10 Middle Grade Books for Mental Health Awareness Month

By: Shanleigh Klassen

May is Mental Health Awareness Month where we shine a spotlight on the importance of caring for every person’s mental health.

There’s been such a wave of middle grade books that have been published in recent years that center around honest portrayals of mental health and mental illness, which we love to see. It’s important for everyone to feel seen and represented, and these books remind us that we’re not alone in what we’re going through.

We’ve put together a list of just a few of the middle grade books available that discuss mental illnesses. Take a look below to get started. 

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom
by Sangu Mandanna
  • Anxiety and OCD
    Book cover for Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna. A young Indian child with their long brown hair in a pony tail wears a read flowing cape and a purple jumpsuit as they leap into the air towards the demonic, horned figure in the foreground. Behind these two, a colourful building with rounded roofs is in the background with the going from blue around the edges to a bright yellow centered around the leaping child.

Kiki has always been a self-described worrier, but lately, her anxieties have been getting out of control. The one thing that has always soothed her is drawing and Kiki's sketchbook is full of doodles of the rich Indian myths and legends her mother has told her. One day, her sketchbook's calming effect is broken when her characters begin springing to life right out of their pages. When Kiki ends up falling into the mystical world she drew, she discovers that she’s responsible for all the hardships that exist in this world. Kiki must overcome her fear and anxiety to save both her worlds from an evil that threatens total destruction.


Guts by Raina Telgemeier
  • Anxiety
    Book cover for Guts by Raina Telgemeier. A yellow emoji-like smiley face is centered on a purple background, only the face has its tongue sticking out and looks very worried. A Gold Eisner award has been placed on the book in the top right corner.

In the third graphic memoir by this incredible award-winning author, Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. She brushes it off as just a bug, but then Raina returns to school and has to deal with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina's tummy trouble isn't going away . . . and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. This is a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story that focuses on the physical toll anxiety can take, and the complexities of growing up.


Quintessence by Jess Redman
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
    Book cover for Quintessence by Jess Redman. A young child with long dark hair and wearing a long white dress stands with one hand raised above them towards a glowing object that's falling down towards them. In the wake of the falling object are bright red streaks that break up the dark teal night sky.

Three months ago, Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped. Every day she feels less and less like herself. Then Alma meets the mysterious ShopKeeper in the town's junk shop, The Fifth Point. The ShopKeeper gives her a telescope . . . and a quest. Alma watches as a star — a star that looks like a child — falls from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home, and with the help of some unlikely new friends, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of astronomy, a little bit of alchemy, and her whole self.


Stuntboy, in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Raúl the Third
  • Anxiety
    Book cover for Stuntboy, in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Raúl the Third. A young Black child with short brown hair and wearing a red cape over top their yellow shirt, black shorts, and an 'S' belt stands proudly on a city rooftop. Behind the child is a brown water tower. A magenta Schneider Family honour award sticker has been placed to the right of the child.

Portico’s superpower is making sure all the other superheroes in his life — like his parents and two best friends — stay super safe. And he does this all in secret as Stuntboy! But his regular Portico identity is pretty cool, too, except for his not-so-super secret: His parents are fighting all the time. They’re trying to hide it but Portico knows, and all these secrets give him the frets, which his mom calls anxiety. Plus, Portico has an arch-nemesis in the neighborhood bully who is determined to prove that there is nothing super about Portico at all. Ultimately, this is a story about a boy navigating a difficult time with a great heart and an even greater sense of humor.


No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen
  • Parent with Bipolar disorder
    Book cover for No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. A young multi-racial child with curly blond hair and holding a gerbil in their outstretched arm sits atop an old VW van with red curtains and a string of laundry across the windshield. In the window of the van is a small garden gnome that's been placed on the dashbaord.

Felix has a knack for trivia and his favorite game show is Who What Where When. Felix's mom, Astrid, is loving but can't seem to hold on to a job. So when they get evicted from their latest shabby apartment, they have to move into a van and Astrid swears him to secrecy. If he tells anyone about their living arrangement, she warns him, he'll be taken away from her and put in foster care. As their circumstances go from bad to worse, Felix gets a chance to audition for a junior edition of Who What Where When, and he's determined to earn a spot on the show to win the cash prize. Eye-opening, heartbreaking, and hopeful, this is an incredible story about resilience and love.


The Sea in Winter by Christine Day
  • Depression
    Book cover for The Sea in Winter by Christine Day. A young child with black hair, wearing a red toque and puffy winter coat, stands in a clearing of snow, surrounded by snow-covered fir trees.

It’s been a hard year for Maisie ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions. Although her blended family is loving and supportive, Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up. But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee and she can’t keep pretending to be strong when inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean. Moving and honest, this story offers a glimpse into a personal journey of healing and hope.


The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
  • Parent with depression
    Book cover for The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller. Behind the red title font is a broken egg, the yolk centered in between both pieces. Image is on a teal background.

When Natalie's science teacher suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie thinks that this might be the perfect solution to all of her problems. There's prize money, and if she and her friends win, then she can fly her botanist mother to see the miraculous Cobalt Blue Orchids — flowers that survive against impossible odds. Natalie's mother has depression, and Natalie is sure that the flowers' magic will inspire her mom to love life again. Although Natalie is certain her plan will “save” her mother, this is just the beginning of a journey where Natalie will discover the science of hope, love, and miracles


All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker
  • Parent with depression
    Book cover for All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker. Various brownstone buldings are shown in the background leading towards the foreground. In the front-most building, a young white child with brown hair leans out of an open tall domed window. Pigeons fly between the buildings and the title font.

In SoHo, 1981, Ollie is an artist and in her neighborhood, that's normal. Her dad and his business partner Apollo bring antique paintings back to life, while her mother makes sculptures in a corner of their loft, leaving Ollie to roam the streets of New York with her best friends Richard and Alex. But then everything falls apart. Ollie's dad disappears, leaving her only a cryptic note. Her mom has gone to bed, and she's not getting up. Apollo is hiding something, Alex is acting strange, and Richard has questions about a mysterious stranger. This lovely and meaningful story covers a wide range of topics, all with artful honesty.


A Duet For Home by Karina Yan Glaser
  • Parent with depression
    Book cover for A Duet For Home by Karina Yan Glaser. The foreground shows the backs of two dark-haired children, one with long hair in a ponytail the other with short hair. The long-haired child has a violin case on their back. These two children look towards the house in the background, where there are two multi-racial children leaning out of open windows and waving at the first two, and a tall Black woman with long braided hair exits the building with a big white haired fluffy dog in the lead.

It's June’s first day at Huey House, and as if losing her home wasn’t enough, she also can’t bring her cherished viola inside. Before the accident last year, her dad saved tip money for a year to buy her viola, and she’s not about to give it up now. Tyrell has been at Huey House for three years and gives June a glimpse of the good things about living there: friendship, hot meals, and a classical musician next door. But when a new housing policy threatens to put homeless families in danger, June and Tyrell come up with a plan to draw attention to the government proposal and shine a light on all the people these policies tend to ignore.


Up For Air by Laurie Morrison
  • Side character with an eating disorder
    Book cover for Up for Air by Laurie Morrison. A young White child with braided blonde hair and wearing a black one-piece swimsuit swims below the pink title font in air bubbles.

Annabelle struggles in school, no matter how hard she tries. But as soon as she dives into the pool, she’s unstoppable. She’s the fastest girl on the middle school swim team, and when she’s asked to join the high school team over the summer, everything changes. Suddenly, Annabelle thinks she’ll finally stand out in a good way. But after a prank goes wrong, Annabelle can’t swim and wonders who she is without the one thing she’s good at. Heartwarming and relatable, this story covers a variety of hard-hitting topics, but always with the theme of recovery and healing in mind.


For more middle grade book recommendations that discuss mental health, make sure you also check out these two great lists from Brightly and Reading Middle Grade

Brightly | 12 Kid-Approved Middle Grade Books That Tackle Mental Health
Reading Middle Grade | 48 Middle Grade Books About Mental Illness