The best middle grade books about kids living here and now

Beverley Brenna Author Of Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life
By Beverley Brenna

The Books I Picked & Why

A Boy Named Queen

By Sara Cassidy

A Boy Named Queen

Why this book?

I wish these characters lived on my street. When Queen says to Evelyn that his chosen name is like a sorting hat, helping him decide whom to like on the basis of how they respond to it, I pretty much jumped up and down with admiration. He also tells Evelyn about his force field—it lets all the dumb things bounce off, but directs the nice things right into his heart—and I wish that all of us had such a gift. This story breaks my heart and then puts it back together. I’ve read it about a million times. 


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Jason's Why

By Beth Goobie

Jason's Why

Why this book?

At last, a book about a kid whose anger is just as big as the anger of many kids I know, and whose transition into parent-requested foster care isn’t easy—but gets easier. Jason and his family are in trouble, and this straightforward novel opens a door that readers don’t often walk through, unless we’re opening that door in real life. This novel reflects real-life situations in a direct and caring story about what happens next. 


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Danny, King of the Basement

By David S. Craig

Danny, King of the Basement

Why this book?

This is a play about homelessness. It takes a topic that’s often on the news and makes it personal and relevant through the perspectives of Danny and his mom as they navigate real reasons for living on the street. It’s a captivating story, and kids need to read more plays—along with graphic novels—because they take us on a wonderful journey through dialogue. 


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Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

By Shari Green

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

Why this book?

Macy’s mom is getting married and Macy isn’t looking forward to a new step-dad and two pesky little step-sisters. When Macy and her best friend have a falling out, the crabby ancient woman next door—who doesn’t even know sign language—couldn’t possibly become an ally…or could she? I love the free verse format of this novel, and the use of bolded text for dialogue, and how Macy’s hearing impairment is a streamlined and interesting aspect of her characterization.   


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The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga, Book One

By David A. Robertson

The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga, Book One

Why this book?

Two contemporary kids go on a quest that’s complex and dangerous—I’m back in Narnia with this one, except I’m travelling with my neighbour’s kids. A terrific blend of the best kind of realism, with portals where other times and worlds connect. And it’s set in Winnipeg—with Book Two just out—by David A. Robertson, a Canadian Indigenous author with a whole list of great titles to read in addition to this one! 


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