Kids often hear the phrase “just be yourself” from the adults in their lives: but it can be so difficult to know what that means! How can you be “yourself”, if you don’t know who you are? The characters from these kids’ books are all going through the exact same thing.
The road to finding yourself is a lifelong journey that we’re all taking. But if your kid needs advice, or simply a kid character that they can empathize with, try these fantastic middle grade books all about searching for identity!
Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years — so when a new family (twelve-year-old Edie and her mother) moves into the bed and breakfast across the street, she’s ecstatic to learn that they’re black too. Alberta and Edie are from two different worlds and don’t always get along: but when they discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they’ll work together to uncover who left them behind and the painful secrets they were hiding. Alberta is such a sweet character! She doesn’t know exactly what she wants from life, but she’s ready to figure it out. She’s perceptive when it comes to family and friend dynamics, and is willing to learn how to be flexible with change. And I absolutely loved seeing her grow and discover what she truly values in Brandy Colbert’s middle grade debut!
On top of being an action-packed adventure with a rich fantasy setting and gorgeous illustrations, Niki Smith’s graphic novel about two siblings finding their true selves is meaningful and heart-warming. For fans of The Witch Boy and The Legend of Korra, The Deep & Dark Blue begins when twins Hawke and Grayson run from their noble house after a political coup. They then assume new identities, as Hanna and Grayce, and seek safety at the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will. When all the odds are stacked against Grayce, she still finds the strength to be her true self. I really hope that all kids (trans and not!) will be able to find themselves in her’s and Hawke’s story — while also being blown away by its fast-paced, epic tale!
After undergoing a heart transplant surgery, Sunny is determined to make over her life. First step is getting a new best friend after her old best friend betrayed her in the worst way. Luckily she finds Quinn, the cute new girl in town, right at the beginning of the summer. The next step? Get her first kiss with a boy. The only thing is, Sunny starts to realize that she might want to kiss girls too — Quinn in particular. Through poetry, music, and other art forms, Sunny begins to piece together who she is amidst these intense changes and revelations. Sunny’s journey is so inspiring, and I know you’ll be inspired too!
Do you have a favorite Jennifer Torres book? I love all of them because they feature sweet and smart girl characters learning to overcome challenges, but The Fresh New Face of Griselda holds a special place in my heart. After her family loses their home, Griselda is determined to help restart her father’s business by selling Alma lip gloss to her classmates. Griselda is often torn between doing what her parents want and the path that her sister is taking, and how those two things shape her own identity. Griselda must learn how she fits into her family and how she exists outside of it. So if you’ve already finished Flor and Miranda Steal the Show and Stef Soto, Taco Queen, make sure to pick up Griselda!
As 10 year-old Candace’s birthday quickly approaches, she promises herself that she’s going to break out of her introverted shell (even if it’s just a little bit). So when a secret recording of her gorgeous singing catches the attention of her whole church, she needs to make a decision: stay out of the spotlight by pretending it’s someone else singing in the recording, or finally embrace her voice within. Candace’s journey is all about faith, friendship, and the difficulties of growing up — it’s a perfect story for anyone in Candace’s shoes right now and needs a little guidance and a little bit of hope.