And I had a fantastic time with my Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction panel. I don’t think I pulled my weight (the fall was busier than I expected), but the books were mostly good, the discussion was super easy, the other panelists were super smart and amazing, and I REALLY love our list.
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
In a simple but not simplistic story, 10-year-old Maddie visits her Grandmère in the Louisiana bayou in order to learn the magical traditions of her family. While there, she discovers how friendship and magic (and bonus mermaids!) can help with modern problems, and learns the importance of being connected to the land around her. Rhodes has created book with a lyrical mix of African, French and Creole traditions that has a huge heart and is full of magic and, ultimately, joy.
by Ursula Vernon
The titular castle of Castle Hangnail needs a new master, or it will risk being decommissioned, forcing all the resident minions to find new homes. When 12-year-old Molly comes knocking on the castle door, the minions (who expected a powerful dark magic user) are skeptical, but Molly is determined to convince them that she is wicked enough for the job (though she actually has a very good heart). Everything seems to be going well until an evil sorceress shows up claiming she is Castle Hangnail’s real intended master. Its illustrations, humor, messages of friendship and determination, and a host of memorable secondary characters (with a special nod to one minion–Pins, a voodoo doll with a talking goldfish) make Castle Hangnail an utterly enjoyable and charming place to spend your reading time!
by Frances Hardinge
“Mummy, help me, please help me, everything’s strange and nothing’s right, and my mind feels as if it’s made up of pieces and some of them are missing…” When Triss wakes up from a mysterious accident, she is somehow not herself–she feels an overwhelming hunger that is only satisfied by eating the oddest things, dead leaves appear in her room, on her pillow, and in her hair; her little sister Pen rejects her completely. Triss/Not-Triss must put together the pieces of what turns out to be a larger puzzle, one that encompasses a family’s grief, betrayal, loyalty, and love. Set in post-World War I Great Britain, Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song is a beautifully written, deliciously dark fantasy for fans of historical fiction, horror, fairy tales, or family stories. We think that’s everyone.
by Sophia McDougall
Mars Evacuees– Blast off for Mars on this science fiction debut! In order to keep them safe from the ongoing human-alien warfare on Earth, Alice Dare and other kids from around the world are being shipped off to the red planet . But Mars is far from being a safe haven, and when all the adults vanish, Alice and her new friends set out to get help. Giant floating robot goldfish, unexpected alien encounters and a not-so friendly Martian landscape are just some of the challenges they will deal with along the way. This entertaining and smartly-written romp will make you want to buckle up and enjoy the ride!
Stephanie Whelan, Views From the Tesseract
by John David Anderson
The Dungeoneers is a first-class adventure that reads like a role-playing game on the surface, while being booby-trapped with plot twists and laced with reflections on morality and loyalty. When Colm starts picking pockets to help his struggling family, they are horrified. But before he can be imprisoned, he’s rescued by a man impressed by his talents who whisks him off to study at legendary Tye Twodin’s School for Dungeoneers–professional treasure hunters and monster fighters. There Colm and his new teammates, the shy young mageling Quinn Frostfoot, tough-as-nails (unless she’s bleeding herself) barbarian-to-be Lena Proudfoot, and druid-in-training Serene (with her a pet spider named Mr. Tickletoes) have to master the skills of dungeoneering. Swordplay, spells and lock picking aren’t as challenging as navigating the social pitfalls of an extraordinary boarding school and figuring out who can be trusted…and that’s before the real adventuring begins!
The Fog Diver
by Joel Ross
Set in a world where a deadly fog has taken over the planet, and people are forced to live in the skies, a quartet of ragtag orphans make a living off of what they can scavenge on Earth’s surface, even though it means sending their diver, Chess, down through the toxic mist while still tethered to their sky ship. Chess is in less danger than most, as he has a mysterious resistance to the effects of the fog, but the evil Lord Kodoc will stop at nothing to find out Chess’ secret.
When the four kids – Hazel (the daring captain), Swedish (the strong pilot), Bea (the cheery mechanic), and Chess (the secretive tetherboy) find out that the woman who raised them as family is dying from the Fog sickness, they decide to embark on an mission to save her life, and avoid the evil Lord Kodoc. Featuring air pirates, great characters, and a unique setting, The Fog Diver is a fantastic steampunk adventure with a sci-fi twist that will leave you wanting more.
Wings of Fire Book Six: Moon Rising
by Tui T. Sutherland
The Wings of Fire series returns with new dragons and a brand new story arc! After years of war, the kingdoms of the dragons are at peace, and a school has been founded to gather together young dragons from all the different factions. One of these students is Moonwatcher, a young Nightwing who has the Nightwing powers of telepathy and prophecy, gifts that might help her and her new friends thwart the dangerous and deadly plots that threaten the fragile peace. These books, with their wide range of heroic young dragon characters,, are just full of kid appeal, and Moon Rising is one of the best of them. Strong messages of friendship, tolerance, and forgiveness are presented alongside adventures large and small in a way that will have readers clamoring for more.
Additionally, THREE of my nominations that made it through: The Blackthorn Key (YAY!), Baba Yaga (YAY!), and Ms. Marvel (YAY!). Click here to see what all the other (excellent) finalist lists are.