In Tune It Out, Lou and her mother live in their truck. Her mom believes Lou has a gift (her voice) and is determined to make it big with her. So she makes Lou sing everywhere from cafes to karaoke bars to street corners. This is extra challenging for Lou because she hates the bright lights and the sound of applause is physically painful. She also hates physical contact and is bothered by the texture of certain clothes on her skin. Lou gets some respite from the malnutrition and homelessness when an accident leads to her being taken in by Child Protective Services. Fortunately, she is sent off to live with her aunt and her husband in Nashville, Tennessee where she begins a new life until her mother can get her back.
Now That I've Found You is Kristina Forest's sophomore YA novel. This book focuses on Evie, an up and coming actress with a family in the film-making industry. Her grandmother (Gigi) is a movie star and her parents are documentary film makers who travel the world for their career. Evie has just snagged a role with a well known director when a video of her drunkenly mocking his British accent surfaces. She's dropped from the film immediately and effectively blackballed in the industry. She's only 18.
Just for reference, in the States, third graders are generally about eight years old. If you're fortunate, you may already have a big reader on your hands who isn't afraid to shoot for younger middle-grade titles like some of those on this list. Typically, though most eight-year-olds prefer smaller chapter books, under 150 pages, with lots of pictures and larger fonts than the typical middle-grade book. Kids at this age also like series -- they want to remain in the same universe for as long as possible, so most of the books on this list are part of series. These chapter books for third graders are good for independent reading and also for readalouds! All except one are heavily illustrated, and I've tried to include picks for a variety of interests.
I've had Solving for M on my TBR for a long time now! Mika and her mom are used to things just being the both of them because her parents divorced when she was a baby. Her dad remarried soon after, and her mom hasn't yet. She's a new middle schooler and is enjoying her math class, although the new pod system in their school means she isn't in the same group as her best friend. Their math teacher is very engaging and asks the kids to keep a semi-private math journal for the math problems they will do during the school year. All is well until Mika's mom discovers a spot on the back of her leg, which turns out to be a melanoma.
Today's pick is a much-loved book about two boys -- one Indian, one American -- bullied or mocked for different reasons, who become unlikely friends in the cafeteria of their middle-school. If you haven't read it yet, you should. This was one of the first middle-grade boy books I ever read (and I loved it!) -- the audiobook is really good, with two narrators, one of Indian descent, and the other American. If you or your kids loved this book, here are more books like Save Me a Seat.
I know that many parents and teachers prefer books that model positive sibling relationships (less backbiting, more love) and I'm all for that as well. Most of the books on this list feature sweet sister relationships, while the rest feature difficult relationships that significantly improve by the end of the story. As life can be, a few of these stories are a bit sad and feature the death of a sister, or a sister with a serious illness. But many others are adventure-filled or feature families coping with financial insecurity, the end of a marriage, and other challenges. Overall, though, I've only chosen books with a focus on the relationship between two or more sisters. Twins, big sisters, little sisters, close in age, far apart -- it's a sister party!
Black middle-grade books are a rarity. Trust me, in sourcing the books for this book list, it was hard to find recommendations. Many recommendations were also historical fiction, which is good and well, but not always my jam. Sometimes Black people and Africans need books about mundane issues. So whether it's books about female friendships or even about food -- sign me up. In this list of Black middle-grade books, you'll find only books by Black authors featuring Black protagonists.
Although I have zero professional dance experience, I love middle-grade books about dance! Sadly, though, new middle-grade books about dance are far and few in between. However, in this list of best middle-grade books about dance, I hunted down a few other excellent recommendations. Not all the books here are about ballet -- some feature hip-hop, square dancing, and even one about a Mexican dance. The books all feature dancing as a central theme, and protagonists who either love dancing or at least come to appreciate it by the end.
Serenity and her brother, Danny, have to move in with their grandparents after her mother's death. Their father is nowhere to be found and the kids have to deal with their grief while adjusting to a new lifestyle -- new school, new friends, new routines -- with their mother's parents. Their grandfather is a preacher and both grandparents are ardent churchgoers. The story is told from Serenity's point of view as she tries to make sense of life through her poetry in English class.
I've been planning this list of best Latino middle-grade and chapter books for a while now. I enjoy Latin American culture and literature, especially where middle-grade is concerned. In this list, I've tried to include chapter books and middle-grade books by Latino authors. I've read several books on this list and many of these authors have other books which I may not have mentioned on this list, but hopefully you can follow the breadcrumbs.
Each time I review books, I catch myself wondering which type of reader would enjoy this book. Finding the right readalike is important, especially for new or reluctant readers, as it make or break their reading streak. That's why I decided to start this series! For each readlike, I will briefly highlight at least three strong similarities with the beloved title, and sometimes differences to keep in mind. If you or your kids loved Janae Marks' debut middle-grade book, here are more books like From the Desk of Zoe Washington.
Aram Kim's Sunday Funday in Koreatown follows Yoomi, whom you may already know from No Kimchi for Me. The latter was a hit for picky eaters and readers who love fun food books. In this picture book, Yoomi wakes up excited for her usual Sunday funday festivities, but this Sunday is not so... fun. First, she can't watch the morning show she likes, thanks to her brothers, then she can't wear her favorite shirt because it's still wet from the wash! But then, she's still going to Koreatown with her dad, so maybe there's hope yet?
Upper middle-grade books are middle-grade books for older tweens and younger teens, aged 11-13. Often, upper middle-grade books are those loved by adults who do not typically read middle-grade. They're also perfect for kids in their early teens who do not feel quite ready for the content in most young adult novels.
Books about sports were tricky at first for me. You see, I never enjoyed sports as a child. But the wonderful thing about books is that they open your eyes to a world you haven't necessarily been a part of. The picks I've read on this list of middle-grade books about sports were all massively entertaining for me, despite being heavy on the sport. I've also taken care to choose books centered around the specific sport and not just with side characters playing the sport.