While I loved back to school shopping and supplies, the actual going back part? The social interaction and ever-changing confusing landscape of friendships?
Yeah, that part I was never good at.
It’s still a mystery to me today!
But here are some excellent middle grade reads that explore this challenging time: centring around school, back-to-school time, and the struggle that is middle grade social interaction, anxiety, and finding the definition of self.
1. Smile by Raina Telgemeier: 6th grader Raina endures a painful period of braces, headgear, surgery, fake teeth and a whole mess of embarrassment. Confusing emotions, boys, mean friends and general lack of control of the world beyond her … this is basically middle grade in one awkward, relatable package.
2. The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin: What I love here is the exploration of bullying from the bully point of view. In her misery to fit in Caitlyn is awfully cruel to another girl at her former school … does this define her? Can you change and how? A great novel for the preteen who is maybe acting in a way they aren’t proud of. Excellent quirky characters, finding friendship, finding your inner strength are all topics explored here.
3. The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu: Iris and Lark are about to embark into 5th grade and for the first time they won’t be in the same class, sending both into a tailspin. This novel provides an excellent exploration on anxiety in its many forms and is a fantastic read for a preteen looking for reflection in that shared experience.
4. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez: What does a raw chicken, space-time continuum, 7th grade, and the first week of school have in common? This book! This own voices novel is rich with Cuban-American culture, food, school, social dynamics, bullying and laughter.
5. Real Friends by Shannon Hale: If you were a girl (or know one) who struggled with the ever-changing landscape of female friendship, popularity, bullying, and finding strength this will take you back to that roller-coaster.
6. Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone: I had to include this. If you (or a middle grader in your life) is having a tough week, this is just a big slice of comfort pie.