeen feels like the odd girl out, and as she faces middle school mean girls and tries to make new friends, she feels more alone than ever before.
Then Yasmeen meets her neighbor, Ayelet Cohen, a first-generation Israeli American. As the two girls grow closer, Yasmeen is grateful to know someone who understands what it feels like when your parents’ idea of home is half a world away.
But when Yasmeen’s grandmother moves in after her home in Jerusalem is destroyed, Yasmeen and Ayelet must grapple with how much closer the events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are than they’d realized. As Yasmeen begins to develop her own understandings of home, heritage, and most importantly, herself, can the two girls learn there’s more that brings them together than might tear them apart . . . and that peace begins with them?
Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria
Published: October 4, 2022
Twelve-year-old Shad Hadid has never quite fit in. The other kids at school don’t understand him, so he spends most of his time alone, cooking for his teta and daydreaming of opening his own Arabic bakery full of tasty treats. But when Shad is attacked by a shadowy monster, he learns his late baba was an alchemist with the ability to mix charms, elixirs, and mists—and he’s one too!
Then Shad receives an invitation to the mysterious Alexandria Academy, a fabled school for alchemists, where he hopes he’ll find safety and learn more about the ancient science. But when he arrives, no one at the school seems to know what alchemy is! As Shad digs deeper into the mystery, he discovers a sinister evil lurking in the shadows, and only he holds the key to stopping—or fulfilling—their plans.
With danger at every turn and the fate of the alchemy world on the line, can Shad save his friends and defeat this sinister foe?
There they are: 6 great middle grade books featuring Arab protagonists! Which of these have you read? Huge thanks to author Jacquetta Nammar Feldman and her debut novel, Wishing Upon the Same Stars for sponsoring this post.
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