Around the World in Middle Grade Books

travelOne of the best things about reading, especially as a child, is “visiting” places you’ve never been before (and sometimes places that don’t even exist!). It’s like an instant vacation. You can travel around the world without ever leaving the spot you’re sitting—an amazing experience, when you really think about it, and invaluable for people who may not otherwise be able to physically travel to far-away cities or countries. 

The genre of middle grade books is full of stories like these; stories that can take us to a different place, at a different time, and give us a glimpse into a way of life that is sometimes wholly earthdistinct from our own, and sometimes unexpectedly familiar. This week, we’re highlighting some awesome middle grade books that will take your reader around the world—to France, Germany, Afghanistan, Sudan, and a number of other countries. If you have books to add to our list, feel free to share them in the comments.

It’s time to go—where will you choose to travel?



One Half From the East by Nadia Hashimi

Visit modern-day Afghanistan and meet Obayda, a girl who is dressed as a boy—a “bacha posh”—by her family, believing it will bring them good luck. When Obayda meets another bacha posh, her life begins to change in unexpected ways.



The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

If you’re a fan of Little House on the Prairie, you definitely have to try this series, starting with The Birchbark House. It follows Omakayas, or Little Frog, a young Ojibwe girl living on an island in what is today Lake Superior.



Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

This Newbery Medal-winning book is set amid the Danish Resistance in World War II, as 10-year-old Annemarie and her family hide her Jewish friend Ellen from German troops. It’s a story of determination, courage, and friendship, proving you are never too young to make a difference.



The Calder Game by Blue Balliett

Mystery, adventure, friendship, art; this book has it all. When Calder Pillay goes missing while visiting England with his father, his best friends arrive on the scene to help search for him—but as with any good mystery, not everything is as it seems.



The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Although this book is brand-new, it’s already a 2017 Newbery Honor, a whirlwind tale of three special children and their magic dog. The unlikely group works to save holy texts from being burned, with quite a few adventures along the way. Bonus points for the author’s note at the end, which explains how many of these fantastic characters and events were based on real historical happenings.



Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

A prophecy. A promise. A… harmonica? Yes, you read that right. Yet when this harmonica lands in the lives of three different children, all facing unique challenges, it connects their lives in unexpected ways. (Full disclosure: Only one of the stories takes place in Germany. But it still counts, right? This is an awesome book!)

San Nicolas Island, U.S.


Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Another Newbery winner! This one set in the 1800s, far off the coast of California on the island of San Nicolas. Based on true events, it tells the story of Karana, an Indian girl who was left alone to survive on the island for eighteen years.



A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Two 11-year-olds, two stories, told in alternating perspectives: a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985, both living in Sudan. But although these stories happen years apart, they intersect in surprising ways.



Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Ha has only ever known Saigon, her home. But now the Vietnam War has reached her there, and she is forced to flee with her family. They board a ship headed toward America, and a new life. Inspired by the author’s experience as a refugee, this moving coming-of-age story is beautifully told in verse.

Do you have any favorite books from around the world? Tell us in the comments below!

One response to “Around the World in Middle Grade Books

  1. I have a son who is in late elementary and I would really like to help him like reading. He hasn’t liked most of the books the school has made him read. I think I do need to get him middle grade books for him to start trying to read. If most of that grade of books consists of traveling maybe that will spark his interest better. Thanks for the information!

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