I’m pleased that this list has a range of characters of different races and social backgrounds. These stories also have a variety of themes besides music. You’ll find among these middle-grade music books, stories about race, homelessness, immigration, sexual harassment, anxiety, neurodiversity, and much more.
Thirteen-year-old Nat Beacon has the chance to fly when she stumbles upon a group of kids putting on a production of Wicked, the musical. Nat has been paralyzed from the waist down since an accident when she was two. She’s also a wheelchair athlete whose parents have moved from California to New Jersey for her mother’s new job. Nat is obsessed with Broadway and Hamilton although she has never actually been in a musical.
Amina’s Song is the sequel to Hena Khan’s Amina’s Voice. The book opens with Amina in Pakistan visiting family over the summer. She bonds with her cousin Zohra and her Thaya Jaan who had visited them in the States in Amina’s Voice. Amina falls in love with Pakistan, the culture, and of course, her people — and is sad when they have to return to the States. She promises her uncle that she’ll tell other people how wonderful Pakistan is.
Simon B Rhymin’ is the story of 11-year-old Simon Barnes (aka Notorious D.O.G.), a shy kid who loves to rap. His best friend Maria (aka Ri-Ri) is a talkative Latina who often has to stand up to Simon’s bullies. His other best friend, C.J. is mostly chill, but also supportive of Simon. Simon’s parents also support his rapping, but he still doesn’t feel confident about rapping in front of strangers.
Veronica’s life seemed like it was on track until her parents announced that her mom is going to rehab for alcoholism. Her mom who was a softball player when she was young, her mom the lawyer, her mom who was supposed to help her and her friends practice for softball tryouts.
In Tune It Out, Lou and her mother live in their truck. Her mom believes Lou has a gift (her voice) and is determined to make it big with her. So she makes Lou sing everywhere from cafes to karaoke bars to street corners. This is extra challenging for Lou because she hates the bright lights and the sound of applause is physically painful. She also hates physical contact and is bothered by the texture of certain clothes on her skin.
Lou gets some respite from the malnutrition and homelessness when an accident leads to her being taken in by Child Protective Services. Fortunately, she is sent off to live with her aunt and her husband in Nashville, Tennessee where she begins a new life until her mother can get her back.
In Broken Strings, Shirli Berman has her eyes set on a role in her school’s play. It’s 2002 and just after the Twin Towers and the death of Shirli’s grandmother. Even though she doesn’t eventually score her desired role, she ends up playing another one of the key roles anyway. To add to it, her stage husband is Ben Morgan, the most popular boy in school. At the same time, Shirli is also learning about her family’s history from her grandfather (Zayde) who has been silent on the matter his entire adult life.