7 Canadian Books from 2017 for Middle-Graders

The holidays are always a great time to encourage kids to read. They have a lot of time on their hands and though the holidays are about spending time with the family, sometimes mom and dad just need a few minutes (like 2 or maybe 60!) to prepare a meal or relax. So here are 7 Canadian books, with varying themes, published in 2017 that you can stick in front of your children whether they are avid readers or not.

The list was inspired by bestselling lists, award lists, lists of the best books of 2017, and our KW4K authors. All recommendations are middle-grade reads except where indicated. Enjoy!

1. Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts

by Esta Spalding (Author), Sydney Smith (Illustrator)
Genre: Adventure Fiction

This is the second book of the Dahl-esque series about the Fitzgerald Trout kids who have to fend for themselves as they can’t trust the grown-ups to do what needs to be done. Though this book is considered middle-grade, it seems to do well being read out to younger crowds as well. So if you have a child in middle school and another in elementary, this might be a good book for them to read together.

Book synopsis:

“Witty, full of heart and genuinely fun to read…a wacky, lighthearted romp.”–The New York Times Book Review

Welcome to the further adventures of the plucky Fitzgerald-Trout siblings, who live on a tropical island where the grown-ups are useless, but the kids can drive. In this second installment, the delightfully self-reliant siblings continue their search for a home. This time, their pursuit will bring them face-to-face with a flood, illegal carnivorous plants, and the chance to win an extraordinary prize at a carnival. Will they finally find a place to call home?

2. Shadow of a Pug (Howard Wallace, P.I., Book 2)

by Casey Lyall
Genre: Mystery

This fun detective story can be found on a few favourites lists around the internet and is sure to get kids minds buzzing with ideas as they solve the mystery along with Howard Wallace, P.I.

Book synopsis:

Middle-school detectives Howard Wallace and Ivy Mason are itching for a juicy case.

But when their friend and cohort Marvin hires them to prove his nephew— über-bully Carl Dean—didn’t pugnap the school mascot, they’re less than thrilled. To succeed, not only must Howard and Ivy play nice with Carl, they’ll have to dodge a scrappy, snoopy reporter and come face-to-face with Howard’s worst enemy, his ex-best friend Miles Fletcher. Can Howard deal with all these complications and still be there for Ivy when her life is turned upside down? Or will he once again find himself a friendless P.I.?

3. The Artsy Mistake Mystery: The Great Mistake Mysteries

by Sylvia McNicoll
Genre: Mystery

The Artsy Mistake Mystery is the second installment in The Great Mistake Mysteries series. It’s a fun read for parents and children alike and is especially nice for kids who are just a little different from their peers. This is also definitely a good way to remind kids that making mistakes is okay. (For more on what kids would love about this book, take a look at this insightful review.)

Book synopsis:

They say he’s been stealing art. But is Attila being framed?

Outdoor art is disappearing all over the neighbourhood! From elaborate Halloween decorations to the Stream of Dreams fish display across the fence at Stephen and Renée’s school, it seems no art is safe. Renée’s brother, Attila, has been cursing those model fish since he first had to make them as part of his community service. So everyone thinks Attila is behind it when they disappear. But, grumpy teen though he is, Attila can do no wrong in Renée’s eyes, so she enlists Stephen’s help to catch the real criminal.

4. The Explorers: The Door in the Alley

by Adrienne Kress
Genre: Mystery/Adventure Fiction

Here’s a book with a big sell that is sure to be a hit with your child. It’s the first in a series and has been optioned off to be turned into a Disney film. It has the excitement and thrill of adventure plus the wackiness of a free roaming imagination. It’s good for kids to continue to keep their imaginations active. And according to Book Riot, it’s an excellent book for reluctant readers!

Book synopsis:

Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a new series for fans of The Name of This Book Is a Secret and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Knock once if you can find it—but only members are allowed inside.

This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It’s not the one you’re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.) This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and there is a girl looking for help that only uninquisitive boys can offer.

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a series that is sure to hit young readers right in the funny bone.

5. Masterminds: Payback

by Gordon Korman
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery

Gordon Korman’s books come highly recommended from one of our KW4K authors, Christopher Smolej. Plus, this is the third (and possibly final) book in the Mastermind series so it’s a good time for the kids to read the whole series at once.

Book synopsis from HarperCollins.com:

The thrilling finale to the New York Times-bestselling Masterminds series from middle grade star author Gordon Korman. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and James Patterson.

After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.

Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world—tantalized by hints of a real family—his actions put him and Amber into greater danger.

Eli and Tori get sucked into even bigger conspiracies as they hunt down Project Osiris’s most closely guarded secrets—who does Eli’s DNA come from? With a surprising new ally and another cross-country adventure, the four will have to work together to overcome the worst parts of themselves if they are going to end Project Osiris once and for all.

6. Those Who Run in the Sky

by Aviaq Johnston
Age Range: 12+
Genre: Adventure Fiction

Those Who Run in the Sky is inspired by spiritual aspects of Inuit culture and is a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for young people’s literature (— text). Sharing this book with your child is a good way to continue to expose your child to different aspects of Indigenous culture.

Book synopsis:

This teen novel, written by Iqaluit-based Inuit author Aviaq Johnston, is a coming-of-age story that follows a young shaman named Pitu as he learns to use his powers and ultimately finds himself lost in the world of the spirits.

After a strange and violent blizzard leaves Pitu stranded on the sea ice, without his dog team or any weapons to defend himself, he soon realizes that he is no longer in the word that he once knew. The storm has carried him into the world of the spirits, a world populated with terrifying creatures—black wolves with red eyes, ravenous and constantly stalking him; water-dwelling creatures that want nothing more than to snatch him and pull him into the frigid ocean through an ice crack. As well as beings less frightening, but equally as incredible, such as a lone giant who can carry Pitu in the palm of her hand and keeps caribou and polar bears as pets.

After stumbling upon a fellow shaman who has been trapped in the spirit world for many years, Pitu must master all of his shamanic powers to make his way back to the world of the living, to his family, and to the girl that he loves.

7. The Winnowing

by Vikki VanSickle
Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction

This is for all the sci-fi fans out there. Vikki VanSickle presents a fantasy/sci-fi world that the author herself heralds as inspired by The X-Files. But this book is also explores the themes of friendship, loyalty, and the courage needed to grow up.

Book synopsis:

In a world where the familiar has sinister undertones, two friends are torn apart just when they need one another most. Can they both survive?

Marivic Stone lives in a small world, and that’s fine with her. Home is with her beloved grandfather in a small town that just happens to be famous for a medical discovery that saved humankind — though not without significant repercussions. Marivic loves her best friend, Saren, and the two of them promise to stick together, through thick and thin, and especially through the uncertain winnowing procedure, a now inevitable — but dangerous — part of adolescence.

But when tragedy separates the two friends, Marivic is thrust into a world of conspiracy, rebellion and revolution. For the first time in her life, Marivic is forced to think and act big. If she is going to avenge Saren and right a decade of wrongs, she will need to trust her own frightening new abilities, even when it means turning her back on everything, and everyone, she’s known and loved. A gripping exploration of growing up, love and loss, The Winnowing is a page-turning adventure that will have readers rooting for their new hero, Marivic Stone, as they unravel the horror and intrigue of a world at once familiar but with a chilling strangeness lurking beneath the everyday.

Bonus:

Stock up on some stocking stuffers with these short reads by our Kids Write 4 Kids winners that are sure to inspire your kids to do some writing of their own.

How to be an Abbott

by Olivia Simms (2017 Kids Write 4 Kids Winner)
Age Range: 8-14

Here’s what award-winning author Karen Bass has to say about it: “A tale of belonging with unforgettable characters. I loved discovering How to be an Abbott.

Book synopsis:

Noah Thompson feels like no one really understands him. But when he meets Evan, he learns a thing or two about friendship, belonging, and family.

Summon The Magic

by Emily Little (2017 Kids Write 4 Kids Winner)
Age Range: 8-14

Karen Bass, award-winning author says, “Summon the Magic casts you into a fantastic world of imagination and adventure. I relished every twist and turn.” We think your kid will too.

Book synopsis:

For six teens in the small town of Hillside, the start of a new school year is anything but ordinary. It brings the discovery of strange powers, dragons, and a mission to save a whole other world.

Once your middle graders are done reading, if they want to do some writing of their own, don’t forget to get them to submit their creation to the 2017-2018 Kids Write 4 Kids writing contest. Submissions end on March 31, 2018. Go to this online form to enter.

 

The Impact of Creative Writing on Child Development

The winter holidays are here and there is so much to look forward to: snow, presents, skating, a Christmas tree and creative writing! While it might seem that creative writing does not quite fit, there are so many benefits to including it into your holiday plans!

Research shows that there are many. A study carried out at the University of Sydney, Australia, shows that the development of creativity is fostered by five elements: imagination, collaboration, intuitiveness, discipline, and persistence, and creative writing happens to target all of them. The study points out that regular engagement in creative writing leads to significant improvement in writing quality, enhanced organization of ideas, greater ability for self-reflection, as well as increased confidence when working in teams. ( https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2015/10/20/creative-writing-boosts-kids-confidence-and-creativity.html)

“In many schools storytelling and creative writing are not prioritised as much as they should be… These interim findings suggest that providing time for the creative writing process is imperative in every classroom. Strong creative thinking and learning skills are critical to students’ social and emotional well being, academic achievement and lifelong learning,” said Professor Ewing, the lead researcher of the study.

According to another research study conducted in Turkey, writing helps kids make sense of information while aiding in the development of important language aspects such as grammar, vocabulary, phonology, and discourse. (Lawwill, 1999; cited in Demir, 2013).

“It [creative writing] requires learners to manipulate the language in interesting and demanding ways in attempting to express uniquely personal meanings. In doing so, they necessarily engage with the language at a deeper level of processing than with most expository texts (Craik & Lockhart 1972). (http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1877042815008678/1-s2.0-S1877042815008678-main.pdf?_tid=07020a46-bf22-11e6-8a4e-00000aacb35d&acdnat=1481406534_74966573a4176b02bf317121233de5d6)

So maybe the best gift for kids and youth this Christmas is actually our 12 Day Creative Writing Challenge! Find out more on our blog and let us know how creative writing has impacted you, your kids, or your students.

Creative Writing Prompts and Challenges

Let’s face it: inspiration can be difficult to find. Most writers, old and young alike, have found themselves at a loss for ideas when trying to start a new project. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that can help encourage writers’ imaginations. Listed below are some creative writing prompts and challenges that you can pass along to your kids to help them get started. These can be used for school projects, recreational writing, or to help them write an entry for the Kids Write 4 Kids contest!

Short Story Concepts:

Short stories are arguably one of the most universal forms of writing. They can be enjoyed by all ages, provide a temporary escape from reality, and often teach important lessons. Writing short stories can also be a great way for kids to develop their creativity. The ideas below are great for getting started, but feel free to encourage your kids to take them in different directions.

  • Write a short story about a typical day in your life. Now, imagine that you have a magic power. Rewrite your story about what would happen during that same day if you were able to use your power.
  • Your pet or favourite animal can now talk! Write about what you would do with them for a day if you could speak with them.
  • You are an astronaut who just discovered a new planet. Describe what this planet is like, and what you find there. Write about what you decide to do on this new planet.
  • One day, you wake up to find that you have suddenly become famous! Write about how this happened, and what you decide to do about it.
  • Imagine that you and your best friend have swapped bodies. You wake up to find yourself in your friend’s body, what happens next?

Week-Long Writing Challenges:

These week-long writing challenges can be a great way to encourage your kids to practice their writing. They are fun and spontaneous, so it won’t feel like just another homework assignment, but sticking with them for the entire week will be very rewarding. Try doing these challenges alongside your kids, as a way to boost your own creativity while motivating them!

  • Each day, write a poem in which you use a metaphor to explain something that happened to you.
  • Choose a different object each day of the week. For each object, write a description of it without ever saying what the object is. If you are doing this challenge with family members or friends, swap descriptions and see if you can guess what it is about!
  • Take on a daunting writing task by breaking it down. Every day, write one half page of a short story. By the end of the week, you will have a three-and-a-half-page-long story!
  • Try keeping a personal journal for one week. Write daily about things that have happened to you, your thoughts, and your feelings.
  • Create a unique character, and pretend that they are with you as you go about your daily life. Each evening, write about how the character differs from you, how they are similar, and how they would react in whatever situations you experienced that day.

Inspiration from the Outside World:

The best ideas are often hiding right in front of us. From the news, to popular culture, to our own backyards, the opportunity for imagination is everywhere. Encourage your kids to look for things that inspire them in their everyday lives and write them down in an Inspiration Journal. The following ideas can help them get started, and soon enough, they will be coming up with plenty of their own!

  • Choose characters from your favourite books, movies, and TV shows, and use them in your own writing.
  • Write a new ending for a story you have read or a movie you have seen.
  • Write a short sequel to a book you have recently read.
  • Pick an event that you hear about on the news. Use your imagination to continue the story.
  • Expand the theme of your favourite song into a short story.

These ideas are a starting point for endless creativity! The Kids Write 4 Kids contest is now officially open for entries, so this is a great opportunity for your kids to challenge themselves to write. If you or your kids feel inspired and come up with any original prompts, feel free to leave them in the comments below!