Middle-Grade novels in verse have been around for a while. Not sure what that is? Novels in verse are novels written in stanzas, pretty much like poetry. Still they weave in dialogue, characters, and all the elements of a novel. I’ve been enjoying middle school verse novels a lot recently. My only gripe sometimes is that some novels in verse lack the level of detail I enjoy in prose.
The middle grade verse novels on this list are some of my all-time favorites and. Ive linked my reviews where possible so you can read my thoughts in full if needed. Anyone can enjoy middle-grade novels in verse, but I definitely think poetry lovers would gravitate more to this narrative form.
They also work well for ESL students as the vocabulary tends to be simpler and more accessible.
Middle-Grade Novels in Verse
Here are 60+ best middle grade novels in verse:
Published: January 6, 2003
When Lonnie was seven years old, his parents died in a fire. Now he’s eleven, and he still misses them terribly. And he misses his little sister, Lili, who was put into a different foster home because “not a lot of people want boys-not foster boys that ain’t babies.” But Lonnie hasn’t given up. His foster mother, Miss Edna, is growing on him. She’s already raised two sons and she seems to know what makes them tick. And his teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper.
Told entirely through Lonnie’s poetry, we see his heartbreak over his lost family, his thoughtful perspective on the world around him, and most of all his love for Lili and his determination to one day put at least half of their family back together. Jacqueline Woodson’s poignant story of love, loss, and hope is lyrically written and enormously accessible.
Published: January 12, 2021
This middle school verse novel follows 12-year-old Maddie, who gets abandoned by some twist of fate when her entire town is mysteriously evacuated. Left alone with no human in sight, she bonds with a Rottweiler named George who is one of many abandoned pets. Soon after, they lose power and then water and Maddie has to fend for herself using a variety of ingenious means and the town resources at her disposal, including an empty library, grocery store, neighbors’ homes — you get the picture. This is is a well-written middle-grade survival novel with a tenacious protagonist and engaging plot.
Other Words for Home
Published: April 6, 2021
Young Jude is uprooted from her life in Syria in the midst of the civil unrest. She and her mother (who is pregnant) move temporarily to Cincinnati to live with her uncle and his family. Jude is sad to leave behind her country, best friend Fatima, father, and brother who’s involved in various protests in Syria. Her father is trying to keep their shop going at home, while her brother, Issa wants to help other people in their homeland.
In America, Jude — who used to be the best English student in Syria — has to join an ESL class and deal with questions about her hijab. She’s also trying to build a relationship with her cousin who feels culturally adrift, unable to speak Arabic and knowing little to nothing about Syria. Still, Jude finds good things in America and learns how brave she can be.
Closer to Nowhere
Published: October 6, 2020
For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.
For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.
Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.
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.
Forget Me Not
Published: March 14, 2017
I read this book about a girl with Tourette’s in one sitting! Calliope June’s mother moves around so often and yet always wants her to hide the fact that she has Tourette’s. Of course, hiding TS is nearly impossible because Calliope sometimes unintentionally makes noises or faces (tics). Things get interesting when she meets and likes a boy who turns out to be a popular student in her school. At first he seems to like her, but when people at school make fun of Callie, he’s embarrassed to be seen with her.
This novel in verse is sooo beautifully written. I felt Calliope’s pain in every word. Such an unexpectedly moving book. Highly recommend!
The Weight of Water
Published: July 23, 2013
Carrying just a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother are immigrating to England from Poland. Kasienka isn’t the happiest girl in the world. At home, her mother is suffering from a broken heart as she searches for Kasienka’s father. And at school, Kasienka is having trouble being the new girl and making friends. The only time she feels comforted is when she’s swimming at the pool. But she can’t quite shake the feeling that she’s sinking. Until a new boy swims into her life, and she learns that there might be more than one way to stay afloat.
Macy McMillian and the Rainbow Goddess
Published: May 15, 2017
Sixth grade is coming to an end, and so is life as Macy McMillan knows it. Already a “For Sale” sign mars the front lawn of her beloved house. Soon her mother will upend their perfect little family, adding a stepfather and six-year-old twin stepsisters. To add insult to injury, what is Macy’s final sixth grade assignment? A genealogy project. Well, she’ll put it off – just like those wedding centerpieces she’s supposed to be making.
Just when Macy’s mother ought to be understanding, she sends Macy next door to help eighty six-year-old Iris Gillan, who is also getting ready to move – in her case into an assisted living facility. Iris can’t pack a single box on her own and, worse, she doesn’t know sign language. How is Macy supposed to understand her? But Iris has stories to tell, and she isn’t going to let Macy’s deafness stop her. Soon, through notes and books and cookies, a friendship grows. And this friendship, odd and unexpected, may be just what Macy needs to face the changes in her life.
Published: March 9, 2021
Starfish features Ellie, a fat girl who has been bullied for her weight since she wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash in the pool. Even her older brother and sister make fun of her weight. Her mom controls her diet, monitoring her portions and choosing lackluster “healthy” alternatives. Ellie is feeling more disheartened because her friend Viv who is also plus-sized is moving away.
Thankfully, after Viv moves, Ellie finds a friend in her new neighbor Catalina and her family. The family loves food and welcome Ellie with open arms, never judging her for her weight. At school, bullying intensifies when a chair breaks after Ellie sits on it. Her mom is also pushing for gastric bypass surgery for Ellie. Eventually, her father gets her mother to ease off by taking Ellie to a therapist who helps her accept her body and defend herself against bullies.
Published: June 1, 2021
When Madrigal’s (Maddie) older brother, Strum, goes missing from his college campus, her musical family loses its harmony. Her French mother is distraught — broken for the first time as Maddie has never seen her. Her piano-playing father doesn’t even touch his instrument, and her fiery sister retreats into a rebellious funk, drinking and partying, even though she’s only 16. Maddie tries to keep everything together: focus on her oboe lessons and compulsive counting that calms her mind. But when her parents leave to look for Strum and Maddie is left with Aria, things seem hopeless.
Maddie continues trying to manage school work, friendships, practicing her instrument, and maybe joining a new eco club at school. Eventually, though, with all leads looking dead-ended, Maddie just might have what it takes to find Strum. But can she find her way to him?
The Magical Imperfect
This middle grade verse novel is about a boy named Etan. Etan develops selective mutism after his mom has to go to a treatment facility for a mental disorder in 1980’s San Francisco. Around that time, mini-earthquakes are frequent and Etan tries to keep up his daily schedule, which is basically school and then time with his grandfather. Sometimes, he helps an older shopkeeper in the neighborhood walk her dog and run errands. It is while he is on one of those errands that he meets Malia, a Filipina-American girl with severe eczema.
Etan and Malia become fast friends and he gets a closer look at how debilitating her eczema is. He also realizes that Malia loves singing and has a beautiful singing voice. Etan wants to take Malia’s suffering away, and he thinks his grandfather’s Dead Sea clay can make a difference — perhaps even heal Malia’s eczema. He also suggests that she sing in the community’s talent show. But will the clay work? And will Malia and Etan’s friendship survive the challenges it faces?
Red, White, and Whole
Published: February 2, 2021
The year is 1983 and 13-year-old Reha is caught between two cultures: her Indian family and community at home; and the all-American experience at school and with her white “school best friend.” But it’s not all rosy. Her mother doesn’t approve of Reha acting more American than Indian. She makes all of Reha’s clothes herself, and is upset when Reha says she would like to go to the school dance.
Reha is understandably frustrated at her mother’s lack of understanding, but she’s about to have more problems. Her mom is diagnosed with leukemia and Reha’s life is turned upside down. Between school, family issues, and navigating her affection for a boy in her neighborhood, Reha has her plate full.
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.
Newberry Medal winner Sharon Creech masterfully weaves this tender and intuitive story told in free verse about a young girl beginning to understand the many rhythms of life, and how she fits within them.
Inside Out & Back Again
Published: February 22, 2011
Inspired by the author’s childhood experience as a refugee—fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama—this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.
Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope—toward America.
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,” raps twelve-year-old Josh Bell. Thanks to their dad, he and his twin brother, Jordan, are kings on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood—he’s got mad beats, too, which help him find his rhythm when it’s all on the line.
As their winning season unfolds, things begin to change. When Jordan meets a girl, the twins’ bond unravels. Told in dynamic verse, this fast and furious middle grade novel that started it all absolutely bounces with rhythm and bursts with heart.
The One and Only Ivan
Published: January 17, 2012
Having spent 27 years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.
Related: 7 Books Like The One and Only Ivan
The Canon’s Edge
Published: September 16, 2020
One year after a random shooting changed their family forever, Nora and her father are exploring a slot canyon deep in the Arizona desert, hoping it will help them find peace. Nora longs for things to go back to normal, like they were when her mother was still alive, while her father keeps them isolated in fear of other people. But when they reach the bottom of the canyon, the unthinkable happens: A flash flood rips across their path, sweeping away Nora’s father and all of their supplies.
Suddenly, Nora finds herself lost and alone in the desert, facing dehydration, venomous scorpions, deadly snakes, and, worst of all, the Beast who has terrorized her dreams for the past year. If Nora is going to save herself and her father, she must conquer her fears, defeat the Beast, and find the courage to live her new life.
The Wild Book
Published: March 20, 2012
Fefa struggles with words. She has word blindness, or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them?
But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. “Think of it as a garden,” she says. Soon Fefa starts to sprinkle words across the pages of her wild book. She lets her words sprout like seedlings, shaky at first, then growing stronger and surer with each new day. And when her family is threatened, it is what Fefa has learned from her wild book that saves them.
Love That Dog
Published: July 24, 2001
Love That Dog shows how one boy named Jack finds his voice with the help of a teacher, a pencil, some yellow paper, and of course, a dog. Written as a series of free-verse poems from Jack’s point of view, this novel is perfect for kids and teachers, too.
Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, won’t stop giving her class poetry assignments—and Jack can’t avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns that he does have something to say.
Published: January 10, 2012
May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned.
Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
Published: April 12, 2016
Laura Shovan’s engaging, big-hearted debut is a time capsule of one class’s poems during a transformative school year. Families change and new friendships form as these terrific kids grow up and move on in this whimsical novel-in-verse about finding your voice and making sure others hear it.
one year of poems,
one school set to close.
Two yellow bulldozers
ready to eat the building
in one greedy gulp.
But look out, bulldozers.
Ms. Hill’s fifth-grade class
has plans for you.
They’re going to speak up
and work together
to save their school.
Brown Girl Dreaming
Published: August 28, 2014
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Love Math
Published: August 4, 2020
After a childhood spent looking up at the stars, Caroline Herschel was the first woman to discover a comet and to earn a salary for scientific research. Florence Nightingale was a trailblazing nurse whose work reformed hospitals and one of the founders of the field of medical statistics. The first female electrical engineer, Hertha Marks Ayrton registered twenty-six patents for her inventions.
Marie Tharp helped create the first map of the entire ocean floor, which helped scientists understand our subaquatic world and suggested how the continents shifted. A mathematical prodigy, Katherine Johnson calculated trajectories and launch windows for many NASA projects including the Apollo 11 mission. Edna Lee Paisano, a citizen of the Nez Perce Nation, was the first Native American to work full time for the Census Bureau, overseeing a large increase in American Indian and Alaskan Native representation. And Vera Rubin studied more than two hundred galaxies and found the first strong evidence for dark matter.
Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates seven remarkable women who used math as their key to explore the mysteries of the universe and grew up to do innovative work that changed the world.
Published: October 6, 2015
Timothy is on probation. It’s a strange word—something that happens to other kids, to delinquents, not to kids like him. And yet, he is under house arrest for the next year. He must check in weekly with a probation officer and a therapist, and keep a journal for an entire year. And mostly, he has to stay out of trouble. But when he must take drastic measures to help his struggling family, staying out of trouble proves more difficult than Timothy ever thought it would be. By turns touching and funny, and always original, House Arrest is a middlegrade novel in verse about one boy’s path to redemption as he navigates life with a sick brother, a grieving mother, and one tough probation officer.
Under the Broken Sky
Published: October 15, 2019
Twelve-year-old Natsu and her family live a quiet farm life in Manchuria, near the border of the Soviet Union. But the life they’ve known begins to unravel when her father is recruited to the Japanese army, and Natsu and her little sister, Asa, are left orphaned and destitute.
In a desperate move to keep her sister alive, Natsu sells Asa to a Russian family following the 1945 Soviet occupation. The journey to redemption for Natsu’s broken family is rife with struggles, but Natsu is tenacious and will stop at nothing to get her little sister back.
Literary and historically insightful, this is one of the great untold stories of WWII. Much like the Newbery Honor book Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Mariko Nagai’s Under the Broken Sky is powerful, poignant, and ultimately hopeful.
Published: April 5, 2016
Can’t nobody stop you
Can’t nobody cop you…
In this follow-up to Newbery-winner The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship take center stage. Twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.
Catching a Storyfish
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.
Where I Live
Published: June 21, 2007
Diana loves where she lives. She loves the astronomy charts on her walls and the fact that she can wave to her best friend, Rose, from her very own window. And best of all, a wren has recently made its home right by her front door! When her family is forced to move, Diana wonders if she’ll ever find that same grounded and happy feeling again.
This gentle and ultimately redeeming story in poems is about those secure and fulfilling friendships that happen naturally and easily when you live right next door, and the struggles of losing the comfort of a familiar place.
The Red Pencil
Published: September 16, 2014
Life in Amira’s peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when Janjaweed attackers arrive, unleashing unspeakable horrors. After losing nearly everything, Amira needs to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. She begins to lose hope, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind — and all kinds of possibilities.
Published: August 30, 2016
When Reena, her little brother, Luke, and their parents first move to Maine, Reena doesn’t know what to expect. She’s ready for beaches, blueberries, and all the lobster she can eat. Instead, her parents “volunteer” Reena and Luke to work for an eccentric neighbor named Mrs. Falala, who has a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a snake named Edna—and that stubborn cow, Zora.
This heartwarming story, told in a blend of poetry and prose, reveals the bonds that emerge when we let others into our lives.
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 overweight, 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.
Published: February 3, 2015
Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has…but what if Kara secretly wants more?
Every Shiny Thing
*Half in prose, half in verse.
Published: April 17, 2018
Lauren prides herself on being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren’s parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren’s wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don’t have her family’s resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong.
Lauren must learn that having good intentions isn’t all that matters when you battle injustice, and Sierra needs to realize that sometimes the person you need to take care of is yourself.
Reckless Glorious Girl
Published: February 23, 2021
Beatrice lives with her Mawmaw (her grandmother) and her mom in Bardstown, Kentucky. Her father died in an accident months before she was born.
The book is set the summer before seventh grade and Beatrice is trying to figure out who she wants to be. Although she has two great girlfriends, she’s curious about what life would be like with the popular girls. She’s also crushing on a boy named Rodney, while wishing her more athletic frame (from her Mawmaw) will blossom into a more “womanly” figure. Then, her mom starts dating a not-so-nice guy who thinks they should move to a bigger city.
The One Thing You’d Save
Published: March 16, 2021
This middle grade verse novel is a unique hybrid of sorts. It’s geared toward middle schoolers, but has lovely black and white illustrations on nearly every page. It is also less than 80 pages long, with sparse text in the Korean sijo poetry style.
By the end of the class, even the teacher rethinks her choices, just as every reader will. This book might not satisfy you, if like me you enjoy plot, but it will make you think about the one thing, or things that matter most to you. Teachers and middle schoolers alike will find this book to be an excellent conversation starter, and the illustrations will entice reluctant and younger readers.
Published: May 11, 2021
When her family moves from Pakistan to Peachtree City, all Nurah wants is to blend in, yet she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts. And in the water Nurah doesn’t want to blend in. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais—who is going through struggles of his own in the U.S. Yet when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates.
Ultimately Nurah slowly gains confidence in the form of strong swimming arms, and also gains the courage to stand up to bullies, fight for what she believes in, and find her place.
The Places We Sleep
Published: August 25, 2020
It’s early September 2001, and twelve-year-old Abbey is the new kid at school. Again.
I worry about people speaking to me / and worry just the same / when they don’t.
Tennessee is her family’s latest stop in a series of moves due to her dad’s work in the Army, but this one might be different. Her school is far from Base, and for the first time, Abbey has found a real friend: loyal, courageous, athletic Camille.
And then it’s September 11. The country is under attack, and Abbey’s “home” looks like it might fall apart. America has changed overnight.
How are we supposed / to keep this up / with the world / crumbling / around us?
Abbey’s body changes, too, while her classmates argue and her family falters. Like everyone around her, she tries to make sense of her own experience as a part of the country’s collective pain. With her mother grieving and her father prepping for active duty, Abbey must learn to cope on her own.
Written in gorgeous narrative verse, Abbey’s coming-of-age story accessibly portrays the military family experience during a tumultuous period in our history. At once personal and universal, it’s a perfect read for fans of sensitive, tender-hearted books like The Thing About Jellyfish.
Published: February 22, 2022
Afiyah has a problem with taking things (seemed like kleptomania) even when she tries really hard not to. Fortunately, she’s often remorseful and returns the stolen items. She’s shaken when her father is wrongfully arrested for embezzlement at the airport during a family trip. The situation puts a strain on her family and moves Afiyah to strongly examine her tendency to steal — especially after she gets caught in the act.
The Colors of the Rain
Published: September 18, 2018
This historical middle grade novel written in free verse, set against the backdrop of the desegregation battles that took place in Houston, Texas, in 1972, is about a young boy and his family dealing with loss and the revelation of dark family secrets.
Ten-year-old Paulie Sanders hates his name because it also belonged to his daddy—his daddy who killed a fellow white man and then crashed his car. With his mama unable to cope, Paulie and his sister, Charlie, move in with their Aunt Bee and attend a new elementary school. But it’s 1972, and this new school puts them right in the middle of the Houston School District’s war on desegregation.
Paulie soon begins to question everything. He hears his daddy’s crime was a race-related one; he killed a white man defending a black man, and when Paulie starts picking fights with a black boy at school, he must face his reasons for doing so. When dark family secrets are revealed, the way forward for everyone will change the way Paulie thinks about family forever.
Published: September 24, 2013
Serafina made a secret promise to go to school and learn to read so she can become a doctor with her best friend, Julie Marie. But following her dream isn’t easy — endless chores, little money and stomach-rumbling hunger all test her resolve.
When an earthquake hits and separates Serafina from friends and family, she encounters her biggest test of all. Serafina made a secret promise. Will she survive to keep it?
Full Cicada Moon
Published: April 4, 2017
It’s 1969, and the Apollo 11 mission is getting ready to go to the moon. But for half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, moving to a predominantly white Vermont town is enough to make her feel alien. Suddenly, Mimi’s appearance is all anyone notices. She struggles to fit in with her classmates, even as she fights for her right to stand out by entering science competitions and joining Shop Class instead of Home Ec. And even though teachers and neighbors balk at her mixed-race family and her refusals to conform, Mimi’s dreams of becoming an astronaut never fade—no matter how many times she’s told no.
This historical middle-grade novel is told in poems from Mimi’s perspective over the course of one year in her new town, and shows readers that positive change can start with just one person speaking up.
Emmy in the Key of Code
Published: September 24, 2019
In a new city, at a new school, twelve-year-old Emmy has never felt more out of tune. Things start to look up when she takes her first coding class, unexpectedly connecting with the material—and Abigail, a new friend—through a shared language: music.
But when Emmy gets bad news about their computer teacher, and finds out Abigail isn’t being entirely honest about their friendship, she feels like her new life is screeching to a halt. Despite these obstacles, Emmy is determined to prove one thing: that, for the first time ever, she isn’t a wrong note, but a musician in the world’s most beautiful symphony.
In the Beautiful Country
Published: June 14, 2022
Living in 80s Taiwan with her mother, Ai Shi (Anna) eagerly anticipates living in the beautiful country (the US) where their father moved a few months ago. As she gives away her favorite clothes and toys to cousins in preparation for the move, she can’t help but brag about the new life awaiting them. But she’s in for a shock when they arrive at their cramped apartment. Her father was conned into buying a failing fast-food restaurant, and Anna’s parents struggle to make ends meet. At school, she feels like an outsider since she can barely speak English. On top of that, her parents are dealing with some unkind customers who mistreat them because they’re Asians. Can Anna find her way?
Published: May 25, 2004
For as long as she can remember, Clare and her family have had a dream: Someday Clare will be a dancer in City Ballet Company. For ten long years Clare has been taking ballet lessons, watching what she eats, giving up friends and a social life, and practicing until her feet bleed — all for the sake of that dream. And now, with the audition for City Ballet Company right around the corner, the dream feels so close.
But what if the dream doesn’t come true? The competition for the sixteen spots in the company is fierce, and many won’t make it. Talent, dedication, body shape, size — everything will influence the outcome. Clare’s grandfather says she is already a great dancer, but does she really have what it takes to make it into the company? And if not, then what?
Told through passionate and affecting poems in Clare’s own voice, On Pointe soars with emotion as it explores what it means to reach for a dream — and the way that dreams can change as quickly and suddenly as do our lives.
All of Me
Published: June 11, 2019
Ari has body-image issues. After a move across the country, his parents work selling and promoting his mother’s paintings and sculptures. Ari’s bohemian mother needs space to create, and his father is gone for long stretches of time on “sales” trips.
Meanwhile, Ari makes new friends: Pick, the gamer; the artsy Jorge, and the troubled Lisa. He is also relentlessly bullied because he’s overweight, but he can’t tell his parents―they’re simply not around enough to listen.
After an upsetting incident, Ari’s mom suggests he go on a diet, and she gives him a book to help. But the book―and the diet―can’t fix everything. As Ari faces the demise of his parents’ marriage, he also feels himself changing, both emotionally and physically. Here is a much-needed story about accepting the imperfect in oneself and in life.
Brushing Mom’s Hair
Published: September 1, 2009
When your mom has breast cancer, how do you cope? Ann is just short of fifteen when Mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. How can she tell the girls in ballet class that her mother had her breasts cut off? Her matter-of-fact sister, Jane, takes charge at home; her brother, Nick, calls from California; Dad helps when he can, as do friends, teachers, and relatives.
Still, Ann is consumed with worry. Who’s going to make sure that Mom drinks enough water, like the doctor said? Unless she is dancing or making pottery, Ann feels completely alone. She has a book that says, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.” Even cancer?
Published: March 1, 2022
Every weekday morning, 12-year-old Gilah takes the same public bus to her school in Washington, DC, and this year, she’s finally allowed to ride alone. On the very first day, the bus swerves too close to a bicyclist, and Gilah finds the courage to alert the driver to stop the bus. Without a bike, 13-year-old Guillermo starts riding the H4 with Gilah. This is the story of a Salvadoran-American boy who is a poet, a neuro-diverse Jewish girl who loves breakdancing, and how they navigate the detours of their families, their friendship, and their lives.
House Without Walls
Published: June 18, 2019
Eleven-year-old Lam escapes from Vietnam with Dee Dee during the Vietnamese Boat People Exodus in 1979, when people from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia fled their homelands for safety. For a refugee, the trip is a long and perilous one, filled with dangerous encounters with pirates and greedy sailors, a lack of food and water, and even the stench of a dead body onboard.
When they finally arrive at a refugee camp, Lam befriends Dao, a girl her age who becomes like a sister-a welcome glimmer of happiness after a terrifying journey.
The Moon Within
Published: February 26, 2019
Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend’s exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.
But most of all, her mother’s insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexica ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?
Published: April 9, 2019
Twelve-year-old Birdie Briggs loves birds. They bring her comfort when she thinks about her dad, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. Life without her dad isn’t easy, but at least Birdie still has Mom and Maymee, and her friends Nina and Martin.
But then Maymee gets a boyfriend, Nina and Martin start dating, and Birdie’s mom starts seeing a police officer. And suddenly not even her beloved birds can lift Birdie’s spirits. Her world is changing, and Birdie wishes things would go back to how they were before. But maybe change, painful as it is, can be beautiful too.
All He Knew
Published: August 11, 2020
Henry has been deaf from an early age—he is intelligent and aware of langauge, but by age six, he has decided it’s not safe to speak to strangers. When the time comes for him to start school, he is labeled “unteachable.” Because his family has very little money, his parents and older sister, Molly, feel powerless to help him. Henry is sent to Riverview, a bleak institution where he is misunderstood, underestimated, and harshly treated.
Victor, a conscientious objector to World War II, is part of a Civilian Public Service program offered as an alternative to the draft. In 1942, he arrives at Riverview to serve as an attendant and quickly sees that Henry is far from unteachable—he is brave, clever, and sometimes mischievous. In Victor’s care, Henry begins to see how things can change for the better.
Heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful, Helen Frost’s All He Knew is inspired by true events and provides sharp insight into a little-known element of history.
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?
The Land of the Cranes
Published: September 15, 2020
Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story, even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from a place called Aztlan, what is now the Southwest US, called the land of the cranes. They left Aztlan to establish their great city in the center of the universe-Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. It was prophesized that their people would one day return to live among the cranes in their promised land. Papi tells Betita that they are cranes that have come home.
Then one day, Betita’s beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. Even in cruel and inhumane conditions, Betita finds heart in her own poetry and in the community she and her mother find in the camp. The voices of her fellow asylum seekers fly above the hatred keeping them caged, but each day threatens to tear them down lower than they ever thought they could be. Will Betita and her family ever be whole again?
Aniana Del Mar Jumps In
Aniana is a child of Dominican parents growing up on Galveston, an island in the state of Texas. Her mom has undiagnosed PTSD from the death of her (Aniana’s mother’s) brother years ago in a storm back in their home country, so she doesn’t want her daughter near the water. Aniana’s father wants his daughter to pursue her passion and takes her to swim meets without her mother’s knowledge. But when Aniana wakes up one day with painfully swollen joints and other weird symptoms after swimming, their secret is exposed, and Aniana is faced with a new diagnosis that may threaten the one sport she loves.
Iveliz Explains It All
Published: September 13, 2022
Seventh grade is going to be Iveliz’s year. She’s going to make a new friend, help her abuela Mimi get settled after moving from Puerto Rico, and she is not going to get into any more trouble at school . . .
Except is that what happens? Of course not. Because no matter how hard Iveliz tries, sometimes people say things that just make her so mad. And worse, Mimi keeps saying Iveliz’s medicine is unnecessary—even though it helps Iveliz feel less sad. But how do you explain your feelings to others when you’re not even sure what’s going on yourself?
Powerful and compassionate, Andrea Beatriz Arango’s debut navigates mental health, finding your voice, and discovering that those who really love you will stay by your side.
No Matter the Distance
This OwnVoices story centers young Penny, a middle schooler with cystic fibrosis. Penny has to take digestive enzymes and do her breathing treatments to help her lungs get rid of mucus that affects her breathing. While her CF case is relatively mild-moderate, she still struggles with being chronically ill. One day a dolphin shows up in the lake near their house and Penny feels a strong connection with the animal. It turns out the dolphin (who Penny names Rose) is also sick and needs to return to her pod to get better. Penny may be the only one who can help the scientists take Rose back. But can she do that, when she feels so drawn to the animal?
When You Know What I Know
Published: March 24, 2020
One day after school, on the couch in the basement, Tori’s uncle did something bad. Afterward, Tori tells her mom. Even though telling was a brave thing to do, her mom still doesn’t believe her at first. Her grandma still takes his side. And Tori doesn’t want anyone else—even her best friend—to know what happened.
Now Tori finds herself battling mixed emotions—anger, shame, and sadness—as she deals with the trauma. But with the help of her mom, her little sister, her best friend, and others, can Tori find a way to have the last word?
From debut author Sonja K. Solter comes a heartbreaking yet powerful novel that will strike a chord with readers of Jacqueline Woodson and Tony Abbott.
Mirror to Mirror
This middle school verse novel follows twins Maya and Chaya, who, although opposites are inseparable. Where Maya is quiet and reserved, Chaya is outgoing. Both girls also share a few similar interests, top of which is their love for music. They even share friends, although they each have a different best friend. Suddenly, Maya starts to pull away from Chaya and the two begin to fight more.
Concluding that her sister needs space from her, Chaya starts trying to distinguish herself — getting a pink streak in her hair and dropping music and trying a new art form. But the girls keep butting heads. When matters come to a head, their parents send them off to camp together with the aim of resolving their conflict. There, the girls decide to pretend to be each other (walk in each others shoes) and and whoever can keep the ruse going longer will get to decide where they both attend high school — the main thing they keep arguing about. But will this pact work? Or is there more to their fights than meets the eye?
Selah knows her rules for being normal.
She always, always sticks to them. This means keeping her feelings locked tightly inside, despite the way they build up inside her as each school day goes on, so that she has to run to the bathroom and hide in the stall until she can calm down. So that she has to tear off her normal-person mask the second she gets home from school, and listen to her favorite pop song on repeat, trying to recharge. Selah feels like a dragon stuck in a world of humans, but she knows how to hide it.
Until the day she explodes and hits a fellow student.
Selah’s friends pull away from her, her school threatens expulsion, and her comfortable, familiar world starts to crumble.
But as Selah starts to figure out more about who she is, she comes to understand that different doesn’t mean damaged. Can she get her school to understand that, too, before it’s too late?
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.
Eb & Flow
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.
Award-winning author Kelly J. Baptist delivers a novel in verse that follows Eb and Flow as they navigate their parallel lives. Single-parent homes, tight funds, and sibling dynamics provide a balancing act for the growing tweens. And whether they realize it or not, these two have a lot more in common than they think.
There they are! I hope you find one out of these 60+ middle-grade novels in verse that you like. Want more? Find a running list of middle-grade novels in verse on author Sarah Tregay’s website.
Have you read any of these middle-grade novels in verse? Which books would you add to this list? Any favorites here? I’d love to know! If you do try any of my recs, I’d love to hear what you think.
More Middle-Grade Book Lists
- Middle-Grade books about mental illness
- Black middle-grade books
- Middle-Grade books by Asian authors
- Books about body image and body positivity
- Middle-Grade books about sports