Heroes in the Hallway: Middle Grade Novels About School Life

A diverse group of six teenagers happily walking down a school hallway, wearing backpacks and casual clothes.

We love the idea of heroes in the hallway. Some of us look back at our school days, and they are filled with happiness, while others breathe a sigh of relief that it is over. Let’s be honest: school life is both challenging and rewarding. There are trials, tribulations, and triumphs, but perhaps it is not so much to do with school but rather the phase we are in. 

We are learning about the world and, more importantly, about ourselves. We are desperate for approval, connection, and understanding. There is nothing worse than being left out or feeling different! We so desperately want to fit in. 

Why We Love Hallway Heroes

Hallway heroes somehow manage to capture our hearts. Perhaps it’s because they are often the most unexpected characters. They face everyday challenges head-on, which is something we tend to forget. To be a hero, you don’t need to slay a dragon, or conquer a world—you need to be kind and compassionate and be prepared to stand up for what you believe in.

The Power of Relatability

Like most successful characters in any book, they need to be relatable. Our hallway heroes face challenges that most of us can relate to—from fitting in and dealing with bullies to making friends, and let's not forget about the academic pressures we all felt during school.

We think that’s why tweens can relate to them so easily. They provide a mirror where they can see their own experiences reflected back at them. When you see your favorite character overcoming struggles that you also face, it gives you hope, and who doesn’t love that sense of camaraderie?

The words "YES YOU CAN" written in the sand on a beach, with gentle waves approaching.

Empathy and Compassion in Action

These hallway heroes possess those qualities we all should have and need from others—empathy, understanding, and compassion. It is a valuable lesson from which our tweens will always benefit.

Inspiration Through Adversity

They inspire and motivate us to be brave, to stand up for what is right, and to persevere in the face of adversity—nothing beats resilience when it comes to heroes! Yes, challenges can be overcome, and we love cheering them on during their moments of personal growth and success.

Celebrating Diversity

We are thrilled that many of our hallway heroes come from diverse backgrounds. It is the ideal way to give tweens a look into someone else’s world. Experiencing a character from a different background gives them insights into different challenges, identities, and circumstances that others experience.

The Strength of Friendship

Imagine school life without friends. This is another theme that resonates with most of us and especially tweens—the power of friendship. We all know the impact of strong and positive relationships on our lives—friends who give us support, encouragement, and love. These friendships provide a strength that only comes from standing together. 

Cool Books For Tweens

Here are some of the coolest hallway hero books for tweens!

A colorful book box set featuring "The League of Picky Eaters," surrounded by various activity booklets and themed items.

The League of Picky Eaters by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

We know you will love this hilarious and heartwarming debut about picky eating, finding your people, and standing proud!

In Muffuletta, being good at eating is the key to success. French fries and grilled cheese? Beginner food! Haggis and truffles? Delicacies!

After failing a school eating test, picky eater Minerva is placed in the lowest eating track of all: Remedial Eating to Change Habits. RETCH class is full of kids with weird personalities and even weirder food preferences. And to make matters worse, Minerva's best friends, in the Gifted and Gourmet class, no longer speak to her.

But soon Minerva finds she is not alone in her pickiness, and forms friendships with her new classmates. And together, they find a way to stand up for themselves—picky and proud!

We still have some of our fabulous “Picky Eaters Unite” full book boxes in stock. Featuring The League of Picky Eaters by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic plus THREE amazing gifts that bring this fun read to life!

The cover of "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio, featuring a minimalist drawing of a boy's face on a bright blue background.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a boy with a facial difference who enters mainstream school for the first time. Despite his initial fears and the challenges he faces, Auggie's kindness and courage shine through, inspiring those around him. 

We enjoyed how this fabulous story emphasizes the importance of empathy, acceptance, and the impact of kindness. It is a great read for tweens, especially those who feel different or like an outsider.

The cover of "Ungifted" by Gordon Korman, depicting a quirky robot holding a drink and a flag, against a teal background.

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

In Ungifted your tween will meet Donovan Curtis who is known for causing trouble, not for being gifted. So, when a prank goes too far, he's sure he's in big trouble. But a mix-up lands him at the Academy of Scholastic Distinction (ASD), a school for gifted students, instead of detention.

At ASD, Donovan tries to blend in with the geniuses, but his lack of academic skills quickly stands out. However, through a series of unexpected events—like an experiment involving his sister, a chaotic school dance, and an epic robot competition—Donovan proves he has unique talents that ASD students didn't know they needed.

Ungifted is a funny and heartwarming story about an unlikely hero who shows that everyone has their own kind of genius. It is perfect for readers who enjoy tales of individuality and surprising friendships.

The cover of "Posted" by John David Anderson, showing a locker covered with colorful sticky notes, each with a different message.

Posted by John David Anderson

Posted explores the power of words through the story of Frost and his friends, who start communicating through sticky notes after cell phones are banned at their school. This idea catches on, and soon everyone is leaving notes—some kind and friendly, others cutting and cruel.

In middle school, words are more than just words—they can be weapons or gifts. The right words can win friends or create enemies, come back to haunt you, and sometimes, they can change everything forever.

This thought-provoking story brilliantly explores themes of friendship, bullying, and the importance of communication. We particularly enjoyed how relatable it was, especially when it comes to navigating the complexities of school life.

The cover of "Fish in a Tree" by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, featuring a stylized tree with a fish hanging from a branch, set against a teal background.

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

In Fish in a Tree, Ally Nickerson struggles with dyslexia and the feeling that she is "stupid" because she can't read like her classmates. With the help of a supportive teacher and new friends, Ally begins to recognize her own strengths and talents. 

This inspiring story reminds us of the importance of understanding and support in overcoming challenges and finding one's own path to success.


These incredible books offer relatable experiences and invaluable lessons. These hallway heroes are the perfect companion for any tween as they remind them that they aren’t alone, that just like the heroes they read about, they can also overcome any challenge, obstacle, or struggle with courage and resilience!

Books and stories are not only an escape from reality—they become our bookish friends and teach us so much about the world. We also believe that encouraging your tween to journal about their feelings and experiences can make a huge difference in their lives. Which reminds us we have a fabulous journal which is perfect for writing about their future goals and dreams.

Encourage your tween to pack away the screen and jump into the wonderful world of books with our amazing tween boxes! They will love our whimsical box packed with an exciting book and surprise gifts that will have your tween jumping for joy - not to mention all the added extras! 

Check out our blog on improving your child’s reading skills. It's filled with games and great ideas for bookish fun.

Happy reading from all of us at Once Upon a Book Club!

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