Friendship is one of the core themes of middle grade fiction. The middle grade years of a child’s life encompass big changes with friendships, and it’s not just making friends that comes up, but also keeping the ones you have and letting go of friendships aren’t working. The great middle grade books about friendship featured in this list all tackle this theme through a diverse range of experiences, settings, and characters.
These middle school books about friendship problems can help tweens navigate the challenges of friendship and thrive in social situations that are tricky to maneuver. From dynamic duos to best buddies, these are must-reads for anyone looking to learn more about what makes a healthy, thriving friendship.
The Best Middle Grade Books About Friendship
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
When Amina gets to middle school, everything seems to change. What hurts the most is watching her best friend, Soojin, pull away from her and start hanging out with one of the “cool” girls in school, Emily. Amina is rattled when Soojin tells her she’s thinking of changing her name to “Susan” when her family becomes American citizens, which prompts Amina to doubt her own choices. This touching story is a must for anyone who’s ever had second doubts and those who’ve felt the sting of changing friendships.
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin
In this clever story, elf emissary Brangwain Spurge is sent to the rival goblin kingdom on a diplomatic mission. His host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is excited for the company and eager to be an accommodating host. Unfortunately, the visit soon goes awry as misunderstandings pile up. Eventually, Werfel and Spurge must team up and let go of their differences. Yelchin’s sharp illustrations show us what words cannot in this friendship story.
Bob by Wendy Mass, Rebecca Stead, and Nicholas Gannon
What happens when friends are distanced by years and miles? In Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead’s Bob, illustrated by Nicolas Gannon, Livy returns to visit her grandparents in Australia. It’s been five years since she last befriended Bob, an amicable creature who has been waiting in the closet for all five years like Livy said to do. Picking things up where they left off is anything but easy in this story about fleeting friendships and those that stick.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
One of the classic children’s books about friendships that rings true even today, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy is a timeless tale of navigating friendships and social situations. Harriet, our spunky titular character, wants to be a spy more than anything else. She copies down scrupulous — and often brutally, painfully honest — notes about the kids and adults in her life. When her notebook is discovered, Harriet must find a way forward that corrects the harsh truths she’s exposed and paves the way back to friendship with Sport, her best friend, and her classmates.
The Midnight Gang by David Walliams
British kid lit author David Walliams is often compared to Roald Dahl, and for good reason. His humorous tales, lavishly illustrated, are madcap fun, especially for reluctant readers. In The Midnight Gang, Tom is sent to the hospital after a gym class accident. Locked up in the children’s ward with a bunch of other kids, Tom helps his newfound friends escape the wretched matron nurse who runs his the unit. The children’s nightly escapades help foster the bonds between them that strengthen their alliance and make the most of a tough situation.
Moo by Sharon Creech
A tough move takes city slickers Reena and her family to rural Maine. In her new settings, 12-year-old Reena is tasked with looking after her quirky neighbor Mrs. Falala’s cow Zora, the majestic and moody Belted Galloway. As Reena and her little brother Luke discover life on a farm is not so bad, they settle in and make new friends. This book is an especially good middle grade book about friendship because it reflects the bonds kids build not just with each other, but with animals, too.
A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan
Sixth graders Sara and Elizabeth come from different backgrounds to team up as cooking buddies in this delicious foodie story. Sara is nervous at her new school, having just left her Islamic school. Elizabeth, a Jewish girl, searches for anything that could help her mother overcome depression, including signing up for an after school class in a South Asian cooking course taught by Sara’s mom. Together, the girls form a bond and work to try to land a spot on a local food TV show. But will their alliance transfer to a real friendship outside class?
Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
It’s 1880 in heartland America, and Hanna feels out of place with her half-Asian roots in her new small town suspicious of outsiders. Hanna tries to make the best of her situation by pursuing an education, going after her dream of being a dress maker for her father’s shop, and making friends, but she faces baked-in prejudice to Asians. Award-winning author Linda Sue Park has said she aspired to write a more diverse Little House on the Prairie in this spirited historical novel about family bonds, discrimination, and unlikely friendships on the frontier.
My Year in the Middle by Lila Quintero Weaver
1970. Red Grove, Alabama. Lu Olivera’s 6th grade year is not going great. For one, her most trusted friends seem to only care about boys and view her new talent in track and field with disdain. Lu longs to befriend her teammate Belinda, but the racial divides in her school and in her state make the friendship hard to foster. When Alabama politicians create tinderbox dynamics in the state, Lu faces big choices about keeping quiet vs. speaking out and finding friends with the same values.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
This award-winning graphic novel by Jerry Craft stars 7th grader Jordan Banks, an aspiring artist who loves to draw. While Jordan hopes to attend an art school, his parents send him to an elite private school where Jordan and his friends are some of the few children of color in his grade. Jordan finds himself town between two worlds: the prestigious culture at school and the more diverse neighborhood he returns to at night. New Kid is a great children’s book about friendships that resonates with many marginalized kids caught between the cultures of home and school and the friendships they both forge and maintain.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Katherine Applegate’s heart wrenching, soul affirming novel The One and Only Ivan is an award-winning middle grade friendship novel. The book centers Ivan, an artistic gorilla at a zoo housed in a mall. When a new animal moves into the zoo, a cute baby elephant named Stella, Ivan takes it upon himself to help them both escape from their cruel master and give them — and their little dog friend Bob — hope for a better future.
Rumple Buttercup by Matthew Gray Gubler
This adorable book for middle grade readers is filled with the restorative power of kindness and self-love. In Matthew Gray Gubler’s tale, Rumple Buttercup is a banana-loving creature who lives in the sewer. Self-conscious Rumple Buttercup only feels safe to leave his home once a year when a celebration on the streets distracts people from seeing him. Will he ever accept himself for his quirky self and brave it to leave his home and enter the larger community? You’ll have to read to find out.
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
A multi award-winner, Kekla Magoon’s The Season of Styx Malone resonates with any reader who has ever had a special friendship blossom during the course of a summer. In this novel, Caleb and Bobby Jean beat summertime boredom when they meet seemingly fearless, unstoppable Styx Malone, a new neighbor who widens their world and brings infinite fun to the doldrums of the season. But flashy, confident Styx harbors secrets that could change everything.
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
In Small Spaces, a creepy ghost story for kids, 11-year-old Ollie is grieving the loss of her mother and struggling to make friends at school. Ollie find a mysterious book that speaks of a rivalry for romantic attention between two brothers and a girl, a conflict that ended in a bargain with the wicked Smiling Man. When Ollie and her classmates go on a field trip to a local farm, the supernatural tale come to life, forcing Ollie to make new friends and do what’s hardest: to let people in.
Stargazing by Jen Wang
At first glance, Christine and her new neighbor Moon seem to have nothing in common. But their close proximity helps their friendship flourish as the two unlikely buddies become besties. Moon even shares with Christine her secret, that she has visions of celestial beings who call out to her from the galaxy of stars. When Moon falls ill, Christine tries to help save her. This poignant tale tells what many kids learn: when it comes to friendships, sometimes opposites attract best!
Want more great children’s and middle grade books about friendship? Check out these posts!