15 Incredible New Chapter Books, October 2020

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Lately, I can’t keep up with all the exceptional chapter books. Because there are SO MANY GOOD BOOKS!

Here are some of the latest middle-grade books and one YA book that have made a big impression on me. I hope you love them as much as I do!

New Chapter Books, October 2020

Three Keys by Kelly Yang
This sequel to Front Desk shows the challenges of being an undocumented immigrant, the power of the community to support each other, and the importance of speaking up for change. Tensions are high with a proposition on California’s ballot to make it illegal for undocumented immigrant children to go to school. Even Mia’s “Immigrants Welcome” sign gets retaliation when she puts it up at the motel. Then, Lupe’s mom leaves for Mexico for a funeral and her hard-working undocumented dad is arrested and detained. Lupe moves in with Mia and with Hank’s support, they hire a lawyer, start a petition, and write letters. Meanwhile, Mia and Lupe’s teacher begins to soften on her hostile opinion towards immigrants and sees the girls and their families as people, not problems.
Amazon Bookshop 

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins
A #ownvoices heart-warming story in verse of struggle and unconditional love for a child with challenging behaviors. Hannah hates that her cousin Cal is now living with her family. He’s ruining everything from her parents’ relationship to her gymnastics competitions, not to mention that he’s impossible to trust. As she narrates, we also begin to loathe Cal because of his lying, running away, pranks, and talking back. But once we learn Cal’s backstory and the pain he’s feeling from living with an abusive dad who is now in jail and an addict mom who died of leukemia, we begin to feel compassion for him. Understanding Cal, his stories seem less like lies and more like imaginative ways for him to deal with his life. Just when Cal becomes more likable to Hannah, too, his father arrives at school armed with weapons…I couldn’t put this story down; it’s a rich, nuanced story about family, love, and empathy.
Amazon Bookshop


A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi
The author transports us into an immersive Pakistani experience and gives us a story that shows how we can understand someone with a different background if only we are willing to listen and learn. Mimi’s not happy about visiting Pakistan for the summer to stay with grandparents she’s never met. Once she’s there, Mimi is shocked that her stern relatives have servants. Pakistan is a huge cultural difference for her, in not just language but daily customs, especially as she notices the difference between rich and poor. When Mimi befriends the cook’s daughter, Sakina, Mimi learns that Sakina has never gone to school and is studying to pass a test in order to attend school one day. The girls’ differences seem pronounced but they slowly learn from each other and develop a beautiful friendship.
Amazon Bookshop 


Cinders and Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann
Absolutely wonderful, this intriguing mystery filled with secrets, magic, and a determined heroine –it’s the best sort of adventure! An orphan girl named Zita inherits a large family home which she learns descended from a cursed witch family. Since everyone in her family is dead, she must outmaneuver her wicked guardian’s ill-will and poor magical instruction to find out the truth about her family. Because maybe her family isn’t dead…and maybe she can save her mother and siblings.
Amazon Bookshop

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie
Claire’s dad isn’t just fascinated by ghosts but he leads ghost-tours of Chicago. When a reluctant Claire, a firm disbeliever, and scientist, is forced to help out on the tour one night, the ghost of a dead little boy follows her home. And won’t leave her alone. Claire is so scared that she confides in her brother and estranged friends. Together, they use research and scientific reasoning to figure out who the boy is and what he wants from Claire. Creepy with an interesting dose of Chicago history.
Amazon Bookshop


Before the Ever After
by Jacqueline Woodson
Written in verse with precise text, this is an important book to bring awareness to CTE as well as show families in grief. ZJ’s professional football player dad is changing. He’s stopped playing, gets terrible headaches, surprising anger outbursts, and forgets ZJ’s name. ZJ contrasts this with memories of his dad before the ever after; the before dad who played with ZJ, made him breakfast, and treated his friends like family. Now, there are a lot of doctor’s appointments and not much hope. It’s real, raw, and profoundly sad to watch ZJ slowly lose the dad he once knew. Readers are thankful for ZJ’s friends and family who have his back as he deals with the difficulties of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that is only recently being researched and seen as a devastating result of too many head injuries.
Amazon Bookshop

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
Masterfully plotted and beautifully written, Becoming Muhammad Ali, focuses on Cassius’s teenage years with some reflections of earlier childhood, setting the stage for the man that he becomes. His parents don’t encourage boxing, preferring academics, but Cassius is terrible at school. When he finds boxing, it becomes a powerful outlet not to mention, something at which he finally excels. Ali’s personality shines through the pages — a son, a friend, and a dedicated athlete who trains for hours each day; he’s cocky but likable and a gifted master of (rhyming) trash talk. The authors’ writing transports us to the city of Louisville where racial prejudice is rampant, giving us details that show the unfair treatment of black Americans –such as not being able to go to the local amusement park or get a drink of water in a store downtown. Growing up, Cassius notices the unfairness and injustice, preparing Cassius for the activist that he will become later in life. The poetry is Alexander at his best — vivid figurative language with an ideal cadence and an accessible narrative. Readers will zip through this page-turning biography; it’s both informative and inviting. I could NOT put it down.
Amazon Bookshop

Cleo Porter and the Body Electric
by Jake Burt
An eerily timed pandemic adventure with a smart heroine you’ll love! People are sealed into apartments ever since Influenza D tore through the world. Cleo is only a kid but she’s studying to be a surgeon like her mom who performs virtual surgeries using robots from a room in their apartment. When a life-saving medicine for someone else gets delivered to them by accident, Cleo breaks out of her apartment to find the sick person. Unfortunately, she gets tossed outside their ginormous apartment building with the compost. Outside she meets an elderly woman and a child…and sees the sky for the first time. But Cleo is determined to help her patient so she reenters her building in one of the food transport robots. When she arrives at her destination, she learns it was all a test — and she’s mad and feels betrayed. The story ends with a glimpse of her spending time both inside and outside.
Amazon  Bookshop


Escape from a Video Game
by Dustin Brady
If you like adrenaline with pure high stakes action, this choose-your-own adventure book will be your next favorite book! You are the hero in a new release video game called Cooper Hawke and the Secret of Phantom Island. Think quickly in order to escape your enemies and not get killed.
Amazon Bookshop


Atty at Law
by Tim Lockette
Animal lovers won’t want to miss this story about a passionate young girl who goes to court to save a dog and an alligator and solves a murder mystery. When she meets a hurt dog at an animal shelter accused of biting a shifty-looking gun-carrying guy, 7th grade Atty doesn’t believe him and goes to court to stop the execution. Her dad’s a lawyer so she’s practically a lawyer in training. She receives threatening texts and she and her brother secretly work to help their dad with his murder trial. This story thoughtfully addresses animal cruelty, advocacy, mix-raced families, bullying, and mental illness while being a compelling mystery as well.
Amazon  Bookshop


Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga
by David A. Robertson
Foster kids with Indigenous heritage, Morgan and Eli, discover a portal in the attic leading to a magical world of Cree language and mythology. It’s a world with talking animals who walk on two legs who need their help. Ochek, the Fischer, asks the kids to end the starving community’s forever winter by finding the human man who stole all the birds and, with them, summer. Their dangerous quest triggers Morgan’s memories of her mother and a new perspective about who she is. The children travel far with their new friends and experience danger and trials in order to save this beautiful world.
Amazon Bookshop

Maya and the Rising Dark
by Rena Barron
Maya learns that her dad is the Guardian of the Veil separating the worlds and that her neighbors are hidden Orishas. When her dad is kidnapped by the Shadows and taken into the Dark side of the Veil, she and her friends (all who are Godlings), embark on a rescue mission via Comic Con and into the Dark. Yes, it’s a bit predictable for anyone familiar with the hero’s journey plot but it’s an interesting mythology and adventure.
Amazon Bookshop

Fly on the Wall
by Remy Lai
Cartoon illustrations and narrative prose tell the story of a lonely boy named Henry with an overprotective family who with great subterfuge, lies to his family, and flies by himself from Australia to Singapore to visit his dad. As his trip progresses, we learn that he’s turned the painful loss of his BFF into a mean-spirited gossip cartoon about people at his school titled “Fly on the Wall.” On the plane, he meets a girl traveling by herself and sees his nemesis, a boy who knows the truth about him. His interactions lead Henry to feel bad about the comic, learn more about making friends, and actually appreciate that his family cares about him.
Amazon Bookshop


The Language of Ghosts
by Heather Fawcett
A story about magic, family, and growing up, these siblings fled their home when the evil Xavier killed their queen mother. Now in hiding, Noa helps her dark mage older brother, Julian, as he searches for allies and a mysterious secret magical language. It’s a lovely escape read with a strong sense of family and doing what’s right.
Amazon Bookshop

The Wild Path
by Sarah R. Baughman
Claire’s beloved brother is in rehab for pain-pill addiction. She feels confused and angry with him, not wanting to accept that things are now very different for their relationship and family. Making things worse, her parents need to sell their two horses due to tight finances. But the horses are the best cure for Claire’s growing anxieties. Then, she sees ghost horses in the woods and researches a historical accident with horses. This leads her to make a friend in her support group and learn about equine therapy which she hopes her family could do in order to keep the horses. As she explores the woods and the possibilities of equine therapy, Claire slowly comes to terms with the truth of her brother’s situation.
Amazon Bookshop

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone (YA 13+)
Quan’s story is an eye-opening, honest story of a black boy’s life of poverty, violence, racism, and incarceration that must be read and discussed. Quan recounts the events of his life that got him where he is today, in juvie awaiting trial for murder. He writes letters to an old school friend, Martin, a friend who believes in Quan’s innocence and helps him find a new lawyer. Quan shares about his awful home life, abusive mom’s boyfriend, lack of food, and attempts to protect his younger siblings, which all lead to Quan finding a gang family.
Amazon Bookshop
15 new chapter books October 2020
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