This year, we have needed books to give us comfort, tools for living and escape. They have taken us on many flights of fancy and journeys into our own world and worlds of dreams and imagination. And they came in abundance! Here are some of the very best of 2020 for the “middle-grade” readers.
The Promise Witch by Celine Kiernan (Walker Books: January 2020) In the final installment of the Wild Magic trilogy, we visit Witches Borough for one last time as Mup realises she must finally face her grandmother, the Old Queen and fulfill a promise if there’s to be any peace. From the start, we are given wondrous writing, picture-generating description, incredible revelations and twists, and an imaginative adventure in a world that sizzles with magic. The perfect end to the perfect trilogy…A gloriously woven spell.
Here In The Real World by Sara Pennypacker (Balzer & Bray: February 2020) is a song dedicated to those who live life with a different point of view; to the introverts, the individuals. A world of possibility comes into being, and even when it doesn’t last, it shows a flexibility, a determination to create and protect your dreams and an ability to continue forward and find another way. With realistic characters, a tangible growing bond of trust and vivid description , this is adventure that calls us to make the ordinary world extraordinary and to be who you really are.
The Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson (Usborne Books: October 2020) As storms that begin to batter Olias’ beloved old home, the walls crumble and the domes begin to fall. With the help of the castles’ domovoi (protective spirit), she discovers a magical doorway to The Land of Forbidden Magic. Together, they race across this strange land to save in both worlds. This is a fairytale full of danger, legend and heart with a palpable sense of how these old tales live on and kiss each one of us across time. An enchanted marvel!
Wilde by Eloise Williams (Firefly Press: May 2020) A beautifully written story of mystery, history and belonging is a tour-de-force of magical realism. Wilde seeks only to be ‘normal’, to fit in. While a new home and school offer her a new chance, weird events seem to follow her everywhere she goes. A town with an eerie past, a fierce heatwave and a school play about a witch called Winter all point suspicious fingers to Wilde.Winning acceptance is a near impossible feat…when you, like it or not, stand out. Friendship and belonging colour this brave, gripping, magical story.
Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell (Walker Books: June 2020) Arthur, Ren and Cecily investigate a mysterious explosion that takes them on a raucous ride beyond imagination. With drama, humour, in-reality gaming, time-travel and real-life historical figures lost in the future, a cleverly crafted tale evolves that fascinates with the turn of every page and weaves an engaging fantasy adventure. Quick, quirky, intense and funny; this is a journey of a lifetime…or several. Travel with wonder!
The Midnight Swan by Catherine Fisher (Firefly Press: October 2020) Wrapped up in the sights and sounds of the summer fair, suddenly Seren, Tomos and Crow find themselves deeper in the world of the fae and their plots than ever before. Exquisite description brings this world to life, while elements of family and friendship add drama, empathy and compassion. Other-worldly, mysterious, exciting, consuming and so incredibly beautiful…do NOT miss this.
The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtkey (Bloomsbury: July 2020) Driven by fear and worry for his new baby brother, Charlie flees into the woods only to emerge in the ancient past, where he encounters Harby, the stone-age boy desperate to help his baby sister. Both are lost, alone, trying to get home, dealing with loss and struggling with responsibility. But somehow, they come together to find a solution to both of their situations. An intrepid time-flip story; this is a debut full of wonder, courage and heart.
Molly Thompson and the Curse of the Blue Moon by Nick Tomlinson (Walker Books: October 2020) This book has everything you could possibly want… a cursed phantom, a sinister prophecy, a forbidden burial chamber and an overprotective cat for a riotous adventure through the worlds’ scariest town. The plot is filled with unlikely twists and shocking revelations. Just as the chills are running up and down your spine, madcap mishaps occur to break the tension and leave you laughing. A story of friendship, family and ghouls; all wrapped in spooky, weird, imaginative brilliance.
The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery (Walker Books: November 2020) A story of heart, courage, and wonder is told with a mix of history, reality, imagination and the eerie myth and legend that infuses the darkest time of year. Col and his imaginary friends come to life race across Britain during the Blitz to save Cols’ sister and foil the sinister plan of the Midwinter King. A poignant nod to childhood imagination that assures us that those things we create never really vanish. They will be there whenever we need them.
Chasing Ghosts: An Arctic Adventure by Nicola Pierce (O’Brien Press: March 2020) An eerie, haunting, sea-going historical fiction, the story is based on two events, separate, but forever linked in time. The reader is taken on the ill-fated mission to find the Northwest passage. A few years after their departure, the death of a little girl brings heartbreak to her family. Now, she has come back with a message from beyond the grave. Atmospheric, articulate, wonderfully imaginative and impossibly true.
I hope my top middle-grade books for 2020 take you on some fantastical journeys, warm your hearts and fire your imagination. I’ll return soon with the best of teen/YA for the year.