I share new books on my Instagram feed several times a week, but I haven’t shared any new chapter books on Red Canoe Reader in a while. Here are five memorable middle grade chapter books that I don’t want you to miss!
Words by Patricia Hruby Powell
Pictures by Christian Robinson
This story is a free verse biographical poem about the dancer and civil rights advocate, Josephine Parker. It is best for grade 3 and up and is a perfect choice for a reluctant reader who is looking for a biography. The colorful illustrations and the short free verse poems on each page entice the reader to keep reading and to learn about Josephine’s fight for fairness, her kindness, her persistence and her success. It tells of her struggles in the U.S. when the country wasn’t ready to accept an African American dancer, no matter how talented. A country where she had to enter the theater by the back door and couldn’t even try on hats in a department store. We learn that all of this injustice prompted Josephine to flee to Europe where she was welcomed with love and standing ovations. Josephine entertained the troupes during World War II and joined the French Resistance, which led to her being awarded France’s highest honor.
by Esther Ehrlich
I couldn’t put this touching book down and finished it easily in a day. Miss Ehrlich’s beautiful descriptions of the marshes made me feel like I was trudging through the woods and climbing the dunes with Chirp, the main character. This is the first book from Esther Ehrlich and I’m eagerly awaiting her next novel!
Chirp loves the salt marshes around her family’s home on Cape Cod where she lives with her mom, a free spirited dancer, her dad, a psychologist and her older sister Rachel. She is never without her binoculars as she explores the sand dunes and woods watching for her favorite birds. Chirp feels like she has an almost perfect life except for a few things. For one thing, a new family has moved in across the street and Joey, who is Chirp’s age, and his two brothers are what her dad calls “tough guys”. Secondly, her normally active and happy mom is experiencing mysterious problems with her leg. This leads to a very difficult year in sixth grade and even though Joey may be a “tough guy”, a tender and moving friendship develops between Joey and Chirp as they each deal with some very difficult family problems. I wanted to hug both of them and not let them go! This is a good chapter book for your middle grade reader, but I promise you, you’ll love it too!
By Booki Vivat
When I was an elementary school librarian, I often heard the question “what book is like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate?” Well I wish Frazzled, Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom was available a few years ago, because it would have been flying off the shelves! Frazzled is not a graphic novel, but is filled with illustrations on every page, which makes it into a very inviting book for even reluctant middle grade readers. Frazzled tells Abbie Wu’s story about starting middle school and how she is “totally freaking out.” She is the middle child in her family and she isn’t brilliant and cool like her older brother or cute and adorable like her little sister. She is just Abbie who is struggling to find “her thing.” Will it be drama club like her best friend Maxine who has wanted to be an actress since third grade, or possibly the coding club like her friend Logan who has always been a whiz with puzzles? Or maybe cooking, or dance or sports? The trouble is, is that Abbie is terrible at all of these and couldn’t be less interested. This book will both entertain your middle grader, as well as reassure anyone who is dreading the transition to middle school. In the end, Abbie decides maybe she’s not “100% doomed!” and you find yourself hoping Booki Vivat finishes the next installment about Abbie Wu very quickly!
By C.C. Payne
Fizzy is a good southern girl with good manners who is trying very hard to be perfect. This is really difficult after her parents divorce. She suddenly has a new stepmother and her mother has a new boyfriend and Fizzy is feeling like a leftover, as both of her parents begin their new families. Fizzy does her best to be the perfect daughter to all of them, as she cooks nonstop to reach her goal of winning the Southern Living Cook-off. She’s hopeful that if she wins, maybe her mom and dad will no longer think of her as just a leftover. The story is both poignant and full of humor as Fizzy and her new friends, Zach and Miyoko, each deal with their family problems. The Thing About Leftovers is a perfect choice for a middle grader, but your older kids will enjoy it too.
This middle grade novel is based on the true life childhood friendship of Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Capote in their hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Both Nelle and Tru, next door neighbors, were avid readers, lovers of Sherlock Holmes, misfits and motherless. One summer, Tru’s cousins built a treehouse for Sherlock (Tru) and Watson (Nelle) in between their houses, which became their secret clubhouse and the place where they met to solve the mysteries of their small town and plan their adventures. Nelle used both her strength and her brains, and Truman his creativity and determination to help them confront the town bullies, as well as face the trials in their daily lives. Although these authors will be unfamiliar to your middle grader, the adventure and the humor in the story will definitely hold their attention. Personally, I was fascinated to learn about this childhood friendship between the two famous authors. Although the book is fictional, it is based upon the author’s research. I especially enjoyed reading the author’s note at the end of the book which told of Capote’s support of Harper Lee when she moved to New York City in 1956. He introduced her to a couple who sponsored her for one year, which enabled Lee to write To Kill a Mockingbird. Then In turn, Harper Lee’s research and support was instrumental to Capote’s when he wrote In Cold Blood.
These are my latest favorite middle grade chapter books. What have you read that you loved? Please let us all know in the comments!