2012 Finalists: Fantasy & Science Fiction (Middle Grade)


by Kate Saunders
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Ms. YinglingWhen Flora, off to boarding school under duress, wakes up on the train to find that she’s now on her way to school way back in 1935, her horror is great. How will she survive? Though she manages to adapt to the nasty bathrooms, alien food, and strict education, and befriends the roommates who had accidentally summoned her back in time, she can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever get home again.

Beswitched is a Must Read for anyone who loves British boarding school stories, historical fiction and time travel, combining all three in an utterly delightful fashion. But its appeal is more general than that. Flora’s struggles with an alien time and its alien culture are convincing and very amusing, and her growth as a character, from selfish brat to good friend and decent person, make her story one that will resonate with many readers.

— Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities
by Mike Jung
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Jeannie MobleyWho says encyclopedic knowledge of superhero trivia isn’t an important skill? Vincent Wu knows more about Captain Stupendous than anyone. That must be why he’s the only one who notices a change in the Captain after he fights a giant robot and rescues Polly, a girl in Vincent’s class. And why is Polly suddenly interested in what Vincent knows about Captain Stupendous?

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities takes a light-hearted look at a world where superheroes are real, including humorous touches such as all kids having Stupendous Alerts
on their phones. Ultimately, Vincent needs all his allegedly useless knowledge to figure out how to save his family, his town, and the world. This science fiction adventure is a geek’s fantasy written in a way so everyone can enjoy the ride.

— Sondy Eklund, Sonderbooks

The Cabinet of Earths
by Anne Nesbet
Nominated by: Jessalynn Gale“It was his own grandmother who fed Henri-Pierre to the Cabinet of Earths, long ago when he was only four.” Now the strange and beautiful Cabinet is calling for another keeper—Maya, who’s only just arrived in Paris with her parents and her extraordinarily charming little brother James. But what exactly do Cabinet-Keepers keep? The answer is at the heart of debut author Nesbet’s shimmering fantasy: to find it, follow Maya through the door of 29 avenue Rapp (watch out for the bronze salamander!) and into the magical underworld of Paris, a place where science and magic combine to challenge mortality, morality…and Maya’s little brother.

— Anamaria Anderson, Books Together

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy
by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Nominated by: Natalie AguirreThis first book in the Ascendance trilogy begins in the midst of an episode of roast-theft. Our resourceful and inventive orphan-boy hero, Sage, soon becomes the unwilling servant of a man named Conner. Connor wants to use one of the four orphans he has purchased–or kidnapped–to save the kingdom of Carthya from civil war or takeover by a hostile neighboring kingdom. But after Conner chooses one boy to be his false prince and heir to the throne, what will happen to the others? In light of Conner’s ruthless character, it can’t be good.

Sage is a feisty and surprising character with plenty of hidden depth. The action and adventure are front and center in this non-magical tale set in a fantasy world, but children will also find lots of food for thought on the nature of courage and friendship and leadership in this rags to possible riches story. Readers may figure out some of the twists and turns of this tale of adventure and false identity, but they will question their own guesses every step of the way until the ending takes the unsuspecting reader completely by surprise and leaves us all wanting more.

— Sherry Early, Semicolon

The Last Dragonslayer (The Chronicles of Kazam)
by Jasper Fforde
Nominated by: itsmeerincMagic has been vanishing from the Ununited Kingdoms. Instead of the great magic once practiced, sorcerers find themselves using spells to unclog drains and magic carpets to make pizza deliveries. Ever since Mr. Zambini disappeared, fifteen-year-old Jennifer has been left to run Kazam Mystical Arts Management, where she must look after a building full of eccentric sorcerers and strange creatures. When an unusual upsurge in magic coincides with multiple predictions of the death of Maltcassion, the last dragon, Jennifer finds herself involved in even bigger magic–and with bigger responsibilities. The Last Dragonslayer is a humorous take on magic in the modern world, giving readers plenty of adventure while poking fun at high fantasy tropes. Readers will be left wanting a Quarkbeast of their own as they follow Jennifer’s madcap introduction to Dragonslaying and learn why Dragonslayers may occasionally be called upon to save dragons.

— Jessalynn Gale, Garish & Tweed

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
Nominated by: Bigfoot ReadsIvan, a mighty silverback gorilla captive since infancy, is resigned to his glassed-in life of staring humans, without a gorilla’s instinctive troop-protecting purpose. When his owner buys baby elephant Ruby–and after a mid-story climactic loss–Ivan questions his narrow existence and stops referring to his shopping-mall confinement as a “domain” and begins seeing it for what it is: a cage. Ivan bravely vows that he will save Ruby from his twenty-six-year fate.

Anthropomorphism can be a tricky business–finding the animal voice, yet giving it human depth–but Applegate not only pulls it off, she gives readers a character as existential as Wilbur and as stoic as Charlotte. Written in a prose-like economy of words befitting Ivan’s astute observations on life, the author captures the voice of a gorilla, but quietly speaks to the greater themes of humanity. As Ivan would say, “Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.”

— Cheryl Vanatti, Reading Rumpus

The Peculiar
by Stefan Bachmann
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Monica EdingerIn Victorian England, where faeries have been trapped for hundreds of years, a young halfling boy, Bartholomew, and his halfling sister Hattie survive by the mantra “don’t get noticed.” However, when the halfling boy across the street disappears, Bartholomew lets his curiosity get the better of him. He finds himself in a dangerous world of magic and fast-paced action, as he struggles to find out where and why nine half-breed children have been brutally murdered. And the stakes only get higher when Hattie is kidnapped. The Peculiar is a wholly original mix of mystery, steampunk and chilling faerie stories, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Stroud. With a dash of humor and definitely a hero (or two) to root for, this one is sure to have everyone clamoring for the next book in the series.

— Melissa Fox, Book Nut