10 Authentic Middle Grade Books About Autism

More than perhaps any other medium, books have a unique ability to help us empathize with and understand others. Great stories invite us into the characters’ lives and give us the opportunity to live in a different world with a distinct perspective.

In 2020, the CDC reported that roughly 1 in 54 children in the U.S. was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in 2016.  Often, children are told of their diagnoses around middle school age, an already difficult and transitional time for children. Fortunately, there are several excellent and authentic books about autism, with many told from a first-person perspective. These are perfect to help your neurotypical tween better empathize with their siblings, friends, and classmates, or introduce neurodiverse young readers to characters they can identify with and who let them know they’re not alone.

no no 9780593112298 The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family by Sarah Kapit

This delightfully authentic family depicts a range of neurodiversity. Sisters Lara and Caroline are both autistic, with Caroline being non-verbal, and their father has ADHD. From disappearing objects to secret family recipes, follow along as the girls navigate a series of puzzling and comical mysteries.

9780593374283 A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

Told through first-person narrative, A Kind of Spark gives a rare look into what it means to be autistic, focusing on the good while still acknowledging the challenges of being on the spectrum. Young Addie feels a deep affinity for the women burned during witch trials centuries ago. Outraged at how they were treated for being different, she campaigns for a memorial in their honor, discovering her inner strength and making unexpected allies in the process.

9780525554196 Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit

Vivy desperately wants to pitch for a real baseball team despite her mom’s reservations about her being the only girl — and autistic kid — on a team. With determination, hard work, and unwavering passion, Vivy sets out to prove that anything is possible, challenging societal norms and breaking barriers along the way. This book is an authentic portrayal of autism with all the tension and triumph of the best sports books.

9781984815330 Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick

This poignant coming-of-age story revolves around Frankie, a neurodivergent 13-year-old struggling with sensory sensitivities and difficulty making friends. When her only friend, Colette, disappears, Frankie enlists the help of her twin sister to decipher the clues she’s convinced Colette left behind. With her beautiful mind and tremendous heart, readers can’t help but love Frankie.

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9780142403709 Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

The first volume in the Tales from Alcatraz series centers around Moose, a young boy whose life is turned upside down when his father takes a job at the infamous Alcatraz prison. Moose’s relationship with his older sister Natalie is at the heart of the story and explores what it’s like for Moose as the neurotypical sibling to a sister with autism.

9780142422861 Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

The genuine, frank narration of young Willow Chance is where Counting by 7s really shines. Willow is precocious, to say the least. She’s obsessed with nature and medical conditions, and she deals with anxiety by counting by sevens. When tragedy strikes her adoptive family, Willow must find a new surrogate family — and a place for herself in the world — which she does with courage and grace.

9780399252648 Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

This National Book Award winner became an instant classic. It features Caitlin, a young girl with Asperger’s syndrome whose older brother is killed in a school shooting. While the subject is clearly difficult, Caitlin’s narration — and the way she deals with her grief and the upheaval in her life — provides poignant insight into the way she sees the world.

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9780525646600 Planet Earth Is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos

Nicole Panteleakos’s moving debut tells the story of a twelve-year-old nonverbal girl named Nova. She and her big sister, Bridget, are utterly fascinated by space exploration and astronomy, and like many children their age, the girls are counting down the days until the launch of the Challenger Space Shuttle. But when Bridget disappears, Nova is left to navigate a new foster family and school on her own. The nuanced narration will immerse young readers in Nova’s point-of-view and the ways she processes her world.

9780812985153 The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

The Reason I Jump is a truly remarkable read for any age. Thirteen-year-old Naoki Higashida is nonverbal and wrote this memoir by spelling out words on an alphabet letter board. With extraordinary self-awareness and insight, Naoki invites readers into his life. Answering a series of straightforward questions, Naoki helps readers not only understand his feelings and perceptions, but also the challenges he faces and the ways repetition soothes him.

9780385751841 The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

This delightfully constructed puzzle box of a mystery is told from the point of view of Ted, a twelve-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome. When Ted’s cousin Salim goes missing while riding the iconic London Eye, it’s up to Ted and his sister Kat to figure out what happened and bring Salim home.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2024.

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