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Tween

10 Middle Grade Books That Celebrate the Many Types of Love

by Iva-Marie Palmer

books on love
Image credit: PeopleImages/Getty Images

Love in all its forms is the central idea of all of these middle grade reads. From crushes to friendship, familial bonds to devotion to a pet, these middle grade novels will have kids thinking about what it means to really connect.

  • Raising Lumie

    by Joan Bauer

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    Does pet love count as love love? Ask any pet owner and you know the answer is a resounding “yes.” In this story, Olive Hudson longs for a dog but the chances of getting one seem unlikely, given that she’s newly orphaned and about to move in with her half-sister. But then she gets a chance to raise Lumie, a guide dog. The challenge? Being caught between wanting Lumie to learn enough to be assigned to help someone and loving Lumie too much to want to let her go.

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  • When Stars Are Scattered

    by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy

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    Victoria Jamieson, the Newbury Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl, teamed up with former Somali refugee Omar Mohamed on this graphic novel about two brothers living at a Kenyan refugee camp, trying to create family in a difficult setting. At the camp, Omar looks out for his younger brother Hassan, who is nonverbal. When Omar has a chance to go to school, he thinks it could be good for both boys – but it means leaving his brother to fend for himself during the day. A National Book Award finalist, this story of love between brothers – and other refugees – is a must-read.

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  • The Next Great Jane

    by K. L. Going

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    Jane Brannen knows what she wants to do with her life: become a writer as famous as Jane Austen. When the bestselling author J.E. Fairfax comes to her tiny town, Jane thinks she can unlock the secret to authorial success. But her life in her tiny town is threatened when her mom and her mom’s fiancé arrive from California with a plan to take her to live with them. In hopes of staying with her dad, Jane has to devise a matchmaking scheme worthy of Jane Austen’s Emma to keep her life where she thinks it belongs.

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  • Before the Ever After

    by Jacqueline Woodson

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    ZJ’s dad has always been a hero in their town: he’s a former professional football player who is as well known for playing ball with the kids in the neighborhood as he was for his achievements on the field. But when ZJ’s dad starts to forget things – even his own son’s name at times – and is constantly angry, ZJ learns it’s due to years of football injuries taking their toll. Jacqueline Woodson’s novel-in-verse is about the love families need to move forward when life brings sudden, world-shifting changes.

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  • Seven Clues to Home

    by Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin

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    Joy Fonseca’s best friend, Lukas, died a year ago, just before her 12th birthday. Now she’s verging on 13, still missing him and wondering if he heard what she’d accidentally blurted out to him the year before. She still holds the first clue to a scavenger hunt he devised for her and decides to see where it leads, if the rest of the clues remain, and if Lukas’s last words to her might help her move forward. A story of love and friendship, joy and grief, readers won’t soon forget this book about keeping alive the people who matter, even when they’re gone.

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  • In a Flash

    by Donna Jo Napoli

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    In this new historical fiction novel from Donna Jo Napoli, sisters Simona and Carolina get to move with their chef father from Italy to Japan, where he will cook for the Italian ambassador. The girls quickly adapt to their new life, but then Japan is entrenched in a world war. Italians are all placed in internment camps as enemies and the girls and Papà are separated. As the sisters embark on a dramatic journey on their own, they have to count on each other – and hope that the people they meet see them as children trying to survive, rather than as the enemy.

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  • The Stars Beneath Our Feet

    by David Barclay Moore

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    Sometimes love is about what we must do to take care of ourselves so that we can go on giving. In David Barclay Moore’s novel – which won the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for new talent – 12-year-old Lolly Rachpaul is grieving his older brother’s death in a gang shooting and having a hard time of it. Then his mother’s girlfriend gives him a bag of Legos – a toy he’s always loved — but without the instructions. As he ponders whether to join a “crew” as his older brother did, he starts building a fantastical Lego city that might be the venture that brings him back to the world.

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  • Beverly, Right Here

    by Kate DiCamillo

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    In Kate DiCamillo’s conclusion to her Three Rancheros books (which include Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana's Way Home), Beverly Tapinski has run away plenty of times. But now that she’s older, she’s calling it leaving. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone or have anyone depend on her. The person she was supposed to be able to depend on, her mother, has shown that she only cares about herself. But even as Beverly resists connections and bonds, the people she meets on her journey show her that she’s easier to care about and love than she knows.

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  • Goodbye Stranger

    by Rebecca Stead

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    All of Rebecca Stead’s books seem to be about love, in some way, but Goodbye Stranger would make the perfect Valentine’s Day read for a thoughtful tween. As best friends Bridge, Emily, and Tab enter middle school, they try to honor their long-ago pact: no fighting. But they only get as far as Valentine’s Day before they begin to wonder if they can really stay the way they’ve been when they each seem to have changed.

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  • Project (Un)Popular Book #2: Totally Crushed

    by Kristen Tracy

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    Love is sometimes, well, a pain in the butt. At least that’s what’s happening in Perry’s world in this second entry in the Project (Un)popular series. Perry feels totally left out when her best friend, Venice, gets a boyfriend. But when Hayes, a boy she hardly knows, starts crushing on her and giving her things, she’s anything but relieved. This funny and real book will hit the right notes with tweens dealing with their own middle school dramas.

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