Kindness, compassion and empathy: middle grade

Red Leaves

Help your child develop kindness and empathy with these middle grade books that inspire compassion: whether that’s towards animals, friends, or people in very different situations to your own.

They're a great way to feel gratitude for the things you do have whilst putting yourself into the shoes of another person.

So share these books as a family, and let’s spread a little kindness in the world…

  • Clean Getaway

    Author: Nic Stone
    Publisher: Knights Of
    Interest age: 10-14
    Reading age: 9+

    One day, Scoob's Grandma turns up at his house and invites him on a road trip - retracing the steps of a trip she took with his late grandpa. This is a satisfying, timeless read about a family’s history which intersects with the American civil rights movement, and reminds readers of the impact of racism and intolerance.

  • No Ballet Shoes in Syria

    Author: Catherine Bruton
    Publisher: Nosy Crow
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    Aya is a Syrian asylum seeker, looking after her mother and baby brother in the cold, unfamiliar city of Manchester – but she is also a talented ballet dancer. Children who love stories of performance and friendship will enjoy this book. 

  • The Boy at the Back of the Class

    Author: Onjali Q Raúf
    Publisher: Orion
    Interest age: 7-11
    Reading age: 10+

    This is the story about how four classmates have a massive impact on the life of Ahmet, a boy that comes to their school as a refugee from Syria. An inspiring and sweet tale that should help children be the best they can be and realise the power of kindness.

  • Can You See Me?

    Author: Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott
    Publisher: Scholastic
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    Starting secondary school is a daunting time for any 11 year old – and Natalia is no exception. This is a powerful, readable and relatable story about trying to fit in. Along the way, a host of assumptions and stereotypes about autism are smashed. 

  • Two Sides

    Author: Polly Ho-Yen Illustrator: Binny Talib
    Publisher: Stripes
    Interest age: 6-11
    Reading age: 7+

    Lula and Lenka are the best of friends until they have an argument and neither will say sorry. Will they ever manage to make up? Polly Ho-Yen beautifully explores the complexity of friendships and learning that there are always two sides of a story. 

  • Boy 87

    Author: Ele Fountain
    Publisher: Pushkin Children’s
    Interest age: 10-11
    Reading age: 10+

    This is a timely and important book which illuminates the realities of life as a refugee. The horrors that 14-year-old Shif is escaping are all too real, but this is ultimately a story about the power of kindness and the strength of the human spirit.

  • Give Me Shelter

    Author: Editor: Tony Bradman
    Publisher: Frances Lincoln
    Interest age: 9+
    Reading age: 9+

    Told through the eyes of children, this moving collection of short stories focuses on the experiences of asylum seekers from all over the world.

  • Girl with a White Dog

    Author: Anne Booth
    Publisher: Catnip Publishing
    Interest age: 11+
    Reading age: 10+

    Jessie is delighted when she finds a beautiful white puppy at Gran's house. But then Gran starts becoming confused, and saying strange things about their new pet.

  • Red Leaves

    Author: Sita Brahmachari
    Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
    Interest age: 12+
    Reading age: 12+

    Sita Brahmachari has created a beautiful tale of modern multicultural Britain. Her characters come from diverse backgrounds but are brought together by the common theme - they all feel they have been abandoned by someone they love.

  • I am Malala

    Author: Malala Yousafzai
    Publisher: Hachette Children's Group
    Interest age: 13+
    Reading age: 13+

    This is the real life story of one of the most incredible and inspirational young people in the world. Reading this book might just change the way you think and feel.

  • The Lion Above the Door

    Author: Onjali Q Raúf
    Publisher: Orion
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    Leo and his best friend often feel like the odd ones out at school and in the small village they live in, where everyone else is white. Another sensitive, thoughtful book from Onjali Q Rauf that highlights racism and bullying in children’s lives today.

  • The Cooking Club Detectives

    Author: Ewa Jozefkowicz
    Publisher: Zephyr
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 8+

    This delightful detective story has an engaging plot and likable characters. It subtly explores new friendships, the importance of community and issues of food poverty and online bullying, plus includes some easy-to-follow recipes.

  • The Soup Movement

    Author: Ben Davies
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Interest age: 10-13
    Reading age: 10+

    Jordan is in remission from cancer but finding it difficult to make friends at his new school. One day, he gives a homeless man some soup and then, in the spirit of doing kind things, ends up secretly running a soup kitchen. Very funny and deeply moving. 

  • The Night Bus Hero

    Author: Onjali Q. Raúf
    Publisher: Orion
    Interest age: 6-11
    Reading age: 7+

    Hector is a bully who reports an innocent homeless man to the police because he thinks he's probably responsible for a spate of thefts - but when Hector discovers he's got it wrong, he must race to restore justice.

  • Nothing Ever Happens Here

    Author: Sarah Hagger-Holt
    Publisher: Usborne
    Interest age: 10-14
    Reading age: 9+

    Nothing ever happens in Littlehaven... at least, that is, until Izzy's Dad comes out as trans. A gentle, timely and warm story about identity, friendship and standing up for what's right.