I’ve read so many amazing middle grade books in 2017 and finally picked what I think are the best children’s chapter books of the year. You can’t go wrong with any of these!
You know those (expensive) subscription book boxes? My kids love getting the goodies that come with the books. So I thought why make your own book box gift? Give your children a book plus a related bookish gift. Fun, right? You’ll see gift suggestions for each of the books — I think your kids are going to love this idea.
Best Children’s Chapter Books of 2017
I love this beginning chapter book because it’s entertaining, well-written, has the coolest mix of science and magic, a diverse main character, and fantastic illustrations. When her mom leaves town, Zoey is in charge of listening for the special doorbell that indicates a magical animal needs help. Soon, a tiny, sick dragon arrives. Zoey uses the scientific method to figure out how to help the little dragon that she names Marshmallow. Kids won’t even realize they’re learning STEM information because it’s such a fantastic plot.
BUY: Zoey and Sassasfras: Dragons and Marshmallows with a dragon plush.
Luminous and heartfelt, 11-year-old Alex Petroski’s story will grab your heart and expand it. His dream is to launch a rocket into space with his iPod of recordings about life on earth. The story is a transcription of what he records on the iPod — his solo journey to the rocket convention, the interesting people he befriends on the way and there, his trip Las Vegas to find information about his deceased father, and his unique, innocent perspective that tries to make sense of the world.
BUY: See You in the Cosmos with a Stomp Rocket.
Aven Green is used to making up creative stories for why she doesn’t have any arms. Especially now in Arizona where her parents are the new managers a rundown theme park. She befriends a boy at school who, like her, feels different and isolated from the other kids. His name is Connor and he has Tourette Syndrome. Together, he, another new friend named Zion, and Aven investigate a mysterious storage shed at the theme park which leads them to a mystery involving Aven’s past. This story is about restorative friendship, facing your fears, and discovering your true (not insignificant) potential
. I loved the physical and mental diversity shown with strength and compassion. This would be a GREAT read aloud for classrooms and for at home. There’s much to love and discuss!! (Added to my Physical Disabilities Book List
Wow. This book is a must-read. Not only are the intertwining refugee stories compelling, it’s vitally important for kids to learn what it’s like to be an immigrant, particularly a refugee. Why? Because empathy is learned from stories like these. Follow three distinct, alternating stories to experience being displaced from your country, on the run, and in danger. First is a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany on a ship to Cuba, only to be turned away from the Cuban port and sent back to Europe. Next is a Cuban girl in the 1990s who, with her family and neighbors, flees in a homemade raft to the United States at great peril. Finally is a Syrian boy whose home is bombed in a country at war. He and his family travel a great distance to find a country that will allow them shelter. Gatz skillfully connects all three stories with a satisfying, realistic conclusion.
Lush, full-color illustrations (over 150!) fill this dramatic science fiction adventure in one of the most uniquely imagined worlds I’ve read. 13-year old Diego lives in New Chicago post-Time Collision. Now, in the present, the Steam Timers, the Mid Timers, the Elders, and other groups coexist peacefully after a terrible world war. But it’s a fragile peace. When Diego’s dad, the leading engineer for the territories, and his colleague are kidnapped by a splinter group, Diego and his friends set out on a rescue mission where they’re immediately captured by pirates. The action is non-stop, the plot is skillfully crafted, and the characters, both boys and girls, are interesting. Don’t miss this incredible, epic adventure!
Well-written and enthralling, you’ll love every moment of this epic adventure about a young rabbit who reluctantly grows into his destiny. One cold winter night, the night before Bramblemas, a traveling bard seeks shelter in Thornwood Warren. He’s offered shelter and food in exchange for his stories; stories about the heroic Podkin One-Ear. Alternating between the bard’s present moment experience and the story of Podkin, we learn that young Podkin was a lazy, spoiled prince. When the cruel Gorm who are metal dark magic rabbits arrive at his family’s burrow to kill everyone inside, Podkin escapes with his much braver sister and little brother. No longer able to be spoiled and lazy, Podkin tries his best to be brave and pull his weight, often failing miserably but occasionally succeeding, too. They’re captured more than once and escape both times, once with the loss of his ear. I LOVE this story and can not wait for the rest of the books in the series.
I couldn’t love this magical story anymore — it’s absolutely lovely. When trolls attack Elfhelm on Christmas Eve, they destroy Father Christmas’ sleigh, the toys, and the town which ruins Christmas. And it was only the second Christmas ever! Amelia, the girl whose hope made Christmas happen in the first place, spends Christmas locked in a workhouse, devastated when Father Christmas doesn’t come. The following year, Father Christmas tries again but the hope magic is so low his sleigh crashes him into the castle of Queen Victoria. She, Blitzen, Charles Dickens, and a brave elf newspaper reporter play important roles in helping Father Christmas rescue Amelia from the workhouse, reigniting her hope and saving Christmas.
Following the first book, The War That Saved My Life,
this captivating chapter book continues during the War. Ada and her brother live with their new guardian, Susan. After Susan’s home is bombed, they move to a small cottage that they share with Lady Thorton and a German Jewish girl named Ruth. It’s not an ideal situation. Partly because Lady Thorton doesn’t understand how to help around the house, partly because she’s prejudiced against Ruth. In hard times, complicated people do the best they can.
That’s what we see in this bittersweet moving story of loss and healing. (Be prepared for both tears and smiles with this one!)
This beguiling story of Whichwood (which can be read independently of the first novel, Furthermore) captures the humanity of loneliness, love, and life’s purpose. It’s the story of a mordeshoor girl named Laylee with magic over the dead. She’s all alone, with corpses piling up, and a time limit before the corpses go looking for new skins. Two young strangers appear on Laylee’s doorstep to help. They’ll mostly fail. But they get a second chance with help from a buggy friend and thousands of reanimated corpses. It’s not your average story, it’s better. Not to mention, Mafi’s prose takes you on a journey of its own — absolutely exquisite word-smithing.
Patina’s anger sometimes gets the best of her but running helps. She’s mad about her dad dying, her mom’s legs being amputated, and her new school. When her track coach makes Patty work with her teammates in a relay, she’s forced to rely on them. And that changes things. Patina is a beautiful coming-of-age story that will tug at your emotions.
Growing up, Imogene (aka. Impy) always loved her family’s part in the Renaissance Faire . . . that is, until middle school. Even though she gets her dream to work in the faire as a squire, she also just wants to be like the other girls at her school, too. Her journey is heartfelt as she figures out who she wants to be. I love that the story is narrated as a hero’s journey which, with the faire background and middle school drama, feels absolutely perfect. Beyond being a terrific, relatable coming-of-age story, I’m sure this book will interest tween readers in Renaissance festivals, too.
Clayton feels happiest with his grandfather, playing the blues. Unfortunately, his mom hates everything about the blues because it represents her father’s abandonment of the family. When Clayton’s beloved grandfather dies and his mom takes his harmonica, he ditches school to find his grandfather’s old band. Instead of musicians, he encounters a gang of boys and gets picked up by the police. This is a superbly crafted 2017 chapter book about grief, family, and forgiveness.
Written like an adult suspense novel, this is one of the best edge-of-your-seat mystery books for middle grade that I’ve ever read. A boy with no memory is found at the National Gallery staring at a Degas sculpture. Strangely, this boy knows a great deal about art and artists. After he’s put in foster care, we learn he’s being hunted by a team of professional bad guys. The boy, Art, and his foster sister escape from several kidnapping attempts and begin to unravel who he is and what’s going on as they race around Washington D.C. Tweens will love the absolutely fantastic plot plus the QR codes embedded throughout the book showing the artwork mentioned.
Pretty by Justin Sayre
REALISTIC / COMING OF AGE
Beautifully written and plotted, Justin Sayre has created a coming-of-age masterpiece not to be missed. Sophie’s life is complicated. Hiding her mom’s alcohol addiction affects everything, even her school work. When her mother leaves for a trip, her aunt moves in and gently helps Sophie learn about being a strong, beautiful, biracial woman. Sophie blossoms with the love and kindness of her aunt. Soon, Sophie must decide what she’ll do next — move with her aunt or stay with her mother who eventually returns home from rehab.
This beautiful 2017 story captures the essence of love, family, and self-discovery. It’s compelling and exquisitely crafted. Osh, a solitary island man, rescues baby Crow from a small boat on the sea. Crow loves Osh but now at age 12, she wants to know where she came from — was it the island across the way where the leper colony was? She, Crow, and their friend, Miss Maggie journey to the island to find out. The island brings them closer to answers but also into danger, too.
Action-packed from the first page, this is one historical fiction chapter book you don’t want to miss. Oliver wakes to find his house flooded and his father missing. After being thrown in the poorhouse for orphans, he manages to escape with stolen money only to be accosted by a highwayman. It’s one misfortune after another but Oliver is determined to find his father and sister in London. Somehow…
Best Children’s Chapter Books of 2017