8 Middle Grade Books Our Latine Kids Will Identify With

More than ever our tweens need books to meet them where they are. Theses middle grade stories by Latinx authors are an integral way for Latine kids to feel represented and validated.

Latinx Middle Grade Books
Photo: Courtesy of Publishers

It's no secret that when children see themselves represented in the books they are reading, they engage and connect with those stories in a deeper way. This is especially important at the middle school level when kids are gaining more sophisticated reading skills, like reading for speed and comprehension as well as text interpretation and analysis.

But this connection can also have an impact on a child's emotional development and the way they see the world. It helps them feel less alone as they navigate the world around them and validates their own personal stories while having fun along the way. At the moment only about 7.2% of authors identify as Latinx, so it may sometimes feel difficult to find books that help Latinx children deeply connect with what they are reading in an authentic way but luckily we're starting to see more and more author names that look like ours and rich characters that showcase our Latinidad. The following books offer a wonderful range of coming of age stories with Latinx characters—all sharing the many universal experiences and hardships that Latinx middle schoolers face everyday growing up in a complicated world, covering everything from immigration to family dynamics, self-discovery to friendships, and even a little fantasy.

8 Latinx Middle Grade Books Our Latinx Kids Will Identify With

Merci Suarez Changes Gears

merci changes gears new cover

With lots of heart and a little humor, readers (both young and old) are going to love every minute of Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Med Medina. In this coming of age story, we meet Mercedes (Merci) Suarez who lives with her big multi-generational family in Florida. From new friendships to first crushes to family dynamics and everything in between, Merci's story perfectly captures the essence of middle school and what it feels like to be a tween in a large extended Latinx family.

Isla to Island

Isla to island cover

Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos is one of the most unique books of this group. Formatted as a wordless graphic novel, it's the powerful immigrant story of a young girl named Marisol who immigrated from Cuba to the United States in the 1960's during the Cuban Revolution. She loves everything about her life in vibrant Cuba and finds herself having to redefine what home means when she restarts her life with a foster family in Brooklyn, NY. The stunning and emotional illustrations truly bring this book to life.

Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa

pilar Ramirez and the escape from zafa

Full of Dominican myths and legends, fantasy lovers will be enthralled with Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa written by Afro-Latino author Julian Randall. Searching for answers about her mom's cousin Natasha's disappearance 50 years ago in the Dominican Republic during Trujillo's dictatorship, Pilar finds herself on the island of Zafa. It's a place swarming with demons, shapeshifters and a prison where Natasha is being held captive. And it's up to Pilar to confront the Dominican boogeyman, El Cuco, if she has any hope of getting herself and Natasha back home safe.

Efrén Divided

Efren divided book cover

Efrén Divided paints a very real and vivid picture of what so many immigrant families in the United States have been experiencing for countless years. In this story by Ernesto Cisneros we follow a boy named Efrén who lives in constant worry because his parents are undocumented. The story unfolds when his worst nightmare comes true when one day he comes home from school to find out his mother, Ama, didn't return home from work. At 12 years old Efren now has the burden of not only caring for his family but also figuring out a way to reunite them.

Land of the Cranes

Land of Cranes book cover

Every single line of Aida Salazar's novel in verse Land of the Cranes is packed with emotion, making it a gut-wrenching and incredibly important read. It's about a young girl named Betita, whose father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement and deported to Mexico. Soon after that, she and her pregnant mother are held in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. They have to learn to survive in the cruel and inhumane conditions there, where the hope and community they form amongst other detainees helps keep them alive.

Big Apple Diaries

big apple diaries book cover

The charming Big Apple Diaries is a journal style memoir—with graphic novel elements—about author Alyssa Bermudez's life as a middle schooler. It's the story of a tween of divorced, biracial parents in the early 2000s in NYC and even takes us through her personal 9/11 story. From the feeling of your first crush to the endless debate of the best boy band, so many elements of the story will strike a chord with all middle schoolers. The honest and hopeful representation of what it's like for tweens whose parents are divorced to live and travel between two different homes is much needed.

Shine On, Luz Véliz!

luz veliz cover

Shine On, Luz Véliz! grapples with so many of the topics that middle schoolers are confronted with on a daily basis. Playing soccer is an integral part of Luz's identity and her relationship with her father, who is also her coach. A serious injury makes her turn to computer coding and this new world along with the arrival of an unexpected half sibling, leaves her trying to find a new sense of self. Whether it's family drama, navigating friendships, or self-discovery, this story by Rebecca Balcárcel and it's lovable characters has a little bit of everything for everyone.

The Last Cuentista

the last cuentista

Whether or not you are into sci-fi, the award winning book The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera is a must-read. Its main character Petra wants nothing more than to be a storyteller like her abuela, but Earth will soon be destroyed by a comet headed in its direction. The story takes a bigger twist when a few hundred scientists and their children are chosen to be "saved" and journey to a new planet to carry on the human race. Years after the journey starts, Petra wakes to to discover she is the only one who remembers life on Earth after an evil Collective has taken over their ship with a mission to erase the sins of humanity's past and it's up to Petra to figure out a way to carry on the stories of the past for the sake of the future.

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