My Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2017

For the past two years, during the month of December, I have shared book titles for you to add to your shopping list for the children in your lives.  This year, I have decided to take a different approach. This month, I plan to share lists of my favorite picture books and my favorite middle grade books published this year. It’s going to be  a difficult task, because I’ve loved so many! I do want to say, however, that there are many books from the past that would make wonderful gifts, as well. I’ve written about these titles in many additions of “Kids’ Books to Remember”. I hope you’ll check those out, as well!

Kids’ Books to Remember, Number 6

Kids’ Books to Remember Number 19

Kids’ Books to Remember Number 17

We’ll begin this week with my favorite middle grade books from 2017. I’ve written a short description about each book and linked the title to my blog post or Instagram post where you will find my complete review. I’m also including the subjects of each book, as well as a link to the Good Reads summary. Many of these books offer both “windows and mirrors” to the reader. The stories offer both a window to help us understand the characters’ experiences  and a mirror to many of us who might be dealing with some of the same issues. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re not alone in your feelings and experiences, as well as to develop empathy for those around you.

 favorite middle grade booksThings that surprise you

Good Reads – Things that Surprise You

By Jennifer Maschari 

Emily is about to begin middle school and is feeling all of the usual angst that goes along with that. However, she’s also trying to adjust to her parents’ divorce, her older sister’s absence due to the fact that she’s in residential care for her eating disorder and her best friend’s decision to try new things with lots of new friends.

 Middle School adjustments, divorce, friendship, eating disorders

favorite middle gradehalfway Normal

Good Reads – Halfway Normal

By Barbara Dee 

Norah Levy desperately wants to be a normal middle schooler, but she’s just returning to seventh grade after missing two years for cancer treatments. Add to that, her parents have laid out a huge list of crazy rules (in her opinion) to keep her rested and germ free, some of her friends are acting like she might break and some are jealous of the special treatment she’s receiving.

Middle school adjustment, cancer, friendship, family

favorite middle grade booksshort

Good Reads – Short

By Holly Goldberg Sloan

Julia is struggling with several obstacles as she begins summer vacation. 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.

Friendship, dwarfism, mourning a pet, multigenerational

favorite middle grade booksme and Marvin Gardens

Good Reads – Me and Marvin Gardens

By Amy Sarig King

Obe is struggling with a lot of things in his life. The only good part of his life, is his friend, Annie, and a mysterious animal he discovered down by the creek. He’s not quite sure about Marvin, who might be part pig, is definitely not a dog and eats plastic, But he knows he’s something very special. 

Friendship, family


favorite middle grade bookswishtree

Good Reads – Wishtree

By Katherine Applegate

This story is full compassion and humor, and as a bonus, lots of facts about animals I didn’t know!  Most importantly, it’s about kindness to people and animals, even if they are different than we are. And it’s one of the best read alouds for the ENTIRE family that I have read this year.

Kindness, animals, diversity, family read aloud


great middle grade booksThe peculiar incident on shady street

Good Reads – The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

By Lindsay Currie

This is a story about ghosts, friendship, family and Chicago that I couldn’t stop reading! This is a great choice for kids who are coping with middle school friendships, acceptance of their not so normal family or quirky friends.

Bravery, friendships, middle school adjustments, moving, acceptance of differences

favorite middle grade booksthe vanderbeekers of 141st street

Good Reads – The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

By Karina Yan Glasser

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. Especially recommended for Penderwick lovers!

Family Read, Families, Kindness, Communities, Diversity, City Living, 


favorite middle grade booksMacy Mcmillan and the rainbow goddess

Good Reads – Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

By Shari Green

This free verse story is about Macy, who has been deaf since she had meningitis when she was four, and the many challenges she is facing as she finishes sixth grade.  I loved this poignant book as Macy faced her challenges, and with her elderly neighbor’s help, began to understand that “Hearts are waiting, worrying, hurting – in need of a message you can send.”

Families, multigrenerational


The Unlikely story of a pig in the city

Good Reads – The Unlikely Story of a Pig in a City

By Jodi Kendall

This is a charming story about family, friendship, teamwork and of course, animals. Josie is one of five children in a loving, lively family living in a small townhouse in an Ohio city who often feels overlooked. When her brother brings home a piglet on Thanksgiving, the runt of the litter from a nearby farm, Josie falls in love and knows in her heart that she was meant to save Hamlet. This is another great family read aloud and a special one for Charlotte’s Web fans and Penderwick fans!

Families, city living, friendship, animals, family read aloud

middle grade booksVilonia beefe takes charge

Good Reads – Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

By Kristin L. Gray

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.  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.

Humor, kindness, thoughtfulness, family, mourning a grandparent, depression


middle grade booksKat greene comes clean

Good Reads – Kat Greene Comes Clean

By Melissa Roske

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 bravely deals with the repercussions of her mom’s cleaning OCD as she faces the changing friendships of sixth grade.

Bravery, compassion, friendship, flexibility, OCD


middle grade booksKarma Khullar’s Mustache

Good Reads – Karma Khullar’s Mustache

By Kristi Wientge

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, 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.

Adjustment to middle school, diversity, mourning a grandparent, friendship, family

middle grade booksgreetings from witness protection

Good Reads – Greetings from Witness Protection

By Jake Burt

Nikki (Charlotte) has never known her mother, her dad’s in prison and her grammy has died so she’s in “the system”. But suddenly she is given an unexpected choice – remain at the children’s home for her next foster placement or become the daughter of a family entering witness protection. 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.
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. I couldn’t put it down!

Adventure, family, friendship, adjustment to middle school

There were so many more, but I’m trying not to completely overwhelm you! If you need more suggestions, please check out my Instagram account.  I’ll be back soon with my favorite picture books of 2017. Have a great week!

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!

Red Canoe Reader is on Nerdy Book Club!

I’m so excited to share my big news! I have a post on Nerdy Book Club Blog!  It is titled TEN BOOKS TO HELP YOUR CHILD BECOME MORE COMPASSIONATE.  It describes ten books about compassion, kindness, acceptance of differences, empathy and caring. Hopefully, some of these title might lead your children to, as R.J. Palacio describes in her middle grade novel, Wonder, “choose kind”.

I would love for you to pop over and read my post! Then, while you’re there, explore The Nerdy Book Club. You’ll find lots of titles to add to your kids’ TBR lists, interesting information about children’s book authors and some books to use in your classrooms. I have gained so much from reading the articles on this website, and I’m very honored to be posting on it today! And finally, I’d really appreciate it, if you would both, “like” the post and share the post on Facebook or Twitter! Thank you for all of your support!



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!


Seven Picture Books You Don’t Want to Miss

First of all, you may be wondering about the flowers.  These were a special gift from my son-in-law that brightened my day! Even though we’ve had unusually warm weather, my garden is a long way from blooming. These are helping me wait! Now, on to what I want to share today. There are so many picture books published every week. I follow lots of publisher websites and Twitter accounts, as well as Instagram accounts to help me learn about all of these. I often add the titles to my reserve list at the library, and thankfully I have a great local library which usually has every one. And if they don’t, they are happy to order it! Once I get the books, if I like them, I share them on Instagram. If you’d like to see my favorites, be sure and follow me there. The link is toward the bottom of this page on the right hand side. Or another option is to wait for me to share them on Red Canoe Reader. That’s what I’m doing today! Here are seven picture books you don’t want to miss!


BY KATHY JAKOBSENSeven Picture Books You Don't Want to Miss

Are you planning a family trip to Washington, DC this spring to see the cherry blossoms and visit some of the museums and monuments? If so, My Washington, DC, is a great book to prepare your kids for the experience. Kathy Jakobsen’s lavish paintings illustrate each stop that the two characters, Becky and Martin, make along their way as they explore our capital. The kids learn lots of little known facts, as well as a lot about history. The book ends with some fun facts about Washington, along with a seek and find throughout the pages in the book. The paintings contain so many details, that your kids will pour over the book for hours. It might even keep them occupied during your travels!

Washington, D.C.; history

the unexpected love story of alfred fiddleduckling

by timothy basil ering

Seven Picture Books You Don't Want to Miss

I was completely enthralled by this story. The illustrations are exquisite from the first endpaper to the last. Timothy Basil Ering’s words and paintings draw you into the story as you find yourself rooting for Alfred Fiddleduckling, Captain Alfred, his dog and his wife.  You are hoping they can all find each other in the end, and the magical conclusion on the final pages of the book convinces you this will happen. In between, Ering uses his beautiful words and colorful illustrations to describe Alfred Fiddleduckling’s voyage, his love for the violin and the beautiful music Alfred creates as he drifts through the sea. I heartily recommend this story, that will warm your heart as you cozy up with your kiddos and get to know Alfred.

Caring; friendship; family; perseverance 

that’s me loving you

by amy rosenthal

Seven Picture Books You Don't Want to MissThis sweet book is the perfect one to share with your little one before his or her first day of school, or anytime the two of you will be separated. Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s reassuring text promises that “wherever you are, wherever you go, … that feeling you always have in your heart? That’s me loving you.” I could see this as a graduation gift for your child before they leave for college, or a book that will help your little ones as they struggle to work through their grief over losing a loved one. The simple, muted and whimsical illustrations add to this tender family story. Be sure and look for this on your next trip to the library!

Families; love.; grief


by rebecca young

Seven Picture Books You Don't Want to MissRebecca Young’s lyrical text and Matt Ottley’s magical illustrations tell the story of a young boy who is forced to leave his home and everything he has ever known to find another. All he carries with him is a backpack filled with a water bottle, a book and a blanket, along with a teacup filled with a speck of soil and a few seeds. Sometimes his days are peaceful and sometimes they are filled with peril. But as he travels, the seeds begin to grow, and grow, until he has an apple tree to protect him from the sun, to give him food to eat and to provide a cozy nook for reading. This beautiful story reminds us of what it must be like for the children who are currently fleeing their homelands in search of safety. And of how, even though we all face hardships, with bravery and determination we can succeed.

Determination; bravery; immigration; refugees.

the friend ship

by Kat Yeh

Seven Picture Books You Don't Want to MissThe Friend Ship ✨by Kat Yeh ✨illustrated by Chuck Groenink. Hedgehog is lonely and craves to be surrounded by friends, so he bravely sets sail in search of The Friend Ship. As he and a curious beaver sail along, they encounter animal after animal who also would love to find some friends, but no one has seen The Friend Ship. After sailing the world, Hedgehog’s boat is full of animals, but he’s so sad that he hasn’t found The Friend Ship. He’s instantly surrounded by his shipmates who offer encouragement “you can count on me”, we’ll stick with you till the end!”, and “don’t give up!” He vows to sail on, after all of the reassurances that he will indeed find The Friend Ship, until he meets an elephant on a very small island, who asks “isn’t that it right there?” This tender story will lead to a discussion with your little ones about friendship and the fact that friends are out there waiting for us. We just need to be a friend and to remember to keep looking!

Friendship; kindness; perseverance.

barefoot book of children

BY tessa strickland, kate depalma and david dean

Seven Picture Books You Don't Want to Miss Barefoot Book of Children will help your kiddos better understand the diversity of our world. It reminds us, that although children live in many different places and in many different situations, they all need a home to live in and people to teach them about the world. Barefoot Book of Children will help your little ones understand that there are many different families in our country and in our world. Some may be large, some may have a mom and dad, some may have two dads, some may be a foster family or some families may be yearning for someone who is very far away. The colorful illustrations will lead to a better understanding of our differences and to the fact that even though we eat different foods, play different games, speak different languages and worship differently, we all have love to give and we all have our own story to share.

Families; diversity; differences.


BY salina yoonSeven Picture Books You Don't Want to Miss

After reading and loving Salina Yoon’s, Be a Friend last fall, I decided to look for more of her books and I wasn’t disappointed after reading Found. Bear finds a lost bunny in the forest and decides to help the sad little rabbit find it’s home. He posts flyers all over the forest, by the pond and even on the top of the highest tree on the mountain. Sadly, he doesn’t get a response, so he decides to take the sad bunny on a picnic. They have an absolutely perfect day, until…they encounter Moose who is thrilled to find his long lost Floppy. However, Moose knows that sometimes passing along a special toy to someone who will love it very much is the kind thing to do. This heart warming book is full of empathy and kindness messages to share with your little ones.

Empathy; kindness.

That’s all for this time, but look for a post about more of my favorite picture books next month. Meanwhile, have you found some picture books lately that have become family favorites, old or new? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!


5 Middle Grade Books for your New Year

It’s hard to believe that it is February and we’re already one month into 2017!  I’m so fortunate to have many, many happy memories from 2016. We’ve spent lots of time traveling to reconnect with old friends and to visit with family. We got to visit two national parks, Shenandoah and Cumberland, the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Michigan, to see the deserts of Texas and New Mexico, as well as the mountains of Colorado. We got to spend lots of time with both of our sons (it’s so wonderful to have our older son living in Virginia and our younger son close by!), and to visit my brother and sister-in-law in New Jersey. And of course we had the opportunity to be part of the joy and love at two of our nieces’ weddings. Finally, we ended our year by adopting a greyhound named Brandy. She’s two years old, very sweet and certainly has a mind of her own. There are days when I’m ready to give her back, but most of the time we’re thrilled to have her in our family! So now it’s time to get back to my happy place of writing about kids’ books. There are so many new ones, as well as some older ones that I want to share with you. I’ll begin with 5 middle grade books.

middle Grade books: Some Writer! The Story of E.B. Whitemiddle grade books

by Melissa Sweet

I knew that I greatly admired E.B. White, the author of many books including, Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little, before I read this book, but now I have to admit I’m a little obsessed! And I definitely want to move to Maine and live on a farm! Melissa Sweet’s story and illustrations pulled me into Mr. White’s life from his early years when he won his first literary prize at age nine, throughout his almost sixty year career at the New Yorker. I learned that during his teenage years, he had stories published in St. Nicholas, a monthly children’s magazine, along with some other budding authors, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Falkner and Rachel Carson. That fact, along with learning that his best friend was James Thurber, his office mate at the New Yorker, was fascinating to me, because it made me realize all of these amazing literary talents were of the same era and were indeed friends.  I learned about his farm in Maine, his barn where he was inspired to write, Charlotte, and about his love for his family.

Melissa Sweet’s illustrations are a combination of her watercolors, photographs and collages of “a box of vintage office supplies, which she imagined were akin to what might’ve been in stock at the New Yorker offices.” She has included many photographs from the White family albums, which were shared by Mr. White’s granddaughter, Martha White.5 middle grade books5 middle grade books

I flew through this book and felt a loss when I finished. It was inspirational and a real pleasure to get lost in the pages for a few hours. Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White would be a great choice for any of your kiddos who are looking for a biography for a school assignment, or for a family read aloud after sharing one of Mr. White’s novels. Mom and Dad would enjoy it just as much as the kids!


MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: Gertie’s leap to greatness

by Kate Beasley5 middle grade books

Gertie is a fifth grader who is on a campaign to be “100% Not-From Concentrate AWESOME!” Her mom, who abandoned her at birth, lives in the same small Alabama town, and refuses to acknowledge Gertie’s existence. However, Gertie is a spunky, creative and determined little girl that you can’t help but admire. She’s a great problem solver, and when an obstacle appears in her path to success, she always finds a way to overcome it. But your heart breaks a bit when she struggles unsuccessfully to win her mother’s love and admiration. The story is full of friendship, kindness and humor that will bring many smiles and a few tears, but will also fill your heart with joy.

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: half a chance

by Cynthia Lord 5 middle grade books

Lucy has moved once again, and this time it’s to a small lakeside town in New Hampshire. Her dad, a famous photographer often feels the need to have a change in scenery, and as a result Lucy’s family has lived in many different towns in the ten years of her life. Lucy decides to make the most of her new home and becomes good friends with her next door neighbor, Nate. They spend their summer taking photos of the lake, the loons and Nate’s grandma, for their anonymous entry into a photography contest Lucy’s dad is judging. But will her pictures ever stand up to her dad’s high standards? And can Nate face what the photographs are showing about his precious grandmother and his summers at the lake? This is a very moving story. It would be especially helpful for any of your kids who are dealing with the struggle to understand a grandparent who’s memory is slipping away. Even if that is not the case, and hopefully that is not happening in your family, you won’t want to miss this warm, touching book.

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: confessions of an imaginary friend, a memoir of jacques papier

5 middle grade booksas told to Michelle Cuevas

I discovered this delightful book, because I was hunting for more books by Michelle Cuevas, after I read her magical book, The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles. I was so taken by the story, that I was hoping to find more like it and this chapter book didn’t disappoint. Jacques is eight years old and suspects that no one likes him. He is never chosen for the sports teams and even his parents have to be reminded by his sister to set his place at the table. So he’s feeling a little insecure when he meets a skating cowgirl on the school playground and she shares some astonishing news. Jacques is imaginary and so is she! In fact, the school playground is full of imaginary kids who have been forgotten by their human friends after they find a true person to be their buddy. You will be smiling throughout this book as Jacques meets many quirky, imaginary friends, as well as some fascinating real kids, but in the end learns that life is best, if you are yourself. Confessions of an Imaginary Friend can definitely be shared with your little ones as a read aloud, but your older kiddos will love it too.

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: raymie nightingale

by Kate Dicamillo5 middle grade books

Raymie’s dad has run off with a dental hygienist and Raymie MUST win the Little Miss Florida Contest to insure his return. If she wins, he will realize just what he has left behind – a kind and talented girl (after all she IS going to learn how to twirl a baton) who is worth a lot more than the dental hygienist. However, Raymie has some competition and a few stumbling blocks in her summer plan, Louisiana Elefante and beautiful Beverly Tapinsky. They are determined to stop Raymie from achieving her goal, but as the summer progresses the three girls find themselves drawn together by loneliness, loss and their hope to save each other. This is a great book about friendship, which would make a wonderful read aloud with your elementary kids, or one for them to curl up with on their own.


Have you or your kids found some favorite new middle grade books? I’d love for you to share them in the comments!

14 Books to Help your Child be More Compassionate

It’s been a rough week and a rough year in our country. No matter, which side you are on, you can’t help but be concerned about what has been said during the past year and how our kids have been exposed to it. Even if we do our best to protect them from the media, they go to school or to sports or to art classes and they hear things we wish they hadn’t. They ask questions, just as we are, about what happens now? If they are older, they may even be anxious. You may be asking, as I am, how can we help them? How can we help our country?

Then I remembered one of my favorite quotes from Fred Rogers.

 “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 

‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” – Fred Rogers

After much thought, I realized that the answer, for me, is that I can continue doing what I’ve been doing. I can help you find some children’s books about compassion, kindness and caring to share with your kiddos that might answer their questions, and will definitely lead to some discussions about how they can become helpers. I can assist you in finding some books that will help to instill the values in our children that the world needs to create change, such as the values of kindness, respect, acceptance of differences, compassion and empathy. By doing this, I will try to be one of the helpers, just as Fred Rogers said.

 We don’t know what will happen next, which is always a little scary, but I have faith in the American people, that we will “choose kind”. By working together, we can help our children grow up to be one of the helpers.

I have compiled a list of some childrens books about compassion and caring that I think might be just right for now. Many thanks to Pernille Rip for sharing some of the titles on Instagram, and for inspiring not only the kids in her classroom, but the readers of her blog. She inspired me to write this post about children’s stories about compassion.

Helping Books for Now

compassionate children's books

Seeds of Freedom, The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama, by Hester Bass, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

We can work together peacefully to make big changes. “It starts with one person; that could be you.”

Good People Everywhere, by Lynea Gillen and illustrated by Kristina Swarner.

“Today millions and millions of people will do very good things. And so will you. I wonder what you will do?”

Courage by Bernard Waber

“Courage is what we give to each other.” Something we all need to become a helper.

compassionate children's books

Guess How Much I love You by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram

To help reassure our little ones, even if they are sensing our anxiety, that they are loved “right up to the moon – and back.”

Arthur’s Perfect Christmas by Marc Brown

Arthur learns that his friends may celebrate the holidays differently, but they all find joy.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

This charming story will help your little ones understand about apologies and how important they are in a caring world.

compassionate children's books

What a Wonderful World by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, illustrated by Ashley Bryan

This beautifully illustrated version of the song made famous by Louis Armstrong, reassures children that there is beauty and kindness in our world.

Love Will See You Through by Angela Farris Watkins, PhD, illustrated by Sally Were Comport

This is Martin Luther King Jr.’s six guiding beliefs, as told by his niece. “Uncle Martin was a man of peace. Love was his way of life. … His life was proof that love will see you through.”

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

This little boy and his elephant show everyone the true meaning of friendship. Friends “help each other, lift each other over cracks, brave the scary things with you, and never leave anyone behind.” May our kiddos find friends, as well as be one.

compassionate children's books

My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Ann Tanksley

Kedi, although she and everyone else in her African village have very little, is inspired to help the children of New York City during the depression, because her heart “will not sit down.” Perhaps Kedi’s story will inspire your little ones’ hearts “to not sit down”, so that they will want to help those around them in a way that they can.

Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson and Sydney Smith

A little girl walks through a gray city with her distracted father and picks flowers along the way. The flowers become gifts to those she encounters, and in the process transforms the city and it’s inhabitants. May your children find beauty in their world and share it with others.

Abe Lincoln’s Dream by Lane Smith

Abraham Lincoln is restless. He wasn’t finished with everything he dreamed of doing for the country in 1865. A little girl takes his ghost on a tour of the country to reassure him that the country is united, however the people of the country still “fuss’n fight with his fellow man. We’re still working on that one,” she replies. This illustrates the fact that our leaders want to do their very best for our country.

compassionate children's booksBe a Friend by Salina Yoon

The story of Dennis and Joy, how they express themselves and the friendship that follows will encourage your children to reach out to others and to “be a friend.”

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian and illustrated by Mike Curato

This delightful story celebrates love even though “we’ll change how it’s done”, says worm. It will help your children understand that love is love!

It’s now been a few days since the election and everyone is relaxing a bit. I hope, as questions arise in your families in the days and weeks to come, these “helping books” will lead you to some answers. I also hope you’ll share your ideas about helping books in the comments below. What are your favorites? I’d love to hear about them!

For more books about kindness and compassion, please link to my previous post:

Kindness Picture Books for Kids

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Friendship Books for Kids

I saw this quote on Facebook recently, and I thought it was so true. ” We need to care less about whether our children are academically gifted and more about whether they sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria.”  I had been struggling with finding a theme for this post, and then after reading this and looking through my stack of library books, I realized so many of the ones I want to share with you are about friendship. As the new school year begins, perhaps you’ll want to share some of these with your kids, no matter what their age, to start some conversations about friendship and kindness.

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff


Trent is starting middle school and he’s heard the stories about it being such a rough time. However, after his experience in fifth grade he is hoping that it’s a big improvement and he can make a fresh start! You see, Trent accidently hit his friend with a hockey puck during a casual pickup game, and his friend died. So now, Trent is quite certain everyone in town hates him. He’s never invited over to join the baseball games in the park or to go over to a neighbor’s to play. That could be because he can’t forgive himself. Then after Trent stands up for a girl in the park, Fallon, who is being teased and bullied because of her severe scar, they slowly become friends, but it’s not easy. As you read this book, you’ll find your heart breaking a bit for both of the kids, but you’ll also find yourself feeling very proud of how they tackle their problems.

 AR 4.5, Lexia 700                             Friendship, bullying, grief, middle grade chapter book

See you next year by Andrew Larsen and todd stewart


See You Next Year by Andrew Larson and Todd Stewart reminds me so much of our summer vacations each year as I was growing up. Instead of the beach, we went to a lake cottage, but my family established many traditions during that annual trip, just as the main character in this story does. And just like the little girl in the story, we were happy that nothing changed. Our days were long and lazy with lots of outside time, just as hers are.  But this year something does change. She makes a friend! It turns out that it’s nice to have someone to build sandcastles with you, to play in the waves with you and to write postcards with you on a rainy day. Reluctantly, on Saturday her family tells her new friend “see you next year” and heads for home. But on Monday when the mail arrives there’s a surprise for the little girl. . .  The muted illustrations in the story will make you reminisce about those lazy beach days with your family, and perfectly illustrate this sweet story. If you’re looking for a book to share with your little one that will lead to conversations about your families summer traditions and friendship, this is a great choice.

Friendship, beach vacations, traditions, picture book

Max and Marla by Alexandra Boiger


Max and Marla are great friends, even though Marla is an owl. Their dream is to be winter Olympians! This story tells the tale of their perseverance and teamwork as they work together to overcome the many obstacles they encounter as they struggle to achieve their goal. In the end, they realize the real prize they have earned is their friendship! The charming water color and ink illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to this endearing story about true friends.

Friendship, teamwork, perseverance, picture book 

Waylon! One Awesome thing by sara Pennypacker

waylon friendship

friendship end papers
The end papers: full of ideas for the Waylon’s next awesome thing

Ms. Pennypacker, the author of the middle grade Clementine series and the big favorite from the past year, Pax, has written a delightful book about a new fourth grader, Waylon, who is aspiring to be a great science hero, as well as struggling to become the peacemaker, both at home and at school. You see, Arlo Brody, the largest boy in the fourth grade, is dividing the class into two groups. While part of Waylon yearns to be chosen for Arlo’s group, another part of him wants to join his friends in the other group. When Arlo actually picks Waylon, because of his resourcefulness and wacky ideas,  Waylon is torn. His friends are in the opposing group and can’t believe that Waylon has deserted them! At home, Waylon is struggling to bring his family back together. They always did everything together, but since his sister, Neon, who just turned 14, is wearing all black and only says “What’s the point?” in response to anything and everything, and wants nothing to do with her family, they are drifting apart.

Waylon is determined to make peace in both his class and  his family. It turns out that even though he feels his world is exploding, all he needs is “one awesome thing” to make everything right again! That “one awesome thing” turns out to be Waylon’s friendship, kindness, empathy and perseverance, which brings everyone together again.

This book would be a great read aloud with your child or to a class. It is a great discussion starter about class cliques and groups, bullying, friendship, empathy and kindness. At home, it’s also a book that might help your younger kids gain a better understanding about their older siblings and the struggles they are dealing with in their lives.

P.S. Be sure and notice the endpapers. They are priceless!

Kindness, friendship, family issues, bullying, class cliques, middle grade chapter book                          Lexia 650 AR 4.0

It came in the mail by Ben Clanton


This picture book is about a very unique and caring friendship between a little boy and his mailbox. Liam really wants mail, but he never receives a thing. Then, one day he had an idea! Maybe if he wrote a letter, the recipient would write back. There was just one problem – he didn’t have anyone to write to. So he decides to write a letter to his mailbox. As soon as he puts the letter into the box, it begins to rattle and shake and suddenly a fire breathing dragon appears, with a tag saying “For Liam”! Liam loved the dragon, so he wrote a thank you note. Not only did he thank the mailbox for his new dragon, but he also asked for more mail. And, my did he receive mail! So many wild and crazy creatures kept arriving that he soon had no more room! Then another idea came to Liam. Maybe his friends were wishing for mail too. He could send mail to every friend he knew! This will bring lots of giggles, but it’s also a great story to provoke a conversation about Liam’s thoughtfulness toward his friends.

Friendship, kindness, humor


Here’s another post about kindness and friendship that you might want to check out.

Kindness Picture Books For Kids

These are just a few books about friendship. There are so many! What are your favorites? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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