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[personal profile] olmue
I lean more towards YA than MG, but this year, the MG books I encountered at my library just had a lot more variety in story, voice, character, and general feel than the YA did. Buying trends? Publishing trends? I don't know. In any case, I read a LOT of them.

Egg and Spoon, by Gregory Maguire. MG, no matter what the publisher and library say. About Russia. And global warming. And Baba Yaga. And want. And magic. Two girls, a peasant and a noble, accidentally get switched when the train they’re on starts moving and the wrong one falls off. Both converge at the party for the Tsar’s godson, one bearing a Faberge egg and one the egg of the Firebird. Things go wrong, and they run to the north to find out why magic is failing and how to get the Firebird to hatch and how to stop winter from ending too early. Baba Yaga is rather funny in this.

The Princess in the Opal Mask, by Jenny Lundquist. Almost a prince and the pauper tale, of twin princesses where, thanks to a historical event involving one princess ancestress revolting against the other, the twins were separated at birth. Then they're reunited when war threatens their country.  Many loose ends, but my daughter got the sequel for Christmas, so...

The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell. Sort of a mix of the 12 Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast. Could use a sequel. Takes place in Romania.

Kat, Incorrigible (and sequels), by Stephanie Burgis. Funny Austenesque MG about a girl (Kat) who inherited magic from her mother who was a witch, but who is also a guardian—someone who stops bad witches. And she has to save her sister from a Very Unfortunate Marriage by using magic. This is great for girls who like Austenesque books but still have middle grade interests.

Keeper of the Lost Cities (and sequels), by Shannon Messenger. This is currently my 13YO daughter's faaaaaaaavorite series. It’s about a girl who’s a telepath and she finds out she’s really an elf whose mind/DNA has been manipulated, and she gets taken from the human world to the elf dimension. Everyone thinks the people who made her mind are the bad guys, but really it’s someone else.

The Islands of Chaldea, by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones. Oh, so nice! Her sister found the unfinished book after Diana died, and with great trepidation, she finished it. Felt her sister near until it was done. A nice journey story about people trying to break a magic barrier that separates one island of Chaldea from the other three. I couldn’t tell where one sister ended and the other began.

The Winter of the Robots, by Kurtis Scaletta. The mushroom book was my favorite of his until this one. Loved the Minneapolis setting, the real-feeling kids, the really different kind of story (robotics, the kind that smart kids get into around middle school and sometimes go to competitions for). Loved the little sister. (They build a snow fort. "This will protect us," she said. "Protect us from what?" "Extremists," she said, which made me wonder what was going on in the puppet show she'd been watching." Or the moment much later on, where she's snooping around in Jim's room and discovers a disk he was hiding in a "horror book about fungus." The Tanglewood Terror, perhaps? ;) )

Ungifted, Gordon Korman. Hilarious. Donovan Curtis is a classic troublemaker. He just wanted to hear Atlas’s backside clang when he whacked the statue in front of the school with a big stick. How was he to know it was held together only by a single rusty bolt, and that his whack would send the world rolling down the hill to smash up the middle school gym during a basketball game? The superintendant catches him, but before he can do anything, he has to go disperse the fire truck. And so the paper with Donovan’s name on it gets filed with the names of students transferring to the gifted school. A great hideout—only…Donovan isn’t exactly gifted. His new teachers are perplexed, because of course, tests never lie! Donovan’s got to fake it so Superintendant Schultz doesn’t catch him. But no matter how briefly he’s there, he’s a breath of fresh air as he brings a gift of normalcy to the braniac school.

Tesla’s Attic, by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. Funny MG about a family who moves into dead Aunt Greta’s house and sells the junk from the attic in a garage sale. Only, it was all invented by Tesla, and it does strange things. They try to collect it back and keep it safe before a secret Edison-related organization can steal it. First of a trilogy. It’s wacky but has enough weight to keep it from going over the top.

The Eighth Day, by Dianne K. Salerni. About a kid who finds he can Transition to the 8th day—Grunsday—where he meets the Kin, who are confined to only that day. Jax’s guardian Riley is an important dude in the Transitioners’ world and is guarding? Or protecting? A girl next door who is stuck in the 8th day. Nice job of keeping inside the MC’s head without feeling gimmicky.

The Watcher in the Shadows, Chris Moriarty. Sequel to The Inquisitor’s Apprentice. A nice, classic mystery set in turn of the century New York (lower east side), plus magic. I really like how the magic and the Jewishness mix together so naturally in the book. Sasha’s a likable hero. Great for the kid who just wants an enjoyable mystery.

Saving Lucas Biggs, by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague. Written by a husband-wife team. I liked this book, even if the time travel is a bit understated. About a girl whose dad has been unjustly accused of murder, and to save him, she has to break the family taboo against time travel and try to go back and change the past. Ie, the judge who sentenced him was a victim when his family stood against the local coal company in a strike and his parents were killed.

The Time of the Fireflies, by Kimberly Griffiths Little. Girl starts getting strange phone calls on antique phones that aren’t plugged in. The voice tells her to follow the fireflies, trust the fireflies, and that it’s a matter of life and death. She follows them over a bridge that was struck by lightning and where she almost died—but now with the fireflies, it looks new. And she goes back in time and sees bits of her family’s history, all kinds of tragedies that happen around a certain doll. I know it's "just" a middle grade book, but I'm glad there are no creepy dolls in my room! I was scared reading it!

I lived on Butterfly Hill, by Marjorie Agosín. Historical fiction about a girl whose family become exiles in one way or another during the 1973 Pinochet coup in Chile. Except that the coup in the book only lasts 2 years instead of 17, and the names of the politicians are changed. The girl is from Valparaíso, and it was nice to read about very familiar grounds/culture. I did wonder about renaming the political figures, and there was no historical note at the end. But I think the author just wanted to condense what happened into one book.

The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell. Yes, two of her books make my list. A retelling of the sleeping beauty story, only Our Hero wakes up inside the castle under mysterious circumstances. He starts fixing it, and then he fixes the “dead” girl in it. And together they have to fix the castle and themselves enough to let the thorns down.

Minion, John David Anderson. Sort of a companion novel to Sidekicked, only the characters don’t know each other. But it’s roughly in the same universe. About a kid adopted by a kindly evil scientist, and he has to decide which side he’s on, good or bad.

The Boundless, Kenneth Oppel. The book is strange and distant in that it’s told in third person present, which is always kind of distancing. But the tension runs high and it’s interesting. About a boy whose dad was a brakeman and who worked on the trans-Canada railway. The boy, Will, was there at the end and drove the final golden spike. But now, three years later, the railroad owner has died, and they’re taking the 7-mile long train, the Boundless, across Canada to lay him to rest. And Will’s dad has ended up very important with the train, and he’s leading the whole thing. But someone knows there’s gold in that funeral car, and Will sees him murder one of the two people who has a key (the dad is the other one). Will gets the key, and so the brakeman and his henchmen are after Will. He joins up with the circus as they make their way forward to warn his dad. There are also sasquatch and muskeg hags and things like that, all along the way as if they are perfectly factual things in nature. It was a cool book!

Dash, by Kirby Larson. A quiet, young MG about a girl, Mitsi, who has to leave her dog behind when she and her Japanese-heritage family have to go to an internment camp during WWII. It’s based on a real girl who wanted to bring her dog along and was told no. Good book for the right kid.

My Friend the Enemy,  by Dan Smith. (Why yes, there were a lot of WWII books this year!) Peter and his new friend Kim live in northern England on the coast, and even though they’re far from London, there are still bombings, and it’s scary. When a German plane crashes, they see a parachute and figure, along with the rest of the village, that one of them escaped. He and Kim find the pilot, 19YO Erik, and feel they have to hide and help him in the hopes that someone does that for their own family members who are fighting abroad. I thought the book caught the spirit of the times well, and had a nicely fleshed-out, full feeling. This was a good one!

Dreamwood, by Heather Mackey. This is for the reader who liked The Boundless. About a girl who goes to look for her father in turn of the century Pacific NW. He’s a ghosthunter who disappeared, and she’s left finishing school to find him. They think he found a cure for Rust, which is destroying all the trees. There’s a giant tree spirit on Devil’s Thumb (somewhere around Olympia National Park), and some say this giant Dreamwood tree will cure the Rust, and others say he caused it. So the girl and a friend go to find her dad and find out. I like that historical fantasy kind of book where the fantasy elements are treated as part of science (Bigfoot, ghosts, etc.).

War Unicorn, by Sandy Carlson. About a farm boy who finds a magic ring with a war unicorn trapped inside. Reg has been charged to get the unicorn to the king--but there are problems along the way...

He Laughed with His Other Mouths, by MT Anderson. The 6th (and last?) Pals in Peril book. This is all about Jasper Dash, searching for his father, and also about Busby Spence, a fan of the Jasper Dash books back in the 1940s. It’s funny but has heart, too. Normally I don’t like overly quirky, but something about these books, I get.

Greenglass House, by Kate Milford. Like a cross between The Westing Game and something by Sarah DeFord Williams. It’s Christmastime and normally nobody shows up to the inn Milo’s family runs that time of year. But just as he’s getting ready to enjoy his time with his parents, a whole bunch of guests show up. Oh, and the hotel is often frequented by smugglers…who are a large part of the town. Anyway, it’s a very old house and all of these guests seem to have strange secrets and things they’re looking for. Milo and the cook’s daughter Meddie make a semi-real role-playing game to figure out what’s up once things start getting stolen from people’s rooms—things that all have to do with the house. Meanwhile, they are all getting snowed in… There is a really cool ghostly surprise right at the end, too! I really liked it.

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm. Younger MG. Funny story about a girl whose grandfather discovers some kind of youth potion (he’s a scientist) and shows up looking 14, only he’s really 60-something, and lives with her and her mom for a bit. She realizes she’s more of a scientist like him instead of a theater person like her parents, even though he’s um, kind of a grumpy old man. Funny story.
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