The best new action-packed middle grade books with heart

Who am I?

I love to read a good action-adventure story. I’ve also written a few. And I know that no matter how high the stakes, if there’s no heart in the characters then there’s very little engagement to make it any more memorable than a temporary thrill. I love thrills, but the stories that stick with you after the excitement of the moment is over, those are the true gems. Besides the fun of reading that type of book, maybe you even learn something about yourself or the world and come out a wee bit wiser than when you went in. And isn’t that a fantastic use of our imaginative powers?!

I wrote...

The Eye of Ra

By Ben Gartner,

Book cover of The Eye of Ra

What is my book about?

Exploring a mysterious cave in the mountains behind their house, John and his sister Sarah are shocked to discover they’ve time traveled to ancient Egypt!

Now they must work together to find a way back home from an ancient civilization of golden desert sand and a towering new pyramid, without parents to save them. The adventures abound—cobras, scorpions, a tomb robber, and more! The two kids have to trust each other, make friends who can help, and survive the challenges thrown at them . . . or be stuck in ancient Egypt forever.

The books I picked & why

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The Last Shadow Warrior

By Sam Subity,

Book cover of The Last Shadow Warrior

Why this book?

The title alone alludes to the action in the book, but our heroine Abby is only beginning to understand her true warrior self. And coming to terms with that takes heart, as well as strength of character. This book is a lively Beowulf-inspired adventure mixed with light-hearted humor and suspenseful cliff-hanger action. Abby is trying to save her dad’s life, so the stakes couldn’t be much higher for her. But she’s also figuring out her place in the world without a mother. Learning her heritage and the power that runs in her veins is Abby’s true quest. The monsters certainly help coax her toward that goal, which makes this a terrific action-packed middle grade book with heart.

Journey Beyond the Burrow

By Rina Heisel,

Book cover of Journey Beyond the Burrow

Why this book?

Do not be fooled by the cuddly creatures on the beautiful cover! This book is full of harrowing adventure, creepy tension, and frightening woodland creatures like giant spiders and deadly snakes. At least, as seen from the perspective of our main character, Tobin the mouse. Tobin’s quest is full of heart, for he has taken it upon himself to save his younger brother from the clutches of the invading spiders who stole him to a faraway lair. Their adventure reminded me of Secret of Nimh or The Lord of the Rings in that we follow a reluctant hero who rises to the occasion and shows their true self over the course of a challenging adventure. This is a terrific middle grade action-adventure story bulging with heart.

The Unforgettable Logan Foster #1

By Shawn Peters,

Book cover of The Unforgettable Logan Foster #1

Why this book?

Logan Foster is a character who will stick with you. His story is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that belongs in the halls of great comic-book-level adventure. And it is also an emotional journey for young Logan, who is seeking a family, wondering about his lost sibling, and looking to find a place in the world. His world just happens to be extraordinary in many action-packed ways. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and, yes, sometimes dad-joke groan-worthy too. Because of its combination of excitement and heart, this book has earned a well-deserved spot on this list.

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

By Kaela Rivera,

Book cover of Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Why this book?

I think of this book like I do the stories that tell of how the constellations were born. That is, it is epic and legendary and mythical, with a focus on Mexican and Mesoamerican lore. Cece Rios has heart—she’s trying to save her sister, after alland strength of character, and she’s extremely brave to go willingly to the criatura fights to stake her own creature against the might of the fantastical beasts pitted against one another. But she has to do it if she’s to win a chance at freeing her sister from El Sombrerón. With a sequel in the works, this series is sure to gain a following. And I’m one of them!

Frances and the Monster

By Refe Tuma,

Book cover of Frances and the Monster

Why this book?

A visual and cinematic adventure that sweeps you through a pre-WWII version of Switzerland, this Frankenstein-inspired story is jam-packed with action and humor. The primary characters are all idiosyncratic in a memorable way—Frances, who lost an ear in a car crash; Fritz, the monkey juiced up on intelligence serum; and Hobbes, the android tutor. Even the secondary characters are crafted with heart and colorfully distinct in their own respects. The cliff-hangers and twists pushed the action along and I’m sure this will be a story kids read late into the night wanting to find out what happens next. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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