Good Chapter Books That Will Make You Cry

This post may contain affiliate links.

We’ve all cried at Charlotte’s Web, but what other children’s fictional chapter books will make you cry?

Here’s a list of AMAZING middle-grade books that will move kids (and you) to tears.

In a good way!

Because sometimes we’re just in the mood to read a sad, poignant, even bittersweet story.

Get your tissues ready…

Chapter Books That Will Make You Cry

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
by Kate DiCamillo
Edward is a china rabbit with a fancy wardrobe who was adored by the girl who owned him..until he gets lost. He experiences loss many times over and can hardly stand the pain. Yet a wise doll encourages Edward to open his heart to love again — and that’s when he finds a miracle and love.

Painful, Hopeful Growing Up Stories: New Realistic Fiction
When Friendship Followed Me Home
by Paul Griffin
Tear alert! Ben has been through hell — foster family, adoption by an amazing woman who dies after a few years, and now a bad new situation with his adopted mother’s sister and her husband. But, he has two things that are good, really good — his rescued dog, Flip, and his favorite librarian’s daughter as a good friend. Until his friend’s cancer gets worse . . . and his uncle punches him in the face…The story is gripping, the ending bittersweet, and the writing amazing.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett
Tissue alert –this story made me weep. A lot. Racking sobs, I’m not kidding. It’s a breathtaking story; a fable about life set in Nazi Germany. We follow three Gypsy siblings who have witnessed the capture of their family and friends. While walking and searching for food, they find an abandoned zoo, with talking animals. That’s all I’ll reveal. You NEED to read this beautiful story. It will change your life.

The Brave
by James Bird
When Collin, a boy who counts every letter spoken to him, gets kicked out of yet another school, his neglectful father sends Collin to live with his mom. Collin has never met his mother but he’s curious to meet her and live on the Ojibwe reservation. Living with her is a totally different experience than his previous home — because with his mother, he’s welcomed and not judged. He befriends the neighbor girl who teaches Collin how to be brave. Which he needs. And so does she because she’s going to be a butterfly soon…


sad and heartbreaking chapter books
The War I Finally Won
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Following the first book, The War That Saved My Life, this captivating story continues during the War. Ada and her brother live with their new guardian, Susan. After Susan’s home is bombed, they move to a small cottage that they share with Lady Thorton and a German Jewish girl named Ruth. It’s not an ideal situation. Partly because Lady Thorton doesn’t understand how to help around the house and she’s prejudiced against Ruth. In hard times, complicated people do the best they can. That’s what we see in this bittersweet moving story of loss and healing.

children's chapter books that will make you cry
The Poet’s Dog
by Patricia MacLachlan
Short but filled with tenderness! When a grief-stricken dog rescues two lost children in a terrible snowstorm, he takes them to the cabin of his former friend, a poet named Sylvan who rescued him years before. Told from the dog’s perspective we watch them bond and wonder if maybe the kids have saved the dog as much as he saved them. (And the beautiful ending WILL make you cry!)

Extraordinary Birds
by Sandy Stark-McGinnis
A tender, beautiful, redemptive story. December is a foster child who believes with all her heart that she will soon grow wings and fly. Now she’s in yet another foster home and for the first time, she makes friends. But after a jump off a high branch in a tree and a trip to the hospital, December finally accepts the truth about everything in her life– including her mother, being a bird, and the future. I cried so hard at this ending — because her hard-earned realizations shift her future, allowing for love and happiness.
Middle-Grade Books That Probably Will Make You Cry (2019)
Planet Earth is Blue
by Nicole Panteleakos
What a beautiful, heartbreaking, wonderful, transformative book! Nova is both autistic and nonverbal. In this story, she writes letters (narrated in her mind) to her “runaway” big sister, Bridget. We learn that Bridget always knew how to calm Nova down with storytelling and talking about anything space-related. Flashbacks show their history in the closet hiding from an abusive mother as well as time together with previous foster families. Nova clings to Bridget’s promise that Bridget will come back in time for the Challenger launch. But the launch happens and Bridget never arrives. This prompts Nova to face the truth about her sister. And that truth will make you cry like a baby. At least it did for me!! I’m in awe of the author’s beautiful, gifted storytelling. I love this book SO much.
Middle-Grade Books That Probably Will Make You Cry (2019)
The Bridge Home
by Padma Venkatraman
This is the story of sisters and brothers and resiliency and courage. Set in India, Viji writes this story as letters to you, her little sister Rukku who has intellectual disabilities. Viji tells how the two of them ran away from an abusive father to the big city where they met two friendly brothers and lived with them under a bridge, scrabbling to survive by collecting trash. Their lives are hard but made easier by the two boys, their new “brothers.” When Rukku gets a terrible cough and fever, so does one of the brothers. And what happens next almost destroys Viji. She wonders how prayers and faith can coexist with misery and pain. Ultimately, it is the kindness of her new “family” that helps her to see more than misery in the world. It’s an honest, eye-opening story that reveals the plight of many homeless children in India and yet, finds a way to be hopeful, too.

A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay (ages 10+)
Worth reading and rereading because there are layers upon layers of meaning, skillful writing, and a haunting truthtelling that resonates with us all. Ever since Conor’s mom gets breast cancer, a wild, ancient tree monster visits Conor’s nightmares. The monster demands that Conor admit the truth but Conor refuses. Meanwhile, in the awake world, Conor moves in with his cold, unfriendly grandmother. The metaphorical nightmare echos Conor’s real-world experiences as we journey with him into pain, loss, and eventually, healing. Astonishing and powerful, this is one of the best books I’ve EVER read.
Sweep by Jonathan Auxier
Set in Victorian London, this is a beautiful, bittersweet story about a plucky girl and her protector golem. Young Nan’s Sweep father-figure is gone; she still dreams of his kindness and their life before he left. To survive, she works for a cruel chimney sweep who uses children to make himself richer. When another sweep tries to burn Nan alive, a charcoal golem, formerly a piece of charcoal left to her by Sweep, emerges to save her. She and her growing protector golem, Char, find a new place to live but must stay vigilant so her old master doesn’t find them. On their own, they are helped by a street boy and a kind Jewish teacher. It’s an irresistible story that will expand your heart…and your definition of what makes a monster.

Tortilla Sun
by Jennifer Cervantes
Izzy’s life was a series of houses, sadness, and secrets – why wouldn’t her mom tell her about her dad who died before she was born? Why did they always move? When Izzy’s mom unexpectedly sends Izzy to her Nana’s in New Mexico, whom she barely knows, Izzy lands in a new culture and discovers her past, present, and future. Just as Izzy learns to make tortillas with practice and patience, she also learns the story of her dad, her mom, and ultimately her own story. The wisdom mixed with grief mixed with love creates a beautiful story — I cried and celebrated.

The Marvels
by Brian Selznick
Through illustration and prose, an unhappy boy named Joseph runs away from his boarding school to his uncle Albert’s house in London. Sadly, because his uncle is dying of AIDS-related complications, Joseph must leave for a better boarding school, but this time he leaves with the solid comfort of knowing where he belongs and who he is. This story is about the power of forgiveness and the magic of storytelling. I believe this is Selznick’s finest work, a true marvel.

Chapter Books That Will Make You Cry

You Might Also Like: 

Books that Show the Hero’s Journey
Hero's Journey Books for Elementary and Middle School

Wonderful Magical Realism Stories

Novels in Verse (That Will Get Kids Reading)
12 chapter books written in verse prose poetry for elementary and middle school students

You Might Also Like

2 Responses

  1. Beth Schmelzer says:

    I didn’t know how much I needed a good cry after this last year of separation, isolation and hearing about deaths and illnesses. When I read Deborah Wiles’ EVERY LITTKE BIRD THAT SINGS, the sobs and tears were released. Thank you for your new book lists, Melissa! Beth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

    More About Me

    Enter your email address to receive updates on all of our book reviews.