As adults, we have so many different and conflicting feelings each day of the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are feeling similar emotions with the loss of their routines and worries for their families. Here are some middle grade books that explore difficult life situations that children can experience. Despite their struggles, the characters in these stories demonstrate resilience, and learn how to understand and accept their own emotions.
The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
In this story, narrator Bea looks back on when she was a fifth grader, her parents divorced, and her father remarried. The list of things that will not change was to console her through all the things that did. Bea must deal with anxiety, a new stepsister, prejudice against her gay father, and her own failures with anger management. But with support from adults, including a helpful therapist. Bea learns to see the emotions behind her behavior, and finds the strength to cope.
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Powerful historical fiction that uses three parallel stories to show the migrant experience from the point of view of three different kids migrating by boat in three different time periods. The two boys and a girl are fleeing from Nazi Germany, Cuba, and Aleppo. Their journeys have much hardship and fear, and experiences of loss. The behavior of the adults they encounter runs the gamut of exploitation to generosity. These three stories demonstrate the very real value of hope.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden
Middle schooler Zoey has to look after her three younger siblings while her mother works her shifts at the local pizza parlor. The family lives in a rural part of Vermont, and her family’s poverty causes many hardships for her. Her homework isn’t always done, her clothes are few and dirty, and food and basic transportation needs are challenging. A sympathetic teacher finagles her into the debate club, where she learns to speak up for her friends and herself, find her voice, and start imagining a future.