Middle-Grade books about food make for some scrumptious reading! Tuck into these 41 tasty picks for some food, family drama, and middle-school dilemmas.
Red, White, and Whole is Rajani LaRocca’s newest middle-grade verse novel. 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, 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.
14-year-old David is a quintessential middle child. His sister Bridgette is in college and the family’s academic success story. Mal, his younger brother is on the autism spectrum, although his family prefers not to use the autism label. Mal is almost non-verbal and only says the word “okay.” David has always has a large appetite and an interest in competitive eating, but after he accidentally leaves a $2000 bill on his mother’s credit card, he’s forced to join a pizza eating contest to win the grand prize of $5000.
In between finding his place in the family and trying not to ruin his internal organs by overeating, David also has to navigate the fact that his two oldest friends Cyn and HeyMan might be dating each other. Where does that leave him? As the third musketeer still, or an unwanted third wheel?
Measuring Up follows 12-year-old Cici who moves from Taiwan to the US with her parents, leaving behind her beloved A-ma (her grandmother). Thankfully, the adjustment period isn’t too hard on her. She makes friends quickly and her English is already pretty good. However, she and her parents struggle with American culture, like sleepovers, fireplaces, and she quickly stops bring Taiwanese food to lunch, preferring instead to learn to make American food, so she can blend in.
Although Cici and her parents want to bring her grandmother over for a visit at least, they can’t afford to yet. Cici misses her A-ma with whom she used to go to the market and cook. So when she stumbles upon a kid cooking contest, it feels like the perfect opportunity to earn $1000. The only problem is that Cici can only cook Taiwanese dishes. Fortunately, she’s paired up with an Italian-American girl, Miranda, whose father runs a restaurant (and who practically grew up working in a restaurant). Halfway through the contest though, each contestant has to compete alone.
I fell for The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling just for its name alone. Thankfully, the premise is equally as captivating. Anna Chiu is a high schooler who has her hands full caring for her little brother and sort of watching over her younger teen sister. Their father runs a restaurant in a nearby town (about two hours away by car) and their mother is so depressed, she hasn’t gotten out of bed in weeks. When Anna convinces her dad to let her work at their restaurant on weekends, she starts a relationship with Rory, the new delivery boy.
As Anna gets to know Rory (and his own mental illness struggles), things at home go from bad to worse. Anna’s mother gets out of bed, but begins acting erratic and her relationship with her sister, as well as their father becomes strained as Anna has to step in to provide her mother the support she needs.
Fizzy is the daughter of divorced parents. Her father has remarried and her mother is in a serious relationship. Fizzy is also an excellent cook — so good that she’s entering the Southern Living cook-off. But she has other struggles to contend with. At school, she doesn’t have any real friends, and then her mom announces that she’s marrying her boyfriend, Keane (whom Fizzy dislikes). Fizzy also has to shuttle between both parents’ homes, and she’s constantly feeling like the “leftover” child since both her parents are moving on and forming new families.
This middle-grade book follows Lucy, a short Chinese-American girl caught between two cultures. Lucy plays basketball (very well) and would choose mac and cheese over most Chinese dishes. Her older siblings seem to fit the “perfect Chinese child” stereotype more than she does. Regina, her older sister started a Chinese club in high school and speaks flawless Chinese, while her brother Kenny, although a bookworm loves and eats all Chinese food and is a Math whiz. Still Lucy perseveres with interests, eagerly anticipating her sister’s move to college so she can have their room all to herself, but that is not to be.
Today’s pick is a much-loved book about two boys — one Indian, one American — bullied or mocked for different reasons, who become unlikely friends in the cafeteria of their middle-school. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. This was one of the first middle-grade boy books I ever read (and I loved it!) — the audiobook is really good, with two narrators, one of Indian descent, and the other American. If you or your kids loved this book, here are more books like Save Me a Seat.
Serenity and her brother, Danny, have to move in with their grandparents after her mother’s death. Their father is nowhere to be found and the kids have to deal with their grief while adjusting to a new lifestyle — new school, new friends, new routines — with their mother’s parents. Their grandfather is a preacher and both grandparents are ardent churchgoers. The story is told from Serenity’s point of view as she tries to make sense of life through her poetry in English class.
Two girls, Pakistani-American and British-American form an unlikely friendship in this book about food, culture, and standing up for what is right.