Next, to picture books, I love all things middle grade. The bulk of the books I read now are middle-grade books. One of my goals for 2021 is to create specific goals for the middle-grade books I read to ensure I read more Canadian authors. Hence this post focuses on Canadian middle-grade books, and then I will do another post featuring the rest of the middle-grade titles. So here are some books that maybe you missed.
Dragon Assassin by Arthur Slade, Narrated by Clare Corbett
I’m not a fan of dragons, but, oh, did Mr. Slade and Clare Corbette reel me in with this audiobook series. A well-developed world with a complex cast of characters, including a very sarcastic dragon name Brax and a fast-paced plot, had me listening to the wee hours of the night. Carmen, the main character, is a one-eyed assassin who makes a deal with a dragon to seek revenge on her twin brother, who has just tried to wipe out the entire Assasin School from which she just graduated. Just try to tell me you don’t want to find out how that all goes down. The only down part of this story is that you can only get the audiobooks on that platform that starts with A. The first three books are available as one via Scholastic, and fingers crossed, the rest of the series gets printed. That said, the audiobooks are incredible!
War Stories by Gordon Korman
A story that focuses on the intergenerational relationship between a great-grandfather (Jacob) and great-grandson (Trevor), yes, please. Trevor loves all things to do with war glamorizing it and desensitized to the realities of war, while Jacob is carrying a secret one he has kept for far too long. The emotional journey of both of these characters individually and their relationship is unique. The close relationship and the banter they have is not found in middle-grade books often. There is also the opportunity for readers who play war type video games to think more critically about the authenticity of the games and the real-life emotional connections that are not there.
Hatch by Kenneth Oppel
I easily could add Bloom to this list although, I did enjoy the second book Hatch, a little more. In Bloom, we saw the ecosystem developed, but in the second book, it’s all the different species that hatch, and yes, they are twisted and creepy. I love the imagination that Oppel uses in this series and the fast pace of the books. Readers not only get to see the conflicts between the newly hatched creatures and the world but also the characters themselves. I cannot wait to see how Mr. Oppel ties the series altogether – and that’s the power of his writing and imagination. I know there will be twists, but what will they be?
The Barren Grounds by David Alex Robertson
So many yeses to this book. An #ownvoice Canadian author, addressing the many stories that Canadians need to read. Morgan and Eli are live in foster care. Eli is experiencing foster care for the first time, while for Morgan, it is all she has ever known. Eli has ties to his culture and knows it connects to who he is, but for Morgan living in foster care all her life, she has lost this connection to her Indigenous roots. When they pass thru to the barren lands of Askí, via Morgan’s artwork, they meet Ochek (Fisher), who is the hunter for the starving community, Misewa. Misewa is in perpetual winter because a man stole green time from Misewa. Ochek teaches Morgan and Eli the ways of the Indigenous people, and then they agree to help Ochek retrieve “green time” from man to save the community. Elements of foster care, identity and colonialism are all themes evident and stepping stones to truth and reconciliation. Long overdue.
Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman
Louisa is being shipped off to the Tasmanian rainforest to stay with her uncle for the summer. It is the last place she wants to be with an upcoming audition. Louisa is a violinist, unlike her family of conservationists and animal lovers. A summer of self-discovery where maybe a trip half-way around the world shows just how connected you are to your own family. Another book with themes of friendship, family, conservation and a setting with animals that many will not be overly familiar with, this book gives any reader numerous ways to connect.
Peril at Owl Park (Aggie Morton #2) by Marthe Jocelyn
The second in the series and paying tribute to murder mystery matriarch Agatha Christie, we find Aggie and her friend, Hector, trying to solve a murder at her older sister’s new home at Christmas. Readers have an opportunity to go toe to toe with Aggie and Hector to find out who killed one of the actors in the travelling show. Mysteries that are wickedly well-written and sophisticated and will challenge readers.
Sarah and the Search for Normal by Wesley T King
After receiving several mental health diagnoses, Sara wants nothing more than to be normal. A middle-grade story, providing insight into mental health that many readers live with or know someone living with one or more mental health conditions. False Alarms, Lead Ball and The Danger Game, are how Sara explains panic attacks, depression and schizophrenic episodes and may, for the first time, give this age group a deeper understanding of these mental health diagnoses and lead to greater empathy. An opportunity to open doors and continue to remove the stigma of mental health.
Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson
Another intergenerational story that does so many things via the impact of a West Highland Terrier named Harvey. Colleen gracefully weaves three stories from the present and the past, using Harvey as the conduit. Maggie, Harvey’s owner, Austin who volunteers and finds Harvey at a senior’s complex and Mr. Pickering, a resident who thinks Harvey is his old dog. The tales of Mr. Pickering and the Depression are so vivid and captivating they steal the show and your heart.
Me and Bansky by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
I loved how the main character Dominica spent time questioning the privacy policies happening in her school and how she used project on artist Bansky to help share her message. Privacy, social media, digital citizenship are all topics that readers generally only have a surface knowledge. Any book that can begin conversations in that direction to get readers to start thinking critically, to reflect and perhaps change their current practices is a book worth promoting.
Let me know in the comments what Canadian books you enjoyed this year! Stay tuned for the rest of the Maybe You Missed Middle Grades…