Are you looking for meaningful picture books to read with your middle children? We’ve got ‘em!
The books here can serve as a reminder to give your middle children the attention they deserve. They also give you the thoughts, words, and actions you need to help them thrive.
The purpose of this list is to enhance your reading time with your middle children. The books might not specifically deal with being a middle child, but they address some of the issues, worries, and challenges of middleborns.
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The Middle-Child Blues, Kristyn Crow
Kristyn Crow knows all about middle children; not only did she grow up one of seven children, but she is now also the mother of seven. Wow!
“I’ve got the middle-child blues. I feel forgotten and confused. That’s right, the middle-child blues. And I am REALLY not amused.”
Meet the main character of this story, Lee, and listen as he describes the challenges of being a middle child: “I’m not the shortest. No way. I’m not the tallest. Oh, no. I’m not the biggest and I’m not the smallest.”
The story is hilarious, and when Lee whips out his guitar and gathers a crowd of other middle children, the fun begins in earnest. The illustrations by the talented David Catrow are done in his typical bug-eyed, expressive, and quirky style.
Samantha on a Roll, Linda Ashman
Since middle children often get less parental attention (source) and tend to be less supervised (source), they might, at times, end up in a pickle, just like Samantha in this story. She is a spirited and adorable girl who is frustrated with her mom (busy with the baby) and ends up taking more and more reckless steps in a quest to get what she wants, repeating the same refrain, “I’m sure that Mama wouldn’t mind.”
But what we learn every time is that “Mama busy [doing this and that], would have mind[ed] it quite a lot.” The masterful colored pencil and watercolor illustrations are a perfect medium for catching Samantha’s frantic facial expressions as she slides at alarming speed down the hill. The lively and energetic rhymes make reading this story so much fun! I love this book!
Too Noisy! Malachy Doyle
Watch out! Sam, the middle child, storms out of the house in a huff because his siblings are being particularly noisy, and he’s had enough.
The problem is that after walking for a long time too angry to look where he’s going, he gets lost, and it’s beginning to get frightfully dark. But what’s that familiar noise? Can it be his loud family screaming his name?
Sam learns that a loud family might be just the thing you need when you’re lost in the woods.
Nico Draws a Feeling, Bob Raczka
Nico is a creative boy who is moved to draw unusual things, like the “ring-ring” of the ice cream truck and the warmth of the sun. He lets his ideas and feelings flow through him, and then “escapes into his paper in a whirlwind of color. “
The truth is all our children need to learn strategies for dealing with strong feelings. One of these strategies is art therapy. The first step in an art therapy session is to invite kids to slow down, listen to their bodies, and identify what they are feeling. The second step is to think if a particularly strong feeling has a color, shape, or texture, and let it all out on paper. Seeing what was inside you out in front of you can be a revelation and a relief.
The artist Simone Shin does a great job of incorporating Nico’s simple scribbles and drawings into the colorful double spreads of mixed-media illustrations.
After reading the story, you can ask your kids their thoughts on what it feels like not to be understood and how they might communicate better. Then, maybe invite them to draw their favorite ice cream flavor or how a hug feels.
I’m Number One, Michael Rosen
You might think that reading a book whose main character does all the things you don’t want your kids to do is a bad idea. The wind-up drummer screams at the other toys, calls them names (“Sally is a silly-sack!“), and tells them he is in charge and that he makes all the rules. But do you really think that your middle child sometimes doesn’t dream of being in charge, calling siblings (and maybe even you) silly names, and make all the rules in the house?!
This story demonstrates that being one of the gang is more satisfying than being a bully “number one.” Detailed pen and watercolor illustrations by an award-winning Australian illustrator, Bob Graham, are cheerful and playful.
Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas, Aaron Blabey
“What’s wrong with you, Brian?”
“Are you serious, Brian?”
“Stop it, Brian.”
Brian seems to be different from other piranhas. They don’t eat apples, beans, veggies, greens, melons,or bananas, but he does. With humor and adorably comical illustrations, the multi-award-winning author and illustrator Aaron Blabey invites you to celebrate the acceptance of differences.
Siblings can be a source of frustration when they refuse to choose or accept the things you like. This story teaches that everyone deserves politeness and respect, even though their tastes might be different from ours.
Tiny Little Fly, Michael Rosen
My middle son doesn’t like that his older brother is faster, bigger, and stronger, not one bit. Of course, I tell him to forget the comparison game. But hearing “You are you, and you are awesome” just doesn’t cut it when you lost in a wrestling match… again.
So, my son loves reading stories where the little guy carries the prize home. In this colorful rhyming book, a sly little fly annoys an elephant, a tiger, and a hippo. They swoop and snatch, tramp and crush, but the fly gets away. The repeated text, striking images, and the idea that size and power don’t always win the day make this story a great choice.
Lost for Words, Natalie Russel
In this story, Tapir is surrounded by very talented friends. Giraffe has a way with words, Hippo is clever, and Flamingo is a talented songwriter. Why, oh why, then, is poor Tapir lost for words?!
Eventually, Tapir begins experimenting with his pencils. He draws a bright orange sun that is dripping tear-like drops of light onto the world. He draws a turquoise river and a tree, and finally, he draws his friends. Not only is his drawing beautiful, but it says everything he wanted to say.
This story will inspire you to help your middle children discover and celebrate their unique talents. You can tell your middle kids that sometimes it might seem like they can’t do the things they want to do in the way they want to do them (or the way their siblings do them). As I say, take a deep breath and consider this: it might not be your thing (and that’s ok).
We love the expressive, cartoonish illustrations by the author, and my kids like to copy them from the book, especially the drawings of animals.
Nobunny’s Perfect, Anna Dewdney
“Every little bunny’s good. They mostly do the things they should. But sometimes feeling sad or mad can make a little bunny … bad!” Every little bunny who throws a fit secretly worries that now that he is “bad,” his parents won’t love him anymore. This rhyming story from an award-winning author and illustrator, Anna Dewdney (Llama llama red pajama), reassures that there are no bad bunnies.
My kids love the part where the bunnies are trying to scratch each other and squirt carrot juice out of their noses. Fun! Take the time to discuss this and why, even though nobody is perfect, we should always try to do what’s right and love each other anyway.
You Belong Here, H. M. Clark
You Belong Here will remind you how lucky you are to be the one raising your children. One likely side effect of reading this book is misty eyes and an uncontrollable desire to hug your kids like there is no tomorrow. Your kids will love this book because it’s like a gentle, reassuring lullaby full of dreamlike repetition, soft, calming scenes, and beautiful imagery.
It’s a great candidate for a family library because it’s the kind of book you would want to reread many times.
“The stars belong in the deep night sky // and the moon belongs there too, // and the winds belong in each place they blow by // and I belong here with you.”
Edwardo: the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World, John Burningham
And before you ask me why I’m recommending a book about a bad boy who is cruel to cats and nasty to little children, this is why: the book is a great reminder always to see the best in our children.
At the start of the story, Edwardo keeps getting a lot of negative feedback, which pushes him to succeed in being bad. But it’s precisely when adults start seeing the positive side of Edwardo that he strives to live up to their positive expectations.
For me, this story is a great reminder to be most empathic towards my kids when they challenge me the most. It’s easy to respond in negative ways, but unless we understand their experiences and where they are coming from, we can’t eliminate tension and problems.
The author’s own witty watercolors are set against large white backgrounds and add a distinctive personality to the tale. My middle children are fascinated to read about the main character and why he is behaving so badly.
The Middle Kid, Steven Weinberg
And finally, for dessert, the book written and illustrated by the middle child Steven Weinberg for middle children everywhere. This amusingly observed tale of what it’s like to be stuck in the middle is sure to warm your middle child’s heart.
It captures with tender details and moving humor a single day in the life of an energetic boy with an older brother and baby sister.
The story offers a splendid opportunity to talk about the fact that there are two sides to every story. And that both sides might be right. The artwork is very engaging, and I bet it will spark lots of emotions in your middle children. The more you re-read this book, the more your kid will love it.