Best Chapter Books of 2021


These chapter books were some of the favorites among readers this year.


Aven Green Sleuthing Machine

Dusti Bowling

Age range 6 to 9 Get ready for a whole new chapter in the life of Aven Green, the remarkable heroine of Dusti Bowling's Life of a Cactus series. Told in the same wry, memorable voice as the middle-grade novels, younger readers get to know Aven through her everyday adventures. Third-grader Aven Green has been solving mysteries for a really long time--a whole month. She's solved many important cases like The Mystery of the Cranky Mom, The Mystery of the Missing Ice Cream, and The Mystery of the Smelly Feet. Her record is nearly 100% (only The Mystery of the Cereal in My Underpants remains unsolved to this day). Aven asks all the right questions, wields her detective kit carefully, and follows up on every clue. Then her teacher's lunch bag (with her lunch still in it) is taken and Aven's great-grandma's beloved dog goes missing! Can this perceptive detective crack two cases at the same time? Luckily, Aven has a super-powered brain full of lots of extra brain cells to take on both cases. See, she was born without arms, so all of the cells that were supposed to make her arms went into making her brain instead. At least that her working theory for The Mystery of Why I Have So Many Extra Brain Cells.

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Katie the Catsitter

Colleen Af Venable

Twelve-year-old Katie is dreading the boring summer ahead until she realizes the mysterious neighbor who hired her to catsit is one of the city's greatest supervillains.

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Knight of the Cape

Terry Catasus Jennings

Judy Moody meets Netflix’s One Day at a Time in this first book in a new chapter book series featuring a young Cuban American girl who tries to find adventure based on the classics she read with her beloved abuela—can Dominguita become a noble knight? All Dominguita wants to do is read. Especially the books in Spanish that Abuela gave to her just before she moved away. They were classics that Abuela and Dominguita read together, classics her abuela brought with her all the way from Cuba when she was a young girl. It helps Dominguita feel like Abuela’s still there with her. One of her favorites, Don Quixote, tells of a brave knight errant who tries to do good deeds. Dominguita decides that she, too, will become a knight and do good deeds around her community, creating a grand adventure for her to share with her abuela. And when the class bully tells Dominguita that girls can’t be knights, Dom is determined to prove him wrong. With a team of new friends, can Dominguita learn how to be the hero of her own story?

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Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey

Erin Entrada Kelly

“Utterly endearing!” —Annie Barrows, New York Times-bestselling author of the Ivy + Bean books "Hilarious and heart-melting.” —Sara Pennypacker, New York Times-bestselling author of Pax Introducing eight-year-old Marisol Rainey—an irresistible new character from Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling Erin Entrada Kelly! Maybe, Maybe Marisol Rainey is an illustrated novel about summer, friendship, and overcoming fears, told with warm humor and undeniable appeal. Fans of Clementine, The Year of Billy Miller, and Ramona the Pest will be thrilled to meet Marisol. Marisol Rainey’s mother was born in the Philippines. Marisol’s father works and lives part-time on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. And Marisol, who has a big imagination and likes to name inanimate objects, has a tree in her backyard she calls Peppina . . . but she’s way too scared to climb it. This all makes Marisol the only girl in her small Louisiana town with a mother who was born elsewhere and a father who lives elsewhere (most of the time)—the only girl who’s fearful of adventure and fun. Will Marisol be able to salvage her summer and have fun with Jada, her best friend? Maybe. Will Marisol figure out how to get annoying Evie Smythe to leave her alone? Maybe. Will Marisol ever get to spend enough real time with her father? Maybe. Will Marisol find the courage to climb Peppina? Maybe. Told in short chapters with illustrations by the author on nearly every page, Maybe, Maybe Marisol Rainey is a must-have for early elementary grade readers. Erin Entrada Kelly celebrates the small but mighty Marisol, the joys of friendship, and the triumph of overcoming your fears in this stunning new novel for readers of Kevin Henkes, Meg Medina, Andrew Clements, Sara Pennypacker, and Kate DiCamillo. Features black-and-white artwork throughout by Erin Entrada Kelly.

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Pawcasso

Remy Lai

Remy Lai, the award-winning creator of Pie in the Sky makes her middle-grade graphic novel debut, Pawcasso, about the unexpected friendship between the loneliest girl in class and the coolest canine in town. "It's tail-wagging entertaining!" —Kelly Yang, New York Times bestselling author of Front Desk Every Saturday, Pawcasso trots into town with a basket, a shopping list, and cash in paw to buy groceries for his family. One day, he passes eleven-year-old Jo, peering out the window of her house, bored and lonely. Astonished by the sight of an adorable basket-toting dog on his own, Jo follows Pawcasso, and when she’s seen alongside him by a group of kids from her school, they mistake her for Pawcasso’s owner. Excited to make new friends, Jo reluctantly hides the truth and agrees to let “her” dog model for an art class the kids attend. What could go wrong? But what starts as a Chihuahua-sized lie quickly grows Great Dane-sized when animal control receives complaints about a dog roaming the streets off-leash. With Pawcasso’s freedom at stake, is Jo willing to spill the truth and risk her new friendships? "A beautifully drawn and delightful story bursting with art, books, and fun!" —Maria Scrivan, New York Times bestselling author of Nat Enough and Forget Me Nat

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Super Detectives (Simon and Chester Book #1)

Cale Atkinson

Simon and Chester are bored...until they pretend to be detectives.

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Stamped (For Kids)

Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi

The #1 New York Times bestseller! This chapter book edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller by luminaries Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds is an essential introduction to the history of racism and antiracism in America RACE. Uh-oh. The R-word. But actually talking about race is one of the most important things to learn how to do. Adapted from the groundbreaking bestseller Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, this book takes readers on a journey from present to past and back again. Kids will discover where racist ideas came from, identify how they impact America today, and meet those who have fought racism with antiracism. Along the way, they’ll learn how to identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their own lives. Ibram X. Kendi’s research, Jason Reynolds’s and Sonja Cherry-Paul’s writing, and Rachelle Baker’s art come together in this vital read, enhanced with a glossary, timeline, and more.

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That Thing about Bollywood

Supriya Kelkar

Bollywood takes over in this contemporary, magical middle grade novel about an Indian American girl whose world turns upside down when she involuntarily starts bursting into glamorous song-and-dance routines during everyday life. You know how in Bollywood when people are in love, they sing and dance from the mountaintops? Eleven-year-old Sonali wonders if they do the same when they’re breaking up. The truth is, Sonali’s parents don’t get along, and it looks like they might be separating. Sonali’s little brother, Ronak, is not taking the news well, constantly crying. Sonali would never do that. It’s embarrassing to let out so many feelings, to show the world how not okay you are. But then something strange happens, something magical, maybe. When Sonali gets upset during a field trip, she can’t bury her feelings like usual—instead, she suddenly bursts into a Bollywood song-and-dance routine about why she’s upset! The next morning, much to her dismay, Sonali’s reality has shifted. Things seem brighter, almost too bright. Her parents have had Bollywood makeovers. Her friends are also breaking out into song and dance. And somehow, everyone is acting as if this is totally normal. Sonali knows something has gone wrong, and she suspects it has something to do with her own mismanaged emotions. Can she figure it out before it’s too late?

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Too Small Tola

Atinuke

Three delightful tales from a renowned Nigerian storyteller introduce a chapter-book heroine who is every bit as mighty as she is small. In a trio of droll stories, award-winning author and storyteller Atinuke debuts an endearing and enduring character with plenty to prove. Tola lives in an apartment in the busy city of Lagos, Nigeria, with her sister, Moji, who is very clever; her brother, Dapo, who is very fast; and Grandmommy, who is very bossy. Tola may be small, but she’s strong enough to carry a basket brimming with groceries home from the market, and she’s clever enough to count out Grandmommy’s change. When the faucets in the apartment break, it’s Tola who brings water from the well. And when Mr. Abdul, the tailor, has an accident and needs help taking his customers’ measurements, only Tola can save the day. Atinuke’s trademark wit and charm are on full display, accompanied by delightful illustrations by Onyinye Iwu. Too Small Tola evokes the urban bustle and rich blending of cultures in Lagos through the eyes of a little girl with an outsize will—and an even bigger heart.

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Jo Jo Makoons

Dawn Quigley

Hello/Boozhoo—meet Jo Jo Makoons! Full of pride, joy, and plenty of humor, this first book in an all-new chapter book series by Dawn Quigley celebrates a spunky young Ojibwe girl who loves who she is. Jo Jo Makoons Azure is a spirited seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. It always seems like her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher have a lot to learn—about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly. Even though Jo Jo loves her #1 best friend Mimi (who is a cat), she’s worried that she needs to figure out how to make more friends. Because Fern, her best friend at school, may not want to be friends anymore… The Heartdrum imprint centers a wide range of intertribal voices, visions, and stories while welcoming all young readers, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

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Ways to Grow Love

Renée Watson

Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Renée Watson continues her charming young middle grade series starring Ryan Hart, a girl who is pure spirit and sunshine. Ryan Hart and her family are back in another installment of stories about a Black girl finding her way and her voice as she grows through change and challenges. In this book, Ryan finds herself waiting on lots of things -- like for her new sister to be born healthy, for her new recipes to turn out right, for that summer camp trip to go better than she fears! And of course Ryan is facing these new challenges and new experiences in her classic style -- with a bright outlook and plenty of spirit!

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