In the last 12 years, the fantasy genre has dominated the middle grade market. Thanks to “Harry Potter”, children worry less about the number of pages, and authors have been happy to comply with longer imaginative offerings. These lengthy tomes are fast-paced reads, full of magical creatures, daring adventures, and loyal characters that fight for the good of all. In the following titles, themes of family and friendship are woven into sets of enchanted lands, and fans can escape to a place where their own problems seem far away. And if they pay attention, they can see that the power of good defeats obstacles―even without magic.
COLUMBUS, Chris and Ned Vizzini. House of Secrets. illus. by Greg Call. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. 2013. ISBN 9780062192462. JLG Level: FM : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5–8).
From the director of the first “Harry Potter” films in collaboration with a bestselling YA author, comes a new fantasy that even J. K. Rowling calls, “a breakneck roller coaster of an adventure.” Dr. Walker remembers falling asleep in the hospital, but he wakes up standing over a patient, holding a bloody scalpel. He has carved a symbol into the man’s stomach. With the loss of his job, the family must move to a less expensive home. The Kristoff House, owned by an occult novelist, seems too good to be true―a fully furnished, two-story mansion with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Eldest son Brenden is sure that he sees the creepy old lady next door spying on them. Too late, the family realizes that they are in grave danger. Screeching that she wants revenge for her father, Dahlia Kristoff reveals her true identity―the Wind Witch. The children’s parents are struck down, the house shakes, and when the chaos is over, a primitive forest now lies outside their door. Will they have to conspire with the Wind Witch? Can they defeat her? How will the children get home? Pirates, enormous pre-historic creatures, and a cowboy meld with magical characters in a fantasy novel with nonstop action.
FERRIS, Jean. Thrice Upon a Marigold. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. ISBN 9780547738468. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).
In the kingdom of Zandelphia-Beauridge, a new princess is born―Princess Poppy Allegra April Rosemary. A Welcome Party will introduce her to the empire, but past events lead King Christian and Queen Marigold to worry that well-meaning fairy wishes could put Princess Poppy in danger. Phoebe, daughter of the exiled torturer-in-chief, and Sebastian, son of exiled poisoner-in-chief, stumble on an evil kidnapping plot. When they lose the evidence, they must find another way to convince the royal family of their loyalty. With the aid of an elephant and a dragon, the pair of rescuers will unite with the King and Queen to fight against none other than their own fathers. The third installment of the series continues the wit and pace of a fairy tale with no boundaries.
FISHER, Catherine. Obsidian Mirror. Dial. 2013. ISBN 9780803739697. JLG Level: FM : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5–8).
In the first of a new trilogy, Fisher sends readers to the past, where magic lurks and possibilities seem infinite. A scientific invention―the obsidian mirror, takes travelers through time, but no one is able to control its powers. A son leaves school to track down the man who murdered his father. The widower who owns it fights desperately to repair the mirror, so that he can be reunited with his beloved. A mysterious runaway volunteers to be the test subject, even though she is aware of the danger. Magical creatures live in the woods nearby, though their connection to the strange house and its inhabitants remains a mystery. The mirror unites them all and no one knows what the future really holds. Dark and suspenseful, Fisher’s characters weave in and out of the tapestrylike plot, leaving readers spellbound.
LERANGIS, Peter. The Colossus Rises: Seven Wonders Book 1. illus. by Mike Reagan. HarperCollins. 2013. ISBN 978006207040. JLG Level: FM : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5–8).
“On the morning I was scheduled to die, a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house.” So begins the first adventure of Jack McKinley―hero elect who learns he has inherited a gene that gives him powers that could also kill him if he doesn’t get treatment. Finding the seven Loculi with others who have the same genetic trait is their only chance for survival. The first missing Loculus, however, is in a lost world―the city of Atlantis. Professor Bhegad provides training and direction, but it’s up to him and his companions to survive an adventure in which they scale a cliff, fight a griffin, and find a life-saving waterfall. Fans of Rick Riordan will welcome this new seven-book series that blends adventure, magic, and the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World into a fast-paced quest.
MULL, Brandon. Chasing the Prophecy: Beyonders. S & S/Aladdin. 2013. ISBN 9781416997962. JLG Level: FM : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5–8).
In the thrilling conclusion to the Beyonders, the heroes follow the oracle’s prophecy, splitting into teams to defeat the evil emperor, Maldor. Jason and Rachel are not Lyrians, but time spent in their world teaches them about the power of friendship and good versus evil. The final battle is upon them, and the glimmer of victory is dim. Galloran, the Blind King, claims his throne and leads his people in a fight that could end their lives. Characters who can exchange body parts and drinlings who need no rest join with Rachel who has learned to control a person’s body through her mind. Jason has a powerful sword that he must learn to use if they are to beat Maldor. The evil emperor has his own support army―lurkers who can invade your dreams and learn your secrets. Will their plan be sabotaged in one incident? Do they have to sacrifice everything to gain freedom for the citizens of Lyrian? Though the series ends with this tome, fans will wait eagerly for future tales in this fantastical world.
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