Heartfelt Middle Grade Books That Will Make You Cry

by Melissa Taylor

Photo credit: Sebastian Pfuetze, Taxi Collection/Getty Images

Spoiler alert: These poignant stories will bring tears to your eyes. Readers should dive into them with an open heart and a box of tissues — because sometimes a story that touches your heart deeply is the exact right thing to read. In these middle grade books, the emotions resonate deeply and the stories are heartfelt, and their characters will linger with readers long after they’ve finished the last pages.

  • When Friendship Followed Me Home

    by Paul Griffin

    Gripping and bittersweet, Griffin deftly shows the meaning of loss, love, and family. Ben’s life hasn’t been easy. He left foster care to be adopted only to have his adopted mother die. He now clings to the two good things in his life: his rescue dog, Flip, and his exuberant, book-loving friend, Halley. When Halley’s cancer gets worse, Ben must come to terms with Halley’s legacy and decide if he’s open to the possibility of a new family.

  • The War I Finally Won

    by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

    Following the award-winning The War That Saved My Life, Ada’s story continues in this powerful novel. When her guardian Susan’s house is bombed, Ada, her brother, and Susan move to a small cottage with the complicated Lady Thorton and her daughter as well as a Jewish refugee. Amidst and maybe because of the complexities of her living situation, Ada discovers who she is meant to be in the world.

  • Just Under the Clouds

    by Melissa Sarno

    In this tender coming-of-age story about homelessness and family, Cora cares for her little sister while her mother works. After their shelter becomes unsafe, the three move in with an old friend. Cora hopes it will finally be a permanent home because she’s tired of moving from one temporary place to another. And, she really wants a friend.

  • The Poet’s Dog

    by Patricia MacLachlan

    When a grieving dog named Teddy rescues two children lost in a winter snowstorm, we learn that Teddy’s former poet owner, Sylvan, was right — both poets and children can understand dogs. The children’s presence provokes Teddy, the narrator, to relive his beautiful memories of life with Sylvan. While the three wait out the snowstorm, a friendship develops which surprises Teddy who learns that even in grief, healing can happen.

  • The Science of Breakable Things

    by Tae Keller

    Natalie believes that she can fix her mother’s depression. Her plan is this: She must win the egg drop contest and use the prize money to take her mom on a trip to see the rare Cobalt Blue orchids. As Natalie prepares for the egg drop contest using the scientific method, she gains the hard-earned truth that life, including her mom’s depression, isn’t an exact science.

  • Beyond the Bright Sea

    by Lauren Wolk

    Now that she’s 12, Crow wants to investigate her past — could she be from the nearby leprosy colony? Is that why Osh found her found floating in a small boat when she was a baby? Crow’s search leads her to uncover the truth about her personal history and discover the meaning of family, but it also puts them all in danger.

  • The Night Diary

    by Veera Hiranandani

    Written in letters to her deceased mother, Nisha shares her story as British rule of India ends, splitting the country into two —Muslim Pakistan in the north and Hindu India to the south. Because she’s half-Muslim and half-Hindu, Nisha and her family are forced out of their northern home and must take a harrowing, violence-filled journey to the new India. Masterfully written, this is a historically significant, important coming-of-age story.

  • Saving Marty

    by Paul Griffin

    Renzo adopts a runt piglet whom he names Marty after his deceased father. Marty becomes a beloved friend to Renzo, but serious problems develop as Marty grows into an enormous pig. Simultaneously, Renzo’s hero worship ends when he learns more about his father. Feeling like all he has left in the world is Marty, he’s desperate to save his best friend.

  • Orbiting Jupiter

    by Gary D. Schmidt

    Abused and removed from his home, Joseph is sent to live with Jack’s farming family as a foster child. As Joseph begins to trust them, he reveals pieces of his troubled past, including how he became a father at 13 years old to a baby he’s still desperate to meet. His story is tragic yet beautiful, showing the healing power of redemption. (This one’s best for mature middle grade readers.)