Best New(ish) Books I’ve Read

Here are some newer chapter books I’ve read lately. Hope you find something to read with your child or recommend to him/her!

Just Like Me, by Nancy J. Cavanaugh: My number 1 favorite of late!

Julia is a Chinese-American girl who was adopted by American parents when she was a baby. She and her family have stayed in touch with her “Chinese sisters,” Avery and Becca, who aren’t her biological sisters but were adopted from the same orphanage at the same time. Avery and Becca revel in their Chinese heritage and expect Julia to as well, but Julia has begun to feel awkward and somewhat resentful about this part of her life. The book follows the girls at summer camp together, and is a light, sweet story, while also managing to deal with real feelings about being adopted. I love how it shows that all families have troubles, no matter how well put-together they appear, and the universal theme of wanting to belong is something everyone can relate to. Side note: The author wrote the book for her daughter who was also adopted from China–neat! (I had also read her book This Journal Belongs to Rachet and liked it.) Great for about 4th-8th grade.

The Detective’s Assistant, by Kate Hannigan:

Really enjoyed this one–a nice dose of girl power, combined with history! Orphan Nell comes to Chicago to live with her aunt and is amazed as she figures out that her aunt is a detective for the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency. Aunt Kitty really doesn’t want Nell living with her, so Nell sets out to prove that she can be a help to Kitty in her work. Along the way, Nell may figure out what happened to her own best friend who went missing. Based on the real female detective who worked for that agency in the mid-1800s. Best for grades 4-8.

Woof, by Spencer Quinn (A Bowser and Birdie Novel):

I am a big fan of this author, friends. He has also written an adult series, the Chet and Bernie Mysteries, which are very similar to this series. Both series are written from the perspective of man’s best friend, or in this case, little girl’s best friend. Seth and I just finished this one as a read-aloud. A famous taxidermied fish is stolen from Birdie’s family’s bait shop (in Louisiana), and Birdie sets out to find it, with Bowser at her side. What they find goes deeper into family history and feuds than they would’ve ever imagined. Spencer Quinn is a pen name for Peter Abrahams who also wrote my #1 favorite middle grade mystery series, Echo Falls Mysteries. It would make my entire year if he would write more in that series, but I fear it won’t happen. (Why, Peter/Spencer??!!) Best for grades 3-7.

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood, by Liesl Shurtliff:

I put a photo of both Red and Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (also by her) because I read Rump several years ago and loved it. I am almost finished with Red now, and it’s been an entertaining read. In this story, Granny is a (good) witch and has tried to train Red (also a witch) in magic, but Red is scared of using magic because every time she tries, things go wrong. When Granny becomes dangerously ill, Red must set out to find the magical ingredients to help her. Goldie, an annoyingly loyal new friend with bouncy golden curls, accompanies her, and along the way, they’ll meet a wolf. Is he friend or foe? Nice adventurous twists on the story we all know–also some surprising reflection on whether living forever as a human is really as great as it sounds. Best for grades 4-8.

The Only Road, by Alexandra Diaz:

I saved the hardest for last. Two cousins, Jaime and Angela, ages 12 and 15, are forced to flee their home village in Guatemala after Angela’s brother Miguel is killed because he won’t join a deviant local gang. Between a rock and a hard place, the children can stay and definitely be killed (joining the gang is not an option for obvious reasons), or leave illegally and possibly make it to safety. Their family scrapes together what they hope is enough money for them to join Jaime’s brother who lives legally in New Mexico. The two children face dangers and hardship at every turn. The author based the story on real experiences. It certainly causes readers to reflect on the problems faced in our world today; there are no easy answers. Despite the heavy topic, Diaz has written in a way that is still appropriate for 5th grade and up.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these, if you end up reading them (or already have)! Read on!

2 thoughts on “Best New(ish) Books I’ve Read

  1. Lindsay February 9, 2017 / 9:24 pm

    Thanks for the suggestions! Joshua is reading Woof right now. I think he likes it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sara Treat Chance June 17, 2017 / 9:15 pm

      Sorry I just now noticed this, Lindsay. Did he like it? I thought it dragged on a bit as a read-aloud, but Seth seemed to enjoy it. I think it made a better independent read. If he likes mysteries, I can recommend some even better reads, as middle grade mysteries are my FAVORITE genre!


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