Middle grade books highlight the best friendships! Memorable bonds carry weight in children’s lives. When we are young, friends are our world. We talk, laugh, and share memories that seemingly last forever. As children enter their middle years (from 8 to 12 years old), their interactions grow into lasting imprints on their lives. Despite who the person is (peer, adult, parent), everything that takes place becomes forever stamped in their memories.
Middle grade fiction details the emotion and adventure children experience when navigating friendships. These stories capture the challenges and innocence tweens live through when meeting people. While their personal journeys are not as explicit as connections in the young adult category, they are equally valuable.
Here’s a short list of middle grade books, as well as the friendships represented. These stories cover connections that everyone can relate to while growing up. Whether these friendships were born from moving or new beginnings, children grow from the life lessons learned.
Friendships Growing From Disagreements
Sometimes friendship grows from surprising encounters. In this event, they realize that they share a common connection. Although they share similarities, bonding is an uphill battle. It’s made more complicated when sworn enemies are involved!
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab features such a pairing! In this tale, two ghost hunters meet after an accidental encounter. Cassidy Blake is just getting acquainted with her gift, while Lara is a skilled professional. Lara has little patience over Cassidy’s lack of training. There is also tension due to Lara’s dislike of Jacob, Cassidy’s spectre companion.
Many middle grade friendships face this dilemma! Oftentimes fights occur due to questionable companions. Rifts arise due to hidden biases. Middle grade stories walk us through such differences, showing us ways to handle them. Of course, we usually don’t encounter ghostly friends in day to day life! However, in City of Ghosts, Cassidy and Lara do learn to coexist. Despite Jacob’s presence, everyone navigates through their friendship circle.
Friendships as Support
Friendships in middle grade books often feature support during life events. A new start is challenging for anyone, but for young children, it’s even more difficult! New connections certainly guide the way towards fulfillment. Friendships always lead to new pathways.
Nightbird by Alice Hoffman
In Nightbird, Twig Fowler faces such a journey. In order to keep her brother secluded, Twig and her family move to Massachusetts. Twig befriends two sisters, Julia and Agate. These connections help Twig make her days in Sidwell, Massachusetts, easier. Julia and Agate also work with Twig to break a curse passed down to the men in the Fowler family.
Nightbird shows us that neighbors with storied histories can find ways to work together. Twig, Julia, and Agate shouldn’t be friends. Their families’ backstory is plagued with loss, love, and envy. However, these three friends work together for the sake of breaking a curse. By solving the mystery, they aid Twig’s brother James. Along with giving us a mystery, Nightbird shows us that friendships take place with patience and trust.
Friendships Facing Conflict
Many friendships in middle grade books endure challenges. Childhood friends face disagreements, and fallout is inevitable. When children face conflict, the root of contention can last for years! This anger can take the form of hurtful words or careless actions. When conflicts are written in middle grade stories, the reader sees that disagreements happen to everyone. Equally important is that we learn how to solve problems in our own lives.
Honeybees and Frenemies by Kristi Wientge
Honeybees and Frenemies by Kristi Wientge is one example of a friendship under conflict through time. We meet Flor and Candace, two former best friends until a competition drives a wedge between them. One summer, Flor and Candace are forced to work together in order to win the Honey Pageant. Both girls fight feelings of distrust and contempt while taking part in themed activities. They’re also battling family stressors in the midst of competing. It’s a summer for everyone to remember!
When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten
When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten also features two young friends at a crossroads. Clara and Gaynah shared secrets and adventures like close friends should. When a storm (and a new summer visitor) come to town, it causes great friction between the two girls. This story explores the emotional effects of fractured bonds. It also touches on intergenerational connections, as Clara reaches out to elders for a solution. This is a work of fiction, yet it touches upon the reality of stress and depression after friendships fall apart. I also appreciated the community values in the book.
Friendships in Sisterhood
Friendships in middle grade books may feature a sense of community. For example, many stories describe a group of girls embarking on many adventures. Whether it features sisters or classmates, I enjoy the empowering spirit that rests within these stories!
Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez
Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez is a perfect example of friendship evolving into a strong sisterhood. While these young women share different ideas, the promise of an adventurous summer brings them together. Their unique personalities are also the glue that binds their sisterhood together. This story represents all children, for they can all unite despite differences.
Looking for more middle grade books about friendships?
50 Must Read Middle Grade Books About Friendship dives into many more worthwhile titles about connections. 25 Literary Quotes That Celebrate Friendship highlights many valuable lines centered around bonds!