Tween

12 Middle Grade Books That
Celebrate Bravery

by Kari Ness Riedel

tween-books-about-bravery
Photo credit: Don Mason/Getty Images

Bravery can take many forms in literature and in life. We witness it in everyday heroes who stand up to the local bully, secret spies that save innocent lives, and those who fight for causes bigger than themselves. Reading stories with characters that persevere through adversity with bravery and determination can inspire kids (and adults) to embody these traits in our own lives.

These 12 kid-approved stories with brave and heroic characters span genres — including contemporary fiction, historical fiction, adventure, and nonfiction.

  • Count Me In

    by Varsha Bajaj

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    An unexpected friendship between middle school students Karina and Chris develops as they witness a hate crime against Karina’s Indian American grandfather. With a simple Instagram post, Karina becomes an inspirational leader to many other kids and adults in her community who support #HateHasNoHomeHere and #CountMeIn. A moving and sweet contemporary story that surfaces very real issues faced by many kids from immigrant families in America today.

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  • The Night Diary

    by Veera Hiranandani

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    This historical fiction page-turner takes place during the 1947 partition of British India into two separate countries, India and Pakistan. The sudden divide created tensions between Hindus and Muslims, and led to displacement and large-scale violence. This compelling story is told from the point of view of 12-year-old Nisha — who is half-Hindi and half-Muslim — through letters she writes to her mother who died in childbirth. Nisha, her twin brother, father, and grandmother must flee their hometown, which is now in Pakistan, to New India. Throughout this harrowing journey, Nisha discovers new talents and the depth of her own bravery that help her experience hope and love in a world seemingly full of despair.

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  • Wolf Hollow

    by Lauren Wolk

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    Set in a small Pennsylvania town in the 1940s, this story highlights the impact that one person can have on an entire community. Twelve-year-old Annabelle demonstrates the power of kindness and bravery over bullying and hatred when she finds herself helping Toby, a reclusive war veteran who is down on his luck. This complex and beautifully-crafted piece of historical fiction mixes humor and sadness to take readers on an emotional journey.

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  • Three Times Lucky

    by Sheila Turnage

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    Murder, kidnapping, and small town secrets are at the center of this hilarious whodunit mystery. Readers love sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau, a plucky heroine who is happy to step in to solve a local crime with the help of her best friend Dale. This charming book set in rural North Carolina is full of wit, tenderness, and characters that you want to hang out with even after the story ends.

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  • Addison Cooke Series

    by Jonathan W. Stokes

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    Addison Cooke is the kind of 12-year-old who always wears a tie, orders Arnold Palmers, and skips class to study up on ancient history. When his aunt and uncle, world renowned archaeologists, are captured by Russian treasure hunters looking for long lost Incan riches, he convinces his sister and two best friends to hop on a plane to South America to rescue them. Addison’s bravery mixed with his quick-thinking and a dash of good luck make him the perfect hero for this adventure-filled mystery series.

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  • Alex Rider Series

    by Anthony Horowitz

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    Alex Rider is a teenage secret agent on a mission to figure out who killed his uncle, who was actually a British spy. He is the epitome of bravery and cleverness as he saves innocent lives on his quest for the truth. This is the perfect series for fans of pulse-pounding action and thrilling spy adventures.

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  • Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid

    by Mikaila Ulmer

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    In this memoir, Mikaila Ulmer shares her real-life experiences as a lemonade entrepreneur. After being stung by a bee, she literally made lemonade out of the lemon that life threw her by raising awareness and money for bee conservation. Named one of Time magazine’s 30 Most Influential Teens, Mikalia is an inspiring role model and proves that anyone — no matter their age — can be a force for good in the world.

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  • The Hero Next Door

    edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

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    This collection of short stories compiled by We Need Diverse Books and written by some of today’s most popular middle grade authors showcases the power of everyday heroes. Using a blend of humor and sadness, fast-paced action and thoughtful dialogue, and spanning a range of genres from realistic to mystery to fantasy, each author has crafted a unique plot that speaks to the importance of bravery and kindness in our world today. Short stories are an often-overlooked form of reading that can be an excellent way to introduce kids to new authors and genres, and serve as a gateway for reluctant readers.

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  • The Bridge Home

    by Padma Venkatraman

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    A gripping story about two young sisters, Viji and Rukku, who leave their small village to escape their abusive father and must survive life on the streets of Chennai, India. They meet two other homeless boys and a stray dog that become like family as they all work together to find food and shelter. This story provides a heart-wrenching yet hopeful look into the daily struggles of homeless children in many parts of the world and reminds readers that bravery comes in many forms.

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  • Property of the Rebel Librarian

    by Allison Varnes

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    An unfair community-wide ban on books turns seventh grader June Harper from a rule-following flute player into the secret rebel librarian. In this upbeat and relatable realistic fiction story, June learns the importance of standing up for what you believe in and the freedom of thinking for yourself even when it’s not the popular thing to do. This book reads like a love letter to books and the librarians and educators who work hard to make sure every child has access to great stories.

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  • The Mighty Miss Malone

    by Christopher Paul Curtis

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    This beautifully-told historical fiction story centers around Deza Malone, a whip-smart young Black girl growing up during the Great Depression. When her family moves from Indiana to Michigan in search of work for her father, Deza bravely perseveres through many hardships — including racial prejudice to pursue her love of learning and to help her family stay together. Deza is one of the great heroines in kid literature and certainly earns her moniker, The Mighty Miss Malone.

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  • Brave. Black. First

    by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Erin K. Robinson

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    This illustrated biography spotlights 50 African American women, including Rosa Parks, Aretha Franklin, Harriet Tubman, and Michelle Obama, whose heroism and bravery have changed America and the world. Inspiration abounds in this nonfiction book, and readers are likely to want to dive even deeper after reading the short summaries of the contributions of these amazing women.

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