Last week we talked about all the feels that come with starting a new year. Some feelings last a long time and require more attention and care. Today, we share five books with stories about emotions and mental health. They can be discussion starters or remind middle-grade readers they are not alone.



Grades 5 and 6. Grief. Anger. Kindness.

After his father dies, Arthur expresses his pent-up grief and anger by throwing a brick at a junk man. Rather than time in juvenile detention, the junk man suggests that the judge sentence Arthur to community service, working alongside the man he injures.



Running on Empty by S.E. Durrant

Ages 8-12. Fear. Overwhelm. Stress

Eleven-year-old AJ wants to run like Usain Bolt but is weighed down by fear and responsibility. He is the primary caregiver for his parents, who have learning disabilities along with the stress of school and track.


The Sea in Winter by Christine Day

Ages 8-12. Depression. Anxiety.

Young ballet student Masie Cannon injures her knee and cannot continue to dance. At first, she is sad, but soon she can’t shake her anxiety and dark moods, and she can’t pretend everything will be okay.


The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Ages 8-12. Worry. Anxiety. Empathy. Dealing with Change.

Bea keeps a list of things that will not change, but when her parents divorce, Bea questions what she always believed. When her father announces plans to remarry, Bea must navigate conflicting emotions.


Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Ages 10-13. Mental illness. Sadness. Empathy.

AJ’s dad is a hero to his son and thousands of others, but then the former professional football player begins to change. He has periods of anger and forgetfulness. One day he can’t remember his son’s name, and AJ must live in a new reality.