Words to Make a Friend

by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Naoko Stoop

There are some things, like friendship and love, that are universal no matter where you’re from or what language you speak. In this book, a Japanese girl moves to America and is excited when she sees a girl playing outside in the snow. The only problem is that the Japanese girl and the American girl don’t speak the same language. This clever and adorable book illustrates that you don’t need to speak the same language to understand one another.

EllRay Jakes the Recess King!

by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs

EllRay is auditioning classmates for the role of Spare Best Friend. To drum up interest, he embarks on a mission to become the Recess King. After all, who doesn’t want to be Spare Best Friend to royalty? An amusing read about the right — and wrong — ways to make friends.

A New School Year

by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song

In A New School Year, we meet six children, ranging from a kindergartener to fifth grade, who share their hopes (and fears) about the first day of school. While their backgrounds and perspectives are diverse, the emotions they express are universal. This one is such a special book that your child will return to year after year.

My School Stinks!

by Becky Scharnhorst, illustrated by Julia Patton

In this hilarious story, a boy accidentally winds up at a school for wild animals! The book, told through the boy’s diary entries, starts with him very apprehensive about his new classmates, but he soon learns that friends can come in any shape, size, or species! A fun back-to-school celebration perfect for all little ones, including those who might be apprehensive about starting school again.

The Day You Begin

by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

This beautiful picture book helps to celebrate our differences. There is a point in everyone’s life when they feel like the outsider, and for many children this happens in school. What this book teaches is that it is our differences that make us truly special, and by reaching out to others we can create lasting bonds. With a poignant message and gorgeous illustrations, The Day You Begin deftly introduces little readers to big concepts like diversity, community, and self-esteem.

Middle School:

The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School

by Kristin Mahoney

“I wish I could tell you that the first person I saw on the first day of school was someone I knew. It was not.” So begins Gus’s advice to her younger sister, Lou. And who better to reassure (and forewarn) you about middle school than someone who’s just survived? Funny and authentic, The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School perfectly captures the growing pains — and joys — of stepping out on your own.

Lights, Camera, Middle School!

by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm

In the new Babymouse series, Tales from the Locker, the sassy mouse we all know and love takes on middle school. What she finds there is an obsession with stuff — labels, the best new gadget, and so on. But Babymouse has her own style, and she embraces it by joining film club and writing a major screenplay. Other books in the series take on cell phones, school plays, and more opportunities for Babymouse to be herself.


by Torrey Maldonado

Middle schoolers may find themselves at difficult crossroads with tough decisions to make, especially as old friends grow and change. That’s what Bryan’s going through, as his friend Mike tries to pressure him into ideas that seem foolish and risky to Bryan. Bryan looks to his comic book superheroes to guide him down the right path.

Goodbye Stranger

by Rebecca Stead

The story centers on three seventh graders, Bridge, Tab and Emily, who are dealing with typical middle school issues — taking selfies, liking boys, staying friends when your interests start to diverge, divorced parents — but this story takes it a few layers deeper. It’s about knowing who you are and who you want to be, and dealing with who others think you should be.

Totally Middle School

edited by Betsy Groban

This collection of short stories from favorite authors gives readers an array of middle school experiences, tackling important topics like peer pressure and cultural barriers through fun mediums (text messages, emails, and a mini graphic novel). Your reader will feel seen and encouraged, and be highly entertained along the way.

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