Our 10 Favorite Multicultural Books for Middle School

While reading books with children will help them better prepare for school and opens their minds to new cultures and experiences, it’s important to keep cultivating that love of reading into middle school. Exposing children to both “mirror” and “window” books—that is, books in which they can see themselves, and books in which they can learn about others—is the best way to create engaged readers and support social and emotional growth.

Lee & Low Books offers hundreds of great books for middle schoolers. Our books include English, Spanish, and bilingual titles; books about many different cultures; books that span a wide range of subjects and themes; and both fiction and nonfiction. Browse our middle school classroom collections to see what we have to offer, and check out our other book lists by grade:

While we have hundreds of titles to choose from, here are 10 of our absolute favorite diverse books for middle school!

Favorite Multicultural Books for middle school

1. Rattlesnake Mesa: Stories from a Native American Childhood by EdNah New Rider Weber, photographed by Richela Renkun:

rattlesnake mesa

After her beloved Grandmother dies, EdNah, a seven-year-old Pawnee girl, goes to live with a father she hardly knows on a Navajo reservation miles away. Just as EdNah starts to feel at home in her new surroundings, she is sent away to a strict government-run Indian school. With her world turned upside down once again, EdNah must learn to rely on herself and her newfound community of friends. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

2. Chess Rumble by G. Neri, illus. by Jesse Joshua Watson:chess rumble

In Marcus’s world, battles are fought everyday—on the street, at home, and in school. Angered by his sister’s death and his father’s absence, and pushed to the brink by a bullying classmate, Marcus fights back with his fists. One punch away from being kicked out of school and his home, Marcus encounters CM, an unlikely chess master who challenges him to fight his battles on the chess board. Guarded and distrusting, Marcus must endure more hard lessons before he can accept CM’s help to regain control of his life. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

3. Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe García McCall: 

under the mesquite

As the oldest of eight siblings, Lupita is used to taking the lead—and staying busy behind the scenes to help keep everyone together. But when she discovers Mami has been diagnosed with cancer, Lupita is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of her close-knit Mexican American family. Suddenly Lupita must face a whole new set of challenges, with new roles to play, and no one is handing her the script. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

4. I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, illus. by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings:

i am alfonso jones

Alfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso. In the first graphic novel for young readers to focus on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, as in Hamlet, the dead shall speak—and the living yield even more surprises. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

5. Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid: 

perfect liars

Andrea Faraday is junior class valedictorian at the exclusive Woodruff School, where she was voted Most Likely to Do Everything Right. But looks can be deceiving. When her parents disappear, her life—and her Perfect Girl charade—begins to crumble, and her scheme to put things right just takes the situation from bad to so much worse. Pretty soon she’s struck up the world’s least likely friendship with the juvenile delinquents at Justice Academy, the last exit on the road to jail—and the first stop on the way out. Sometimes, to save the day, a good girl’s gotta be bad. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

6. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, illus. by Randy DuBurke:

yummy

Eleven-year-old Roger is trying to make sense of his classmate Robert “Yummy” Sandifer’s death, but first he has to make sense of Yummy’s life. Yummy could be as tough as a pit bull sometimes. Other times he was as sweet as the sugary treats he loved to eat. Was Yummy some sort of monster, or just another kid? This is a compelling dramatization based on events that occurred in Chicago in 1994. This gritty exploration of youth gang life will force readers to question their own understandings of good and bad, right and wrong. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

7. Drift by M.K. Hutchins: 

drift cover

Tenjat lives on the shores of Hell, an ocean filled with ravenous naga monsters. Tenjat is poor as poor gets: poor enough, even, to condescend to the shame of marriage, so his children can help support him one day. But Tenjat has a plan to avoid this fate. He will join the Handlers, those who defend and rule the island. Handlers never marry, and they can even provide for an additional family member. Against his sister’s wishes, Tenjat joins the Handlers. His training intensifies, but a long-hidden family secret—not to mention his own growing feelings for his trainer,Avi, put his plans in jeopardy, and might threaten the very survival of his island. Learn more about M.K. Hutchins here.

8. Hammer of Witches by Shana Mlawski: 

hammer of witches

Baltasar Infante, a bookmaker’s apprentice living in 1492 Spain, can weasel out of any problem with a good story. But when he’s captured by a mysterious arm of the Spanish Inquisition and finds himself journeying westward with Columbus, he soon learns that that stories are more powerful than he once believed them to be—and much more dangerous. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

9. Bowman’s Store: A Journey to Myself by Joseph Bruchac: 

bowman's store

This book gracefully weaves themes from Joseph Bruchac’s intimate knowledge of Native American cultures with the scenes from the past that have shaped his life. For those who enjoy memoirs, Native American writings, and books about finding one’s cultural heritage, here is a consummate storyteller unfolding his most personal and poignant story of all. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

10. Confucius: Great Teacher of China by Demi: 

confucius

Confucius was born in 551 BCE, at a time of great war and famine in China. As he observed the suffering around him, he realized the best way to transform a society was to shift people’s thinking—to move them from callousness to compassion. So he became a teacher, and changed the world. This beautiful biography provides a warm introduction to the philosopher some call “China’s uncrowned king.” Learn more about Demi here.

Further Reading

Also check out our amazing Middle School Collections:english fiction middle school

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