It is easy to overlook a middle child, especially when she’s as overwhelming ordinary as Esther. But being overlooked can have its benefits. Eavesdropping, for example, is much easier when people don’t know you’re there. And though it’s probably just an oversight, there is technically no rule against eavesdropping at her magical boarding school.
When her year gets off to a rocky start, Esther’s eavesdropping leads her to some startling discoveries, and she soon realizes she’ll need to hone more of her espionage skills. Because Esther is the only one who knows that the Spellbinder has been compromised, that the new teacher is more sinister than she appears, and that their entire school–maybe their entire world–is in terrible danger from the Shadow Mages.
And though she has no idea how, she suspects that the whole crisis connects back to her cousin the adventurer and the poor little prince who was stolen away by the sea.
This latest installment in the Kingdoms & Empires world will not disappoint, either as a standalone novel or a companion to …BRONTE METTLESTONE and/or THE WHISPERING WARS. Esther’s deliciously quirky voice and indomitable personality are an excellent hook at the start and later, an accessible lens through which to view the complex social issues Moriarty explores throughout the novel. Fun, original, accessible–highly recommend!
Marcel the hedgehog has spent six months living in the Emerald City Movie Theater. He passes the time by nibbling popcorn off the floor, chatting with the two hens in the balcony, and of course watching the Wizard of Oz matinee every afternoon. But really he’s waiting for Dorothy. His Dorothy, who adopted him from the animal shelter, who he lost one afternoon at the park, and who he is sure will come find him someday. But instead of Dorothy, it’s an animal control officer who comes for Marcel. And when he’s released into the wild, he finds himself in Mousekinland and further from Dorothy and home than he’s ever been before. With the help of a reckless mouseling, a grumpy elderly squirrel, a terrified baby raccoon, and a cocoon named Toto, Marcel begins the journey back to the Emerald City Theater where he’s sure his Dorothy must be waiting.
THE HEDGEHOG OF OZ begins with slapstick humor but develops into a heartwarming–and occasionally heartbreaking–tale. In a twist on the classic, Marcel learns to trust his own ingenuity, compassion, and courage as he leads his new friends through the wilderness. And in the end, he realizes he must stop waiting for Dorothy to come to him and find his own way home. It will resonate most with readers who are familiar with the Wizard of Oz story, either from the movie or the books. (Honestly, though Marcel focuses on the movie, the extended denouement of this novel where each character finds their way back home reminded me more of the book.)
A note: I would have said this book skewed young until I got to the ending…. I don’t want to spoil, but if you’re going to recommend or read aloud to a young reader, read chapter 25 in advance so that you know whether it may upset your young reader and/or so that you can prepare for the conversations that will need to surround the reading of that particular chapter. Think CHARLOTTE’S WEB. Again, this is just a heads up if you’re reading it aloud to your kindergartener or handing it to your precocious second grader. If you’re recommending it to your typical MG reader, I don’t think it’s an issue. All of the content is developmentally appropriate and similar to content in other MG books.
People think it must be great growing up as the daughter of a famous child-rearing expert. But sometimes Emmy wishes she had a normal mom–or at least that her mom spent less time on her work and more time paying attention to the things Emmy is interested in. When her mom announces that she has accepted a job on a reality TV program and that Emmy will have to go to boarding school on the other side of the ocean, it seems like proof that her mom’s work is more important than she is. It makes her feel a little bit less guilty about the secret she’s been keeping from her mom: the mysterious note and the box of “relics” from her long-absent father. “Keep them safe,” the note commanded. Emmy never knew her father, has no idea what these “relics” are, and doesn’t know who wrote the note or what kind of danger the mysterious writer anticipated. But when she arrives at her new elite English boarding school, she begins to uncover more pieces of the mystery of who her father was, and in the middle of the web of secrets is a danger much more real and terrifying than Emmy could have imagined.
This intriguing start to a mystery series is a great middle-grade page turner. The plot draws on common enough tropes–missing father, secret society, “heroic trio uncovering secrets at a boarding school” with a pleasant Harry Potter vibe–but what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in likable characters and an engaging mystery to puzzle out. I look forward to the sequel!
Lots of new books are set to be released this year! Here’s a peak at some of the new books announced by publishers for kids ages 8-14. Summaries and release dates are based on the information publishers have made available thus far and may or may not be completely accurate. But it looks like some great new books are coming this way!
FLIGHT OF THE BLUEBIRD by Kara LaReau and Jen Hill (1/8)
The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, Book 3
PRANK WARS by Matt Stanton (1/8)
Funny Kid, Book 3
TBH, TOO MUCH DRAMA by Lisa Greenwald (1/8)
TBH, Book 3
HOW TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF PLANET EARTH by Paul Noth (1/15)
Sequel to HOW TO SELL YOUR FAMILY TO THE ALIENS
A PREDATOR’S RIGHTS by Anna Starobinets, Marie Murovski, and Jane Bugaeva (1/16)
Beastly Crimes, Book 2
A CIRCLE OF ELEPHANTS: A COMPANION NOVEL by Eric Dinerstein (1/22)
Sequel to WHAT ELEPHANTS KNOW
ESCAPE FROM THE PALACE by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore (1/22)
The Royal Rabbits of London, Book 4
MIXED EMOTIONS by Heather Nuhfer (1/22)
My So-Called Superpowers, Book 2
SPIRITS, SPELLS, AND SNARK by Kelly McCullough (1/22)
Sequel to MAGIC, MADNESS, AND MISCHIEF
THE UNSPEAKABLE UNKNOWN by Eliot Sappingfield (1/22)
Sequel to A PROBLEMATIC PARADOX
THE END OF THE WORLD AND BEYOND by Avi (1/29)
Sequel to THE UNEXPECTED LIFE OF OLIVER CROMWELL PITTS
THE PHANTOM HOUR by Kat Shepherd (1/29)
A Babysitting Nightmares book
THE LAST LIFE OF PRINCE ALASTOR by Alexandra Bracken (2/5)
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, Book 2
A SPRINKLE OF SPIRITS by Anna Meriano (2/5)
Love Sugar Magic, Book 2
PRESIDENT OF POPLAR LANE by Margaret Mincks (2/12)
Poplar Kids, Book 2
MIDDLE SCHOOL: BORN TO ROCK by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts (2/18)
Middle School, Book 11
THE LOST HEIR by Tui T. Sutherland (2/26)
Wings of Fire Graphic Novels, Book 2
THE HUNT FOR MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER by Diane Magras (3/5)
Sequel to THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER
ARU SHAH AND THE SONG OF DEATH by Roshani Chokshi (4/30)
Pandava, Book 2
BIGGER, BADDER, NERDIER by Obert Skye (4/30)
Geeked Out, Book 2
FREEDOM FIRE by Daniel Jose Older (5/14)
Dactyl Hill Squad, Book 2
SERAFINA AND THE SEVEN STARS by Robert Beatty (7/9)
Serafina, Book 4
QUEST FOR THE GRAIL by Audrey Mackaman (8/20)
Cavall in Camelot, Book 2
THE BATTLE by Karuna Riazi (8/27)
Sequel to THE GAUNTLET
Fantasy & Science Fiction
MAX AND THE MIDKNIGHTS by Lincoln Peirce (1/8)
A young aspiring knight embarks on a quest to rescue his uncle from an evil king.
DRAGON PEARL by Yoon Ha Lee (1/15)
A girl descended from fox spirits must embrace her powers and embark on a quest to find her older brother, who has disappeared.
ULTRABALL: LUNAR BLITZ by Jeff Chen (1/15)
A group of kids engaged in a competitive sport in their Moon Colony home find themselves involved in Lunar politics when an outsider joins their team.
THE WHISPERS by Greg Howard (1/15)
After his mother disappears, a boy travels into the forest in search of wish-granting fairies.
A TEAR IN THE OCEAN by H.M. Bouwman (1/22)
When their sea suddenly begins to become salty, two kids must figure out why before an ancient magical infection destroys their world.
FREYA AND ZOOSE by Emily Butler (1/29)
A penguin and a stowaway mouse undertake a harrowing journey to the North Pole.
THE LOST GIRL by Anne Ursu (2/12)
When things begin mysteriously disappearing around her town, a girl worries that her twin sister might be next.
THE BEAST PLAYER by Nahoko Uehashi (2/21)
After her mother is executed for a crime she didn’t commit, a girl discovers that she can communicate with the sea serpents in the king’s army and gets swept up into a political plot that she wants no part of.
I AM HERMES by Mordecai Gerstein (2/26)
A graphic novel detailing the antics of the young Greek god Hermes.
OUTWALKERS by Fiona Shaw (2/26)
After escaping a prison-like orphanage, a boy and his comrades must hide off the grid as they struggle to escape the oppressive Coalition that has taken over the government.
THE POTTER’S BOY by Tony Mitton (2/26)
After a wandering warrior saves his village, a boy from humble origins embarks on a quest to find the hermit who can train him in martial arts.
THE MISSING PIECE OF CHARLIE O’REILLY by Rebecca K.S. Ansari (3/5)
When a boy’s brother disappears, everyone else instantly forgets that he existed, leading the boy to embark on a quest to discover what really happened to him.
THE REVENGE OF MAGIC by James Riley (3/5)
After his father is lost in a monster-attack, a boy is invited to attend a government school to learn how to harness the power of magical books discovered near the bones of dragons.
SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE by Carlos Hernandez (3/5)
Two unlikely young allies discover that together they can manipulate space-time, with potentially disastrous consequences.
SEVENTH GRADE VS THE GALAXY by Joshua S. Levy (3/5)
When his spaceship-school comes under attack, a boy accidentally launches it across the galaxy and must find a way to navigate home.
WE’RE NOT FROM HERE by Geoff Rodkey (3/5)
As the new immigrants on Planet Choom, Earthlings struggle to fit in.
WINGS OF OLYMPUS by Kallie George (3/5)
An orphan girl is chosen by the gods to ride a winged horse in a dangerous, high stakes race through the mortal world.
OVER THE MOON by Natalie Lloyd (3/26)
A girl gets a chance to escape servitude when she enters a competition to train magical flying horses.
THE TRAGICAL TALE OF BIRDIE BLOOM by Temre Beltz (3/26)
A tragic orphan and a wicked witch form an unlikely friendship.
KATT VS. DOGG by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (4/1)
When a katt and dogg are lost in the woods together, can they overcome their innate sense of rivalry to make it home together?
YE by Guilherme Petreca (4/2)
A mute boy embarks on a quest to defeat the Colorless King and restore hope to the world.
JACLYN HYDE by Annabeth Bonder-Stone and Connor White (5/7)
A middle-schooler invents a potion that is supposed to help her achieve perfection, but instead transforms her into a ruthless, moral-free monster.
LALANI OF THE DISTANT SEA by Erin Entrada Kelly (5/7)
When a Filipino girl makes a foolish wish that endangers her island, she must undertake a dangerous voyage across the ocean.
ORDER OF THE MAJESTIC by Matt Myklusch (5/7)
In an attempt to save the last bit of magic left in the world, a boy gets caught in a war between two groups of rival magicians.
SPARK by Sarah Beth Durst (5/14)
After bonding with a dragon-like lightning beast, a girl must study to become an effective guardian, but instead learns disturbing secrets about her homeland.
BAD ORDER by B.B. Ullman (6/4)
A girl and her telepathic brother are called upon to heal a tear in the universe that threatens to overrun the world with bad thoughts.
THIS WAS OUR PACT by Ryan Andrews (6/11)
When two boys chase paper lanterns on their bicycles they wind up going further than anyone has ever gone into a magical world.
THE STORM KEEPER’S ISLAND by Catherine Doyle (7/12)
A boy finds himself at the center of an ancient war when a magical island needs a new storm keeper.
CHANGELING by William Ritter (7/16)
Two boys raised as twins discover that one of them is a goblin changeling and embark on a journey to discover their true identities.
CAPE by Kate Hannigan (8/6)
With her father off fighting Nazis, a girl dreams of doing more to save the world and finds herself transformed into a real superhero.
A SWIRL OF OCEAN by Melissa Sarno (8/6)
After swallowing a gulp of sea water, a girl begins having visions of a girl from the past who is eerily familiar.
THE UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, USA by Brenda Woods (1/8)
A Black WWII veteran saves a young boy’s life in the Jim Crow South and an unlikely friendship begins.
EMMI IN THE CITY: A GREAT CHICAGO FIRE SURVIVAL STORY by Salima Alikhan (2/1)
A German immigrant and the kids who bully her are caught together in the Great Chicago Fire.
SPY RUNNER by Eugene Yelchin (2/12)
When his family takes in a Russian lodger, a boy gets caught up in the Red Scare and wonders if he has stumbled upon a Russian spy.
GOODBYE, MR. SPAULDING by Jennifer Robin Barr (3/26)
Two kids in the Great Depression scheme to stop their town from building a wall that would prevent them from watching the Philadelphia Athletics baseball games.
THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS by Gail Shepherd (3/26)
Although her grandmother is obsessed with “keeping up appearances,” a girl just wants to get her Vietnam Veteran father the help he needs—even if it means reaching out for help outside of the family.
VOICES: THE FINAL HOURS OF JOAN OF ARC by David Elliott (3/26)
Through medieval poetry, people, animals, and objects close to Joan of Arc reflect on her life and legacy.
LAST OF THE NAME by Roseanne Perry (4/2)
When an Irish boy immigrates to America, his mother convinces him to pretend to be a girl in order to avoid being drafted as a drummer boy in the Civil War.
SINCERELY, HARRIET by Sarah Winifred Searle (5/7)
A chronically ill girl with a penchant for telling lies begins expressing herself through writing.
A PLACE TO BELONG by Cynthia Kadohata (5/14)
After being freed from an internment camp, a Japanese-American family returns to Hiroshima hoping to start a new life with their relatives, only to discover the carnage that took place there.
IT RAINED WARM BREAD by Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet and Hope Anita Smith (8/13)
A boy survives the holocaust with the hope that came from an act of kindness.
THE MYSTERY OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE by Julia Nobel (3/5)
Three students at a boarding school uncover a secret society that may hold the answers to find one student’s missing father.
THE NORTH STAR by Kat Shepherd (3/5)
Three young detectives follow the clues to find a stolen diamond necklace.
THE STRANGERS by Margaret Peterson Haddix (4/2)
After reading a story about a very similar family that vanished, three siblings begin an investigation.
THE BOOK CASE by Dave Shelton (4/5)
A boarding school student and the Librarian’s Assistant work together to solve crimes.
SCOUTS by Shannon Greenland (7/23)
A group of scouts searching for a meteor in the woods wind up being chased by a violent group of Masons.
DOC AND THE DETECTIVE IN: THE GRAVEYARD TREASURE by Tim Tingle (10/15)
A boy and an elderly doctor team up to solve mysteries in their small town, despite the doc’s struggle with dementia.
CLICK by Kayla Miller (1/8)
A girl questions the strength of her friendships when she can’t find a friend to perform with in the talent show.
THE FRIENDSHIP WAR by Andrew Clements (1/8)
An unexpected button fad has damaging results on the friendship of two sixth grade girls.
LIZZY LEGEND by Matthew Ross Smith (1/8)
After being allowed to join the boys’ basketball team at school, a girl makes a wish on a magical phone line that she will never miss another shot and finds herself skyrocketing toward the NBA.
THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart (1/8)
After five years of living on the road following the death of her mother and sisters, a girl and her father finally head back home.
THE UNTEACHABLES by Gordon Korman (1/8)
Chaos ensues when the worst students in school are gathered into one classroom and assigned the worst teacher in school.
GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN by Alicia D. Williams (1/15)
A girl with low self-esteem and a verbally abusive family that criticizes the darkness of her skin finds new hope when she starts at a new school with a supportive teacher.
ONE THIRD NERD by Gennifer Choldenko (1/29)
A boy and his siblings must raise money to get their dog to the vet before the landlord finds out she’s been peeing on the carpet of their apartment.
PINK HAIR AND OTHER TERRIBLE IDEAS by Andrea Pyros (2/1)
In the wake of her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis, a girl struggles with her priorities and relationships with her twin brother and friends at school.
EVENTOWN by Corey Ann Haydu (2/12)
After moving to a seemingly perfect town, a girl discovers that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOGFISH by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (2/12)
Two daughters of single gay dads find friendship when their dads start dating and hatch a plan to keep them together.
A DROP OF HOPE by Keith Calabrese (2/26)
Three sixth graders begin secretly making the wishes that townspeople make in the wishing well come true.
THE MOON WITHIN by Aida Salazar (2/26)
A girl struggles to find her true identity, while her mother insists on a traditional Mexican ceremony when she gets her first period.
STAND ON THE SKY by Erin Bow (3/5)
When her parents must take her brother to a hospital, a nomadic girl befriends an eagle and defies traditional gender roles to train it.
A STORM OF STRAWBERRIES by Jo Cotterill (3/5)
A girl with Down syndrome tries to help her family prepare for a big storm and to help calm family tensions, but it seems no one will pay attention to her.
A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE by Lisa Moore Ramee (3/12)
A rule-following girl decides to take a risk and show her support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
MOSTLY THE HONEST TRUTH by Jody J. Little (3/12)
With her dad in rehab, a girl tries to toe the line in her new foster home so she can be reunited with her real dad as soon as possible.
THE SPACE BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER by Sue Stauffacher (3/19)
When his mother disappears, a boy copes with his grief by imagining her as the hero of a fantasy story.
SWEEPING UP THE HEART by Kevin Henkes (3/19)
Stuck at home with a babysitter over Spring Break, a girl makes an unusual new friend who revives the memory of her late mother.
THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH by Andrew Smith (3/26)
A boy tries to overcome PTSD from a childhood trauma in order to regain some control over his own life and pursue his dream of becoming a chef.
THE BECKET LIST: A BLACKBERRY FARM STORY (4/2)
Everything changes for a city girl moving to her grandmother’s farm in the country.
CATERPILLAR SUMMER by Gillian McDunn (4/2)
On an unexpected summer trip to her grandmother’s house, a girl has a chance to take a break from her role holding her family together and spend some time being a kid.
OPERATIC by Kyo Maclear (4/2)
A quiet girl tries to let the lessons she learns in her opera class impact other areas of her middle school life.
BIRDIE by Eileen Spinelli (4/9)
Still grieving the death of her father, a girl’s struggles deepen when both her older sister and her mother find boyfriends.
THE LINE TENDER by Kate Allen (4/16)
After her mother’s sudden death, a girl tries to find a way to finish her mother’s research on sharks.
THE NEXT GREAT PAULIE FINK by Ali Benjamin (4/16)
Although she is the new kid in school, a girl becomes enthralled with her new classmate’s stories about the class clown who moved away over the summer and their attempts to find someone to fill his role.
EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS by Sandy Stark-McGinnis (4/30)
A girl who believes she is destined to someday transform into a bird finds new hope in a new foster home with a taxidermist who works at a wildlife rescue.
THE LOST BOY’S GIFT by Kimberly Willis Holt (4/30)
After his parents divorce, a boy has to move across the country and struggles to find his place in his new neighborhood.
MYA’S STRATEGY TO SAVE THE WORLD by Tanya Lloyd Kyi (4/30)
When her parents refuse to let her get a phone, a socially conscious middle-schooler tries to prove to them how responsible she is.
FINDING ORION by John David Anderson (5/7)
An unusual family’s unusual grandfather’s funeral turns out to be the start of an unusual adventure.
HURRICANE SEASON by Nicole Melleby (5/7)
A girl struggles with her father’s mental illness and her first crush on another girl.
NIXIE NESS: COOKING STAR by Claudia Mills (6/4)
When her mother gets a new job, a girl is sent to the afterschool program where she starts a cooking club.
FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME by Mariama J. Lockington (7/30)
An adopted Black girl growing up in a white family struggles to find her identity and her place in her school community.
HOAX FOR HIRE by Laura Martin (8/27)
Despite his disdain for monsters a boy gets roped into the family business: spreading the myth of the Loch Ness Monster.
STARGAZING by Jen Wang (9/10)
When an unusual girl moves in next door, a Chinese-American girl finds an unlikely best friend.
THE BIG ONE by J.C. Geiger (10/1)
A boy whose older brother was lost to the ocean becomes obsessed with a prophesied tsunami and discovers a secret music festival.
DEAR SWEET PEA by Julie Murphy (10/1)
Overwhelmed by her parents’ divorce, a girl accidentally ends up writing an advice column in her town paper.
Marty’s father is sick. The kind of sick with surprise hospital stays, weeks in bed, and not much talk of the future. When he first found out about the cancer, Marty’s dad got him a present: a jean jacket so that the two of them could collect buttons and pins to represent different memories during the time they had left together. It is Marty’s most prized possession. So when the jean jacket goes missing during one of Dad’s hospital stays, Marty is frantic. It can’t possibly be gone! That conviction that the jacket must be out there waiting for him somewhere reminds Marty of an old story his father used to tell him about the Train of Lost Things, a train that flies around the world at night collecting the lost precious possessions of children and holding onto them until they can find be returned to their owners. Desperate for his jacket, Marty sneaks out one night in search of the train and stumbles into an adventure beyond his wildest dreams.
In this touching coming of age story, a dose of fantasy helps Marty and the reader process the grief and loss of a loved one. About half of the book reads like realistic fiction, so this book will be most appealing to readers who enjoy both realistic fiction and fantasy, or fantasies that are heavily rooted in the real world, such as Savvy by Ingrid Law.
Xar, the son of the wizard king, is known for being a troublemaker–disobedient, destructive, leading his ragtag entourage of sprites and snow cats into all kinds of danger. And the fact that at thirteen his magic still hasn’t come in makes him even more unruly. Wish, the warrior princess, is downright weird. Her limp, her eyepatch, and her odd interests make her hardly fit to call herself a warrior. But the mischief of these two sworn enemies reaches new heights when two forbidden errands collide in the Badwoods. Xar has come to set a trap for a witch, the darkest, most evil magic creature ever to exist, which everyone believes are extinct, but whose magic Xar hopes to steal. Wish enters the Badwoods chasing her pet, an iron spoon that must be magic and is therefore thoroughly forbidden (much to her young Assistant Bodyguard’s anxiety). She also has a magic sword she found near her mother’s dungeon that has an inscription claiming that it kills witches. And unfortunately for both Wish and Xar, that sword may be blood-curdlingly necessary.
As much as this novel is the thrilling start to a creative and engaging new fantasy series, it is a coming of age tale for two very different protagonists, each struggling to find a place in their respective society and to work through a complicated relationship with their respective intimidating parent. I suspect that the cheeky omniscient narrator would have annoyed me had I not been listening to the brilliantly performed audiobook. But otherwise, I loved everything about it. Can’t wait for the next installment!
I highly recommend the audiobook (performed by David Tennant), a well-deserved Odyssey Award Honor recording.
For the kids who’ve read everything…here’s some new stuff! These books are slated to come out 2018 (although exact release dates may change). I haven’t read these yet, so summaries and age ranges are based on promotional materials from the publishers and advance reviews.
All books below are for middle grade readers (grades 4-6). I’ll be posting new YA announcements next week!
Continuing Series for Middle Grades
Fenway and Hattie Up to New Tricks by Victoria J. Coe (1/2)
Book 3 of Fenway and Hattie. Ages 8-12.
A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson (1/2)
Sequel to Midnight Without a Moon. Ages 8-12.
The Terrible Two Go Wild by Mac Barnett and Jory John (1/9)
Book 3 of The Terrible Two. Ages 8-12.
The Uncanny Express by Kara LaReau (1/9)
Book 2 of The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters. Ages 8-12.
War of the Realms by Kate O’Hearn (1/9)
Book 3 of Valkyrie. Ages 9-13.
Waking the Monsters by Judd Winick (1/16)
Book 4 of Hilo. Ages 8-12.
Dark Wyng by Chris d’Lacey (1/30)
Book 2 of Erth Dragons. Ages 8-12.
Dragon Overnight by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins (1/30)
Book 4 of Upside Down Magic. Ages 8-12.
A Warp in Time by Jude Watson (1/30)
Book 3 of Horizon. Ages 9-12.
Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce (2/6)
Book 1 in a new Tortall series. Ages 10 & up.
The Oceans Between Stars by Kevin Emerson (2/13)
Book 2 of Chronicle of the Dark Star. Ages 8-12.
Iron Tide Rising by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis (2/13)
Final book of The Map to Everywhere. Ages 8-12.
Boggart Fights Back by Susan Cooper (2/27)
A Boggart book. Ages 8-12.
Revenge of the Beetle Queen by M.G. Leonard (2/27)
Sequel to Beetle Boy. Ages 8-12.
A Side of Sabotage by C.M. Surrisi (3/1)
A Quinnie Boyd Mystery. Ages 9-14.
Phoenix Burning by Bryony Pearce (3/10)
Book 2 of Phoenix. Ages 10 & up.
Bat and the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold (3/27)
Sequel to A Boy Called Bat. Ages 8-12.
The Crooked Castle by Sarah Jean Horowitz (4/10)
Book 2 of Carmer and Grit. Ages 10-13.
Sunny by Jason Reynolds (4/10)
Book 3 of Track. Ages 10 & up.
Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz (4/24)
A Descendants novel. Ages 8-12.
Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs (4/24)
Book 3 of Moon Base Alpha. Ages 8-12.
Lost in the Jungle by Bill Nye and Greg Mone (5/1)
Book 3 of Jack and the Geniuses. Ages 8-12.
The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan (5/1)
Book 3 of the Trials of Apollo. Ages 10 & up.
Worlds Apart by James Riley (5/20)
Book 5 of Story Thieves. Ages 8-12.
Sandapalooza Shake-Up by Chris Grabenstein (5/22)
Book 3 of Welcome to Wonderland. Ages 8-12.
Evil Emperor Penguin: Strikes Back by Laura Ellen Anderson (5/29)
Book 2 of Evil Emperor Penguin. Ages 8-12.
Griffin’s Feather by Cornelia Funke (7/31)
Sequel to Dragon Rider. Ages 8-12.
The Law of Finders Keepers by Sheila Turnage (9/11)
Conclusion to Mo & Dale Mysteries. Ages 10 & up.
Fantasy & Sci Fi for Middle Grades
The Eternity Elixir by Frank L. Cole (1/2)
A young potion master must prevent a dangerous elixir from falling into the wrong hands. Ages 10 & up.
Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly (1/2)
A girl with shadow magic faces a dilemma when her own shadow takes on a devious life of its own. Ages 8-14.
Flower Moon by Gina Linko (1/2)
An evil force in the moon threatens to push two “mirror twins” apart for good. Ages 8-12.
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano (1/2)
A girl eager to begin her family tradition of baking magic decides to try a little spell on her own with unintended consequences. Ages 8-12.
The Last Gargoyle by Paul Durham (1/9)
A lonely gargoyle must seek a human ally when the Boneless King seeks to take his ward. Ages 8-12.
Magic, Madness, and Mischief by Kelly McCullough (1/9)
A boy with fire magic must learn to control his powers in order to save his mother from the Winter King. Ages 10-14.
The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko (1/30)
Two sisters discover a magical world in turmoil and embark on a journey to find the lost unicorns. Ages 8-12.
The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd (1/30)
Seven children in a quirky family find themselves caught in the dastardly schemes of their nosy neighbors. Ages 8-12.
Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire by John August (2/6)
After joining an unusual scout troop, a boy learns to harness the power of the forest to survive a dangerous adventure. Ages 8-12.
The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt (2/6)
A mysterious letter pulls a notorious teller of tall-tales into a series of far-fetched adventures. Ages 8-12.
Granted by John David Anderson (2/13)
A young wish-granting fairy finds her first assignment more difficult than she had expected. Ages 8-12.
Sci-Fi Junior High: Crash Landing by Scott Seegert and John Martin (2/20)
The new kid must save his outer space junior high school from a mad scientist. Ages 8-11.
Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race by Jen Breach (2/27)
In this graphic novel, a girl and her robot brother escape an orphanage and enter a high-stakes rally race, hoping to win archaeological artifacts to continue their late mother’s legacy. Ages 8-12.
The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (2/27)
A sixth-grader discovers that she is an Indian princess from another dimension when demons abduct her parents. Ages 8-12.
Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans (2/27)
After being transported to a fantasy world, four kids must unravel clues to defeat an evil stuffed animal. Ages 8-12.
The Super-Life of Ben Braver by Marcus Emerson (3/6)
A non-powered boy stumbles upon a school for young superheroes and joins up. Ages 8-12.
The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras (3/6)
After her family is captured, the youngest member of a Scottish war band must embark on a dangerous journey to rescue them. Ages 9-12.
Buttheads from Outer Space by Jerry Mahoney (3/6)
Two friends accidentally invite a gross butt-headed alien race to conquer the earth. Ages 8-12.
A Bad Night for Bullies by Gary Ghislain (3/13)
The daughter of a horror novelist gives a boy “the stone of the dead” and his bullies begin being haunted. Ages 8-12.
Bone’s Gift by Angie Smibert (3/20)
In a 1942 coal mining town, a girl with a gift for seeing visions when she touches inanimate objects must accept her gift and come to terms with her mother’s death. Ages 9-12.
Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (3/27)
An unlucky girl struggles with the crush she has on her best friend as the two girls venture out in a hurricane to look for her mother and escape the spirit that is following her. Ages 8-12.
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (3/27)
Trying to prove that an ancient lamp is cursed, a girl accidentally awakens a demon and must embark on a quest to free her mother and classmates from its curse. Ages 9-12.
Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien (4/3)
A young figure skating martial artist must track down a vandal to clear her name in time for a competition. Ages 10-14.
How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens by Paul Noth (4/3)
In an attempt to get rid of his grandma, a boy accidentally sells his whole family to aliens. Ages 8-12.
Maggie and Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort by Will Taylor (4/3)
Two girls building a pillow fort discover an international network of magically interconnected pillow forts and wind up on the wrong side of “the authorities.” Ages 8-12.
The Unflushables by Ron Bates (4/10)
A boy and a team of plumber superheroes must protect the city from sewer mutants. Ages 8-12.
The Lifters by Dave Eggers (4/24)
Two girls descend into a world of underground tunnels to stop a mysterious evil force from destroying their town. Ages 8-12.
Endling #1: The Last by Katherine Applegate (5/1)
The last survivor in a species of mythical canines seeks a sanctuary as she flees from those who hunt her. Ages 8-12.
Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge (5/1)
An aspiring haunt huntress and her grandmother uncover a terrifying secret on a trip to New Orleans. Ages 8-12.
The Rose Legacy by Jessica Day George (5/1)
In a world where horses have been banned, a girl discovers her ability to communicate with them telepathically. Ages 8-12.
The Haunted Serpent by Dora M. Mitchell (6/5)
The son of a TV ghost hunter meets his dead next door neighbor and begins to investigate the strange goings-on in an abandoned factory. Ages 8-11.
Not So Normal Norbert by James Patterson with Joey Green (7/3)
After getting caught mocking the supreme leader of Earth, a boy is banished to a wacky astronaut camp on another planet. Ages 8-12.
Nightbooks by J.A. White (7/24)
A boy survives his imprisonment by telling a witch scary stories. Ages 8-12.
Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk (7/31)
After receiving a magic sketchbook, a sixth grader draws herself a best friend, who comes to life with unexpected consequences. Ages 8-12.
Historical Fiction for Middle Grades
Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai (1/2)
At the start of the Arab Spring, a young girl and her family must flee their home in Aleppo. Ages 8-12.
The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis (1/30)
Hoping to pay off his late father’s debts, a boy agrees to track down some fugitive slaves before having a change of heart. Ages 9-12.
The Sound of Freedom by Kathy Kacer (3/13)
A family hopes that auditions for a Jewish orchestra in Palestine will help them escape 1930s Poland. Ages 9-12.
When the Crickets Stopped Singing by Marilyn Cram Donahue (3/20)
A girl must defy the trusting adults in her 1930s community when she realizes the new man in town poses a danger to her and her friends. Ages 10-14.
Hardscrabble by Sandra Dallas (9/15)
In 1910, a girl and her family move west to accept the government’s offer of a free homestead farm. Ages 8-11.
Mystery & Adventure for Middle Grades
Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans by Russell Ginns (2/13)
A girl’s uncle disappears, leaving her an old umbrella and a mysterious clue that draw her into a super secret adventure. Ages 8-12.
The World Below by Wesley King (3/6)
An eighth grade field trip turns into a survival adventure when students wind up unchaperoned in a lake in the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns. Ages 8-12.
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (3/27)
After discovering a letter in the attic, a girl tries to unravel the clues to her family’s dark past. Ages 8-12.
The Elephant Thief by Jane Kerr (3/27)
A young pickpocket-turned-zoo employee must ride an elephant from Edinburgh to Manchester despite opposition from the dubious characters in his past. Ages 8-12.
Realistic Fiction for Middle Grades
TBH, This Is So Awkward by Lisa Greenwald
A story of friendships and cyberbullying told entirely in texts. Ages 8-12.
Funny Kid for President by Matt Stanton (1/2)
A troublemaker once accused of pooping in a school closet runs for class president in this illustrated novel. Ages 8-12.
Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard (1/2)
A girl tries to figure out how she fits into her family as her grandfather and guardian battles Alzheimer’s. Ages 8-12.
All Three Stooges by Erica S. Perl (1/9)
When his grief-stricken best friend shuts him out, a boy tries to rekindle their friendship and the sense of humor they once shared. Ages 8-12.
Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce (1/16)
A young aspiring engineer hopes to build an elaborate gift for her friend’s birthday. Ages 8-12.
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor (1/23)
A boy becomes the victim of bullying when his best friend is found dead on his family’s property. Ages 8-12.
Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz (1/30)
Hoping to repair the hole that her mom’s death left in their family, a girl secretly posts a dating profile for her dad online. Ages 8-12.
Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen by Candace Fleming (2/6)
An illustrated novel based on the true story of a 1920s canine actor. Ages 8-12.
The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley by April Stevens (2/6)
An aspiring anthropologist who prefers to be an observer struggles to find a place with the other people in her community. Ages 8-12.
Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (3/13)
Inspired by her idol, Vanessa Williams, a middle school girl enters a beauty pageant and discovers her own self-worth. Ages 10 & up.
A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers (3/13)
Hoping to find her estranged mother, a girl embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Ages 8-12.
Without Refuge by Jane Mitchel (4/1)
A young teen and his family flee the war in Syria and seek refuge in Turkey. Ages 9-12.
My Life In Smiley: It’s All Good by Anne Kalicky (4/3)
A boy uses a journal full of smiley faces to chronicle his life in middle school abroad. Ages 9-12.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (4/17)
After being killed by police officers who thought he was holding a weapon, a boy’s ghost meets Emmett Till and together they try to process the racism that led to their deaths. Ages 8-12. [Technically fantasy due to the ghosts, but the subject matter and interest is clearly realistic fiction.]
Storm Chasers by Ginger Zee (4/24)
A young aspiring meteorologist gets caught out on a horse ride during a dangerous storm. Ages 9-12.
Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins (5/15)
Two sisters make an unforgettable first trip to the beach in this illustrated novel. Ages 8-12.
Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno (6/5)
A girl searches for hope when her family becomes homeless. Ages 8-12.
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (6/5)
A group of kids build a small civilization out of cardboard and use their big imaginations to explore big issues in their real lives. Ages 8-12.
Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin (7/3)
While her father struggles to keep the farm going in the midst of a drought, a girl struggles with her mother’s mental illness. Ages 8-12.
Rising Above Shepherdsville by Ann Schoenbohm (8/28)
After her mother’s suicide, a girl find peace and healing at her aunt’s home in rural Ohio. Ages 8-12.
Nell Perkins’ world has never been perfectly normal. After all, “normal” people don’t tend to see those around them with animal heads lurking beneath their outer facade of humanity. Everyone seems to think Nell is crazy, except her mother, Rose. Rose treats Nell and her brothers like the most important and special people in the world and helps Nell keep a grip on reality. But when her mother is swallowed up by a giant skull shaped cloud and taken prisoner by the Dark Daughters, Nell knows for sure that she is not crazy. This is reality. And since she seems to be the only one who can see it, it will be up to her, her brothers, and the eccentric old man down the street to travel through the Dreamlands and rescue Rose from a world of nightmares.
This novel was enjoyable, but heavy on explication and light on character development. The subject matter of this book is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s work, but lacks the grounding in traditional folklore that makes the latter so compelling. I would recommend it to middle grade fantasy readers who like their stories a little dark, but aren’t too worried about thematic depth.
Farah sometimes hates having to spend all her time with her little brother, Ahmad. She knows that his ADD makes it difficult for him sometimes and that she should be nice. But on her birthday? When her two best friends from her old town have come to the new house to spend time with her? Thinking she has finally shaken him off, Farah, Essie, and Alex slip upstairs to open Farah’s present from her Aunt Zohra. But Ahmad has gotten there first, tearing off the paper and discovering what seems to be a game called the Gauntlet of Blood and Sand. Farah has a bad feeling about it. It seems to have a heartbeat. And when they open it up, the game grows before their eyes into a miniature maze-like tower, almost like a whole city. Before they can stop him, An excited Ahmad leaps into the game and vanishes. It turns out The Gauntlet was not meant to be Farah’s birthday present. The Gauntlet is the harrowing, sentient game that stole Aunt Zohra’s best friend decades ago–a game that Aunt Zohra has kept ever since to keep other children from becoming ensnared. But now it is too late, and Ahmad’s only hope is for Farah, Essie, and Alex to enter the game world as well, to win each of the Architect’s challenges, and to make it out alive.
A neat read, this book is a sort of Middle Eastern Jumanji. The game world is richly imagined, and the challenges the children face remind me of The Mysterious Benedict Society. Young readers who enjoy fantasy that is rooted in the real world and/or books with riddles and puzzles should check it out.
When Princess Anna of Trallonia hears her older sister Morven scream, she isn’t sure whether it is a big deal or not. After all, screaming is one of Morven’s favorite pastimes. It turns out to be sort of a big deal. Anna’s step-step-father, the Evil Duke Rikard, has turned Morven’s latest suitor into a frog. After swearing an oath to change him back, Anna learns that the task may be more complicated than she thought, as it will require a magic lip balm with ingredients such as the blood of a retired druid and freshly plucked cockatrice feathers. More troubling is the news that Duke Rikard plans to have her killed. So Anna and Ardent, the royal dog, set off on their quest for the magic lip balm, collecting a gaggle of transformed creatures along the way.
Hilarious, quirky, yet grounded by relevant social commentary, this fairytale is delightful from beginning to end. I highly recommend it to teen and tween fantasy readers!