The best fantasy adventure for middle grade readers

Who am I?

I loved cartoons growing up. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Thundercats? Gargoyles? All favorites. But so many of the cartoons never changed anything. There were never any real stakes. (Except for Gargoyles. I fell in love with that show because of its continuity!) I hungered for books where things mattered, where the main characters did things that changed from book to book. Give me adventures that change the world! Well, I found some of those books. Here are stories where the main characters are kids. And now I get to enjoy these same stories with my kids! 

I wrote...

Stones and Swords

By Jonathon Mast,

Book cover of Stones and Swords

What is my book about?

A daring blade, cocky smile, and...floating rocks? Madelyn of the Sky rescues anyone who doesn't have a home. She whisks them away to her floating Island in the sky.

But not everyone's happy with the hero. Angry mobs, princes, and dragons hunt her. Grandma's been kidnapped. Madelyn doesn't even know why she's able to float rocks through the sky. And now a muddy boy's chasing her and insisting on helping, too. Madelyn will need all her wits, all her sword work, and all her magic to save the day!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Lost Conspiracy

Jonathon Mast Why did I love this book?

Hathin needs to cover up that her sister isn’t an oracle. Actually, she’s pretty useless. But now leaders are coming to investigate her sister. Can Hathin fake it? 

Frances Hardinge writes so many good books, but this is my favorite of hers by far. She sets up what you think will be the plot… and then zip! Something totally unexpected happens. So you figure you know where the story’s going… and nope! Now it goes a different direction entirely! And each zig builds tension until the finale of the story, wrapping everything together. If you enjoy female protagonists in a rich fantasy setting, check this out!

By Frances Hardinge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lost Conspiracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

On Gullstruck Island, legend has it that the mountain ranges and volcanoes are in charge. Anger them, and you'll pay the price. Keep them happy, and you'll enjoy their protection. These stories of the land's command come in handy for quiet, near-invisible Hathin when she must run for her life. Hathin's sister, Arilou, is believed to be a Lost. The Lost are held nearly sacred by those on Gullstruck, for they can send their senses away from their bodies. If Lost, Arilou can read a message across the island. If Lost, Arilou can hear whispers in the corners of private…

Book cover of Airborn

Jonathon Mast Why did I love this book?

Matt serves as a cabin boy on an airship when he encounters a man who claims there are creatures that fly and never touch the ground…

This book is pure fun and adventure. Looking for amazing creatures? Real stakes and human conflict? A likable main character? You’ve got it all here. I particularly loved the work the author put into creating an entire ecosystem of creatures that live so far up in the sky that we never see them on the ground! 

By Kenneth Oppel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Airborn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Matt Cruse is cabin boy aboard the Aurora, an airship which truly is lighter than air. Since the discovery of hydrium, a gas that renders even the heaviest vehicle as light as a feather, airships travel all over the world in the same way as planes do today. Matt himself was born on an airship and it is there that he feels most at home. Matt has high hopes for promotion to junior sailmaker on this voyage - until Kate de Vries, one of the wealthy passengers, arrives on the scene. She's feisty and brave, and won't let social distinctions…

Book cover of Taran Wanderer

Jonathon Mast Why did I love this book?

If you’ve wandered through kid’s fantasy for long, you’ve probably encountered The Black Cauldron. It’s a great book and well worth your time! That said, my favorite of the entire series is book four, Taran Wanderer. The other books in the series tell epic tales with huge stakes. This one, though, is all about Taran trying to figure out who he is and if he’s worth anything. He sets out on a quest, and his answer at the end shook me when I read it in… sixth grade? I might have been younger yet! I highly, highly recommend this book to kids trying to find themselves!

By Lloyd Alexander,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Taran Wanderer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Taran the assistant Pig-Keeper has led heroic adventures and is a friend of princes, yet he is still troubled by his lowly status, and determined to discover the secret of his true identity.

He sets out to consult the powerful witches of Morva and the mysterious Mirror of Llunet. On his quest to find the truth, Taran must journey through distant realms and undertake a series of challenging tasks. But his greatest struggle is against his own pride and fears, as he learns where true greatness lies.

Taran Wanderer is the fourth book in Lloyd Alexander's classic fantasy epic The…

Book cover of The Marvelous Land of Oz

Jonathon Mast Why did I love this book?

A lot of people are familiar with The Wizard of Oz through the old movie. Most people, if they’ve read any of the books, are probably most familiar with the first one. For my money, though, the second book is so much better. The Land of Oz brings in more magic, more delightful characters, some truly villainous foes, and sets up the rest of the book series. I’d encourage readers to check out the original books by Baum as well as the continuation by Ruth Plumly Thompson. Yes, it’s aimed at younger kids, but I still read and love the Oz books as an adult! 

By L. Frank Baum, David McKee (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Marvelous Land of Oz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

Book cover of Gregor the Overlander

Jonathon Mast Why did I love this book?

Sometimes you just want to read a story with a giant talking rat, you know? Oh, just me? Well, whether or not you enjoy giant talking rats, if you like adventure, you should check this out. It’s written by the same woman who wrote The Hunger Games, but this one’s appropriate for middle-grade kids. It’s huge stakes for a kid who just wants to get home. Adventure just under our feet! And if you’re reading this with imagination, you can picture it happening right under the ground… right now.

By Suzanne Collins,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Gregor the Overlander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

The first in a gripping young fantasy series from the

When eleven-year-old Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry
room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland,
where spiders, rats and giant cockroaches coexist uneasily
with humans.

This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor's arrival
is no accident.

But Gregor wants no part of it - until he realizes it's
the only way to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance.
Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure
that will change both him and the Underland forever.


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The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

Book cover of The Finest Lies

David J. Naiman Author Of The Finest Lies

New book alert!

Who am I?

Anyone with siblings knows the deal. Your sibling becomes your first best friend and closest confidant but also your first competitor and fiercest critic. Navigating that relationship as a teen is fraught with peril. If done poorly, it can leave deep scars. If successful, it can teach you the foundations of how to build healthy relationships for the rest of your life. This theme has everything a writer needs to craft an emotional narrative, and these books do it best.

David's book list on sibling rivalry that will inspire you to reconnect

What is my book about?

A mysterious stranger traps teen siblings in a precarious game where each must overcome their embittered past for the other to survive.

This suspenseful, yet winsome novel explores the power of family and forgiveness. But take heed. The truth can cut like shards of glass, especially for those who’d rather avoid it. Sometimes, only the finest lies will do.

The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

What is this book about?

High schooler Nicole Hallett has just about had it with her brother Jay, so when a mysterious man appears with an offer to replace him with a better one, she doesn’t hesitate. Nicole has always been impulsive, but this time, she finds herself in predicament far worse than anything she’s experienced. Just like that, an average snow day—usually filled with hot cocoa and snowball fights—is commandeered by the stranger, who forces the siblings into a dangerous game.

Confronted by past reflections, tested by present complications, and threatened by future possibilities, Nicole has until the end of the day to disentangle…

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