Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2014. Today it’s time to look at books for a younger set of readers: middle grade books. I’ve mixed the different genres together for this one, so there should be something for everyone. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!
Twelve-year-old twins Matt and Emily Calder may be divided by time, but they are united in their mission to close Hollow Earth before the monsters inside can destroy the world. The key to success lies with their dazzling Animare talents: they can draw things into life and travel in time through art. But there are monsters outside Hollow Earth as well, intent on taking control of the beasts for themselves. And their own father is the worst monster of all…
Even when you travel in time, time has a habit of running out.
Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.
But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?
Marilyn Hilton – Found Things (Contemporary, Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
One morning, River Rose Byrne wakes up talking like nobody else, and she doesn’t know why. Maybe it’s because her beloved older brother, Theron, has abruptly vanished. Maybe it’s because that bully Daniel Bunch won’t leave her alone. Or maybe it has everything to do with the eerily familiar house that her mind explores when she’s asleep, and the mysterious woman who lives there.
River has to puzzle through these mysteries on her own until she makes a strange new friend named Meadow Lark. But when she brings Meadow Lark home and her mother reacts in a way that takes River by surprise, River is more lost than before. Now all that’s left for her to do is make wish after wish—and keep her eyes open for a miracle.
Marilyn Hilton’s haunting debut dives down deep into murky waters brimming with secrets, sorrow, and hope, giving us faith in the things that we seek, but haven’t yet found.
Karen Harrington – Courage for Beginners (Contemporary, Little, Brown US)
Twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy wishes she were a character in a book. If her life were fictional, she’d magically know how to deal with the fact that her best friend, Anibal Gomez, has abandoned her in favor of being a “hipster.” She’d be able to take care of everyone when her dad has to spend time in the hospital. And she’d certainly be able to change her family’s secret.
Seventh grade is not turning out the way Mysti had planned. With the help of a hot-air balloon, her new friend Rama Khan, and a bright orange coat, can she find the courage to change?
Lauren Magaziner – The Only Thing Worse Than Witches (Fantasy, Dial Books)
Rupert Campbell is fascinated by the witches who live nearby. He dreams of broomstick tours and souvenir potions, but Rupert’s mother forbids him from even looking at that part of town. The closest he can get to a witchy experience is sitting in class with his awful teacher Mrs. Frabbleknacker, who smells like bellybutton lint and forbids Rupert’s classmates from talking to each other before, during, and after class. So when he sees an ad to become a witch’s apprentice, Rupert simply can’t resist applying.
But Witchling Two isn’t exactly what Rupert expected. With a hankering for lollipops and the magical aptitude of a toad, she needs all the help she can get to pass her exams and become a full-fledged witch. She’s determined to help Rupert stand up to dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker too, but the witchling’s magic will be as useful as a clump of seaweed unless Rupert can figure out a way to help her improve her spellcasting—and fast!
Katherine Rundell – Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms (Contemporary, S&S Books for Young Readers)
Even a life on the untamed plains of Africa can’t prepare Wilhelmina for the wilds of an English boarding school in this lovely and lyrical novel from the author of Rooftoppers, which Booklist called “a glorious adventure.”
Wilhelmina Silver’s world is golden. Living half-wild on an African farm with her horse, her monkey, and her best friend, every day is beautiful. But when her home is sold and Will is sent away to boarding school in England, the world becomes impossibly difficult. Lions and hyenas are nothing compared to packs of vicious schoolgirls. Where can a girl run to in London? And will she have the courage to survive?
From the author of the “witty, inventively poetic” Rooftoppers comes an utterly beautiful story that’s sure to be treasured.
Tom Avery – My Brother’s Shadow (Contemporary, Schwartz & Wade)
Fans of David Almond’s Skellig and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls will embrace this deeply affecting middle grade novel in which a girl suffering from terrible grief befriends a mysterious wild boy.
When I saw him that first time I screamed-a small and silent scream, all inside, in my gut. Eleven-year-old Kaia, who has felt isolated since her older brother committed suicide more than a year before, befriends a wild boy who mysteriously appears at her London school. Though the boy is mute and can only communicate with a flash of his gray eyes, he might be the friend Kaia needs to bring her through her grief.
Here’s a fascinating story, which offers a fresh and completely original portrayal of loss and renewal.
Kelly Barnhill – The Witch’s Boy (Fantasy, Algonquin Books)
When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging, bewitched river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Sure enough, Ned grows up weak and slow, and stays as much as possible within the safe boundaries of his family’s cottage and yard. But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it’s Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.
In the meantime, in another kingdom across the forest that borders Ned’s village lives Áine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King. She is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his.” But when Áine and Ned’s paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to make their way through the treacherous woods and stop the war about to boil over?
With a deft hand, acclaimed author Kelly Barnhill takes classic fairy tale elements–speaking stones, a friendly wolf, and a spoiled young king–and weaves them into a richly detailed narrative that explores good and evil, love and hate, magic, and the power of friendship.
Julie Berry – The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Historical Crime, Roaring Brook Press)
There’s a murderer on the loose—but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.
The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.
Edith Cohn – Spirit’s Key (Fantasy, Farrar, Straus, Giroux)
By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner’s destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can’t get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess devil spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, everyone blames the dogs–except for Spirit. Then Sky’s ghost appears. His help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.
Lindsay Cummings – The Fires of Calderon (Fantasy, Katherine Tegen Books)
After following a mysterious map into the woods and then under the woods, eleven-year-old Albert Flynn learns he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground Realms at the Core of the earth. His new job is important; if the realms fall out of balance, the world above could be in great danger.
Albert and his Balance Keeper teammates Birdie and Leroy arrive in the Core not a moment too soon. There’s an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm and it’s threatening to bury Albert’s hometown of New York City in a mountain of ash.
The three must train hard completing mental and physical challenges, but above all, they must harness the power of their Tiles—unique superpowers given to each Balance Keeper. So far, Albert’s mastered the art of not mastering his Tile….
With the situation in Calderon growing worse every day, can Albert, Leroy, and Birdie restore balance before New York is destroyed forever? Will Albert master his Tile before it’s too late?
Esther Ehrlich – Nest (Contemporary, Wendy Lamb Books)
For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship.
In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.
Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you.
Marah Levi is a promising violinist who excels at school and can read more languages than most librarians. Even so, she has little hope of a bright future: she is a sparker, a member of the oppressed lower class in a society run by magicians.
Then a mysterious disease hits the city of Ashara, turning its victims’ eyes dark before ultimately killing them. As Marah watches those whom she loves most fall ill, she finds an unlikely friend in Azariah, a wealthy magician boy. Together they pursue a cure in secret, but more people are dying every day, and time is running out. Then Marah and Azariah make a shocking discovery that turns inside-out everything they thought they knew about magic and about Ashara, their home.
Set in an imaginative world rich with language, lore, and music, this gripping adventure plunges the reader into the heart of a magical government where sparks of dissent may be even more deadly than the dark eyes.
Simon French – My Cousin’s Keeper (Contemporary, Candlewick Press)
Eleven-year-old Kieran wants to be part of the “in” group at school. He wants to be on the soccer team. He wants to fit in. But then his weird cousin Bon turns up, both at school and at home. Bon knows nothing about fitting in, with his long blond braid, babyish hand-knit hat, and funny, precise voice. Bon doesn’t play sports, and he likes to draw imaginary maps with stories about “Bon the Crusader” and “Kieran the Brave.” He’s an easy target for teasing, and Kieran has little patience for him. Even more irritating, Bon’s only friend is the other new kid, a cool girl named Julia who wears cowboy boots and has a confidence that fascinates Kieran. What could she and Bon possibly have in common? With unflinching honesty, My Cousin’s Keeper takes on childhood jealousy, family secrets, and unexpected kindness.
When the odd new kid at school turns out to be his cousin, Kieran feels embarrassed and resentful. But how far will he let the bullying go?
Michelle Houts – Winterfrost (Fantasy, Candlewick Press)
Christmas has come, and with it a sparkling white winterfrost over the countryside. But twelve-year-old Bettina’s parents have been called away unexpectedly, leaving her in charge of the house, the farm, and baby Pia. In all the confusion, Bettina’s family neglects to set out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the tiny nisse who are rumored to look after the family and their livestock. No one besides her grandfather ever believed the nisse were real, so what harm could there be in forgetting this silly custom? But when baby Pia disappears during a nap, the magic of the nisse makes itself known. To find her sister and set things right, Bettina must venture into the miniature world of these usually helpful, but sometimes mischievous folk. A delightful winter adventure for lovers of the legendary and miraculous.
An ordinary Danish Christmas turns extraordinary when a family overlooks an important folkloric tradition.
Chris Crowe – Death Coming Up the Hill (Historical Fiction, HMH Books for Young Readers)
It’s 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple, like the situation in Vietnam, has been engaged in a “senseless war that could have been prevented.”
When his high school history teacher dares to teach the political realities of the war, Ashe grows to better understand the situation in Vietnam, his family, and the wider world around him. But when a new crisis hits his parents’ marriage, Ashe finds himself trapped, with no options before him but to enter the fray.
Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend – until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he’s sniffed out Rudger. Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. But can a boy who isn’t there survive without a friend to dream him up?
A brilliantly funny, scary and moving read from the unique imagination of A.F. Harrold, this beautiful book is astoundingly illustrated with integrated art and colour spreads by the award-winning Emily Gravett.
A girl from the forest arrives in a bustling kingdom with no name and no idea why she is there, only to find herself at the center of a world at war. She enlists at Pennyroyal Academy, where princesses and knights are trained to battle the two great menaces of the day: witches and dragons. There, given the name “Evie,” she must endure a harsh training regimen under the steel glare of her Fairy Drillsergeant, while also navigating an entirely new world of friends and enemies. As Evie learns what it truly means to be a princess, she realizes surprising things about herself and her family, about human compassion and inhuman cruelty. And with the witch forces moving nearer, she discovers that the war between princesses and witches is much more personal than she could ever have imagined.
Set in Grimm’s fairytale world, M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academy masterfully combines adventure, humor, and magical mischief.
Hilton Pashley – Gabriel’s Clock (Fantasy, HMH Books for Young Readers)
Jonathan Smith thinks he’s a regular twelve-year-old living a normal life in England with his parents. His first clue to the contrary is the faceless monsters in suits and bowler hats that crash into his family’s cottage. It’s not until he wakes up alone in the unfamiliar village of Hobbes End that his true identity is revealed: his mother’s a demon, his dad’s an angel, and his grandfather Gabriel is the village’s angel-turned-clockmaker. As Jonathan’s one-of-a-kind angel-demon powers start to kick in, he wonders if he can prevent the archdemon Belial from taking over Heaven and Hell . . . let alone round up his parents. A swashbuckling fantasy debut!
Jane Yolen – Centaur Rising (Fantasy, Henry Holt and Co.)
One night during the Perseid meteor shower, Arianne thinks she sees a shooting star land in the fields surrounding her family’s horse farm. About a year later, one of their horses gives birth to a baby centaur. The family has enough attention already as Arianne’s six-year-old brother was born with birth defects caused by an experimental drug—the last thing they need is more scrutiny. But their clients soon start growing suspicious. Just how long is it possible to keep a secret? And what will happen if the world finds out?
At a time when so many novels are set in other worlds, Jane Yolen imagines what it would be like if a creature from another world came to ours in this thoughtfully written, imaginative novel.
To Master Thief Fin, an orphan from the murky pirate world of the Khaznot Quay, the Map is the key to finding his mother. To suburban schoolgirl Marrill, it’s her only way home after getting stranded on the Pirate Stream, the magical waterway which connects every world in creation (Apparently she shouldn’t have climbed aboard the mysterious pirate ship that sailed out of nowhere and into a dry Arizona parking lot. How was she to know?).
With the help of a bumbling wizard and his crew, they must scour the many worlds of the Pirate Stream to gather the pieces of the Map to Everywhere, but they aren’t the only ones looking. A dark and sinister figure is hot on their tail, and if they can’t beat his ghostly ship to find the Map, it could mean the destruction of everything they hold dear-not least of all themselves!
In Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis’ first installment of a fantastical new series, adventure, magic, and hilarity collide in the treacherous skies and dangerous waters of the Pirate Stream. Heart-pounding escapades and a colorful cast of characters will have readers setting sail through this wholly original and unforgettable tale.
Sharon Lovejoy – Running Out of Night (Historical Fiction, Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
Every day is a misery for a nameless, motherless Southern girl who is treated cruelly by her pa and brothers. Her life changes forever when a runaway slave named Zenobia turns to her for help and shelter. Longing for her own freedom, the girl decides to run away, and she and Zenobia set off on a harrowing journey. Along the way, Zenobia names the girl Lark, after the bird, for her ability to mimic its song.
Running by night, hiding by day, the girls are pursued by Lark’s pa and brothers and by ruthless slave catchers. Brightwell, another runaway slave, joins them, and the three follow secret signs to a stop on the Underground Railroad. When the hideout is raided and Zenobia and Brightwell are captured, Lark sets out alone to rescue her friends.
Lily and Oz Spoffard have just inherited a magical house with a mysterious boarded-up chocolate shop on the ground floor. The twins’ great-great-uncles were famous chocolatiers, and their chocolate was ANYTHING but ordinary. In fact, it had magical properties.
Now an evil gang is after the secret recipe, and it’s up to Lily and Oz to stop them. The fate of their family, and the world, depends on it.