Next week is the 98th annual Children's Book Week,
and I'm celebrating by featuring books geared to young adult and middle
grade readers that were (or will be) published in March, April, and May
I have so many great books to talk about, I'm starting early with today's post, which concentrates on fantasy and on novels that include a bit of magic or other worldliness. Next week, I'll look at contemporary stories, graphic novels, and thrillers.
Note: Books featured for Children's Book Week represent only those titles that came to my attention through a variety of avenues. They are also books I've had a chance to look through or read (print, audio, or ebook). I'm grateful to the publishers and other agencies that provided copies of these books for my honest opinion in a review or feature.
- Dream Magic by Joshua Khan (Disney Hyperion; April): This standalone novel is set in the Shadow Magic universe. Lilith Shadow, the young queen of Gehenna, faces a host of problems: trolls are on the march, the dead are awakening, and her citizens are mysteriously disappearing. The story combines several familiar fantasy and mystery elements in new ways and introduces us to unique creatures, including a giant bat. The book has won praise from the likes of Rick Riordan and Jonathan Stroud.
- Carmer and Grit by Sasrah Jean Horwitz (Algonquin Young Readers; April): Young readers will be won over by this fresh mix of fantasy and steampunk. A disabled faerie princess teams up with a magician's apprentice to save their world from destruction by evil mechanical creatures. Great themes of friendship, good versus evil, being true to one's own dreams, and solving mysteries. Don't miss this action-packed first installment of a new series.
- The Lost Staff of Wonders by Raymond Arroyo (Crown Books for Young Readers; March): Set in the late-1800s, this second book in the Will Wilder series takes place in a familiar world, except for the little problem of ancient demons. When, 12-year-old Will is wrongfully accused of stealing Moses's staff from the local museum, he must use his magical powers to find the real thief and protect his town from being destroyed by the seven plagues. Action, adventure, and biblical tales come true make this a gripping read.
- Xander and the Dream Thief by Margaret Dilloway (Disney Hyperion; April): This fairy tale retelling takes young readers out of Western traditions by focusing on Japanese myths and legends. In this second book in the Momotaro series, Xander, our biracial warrior hero, is still getting used to his new fighter status and how to use his powers. When his bumbling takes hope away from his family, Xander must find the strength and courage to face the evils that have stolen their dreams. The novel includes themes of self-confidence, learning from mistakes, love of family, and personal fortitude.
- The Shadows We Know by Heart Jennifer Park (Simon Pulse; March): This debut combo of romance and fantasy is set in contemporary Texas. Every night Leah escapes her dysfunctional family by secretly leaving food for three creatures who live in the woods behind her house. One evening she sees a human boy with the Bigfoot trio and she begins to fall in love. Besides the love story, this novel explores grief, family issues, and alcoholism. A coming-of-age story for teens and adults.
- The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress (Delacorte Books for Young Readers; April): Middle grade readers will love this new action / adventure series, which begins with a tiny pig in a tiny hat that leads to a mystery, a curious boy, a girl in need of help, and a secret society. The whole family will find it hard to resist the witty dialogue, groan-inducing puns, charming black and white drawings, funny footnotes, and fantastic characters.
- Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk (Dutton Books for Young Readers; May): Early in the last century, on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts, a baby was rescued from the ocean. Now 12-years-old, Crow begins to question her origins, which sets her on a dangerous journey of self-discovery on several levels. Strong female role models and lessons about the meaning of family round out this compelling and haunting novel.
- Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder (Waldon Pond Press; May): Nine children live on a utopian island, where all their needs are met, the weather is perfect, and there is always plenty to eat. Their world is unbroken except when a mysterious boat arrives once a year to take away the oldest child, leaving another to take his or her place as the youngest in the group. When Jinny's best friend is taken away, she becomes the eldest orphan. As she begins to teach new child the rules of the island, Jinny starts to question her universe. A beautifully conceived look at the transition from childhood to adolescence.