Bad Magic by Pseudonymous Bosch. I got ridiculously excited when the ARC for this middle reader came in. Bad Magic is a spinoff of the bestselling Secret Series, (which I loved,) but it works great as a standalone as well. When Clay gets in trouble at school for something he didn’t do, he’s sent to a summer camp for “troubled youth” on an island with an active volcano. Clay has always believed magic is just illusions and tricks, but it’s hard not to second guess himself when everyone seems to be hiding secrets, there’s a lama that talks, and he’s pretty sure he’s seen a ghost. Readers with no prior knowledge of Pseudonymous Bosch will absolutely love this topsy-turvy mystery.
Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks. Tuesday McGillycuddy is the daughter of Serendipity Smith, the author a much-loved fantasy series. When Serendipity goes missing, Tuesday finds herself trapped in the world of her mother’s stories. With her faithful dog Baxterr at her side, (yes, it’s spelled with two R’s,) she teams up with the plucky Vivenne Small to face an evil pirate captain and his crew of miscreants. This highly imaginative story brings a whole new spin to the creative process and is perfect for both fantasy lovers and young aspiring writers.
The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems and Tony Diterlizzi. If you’ve walked into the children’s section of any bookstore in the last decade, you have seen books by Mo Willems and Tony Diterlizzi. This is their first collaborative effort and I could not be more excited about this gorgeous book! Spanning the gap between picture books and chapter books, this delightful story is set in Paris and follows a house dog and an alley cat who become friends. Diva and Flea help each other face old fears and discover new worlds. Lovely and heartwarming, this book is an excellent gift for readers not quite ready for the challenge of a chapter book.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Smith. Thirteen year old Conor started waking up at seven minutes past midnight to find a terrible monster waiting for him. Nearly each night since his mother began her treatments, the monster has appeared and demanded Conor tell him the truth. But Conor isn’t entirely sure what truth the ancient thing wants, or if the nightmare is just a dream or something more. Blending magic and reality, this deeply moving story deals with the heart of our fears and what courage really means.
A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren De Stefano. Pram has always been able to talk to ghosts, but she doesn’t know why. Raised by her two aunts, her only friend is a ghost named Felix, until she meets the new boy, Clarence. When she finally trusts him with her secret, she agrees to help him find out what happened to his lost mother. Their quest brings them to a mysterious spiritualist, who may or may not have their best interests in mind. This haunting story is filled with twists and turns and has plenty of heart, perfect for readers who like their ghost stories not too scary.
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel. Steve worries about everything, especially the new baby brother who seems to have so many things wrong with him. Then the dreams start, the dreams where strange angels promise they’re going to fix everything. And right about the same time a large wasp’s nest appears just outside the house. This eerie story is beautifully told alongside illustrations from Caldecott winner Jon Klassen. With depth, nuance, and a healthy dash of the terrifying and fantastical, I’m recommending The Nest to slightly older readers