19 Book Recommendations for Kids Who Loved Wonder

by Melissa Taylor

Some books change the world. Some books change us. The best books do both.

If you’ve followed the “Choose Kind” movement based on R.J. Palacio’s book, Wonderyou know that Wonder does both.

Wonder pushes us toward compassion, empathy, and acceptance of differences. It reminds me of several other amazing middle grade chapter books that do the same thing. These books, like Wonder, will change the life of the reader.

  • Mockingbird

    by Kathryn Erskine

    Caitlin lives with Asperger’s Disorder, meaning her brain understands the world in a unique, more black-and-white way. Her older brother, Devon, used to help her make sense of the confusing things in the world, but he was killed in a school shooting. Caitlin tries to figure out his death and her world as her father retreats into his sorrow. This is a compelling story with hard issues that will leave you profoundly affected and better able to understand the perspective of someone with Asperger’s Disorder.

  • Stargirl

    by Jerry Spinelli

    I think all teenagers should read this book. Stargirl is a former homeschooler who begins public school for the first time. In a word, she’s weird. But she’s herself. Leo finds he’s both enamored and embarrassed by her. He wants Stargirl to act like other people, what he considers “normal.” The book forces us to ask the question: Do we conform to the pressures of the crowd or do we stick with our individuality? Which pretty much sums up the high school experience.

  • Ugly

    by Robert Hoge

    Author Robert Hoge was born with deformed legs and a giant tumor between his eyes. Numerous surgeries left him with a face that even his mother struggled to love. With honesty and grace, Robert recounts the struggles of growing up “ugly” and his determination to rise above life’s challenges. As a real-life Auggie Pullman, Robert’s story is a reminder that our shortcomings don’t dictate who we are and what we're capable of.

  • What the Moon Saw

    by Laura Resau

    Clara is forced to spend the summer with her Mexican grandparents in Mexico, grandparents she doesn’t know. She feels very confused and conflicted about her heritage, but by spending time in Mexico, Clara comes to understand who she is, and grows into herself. All of us can relate to these kinds of feelings, and it gives us a chance to understand the perspective of living within two distinct cultures.

  • See You in the Cosmos

    by Jack Cheng

    Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski has a golden iPod — one he hopes to one day launch into space as a record of life on Earth. On it he records his thoughts and adventures as he journeys from Colorado to New Mexico and then on to Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Along the way, Alex uncovers secrets about his family that will change his life forever — with only his kind yet equally lost new friends to help him. A beautiful story about the importance of unconditional love and forgiveness in a complicated world.

  • The Book Thief

    by Markus Zusak

    It’s wartime in Nazi Germany, a time when children like Liesel are living with foster families, Jews are in hiding, and books are burned. Liesel steals books, books she wants to learn to read. Despite the horrors of her brother’s death and the ongoing war, the books, her foster dad, the Jewish man named Max hidden in the basement, and her friend, Rudy, bring a sense of beauty and hope to Liesel’s life … and to ours for having experienced it with Liesel.

  • White Bird: A Wonder Story

    by R. J. Palacio

    One of the lovable things about Wonder (of which there are many!) are all the wonderful characters that populate Auggie’s world. One such character is Julian’s grandmother, Grandmère, and in R. J. Palacio’s latest, Grandmère’s powerful backstory unfolds in an immersive graphic novel. As a young Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied France, Grandmère’s safety relied on the kindness and courage of others — a message that she passes on to Julian.

  • Fish in a Tree

    by Lynda Mulally Hunt

    Sixth-grader Ally has a secret: she’s pretty sure she’ll never be able to read or write, at least not like the other kids. The daughter of a military family, Ally’s moved from school to school, so no one’s ever picked up on her learning disability. When her substitute teacher, Mr. Daniels, looks beneath Ally’s veneer of acting out, he discovers a young girl struggling with dyslexia and lets her know that she can learn to manage it — and, perhaps most importantly, that she’s not alone.

  • Counting by 7s

    by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    At the outset of Counting by 7s, 12-year-old Willow Chance suffers a devastating loss when her adoptive parents die in a car accident. While that might seem like a heartbreaking premise (and it is!), Willow’s story is full of hope and triumph as she begins middle school and reaches out from her quirky yet endearing headspace (did I mention she’s an actual genius?) to create a surrogate and loving family.

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    by Maya Angelou

    Maya Angelou’s beloved memoir is difficult but joyous, poetic yet forthright. Capturing the first 17 years of Angelou’s life, the book was originally published in 1969 and quickly cemented its place in the literary canon. Angelou’s story covers heavy topics — including racism, sexual assault, and teenage pregnancy — but it also portrays her resilience and love for others and the written word, and it’s certainly not a story confined to history. Reading this with your teen can be a powerful experience.

  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

    by Mildred D. Taylor

    Now in a beautiful anniversary edition, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is helmed by the unforgettable voice of nine-year-old Cassie Logan, who’s growing up in the South during the Great Depression. Cassie’s family faces plenty of strife as a black family living in a segregated part of the country, and struggles to keep their land during a financially perilous era. Readers will empathize with Cassie’s pursuit to understand her surroundings, and they can go on to read more from the Logan Family Saga.

  • Maxi’s Secrets

    by Lynn Plourde

    Middle schooler Timminy refers to himself as “bully bait,” so he’s none too pleased to be the new kid. But his new dog — a gentle giant of a pup named Maxi, who turns out to be deaf — and his new neighbor — a girl named Abby, who’s blind — teach Timminy a thing or two about overcoming adversity. A frank and funny story great for reading aloud, Maxi’s Secrets will have the whole family cheering along.

  • Hole in the Middle

    by Kendra Fortmeyer

    In Fortmeyer’s delightfully strange debut novel, 17-year-old Morgan Stone decides to finally bare it all to the world: specifically, the fist-sized hole through her stomach that only her doctor, mother, and best friend have ever known about. Obsessed as it is with beauty standards, the internet explodes with Morgan’s revelation, just as she’s introduced to the boy who can supposedly cure her. Morgan’s fluctuating insecurities about her body are ultra-relatable, and this powerful story of friendship, love, and consent is a must-read.

  • My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

    by Ibi Zoboi

    In the summer of 1984, Ebony-Grace Norfleet is in for the change of her life when she leaves her quiet home in Huntsville, Alabama, to stay with her dad in bustling Harlem. Ebony-Grace grew up with her grandfather, one of the first black engineers to work for NASA, and she’d rather imagine her future space missions than learn how to break dance. But she may just discover that there’s room in her new neighborhood for dreamers like her.

  • The Boy at the Back of the Class

    by Onjali Q. Raúf

    Raúf’s big-hearted debut centers on a London classroom and the empty chair in the back that’s one day filled by a boy named Ahmet, who fled the Syrian War and was separated from his family along the way. The nine-year-old students of Mrs. Khan’s classroom are curious about and empathetic for Ahmet, and they’re determined to help him see his family again. This timely story full of kindness and hope will spark important conversations about the refugee crisis.

  • Bud, Not Buddy

    by Christopher Paul Curtis

    Curtis’s award-winning classic follows 10-year-old Bud on his quest to find the man he suspects to be his father in depression-era Michigan. Everything he owns fits in a cardboard suitcase, but he’s also got pluck, resilience, and Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself. Along the way, Bud meets down-and-out yet generous characters, including those he stays within a shanty-town community. This eye-opening, rollicking read has been a reader favorite since its 1999 debut.

  • The Bubble Wrap Boy

    by Phil Earle

    Charlie Han is quite small in stature, to put it mildly, and his well-intentioned but overbearing mother goes to great lengths to keep him from getting hurt. (He doesn’t find a neon vest necessary when delivering takeout by daylight, for instance, but she disagrees.) Bullied at school, Charlie finds an outlet via skateboarding, which he keeps secret from his mom. Witty and full of antics, Charlie and his only friend, Sinus, learn how to stay true to themselves.

  • Full Cicada Moon

    by Marilyn Hilton

    In 1969, Mimi’s mixed-race family moves to a predominately white town in Vermont. All anyone seems to notice about Mimi is her race, and she both aches to fit in and refuses to conform, enrolling in science courses and contests rather than Home Ec with the other girls her age. Written in lyrical poems that capture Mimi’s thoughts with stunning acuity, Full Cicada Moon is perfect both for readers who feel they don’t fit in and for those empathizing with isolated peers.

  • The Hero Next Door

    edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

    This delightful collection of short stories features vibrant and diverse voices from children’s lit, including Joseph Bruchac (Two Roads), Juana Medina (Juana & Lucas), Ronald L. Smith (Black Panther: The Young Prince), and Wonder’s R. J. Palacio. Their tales showcase ordinary people doing the extraordinary — changing the world through small acts of kindness — and inspire readers to become everyday heroes, too.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2019.