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.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Last Shadow Warrior

Why did I love 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.

By Sam Subity,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Last Shadow Warrior as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Percy Jackson meets Thor in a laugh-out-loud, action-packed adventure inspired by Norse mythology.

Twelve-year-old Abby Beckett is proud to come from a long line of elite Viking warriors known as the Aesir. She's spent her entire life training to hunt the horrific creatures known as Grendels--the ancient foe of the Aesir--just like her mother did before she died. But there's just one, small problem: No one has seen a Grendel in centuries, and the Viking Council wants to disband the Aesir . . . forever.

When her father is injured in an attack that leaves him in a coma, Abby…

Book cover of Journey Beyond the Burrow

Why did I love 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.

By Rina Heisel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Journey Beyond the Burrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


With the adventure of Avi’s Poppy series and the heart of A Wolf Called Wander, this charming and exciting middle grade adventure follows one mouse’s journey to save his baby brother from a sinister evil.

There are rules every mouse must follow if they’re to survive in the forest.

Tobin knows these guidelines by heart. After all, with one younger sibling, another on the way, and a best friend with a penchant for trouble-making, he needs to be prepared for anything.

But one stormy night, Tobin’s safe burrow is invaded by monstrous arachnids,…

Book cover of The Unforgettable Logan Foster

Why did I love 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.

By Shawn Peters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Unforgettable Logan Foster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Packed with superheroes, supervillains, and epic showdowns between good and evil, The Unforgettable Logan Foster from debut author Shawn Peter shows that sometimes being a hero is just about being yourself.

Logan Foster has pretty much given up on the idea of ever being adopted. It could have something to with his awkward manner, his photographic memory, or his affection for reciting curious facts, but whatever the cause, Logan and his "PP's" (prospective parents) have never clicked.

Then everything changes when Gil and Margie arrive. Although they aren't exactly perfect themselves-Gil has the punniest sense of humor and Margie's cooking…

Book cover of Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls

Why did I love 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!

By Kaela Rivera,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a powerful desert spirit kidnaps her sister, Cece Rios must learn forbidden magic to get her back, in this own voices middle grade fantasy perfect for fans of The Storm Runner and Aru Shah and the End of Time.

Living in the remote town of Tierra del Sol is dangerous, especially in the criatura months, when powerful spirits roam the desert and threaten humankind. But Cecelia Rios has always believed there was more to the criaturas, much to her family's disapproval. After all, only brujas-humans who capture and control criaturas-consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible crime.…

Book cover of Frances and the Monster

Why did I love 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.

By Refe Tuma,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frances and the Monster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What would you do if you accidentally brought a monster to life and set him loose on your town?

Adventurous and charming, this middle grade twist on Frankenstein features a precocious main character who does just that. Perfect for fans of Serafina and the Black Cloak and the Greenglass House series.

Frances Stenzel was just trying to prove her scientific worth to her parents so they would take her with them to their scientific symposiums for once-instead, she reawakened her great-grandfather's secret and most terrible invention.

Before it can destroy the town, she sets off after it, with her pet…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Vikings, foster care, and mice?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Vikings, foster care, and mice.

Vikings Explore 96 books about Vikings
Foster Care Explore 38 books about foster care
Mice Explore 19 books about mice

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Blue Mountain, A Wolf for a Spell, and The Voyage to Magical North if you like this list.