With one significant quibble (Jane, why oh why), I found The Lost Kingdom by Matthew Kirby to be a great middle grade novel, especially for readers who want a combination of history and fantasy and adventure.
I loved the Kat Stephenson books by Stephanie Burgis, so I was excited for Stolen Magic to come out. It didn’t disappoint; I loved the resolution and the way that Kat grew up but also remained firmly in middle grade territory.
Historical fantasy is one of my favorite things, and The Peculiar and The Whatnot by Stefan Bachmann are wonderful examples of middle grade historical fantasy done right. A gorgeously written duology.
Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud is a lovely beginning to a series. By turns eerie, funny, and spooky, this is a book that was a joy to read.
I re-read The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper for the first time in years. This was a fascinating experience, since the series was really important to me at one point.
Jinx by Sage Blackwood was one of my favorite books of the year in any category. I loved the characters (especially Sophie!) and the world and the lovely writing. The sequel, Jinx’s Magic, is out soon and I’ll have a review up next week (spoiler: YAY!).
Hilary McKay’s books are absolutely some of my favorites, so when I heard about Binny for Short, I was really excited. Binny is a lovely book, full of McKay’s trademark humor and warmth.
Doll Bones by Holly Black got quite a bit of buzz when it was first published, for good reason. It’s beautifully written, and underneath the story of the quest is an examination of friendship and growing up.
I’ve been meaning to read Merrie Haskell’s The Princess Curse for a few years and I’m glad I finally got to it. Fairy tale retellings are one of my favorite things, and this was a nice version of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” told from a very unique point of view.
I LOVED The Inquisitor’s Apprentice and The Watcher in the Shadows by Chris Moriarty. Alternate New York in the early 1900s, where magic is real but illegal? With a fun cast of characters and illustrations that reminded me of the All of a Kind series? Shut up and take my money! (Well, not literally, since I checked them out of the library.)
If You Want to See a Whale by Erin Stead and Julie Fogliano is absolutely one of my favorite books for the year. I love Stead’s delicate illustrations and Fogliano’s beautifully poetic text.
One of my happy surprises for the year was Journey by Aaron Becker. I loved this wordless picture book, with its gorgeous illustrations and details to pour over.
The New Arrival by Vanya Nastanlieva is a charming book. Also, it features a small hedgehog named Sam. How could I possibly not like it?
I discovered the Bill and Pete books, by Tomie De Paola, this year. My favorite is Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile, but all of them are delightful.