The middle grade years are such formative years, and making friends takes center stage for kids. During this time, tweens start growing into their identities and face a range of new issues, from peer pressures to family conflicts, body image, and more. Good friends can become a support net to cope with these changes as they arise. While making friends can be hard (understatement of the year), books about friends can help. Reading about positive and healthy friendships can serve as role models on how a good friend should treat you and how to be a good friend in return.
I met my best friend in 4th grade, and my life wouldn’t be the same without her. At the time, my family had made a major move between states, and the thought of starting 4th grade when my old friends lived 13 hours away made me feel so alone. Meeting my new best friend who lived just across the street from me made all difference. Now, 20 years later, our friendship is still going strong. I was the maid of honor at her wedding; she’s the godmother to my son. The friends you make in your middle grade years matter. Below you’ll find a sweet collection of middle grade books that celebrate the importance of friends.
This funny and heartwarming middle grade book by award-winning author Grace Lin stars an endearing protagonist, feel-good family moments, plus delicious food descriptions. As one of the only Taiwanese Americans at her school, Pacy often feels out of place. According to her mom though, this year, the Year of the Dog, is a good year for making new friends and finding herself. Pacy’s mom may just be right.
Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick
This poignant book explores life with divorced parents and a blended family with sensitivity and care. Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith feel like all they have in common is the name they share. That is, until Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi Edith’s dad start dating. While the Naomis crave their old lives, their parents encourage them to take a class together that may just be the start of an unexpected friendship.
The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung
Korean American Matt and his best friend Eric face a change that I can relate with all too well: moving away from the home and friends you’ve come to love. Mike and Eric decide to enjoy one final hurrah before Eric’s big move by sneaking off from a band competition to see their comic creator idol at a comics convention. Together, the pair set off on one epic adventure celebrating one epic friendship. Mike Jung tackles a number of important topics in this heartfelt novel, including racism and toxic masculinity.
A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic #1) by Anna Meriano
Mix together a family-owned magical bakery and a quest to help a best friend, and you’ve got just about the coziest middle grade book about friends to bite into. In Rose Hill, Texas, Leonora Logroño’s family owns a bakery with a big secret. When Leonora discovers she’s descended from a line of witches of Mexican ancestry, who infuse their baking with delicious magic, she tries out her own magic to help her best friend Caroline.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
This middle grade graphic novel digs into how friendships can change with time. Best friends Astrid and Nicole have always done everything together, so when Astrid joins roller derby one summer, she thinks Nicole will too. Until she doesn’t. Nicole signs up for dance camp with another friend instead. As Astrid faces roller derby on her own, she comes to learn that even though it might feel scary to take a different path from your bestie, being true to yourself is what’s most important.
The Insiders by Mark Oshiro (9/21/21)
This one doesn’t come out until September, but it’s so heartwarming and well worth the wait. Having moved to a new town in California, Héctor Muñoz misses the acceptance he felt at his old school. At his new school, being gay makes him feel very alone. All Héctor wants to do is disappear, until one day, he does. Much to his surprise and delight, Héctor discovers a secret passage inside the custodian’s closet that leads him to two new friends from across the country.
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit
This touching and feel-good epistolary book stars autistic tween Vivy Cohen as she aspires to become the next pitcher on the boys’ baseball team. For a class project one day, she writes a letter to the Major League pitcher VJ Capello, who taught her how to throw a knuckleball at a family fun day. Much to Vivy’s delight, she’s invited to join the boys’ team and VJ starts writing her back, igniting an endearing friendship between the two.
Generation Misfits by Akemi Dawn Bowman (6/29/21)
This sweet and relatable middle grade book about friends follows homeschooled Japanese American tween Millie as she starts attending a new art school. As the new girl, Mille feels out of the place until she discovers the J-Pop club. Soon Mille’s finding her niche in her new group of friends as they plan a performance for the school’s upcoming talent show.
Of a Feather by Dayna Lorentz
We can’t forget our furry friends too! This charming middle grade book celebrates the tender friendship that forms between a girl and her owl. After being sent to live with her aunt, Reenie has given up on trusting adults anymore. When Reenie’s falconer aunt helps her rehabilitate a baby owl who lost his mother, Reenie’s world — and that of the owl Rufus’s — will never be the same.
I hope these middle grade books about friends warm your heart and remind you of a friend in your life. Or, maybe these fictional friends can feel like friends of your own too. Good books, like good friends, always make for the best company. If you’d like to keep the friendship feels going, peruse through some more books about friends below.