Recommended Reading For Children: Elementary-Middle School
Adults | Preschool-Elementary
Elementary-Middle School | Middle School–Young Adults
NOTE: please read first to make sure the content and reading level is
age-appropriate for your particular young reader.
Bell, Cece. El Deafo. New York: Amulet Books, 2014. A wonderful Newberry Honor graphic novel memoir based on Cece’s life growing up deaf from her unique, funny, and perceptive perspective. Highly recommended!
Blume, Judy. Blubber. New York: Yearling, 1974. A realistic story about bullying that takes place among fifth grade girls.
Celano, Marianne, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard. Something Happened In Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice. Washington, DC: Magination Press, 2018. This is an important book to help young readers process what they're seeing in the news about police shootings of Black people. In this story, a White family and a Black family discuss a police shooting of a Black man. This book helps to model conversations with young readers about race and racial injustice. An extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers is included in the back matter to help guide conversations in thoughtful, meaningful, and positive ways.
Churnin, Nancy. Martin & Anne: The Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank. California: Creston Press, 2019. The story and illustrations are inspirational, beautifully relaying to readers of all ages Dr. King’s and Anne Frank’s uplifting messages of hope and social justice.
Codell, Esmé Raji. Vive La Paris. New York: Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 2007. Fifth grader Paris McCray’s older brother is being bullied by a younger girl. In her eager efforts to right some wrongs, Paris learns a powerful lesson about the dangers of ignorance.
Devenny, Jenny and Charnaie Gordon. Race Cars: A Children's Book About White Privilege. Beverly, MA: Quarto Publishing plc, 2021. This picture book, including the discussion notes in the back matter, is a good starting point for tough conversations about race, privilege, and oppression.
Draper, Sharon. Out of My Mind. New York: Atheneum Books, 2010. A powerful story about a brilliant, special needs 11-year-old who most people—adults and kids—don’t think is capable of learning…until she discovers a way to have her voice heard by others.
Estes, Eleanor. The Hundred Dresses. New York: Scholastic, 1973. A short chapter book about a group of girls who pick on someone who is a little different. Told from the perspective of the bully's best friend who gives into peer pressure and joins the crowd.
DePino, Catherine. Blue Cheese Breath and Stinky Feet. Washington D.C.: Magination Press, 2004. Steve is picked on by a bully and is afraid things will get worse if he tells someone about it. His parents come up with a plan to help their son.
Fipps, Lisa. Starfish. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021. Middle-schooler Ellie has been bullied and fat-shamed about her weight since she's been five years old. With the support of a new friend and therapist, Ellie learns to find her voice and accept her fabulous self. This is an inspiring story told in verse. You can't help as a reader to root for Ellie!
Gervay, Susanne. I am Jack. Berkeley: Tricycle Press, 2009. Jack, an eleven-year-old boy, is being bullied at school. Caring bystanders and grown-ups come to his rescue.
Goldblatt, Mark. Finding the Worm. New York: Random House Children’s Books, 2015. The sequel to Twerp (see below), protagonist Julian learns important lessons about life, loss, an friendship.
Goldblatt, Mark. Twerp. New York: Random House, 2013. Twerp is a powerful story set in 1960s Queens about a boy who doesn’t think of himself as a bully but has made a big mistake. He reluctantly agrees to keep a journal to write about it for his sixth grade English teacher as one of the consequences for his behavior.
Humphrey, Sandra McLeod. Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-downs. New York: Prometheus Books, 2007. This powerful collection of short stories offers a great opportunity for generating ethical and moral discussions with tweens and teens. Preview stories to make sure they are appropriate for your particular reader(s).
Hunt, Lynda Mullaly. Fish In A Tree. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. Ally is a smart, creative girl who hides the fact that she can’t read. With the help of a caring teacher, Ally learns that she’s more than a label and new opportunities start to open up for her.
Kaufman, Gershen, Ph.D., et al. Stick Up for Yourself! Every Kid's Guide to Personal Power and Positive Self-Esteem. Minnesota: Free Spirit Publishing, 1999. This self-help book for kids includes a section on “How to deal with bullies.” Provides the child with information, descriptions and interventions.Good book for middle-schoolers.
Korman, Gordon. Linked. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2021. A disturbing mystery takes place in a quiet Colorado town: a huge Swastika appears on a school wall, and then more keep appearing. Told from several key students' perspectives, the community grapples with how such a a symbol of hate and prejudice ends up at the school and what they can do to counter it. Korman is a master storyteller whose work addresses important issues in such a thoughtful, empathetic way.
Korman, Gordon. Restart. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2017. Chase Ambrose suffers from amnesia after falling off a roof. He can’t remember bullying others prior to his fall and now gravitates to those kids he had previously bullied. Who now are really his friends? This story can generate great conversations on the power of our capacity to change and whether others choose to forgive and accept that we can change.
Levine, Karen. Hana’s Suitcase. Illinois: Albert Whitman & Com pany, 2003. This is a true story about a suitcase that arrived at a children’s Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan and the suspenseful mystery that is solved when the center’s curator searches for clues about its original owner.
Lombard, Jenny. Drita My Homegirl. New York: Puffin Books, 2006. Drita escapes war-torn Kosovo and ends up attending a New York public school. Maxie, an African-American student there, doesn’t want to have anything to do with her until they’re paired up for a school project. A great story about how friendship can bloom and overcome two very different cultures.
Lord, Cynthia. Rules. New York: Scholastic Press, 2006. In this award-winning novel, 12-year-old Catherine gives her autistic brother rules to prevent him from embarrassing her. Great lessons on accepting those who are different from us.
Ludwig, Trudy. Better Than You. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. This story shows kids how adopting a "better than you" boastful attitude can break friendships rather than build them. Better Than You also offers great tips to kids on the receiving and giving end of bragging. A great resource for parents, teachers and counseling professionals.
Ludwig, Trudy. Brave Every Day. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Available June 28, 2022. Some kids love hide-and-seek. Camila just likes to hide because she worries. And she worries a lot: What If? I Can't! I'm Scared! But when an anxious classmate asks for help, she learns that her heart is bigger than her fears.
Ludwig, Trudy. Calling the Wind. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Available October 4, 2022. Inspired by Itaru Sasaki's Wind Telephone, which brought healing to the people of Japan in the wake of an Earthquake and tsunami, this story explores grief and loss, and how we move forward by finding meaningful ways to connect with the family and friends we've lost, as well as those who are still with us.
Ludwig, Trudy. Confessions of a Former Bully. California: Tricycle Press, 2010. Told from the unusual point of view of the bullying child, this story provides kids with real life tools they can use to identify and stop relational aggression.
Ludwig, Trudy. Gifts from the Enemy. Oregon: Ludwig Creative, Inc., 2019. In this true and moving story, Alter Wiener, a teen survivor of five Nazi prison camps during WW II, shows young readers in an age-appropriate way how acts of social justice and kindness can change lives.
Ludwig, Trudy. The Invisible Boy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Brian is invisible. Nobody seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, games, or activities…until a new kid comes to class. This gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish.
Ludwig, Trudy. Just Kidding. California: Tricycle Press, 2006. A joke that has a sharp edge to it can cut you to pieces. That's what D.J. finds out from his encounters with Vince, a smart-aleck classmate whose biting humor does more harm than good. This book captures the truth of harmful teasing and what can be done about it.
Ludwig, Trudy. My Secret Bully. California: Tricycle Press, 2005. Monica is emotionally bullied by her friend Katie and learns how to cope and thrive with the help of her mother. The book also includes helpful tips, discussion questions and additional resources for parents, teachers and counseling professionals.
Ludwig, Trudy. The Power of One. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, available in summer 2020.Change begins with one person standing up for what it right. Learn how one act of kindness can start a chain reaction.
Ludwig, Trudy. Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers, available in August 2018. Owen, a talkative boy, comes down with a bad case of laryngitis and learns about the power of listening—not only with his ears but also with his heart—as a result.
Ludwig, Trudy. Sorry! California: Tricycle Press, 2006. Jack's friend Charlie knows how to get away with just about everything by saying “sorry.” But does an apology count if you don't really mean it? And what happens when the person you've hurt knows you didn't mean it? This is a great tool for modeling personal accountability and responsibility.
Ludwig, Trudy. Too Perfect. California: Tricycle Press, 2009. Maisie thinks Kayla is perfect. She’s pretty and thin, has cool clothes, and gets good grades. But is Kayla happy? The more Maisie gets to know Kayla, the more she begins to question whether being perfect is really so wonderful. A great resource to help kids understand that being happy doesn’t come from being perfect; it comes from trusting and accepting who you are—mistakes and all.
Ludwig, Trudy. Trouble Talk. California: Tricycle Press, 2008. Maya's friend, Bailey, has a really big mouth. She gossips, spreads rumors, gives hurtful advice, and shares information that isn't hers to share. With the help of the school counselor, Maya learns how to set boundaries and Bailey learns how to curb her “trouble talk.”
Mackesy, Charlie. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. New York: HarperOne, 2019. A beautifully illustrated story with timeless and timely truths told about kindness and love in such a powerful, simple way. Perfect for kids and adults!
Madonna. The English Roses. New York: Callaway, 2003. An exclusive girls' club, The English Roses, learn a lesson about judging their peers before really getting to know them.
Madonna. Mr. Peabody's Apples. New York: Callaway, 2003. A young boy learns the power of words after spreading a rumor about his teacher and baseball coach Mr. Peabody.
Millman, Dan. Secret of the Peaceful Warrior: A Story About Courage and Love. California: H.J. Kramer Inc., 1991. An old man named Socrates shows Danny that the best way of dealing with a bully is the way of the Peaceful Warrior, through courage and love.
Otoshi, Kathryn. Lunch Every Day. California: Ko Kids Books, 2021. Every day Jimmy takes ‘Skinny Kid’s’ lunch at school...until a surprising act of kindness stops him in his tracks and opens his heart. Another winner by Otoshi that addresses bullying and promotes empathy and compassion.
Palacio, R.J. Auggie & Me. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015. In this sequel to the NYT bestseller Wonder, the reader learns more about what other key characters are feeling and thinking.
Palacio, R.J. Wonder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. August Pullman is a 5th grader born with a facial deformity. After being homeschooled for years, he’s the new kid at Beecher Prep. This is a wonderful story about the power of acceptance and kindness. Highly recommended!
New Moon Books Girls Editorial Board. Friendship: How to Make, Keep, and Grow Your Friendships. New York: Crown Publishers, 1999. Discusses friendships and how they affect our lives. Includes practical advice, activities, and suggestions for meeting people.
Olson, Gretchen. Call Me Hope. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. Eleven-year-old Hope is verbally abused by her mother. Rather than run away, Hope finds ways to protect herself and gets support from some caring adults.
Polacco, Patricia. Bully. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. Lyla gets picked up by the popular group, but when she sees one of her new “friends” bullying other kids, she leaves the group, only to find that the popular girls are now out for revenge.
Polacco, Patricia. Mr. Lincoln’s Way. New York: Philomel, 2001. Mr. Lincoln, the school principal, compassionately works with a student to help him “unlearn” his bullying behavior. This beautiful story shows the importance of adult intervention to help children deal with bullying.
Polacco, Patricia. Thank you, Mr. Falker. New York: Philomel, 2001. Fifth grader Tricia is teased and taunted by her peers because of her reading problems. Her self-esteem continues to plummet until a wonderful teacher, Mr. Falker, intervenes, putting a stop to the bullying behavior and helping Tricia to read.
Romain, Trevor. Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain. Minnesota: Free Spirit Publishing, 1997. A Reader-friendly book written for children about bullies, the myths surrounding bullying issues and interventions. Includes resources for students, teachers and parents.
Romain, Trevor. Cliques, Phonies, & Other Baloney. Minnesota: Free Spirit Publishing 1998. Discusses cliques--what they are and their negative aspects--and gives advice on forming healthier relationships and friendships.
Ruurs, Margriet. Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey. Canada: Orca Book Publishers, 2016. A powerful, beautiful story with amazing stone artwork to capture the humanity of the refugee experience.
Sloan, Holly Goldberg. Counting by 7s. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013. One of my all-time favorite books, this is a beautiful novel about friendship, being different, and belonging.
Spinelli, Jerry. Crash. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. Seventh grader “Crash” Coogan is comfortable with his cocky super-jock and bully nature until his grandfather's stroke and an unusual Quaker boy make him reconsider the meaning of friendship and the importance of family.
Spinelli, Jerry. Loser. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2002. Even though his classmates consider him strange and a loser, Daniel Zinkoff's optimism and exuberance and the support of his loving family do not allow him to feel that way about himself.
Spinelli, Jerry. Maniac Magee. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1990. Twelve-year-old Jeffrey comes to a small town, confronts racism, overcomes bullying and promotes harmony between rival factions.
Spinelli, Jerry. Wringer. New York: HarperCollins, 1997Young Palmer must either accept the violence of being a wringer at his town's annual Pigeon Day or find the courage to oppose it. Recommended for upper elementary and middle school students. Preview first, as this book is not for squeamish readers.