Sometimes a bit of perspective goes a long way in teaching kids — especially tweens — about gratitude. Watching other kids work through adversity can be a powerful tool in cultivating an attitude of thankfulness. You can say the same of books that feature characters showing appreciation for the things they have (even when it’s very little).
These 10 middle grade books are a great place to start if you’re looking to tackle the subject of gratitude with tweens. They feature protagonists working through feelings and challenges while recognizing the good in their lives.
When Libby decides she doesn’t want to be a bully like the rest of her family, she writes “You are amazing” on index cards and leaves them in various places. She doesn’t know that this simple act will change lives. The book weaves together the stories of four kids from different backgrounds as they become encouraged by the cards and begin to accept themselves.
National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson delivers a powerful story about six kids who become each other’s safe space. They meet every week — without grownups — to talk about the scary things happening in their lives and the world around them. Tackling big topics like race, incarceration, and immigration, the things that make these kids feel alone ultimately bring them together.
When Ada’s brother gets sent away from London to escape World War II, she sneaks off with him, fleeing not only the war but her abusive home. As she learns new things — including how to trust others — and works through challenges, Ada realizes there is more to the world than the one-room apartment where she used to live.
When a stubborn Scout leader refuses to change an archaic tradition, four unique girls combine forces to create their own troop. Although they’re not fond of each other at first, the girls bond over their shared mission and forge friendships they didn’t know they needed.
This book centers on Emilia, an intelligent and curious girl, as she navigates significant changes in her family and community. Emilia’s dad recently returned from deployment and now suffers from PTSD. Her abuela wants her to be more ladylike, and she finds unsettling information about how her community treats immigrants. While tackling big subjects, Emilia learns to stand up for herself and her community.
Based on the author’s experiences, this book follows Ross, a seventh-grader who wants to fit in. But, when he’s diagnosed with eye cancer, it’s pretty clear that won’t happen. With hilarious comics and art throughout, this novel is heartbreaking and uplifting as it explores friendship and survival in middle school.
When Cal’s mom dies, he moves in with his cousin Hannah and her family, and all their lives get turned upside down. Told in verse and through the perspectives of both kids, this story follows the family as they struggle to adjust and take care of each other.
When Maya gets placed in a different class than her best friends, she worries about starting fifth grade. She’s shy and has trouble meeting new people. But when she finds a robot tucked away in a closet at the convenience store, she uses science to bring it to life. Soon, her curiosity and ingenuity open up a new world for Maya — robot pal included.
A companion to Tornado Brain, this book follows Tess as she goes to her aunt’s house for summer vacation. Her mom hopes that distance will help her through her grief over her best friend Colette’s death. When she thinks Colette’s ghost is haunting her, her cousin and new friend help her come to terms with the past.
When Jude’s favorite person and biggest cheerleader — his sister, Katie — dies unexpectedly, he and his family get thrown into a world of grief. However, things start to look up after he meets Clementine (who, like Jude, blames herself for her sister’s death) at a support group. But can he save Clementine from herself?