Meet Marco and Isaac. They’ve been besties for as long as they can remember and now they share one pain in common: both their dads aren’t in their lives as they’d like. Isaac’s dad is attentive but currently struggling with alcoholism. Marco’s dad wishes Marco were more athletic, instead of nerdy. At the start of middle school, both boys decide to help each other reach their goals. For Isaac, it’s getting better at more than just basketball — getting better grades and being more responsible. And for Marco, it’s learning a sport: basketball. Can they reach their goals? And will their friendship survive it?
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid follows new sixth grader, Max. Max is fat and on his first day of school becomes a target for school bully and eighth-grader Johnny “Pro.” Max’s mom is a single mother and his only friend Luca is poor and wears worn hand-me-downs. When Max gets fed up with being bullied, he decides to write to imprisoned supervillain, Master Plan for advice and help. Master Plan comes up with a step-by-step guide to stop Max from being bullied and elevate his social status — maybe even helping him get closer to the girl he likes. But when Max’s fortune starts to change, it threatens his friendship with Luca. Worse still, he realizes that supervillains rarely offer help without needing something in exchange.
In Nikki on the Line, 13-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.
Hugo’s family has moved from Denver to a smaller skiing town in Colorado after his father quit his job as a computer engineer to become a ski instructor. For Hugo, this is a terrible development as he’s only just found his people in his former city and now has to start from scratch. Thankfully, his cousin Vijay is somewhat popular and brings Hugo into his friend group — the kids who run the school newsletter. But when the kids in his school realize that Hugo can tell a lot about a person from their trash, Hugo finds new popularity that threatens to upturn his new friendships.
Chunky is a new graphic memoir in which Yehudi (Hudi) conjures an imaginary friend/mascot, Chunky to support him through a challenging time in his life. Hudi is a funny kid with a serious interest in comedy Because of childhood illness, Hudi has had one lung removed. He is also chubby with zero athletic prowess, in a family of athletic people. His dad won so many sports trophies in school and encourages Hudi to pick a sport. His mother thinks sports will also help Hudi regulate his weight. And so Hudi begins to try sport after sport — with hilarious results, and Chunky cheering him all the way.
The Magical Imperfect is a middle grade verse novel 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.
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.
In Love Is a Revolution, Nala Robertson is a big Black girl who lives with her cousin Imani and Imani’s parents. Imani is an environmental activist with the group Inspire Harlem. When Nala attends Imani’s birthday open-mic night, she meets a charismatic young man named Tye. Tye is also an activist who is immediately drawn to Nala. Nala is eager to impress and starts a series of lies, telling Tye that she is a vegan and pretending to be active in community work at her grandmother’s home for the elderly.
The two soon start dating but the relationship is obviously built on lies. Nala quickly becomes uncomfortable, worrying that Tye only likes her for the fake persona she created.
I love that there have been more middle-grade books about body image and body positivity out in recent times. Body image issues are real, and often they start while we’re young. In this list of middle-grade books about body image and body positivity, you’ll find books aimed at tweens and younger teens. These stories feature young people dealing with body confidence due to bullying about their weight, skin color, skin conditions, medical conditions, height, and even one book where a character struggles with accepting her monolid. I’ve read several of these books and the rest come highly recommended for being strongly body positive and helping readers, young and old, find a measure of body acceptance.
In Turning Point, we reunite with the Pirates Cove gang (minus a few) — mostly Mila, Mo, Sheeda, and Tai. This book focuses on Monique (Mo) and Rasheeda (Sheeda)’s friendship and how it changes over a summer when both girls are drawn into different pursuits. Mo is off at a ballet intensive with Mila, while Sheeda is stuck at church (with her church “friends”) feeling like she has no life.
Savannah aka Savvy is a fat teen with a mom who, post-divorce has just completed a weight-loss centered reality TV show. While Sav is a smart, confident girl, her mom constantly needles her about her weight, under the guise of concern for her health. Sav has also just met her best friend’s cousin, George, and the two soon begin a friendship that leads to romance.