Middle Grade Book Recs Based on Disney Movies


In this list I will be recommending some of my favorite books within the Middle Grade and YA genres based on five Disney and Pixar movies. Everyone has a favorite animated movie, and my hope is that I can recommend a book or series based on or inspired by your favorite one.

Mulan: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Dragon Pearl is a Korean-inspired Middle Grade book loosely based on Mulan with a gender-bending main character who joins the war in service of her family and ends up finding her own strength along the way. The main character Min joins the Space Forces after her brother Jun has been accused of abandoning his post in search of the valuable Dragon Pearl. Galaxy traveling allows Min to explore her familial fox spirit magic for the first time. Her mother had forbidden Min from practicing so that their family could appear human in the midst of an interplanetary war, but when she enlists, Min is able to fully explore herself and the magic she has inherited.

Moana: Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by by Julian Randall

Pilar Ramirez is similar to Disney’s Moana as she must venture away from her family for the first time to rediscover the truth about her family after being sucked into the mythical world of Zafa. Moana visits a land of monsters while exploring her community’s wayfinding legacy, and Pilar is able to reveal her family’s earlier struggles under the frighteningly real Dominican leader El Cuco. Julian Randall’s Middle Grade novel is easily one of my favorite books, meshing together fantasy and family trauma.

Check out our review of Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa here!

The Little Mermaid: Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore

Discovering a world that has been hidden by water, breaking from expectations to explore yourself, and reconnecting with someone you once only briefly knew to make each other better people defines the story of Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia. Like the love story between Ariel and Prince Eric, both relationships reveal a new and unknown world with something truly magical shifting into place. While Lakelore isn’t a traditional love story like The Little Mermaid, Bastián and Lore are similarly two people who don’t quite fit within their traditional families or worlds, and are able to find new meaning in their growing connection.

Finding Nemo: Elvis and the World As It Stands by Lisa Frenkel Riddiough

This story tells the dual growth of a young girl named Georgina and her recently adopted kitten Elvis, who is grieving the separation from his siblings after being adopted by Georgina’s mother. The two characters develop a strong relationship by having to work together to develop a system for communication, as one is a girl and the other a cat. Similar to the separation and trials of reconnecting in Finding Nemo, both Elvis and Georgina do not immediately develop a smooth relationship. There is some stumbling between the two on the road to friendship, as they both blame the other for their current situation to a certain extent, but by the end of the book Elvis and Georgina are just as close as Nemo and his father.

Check out our review of Elvis and the World As It Stands here, and our interview with author Lisa Frenkel Riddiough here!

Frozen: Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

While this book is actually a retelling of the “Snow White and Rose Red” fairytale, I’ve listed it as a good recommendation similar to Frozen because of the central sisterly relationship between Rose and Snow. Emily Winfield Martin both authored and illustrated this story, which, similar to Frozen, features two young women having to navigate their childhood separate from their parents while going on a curse-breaking adventure. Snow and Rose were raised with servants in a beautiful house, but after their father’s death and mother lost to grief, they must rely on each other to free the enchanted forest from the set spells, making it dangerous.

These five Middle Grade books are all as unique and explorative as any Disney movie, and they are all essential readings for any young reader looking for a magical reading experience!

PRR Writer and Editor, Kayla Chandler