11 Middle Grade Books That Explore the Past and Present

Sitting down with a good book is a great way to pass the time, relax, and maybe even learn something new. If you want your kids to develop a reading habit early in life, then you should make sure they have access to a good collection of well-written middle grade novels. The eleven books on this list are a mix of contemporary and historical stories that will entertain young readers while also opening their eyes to new perspectives. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

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11 Middle Grade Books That Explore the Past and Present

Title Author More by the Author
1. The Only Girl in School Natalie Standiford Switched at Birthday The Secret Tree
2. Trouble the Water Frances O'Roark Dowell The Secret Language of Girls Dovey Coe
3. Forget Me Not Ellie Terry
4. Unstoppable Octobia May Sharon G. Flake You Don't Even Know Me Pinned
5. Merci Suárez Changes Gears Meg Medina Burn Baby Burn Flying Lessons & Other Stories
6. Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter Beth Fantaskey Buzz Kill Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
7. Apartment 1986 Lisa Papademetriou Save the Cupcake! The Dreamway
8. Paperboy Vince Vawter Copyboy
9. Friday Night Stage Lights Rachele Alpine You Throw Like a Girl Best. Night. Ever.
10. Mel Foster and the Demon Butler Julia Golding Secret of the Sirens The Gorgon's Gaze
11. Mascot Antony John Elemental Imposter

How to Encourage Kids to Read

A great way to start is to get a bookshelf for your child's room. If they have access to their own collection of books, it'll be easy for them to read at their own pace. And if they're looking at the shelf everyday, reading will always be on their mind. It's also important to give your kids a comfortable place to sit. This can be anything from a rocking chair to a couch to a dedicated reading nook. If they have a space that's just for them, it makes reading time all the more special. As they grow, your young ones will start to read more challenging books with words they don't know. Encourage them to look up unfamiliar terms in the dictionary so they can expand their vocabulary. Finally, if you're having trouble getting your kid interested in books in the first place, try bridging the gap between visual media and literature with graphic novels.

Literary Charities

If you want to spread your love of literature with those in need, then you should consider looking into these non-profit organizations that help kids and teens get access to books and high-quality education.

  1. First Book
  2. Books for Kids
  3. Room to Read
  4. LitWorld
  5. 826 National
  6. KIPP

Why Kids Read

In Depth

Growing up can be difficult. As children get older, they become more aware of the world around them and have to face a lot of changes in their lives, which can be very intimidating. Getting lost in a great middle grade book can help kids process their emotions, with either a relatable protagonist living in the modern day or a historical setting that gives readers a sense of escapism.

With that in mind, we've compiled a list of eleven middle grade books that explore the past and present. Take note that this list is done in no particular order.

First up, at #1, we have "The Only Girl in School" by Natalie Standiford. When her best friend moves out of town, Claire becomes the only girl left in her elementary school. Because of this, she gets an entire bathroom all to herself, which she turns into her own private quarters. Eventually, she starts feeling lonely when her other friend, Henry, stops hanging out with her. Now, she has to deal with unwanted attention from a boy who has a crush on her, and a mysterious person who has been sneaking in and vandalizing her private space.

Eventually, she starts feeling lonely when her other friend, Henry, stops hanging out with her.

Next, at #2, is "Trouble the Water" by Frances O'Roark Dowell. The story, set in 1953, revolves around the unlikely friendship between a black girl and a white boy in Kentucky. Callie is writing an article about a stray dog for the local black newspaper. While searching for the dog's owner, she runs into a boy named Wendell Crow, who helps in her investigation. Their search leads them to a mysterious old cabin with a troubling past, and as they learn more about its history, the tension in their segregated community continues to rise.

At #3 is "Forget Me Not" by Ellie Terry. Calliope June is a girl with Tourette syndrome, and she's forced to move to a new town whenever her mother breaks up with somebody. At her new school, she's ridiculed and bullied because of her condition. Eventually, she becomes friends with her neighbor Jinsong, who happens to be their student body president. Now, she has to convince her mother to finally settle down or else she'll lose the only real friend she's ever had.

Next up, at #4, we have "Unstoppable Octobia May" by Sharon Flake. The eponymous heroine lives in her aunt's boarding house, and suspects that one of the boarders, an old man named Mr. Davenport, may be a vampire. Together with her friends, she has to find evidence to prove her suspicions. Their investigation takes a dangerous turn when they realize what Davenport really is. It's a fast-paced adventure set in the early 1950s that explores the themes of racial discrimination and war.

Together with her friends, she has to find evidence to prove her suspicions.

At #5 is "Merci Suarez Changes Gears" by Meg Medina. Merci Suarez and her brother Roli are scholarship students at a private school in Florida. The novel follows the titular sixth-grader as she tries to deal with both the stress of trying to fit in with her classmates and the rising tensions at home stemming from her grandfather's bout with Alzheimer's.

Next, at #6, is "Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter" by Beth Fantaskey. The story, which takes place in the 1920s, revolves around an aspiring journalist named Isabel, who sells newspapers for a living. One day, she hears a gunshot in a nearby alley, and immediately rushes toward it. There, she finds Miss Giddings, one of her regular customers, standing beside a dead man. Convinced that Giddings didn't kill him, the eponymous heroine starts looking into the case herself.

Next up, at #7, we have "Apartment 1986" by Lisa Papademetriou. Callie studies at a prestigious prep school in New York City, where she lies about herself in order to fit in with the other girls. When she starts skipping classes in order to escape her problems, she finds herself visiting the city's many museums, making a new friend along the way. This is an emotional coming-of-age story that touches on a lot of relevant issues, such as bullying and homophobia.

Callie studies at a prestigious prep school in New York City, where she lies about herself in order to fit in with the other girls.

Next, at #8, is "Paperboy" by Vince Vawter. Based on the author's own childhood experiences, it's about an eleven-year-old boy, known only as Little Man, who stutters. For the month of July, he has to take over his friend's paper route, and he dreads the thought of having to talk to his customers. Throughout the next few weeks, Little Man deals with all sorts of people, ranging from the kind retiree Mr. Spiro to the terrifying Ara T., a dangerous thief who steals his knife.

At #9 is "Friday Night Stage Lights" by Rachele Alpine. It revolves around Brooklyn Gartner, a ballet dancer whose family is obsessed with football. After moving to Texas, she enrolls at a dance studio where she gets paired up with a boy named Jayden. Things get complicated when Jayden breaks his leg, and to make matters worse, the local football team starts training in their studio. Now, Brooklyn needs a new partner for an upcoming show where talent scouts will be present, and her teacher suggests an unlikely substitute.

Next, at #10, is "Mel Foster and the Demon Butler" by Julia Golding. Mel Foster is an orphan with a mysterious past who's sent to work on a ship known as the Albatross. On their way to the North Pole, they come across a frozen monster, who turns out to be Eve, the daughter of Frankenstein's monster. When they return to England, Mel and Eve discover an evil plot to destroy the British Empire, and now they have to work together to stop it.

Mel Foster is an orphan with a mysterious past who's sent to work on a ship known as the Albatross.

Finally, at #11, we have "Mascot" by Antony John. Noah Savino is a baseball player whose life was changed forever after a tragic car accident claimed the life of his father and left him paralyzed. He hates how everyone at school treats him differently because of his condition, and despises the man that his mother has been dating. With the help of his friends Alyssa and Dee-Dub, Noah learns to cope with his emotions and move on with his life.