Upper Grade Fiction
This year's Newbery Medal winner has the feel of a true classic, but there's nothing predictable about Barnhill's utterly luminous storytelling. It is, quite simply, one of the most gorgeous works of fantasy I've read in years.
Comping to "Bridge to Terabithia" is something we just don't do in kids' books -- it's too damn good and too iconic and you might as well comp to "Moby Dick" or "Goodnight Moon" for the weight it carries. Having said that: "The Thing About Jellyfish" is the first book in 20 years that has felt to me like "Terabithia," and not just because someone dies (oh shit, spoilers for "Bridge to Terabithia," sorry guys). Remember around 6th grade when you started to figure out that things weren't always fair, and that even if you did everything right that didn't mean everything would go right for you, and what a devastating gut punch that was? Ali Benjamin really, really gets that.
With the beautiful backdrop of the U.S. Virgin Islands, this book will have you wishing for warmer weather and a bit of Caroline's magic.
Charlotte has been sent to boarding school, and already feels out of place, but soon things get a lot weirder, She starts waking up and finding herself in the same bed, in the same school, but instead of the present day it's 1918, where everyone thinks her name is Clare and all the teachers think she's strange and slow. For months, Charlotte wakes up, finding herself alternately in the present day and in the past, beginning to doubt whether she's really Charlotte at all. A dreamy, beautifully written book, I read Charlotte Sometimes first when I was ten (and devoured it), and again at fourteen, when I discovered that The Cure had written a song about it.
"Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome." And gory, and irreverent, and hilarious, and completely original in the hands of debut author Adam Gidwitz. Great as a solo read or read-aloud for ages 10 and up, or for anyone who likes their fairy tales with an abundance of death and dismemberment.
While everyone loves a pancake house, the new development threatens some already endangered owls that live on the land. What are the odds that some kids can make a difference? Dripping in humor, Florida heat, and maple syrup, this book will show you what it takes to stand up and fight for planet we can can all live on.
An interplanetary adventure about family, physics, and love. Meg and her strange brother Charles Wallace go on a fantastical journey to rescue their father from a planet held in the treacherous clutches of IT.
— Jacob S
A mirror for brave girls and a doorway for those of us who are trying to be.
This book is too-easily encapsulated by its elevator pitch ("The Breakfast Club but in middle school") which, while catchy, does nothing to honor the quality of the writing or tell you that the story is going to stick with you for months and months and possibly forever. If this doesn't win a Newbery I will burn the bookstore down.
A young card sharp hooks up with an orphan girl who plays with fireworks to defeat the evil forces that threaten 19th-century New York City. There is so much to talk about here, I could write a whole book about it. If Kate Milford hadn't already beaten me to it.
— Sarah G.
Brooklyn, 1877. A man who once beat the Devil has settled on New York as the place to start his own personal hell, and it will fall to a young card sharp and a young fireworks maker to save both cities. With alchemy, folklore, and a fair dose of carnage.
— McNally Jackson Kids
Age of Sail fighting ships, miraculous and improbable weapons, questions of loyalty and patriotism, with antagonists earthly and uncanny. A wise reviewer described this historical fantasy as Patrick O'Brian's Captain Aubrey series seen through the lens of Hayao Miyazaki, which is just about right.
— McNally Jackson Kids
I remember where I was when I read The Golden Compass for the first time. It's that kind of book--it flies by and carries you with it, and then it's over and you're sitting there, agonized, wishing you had The Subtle Knife already so you didn't have to wait in agony to keep reading. And then there's Lyra. To me, all fantasy heroes are measured against Lyra Silvertongue, and precious few ever measure up.
— Kate Milford (Author/ Middle Grade specialist)
Castle "Ghost" Cranshaw wants to be the greatest...something. Turns out he might be a great sprinter, if he doesn't sabotage his chances. I'm not generally a sports novel reader, but this, the first book in store favorite Jason Reynolds' track series, made me dig my running shoes out of the closet.
Little Moses and I thought we were getting an action-packed "black Spider-Man", but we got so much more: a meditation on what it means to be a teenager with exceptional capabilities in a world incapable of understanding you, the travails of high school, adults who "don't get it", and the cultural ramifications of gentrification in Brooklyn, (And, you know, kicking butt.)
Using collected vintage photographs, Ransom Riggs created the beautifully eerie universe of the peculiar children that any reader can get lost in. I devoured the entire series and immediately wanted more! Jacob, a seemingly normal boy, searches for answers about his grandfather's completely unbelievable childhood after experiencing a family tragedy. In his search he discovers a dark, fantastical world that becomes his reality. In this story of friendship, self-discovery, and adventure you will meet a girl who can control fire, an invisible boy, an Emu-raffe (yes, that's an emu/giraffe hybrid) from a magical menagerie, terrible monsters looking to destroy all of peculiarity, and so many more lovable characters with incredible abilities. I am particularly fond of the darling Olive, a 75 1/2 year old who appears as a child and is lighter than air. They have to tie a rope to her ankle and hold her like a balloon sometimes. Read it before the movie comes out later this year!
Miranda's best friend abruptly abandons her, weird things are happening on her block, and a stranger has left her a note asking for a story and, distressingly, her house key. My favorite thing about this book is a total spoiler, but I can tell you this: Miranda loves A Wrinkle in Time, and if you did, too, you'll find a lot to love in When You Reach Me.
When you reach the last page, you will want to time travel back to the beginning to read it again.
Riverland is gutting and beautiful - it's both a fabulous portal fantasy and a harrowing tale of domestic violence, and the ways in which stories and sisters can effect miraculous rescues both in portal-worlds and at home.