Middle grade books about B’nai mitzvahs highlight a pivotal Jewish tradition and often make for educational, enjoyable reading. While we already have a list of books by Jewish authors about Jewish kids, this list focuses on bat mitzvah and bar mitzvah stories. I love that on this list you’ll find stories about kids who want and do not want a celebration. I’ve read several of these stories and they’re all moving, funny, engaging, and enjoyable. There’s also one short story collection here for tweens and one YA novel in which the protagonist’s sister is planning a bat mitzvah and it forms a major plot point. Happy reading!
Great Middle Grade Books About B’nai Mitzvahs
Here are 15 awesome middle grade books about b’nai mitzvahs:
It’s My Party and I Don’t Want to Go
Published: September 15, 2020
Ellie Katz is sabotaging her own party.Sure, it seems extreme, but it’s the only option for her bat mitzvah. Crowds and attention always made her nervous, and lately they’ve been making it harder and harder for Ellie to breathe. The celebration would mean (1) a large crowd, (2) lots of staring, and (3) distant family listening to her sing in another language. No thank you!To avoid certain catastrophe, she hatches a plan with her best friend Zoe to ruin the big day. Cue the email hacking, DJ takedown, and an all-out food fight! Everything is falling apart according to plan, until a fight with Zoe leaves Ellie alone on her path of destruction, facing some unintended consequences and disappointments. Can she find a way to right her wrongs, face her fears, and light her candles?
Coming of Age: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories
Published: April 19, 2022
What does it mean to become an adult in your faith? Join thirteen diverse characters as they experience anxiety, doubt, and self-discovery while preparing for their b’nai mitzvah. And whether celebrating with a lavish party or in reception room A with an accordion player, the Jewish rite of passage remains the same. Filled with humor, hope, and history, there’s something in this anthology for every reader, regardless of their faith.
Published: July 20, 2021
Link, Michael, and Dana live in a quiet town. But it’s woken up very quickly when someone sneaks into school and vandalizes it with a swastika.
Nobody can believe it. How could such a symbol of hate end up in the middle of their school? Who would do such a thing?
Because Michael was the first person to see it, he’s the first suspect. Because Link is one of the most popular guys in school, everyone’s looking to him to figure it out. And because Dana’s the only Jewish girl in the whole town, everyone’s treating her more like an outsider than ever.
The mystery deepens as more swastikas begin to appear. Some students decide to fight back and start a project to bring people together instead of dividing them further. The closer Link, Michael, and Dana get to the truth, the more there is to face-not just the crimes of the present, but the crimes of the past.
This Is Just a Test
Published: June 27, 2017
A 12-year-old boy is caught in the middle of cultures, friends, and growing up Chinese Jewish American in this acclaimed, hilariously witty, and heartwarming coming-of-age story.David Da-Wei Horowitz has a lot on his plate. Preparing for his upcoming bar mitzvah would be enough work even if it didn’t involve trying to please his Jewish and Chinese grandmothers, who argue about everything. But David just wants everyone to be happy.That includes his friend Scott, who is determined to win their upcoming trivia tournament but doesn’t like their teammate — and David’s best friend — Hector. Scott and David begin digging a fallout shelter just in case this Cold War stuff with the Soviets turns south… but David’s not so convinced he wants to spend forever in an underground bunker with Scott. Maybe it would be better if Hector and Kelli Ann came with them. But that would mean David has to figure out how to stand up for Hector and talk to Kelli Ann. Some days, surviving nuclear war feels like the least of David’s problems.
My Basmati Bat Mitzvah
Published: October 1, 2013
During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-O–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with the snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.
Published: May 5, 2020
Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he’s forced to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease.
At first, the boys don’t get along, but then RJ shares his bucket list with Will. Among the things he wants to do: ride a roller coaster; go to a school dance; swim in the ocean. To Will, happiness is hanging out in his room, alone, preferably with the turtles he collects. But as RJ’s disease worsens, Will realizes he needs to tackle the bucket list on his new friend’s behalf before it’s too late. It seems like an impossible mission, way outside Will’s comfort zone. But as he completes each task with RJ’s guidance, Will learns that life is too short to live in a shell.
The Length of a String
Published: May 1, 2018
Imani is adopted, and she’s ready to search for her birth parents. But when she discovers the diary her Jewish great-grandmother wrote chronicling her escape from Holocaust-era Europe, Imani begins to see family in a new way.
Imani knows exactly what she wants as her big bat mitzvah gift: to find her birth parents. She loves her family and her Jewish community in Baltimore, but she has always wondered where she came from, especially since she’s black and almost everyone she knows is white. Then her mom’s grandmother–Imani’s great-grandma Anna–passes away, and Imani discovers an old journal among her books. It’s Anna’s diary from 1941, the year she was twelve and fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg alone, sent by her parents to seek refuge in Brooklyn, New York. Anna’s diary records her journey to America and her new life with an adoptive family of her own. And as Imani reads the diary, she begins to see her family, and her place in it, in a whole new way.
All Three Stooges
Published: January 9, 2018
Now Noah’s confusion, frustration, and determination to get through to Dash are threatening to destroy more than just their friendship. But what choice does he have? As Noah sees it, sometimes you need to risk losing everything, even your sense of humor, to prove that gone doesn’t have to mean “gone for good.”
Published: May 5, 2020
Middle school is full of challenges.
Everyone knows how much brainy Bri likes the spotlight (not). So why did she ever agree to something that forces her to learn a new language, give a speech, help organize a party, and juggle drama at school and home?! As the big event inches closer, Bri wonders if it’s all worth it. . . .
Told in alternating past and present chapters, Bri’s heartwarming story unfolds over the eight months leading up to her bat mitzvah—as well as over the course of the big day itself.
Recipe for Disaster
Published: September 14, 2021
Hannah Malfa-Adler is Jew . . . ish. Not that she really thinks about it. She’d prefer to focus on her favorite pastime: baking delicious food! But when her best friend has a beyond-awesome Bat Mitzvah, Hannah starts to feel a little envious …and a little left out.
Despite her parents firm no, Hannah knows that if she can learn enough about her own faith, she can convince her friends that the party is still in motion. As the secrets mount, a few are bound to explode. When they do, Hannah learns that being Jewish isn’t about having a big party and a fancy dress and a first kiss — it’s about actually being Jewish. Most importantly, Hannah realizes that the only person’s permission she needs to be Jewish, is her own.
12 Before 13
Published: September 4, 2018
But after a life-changing summer at camp, Ari feels torn between Kaylan and her camp friends. And as she faces down everything from boys to bat mitzvahs, Ari needs to figure out how to be her best self—before her friends come together at her thirteenth birthday party.
Or the big win she and Kaylan were hoping for may become an epic fail.
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.
Published: November 2, 2021
Thirteen-year-old Eddie needs to do a community service project in preparation for his bar mitzvah. Against his better judgment, he ends up with a volunteering gig at Silver Brook Pavilion retirement home, where the residents call him “Eddie Whatever” rather than worry about remembering his last name. These old folks soon upend all Eddie’s assumptions about the boringness of the elderly. There’s a dramatic courtship unfolding, long-hidden secret identities, a rumor of a vengeful ghost, and a thief on the loose.
When suspicion falls on Eddie, he teams up with his fellow volunteer (and crush), Tessa, to solve the mysteries of Silver Brook.
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.
As If on Cue
Published: September 21, 2021
Lifelong rivals Natalie and Reid have never been on the same team. So when their school’s art budget faces cutbacks, of course Natalie finds herself up against her nemesis once more. She’s fighting to direct the school’s first ever student-written play, but for her small production to get funding, the school’s award-winning band will have to lose it. Reid’s band. And he’s got no intention of letting the show go on.
But when their rivalry turns into an all-out prank war that goes too far, Natalie and Reid have to face the music, resulting in the worst compromise: writing and directing a musical. Together. At least if they deliver a sold-out show, the school board will reconsider next year’s band and theater budget. Everyone could win.
Except Natalie and Reid.
Because after spending their entire lives in competition, they have absolutely no idea how to be co-anything. And they certainly don’t know how to deal with the feelings that are inexplicably, weirdly, definitely developing between them…
There they are: 15 of the best b’nai mitzvah books for tweens. Which one of these books have you read? What did I miss?
Many thanks to our sponsored PJ Publishing and their new middle grade book, Detour Ahead, a prose-verse novel with a Jewish and neurodiverse protagonist. Detour Ahead was released on March 1 and is now available for purchase.
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