We are all aware of the daily barrage of messages aimed at youngsters about the “perfect” physique. Social media, advertising, and even well-intentioned adults deliver the messages.

Growing up in such a setting is challenging, and although parents can assist limit some of the messages, girls and boys need to acquire a feeling of value regardless of their physical types.

Children may assist themselves in developing a positive body image, or “body positivity,” by reading tales of people who learned to embrace themselves no matter what. It will help to read these outstanding middle-grade novels.


Abigail is weary of the diet-related nagging from her parents and the weight-related bullying she receives at school. Abigail feels comfortable with her appearance, but when she speaks up for herself, her peers reject her even more. Later, Anders, a homeschooled youngster whose father is an Iraq veteran who is having trouble finding peace, enters her life. As Abigail travels and discovers new satisfaction, a somewhat mythical plot about a fox intertwines with her adventure. Fantastic. Ages 9 and up.


Karmajeet Khullar is anxious about the 17 new black hairs that have grown on her upper lip as she prepares to enter middle school. Her closest buddy is ready to provide assistance and counsel, but Karma is confused because of how different she has been behaving recently. Karma’s white mother is overworked, while her Indian father is learning to be a stay-at-home parent. Middle school friendships and bullying are major topics in the novel, and I like how Karma’s multireligious Sikh-Methodist home is crucial to her path. Ages 9 and up.

BRACED by Alyson Gerber

Based on Gerber’s own experience developing scoliosis as a child, Braced Rachel, a seventh-grader who loves soccer, has been told by her doctor that she must wear a brace to fix her scoliosis for 23 hours a day at this school year. This saddens her. As she works through her connections with her classmates and mother, Rachel develops a heartwarming and understandable path to acceptance of her illness. A great book to read. Ages 9 and up.

LILY AND DUNKIN by Donna Gephart

This beautifully crafted tale is recounted in a variety of voices. The majority of the world knows her as Tim, but Lily Jo is aware that she is a female. Lily enjoys the love and support of her mother, sister, and closest friend, but she needs her father’s love and support to develop the confidence (and medicine) she requires. Dunkin is a newcomer to the neighborhood, but he has a secret. He also struggles with accepting his bipolar disease and figuring out how he fits in. Lily Jo may face body image issues that most children won’t, but everyone in middle school will be able to relate to her quest to express herself, discover her path, and meet the proper friends. Ages 9 and up.

STARFISH by Lisa Flipps

Ellie is sick of being made fun of because she is overweight. Even worse, her mother doesn’t seem to accept her for who she is, which is awful enough coming from her classmates. Ellie’s closest friend has moved away and is preparing to attend sixth school. When Catalina moves in next door, she becomes friends with Ellie and learns what it’s like to be perceived only based on one’s appearance since she is a person of color. Flipps uses poetry to compose Ellie’s tale, mimicking Ellie’s use of poetry as a form of self-expression. A compelling narrative. Ages 9 and up.

SHORT by Holly Goldberg Sloan

This book was fantastic! Despite being young for her age, Julia manages to get a part in a local production of The Wizard of Oz one summer. She makes friends with various people who have dwarfism while playing the role of a munchkin and her creative next-door neighbor, Mrs. Chang, who also happens to be an expert costumier. Julia’s world widens thanks to her new pals and performance opportunities. Ages 9 and up.

ALL OF ME by Chris Baron

Ari, a Jewish child who struggles with his body image, is the subject of the poem “All of Me,” written in poetry. Along with coping with his parents’ strained relationship, he is also getting ready for his bar mitzvah.  The novel by Baron delves deeply into Ari’s frustrations, anxieties, and poor self-perception as he struggles to understand who he is and where he fits in the world. Incredibly moving. Ages 9 and up.

WINK by Rob Harrell

Fantastic drawings abound in Harrell’s touching tale of a youngster coping with rare eye cancer. Ross, a seventh-grader, is concerned about how cancer may alter his physique and how others would see him. He covers up cancer’s everlasting wink by donning a cowboy hat. His disability and the buddy who abandoned him both make him angry. Ross’s experience isn’t dismal, however, and readers will be able to identify with Ross regardless of their medical backgrounds because of Harrell’s humorous writing. Ages 9 and up.

GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN by Alicia D. Williams

This moving novel examines various topics affecting the reflective, knowledgeable 13-year-old Genesis. Genesis worries that she is “too dark” in complexion. She tries dangerous measures to lighten her skin with lemons and bleach since she thinks her family and society appreciate lighter dark skin above hers. Her father often gambles and drinks at home with the rent money. However, Genesis has begun a new school in a “better area,” where she meets new people and learns from new instructors how to appreciate herself. Highly recommended. Ages 9 and up.


This book is amazing; it’s both humorous and touching. As her father accepts a position as the manager of a western theme park in Arizona, Aven Green and her family relocate from Kansas. Aven was born without arms, but it hasn’t prevented her from succeeding; she simply uses her feet instead of her hands. Aven tells her story in an entertaining, astute, and accurate manner. She sets out to solve a mystery and uncover the mysteries of Stagecoach Park with the aid of her new companions. Ages 9 and up.

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