The Best Middle Grade & Chapter Books of 2021
by Janssen Bradshaw
As the end of the year approaches, it is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the best things it offered us. And looking back on the best middle grade and chapter books of 2021 is no exception!
Whether your child enjoys wacky graphic novels, remarkable memoirs, or transfixing historical fiction novels, they will find new titles on this reading list to enjoy.
Clarice the Brave
The author of the bestselling series The Unwanteds, Lisa McMann, returns with a new adventure in Clarice the Brave. A little mouse named Clarice loses everyone in her family except her brother Charles, so they must stick together. Unfortunately, a dangerous situation forces Clarice into a boat without her beloved sibling. Will they be able to find their way back to each other?
The Legend of Auntie Po
This graphic novel blends historical fiction with magical realism as readers meet Mei, a 13-year-old Chinese girl working at a logging camp in the years after the United States’ passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. As Mei tries to stay focused on her job – rather than the racial tumult around her – she begins telling stories of Paul Bunyan, but reimagines Bunyan as Po Pan Yin (Auntie Po), an aging Chinese matriarch. Kids will be drawn into this thoughtful adventure.
Two broke kittens decide to get back on top by becoming professional monster slayers. Their only hang-up is that they don’t know the first thing about monsters — or slaying them. Woolfrik and Perigold’s skills get put to the test when a giant beast comes barreling into town. Full of amusement and entertainment, this laugh-out-loud graphic novel is just plain fun!
Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found
Magic has vanished from the earth, but 12-year-old Kingston longs to bring it back. Kingston’s family’s magic runs deep — his father is one of the most powerful magicians in history. However, one wrong magic trick causes all magic to vanish, taking his father with it. Can Kingston figure out why his father disappeared and how to bring him back?
Flight of the Puffin
Can one person change an entire family’s reputation? Coming from a long line of bullies, Libby is about to find out. She makes herself a card with an uplifting statement on it, but when it ends up in someone else’s hands, it has a more significant impact than she thought possible. Flight of the Puffin shows how one small act of kindness can have a ripple effect that touches many people’s lives.
Ellie has always struggled with her weight, and her mom and the bullies at school constantly remind her of it. However, she finds refuge in an unexpected place — the swimming pool. She feels free, weightless, and forgets about her body image issues when she stretches out like a starfish in the water. With her dad, therapist, and friend supporting her, Ellie learns to embrace herself in every way.
She Persisted: Sonia Sotomayor
Inspired by the wildly popular picture book, She Persisted, this chapter book series features women who persevered through thick and thin. This biography focuses on Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in America. Her journey to this prestigious job didn’t happen overnight. Learn about the challenges she faced and how she overcame them in this wonderfully written biography.Preorder from:
The Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race
The long-awaited seventh installment of this series does not disappoint. Jack Sullivan and his crew are traveling to the bewildering Tower to stop the Destructor of Worlds once and for all. However, they unexpectedly get stopped by a gigantic Mallusk centipede with an entire city living on it. Jack’s leadership skills get put to the test when Mallusk City falls under attack.
How to Find What You’re Not Looking For
Sometimes, your decisions aren’t the only ones that affect your life. Ariel Goldberg experiences this firsthand when her Jewish older sister elopes with a young man from India soon after interracial marriage gets legalized. Many things are out of her control, but Ariel must use the one thing she can control — her voice.
J.D. and the Great Barber Battle
Sometimes, home haircuts end in disaster. J.D. learns this when his mom butchers his hair the night before the first day of third grade. After getting rude comments from kids at school, J.D. picks up the clippers himself — because his haircut can’t get any worse! Luckily, he has a knack for cutting hair and becomes the talk of the town (and local competition) when he opens a barbershop in his bedroom.
The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother)
When his brother goes missing for six days, Lucas is distraught. But Aidan suddenly reappears with a wild and impossible story to explain his disappearance. As everyone else challenges Aidan’s story, can Lucas set aside his skepticism and believe his brother?
Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers
Becoming by Michelle Obama is one of the best memoirs I’ve read, so it thrilled me to see it adapted for young readers. Filled to the brim with fascinating stories and insights into her career, this account of the former First Lady’s life will captivate and inspire middle grade readers.
War and Mille McGonigle
Millie loves spending her days at the beach, surfing, getting to know her new neighbor, and swooning over her crush, Rocky. However, there are some challenging things on the other side of the token. As World War II rages, food gets rationed, money doesn’t come easily, and her little sister is a constant thorn in her side. Can Millie stay positive during these difficult times?
I absolutely love fairy tale retellings! Thornwood is the first in a three-part series that re-imagines Sleeping Beauty and other fairy tales. When Briony’s older sister, Rosalin, pricks her finger on a spinning wheel at age 16, a curse casts the entire castle into a century-long slumber. But what happens after everyone wakes up? Kids that enjoy stories about friendship, sisterhood, sibling rivalry, and creating their own destiny will love this book.
The author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is back with a delightful new series about Dog Squad — the most loved doggie crew on TV. On the show, Duke and his team are adventure-seeking, crime-fighting heroes. However, Fred, the canine actor, is a typical dog who looks like Duke but doesn’t have the confidence for danger in real life. This laugh-out-loud series is perfect for dog lovers!
The Cardboard Kingdom #2: Roar of the Beast
A neighborhood monster lurks around the Cardboard Kingdom each night. Nate tries to figure out what he sees from his bedroom window but breaks his leg in the process. With so many questions, sightings, and stories about this horrible monster floating around, how will Nate and his friends find out where it came from?
Dinosaurs Before Dark Graphic Novel
The beloved Magic Treehouse books are back in graphic novel form! Brother and sister, Jack and Annie, are excited to find a treehouse filled with books in the woods. Before they have time to play, the treehouse transports them back to prehistoric times. Growing readers will love re-reading their favorite book in this exciting new format.
From New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone comes a middle grade novel about identity and determination. Shenice Lockwood is focused on leading her all-Black girls’ softball team to the regional championship. This ambition becomes challenging as an old family secret comes to light and dominates her thoughts. Shenice must focus on her team and helping her family, but is it too much to handle?
The author of the worldwide phenomenon Wonder is back with a heroic tale about a boy and a horse. Silas and his dad have a delightful life together until his dad gets kidnapped. When one kidnapper’s horse returns, Silas pursues them to find his dad. This journey filled with adventure, ghosts, and unknowns is fantastic for readers of all ages.
Marcus Makes a Movie
No one likes to be stuck in extra classes after school — especially Marcus. He detests attending film class until he realizes he can transform his superhero drawings into a movie. Marcus can make his dreams come true with a bit of hard work and help from his classmates (and a bully). Kids will be in stitches as they read this illustrated middle-grade novel by actor and comedian Kevin Hart.
Turtle in Paradise
The bestselling Newbery Honor-winning novel Turtle in Paradise hit bookshelves again with this graphic novel adaptation. Right after the Great Depression, 11-year-old Turtle and her mom do their best to make ends meet. However, Turtle gets sent to Florida when her mother gets a housekeeping job for a client who despises kids. In Florida, Turtle meets her cousins, learns family secrets, and gradually starts to have fun. Young readers will adore this heartfelt story about a girl finding her place in the world.