Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the second half of 2015. 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!
When Alice’s brother gets a longed-for chance for a heart transplant, Alice is suddenly bundled off to her estranged grandmother’s house. There’s nothing good about staying with Nell, except for the beautiful Darkling Wood at the end of her garden – but Nell wants to have it cut down. Alice feels at home there, at peace, and even finds a friend, Flo. But Flo doesn’t seem to go to the local school and no one in town has heard of a girl with that name. When Flo shows Alice the surprising secrets of Darkling Wood, Alice starts to wonder, what is real? And can she find out in time to save the wood from destruction?
Jessica Day George – Silver in the Blood (Bloomsbury USA Childrens, Fantasy)
As spoiled society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about their mysterious Romanian relatives, the Florescus. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their family, find proper husbands, and-most terrifyingly-learn the secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, bound by a centuries-old tradition to do the bidding of the royal Dracula family and it is time for Dacia and Lou to take their place among the ranks. But when the devilish heir, Mihai Dracula sets his sights on Dacia as part of his plan to secure power over all of Europe, the girls choose to fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might. Only the dashing Lord Johnny Hardcastle and the mysterious Theophilus Arkady- members of a secret society charged with ridding the world of monsters-can help Dacia and Lou, but breaking the shackles of their upbringing will require more courage than the girls ever imagined.
The thrilling start to a richly drawn, romance-filled series, this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives will have readers coming back for more.
Jane Kelley – The Book of Dares for Lost Friends (Feiwel & Friends, Contemporary)
Val and Lanora have been friends forever. Val expects their relationship to stay the same. But after they start middle school, Lanora decides to reinvent herself. Her parents have split up, and she wants to rise above that. Unfortunately Lanora’s choices lead her into trouble. Val hates watching her friend lose her way. She wants to rescue Lanora, but how? Val doesn’t know what to do until a stray cat leads her to a strange boy who lives in an even stranger bookshop. Together they embark on a quest. Will they be able to save a lost friend? Will they get lost themselves? Or will they find a way to help each other become who they want to be . . . .
Jane Kelley has created a nuanced, universal story about friendship and that delicate time of adolescence when there is much to lose and much more to find.
Sophia McDougall – Space Hostages (Egmont UK, Science Fiction)
You can’t cry in space. But I was giving it a good go. After all, I’d just been THROWN OUT OF AN AIRLOCK by a horde of ALIENS and had about three minutes left to live. So you can’t blame me for trying.
But as it turned out, that was just the start of my adventures . . .
Because very soon it became clear that if I was ever going to get back home, not only would I have to NOT DIE, but me, my friends and our floating robot goldfish would have to SAVE THE WORLD. No, scrap that. THREE WORLDS. All at the same time.
For her thirteenth nameday all Princess Juniper wants is a country of her own. So when rumblings of unrest start in his kindgom, Juniper’s father decides to grant his daughter’s wish and sends her to a small, idyllic corner of the Hourglass Mountains until trouble blows over. Once there, Juniper discovers that ruling a small country–even just for the summer–is a bit harder than she’d expected, especially when cousin Cyril challenges her rule. Still, the most difficult part is to come. Juniper and her friends discover that her father’s kingdom is at war. The only way to stay safe is to remain in the Hourglass Mountains much longer than planned. Juniper may have her own country after all…but what will that mean for the kingdom of Torr?
In a novel that marries royalty with adventure, this is the perfect story for readers who have grown out of Sophia the First, but haven’t yet made it to The Princess Academy.
Jackson Pearce – The Doublecross (Bloomsbury USA Childrens, Adventure)
Everyone in twelve-year-old Hale’s family is a spy, going way back. They’ve all worked for the Sub Rosa Society, an elite organization that’s so top secret that new agents aren’t recruited; they’re born. His parents may be the ultimate spy team at SRS, but Hale isn’t your typical stealthy spy-he is, as his mother puts it, “big-boned,” and as some of his classmates put it, “fat.” Still, he’s convinced he will someday be a great field agent. After all, it’s his legacy.
But when both his mother and father go missing on a secret mission-likely captured by the SRS’s number one enemy-it’s Hale’s time to step up and (with a little help from his acrobat-cheerleader little sister) save the day.
With a hilarious and charismatic cast of characters, popular teen author Jackson Pearce makes a very non-stealthy mission into the middle-grade arena.
Shelley Moore Thomas – Secrets of Selkie Bay (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Fantasy)
In their present-day tourist trap of an Irish seaside town, famed for its supposed involvement with selkies in the past, three sisters are faced with the sudden disappearance of their mother. Crushed by the loss, their father is struggling to carry on. To make matters worse, there are rumors afloat in the village that their mother herself is a selkie who has now shed her human form and gone back to sea. As Cordie Sullivan, the oldest daughter, tries to learn more about her mother’s vanishing, she must find the strength to help her family move ahead, even as she discovers an increasing number of clues that point to a hidden island off the coast–a mythical kingdom of the selkies.
Emma Trevayne – The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden (S&S Books for Young Readers, Fantasy)
What if you found your own grave—and it wasn’t empty? Discover the dark delights of faeries and fortune-tellers in this gently spooky book from the author of Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times, sure to appeal to fans of Coraline.
Grave robbing is a messy business.
A bad business. And for Thomas Marsden, on what was previously an unremarkable spring night in London, it becomes a very spooky business. For lying in an unmarked grave and half covered with dirt is a boy the spitting image of Thomas himself. This is only the first clue that something very strange is happening. Others follow, but it is a fortune-teller’s frightened screams that lead Thomas into a strange world of spiritualists, death, and faery folk. Faery folk with whom Thomas’s life is bizarrely linked. Faery folk who need his help.
Desperate to unearth the truth about himself and where he comes from, Thomas is about to discover magic, ritual, and the uncanny truth that sometimes the things that make a boy ordinary are what make him extraordinary.
Zoë Ferraris – The Galaxy Pirates: Hunt for the Pyxis (Crown Books for Young Readers, Adventure)
In this first book of an exciting fantasy-adventure trilogy for young readers, contemporary kids are introduced to a galaxy full of pirates, monkeys, and a colorful cast of other creatures—both human and otherwise.
On the night Emma Garton’s supposedly boring parents are kidnapped, she is forced to face the truth: they’ve been lying to her about many things, including the Pyxis, a mysterious amulet that holds the key to saving another world—and worse, they aren’t even from planet Earth.
To find her parents, Emma and her best friend, Herbie, must leave Earth and enter the Strands—the waterways of space, where huge galleons ply the intergalactic seas. But a journey through the constellations won’t be easy—not with evil Queen Virgo and every scoundrel in the galaxy determined to find them.
In this interstellar adventure, YALSA Alex Award–winning author Zoë Ferraris transports readers to a vast, magical universe filled with fantastical creatures, merciless villains, and fearless heroes.
David Liss – Randoms (S&S Books for Young Readers, Science Fiction)
A science fiction superfan finds himself on his very own space adventure when he’s randomly selected to join an alien confederacy in this hilarious middle grade debut novel.
Zeke Reynolds comes from a long line of proud science fiction geeks. He knows his games, comics, movies, and TV shows like Captain Kirk knows the starship Enterprise. So it’s a dream come true when he learns the science fiction he loves so much is based on reality—and that he’s been selected to spend a year on a massive space station. To evaluate humanity’s worthiness, the Confederation of United Planets has hand picked three of Earth’s most talented young people—and then there’s Zeke. He’s the random.
Unfortunately, Zeke finds life in space more challenging than he’d hoped. When he saves his transport ship from a treacherous enemy attack, he’s labeled a war criminal. Now despised by the Confederation, rejected by his fellow humans, and pursued by a ruthless enemy, Zeke befriends the alien randoms: rejected by their own species, but loyal to each other. But their presence in the Confederation may not be so random after all, and as the danger increases, Zack’s knowledge of science fiction might be the only thing that can save himself, his friends, and Earth itself.
Kekla Magoon – Shadows of Sherwood (Bloomsbury USA Childrens, Adventure)
The night her parents disappear, twelve-year-old Robyn Loxley must learn to fend for herself. Her home, Nott City, has been taken over by a harsh governor, Ignomus Crown. After fleeing for her life, Robyn has no choice but to join a band of strangers-misfit kids, each with their own special talent for mischief. Setting out to right the wrongs of Crown’s merciless government, they take their outlaw status in stride. But Robyn can’t rest until she finds her parents. As she pieces together clues from the night they disappeared, Robyn learns that her destiny is tied to the future of Nott City in ways she never expected.
Kicking off a new series with an unforgettable heroine, readers will be treated to feats of courage and daring deeds as Robyn and her band find their way in this cruel, new world.
Kelly McCullough – School for Sidekicks (Feiwel & Friends, Fantasy)
“Evan Quick, Hero’s Log, May the 25th… and darn it – I just can’t do this. I’m never going to be a Mask. Get over it Evan.”
Evan Quick has spent his whole life dreaming of becoming a hero. Every morning he wakes up and runs through a checklist of test to see if he’s developed powers over night, and every day it is the same thing – nothing. No flying, no super strength, no heat rays or cold beams. No invulnerability – that always hurt to check – no telepathy, no magic. Not even the ability to light a light bulb without flipping a switch. And now, he’s finally ready to give up.
But then, the class field trip to the Mask Museum is interrupted by a super villain attack, and Evan somehow manages to survive a death ray. Even better, Evan’s favorite Mask, Captain Commanding, shows up to save them all — and when things go very wrong, it’s Evan who finds the strength to come to Captain Commanding’s rescue.
Yet the hero’s reception Evan is expecting never happens. Before he even gets the chance to say hello, Evan is bundled away to The Academy, an institution derisively called The School for Sidekicks by its students. Forced to take classes like Banter Basics and Combat with Dinnerware, while being assigned as an ‘apprentice’ to Foxman – a Mask widely considered a has-been — Evan starts to worry that he’ll never be able to save the day…
Charlie and Georgie Oughtt have been sent to visit their Grandmother Pearl, and this troubles Charlie for three reasons. The first is that he’s an exceptionally nervous twelve-year-old boy, and he worries about everything. The second is that the other children in his neighborhood who pay visits to their grandmothers never seem to return. And the third is that Charlie and Georgie don’t have any grandmothers.
Upon their arrival, all of Charlie’s concerns are confirmed, as “Grandmother Pearl” quickly reveals herself to be something much more gruesome than even Charlie’s most outlandish fears could have predicted. He and Georgie are thrust into a creepy underworld created from stolen nightmares, where monsters disguised as grandmothers serve an ancient, evil queen by holding children captive as they slowly sap each one of their memories and dreams.
But something is different about Charlie. His worrisome nature, so often a burden, proves an asset in this frightening world. Will he be able to harness this newfound power to defeat the queen and save his sister?
R.J. Anderson – A Pocket Full of Murder (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fantasy)
A determined young girl joins forces with an adventure-loving street boy to solve a magical murder mystery—and save her father’s life—in this action-packed novel with classic mystery appeal.
In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder.
Isaveth is determined to prove his innocence. Quiz, the eccentric, eye patch–wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution. But is Quiz truly helping Isaveth out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own?
Katherine Applegate – Crenshaw (Feiwel & Friends, Fantasy)
In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.
Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.
Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?
Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.
Linda Bailey – Seven Dead Pirates (Tundra Books, Adventure)
A shy boy comes to life and finds his voice when the ghosts of seven dead pirates appear in his bedroom. A humorous, inspiring adventure with poignancy and depth, destined to become a middle-grade classic!
Lewis Dearborn is a lonely, anxious, “terminally shy” boy of eleven when his great-grandfather passes away and leaves Lewis’s family with his decaying seaside mansion. Lewis is initially delighted with his new bedroom, a secluded tower in a remote part of the house. Then he discovers that it’s already occupied—by the ghosts of seven dead pirates. Worse, the ghosts expect him to help them re-take their ship, now restored and on display in a local museum, so they can make their way to Libertalia, a legendary pirate utopia. The only problem is that this motley crew hasn’t left the house in almost two hundred years and is terrified of going outside. As Lewis warily sets out to assist his new roommates—a raucous, unruly bunch who exhibit a strange delight in thrift-store fashions and a thirst for storybooks—he begins to open himself to the possibilities of friendship, passion and joie de vivre and finds the courage to speak up.
After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.
Frank L. Cole – The Afterlife Academy (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, Fantasy)
Walter Prairie knows how to deal with bullies. He just has to beat them to the punch. But he doesn’t see the biggest hit of his life coming when he is struck dead by a bolt of lightning. Before Walter even knows what’s happened, he is sent to a Categorizing office, fast-tracked through the Afterlife Academy, and assigned as a Guardian Agent to protect a High-Level Target.
Walter’s HLT, Charlie Dewdle, isn’t exactly the most popular kid in school. He’s what you might call paranormally obsessed. When Charlie finds an ancient book with spells that can be used to open the Gateway for demons to wreak havoc on earth, it’s up to him and Walter to fight an eclectic horde of enemies and protect humankind at all costs.
But saving the world isn’t so easy. Especially when your protector doesn’t know the first thing about the Underworld, bullies like Mo Horvath are trying to hunt you down, pretty and popular Melissa Bittner is suddenly talking to you, and your parents think you’re going crazy.
Melanie Crowder – A Nearer Moon (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fantasy)
In a small river village where the water is cursed, a girl’s bravery could mean the difference between life and death in this lilting, luminous tale from the author of Parched and Audacity.
Along a lively river, in a village raised on stilts, lives a girl named Luna. All her life she has heard tales of the time before the dam appeared, when sprites danced in the currents and no one got the mysterious wasting illness from a mouthful of river water. These are just stories, though—no sensible person would believe in such things.
Beneath the waves is someone who might disagree. Perdita is a young water sprite, delighting in the wet splash and sparkle, and sad about the day her people will finally finish building their door to another world, in search of a place that humans have not yet discovered.
But when Luna’s little sister falls ill with the river sickness, everyone knows she has only three weeks to live. Luna is determined to find a cure for her beloved sister, no matter what it takes. Even if that means believing in magic…
Kent Davis – A Riddle in Ruby (Greenwillow Books, Adventure)
Ruby is a thief-in-training and a keeper of secrets—even secrets she herself doesn’t know. In a whirlwind of action and humor, she careens through an alternate colonial America, both hunting for answers and being hunted. The first book in a witty and fast-paced fantasy-adventure trilogy for fans of Jonathan Stroud, Septimus Heap, and The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates.
Ruby Teach, daughter of a smuggler and pirate, has been learning how to swindle and steal and pick the most complex locks for as long as she can remember. But a collision with aristocratic young Lord Athen sends her spinning into chaos. Little has she known that her whole life has been spent in hiding from nefarious secret societies and the Royal Navy . . . who are both now on her tail. In this debut middle grade adventure, Kent Davis weaves a rip-roaring tale through an alternate colonial Philadelphia, a world where alchemy—that peculiar mix of magic and science—has fueled the Industrial Revolution. With this highly original setting, a cast of fully rounded characters and rapid-fire, funny dialogue, A Riddle in Ruby will call to mind fantasy greats like Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. The first in a trilogy.
Lauren DeStefano – A Curious Tale of the In-Between (Bloomsbury USA Childrens, Fantasy)
Pram Bellamy is special–she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.
Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.
New York Times bestselling author Lauren DeStefano is beloved by critics and readers alike, and her middle grade debut is lyrical, evocative and not to be missed.
Roddy Doyle – Brilliant (Amulet Books, Fantasy)
The Black Dog of Depression has descended over the adults of Dublin. Uncles are losing their businesses, dads won’t get out of bed, mothers no longer smile at their children. Siblings Raymond and Gloria have had enough and set out one night with one goal in mind: to stop the Black Dog, whatever it takes. In a chase through the streets and parks and beaches of Dublin, the children run after the Black Dog, and soon dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of kids join in their fight. They discover they have one weapon against the Black Dog. The weapon is a word: “brilliant.”
Illustrated throughout by a bright new talent and told through the masterful dialogue for which the acclaimed Roddy Doyle is known, Brilliant is a very special book with a storybook feel.
Set in the Cornish town of Fowey, all is not as idyllic as the beautiful seaside town might seem. The body of a young woman is discovered in the nets of a fishing boat. It is established that the woman was murdered. Most are shocked and horrified. But there is somebody who is not – a twelve-year-old girl. She is delighted; she loves murders. Soon she is questioning the inhabitants of the town in her own personal investigation. But it is a bit boring on her own. Then Miles Giffard, a similarly odd twelve-year-old boy, arrives in Fowey with his mother, and they start investigating together. Oh, and also playing games that re-enact the murders. Just for fun, you understand…
A book about two twelve-year-olds that is definitely not for kids.
Laurel Gale – Dead Boy (Crown Books for Young Readers, Horror)
Fans of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book will embrace this darkly funny and literary debut novel about a dead boy named Crow who has a chance at friendship—and a chance at getting his life back.
Crow Darlingson may be dead, but he still loves air hockey, bowling, and drawing. Like other kids, his mother makes sure he finishes his homework, and he always looks forward to Halloween.
But Crow Darlingson isn’t like other kids. He stinks. He’s got maggots. His body parts fall off at inopportune moments. And he hasn’t been able to sleep in years. Not since waking up from death.
Despite the maggots, Crow is lonely. When Melody Plympton moves in next door, Crow finally has a chance at friendship and a shot at getting his life back from the mysterious wish-granting creature living in the park. But first there are tests to pass. And it means risking the only friend he’s had in years.
Debut author Laurel Gale’s story about friendship fulfilled may be the most moving—and most macabre—yet.
Nicholas Gannon – The Doldrums (Greenwillow Books, Adventure)
Have you ever wanted to hold a little piece of the impossible? Lavishly illustrated—in full color—The Doldrums is an extraordinary debut about friendship, imagination, and the yearning for adventure, from author-artist Nicholas Gannon. A modern classic in the making, for readers of inventive and timeless authors such as Brian Selznick and Lemony Snicket.
Archer B. Helmsley wants an adventure. No, he needs an adventure. His grandparents were famous explorers . . . until they got stuck atop that iceberg. Now Archer’s mother barely lets him out of the house. As if that would stop a true Helmsley. Archer enlists Adelaide—the girl who, according to rumor, lost her leg to a crocodile—and Oliver—the boy next door—to help him rescue his grandparents. Author-artist Nicholas Gannon’s imagination is more fantastic than Archer’s. The Doldrums whisks us off on an adventure full of sly humor, incredible detail, and enormous heart. With approximately thirty pieces of breathtaking full-color artwork, as well as spot illustrations, and gorgeous, literary writing, Nicholas Gannon proves himself to be a rare and distinctive new talent. Be in it for the limitless imagination. For the characters who capture your heart. For the rich world you’ll want to settle into. But most of all, be in it for the friendship. That, after all, is the true adventure.
On a remote tropical island, twelve year-old Beatriz is about to embark on an epic journey, through hurricanes and across the high seas and back to the time of Christopher Columbus…When Beatriz stumbles across a wild mare with strange markings in the jungle she can’t believe it is real. Yet from that moment on the strongest connection grows between them, and she begins to uncover an incredible history. For centuries ago, Felipa and her horse, Cara Blanca, were running for their lives.As the fates of Beatriz, Felipa and their horses become entwined, Beatriz realises that the future of the world’s rarest horses depends on her.Based on the extraordinary true story of the Abaco Barb, a real-life mystery that has remained unsolved for over five hundred years
Corey Ann Haydu – Rules for Stealing Stars (Katherine Tegen Books, Fantasy)
In the tradition of Sharon Creech and Wendy Mass, Corey Ann Haydu’s gorgeous middle grade debut is a sister story with a swirl of darkness, a twist of magic, and a whole lot of hope.
Silly is the baby of the family, and she’s used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters, Eleanor, Astrid, and Marla, think she’s too little for most things—especially when it comes to dealing with their mother’s unpredictable moods and slurred outbursts. But for Silly, that’s normal. She hardly remembers a time when Mom wasn’t drinking.
This summer, Silly is more alone than ever, and it feels like everyone around her is keeping secrets. Mom is sick all the time, and Dad is doing his best to make life seem normal when it’s anything but. To start with, they’ve moved from Massachusetts to a big, old summer house in New Hampshire. And Silly’s sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms to be together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot: sporting sunburned cheeks smudged with glitter, and giggling about inside jokes that Silly doesn’t understand.
When Silly is brought into her sisters’ world, the truth is more exciting and magical than she could have imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical closet that gives them what they need—an escape from the darkness of their home life. But there are dark truths hiding there, too. Will the magic of the closets be able to heal Silly’s family, or will it ultimately tear them apart?
It’s 1969, and the Apollo 11 mission is getting ready to go to the moon. But for half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, moving to a predominantly white Vermont town is enough to make her feel alien. Suddenly, Mimi’s appearance is all anyone notices. She struggles to fit in with her classmates, even as she fights for her right to stand out by entering science competitions and joining shop class instead of home ec. And even though teachers and neighbors balk at her “unconventional” family and her refusals to conform, Mimi’s dreams of becoming an astronaut never fade—no matter how many times she’s told no.
This historical middle grade novel is told in poems from Mimi’s perspective over the course of one year in her new town, and shows readers that positive change can start with just one person speaking up.
Gypsy Beaumont has always been a whirly-twirly free spirit, so as her thirteenth birthday approaches, she hopes to get a savvy that will let her fly or dance up to the stars. Instead, she wakes up on her birthday with blurry vision…and then starts seeing flashes of the future and past. But her visions don’t prepare her for Momma and Poppa’s announcement that their very un-magical and downright mean Grandma Pat has Alzheimer’s and is coming to live with them. Suddenly her savvy—along with her family’s—switches to its opposite. It’s savvy mayhem, and no one could have predicted what would happen on their trip to bring Grandma Pat home…not even Gypsy.
With her trademark style and whimsical, beautiful language, Ingrid Law has written a wonderfully moving coming-of-age story about family ties and new friends, with a whole lot of magic mixed in.
Eric Pierpoint – The Secret Mission of William Tuck (Sourcebooks, Historical Fiction)
William Tuck is set on justice. For his brother killed by British soldiers, for his friend Rebecca’s father held prisoner by the redcoats, and for the countless other rebel Americans struggling beneath the crushing weight of British rule.
The whispered words of a dying soldier, and a mysterious watch, give William all the ammunition he needs; a secret message for the leader of the rebel army. Rebecca disguises herself as a boy, and she and William join the American troops. They embark on an epic journey that pulls them into a secret network of spies, pits them against dangerous gunmen, and leads them on a quest to find General George Washington himself.
Can William and Rebecca determine friend from foe long enough to deliver a message that might just change the tide of the American Revolution?
Margi Preus – The Bamboo Sword (Amulet Books, Historical Fiction)
Set in 1853 in Japan, this novel follows Yoshi, a Japanese boy who dreams of someday becoming a samurai. Unfortunately, as part of the serving class, Yoshi can never become a warrior. He is taken up by Manjiro, the protagonist of Preus’s Heart of a Samurai, and becomes his servant and secret watchdog. Meanwhile, Commodore Matthew Perry and his USS Susquehanna squadron of steamships arrive in Edo Bay demanding “diplomatically” that Japan open its ports to foreign trade. Aboard the commodore’s flagship is a cabin boy, Jack, who becomes separated from his American companions while on shore. When he and Yoshi cross paths, they set out on a grand adventure to get Jack back to his ship before he is discovered by the shogun’s samurai.
Kevin Sands – The Blackthorn Key (Aladdin, Mystery)
Following a series of murders, an apothecary’s apprentice must solve puzzles and decipher codes in pursuit of a secret that could destroy the world in this suspenseful debut novel.
“Tell no one what I’ve given you.”
Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn—with maybe an explosion or two along the way.
But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.
In his stunning debut novel, Kevin Sands brings readers on a heart-stopping adventure rich with suspense, mystery, and unforgettable characters.
Marisa de los Santos, David Teague – Connect the Stars (HarperCollins, Adventure)
From Saving Lucas Biggs authors Marisa de los Santos and David Teague comes another heartwarming middle grade adventure about two misfits who discover the importance of just being themselves.
When thirteen-year-olds Aaron and Audrey meet at a wilderness camp in the desert, they think their quirks are enough to prevent them from ever having friends. But as they trek through the challenging and unforgiving landscape, they learn that they each have what it takes to make the other whole.
Luminous and clever, Connect the Stars has Marisa de los Santos and David Teague’s trademark beautiful prose, delicate humor, swooping emotions, and keen middle grade friendships. This novel takes on the hefty topics of the day—bullying, understanding where you fit in, and learning to live with physical and mental challenges—all in a joyous adventure kids will love!
Sukie has just about had it with the troublemaking ghost of her dearly departed sister, Kitty. At first, Kitty’s ghostly presence was comforting, but now Kitty has taken it upon herself to terrify anyone who gets too friendly with Sukie. Things get even stranger when Sukie moves into her family’s ancestral home and learns that ghosts run in the family—now one is challenging her to find a treasure. Meanwhile, her classmate Cole is also experiencing apparitions. Fortunately, there’s an antique broom at hand to fly Sukie and Cole to the New-York Circulating Material Repository’s spooky Poe Estate. As the two search for clues and try to untangle ancient secrets, they discover that their histories intertwine and are as full of tales of love, revenge, and pirate hijinks as some of their favorite fiction.
Ronald L. Smith – Hoodoo (HMH Young Readers, Fantasy)
Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a family with a rich tradition of practicing folk magic: hoodoo, as most people call it. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can’t seem to cast a simple spell.
Then a mysterious man called the Stranger comes to town, and Hoodoo starts dreaming of the dead rising from their graves. Even worse, he soon learns the Stranger is looking for a boy. Not just any boy. A boy named Hoodoo. The entire town is at risk from the Stranger’s black magic, and only Hoodoo can defeat him. He’ll just need to learn how to conjure first.
Set amid the swamps, red soil, and sweltering heat of small town Alabama in the 1930s, Hoodoo is infused with a big dose of creepiness leavened with gentle humor.
Barry Wolverton – The Vanishing Island (Walden Pond Press, Adventure)
In the age of discovery, upon the island of Britannia, there was once a seaside port town called Map. International trade had transformed the world, with every European nation fighting for control of trade routes to the Orient, and there was a fortune to be made for the people lucky, ambitious, and ruthless enough to lay claim to them. Map was the home of the repository for all maps of the known world, a fortress lorded over by the great Rand McNally, a shrewd, cruel, and charismatic monster of a man. And in this town, there lived a boy named Bren.
Bren is the son of one of Rand McNally’s cartographers, but he isn’t interested in sitting in a dark room transcribing maps all day—he wants to get out on the ocean and discover things for himself. And when his continued attempts to stow away on port vessels lands him a stint cleaning up the town vomitorium, he gets his chance. Bren receives from a dying sailor a strange object, one with a hidden message written in Eastern symbols. Bren doesn’t know what it means, but he knows it’s valuable—particularly when other people who have come in contact with it start dying. Before long, Bren is on the high seas, apprentice navigator on the ship of a mysterious Dutch admiral, pursuing a famed treasure lost since the days of Marco Polo.
It’s only then that he realizes he may have found more adventure than he bargained for.
John Barrowman & Carole E. Barrowman – The Book of Beasts (Aladdin, Fantasy)
Matt and Emily Calder’s travels through time come to a thrilling conclusion in the third book of the Hollow Earth trilogy as the siblings struggle to close Hollow Earth—and keep the monsters inside.
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 Animare talents: they can draw things into life and travel in time through art. But there are monsters outside Hollow Earth as well. Monsters intent on taking control of the beasts for themselves. And the worst monster of all is their own father…
I am a gold lock.
I am a gold key.
However high and low you hunt,
You’ll never find me.
Wren Matthews thought she’d outgrown nursery rhymes a long time ago. But that was before she knew that songs of twinkling little stars and four-and-twenty blackbirds were the key to an ancient, hidden magic.
Wren’s discovery catapults her into a world of buried secrets, whispered rumors, and a faraway castle under an aurora-filled sky. As she tries to master abilities she never could have imagined, Wren only knows one thing for sure. There’s magic in the world—and it’s waiting for her.
Isobel Ransom is anxious. Her father is away treating wounded soldiers in France, leaving Izzy to be the responsible one at home. But it’s hard to be responsible when your little sister is chasing a fasttalking, movie-obsessed boy all over Hollywood! Ranger is directing his very own moving picture… and wants Izzy and Sylvie to be his stars.
Izzy is sure Mother wouldn’t approve, but scouting locations, scrounging film, and “borrowing” a camera turn out to be the perfect distractions from Izzy’s worries. There’s just one problem: their movie has no ending. And it has to be perfect – the kind of ending where the hero saves the day and returns home to his family. Safe and sound.
It just has to.
The Wild West atmosphere of early Hollywood and the home front of a country at war form a fascinating context to award-winning author J. B. Cheaney’s new novel about the power of cinema in helping us make sense of an unexpected world.
Matthew Cody – The Peddler’s Road (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Fantasy)
Drawn from the Pied Piper tale, this exciting new trilogy by the author of Powerless is brimming with adventure, mystery, and rats!
It is said that in the thirteenth century, in a village called Hamelin, a piper lured all of the children away with his magical flute, and none of them were ever seen again.
Today tough, pink-haired Max and her little brother, Carter, are stuck in modern-day Hamelin with their father…until they are also led away by the Piper to a place called the Summer Isle. There they meet the original stolen children, who haven’t aged a day and who have formed their own village, vigilantly guarded from the many nightmarish beings that roam the land.
No one knows why the Piper stole them, but Max and Carter’s appearance may be the key to returning the lost children of Hamelin—and to going home themselves. But to discover the secrets of the Piper, Max and Carter will have to set out on a mysterious quest down the dangerous Peddler’s Road.
Gitty Daneshvari – The League of Unexceptional Children (Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers, Adventure)
Are you average? Normal? Forgettable? If so, the League of Unexceptional Children is for you! This first book in a hilarious new adventure series is for anyone who’s struggled to be noticed in a sea of above-average overachievers.
What is the League of Unexceptional Children? I’m glad you asked. You didn’t ask? Well, you would have eventually and I hate to waste time. The League of Unexceptional Children is a covert network that uses the nation’s most average, normal, and utterly unexceptional children as spies. Why the average kids? Why not the brainiacs? Or the beauty queens? Or the jocks? It’s simple: People remember them. But not the unexceptionals. They are the forgotten ones. Until now!
Lauren Oliver and HG Chester – Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head (Hodder & Stoughton, Fantasy)
Roll up! Roll up! Fans of Lemony Snicket’s SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS brace yourselves for an adventure of a lifetime. Witness the freaks, wonders and oddities at the Dime Museum. Tread the path of the four extraordinary children who live there…
The book is about, among other things: the strongest boy in the world, a talking cockatoo, a faulty mind reader, a beautiful bearded lady and a nervous magician, an old museum, and a shrunken head.
Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. Philippa is a powerful mentalist, Sam is the world’s strongest boy, and Thomas can squeeze himself into a space no bigger than a bread box. The children live happily with museum owner Mr. Dumfrey, alongside other misfits. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events.
When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.
Sherri L. Smith – The Toymaker’s Apprentice (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, Fantasy)
Award-winning author Sherri L. Smith makes her middle grade debut with a gorgeously imagined Nutcracker retelling, blurring the lines of historical and fantasy.
Stefan Drosselmeyer is a reluctant apprentice to his toymaker father until the day his world is turned upside down—his father is kidnapped and Stefan is enlisted by his mysterious cousin, Christian, to find a mythical nut called the krakatook, the only cure the Mouse Queen’s curse. Embarking on a wild adventure through Germany and beyond, Stefan must save Boldavia’s princess and his own father from the fanatical Mouse Queen and her seven-headed Mouse Prince. Based on the original inspiration for the Nutcracker ballet, this fascinating journey through a world of toymaking, magical curses, clockmaking guilds, talking mice and erudite squirrels will have readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.
Jodi Lynn Anderson – My Diary from the Edge of the World (Aladdin, Fantasy)
Told in diary form by an irresistible heroine, this playful and perceptive novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the May Bird trilogy sparkles with science, myth, magic, and the strange beauty of the everyday marvels we sometimes forget to notice.
Spirited, restless Gracie Lockwood has lived in Cliffden, Maine, her whole life. She’s a typical girl in an atypical world: one where sasquatches helped to win the Civil War, where dragons glide over Route 1 on their way south for the winter (sometimes burning down a T.J. Maxx or an Applebee’s along the way), where giants hide in caves near LA and mermaids hunt along the beaches, and where Dark Clouds come for people when they die.
To Gracie it’s all pretty ho-hum…until a Cloud comes looking for her little brother Sam, turning her small-town life upside down. Determined to protect Sam against all odds, her parents pack the family into a used Winnebago and set out on an epic search for a safe place that most people say doesn’t exist: The Extraordinary World. It’s rumored to lie at the ends of the earth, and no one has ever made it there and lived to tell the tale. To reach it, the Lockwoods will have to learn to believe in each other—and to trust that the world holds more possibilities than they’ve ever imagined.
Tristan Bancks – On the Run (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Crime)
When a twelve-year-old boy’s parents discover millions of dollars deposited into their bank account, they take him and his sister on the lam in this fast-paced middle-grade adventure.
Ben has always wanted to be a cop, so he’s intrigued when police officers show up at the door, asking for his parents. Then his parents arrive after the police leave and rush him and his sister into the car, insisting they are going on a vacation. Ben’s a little skeptical—his family doesn’t go on vacations. After they lose the police in a high-speed car chase and end up in a remote cabin deep in the woods, Ben discovers his parents’ secret: millions of dollars were deposited into their bank account by accident, and they took the money and ran off. Ben isn’t sure what to think. Are his parents criminals? And because he ran off with them, is he a criminal, too?
Sarah Beth Durst – The Girl Who Could Not Dream (HMH Young Readers, Fantasy)
Sophie loves the hidden shop below her parents’ bookstore, where dreams are secretly bought and sold. When the dream shop is robbed and her parents go missing, Sophie must unravel the truth to save them. Together with her best friend—a wisecracking and fanatically loyal monster named Monster—she must decide whom to trust with her family’s carefully guarded secrets. Who will help them, and who will betray them?
In the enchanted hills of the village of Lourka, almost-twelve-year-old Linny breaks an ancient law. In Lourka, girls are forbidden to so much as touch the town’s namesake musical instrument before their twelfth birthday, or they risk being spirited away. But Linny can’t resist the call, so she builds a lourka herself.
When the curse meant for her strikes her best friend instead, Linny must leave her home behind to try to set things right. With her father’s young apprentice, Elias, Linny travels from the magical wrinkled country to the scientific land of the Plain, where she finds herself at the center of a battle between the logical and the magical.
Delia Ray – Finding Fortune (Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Mystery)
Running away from home isn’t as easy as Ren thinks it will be. At least she isn’t running very far-just a few miles to the ghost town of Fortune . . . or Mis-Fortune as everyone else calls it. Mis-Fortune on the Mississippi. Supposedly, there’s an abandoned school on the outskirts with cheap rooms for rent. Ren knows her plan sounds crazy. But with only a few more weeks until Dad comes home from his tour of duty in Afghanistan, she also knows she has to do something drastic so Mom will come to her senses and stop seeing that creep Rick Littleton for good.
From the moment she enters the school’s shadowy halls, Ren finds herself drawn into its secrets. Every night old Mrs. Baxter, the landlady, wanders the building on a mysterious quest. What could she be up to? And can Mrs. Baxter’s outlandish plan to transform the gym into a pearl-button museum ever succeed? With a quirky new friend named Hugh at her side, Ren sets out to solve the mystery that could save Fortune from fading away. But what about her family’s future? Can that be saved too?