No two families are alike. They all have varied traditions and identities, and are made up of many different people. My family might look very different than the family that lives next door. Sometimes it’s hard for young children to understand when a family doesn’t resemble their own, or to understand that family can mean so much more than blood relatives. To celebrate that families come in all shapes, sizes, and makeups we have compiled a list of middle grade books that feature nontraditional families. Because you know what they say: “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”
Illustrated by Myisha Haynes
Family doesn’t always have to be the one you are born into, it can be the one you luck into.
When Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert decide to foster a teenage girl for the first time, their lives are changed forever. Their redheaded foster daughter, Anne Shirley, is in search of an exciting life and has decided that West Philly is where she's going to find it. Armed with a big personality and unstoppable creativity, Anne takes her new home by storm as she joins the robotics club, makes new friends in Diana and Gilbert, experiences first love, and turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. But as Anne starts to get comfortable, she discovers one thing she wasn't looking for: a family.
by Chuck Wendig
Families can often be made up of people you don’t know but grow to love. Sometimes there are even monsters! (Actual monsters, not just what you might call your siblings sometimes.)
Thirteen-year-old Molly doesn't know how she got the short end of the stick—being raised by her neglectful father—while Dustin, the older brother she's never met, got their mother and the keys to the family estate. But now the siblings are both orphaned, she's come home for her inheritance, and if Dustin won't welcome her into the family business, then she'll happily take her half in cash.
There's just one problem: the family business is a mortuary for monsters, and Molly's not sure she's ready to deal with mysterious doors, talking wolves, a rogue devourer of magic, and a secret cemetery. It's going to take all of Dustin's stuffy supernatural knowledge and Molly's most heroic cosplay (plus a little help from non-human friends) for the siblings to figure it out and save the day…if only they can get along for five minutes.
Some families are small, some are huge and some have family members you don’t always see but know they are there in heart.
Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only Black girl in town for years. Alberta's best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can't understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black—and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.
Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.
When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie's attic, they team up to figure out exactly who's behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.
by Jaime Berry
Sometimes family only has two people in it, just a girl and her grandma looking for the next adventure.
Eleven-year-old Jubilee Johnson is an expert at three things: crafting, moving, and avoiding goodbyes. On the search for the "perfect place," she and her Nan live by their Number One Relocation Rule—just the two of them is all they need. But Jubilee's starting to feel like just two is a little too close to alone.
Desperate to settle down, Jubilee plans their next move, Hope Springs, Texas—home of her TV crafting idol, Arletta Paisley. Here she meets a girl set on winning the local fishing tournament and a boy who says exactly the right thing by hardly speaking at all. Soon, Jubilee wonders if Hope Springs might just be the place to call home.
But when the town is threatened by a mega-chain superstore fronted by Arletta Paisley, Jubilee is faced with skipping town yet again or standing up to her biggest bully yet. With the help of her new friends and the one person she never thought she'd need—her Momma—will Jubilee find a way to save the town she's come to love and convince Nan that it's finally time to settle down?
Running a petting zoo at a carnival definitely isn’t traditional but who is to say it isn’t normal? And 100% awesome!
Miranda is the lead singer in her family’s musical band, Miranda y Los Reyes. Her family has worked hard performing at festivals and quinceañeras. Now, they have a shot at the main stage. How will Miranda make it a performance to remember?
Flor’s family runs the petting zoo at Mr. Barsetti’s carnival. When she accidentally overhears Mr. Barsetti and Miranda’s dad talk about cutting the zoo to accommodate Miranda y Los Reyes’s main stage salary, she knows she has to take action. Will she have the heart for sabotage once she and Miranda actually start to become friends?
Sometimes in life we change families, building new connections and surrounding ourselves with those we feel closest to. And then sometimes family members we’ve lost touch with want to reconnect, which can be complicated. Though it isn’t always easy, Sunny St. James shows that by finding the might in her own heart, she can open her heart to many people.
Twelve-year-old Sunny St. James navigates heart surgery, reconnecting with her lost mother, first kisses, and emerging feelings for another girl in this stunning, heartfelt novel.
When Sunny St. James receives a new heart, she decides to set off on a “New Life Plan”: 1) do awesome amazing things she could never do before, 2) find a new best friend, and 3) kiss a boy for the first time.
Her “New Life Plan” seems to be racing forward, but when she meets her new best friend Quinn, Sunny questions whether she really wants to kiss a boy at all. With the reemergence of her estranged mother, Sunny begins a journey to becoming the new Sunny St. James.
This sweet, tender novel dares readers to find the might in their own hearts.
by Bridget Farr
Pavi Sharma knows it isn’t easy to be in foster care, so she’s determined to help other kids by teaching them everything she’s learned. Finding a new family isn’t easy either, but this heartwarming story shows the power of support and community.
Twelve-year-old Pavi Sharma is an expert at the Front Door Face: the perfect mix of puppy dog eyes and a lemonade smile, the exact combination to put foster parents at ease as they open their front door to welcome you in. After being bounced around between foster families and shelter stays, Pavi is a foster care expert, and she runs a “business” teaching other foster kids all she has learned. With a wonderful foster family in mom Marjorie and brother Hamilton, things are looking up for Pavi.
Then Pavi meets Meridee: a new five-year-old foster kid, who is getting placed at Pavi’s first horrendous foster home. Pavi knows no one will trust a kid about what happened on Lovely Lane, even one as mature as she is, so it’s up to her to save Meridee.
With help from Hamilton, brooding eighth grader Santos, and Hamilton’s somewhat obnoxious BFF Piper, they set off on an important mission with life-changing stakes. Pavi will stop at nothing to keep Meridee safe.