New Middle Grade Books You’ll Want to Read Soon

I’ve been absorbed in reading kid lit lately, especially new middle grade books. I learn about the titles by following publishers, following The Nerdy Book Club blog, being a part of Kid Lit Exchange and following many, many kid lit lovers on Instagram. If you’re looking for recommendations for picture books, middle grade books or YA, you’ll learn so much from these sources! I hope you’ll like these new middle grade books as much as I did!

middle grade booksThe Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

By Karina Yan Glaser @karinaisreadingandwriting

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Many thanks to the author for sharing a copy of this book with @KidLitExchange for review! All opinions are my own.

I just finished this book and I immediately fell in love with the Vanderbeeker family on the first page! I want to slip right into their cozy Harlem brownstone and join one of their rousing neighborhood get-togethers. I loved every member of this caring family from Laney, the 4 ¾ year old who goes through life handing out huge hugs, to 6 year old creative animal lover Hyacinth, to 9 year old book loving Oliver, to 12 year old twins, Isa and Jessie, and of course mom and dad. This is a story about community, diversity, city living and love. It’s a perfect read aloud for the entire family. I highly recommend gathering all the kids, whatever age, cuddling up under a fuzzy blanket and reading this delightful story together. It’s also a great read aloud for any elementary classroom. You’ll find yourself yearning for a large caring family, lots of caring neighbors and wishing you could move to 141st Street in Harlem! And happily, you’ll get to visit them with again next year when another story about the Vanderbeekers is published. I can’t wait!

Read Aloud for all ages; Families; Kindness; Communities; Diversity; City Living, 

Karma Khullar’s Mustachemiddle grade books

By Kristi Wientge

Thanks to the author for sharing a copy of this book with @Kid Lit Exchange for review! All opinions are my own.

I have read several middle grade books this summer which describe the growing pains that kids go through as they begin middle school. Although it was a very long time ago, I certainly remember how hard it was for me. The school boundaries required that my lifelong friend attend another junior high along with most of our friends, while I had to start fresh. I thought my world was ending, just as Karma feels in this story. However, Karma is dealing with more than going to a new school. Karma, who is half Sikh, half Methodist has lost her dear dadima (grandma) who lived with and cared for her family, her dad has lost his job and is now the stay-at-home parent struggling with learning to cook and do laundry, her teenage brother is constantly fighting with her parents and her mom has gone from being home and always available for Karma, to working full time in a very demanding job. Add to all of that Karma’s best friend has decided to be friends with her new “mean girl” neighbor AND the fact that Karma has suddenly sprouted a 17 hair mustache, means Karma couldn’t be more nervous about middle school.

This 5 Star story seamlessly shows that the struggles in Karma’s household are just the same as those in so many American families. It truly provides a mirror to kids, as well as a window to others.  This is a good choice for grade 4 and up and is a “must buy” addition for all libraries!

MIddle School; Diversity; Grief; Friendship; Family

middle grade booksReal Friends

By Shannon Hale and Leuyen Pham

Truthfully, I’m normally not fond of graphic novels, but I loved this middle grade story! The artwork is truly amazing, and the fact that there were just  4 – 6 panels on each page with a small amount of text in each one, will help even a reluctant reader fly through the book.

This heartfelt memoir of Shannon Hale’s grade school years will have you laughing, but will also tug at your heart. For any of you who spent those years searching for that one special friend who would always be there for you, this will bring back so many memories. It helps the reader understand that real friends don’t treat you badly. Happily, it will also show young readers that it’s possible to survive the trials of elementary school friendships, and in the process perhaps find the courage to stand up for yourself and be kind to others.

It would be a great read aloud in a grade school classroom or a shared read with your child. It would help to open up so many conversations about friendship. This is definitely a 5 star book!

Friendship; Kindness; Graphic Novel

Greetings from Witness Protectionmiddle grade books

By Jake Burt

Many thanks to @kidlitexchange network for sharing this book for review. All opinions are my own.

Nikki (Charlotte) has never known her mother, her dad’s in prison and her grammy has died so she’s in “the system”. So far she has bounced from foster home to foster home with five stops along the way. She also has another problem. When she is nervous she picks the pocket of anyone within arm’s length. She just can’t help herself! But suddenly she is given an unexpected choice – remain at the children’s home waiting for her next foster placement or become the daughter of a family entering witness protection. After she is given ten minutes to decide, she says yes! Nikki immediately leaves “Nikki of New York City” behind and becomes “Charlotte Trevor who is moving from Ohio to Durham, North Carolina”. For the first time in her life, she has a mother, a father, a brother AND her own turret shaped room in a historical house on a tree lined street. She is actually part of a family and her only job is to do her part to keep them safe; a job she takes very seriously.

This book is full of adventure, middle school issues, and lots of love. I really admired Charlotte’s strength as she did her very best to follow all of the rules issued by the U.S. Marshalls and there were a LOT of rules. She proves herself to be a loyal friend, a great problem solver and a caring daughter as she grows more accustomed to her new life. Her calm demeanor, her sense of humor and her vigilance helps her entire family face their very frightening situation.  

I would highly recommend this for grades 5 – 8. There is so much adventure, as well as so much heart in this story, that it will appeal to everyone. We can only hope that there will be another book about Charlotte coming soon!

Courage; Adventure; Middle School; Family; Foster Children

middle grade booksVilonia Beebe Takes Charge

By Kristin L. Gray

Vilonia is a star of her “under 10” softball team, an animal rescuer, a school library helper, a good friend, a sister, a daughter and a granddaughter. At least she was a granddaughter until 43 days earlier when her beloved grandma dropped dead. And since that time Vilonia’s mother has been hiding in her room with the blinds drawn and spending much of her day in her pajamas. So since that day Vilonia has added cooking, laundry and obituary writing (her mom’s job) to her list of chores. She is doing her very best to help her mom, so that maybe she will learn to smile again.

This story will have you laughing out loud, but will also leave you in tears. It’s a wonderful book about kindness, thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and family. Vilonia is such a sweet caring girl who is trying her best to understand her mom’s illness. This is the first middle grade book I’ve read that addresses depression and describes the effects that it can have on the entire family. It doesn’t go into depth, but reading this story with your kids, or as a read aloud, will definitely provide an opportunity to begin some conversations. It will certainly help those kids who find themselves in a similar position. I highly recommend it to parents, teachers and elementary librarians. It’s a must for the shelves of every elementary library!

Families; Courage; Kindness; Clinical Depression; Grief

Kat Greene Comes Cleanmiddle grade books

By Melissa Roske

Illustrated by Nathan Durfee

Where do I begin to tell you about this wonderful book? Kat is a sixth grader who is dealing with so much in her life, but she is also very fortunate to be surrounded by lots of caring and supportive people, both children and adults. She is also a girl I so admired. Kat shows strength, compassion, bravery and flexibility throughout the story. I admired her relationship with her divorced parents, as well as her stepmother and her respect for her school counselor, Olympia. I admired her courage when she confided in her best friend, Halle, concerning her worries about her mother’s cleaning OCD, when she finally approached Olympia with her problems and when she tried to discuss the OCD issue with her mom. I admired her courage when she told her dad about her mom’s problem, although she was sure that it would mean moving in with her dad, far away from her friends. I admired Kat’s loyalty to her mom, even when her mom humiliated her in front of her classmates with her cleaning and germ obsessions. I admired her strength when she apologized to her best friend and tried to solve their friendship problems. And finally, I admired her flexibility when she moved into a bedroom with her three year old brother at her dad’s apartment, while her mom attended counseling. Each of these situations is so challenging, and is especially so to a sixth grader, but Kat kept going.

And finally don’t miss the amazing cover by Nathan Durfee! I loved searching for all of the surprises hidden away in every detail.

This is a book that needs to be in every elementary and middle school library and should be on every school psychologist’s bookshelf.  I highly recommend it to grades 4 – 8.

Courage; Families; Divorce; OCD; Friendship; Middle School


What are some new Middle Grade books you have discovered this fall? Please let us all know in the comments below!


Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

First of all, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to all of those effected by Hurricane Harvey. I can only imagine how awful it is for everyone. Happily, our country has rallied together and an amazing amount of money has been raised to help those in need. One fund raiser you might not have heard about is KidLitCares: Our Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort. An author I greatly admire, Kate Messner and many other kid’s lit authors and illustrators have begun a relief effort to raise funds for The Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and Global Giving Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.   I hope you’ll check it out! Now, on to Kids’ Books to Remember!

Well, can you believe it’s September? As I write this, the evenings are getting cooler and the days are shorter. I even have some leaves on my magnolia tree turning a very pretty yellow. How can that be?

I hope school is off to a good start for all of you. Here are some kids’ books to remember to look for at the library. I wish you all cozy evenings as you curl up under a blanket for a family read aloud!

kids’ books to remember: read alouds

kids' books to rememberElmer and the Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gann

This is part of the imaginative series from the 50s.


Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

This is one of my all time favorites and is told from the point of view of the rabbits. It’s great for all ages, and especially for animal lovers!

Pee Wee Tales by Johanna Hurwitz

kids’ books to remember: picture books

kids' books to rememberA Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon

A fun story about learning to like yourself just as you are.

Komodo! by Peter Sis

“Mad about dragons, the boy who narrates this picture book is pleased when his doting parents decide to take him to Indonesia, home of the Komodo dragon….[The boy] takes the road less traveled through the jungle, where he encounters the dragon of his dreams….Full of intriguing detail….picture book, original in concept and beautiful in design.”–Booklist.

Good Boy, Fergus! by David Shannon

Follow Fegus through his perfect doggy day, except for when it’s time for his bath!


kids’ books to remember: middle grade chapter books

kids' books to rememberListening for Lions by Gloria Whelan

This historical fiction book is about a very strong girl who is tricked into a criminal scheme after her parents die in Africa in the Influenza epedemic of 1919.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

A Newberry Award winning classic. Amazon’s summary: “Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee might have lived a normal life if a freak accident hadn’t made him an orphan. After living with his unhappy and uptight aunt and uncle for eight years, he decides to run–and not just run away, but run. This is where the myth of Maniac Magee begins, as he changes the lives of a racially divided small town with his amazing and legendary feats.”

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

This Newberry Honor book is another historical fiction book based upon the author’s experiences of fleeing Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and moving to Alabama.


We all hope our kids will grow up to be readers. This New York Times article will give you lots of ideas.

How to Raise a Reader

If you’re looking for some titles to capture the attention of even your most active child, these might do the trick.

8 interactive Books to captivate your Restless Reader

I always wanted to make sure my kids’ rooms would entice them to curl up and read. If you feel the same way, you’ll find lots of great ideas here!

Kids Room Ideas from the cutest kids book store ever (really it’s amazing) 

Finally, I want to thank you for inviting me into your Inbox. I realize how busy everyone is, and I really appreciate you taking the time to read about some kids’ books! Have a great week!

Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

Can you believe August  is drawing to a close and school is beginning? I feel like the summer is flying by! As this happens, I’m thinking more and more about books I can share with you on Red Canoe this fall as your kids begin the school year. Of course, your calendars will be full with activities, back-to-school nights and homework, but I hope all of you can find a little time each day to read a fun book. It might be listening to an audio book while you’re doing car pool or hurrying to the next activity, or it might be reading an ebook with some of the kids while you wait for a practice or a lesson to conclude. However you find time to squeeze in a bit of reading, just enjoy! And if you’re wondering what you might read, just add these titles from Kids’ Books to Remember to your list for your next library visit!

kids’ books to remember: read alouds

kids' books to rememberRuby Lu Empress of Everything by Lenore Look

“Starred Review from School Library Journal. Grade 1-3–Ruby Lu takes her role as Smile Buddy to her deaf cousin, Flying Duck, so seriously that her work suffers, dooming the second grader to a vacation marred by summer school and a repeat of last year’s swimming lessons.”

Pigs Might Fly by Dick King-Smith

By the author of Babe, “It’s impossible to remain unmoved . . . a soaring, heartening fantasy.”—Publishers Weekly

kids’ books to remember: picture books

kids' books to rememberImogene’s Antlers by David Small

“Young Imogene wakes up one morning to find she has sprouted antlers. Unflappable, Imogene takes the whole thing in stride; the same cannot be said for her mother, who faints every time her daughter comes into view….The effervescent, softly colored illustrations incorporate all the humor inherent in the tale. A laugh-aloud read-aloud.”–Booklist

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

I wrote about The Curious Garden in this post, Author, Peter Brown.

Otis by Loren Long

“Starred Review, School Library Journal: PreSchool-Grade 2—Otis is a fun-loving tractor who roams the fields after a hard day’s work and plays in the haystacks. In the barn one night, his engine provides a gentle purr that helps a frightened young calf fall into a peaceful sleep. The two become inseparable.” This is a heart warming book and the first of many Otis stories your kids will love.

kids’ books to remember: Middle Grade Chapter Books

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holmkids' books to remember

“School Library Journal Review: Gr 4–8—Eleven-year-old Ellie Cruz’s life changes dramatically when her mother brings a teenage boy home one night and she learns it is her estranged grandfather. Melvin is a scientist who has figured out how to reverse aging and is now 13 again.”

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

You might remember Harriet from your own childhood. She’s still observing and recording everything around her and in the process alienating some friends.

Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech

Each short page in this story is written in verse about Jack’s struggle with poetry in Miss Stretchberry’s class. It has lots of humor and is perfect for a reluctant reader.

links for mom and dad

This post is about a new middle grade chapter book you will want to know about. This is a story of friendship and stars a third grade boy on the autism spectrum.

A Boy Called Bat

Do you have a hard time reading to your kiddos, because they just won’t sit still? These titles promise to change that!

Read Alouds for a Child Who Won’t Sit Still

These inspirational posts are from two of my favorite blogs.

Change the World

Education is a Political Act by Donlyn Miller

Have you found some old favorites during your library visits? Have you read a recent story or article about reading that has inspired you? Please share them with all of us in the comments.

As always, thank you for inviting me into your inbox. I write Red Canoe Reader, because my passion is to help moms, dads and kids learn about some great books, and to help kids become lifelong readers. I hope you found some inspiration in something you read today on Red Canoe Reader!


5 Books to Begin Middle School

It’s hard to believe that school will be starting very soon. I don’t know about you, but the summer has flown by! We’ve spent a lot of time in Michigan and we’ve had the oportunity to renew old friendships and spend lots of time with family and friends. We’ve tried to enjoy every minute and we’re tired, but very happy!

I know there are a lot of anxious kids out there who are ready to begin school. Maybe it’s a new school because of a move, maybe it’s new because it’s middle school or maybe it’s just a new grade. No matter the situation, it’s always reassuring to know that whatever you’re worried about or whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone. These books do that! Your tween may identify with Tessa’s fear about starting a new school, with Macy’s concern about moving and having a new family, with Abbie Wu’s feeling that she’s “totally freaking out” or with Lucia and Elyse’s feelings when their best friends turn to someone new. The books are about courage, acceptance of differences and kindness. They are perfect for kids as they begin middle school, but will also be great for 4th and 5th graders. I hope your kids will find a new favorite that will give them just the courage they might need to begin a new school year.

Bubblesmiddle school

By Abby Cooper

  • Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own.

Sophie has been in mourning for four months, because four months ago she is certain she caused her mom to break up with her long time boyfriend, as well as lose her job. As a result, her mom either sits on the couch reading boring magazines or cries in her room, instead of sharing lots of adventures with Sophie as they’ve always done And now Sophie has a new problem. She sees speech bubbles, just like those in cartoons, above people’s heads. She can tell what everyone is thinking!

Here are some of the many reasons that this book is definitely a 5 star review!


♥Sophie’s strength and courage to share about the speech bubbles with her mom and her friends

♥Sophie’s courage to talk to her counselor about her life

♥Sophie’s courage to creatively tackle her problems.

♥Sophie relationships with the adults in the story

♥Sophie’s friendship with her two best friends

Bubbles shows upper elementary and middle schoolers that struggling with friendships and self confidence, is very normal and it’s okay to be sad once in awhile. As Sophie said “…a sad thought every so often didn’t mean a sad life.  …And as long as I have my friends and family with me…I’d never have to deal with any of these things alone.”

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

By Lindsay Currie

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network and @lindsayncurrie for providing me with the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. It will be released 10/10/17.

This is a story about ghosts, friendship, family and Chicago that I couldn’t stop reading! It is based upon a true story from Graceland Cemetery in Chicago and at first was really scary (at least for someone who NEVER reads ghost stories!). In fact I told my husband one evening that I had to stop reading or I’d never sleep! However, the mystery, the characters, the friendships and the great story had me quickly picking it up the next day. As more of the characters were revealed, and the more I learned about the ghost of the  little girl who was haunting Tessa (the strong, brave, resourceful and likeable main character) the more I wanted to quickly finish the book.  I know this is going to be a perfect story for all of those kids who ask for a scary book! And there are definitely a LOT of those kids in every library. But more importantly, this is a great choice for kids who are coping with middle school friendships, acceptance of a not so normal family or quirky friends.  5 stars for sure!

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

By Shari Green

Thank you to @Kidlit Exchange for telling me about this great new title!

Macy, who has been deaf since she had meningitis when she was four, is facing many challenges as she finishes up sixth grade. Her mom is getting married, they are preparing to move in with her new stepfather and his six year old twin girls, she isn’t speaking to her best friend, her mom is insisting she help with both the wedding AND her elderly neighbor’s moving preparations and she has a final sixth grade genealogy assignment to finish.  Shari Green tells Macy’s story in free verse, which I wasn’t sure I would like, but it turned out to be the perfect literary device. I loved reading about the relationship that unfolded between Macy and her neighbor, Iris, The Rainbow Goddess, as Macy helped her prepare to move into an assisted living facility. I loved this poignant book as Macy faced her challenges, and with Iris’s help, began to understand that “Hearts are waiting, worrying, hurting – in need of a message you can send.”

This is Shari Green’s second middle grade book. Now I can’t wait to read her first one, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles!

Frazzled: Everyday disasters and impending doommiddle school

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 that September 26th comes very quickly so that you can read the next installment about Abbie Wu!

Moon Shadowmiddle school

By Erin Downing

This fantasy is all about Lucia who was born during a lunar eclipse. As the story opens, it is her thirteenth birthday and the night of the next lunar eclipse. Her mother insists that this will be a very special evening for Lucia, but all Lucia cares about is trying to get her best friend back, trying to be friends with the boy next door again and learning to cope with her parents’ divorce. However, something very mysterious happens to Lucia. As the moon passes through the shadow of the earth and Lucia falls asleep, Lucia’s shadow appears. It turns out Lucia’s shadow only makes itself known while Lucia sleeps, but the shadow’s behavior is very different from Lucia. Lucia’s shadow has a lot more confidence and courage than Lucia, which leads to some interesting situations. This story was intriguing and I didn’t want to stop reading! Although, older kids would fly through this, I recommend it to anyone looking for a magical, mystical book for their next read.


These are just five of my most recent favorites that will help your fourth grader, your fifth grader or your middle schooler find the courage to face the challenges of a new school year. Do you have any more to add to the list? Please let us know in the comments. Finally, I wish you and your family a great start to the new school year!

Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

It’s hard to believe that July 4th has come and gone! For some reason, I always feel like summer is slipping through my fingers after all of the fun of the fireworks and the family get-togethers. However, we have lots of summer left and your kids may be looking for some new things to read. If that’s the case, here are some kids’ books to remember that might just help their search!

kids’ books to Remember: Read Aloud

I have shared these titles before, but they are three of my favorites, and I’m sure kids of all ages will love to hear them again!

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate Dicamillo

kids’ books to Remember: picture books

kids' books to rememberWe begin with one that I was recently reminded about in this great post. I hope you’ll check it out. 


My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown (a Caldecott winner by the author of Goodnight Moon)

The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars by Jean Merrill


kids’ books to Remember: middle grade chapter books

The Familiars by Adam Jack Epsteinkids' books to remember

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner






links for mom and dad

This is a great reminder from Alfred Einstein.

Logic vs Imagination

This is a post from one of my favorite blogs about a very special book.

There is a Light that Never Goes Out 

These books might help start some conversations with your kids about how they can help those around them.

Making an Impact: 25 Mighty Girl Books About Charity and Community Service

As always, thank you for inviting me into your inbox, especially during the lazy days of summer. Later this week, I’ll be sharing something I’m very excited about! I hope you’ll look for that post this weekend. Have a wonderful week!

Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

Happy summer! Now that we are a few weeks into summer vacation, your kids may be looking for some books to add to their TBR pile. I know I am! I’m flying through my books, both kids and adult, and I’m always looking for new ones to add to my library list. These titles might be new releases or old favorites, but if I read a good review, my list grows! I hope this week’s edition of Kids’ Books to Remember will help your kids find some new ones to add to their lists, and maybe you, too, will find some books for your own TBR pile!

kids’ books to remember: read aloud

kids' books to remember

More All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth

The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg


kids’ books to remember: picture bookskids' books to remember

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak





kids’ books to remember: chapter books

kids' books to remember

These books are good for those going into 4th grade and up. Your kids might want to read them on their own, or they might enjoy a read aloud with you.

So Be It by Sarah Weeks

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Cages by Peg Kehlert




some links for mom and dad

Raised Salt Painting

The Ultimate Summer Reading List for 6 – 8 year Olds – 2017 Edition

11 Baseball Books Kids Say are Home Runs

50 Brilliant Books for Summer

As always, thank you for inviting me into your inbox. I write Red Canoe Reader, because I want to help moms, dads and kids learn about some great books, and to help kids become lifelong readers. I would really appreciate you sharing my site with your friends who are also looking for books for their kids, especially now that summer is here. I’ll be posting more titles to add to your kids’ lists frequently. Finally, I hope you’ll let me know what you think about Red Canoe, and about anything you’d like me to add to the site. Have a great weekend and Father’s Day!

5 Middle Grade Books to add to Your Summer Reading List

School’s out! The kids are thrilled and hopefully you are, as well. After all, you have a little more down time, a few less lunches to make and more time to enjoy your children. Personally, I am loving the warmer weather, the sunshine (finally!), the lush green trees, the flowers and the freedom to walk out the door without a jacket. I’m spending a lot more time reading books, both children’s and adult, rather than reading the internet (although I’m not sure why!), trying new recipes and basically enjoying life. I guess there’s just something about the open windows and summer breezes that energizes me. My reading has led me to five middle grade chapter books that I want to share with you. I hope your kids will enjoy them as much as I did! You might even want to add them to your TBR list, too!

middle grade books: harlem charade by Natasha Tarpley middle grade

Are you looking for a good mystery for your middle grade reader that will pull them into the story from the first page? This might be the one! Harlem Charade, set in the diverse streets of Harlem, has  many twists and turns. The main characters, Elvin, Alex and Jin, who are each struggling with problems at home,  work together to solve the mystery behind the attack on Elvin’s grandfather. Could the attack be a part of the councilman’s plan to shut down the local family businesses and force everyone to move out to make room for Harlem World? The story helps the reader understand both the meaning of, and the repercussions of gentrification, as the kids work together to solve the mystery and save their neighborhood. This is an action packed story that keeps the reader guessing until the end. I highly recommend it!

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: short  BY holly goldberg sloan

middle grade

I was looking forward to reading the new book by the author of one of my favorite middle grade reads from the past few years, Counting by 7s, and I wasn’t disappointed. Julia is struggling with several obstacles as she begins summer vacation. She’s the smallest in her class, by far, her best friends are gone for the summer, and she is mourning the loss of her beloved dog, Ramon, her closest friend and buddy, who  suddenly curled up and died unexpectedly of a heart attack. To give Julia something to focus on, her mom registers her and her little brother to appear in the community production of The Wizard of Oz. Of course, much to her horror, Julia is cast as a Munchkin.

I immediately identified with Julia’s grief, which she tries to keep inside, because I have lost so many dogs through the years, and it’s very difficult. And I had the opposite problem about size – I was always the tallest in my class, which is equally horrifying! So I was pulled in from page 1!

I especially loved Julia’s relationships that develop with the adults in the story: her neighbor, Mrs. Chang, the director of the play, her parents and her fellow actors. They showed her so much respect, support and understanding throughout the summer, which helped Julia deal with her grief and improve her self confidence.

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: one hundred spaghetti strings BY jen nailsmiddle grade

This book certainly pulled at my “mom heart strings”! I wanted to hug Steffy and Nina and protect them from the unfairness of their world. They have been happily living with their aunt Gina since their mom’s traumatic brain injury in an auto accident and their dad’s subsequent abandonment, which is almost as long as they can remember. But now their dad is coming home and their beloved aunt is moving out. This poignant tale tells the story of how each of the girls deal with the situation, Steffy by cooking and Nina by dancing, how they are forced to grow up far too early and how they learn that sometimes you need to rewrite your family’s recipe, even though it may be far different than you hoped.

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: a rambler steals home BY carter higgins

middle gradeDerby, her brother and her dad lead a vagabond life. They travel the country hauling their rambler to ball parks and fairgrounds selling hamburgers and fries. But every summer, they can’t resist returning to Ridge Creek, Virginia, for the Rockskippers season, a minor league baseball team.. They’ve been spending every summer there as long as Derby can remember, and their many friends always look forward to their return. I admired Derby’s strength as she tells the story of missing her mom who walked out years ago, her determination to find a way to help her dearest friend in Ridge Creek and her struggle to understand what home truly means.  As her dear friend, June, tells her, “Your home has wheels, but your heart has roots right here.” This is really a winner!

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: the summer i saved the world in 65 days 

BY michele weber hurwitzmiddle grade

I don’t usually post things twice, but I think this book warrants breaking that rule! I’m hoping a lot of people who didn’t see it last summer, or may have forgotten, will see it today. Now that school is out for your kids, or very nearly so, the search for a special book begins. This would be a great one to read first!

Nina is spending her summer between middle school and high school pretty much on her own. Her parents, both lawyers, go to work early and return late, her older brother is always busy, her best friend has discovered boys and only wants to talk about clothes and makeup and Nina’s beloved grandma has died. So Nina spends a lot of her day in her room looking at all of the houses in her cul-de-sac. On the first day of summer she watches her next door neighbor, Mrs. Chung, who lives by herself, struggling to plant her garden full of marigolds as she always does, even though she has a broken leg. After Mrs. Chung gives up and goes inside, Nina remembers something her favorite teacher told the class on the last day of school. He said, “It is very often the ordinary things that go unnoticed that make a difference.” At that moment, Nina comes up with a plan that will change her summer and change her neighbors’ summers, as well. Nina decides to do something unnoticed every day for the 65 days of summer and see if she can really make a difference. This is an inspiring story for a beginning of summer middle grade book for kids going into fourth grade and older. Maybe we could all decide to do something ordinary and unnoticed for someone for one day or for 65 days this summer and see if it makes a difference. I’ll bet it does!

Do your kids have some books to suggest? Please let us all know in the comments.

Happy Summer!


Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

Last weekend my husband and I spent a wonderful weekend visiting our son and his girlfriend in Virginia. We got to tour Washington D.C. including Arlington National Cemetery, The National Art Museum, The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, The Vietnam War Memorial and of course, The Lincoln Memorial. It was a whirlwind, but so meaningful, and also so much fun to get to spend time with two of our favorite people. It was very hard to leave after looking forward to our visit for so long. I’m very grateful our son lives just an eleven hour car ride away, after living on the west coast for many years, but it’s still hard to say goodbye.  As I mentioned to him, wouldn’t he like to find a job in Chicago? Actually, though, we’re just thankful that he is happy, healthy, and surrounded with friends, because what more do we want for our kids?!

Now that we’re back home, here’s the latest edition of Kids’ Books to Remember. As always, I hope you find some new favorites!


kids' books to rememberArthur Plays the Blues by Marc Brown

Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary

A Llama in the Family by Joanne Hurwitz

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: picture books

kids' books to rememberThis week’s books include an old favorite, Bark, George, that I shared with kindergarten and first grade over and over, and they never ceased to roar with laughter. I’ll bet it will have the same effect on your kids!

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEmber: chapter books

kids' books to rememberI have always referred to these books as chapter books, but your kids may call them middle grade books. However you refer to them, they are fiction books that are on grades 4-6 reading level, with content that is appropriate for grade 3 and above. Please don’t shy away from suggesting some these to your middle schoolers, as well, as your younger children. These stories are so good, that they will entice them to keep reading, and isn’t that the goal?

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Watsons Go To Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis



links for mom and dad

This list is from a great website I’m sure you’ll like, and from one of my favorite librarians (an online friend I greatly admire).

Top Ten Picture Books for Read Alouds by Kate Olson

I am such a big believer in the value of reading aloud to children of all ages. This story, by one of my favorite bloggers, confirms my belief.

The Best of Jim Trelease

I always put a lot of thought into every birthday and Christmas gift for my children through the years. I hope that I gave these gifts as well, especially number 35.

35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget

For Mother’s Day, here’s a post and some comments that will remind us to linger awhile, cherish the journey and take time to smell the roses with our children.

Motherhood is Not a Finish Line




5 Memorable Middle Grade Chapter Books

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!

Josephinememorable middle grade chapter books

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

memorable middle grade chapter books
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 Vivatmemorable middle grade chapter books

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!

The Thing About Leftoversmemorable middle grade books

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.



Tru and Nellememorable middle grade chapter books

By G.Neri

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!


Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

How the week has flown by! It’s Spring Break week in our county and it’s a time for lots of family adventures, some nearby in Chicago, and Wisconsin and some a little further away where there are sunny skies and warm temperatures. We’ve spent the week at our lake house in Michigan we’ve had mostly gray skies and rain. However, that means LOTS of time for reading. I’ve actually read several adult books this week, as well as kids’ books. kids' books to rememberHere are two of my favorites.The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow. I read the Potato Peel Pie Society years ago and recently heard a recommendation from one of my favorite adult book bloggers, Modern Mrs. Darcy, suggesting if you had liked The Potato Peel Pie Society, you would love The Last Telegram, and it was so true. They are both set in England during World War II. You learn about the hardships, the fears and the bravery of those at home, while their loved ones were in the midst of battle. My father was a World War II veteran, and my mother was in high school during the war, so I feel that I have a much better understanding of their experiences after reading these historical fiction books. I highly recommend both of them!

Now back to kids’ books. Here is this week’s Kids’ Books to Remember. I hope these titles will help you find some new books that will become family favorites!

Kids’ books to remember: read aloud

As always, the books this week are those the whole family will enjoy, even your little ones. The links are to Amazon descriptions where you can read a short summary of the story, however these titles should be readily available at your library, as well.

kids' books to remember

No Flying in the House by Betty Brock

Abel’s Island by William Steig

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey






KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: picture books

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

This story reminds me of our family reunions each summer in Michigan. I always look forward so much to everyone getting together, but then I’m a little sad once everyone leaves. That is, until I remember that hopefully we’ll all be together once again next summer!

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

Molly Lou may be small and a little different, but she has the self confidence to stand up to the meanest bully.

Duck! Rabbit! by jAmy Krouse Rosenthall

I’ve been sharing this delightful book with kindergartners for years and I always get the same response. They delight in the story – is the main character a duck or a rabbit? This will prompt lots of conversations with your little ones, as they tell you why they are SURE it’s a duck or a rabbit! I just realized this is available as a board book, too, so this would be great for your little one who hasn’t quite learned about being careful with a picture book.

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: chapter books or middle grade bookskids' books to remember

Scumble by Ingrid Law

This used to be a favorite in my library. It’s a fantasy that is full of action and adventure. “The title stands alone in its fast-paced plot with twists and turns galore, and readers familiar with Savvy will eat it up and wish for more.” – School Library Journal

The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merill

Rufus doesn’t set out to be a millionaire. He just wants to save some money on his next tube of toothpaste, but with help from his friends he starts a million dollar business!

Danger Box by Blue Balliet

This mystery is by one of my favorite middle grade authors. It’s set in Michigan, not far from my home, which adds to the fun and the intrigue. This story is full of secret codes, mysterious strangers and a box containing many secrets. Grade 4 and up.

links for mom and dad

Things I Should Have Known Review

This is a great new book for for your middle or high school child. The review comes from a Wisconsin librarian who is a favorite of mine on Instagram.

13 Read-Alouds to Help you Connect with Your Middle Schooler

This list includes so many titles that will help prompt some great conversations with your middle or high schooler.

It’s OK to Write or Draw in These Books! (Gasp!)

If your kiddos love to draw, and you’d love to inspire even more creativity, these would be great additions to their Easter Basket!

Once again, thank you for inviting me into your inbox to help you prepare for your week. What are some titles you’ve found at your library that you’d like everyone to know about? Please let us know in the comments. Have a wonderful week, full of budding flowers and sunny skies (I may be dreaming, but that is truly my wish for you, wherever you are!).