Holiday Shopping Guide: Middle Grade Must-Haves

This week, we’re featuring a variety of shopping guides to help you buy the best books for everyone on your list.

Today, we’ve got the must-have books for your middle grade reader!

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Debut author Christopher Healy takes us on a journey with four imperfect princes and their four improbable princesses, all of whom are trying to become perfect heroes–a fast-paced, funny, and fresh introduction to a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon, he steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher—a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes. When he tries the first pair, he is instantly transported to a hidden island where he is presented with a special quest: to travel to the dangerous Vanished Kingdom and rescue a people in need.

Along with his loyal sidekick—a knight who has been turned into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat—and the magic eyes, he embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to discover his true destiny.

Neversink by Barry Wolverton

Along the Arctic Circle lies a small island called Neversink, whose jagged cliffs and ice-gouged rocks are home to a colony of odd-looking seabirds called auks, including one Lockley J. Puffin. With their oceanfront views and plentiful supply of fish, the auks have few concerns–few, save for Lockley’s two best friends, Egbert and Ruby, a know-it-all walrus and a sharp-tongued hummingbird.

But all of this is about to change. Rozbell, the newly crowned king of the Owl Parliament, is dealing with a famine on the mainland of Tytonia–and he has long had his scheming eyes on the small colony to the north. Now Neversink’s independence hangs in the balance. An insurgence of owls will inevitably destroy life as the auks know it–unless Lockley can do something about it.

Barry Wolverton’s debut is an epic tale of some very un-epic birds, a fast-paced and funny story of survival, friendship, and fish.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

When seventh grader Georges (the S is silent) moves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old coffee-drinking loner and self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer’s first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Called “A new Narnia for the tween set” by the New York Times and perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials series, The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma’s extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world.

These three siblings have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage.

Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now.

Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey through time to dangerous and secret corners of the world…a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right

Pickle by Kim Baker

Junior Library Guild Selection

This is the story of THE LEAGUE OF PICKLE MAKERS.

Ben: who began it all by sneaking in one night and filling homeroom with ball-pit balls.

Frank: who figured out that an official club, say a pickle making club, could receive funding from the PTA.

Oliver: who once convinced half of the class that his real parents had found him and he was going to live in a submarine.

Bean: who wasn’t exactly invited, but her parents own a costume shop, which comes in handy if you want to dress up like a giant squirrel and try to scare people at the zoo.

TOGETHER, they are an unstoppable prank-pulling force, and Fountain Point Middle School will never be the same.

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson

Is the kingdom’s fate in the hands of an orphan cat?

Running fast to save his life, Aldwyn ducks into an unusual pet store. Moments later Jack, a young wizard in training, comes in to choose a magical animal to be his familiar. Aldwyn’s always been clever. But magical? Jack thinks so and Aldwyn is happy to play along.

He just has to convince the other familiars the know-it-all blue jay Skylar and the friendly tree frog Gilbert that he’s the powerful cat he claims to be.

Then the unthinkable happens. Jack and two other young wizards are captured by the evil queen of Vastia.

On a thrilling quest to save their loyals, the familiars face dangerous foes, unearth a shocking centuries-old secret, and discover a destiny that will change Vastia forever. Their magical adventure an irresistible blend of real heart, edge-of-your-seat action, and laugh-out-loud humor is an unforgettable celebration of fantasy and friendship.

Will Sparrow’s Road by Karen Cushman

In his thirteenth year, Will Sparrow, liar and thief, becomes a runaway. On the road, he encounters a series of con artists—a pickpocket, a tooth puller, a pig trainer, a conjurer—and learns that others are more adept than he at lying and thieving. Then he reluctantly joins a traveling troupe of “oddities,” including a dwarf and a cat-faced girl, holding himself apart from the “monsters” and resolving to be on guard against further deceptions. At last Will is forced to understand that appearances are misleading and that  he has been his own worst deceiver. The rowdy world of market fairs in Elizabethan England is the colorful backdrop for Newbery medalist Cushman’s new comic masterpiece.

Vanishing Acts by Phillip Margolin & Ami Margolin Rome

From tracking down her best friend, who’s nowhere to be found, to secretly helping her attorney father solve a missing-person case, Madison Kincaid is a busy seventh-grade sleuth. Teaming up with new classmate Jake, she hits the sidewalks of Portland, Oregon, determined to find out what’s behind two mysterious vanishing acts.

In his first book for young readers, “New York Times” bestselling author Phillip Margolin and his daughter, Ami Margolin Rome, deliver a fast-paced, compelling mystery that’s perfect for reluctant readers and sure to appeal to fans of “Masterpiece,” “The Calder Game,” and “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.”

For the comments: What other middle grade books would you recommend?

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2 responses to “Holiday Shopping Guide: Middle Grade Must-Haves

  1. Great recs! Putting them on my list… :-)

  2. One that I would add would be Ordinary Magic. Abby Hale is an ‘Ord’, one of the ‘disabled’ kids who has no magical powers in a world where magic is the norm. She is sent to a special school to learn how to deal with her ‘disability’. Liked the parable about bigotry that was tucked into a good adventure with an interesting MG heroine.
    Also I liked Neversink a lot!

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