Excellent Middle Grade Books by Black Authors and good books for kids ages 8 -12. These are great books with stories about Black lives, experiences, and culture.
Talking about race with our children is not just important, it's vital. I am deeply committed to raising kids that are strong and vocal advocates for social justice. Having deep and difficult conversations with kids about race and racism is necessary.
Books are the best tools I've found to open the conversation. Reading books by Black authors offers kids an authentic window into the experience of being Black and opens the door for more empathy and understanding about prejudice and discrimination. Books are also a great way to learn more about Black culture and foster true appreciation for it.
These Middle Grade Books by Black authors span a variety of genres and offer a broad glimpse into Black lives. There's historical fiction about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. There's also realistic contemporary fiction about police violence and modern day racism. And, there are plenty of books on this list that are just about fun and adventure, because it's important to see Black literary characters in a broad and comprehensive way that includes joy, not just struggle.
This is not a comprehensive list of Middle Grade Books by Black Authors; these are just the ones that we have read and loved. I always get my children's input when I create a book list like this, so these are books that have both a kid and parent endorsement. The first 10 books on this list are our most favorite, the rest are in no particular order. We'll add to this list as we read more.
The links in this post are Amazon affiliate links and I do earn a small percentage (at no cost to you) when you purchase through these links. Because I'd like to do more to support Black authors, ALL of the money earned from the sale of these books will be donated to Black Table Arts.
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Middle Grade Books by Black Authors
Sheppy has always believed in the possibles of life - "anything can happen, anything can be." However, when her father dies things start to feel a lot more impossible. Instead of going to summer camp, Sheppy has to get a job working as a helper to a cranky older woman. It's not at all what she had planned, but it turns out there are hidden possibles just waiting to be discovered. This is excellent Realistic Fiction.
The Journey of Little Charlie (National Book Award Finalist)
This book is amazing! It’s Historical Fiction set in the fictional southern town of Possum Moan in the 1850’s. The story is told from the perspective of the protagonist, Little Charlie Bobo, a poor, white southern boy who has spent most of his 12 years working in the fields. When Cap’n Buck, the overseer, shows up at Charlie’s door and claims that his deceased father owed him money, Charlie is forced to accompany him on a journey to Detroit as repayment. It's a gripping page turner.
This book was one of our favorite books of 2018. You can read my full review here.
Bud, Not Buddy
Set in depression-era Michigan, this Newbery Award winner will steal your heart. Bud, not Buddy, is an orphan now but his mother left a handful of clues about who his father is. Bud sets out with just a suitcase and a few ideas to find the mystery man. I couldn't love this book more! Wonderful Historical Fiction.
Some Places More Than Others
This is Contemporary Realistic Fiction about Amara, a 12 year old girl growing up in Seattle. Her dad grew up in New York City but he's always been secretive about his past. When Amara finally convinces her parents that a trip to Harlem is the perfect birthday present, she's determined to go and learn everything she can about her family history. It's beautifully written and has some great activities at the end of the book that really enhance the story.
The Crossover (The Crossover Series)
Note: Because this is written in verse, this is an excellent audiobook. This is one of our favorites! It's Contemporary Realistic Fiction about two twin brothers, basketball stars whose dad was an NBA caliber player in his own day. It's a phenomenal book about growing up and the struggles of junior high.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963
Note: This award winning Historical Fiction book does have some content that may be more appropriate for upper middle grade readers (please preview it if you are concerned). That being said, it's laugh out loud funny, even while painting a very accurate picture of the darker situation in Birmingham 1963. It begins with a family road trip south to visit grandma and it's a true masterpiece of children's literature.
Stella by Starlight
Set in the segregated south, this Historical Fiction story follows young Stella and her little brother. One night they have an unfortunate encounter with the Klan and it sets of a chain of events that requires everyone in town to come together to fight injustice. A beautiful, powerful book.
As Brave As You
This is Contemporary Realistic Fiction about two brothers from Brooklyn who go to rural Virginia to spend the summer with grandpa. But there's no cell reception, no internet, and it turns out grandpa is both a little blind and a little crazy. It looks like it's going to be a boring summer, but when the brothers set out to prove just how brave they are to each other, they realize they have a lot to learn about what it means to "be a man." This is one of Esme's top picks!
This Contemporary Realistic Fiction story is the perfect book to open a conversation about what is happening in the news right now. The story is told by a ghost named Jerome - a 12 year old boy who was shot by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real gun. As he's trying to process what has happened to him, Jerome meets the ghost of Emmett Till and the still living daughter of the policeman who shot him. It's an emotional book, but incredibly well written. This is a must read book for middle grade kids.
This just won the Newbery Award this year and I couldn't be happier about it. It's a Realistic Fiction graphic novel about Jordan Banks, a seventh grader who loves drawing cartoons about his life. But when his parents send him to a prestigious private school, he finds that he’s one of only a few kids of color. He feels like he belongs to two different worlds and he doesn’t really fit into either one.
This is an excellent look at middle school issues, microagression, racism, and friendship.
This is beautiful Contemporary Realistic Fiction about 6 kids who meet together weekly in the ARTT room ( A Room To Talk). A wise teacher sees that these particular kids need a safe place to share and connect and as the kids open up to each other about what is happening in their lives, a real bond and friendship begins to form.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet
Note: There is some content in this book that may be best for upper middle grade readers. This is Contemporary Realistic Fiction about a 12 year old boy living in Harlem. He has recently lost his older brother and he's navigating some serious grief. When his mom's girlfriend brings him a giant trash bag full of Legos for Christmas, he finds a creative outlet to express his feelings. This is an incredible book with so many layers. I loved it!
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Note: There is a lot of lying to parents in this story (which is something I know bothers some parents, so I'm mentioning it here). I thought this was a charming story with a bright and plucky heroine. Zoe Washington's father is in prison, but until a letter from him shows up on her 12th birthday, she never knew anything about him. When she begins a top-secret correspondence with him, he tells her he's actually innocent and she's determined to figure out the truth. Fun and engaging Contemporary Realistic Fiction.
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks
This is collection of 10 stories that come together in the end for one larger picture about a group of kids heading home after school one day. Jason Reynolds is a middle grade master and this book was a huge hit with my kids.
This is an excellent book about racial inequality from a child's perspective. Set during the 1960's, Meg is in the fourth grade and is experiencing trouble at school. Not only is a fellow classmate harassing her, but her teacher doesn't treat her the same as the other students either. At the end of the day, she loves to go home to Mayfield Crossing where the color of her skin isn't an issue. Unfortunately, when her brother's white friend joins the Freedom Riders and is killed, Meg's family and community is blamed. A powerful story by one of my favorite authors!
After the death of his mother, Langston and his father move from Alabama to Chicago. He's feeling homesick and missing his family and friends back home when he discovers the public library and a book by the poet Langston Hughes. This one is a quick read and it's excellent Historical Fiction set in the 1940's.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
I read this book when I was a kid and so many scenes are vivid to me even today. It's still such a relevant book. This classic book is about a Black family in Depression-era Mississippi and the prejudice they experience. I only just now realized that this is part of a series by Mildred Taylor and I plan to read them all soon. Must read Classic Historical Fiction.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong (1))
This is excellent Fantasy for all the Percy Jackson fans out there. Instead of Greek gods, this is the fantastical story of Black American folk heroes like Brer Rabbit and John Henry. It's an action packed story!
The Harlem Charade
This is an intricate Mystery set in Harlem. There are two mysteries to solve, both of which are tangled up together. Elvin's grandfather was viciously attacked. A rare painting is also discovered in the community garden. How are these two things related, you'll have to read and find out!
This book is on our list of Best Scary Middle Grade Books, and it is scary! The author grew up in Trinidad and created this spine tingling story from the Caribbean folk tales she heard as a child. My 11 year old declared this one a Must Read Book.
One Crazy Summer
This book won a pile of awards when it came out, and for good reason! It's the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland in 1968 to spend one crazy summer with their mother who left them six years earlier. Instead of going to Disneyland like they hoped, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. It's a crazy summer, but it's an excellent read. I love this culturally significant Historical Fiction.
A Good Kind of Trouble
12 Year old Shay likes to follow the rules and never goes looking for trouble. But when her sister gives her a Black Lives Matter armband and she wears it to school, she finds herself in a whole heap of trouble. Eventually, Shay realizes, there are somethings worth standing up for and there is such thing as a good kind of trouble. I loved the heartfelt voice in this story. Excellent Realistic Contemporary Fiction.
The Season of Styx Malone
This is a fun and funny story about three boys with a plan to pull of the Great Escalator Trade - exchanging one small thing for something better until they can finally trade for a shiny new scooter. It turns into mayhem and hi-jinx though as the stakes of the trades get higher and higher - at one point a bag of fireworks is traded for a baby sister. It's tons of fun and I laughed out loud more than once.
FREE PRINTABLE BOOK LIST: MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS BY BLACK AUTHORS
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