Thursday, April 8, 2021

Ask a Librarian: 10 diverse middle grade reads with female protagonists

I get asked for book suggestions a lot as a librarian, so I thought I'd start a new series!  

Feel free to send me your questions at!  

(Disclaimer:  If you purchase a book through the links, I may make a small commission.  
You can also look for these books at your local library!)

Question:  What does your 9-12 year old love to read? Preferably with a female main character. We have already been through Little House, Nancy Drew, all Beverly Clearly's stuff, and many others--but hunting fresh and new and wonderful.

Answer: Now is a GREAT time for middle grade books! There are SO many choices that offer diverse perspectives. This age is a great time for a diverse list of books, exposing readers to different cultures, races, and experiences through stories!

Counting by Stars by Holly Goldberg Sloan follows a a 12 year genius, Willow, who finds comfort in order and in counting by 7s as she navigates life after her adoptive parents die in an automobile accident.  It follows her grief and how she learns to open up and find a group of people she can connect with.  

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is about Ally, a smart girl with dyslexia who has been able to hide her inability to read by being a disruption in the classroom.  She finally gets to a teacher who sees beneath the troublemaker and helps her not only learn to read, but also learn that she can be more than her label.  

Amal Unbound by Aisa Saeed is about Amal, a young girl in a Pakastani village who unwittingly becomes an indentured servant, dashing her dreams of becoming a teacher.  She learns of others who are in the same situation as she is and works to make a difference for herself, for them, and for her community.  

In Front Desk by Kelly Yang, Mia Tang is a young immigrant who lives in a motel that her parents manage.  At 10 years old, Mia manages the front desk as her parents clean the rooms.  She dreams of being a writer, but as her parents offer free rooms to other immigrants, they may be doomed when the cruel motel owner finds out.  

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is an amazing book.  The protagonist, 11-year-old Melody has cerebral palsy and because of that cannot talk, cannot walk, and cannot write.  However, she is much smarter than most people assume, in fact, she is the smartest student in her entire school.  And she is determined to prove it somehow.  

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is based on a true story.  It is actually 2 stories, told in alternating sections of 2 children.  A girl named Nya and a boy named Salva.  Nya fetches water twice a day from a pond that is a two hour walk from her home.  Salva becomes one of the "Lost Boys" of the Sudan, refugees who walk to find family and a place of safety.  Their stories intersect in a moving way.  

Set in the 1920s, Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk is about a young orphan, Crow, who was raised on a tiny island in Massachusetts.  This story follows her journey to discover who she is, where she came from, and the true meaning of family.  

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga is about Jude, a young Syrian girl who has to move to the United States with her mother when things turn violent in their town.  She has to maneuver a whole new culture and school, all with her brother and father still in Syria.  

Stella Diaz has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez is about Stella Diaz, a girl whose best friend is in a different class this year.  As she tries to befriend a new boy at school, her confusion with speaking Spanish when she means to speak English embarrasses her.  But she has to overcome her fears for a big presentation.  

Set in South Carolina in the 1960s and 70s, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson tells what life was like for African-Americans in that time.  Told in verse form, it is the memoir of the author.  


  1. This is a treasure trove! Thank you SO MUCH for these suggestions. I can't wait to give them to my daughter.


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