Own More: 19 Voices and Five Books for Middle Grade Readers

By Jeff B. RSS Mon, May 24, 2021

We're sharing with you another batch of #ownvoices titles by diverse authors writing from their own experience!

Like our previous post, all of these titles can be found in multiple formats through our catalog.

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Indigenous North American)
Sixteen short stories and two poems present Indigenous youth attending a two-day intertribal powwow reflecting on kinship and community. Each piece shares the personal struggles, family joy, belief systems, and stunning regalia of various nations, including the Cree, Ojibwe, Choctaw, Cherokee, Navajo, Abenaki, and Haudenosaunee, through the eyes of the young protagonists. A thoughtful and sometimes funny celebration, for experienced powwow-goers and those new to the experience, who will enjoy the welcoming warmth of the festivities.


The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean (LGBTQIA+, Transgender)
[Trigger Warning: implied abuse and incest]
10-year-old Rowan, a transgender boy, sends letters via balloon, hoping someone out there will read them. It's 1997 and Rowan is starting fifth grade. He knows he's a boy, but no one else understands. He's sorry for being weird. The author sensitively, without an ounce of condescension, captures the struggle of being a child who just can't fit in and doesn’t understand why. Over the course of the school year, Rowan, and his new best friend Sofie, struggle to make sense of what is right and wrong, good and bad, in their working-class world. While the book tackles big issues, primarily addressing being trans and queer and surviving incest, as well as touching on parental incarceration, anyone who has ever been a sad or confused child will be able to see a little bit of themselves in Rowan and Sofie. A remarkable, affecting novel.


The Blue Wings by Jef Aerts (Neuro-diverse)
An offbeat novel tenderly depicting the bond between 11-year-old Josh and 16-year-old Jadran, brothers who are so close they fall asleep matching the rhythm of their breaths. Affectionately called "Giant" by Josh and the siblings' single mother, physically large Jadran has an unnamed cognitive condition, and Josh has always proudly served as his "guardian angel." After an accident where Jadran causes Josh serious injuries, The Space—Jadran’s specialized school—offers Jadran residency because it is "better for everyone." Rebelling against the separation, and under the guise of returning a recently rescued baby crane to his now-faraway flock, the boys make a madcap escape via tractor, wheelchair, and crane in tow. The brothers' love and loyalty, as well as their newly blended family's growing union, gives the story a strong emotional foundation.


What If A Fish by Anika Fajardo (Colombian-American)
It is the summer before sixth grade, and Eddie Aguado's life is taking several unexpected turns. Eddie's best friend has moved away and he's looking forward to the arrival of his older half-brother from Colombia. His Colombian father died when he was little and he hardly remembers him now, but he has his dad's black hair and brown eyes (his mom is white), and his skin is "the color of coffee ice cream." Because of his looks, he's asked where he's from, and he wonders if he can be Colombian if he doesn't speak Spanish. Summer suddenly changes when Big Eddie announces he's not coming because his Abuela is very sick and asks if Little Eddie can come to Cartagena instead. Though she's not his Abuela, she would like to meet him. It is this month-long stay in a new environment, culture, and language followed by his subsequent return to Minnesota that helps Eddie come to an understanding of family, friendship, and identity. All this through Eddie's perceptive present-tense narration, which is both poetic and believable, this book will have readers rooting for its sweet and smart protagonist.


Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story) by Daniel Nayeri (Iranian-American)
A mostly true story of Khosrou, who becomes Daniel, and the two lives he has lived in just 11 years. First, there's his life back in Iran, then there's his life now, in Oklahoma. In the voice of his younger self, Nayeri casts himself as Scheherazade, with readers as his king; we hold his life in our hands. Should we believe his tales? His classmates in Oklahoma don't. No one believes that the smelly kid who is too poor to pay for lunch in the cafeteria once lived in a beautiful house and dined with the prince of Abu Dhabi. Even Nayeri admits his memory is shaky. Was that really the prince of Abu Dhabi? It's hard to know when you're a kid who's just escaped a religious death squad by fleeing to a foreign country. Nayeri is a gifted writer whose tales of family, injustice, tragedy, faith, and history fit together to create an experience where reacting with indifference is simply not possible. A deeply personal book that makes a compelling case for empathy and hope.


Stay tuned for more examples from this rich and growing collection. What other titles by diverse authors have you discovered recently? Let us know in the comments!

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