Top Ten Tuesday- Our Favorite Middle Grade Novels

Posted March 24, 2020 by stuckint in Top Ten Tuesday / 10 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book tag hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl.

We have been talking about doing a post for Middle Grade March all month long so with a genre freebie we are super excited to finally get to it.

Today we are recommending ten Middle Grade novel from YA authors we have read and enjoy or whose books are at the tops of our TBRs. If we missed one of your favorite MG novels (since this is not an exhaustive list) please tell us all about it in the comments!

1-Ember and the Ice Dragons by Heather Fawcett

Ember and the Ice Dragons by Heather Fawcett
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 1, 2019
Pages: 368

A fantasy about a girl who used to be a dragon, and her adventure to save her new home.
Ember St. George is a dragon. At least she was, before her adoptive father—a powerful but accident-prone Magician—turned her into a human girl to save her life. Unfortunately, Ember’s growing tendency to burst into flames at certain temperatures—not to mention her invisible wings—is making it too dangerous for her to stay in London. The solution: ship Ember off to her aunt’s research station in frigid Antarctica.
Though eccentric Aunt Myra takes getting used to, Ember quickly feels at home in a land of ice storms, mischievous penguins, and twenty-four-hour nights. She even finds herself making friends—with a girl genius called Nisha and a mysterious orphan named Moss. Then she discovers that Antarctica is home to the Winterglass Hunt, a yearly tradition in which rare ice dragons are hunted for their jeweled scales. Furious, Ember decides to join the hunt to sabotage it from the inside.
But being an undercover dragon isn’t easy—especially among dragon hunters. Can a twelve-year-old fire dragon survive the many dangers that come her way in the Antarctic wilderness and protect the ice dragons from extinction?

I fell in love with Fawcett’s work when she wrote her Even the Darkest Stars duology- its mountain climbing with magic, what’s not to love!?!? This middle grade novel follows Ember, who is girl that has been magically disguised to look human. When she visits her aunt in Antarctica Ember tries to sabotage the annual dragon hunt while learning more about who she is and where came from.

2- Race the Sun by Rebecca Roanhore

Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Published by Rick Riordan Presents on January 14, 2020
Pages: 306

Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he's Mr. Charles, her dad's new boss at the oil and gas company, and he's alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he's a threat, but her father won't believe her.
When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says "Run!", the siblings and Nizhoni's best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters. Their aid will come at a price: the kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be . . .
Timeless themes such as the importance of family and respect for the land resonate in this funny, fast-paced, and exciting quest adventure set in the American Southwest.

I read Rebecca Roanhorse’s cli-fi, zombie hunting novel featuring a gritty native American protagonist a while ago. I enjoyed it, but it felt kind of meandering in places so I haven’t picked up anything by Roanhorse since. However, I have Race the Sun from my library and there just isn’t enough Native American representation in literature, so I’ll be pick it up very soon.

3- The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand, Sarah Watts
on August 28, 2012
Pages: 352

At the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, you will definitely learn your lesson. An atmospheric, heartfelt, and delightfully spooky novel for fans of Coraline, Splendors and Glooms, and The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster, lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.)
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he is not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out different. Or they don't come out at all.
If anyone can sort this out, it's Victoria, even if it means getting a little messy.

It should be no secret to anyone hanging around Stuck in the Stacks on a semi-regular basis that I adored Legrand’s YA horror novel- Sawkill Girls. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she has written a handful of Middle Grade novels and Cavendish is just one of them. I picked this one because I am always looking for solid MG horror and since I adored Legrand’s YA horror I have high hopes for this one.

4- Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Small Spaces (Small Spaces, #1) by Katherine Arden
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on September 25, 2018
Pages: 218

New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic
After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn't think--she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with "the smiling man," a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 
Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she's been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn't have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie's previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver's warning. As the trio head out into the woods--bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them--the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: "Avoid large places. Keep to small." 
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

Until the day I die I will read anything and everything that Katherine Arden writes. Most will know her from her adult fantasy Winternight trilogy but she has taken a detour into MG horror that is simultaneously delightful and terrifying, especially for the age range. The books in her MG horror series are based on the seasons and she has already released one for fall, winter and it looks like Spring is next.

5- Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman

Ice Wolves (Elementals, #1) by Amie Kaufman
Published by HarperCollins on March 27, 2018
Pages: 352

Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragons are sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.
So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.
In order to rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all.

I am a sucker for shoplifter novels and this book trilogy involves wolves AND dragons. Kaufman, creates a fantastic, immersive world where people are divided by the animals they shapeshift into and the main protagonists find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict when one of them transforms into a dragon and the other into a wolf. They a fun, action packed reads. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to break into MG novels.

6- The Darkdeep by Ally Condie

The Darkdeep (The Darkdeep, #1) by Ally Condie, Brendan Reichs
Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books on October 2, 2018
Pages: 272

When a bullying incident sends twelve-year-old Nico Holland over the edge of a cliff into the icy waters of Still Cove, where no one ever goes, friends Tyler and Ella – and even 'cool kid' Opal – rush to his rescue... only to discover an island hidden in the swirling mists below.
Shrouded by dense trees and murky tides, the island appears uninhabited, although the kids can't quite shake the feeling that something about it is off. Their suspicions grow when they stumble upon an abandoned houseboat with an array of curiosities inside: odd-looking weapons, unnerving portraits, maps to places they've never heard of, and a glass jar containing something completely unidentifiable.
As the group delves deeper into the unknown, their discoveries – and their lives –begin to intertwine in weird and creepy ways. Something ancient has awakened... and it knows their wishes and dreams – and their darkest, most terrible secrets. Do they have what it takes to face the shadowy things that lurk within their own hearts?

I was drawn to this book initially because it was compared to Stranger Things and in my house, we love that show! Ally Condie was familiar also because she released her Match trilogy when YA Dystopian was having a moment (thanks Hunger Games) and while I still haven’t read it because I have realized that tropey Dystopian aren’t always my favorite I hope to pick up this creepy, atmospheric MG book at some point this year.

7- City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake, #1) by Victoria Schwab
Published by Scholastic Press on August 28, 2018
Pages: 285

They're here.They're watching.
Cass can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead.
When Cass's parents start hosting a TV show about the world's most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh. Here, graveyards, castles and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms.
But when Cass meets a girl who shares her "gift", she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil—and herself. And she'll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

Victoria Schwab is a queen in the literary world. Her books run the gauntlet from adult fantasy featuring anti-hero protagonists to heartfelt but creepy MG novels like City of Ghosts. Very few MG books have made me laugh out loud while I read them but this one was one of them. Cassidy is such a lovable and relateable character and there are plenty of ghosts to creep you out on top of it.

8- Amal Unbound by Alisha Saeed

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on May 8, 2018
Pages: 240

The compelling story of a girl’s fight to regain her life and dreams after being forced into indentured servitude.
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

While I haven’t read any other books by Alisha Saeed Amal Unbound is the perfect social issue contemporary about a girl who must enter into indentured servitude to help her family. This book deals with important social themes that are particular relevant in our current political climate that challenges our abilities to be empathetic and reach out to those who view the world differently than we do.

9- Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chockshi

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by Rick Riordan Presents on March 27, 2018
Pages: 355

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

Aru is incredibly fun, heartfelt and imaginative. It is a unique MG novel because it focuses on Indian folklore and mythology and presents the myths in very accessible ways. The young leads are also very opinionated and quite funny. The third book in the series this year. I would recommend you pick this up if you are looking a delightful, action-packed story.

10- Spark by Sarah Beth Durst

Spark by Sarah Beth Durst
Published by Clarion Books on May 14, 2019
Pages: 320

When a shy girl and her dragon-like companion discover their country’s idyllic weather comes at a steep—and secret—cost, they recruit fellow students to defy authority and attempt to spread the truth.
Storm beasts and their guardians create perfect weather every day, and Mina longs for a storm beast of her own. But when the gentle girl bonds with a lightning beast—a creature of fire and chaos—everyone’s certain it’s a mistake. Everyone but Mina and the beast himself, Pixit. Quickly enrolled in lightning school, Mina struggles to master a guardian’s skills, and she discovers that her country's weather comes at a devastating cost—a cost powerful people wish to hide. Mina’s never been the type to speak out, but someone has to tell the truth, and, with Pixit’s help, she resolves to find a way to be heard.

I am slowly working my way through Durst’s backlist while also trying to stay up to date on her upcoming releases. I still need to read her vastly popular Queen of Renthia series but I could not resist ending this list with another MG book about dragons- are you really surprised?

What About You?

What are your favorite Middle Grade books? Are there any YA or Adult authors who have written a Middle Grade novel you think all of us should read? Let us know in the comments!

10 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday- Our Favorite Middle Grade Novels

  1. Oh yay! I’m so glad to see someone else did middle grade today. 😀 And some of these are ones I haven’t heard about! I plan on reading City of Ghosts soon, and I really need to get my hands on Darkdeep, because I’ve been eyeing it. It sounds wonderful. I didn’t know Amie Kaufman had a middle grade series! I’m definitely gonna have to check that out.

    Sammie @ The Writerly Way recently posted: 10 Middle Grade Books For Curious Adults
    • stuckint

      Middle Grade is the best! Amie Kaufman’s series is fantastic! I also still need to read Darkdeep but it sounds amazing!

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