Book Recs: Diverse Middle Grade Books

Before this year, I never read middle grade books. Being in my mid-20’s, I knew I was well beyond the target audience for YA; I felt way too old for middle grade books, felt like it would be too juvenile, felt like it wouldn’t be something I’d like. I was a massive skeptic. And then I read Flying Lessons and Other Stories.

And oh boy, I may be too old for middle grade, but it wasn’t too juvenile and it was definitely something I liked! I loved how the authors captured innocence and youth, loved how it explored themes and ideas that young kids would eventually begin to think about, loved how the authors articulated themes in such a subtle and sensitive way, and loved the lightheartedness of it all. I felt like I had missed out on something huge and had discovered it way too late. I felt like I was rediscovering my childhood.

Thus my love for middle grade stories grew, and though I haven’t read as many as I would like, I’ve read some truly fantastic ones. So today, in line with #AsianLitBingo, I’ll be recommending four phenomenal middle grade books by Asian authors.

LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS BY ERIN ENTRADA KELLY

I picked up this book because Glaiza kindly recommended Kelly’s work to me, and it was such a powerful story for such a small book. I encourage all of you to read Glaiza’s review of this book; it’s such an important review and she delves into so much detail about the story’s nuances.

  • Features two Fillipino-American girls, Soledad and Dominga, who are utterly adorable and lovely protagonists. I also loved the sisterhood between them!
  • About the power of stories and storytelling, and how love, history, and memory are interwoven into the stories passed down to us.
  • Subtly explores themes of grief, dysfunctional families, prejudice, colorism, and communication but in a very gentle and sensitive way.

Find Land of Forgotten Girls in Goodreads or read Glaiza’s review

WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER BY GRACE LIN

This book is so special to me. I felt like I was reliving or given a second chance of having a childhood with Chinese stories while reading this book.

  • The story is about Pinmei, a Chinese protagonist, who goes on a grand and magical adventure to rescue her grandmother.
  • Explores the power of storytelling whilst interweaving Chinese mythology, folktales, and parables into the narrative. I especially loved the mentions of the butterfly dream and the Emperor and the Seed.
  • There is also a lovely mystery element, with pieces of the puzzle scattered across the story to bring together a satisfying end.

Find When The Sea Turned to Silver in Goodreads

AMINA’S VOICE BY HENA KHAN

This is one of my favourite books of this year! It’s a wonderful book with a protagonist that is just as lovely. I enjoyed reading this so much and was engaged from the very beginning to the very end. Ahhhhh, this book was just so pure.

  • About Amina, a practicing Muslim and Pakistan-American, and the small but significant changes and struggles in her life.
  • Explores her relationship with Islam, with Urdu, her wonderful family, and her friends – old and new – and wonderfully portrays what it might be like for a young girl to navigate the changes in her life.
  • Wonderful storytelling, parents present and involved in Amina’s life, and just so sincere. A treasure of a book.

Find Amina’s Voice in Goodreads or read my review

THE GAUNTLET BY KARUNA RIAZI

Truth be told: I haven’t got around to finishing this book yet, but I have read enough to know that it’ll be a book that I will love and can wholeheartedly recommend to everyone!

  • It is thrilling and exciting from start to finish. It took turns I didn’t expect too; the perfect book to read if you want something fun.
  • It’s almost a nostalgic experience if you watched the movie, Jumanji, when you were younger. I love Riazi’s fresh spin on the story.
  • The characters were wonderful, ranging from the protagonist, Farah, to her lovely friends, and the characters you meet within The Gauntlet.

Find The Gauntlet in Goodreads

I hope to read more and more diverse middle grade stories in the future. Not only do I genuinely enjoy the stories, but I hope to find some wonderful stories and characters, with the hope that I can recommend some books to parents of young children. I’ve also gravitated towards stories with Chinese protagonists or with Chinese folklore – I feel like it will, in a way, fill a void in my childhood. One day, I hope to find books like When The Sea Turned To Silver and give them to my children to read one day.

The other middle grade books that I’m really looking forward to reading are:

I hope you enjoyed this post! 😊 So, my friends:

  • Do you read middle-grade books? Why or why not?
  • What are some of your favourite middle grade books, or ones that you’d be interested to read?
  • Are you looking forward to any unreleased middle grade books?
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11 thoughts on “Book Recs: Diverse Middle Grade Books

  1. I love this post, CW! I rarely read MG books but that’s mostly bc I hear less about them than YA books, so tend to pick them up less. I must say though that I think the only diverse MG that comes to mind for me is Alex Gino’s George, so I’m super glad to see this list of recs. I’ll be looking out for these books, especially When the Sea Turned to Silver – it sounds like it’s going to be something I can potentially personally relate to. <3

    • Hi Reg!
      Ahhh fair enough! I have noticed that too, and fair enough – MG is far below our age bracket. And yet, I think we can all benefit with a little bit of MG in our lives, especially if we want something lighthearted. I’ve read quite a few MGs now, and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed almost all of them.

      Ohh! How is George? Did you like it?

      • I actually enjoy reading the occasional MG books, but not all (from experience) has an ‘adult appeal’ (for lack of a better word). I LOVED, for example, A Monster Calls, and that’s solidly MG though its themes are very heavy and dark and relatable.

        I liked George! It’s cute and yet thought-provoking. The writing is a bit on the simpler side, but I think that worked in its favour. ;)

    • Hi Alisia!
      Awwww, that’s gorgeous! I’m so pleased you and your daughter like Grace Lin – she is one of my favourite MG book authors.
      Amina’s Voice is lovely, and I think it’ll be a great book to read with your daughter, since it has such powerful and meaningful lessons. <3

      What other books do you and your daughter like to read? Do you have any recommendations?

  2. I love this post so much! I don’t really read MG but you’re making me want to start – I already added the Gauntlet on my TBR a little while ago because, well, Jumanji, I can’t resist, and now I feel like I’m going to add all of these books as well :)

  3. Such a great post! I doubt I’d volunterily pick up a middle grade book out of the blue, but I know that there are some really amazing ones out there that people should definitely check out. It’s really nice to see you highlight four of them–by asian authors too!!! I’ve only heard about The Gauntlet, but I’ll definitely keep these in the back of my mind if anyone ever asks me for recs regarding middle grade books. :D

  4. Aaaah, I love this post! Looking back on it, two of my favourite books I read in 2016 were MG – George (which you really MUST read) and Akata Witch. I’m not sure why I haven’t been reading more, actually! :-)

  5. Love these recs CW! I just recently rediscovered the MG genre, as one of my goals this year was to read & review more children’s books for the same reasons: I want books to recommend to other parents and to my own children. I have to admit, I’ve been enjoying MG more than YA this year (but shhhh don’t tell anyone or there may be an uprising lol)

    I have put The Land of Forgotten Girls and Amina’s Voice on my TBR! We’ve talked about When the Sea Turned to Silver before so you already know I adored that book! Have you picked up any other Grace Lin books yet?

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