15 Must Read Middle Grade Books by Black AuthorsBy: Cheryl Long
15 Must Read Middle Grade Books by Black Authors
In honor of Black History month this February, the team wanted to share some excellent own voices Middle Grade stories. Add these titles to your TBR asap and watch for more from these incredibly talented authors.
Keep the conversation going by recommending your own favourite middle grade stories from your favourite Black authors below!
Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas:
While Bree is initially excited for her first day at her new middle school, that excitement quickly turns to fear when all extracurricular clubs are full, except for swim club. Bree is terrified of swimming. Follow Bree’s journey as she overcomes her fears with the help of a kindly neighbour in this fantastic middle grade graphic novel.
Stuntboy, in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds:
Portico Reeves is the superhero you’ve likely never heard of, but after reading this story, will hope to meet someday. Portico lives to keep his family and neighbours safe, but there’s one problem he can’t solve: his parents are fighting more and more. Even worse, all this fighting (and the keeping of people safe) gives him great anxiety. Not to mention his arch-nemesis who is always there to bring him even more trouble and stress.
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton:
For any fan of magical schools with incredible world development, this past OwlCrate Jr book pick is for you. Ella Durand is the first Conjurer to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, and not everyone is happy about it. Most students are weary of her different magic and some are just straight up cruel! But Ella is determined to stay, eventually finding two other “outsiders” to connect with. When her favourite teacher goes missing, Ella finds herself at the centre of speculation. She and her friends must track down the missing professor to clear her family’s name, or lose her spot at the academy forever!
Root Magic by Eden Royce:
1963, segregated South Carolina is a tumultuous year for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away, the local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family, and this fall the schools in South Carolina will become integrated - which leaves Jez and her twin brother Jay nervous. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven and their uncle Doc begins training them in rootwork. Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations, especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs…and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has to see her through.
Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliot:
In this urban fantasy you’ll meet Jaxson who is sent to spend the day with a grumpy old lady named Ma. As it turns out, Ma is a witch and she needs Jaxson help delivering baby dragons to safety in a magical world - the only rule is to not let the dragons out of the bag! And when of course this happens, Jax must safely round up the baby dragons before they are lost forever in Brooklyn…
Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland:
This an absolutely arresting historical fiction paranormal story from master storyteller Justina Ireland about young girl named Ophie who, after one horrible night in Georgia 1922, must move to Pittsburgh to become a maid in a grande manor. A grande manor full of ghosts! Ophie can see and communicate with spirits and is at first reluctant to offer help, but after befriending the ghost of a past maid, begins to do so. But this manor holds many dark secrets and Ophie soon discovers not all spirits have good intentions!
One Crazy Summer by Ria Williams-Garcia:
In the summer of 1968, 11-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters head to California to spend a month with their mother, whom they barely know. But after a cold reception, their mother decides the girls will be spending the month without her, and instead she enrols them in the nearby Black Panther summer camp. If you haven’t picked up this beloved classic yet, make sure to fix that asap!
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston:
When her beloved, and seemingly perfect, older brother Quinton goes missing Amari is devastated … and enraged. Why doesn’t anyone care? But then Amari finds a ticket Quinton left behind for her in a suitcase, a ticket to the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Determined this place will lead to answers regarding his disappearance, Amari ventures to this new school that deals with all things, well, supernatural! Mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians to name a few. Now she must compete for a placement in the school against kids who have known about the supernatural world their whole lives! You’ll root for Amari every step of the way as you get lost in this incredible world B.B. Alston has created. An incredible past OwlCrate Jr pick!
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Calendar:
When Kingston’s brother Khalid dies, he is positive that he transformed into a dragonfly. But Khalid must keep this secret from his grieving family. Even worse, he can’t talk to Sandy, his best friend, as his brother told him to end their friendship just before he died, worried that others will assume Kingston is gay because Sandy is. But when Sandy disappears and King finds him in his backyard, their friendship reunites as King and Sandy build their own sanctuary among the dragonflies by the bayou.
New Kid by Jerry Craft:
Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves to draw and would love to attend art school, but his parents send him instead to a prestigious private school where he is one of few kids of color in his entire grade. Struggling to fit into the two worlds he now inhabits - his Washington Heights neighborhood and the privileged world of Riverdale Academy - can Jordan learn to belong to both and still stay true to himself?
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds:
In this clever middle grade novel, Jason imagines ten tales - one tale per city block - about what happens after the school bell rings. Eventually weaving all the tales together in his singular, funny and poignant way.
MapMaker by Lisa Ramee:
Calling all lovers of maps and hidden worlds, this past OwlCrate Jr pick is for you! Walt’s family has just moved from a life he loved in Los Angeles to boring Blackbird Bay, leaving behind his friends, his pastrami sandwich store, and his wonderfully imperfect mapmaking desk. He and his twin sister aren’t as close as they once were and he and his father are continually butting heads —Walt would much rather draw a map than run another football drill at summer camp! But Walt’s summer is going to get a whole lot more interesting when he discovers he not only has an ability to draw beautiful maps, but the power to create worlds … and destroy them!
Just Right Jillian by Nicole D. Collier:
Fifth-grade Jillian is incredibly smart, but lacks the confidence to speak up and show it. Rather, she likes to “fit-in”, even though that means staying quiet when she has the right answer. Now, to fulfill a promise to her grandmother, Jillian will compete in the school’s biggest academic competition - showing her grandmother, herself, and everyone else her truest self.
The Last Last-Day-Of-Summer by Lamar Giles:
Have you ever wished summer holidays could last forever? Otto and Sheed, local sleuths of their Virginia town, wish for those fun-filled summer days to last just a little longer. When a man named Mr. Flux freezes time with his magical camera, they realized the old adage “be careful what you wish for” is in fact very true. Everyone in town is now frozen! And it’s up to the them to save everyone…
A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow:
A little bit of spookiness, Caribbean folklore, and a whole lot of heart combine in this past OwlCrate Jr pick. Kela is devastated by the sudden passing of her beloved mother, pushing aside her friends in her grief. One day while collecting “mermaids tears” on the beaches of St. Rita, she discovers a magical comb that once belonged to a powerful - and wrathful - mermaid named Ophidia. Kela makes a bargain to return the comb in exchange for bringing her mother back to life. But dark magic often has dangerous consequences!