One of the most common writing tips you’ll ever get is that you should read a lot. Read everything. The genre you write in. The genres you don’t write in. Anything and everything. Just… read.

How fortunate then, that most writers also love to read. In these uncertain pandemicine years, most of what I’ve been reading is middle grade. It’s my escape from reality, and the whimsy and imagination in middle grade fantasy and adventure appeals greatly right now. I just haven’t got the bandwidth to deal with most adult books or anything involving any kind of dystopian theme these days.

Oooooo…. pretty book covers! You KNOW you want to read them…

In November I read seven middle grade books, all of which I would highly recommend if you’re looking for quirky and imaginative worlds to escape to.

  • Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (Brandon Sanderson)
    Hilarious and snarky, and big hit with my kids. Love the glasses-impart-special-powers thing, and all the weird Smedly Talents. Definitely looking forward to the next one.

  • The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse (Brian Farrey)
    This one was fun, and it had a great twist that I didn’t see coming until just before it happened.

  • Shadowghast (Thomas Taylor)
    Book three in the Legends of Eerie-on-the-Sea series, follows Herbie and Violet on another mysterious, madcap adventure. The entire series in fantastic and the trade editions are charmingly illustrated.

  • Keeper of the Lost Cities (Shannon Messenger)
    This series has been around for a while, but I’ve only just gotten around to it. It took me a few chapters to really get into this one, but when it picked up, it really picked up and I couldn’t put it down. I’m really looking forward to reading the next one because I have to know more about the mystery of Sophie’s past!

  • The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy (Anne Ursu)
    You can never go wrong with anything by Anne Ursu. She’s just a fantastic writer and I highly recommend anything and everything she’s ever created. Given everything going on in the world right now, asking oneself “Who does the story serve?” is increasingly important.

  • Iron Hearted Violet (Kelly Barnhill)
    Like Anne Ursu, it’s hard to go wrong with a Kelly Barnhill book. I really liked the fact that Violet wasn’t a “typical” princess. This one was also told from the perspective of the court bard, which was an interesting literary technique that I haven’t seen in a while.

  • Strangeworlds Travel Agency (L.D. Lapinski)
    This is another one that took me a few chapters to really to get into, but which I greatly enjoyed once I did. The suitcases are really imaginative way to solve the how-do-they-get-to-the-other-world issue and, again, this one has a mystery aspect that really draws you in.

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