“Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor Adventures” by Helen Skelton, illustrated by Liz Kay
In her illustrated memoir, Helen Skelton recounts her wild adventures around the world. She’s biked across the South Pole, run an ultramarathon across the Namib Desert, kayaked down the Amazon and walked along a high wire between the two towers of Battersea Power Station.
For each adventure, Skelton describes her training and adventure with illustrated gear lists, maps, photographs and her first-person account of how she felt on each stage of the journey. She concludes each chapter by suggesting “wild adventure” activities for readers, such as slacklining, hill running, paddleboarding or organizing epic snowball fights.
“Akissi: Tales of Mischief” by Marguerite Abouet, illustrated by Mathieu Sapin
The first in a trio of tales about Akissi, this book is about a spunky girl who lives on the Ivory Coast with her monkey, Boubou, know-it-all brother Fofana and the rest of her family. In this comic-style graphic novel, Akissi kicks footballs over walls, gets bitten by a snake in the cassava fields (don’t worry — Grandma Nan saves her), hosts movie nights at her house when she thinks Dad is at work, and does her best to avoid teachers and dentists.
The stories and settings from modern-day Africa are refreshingly different from most books on the market, which tend to be set in the United States or Europe. Akissi’s relatable humor and the sticky situations she finds herself in will have kids howling with laughter.
“I Can Make This Promise” by Christine Day
Edie has always known her mother was adopted, but when she finds a mysterious box containing letters from her biological grandmother, she is desperate to learn the whole story. Between trips to Golden Gardens, the Tulalip Reservation, Pike Place Market and Indianola, Edie learns the story of her family and the importance of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, legislation enacted too late to help her family.
Pulling from her own family’s experiences, author Christine Day writes beautifully about universal woes of adolescence — getting braces, losing best friends — alongside the complexities of grasping hold of a heritage that so many have tried to erase.
“Stand on the Sky” by Erin Bow
Only men train eagles in Aisulu’s Kazakh community. But when her brother is rushed to an expensive hospital in Ulaanbaatar, 12-year-old Aisulu eyes the prize money at the Eagle Festival. She sets her sights on winning in order to save her brother and keep her family from having to abandon their nomadic life and the mountains where they’ve always lived.
Sometimes defying gender norms and sometimes existing within them, Aisulu trains her baby eagle, learns to live with her extended family, and carves out new places for herself and the women who will come after her.
“The Night Ride” by J. Anderson Coats
J. Anderson Coats often writes about girls who slip around gender norms to make a better life for themselves. “The Night Ride” is no exception. Set in a nebulous past in the fictional kingdom of Mael Dunn, the story begins when Sonnia finagles a job caring for horses at the racetrack. Although she’s a poor girl from the lanes, she dreams of saving up to buy Ricochet, the horse she’s loved for years.
But life at the racetrack is full of hard lessons and choices. Rent is more than expected, girls are shut out of the jockey house, and her family back home needs money. Participating in the dangerous and illegal night ride might be Sonnia’s only shot at earning enough money to help her family and buy Ricochet.
Other middle-grade books to check out:
Up next: Young adult titles