5 Excellent Middle Grade Novels Set in Harlem, NYC
These don’t shy away from the realities of life in the Upper Manhattan neighbourhood
Middle Grade fiction has a lot to offer to kids discovering the world and learning about themselves. In these books for 8-to-12 year olds set in Harlem, there’s plenty of that kind of learning to go round, as well as adventure, friendship, and more. They don’t shy away from the realities of life on the edges of Manhattan, and make for great reads for both kids whose lives are radically different from those depicted here and for kids growing up in Harlem longing to see themselves in fiction.
The Harlem Charade, by Natasha Tarpley
When a politician wants to build a theme park called Harlem World, Jin, Alex, and Elvin know they have to do something to save their neighbourhood. But what they couldn’t have guessed is that the path to doing so includes a mysterious artist whose path they cross while trying to figure out what happened to Elvin’s grandfather. “Tarpley creates a strong sense of Harlem’s rich past and present, conveys the importance of art, and raises thoughtful questions about service and justice,” says the Publishers Weekly Starred Review.
My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, by Ibi Zoboi
Ebony-Grace has grown up in Huntsville, Alabama with a space-loving grandfather. She loves Star Wars, Star Trek, and his stories of being one of the first Black engineers at NASA. Then, in the summer of 1984, Ebony-Grace is sent to Harlem to stay with her dad for a few weeks. New York City feels different from her hometown, and she finds it difficult to adapt at first — until she begins to understand it through the lens of her beloved science fiction stories.