DIVERSE IDENTITIES: Middle Years Fiction

The novels listed below are linked by their diverse narratives of diverse circumstances. Race, Culture, Class and the refugee experience can be found in the books listed below, helping middle age readers to understand how our  identities shapes our lives and  how strength and courage can help us to combat intolerance and hate.

BLENDED by Sharon M. Draper

For me, Draper is best recognized for her beautiful novel Out Of My Mind. In this new novel, the author tells the story of eleven year old Isabella, who is the daughter of divorced parents, one black, one white. Isabella’s life, and the structure of the book is mostly divided into Mom weeks and Dad’s weeks where thus testing her flexibility and attempts to comply with the circumstances. Throughout the book, Isabella, a talented pianist, questions her identity as a blended person and this quest to understand the self and find a place of belonging is at the heart of the novel. An episode at the novel’s climax is rather surprising, somewhat unbelievable and in the end significant to help this girl and readers understand how society looks at us, particularly when someone of colour, or even blended.

MASCOT by Antony John

After surviving a car crash which killed his father, Noah Sorvino, paralyzed, is stuck in wheelchair. Readers are likely to feel empathy with Noah as he struggles with the realities of being disabled and the guilt of being the one to survive the accident. The game of baseball helps Noah to overcome his fears and move forward to meet life’s challenges, small and large. An important addition to novels helping readers to gain understanding of people who are physically challenged.


For those who like mystery stories, this novel is intriguing as two friends attempt to solve  the mystery of the Parker Inheritance which involves a huge amount of money and a generous anonymous donor. But more than a mystery, this story, jumping back and forth in time, is a strong story about injustice and prejudice against African Americans both past and present.


Styx Malone, a foster child,  becomes a hero for Caleb and his brother Bobby Gene. Despite the wishes of the brothers parents, the friendship develops as the boys get involved in shenanigans that involve firecrackers, a lawn mower and a moped. I felt I could have put this book down at any time, but the story gains momentum in the last third as character relationships are strengthened.

A LONG WALK TO WATER by Linda Sue Park

This book, based on a true story, brings to love the story of one ‘lost boy’ refugee who was forced to flee his village in war-torn Sudan and travel across Africa hoping to find salvation. Another strong feature of this book, is the additional narrative of  a young girl in South Sudan, 2008, who is responsible for making journeys to a faraway pond, twice a day, to gather water in jugs for her family. This is an essential book to share with middle year readers to gain understanding of refugees who persevered to survive strife and to find a place called home when they are caught in the horrors of war.


The family of Carter Jones falls into chaos each day. The arrival of Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick provides a dream solution to the family as he fulfills his duty as a butler perfectly. Not only is he a savior at bringing order and  pulling the family together, he has a special bond and helps  Carter Jones adjust to the challenges of middle school. A daschund that throws up easily and the game of cricket play an important part in this funny, warmly-engaging novel.


It is 2001 and Fadi and his family have left war-torn Afghanistan to find a better life, but sadly circumstances have forced the family to leave behind six-year-old Mariam. Fadi gradually settles  into his new school, finding comfort in a hobby for taking photographs. However with the events of 9/11, the young boy comes face to face with news incidents and hateful students who feel that people like Fadi and his family are responsible for terrorism.  A great read that should touch the hearts of young readers.

PAPER WISHES by Lois Sepahan

Ten-year-old Manami and her family are forced by the government to leave their home and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp. Manami finds refuge by creating drawings, especially ones of her dog Yujin who was left be significant novel, helping young readers understand the injustices of forcing Japanese evacuate, relocate and live and work in internment camps.


In this free verse novel, Jude and her mother find refugee with family in Cincinnati while her father and brother remain behind in the turmoil threatening Syria.   Jude slowly adjusts to school life as she learns English and finds friends. However as Middle Eastern girl, she also comes against the harshness of Islamophobia. An important story of culture, identity and understanding of ‘home’.

SHOUT OUT (Picture Book)


by Kwame Alexander; Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Evocative poem by Alexander intertwines with bright collages by Melissa Sweet shine a spotlight on this thing called reading.

Don’t rush through:

Your eyes need time to taste.

Your soul needs

Room to bloom.

How to Read a Book