9 Novels for Kids Who Feel Like Outsiders
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
Five years. That’s how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation. It’s also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash. Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished―the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box―she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days…without him realizing it.
Along the way, they’ll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there’s Gladys…Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all…but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”
A 2019 Parents’ Choice Award Gold Medal Winner
Pie in the Sky by Remi Lai
When Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao. To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she’s at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they’ll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama.
A Parents Magazine Best Kids Book of the Year!
A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity by Nicole Valentine
Twelve-year-old Finn is used to people in his family disappearing. His twin sister, Faith, drowned when they were three years old. A few months ago, his mom abandoned him and his dad with no explanation. Finn clings to the concrete facts in his physics books―and to his best friend, Gabi―to ward off his sadness. But then his grandmother tells him a secret: the women in their family are Travelers, able to move back and forth in time. Finn’s mom is trapped somewhere in the timeline, and she’s left Finn a portal to find her. But to succeed, he’ll have to put his trust in something bigger than logic.
“Valentine’s debut is an emotionally compelling and heartfelt tale of love and family that is reminiscent of Tuck Everlasting and A Wrinkle in Time.”―Booklist
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki Lenz
When you’re a Buttman, the label “bully” comes with the territory, and Bernice lives up to her name. But life as a bully is lonely, and if there’s one thing Bernice really wants (even more than becoming a Hollywood stuntwoman), it’s a true friend.
After her mom skedaddles and leaves her in a new town with her aunt (who is also a real live nun), Bernice decides to mend her ways and become a model citizen. If her plan works, she just might be able to get herself to Hollywood Hills Stunt Camp! But it’s hard to be kind when no one shows you kindness, so a few cheesy pranks may still be up her sleeve. . . .
“Bernice’s sometimes harsh home conditions and how they contribute to her unkind ways are sensitively portrayed and well balanced with humor and Bernice’s spirited narration.” —Publishers Weekly
Forever Neverland by Susan Adrian
Clover and Fergus are the great-great-grandchildren of Wendy Darling (yes, that Wendy). And now Peter Pan wants to take them to Neverland for the adventure of their lives! But Clover is a little nervous–she’s supposed to look after her brother. Fergus is autistic, and not everyone makes him feel welcome. What will happen to him in this magical world?
Fergus isn’t nervous at all. To him, Neverland seems like a dream come true! He’s tired of Clover’s constant mothering and wants some independence, like Peter and the Lost Boys have. He wonders, Why can’t the real world be more like Neverland? Neverland is fun and free, but it’s also dangerous and even scary at times. Unfamiliar creatures lurk in the shadows, and strange sounds come from the waters. And then the mermaids start to go missing. . . .
“One of the best representations of autism in middle grade literature. A must purchase for all children who love magic and adventure, especially those who have longed to see someone like Fergus on the page.” –Lizzie Huxley-Jones, editor of Stim
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
One summer’s day, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local supermarket for some groceries – and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It’s because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it’s because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, as Opal admits, just about everything that happens that summer is because of Winn-Dixie.
“The books’ truthfulness is what makes it so powerful. People can identify with the fact that everyone sort of isolates themselves because of a misconnection or a loss or whatever is in their lives.”—Newsday
Reign Rain by Ann M. Martin
Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different―not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father.
When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.
“Though Rose’s story is often heartbreaking, her matter-of-fact narration provides moments of humor. Readers will empathize with Rose, who finds strength and empowerment through her unique way of looking at the world.”―School Library Journal, starred review
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.
A Newberry Honor Book
The Last Monster by Ginger Garrett
When thirteen-year-old Sofia discovers that she is the Guardian to ancient monsters that still roam the earth, unseen and unloved, she faces the ultimate choice. Will she find the courage to love the very ones that the world would like to forget? And can these forgotten creatures of legend help her learn to love herself?
“An appealing tale for readers dealing with their own insecurities.” Booklist
“A perfect recommendation for introspective kids who feel like outsiders.” School Library Journal