2013 Finalists: Speculative Fiction: Elementary & Middle Grade

Sage Blackwood
Nominated by: Brandy Painter

Deep in the dangerous forest of the Urwald, a boy named Jinx grows up in the home of a mysterious magician. Though Jinx is no apprentice mage, magic runs deep in him. When the magician steals part of that away, Jinx, devastated and furious, runs away into the forest. With two other travelers, a boy and a girl, each suffering from magical misfortunes of their own, Jinx sets out to find the Bonemaster, the dark wizard who might be able to set them free.  From the contemplative beginning of a boy growing up in mystery, the reader is plunged into adventure and danger as the threesome confront the perils of the Urwald and the terrible truth of the Bonemaster.  Jinx is a character to love, and his story, rich in imaginative details, is one to savor.

Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library

Jonathan Stroud
Disney Hyperion
Nominated by: lwad

Set in an alternate England, where ghosts stalk to kill, a strict curfew is put on all citizens so they will not be killed and become a part of the ghost plague that has lasted 50 years. When Lucy shows signs of hearing ghosts at a young age, she is enlisted to become an agent of the Psychic Investigations. A tragic accident leaves Lucy without work near her home and she decides to set out for London. With new colleagues and new cases, Lucy finds herself involved in a case that could make or break her career – or even end her life. A mix of horror and adventure, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a series that will engage readers until the very last page.

Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters

Holly Webb
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Nominated by: Sheila Ruth

In a Victorian London where magic is powerful, and sorcerers and alchemists have the ear of the monarch, Rose is a young girl growing up in an orphanage.  Taken into the home of the Court’s most important alchemist, she hopes for a safe and simple life as a servant. But strange things are happening to Rose. She can make pictures appear when she tells stories, she can see the house’s magic, and she can understand her new master’s cat when he speaks. When children begin to disappear all over London, Rose realizes she may be able to unravel the mystery if she’s willing to combine her unwanted magic with the resources of her ordinary life. Rose is an enchanting tale with magic, mystery, friendship, bravery, and the power of being yourself.  It is sure to delight any reader who picks it up.

Brandy Painter, Random Musings of a Bibliophile

John David Anderson
Walden Pond Press

Nominated by: Cecelia from Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

A story of super powers, dangerous villains . . .  and middle school. For Andrew Bean (a.k.a. The Sensationalist) being suspended over a swimming pool of acid is just one of the hazards of being a sidekick in training. Having hypersensitive hearing, smell, sight, touch and taste isn’t quite the same as being able to bench press a car; still, he embraces being a part of H.E.R.O., the secret organization that trains sidekicks and pairs them with full-fledged Supers as mentors. But his mentor is MIA. When an old enemy reappears in town and Andrew finds himself targeted, this Super-less sidekick will have to try and save the day.

Sidekicked decants superhero myth and legend, and melds it with the realities of middle school life from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old protagonist. Larger-than-life adventures of wildly powerful individuals touches dark side of being a superhero. Andrew’s powers may be super, but his observations and day-to-day struggles to understand the lines between good and evil are something every tween reader can identify with.

Stephanie Whalen, Views from the Tesseract

Brandon Sanderson
Tor Teen

Nominated by: diane

Joel is a scholarship student at the Armedius Academy, one of the leading schools for training Rithmatists–an elite band of magicians who can make chalk drawings come alive. In spite of his learning and ambitions, Joel cannot make living chalkings. His classmate Melody is the daughter of a long line of Rithmatists, and though she has magical ability, she doesn’t have the drive or the talent to pass the courses.  When a string of murders by “wild” chalkings happen on campus, they become unlikely partners in both chalk magic and detection. Full of twists and turns, Sanderson draws readers into the compelling, rich, and sometimes deadly magic of the chalklings.

Melissa Fox, Book Nut

Kathi Appelt
Nominated by: Bifoot Reads

Raccoon brothers J’miah and Bingo are official Sugar Man Swamp Scouts, and they know their duty: to be alert for trouble and to wake the legendary Sugar Man in case of emergencies. Never mind that no one has seen him for nearly 60 years! Nearby, 12 year-old (human) Chap Brayburn is mourning the death of his beloved grandfather Audie, and trying to figure out how to be the man of the house. When trouble comes to the swamp, J’miah, Bingo and Chap must each use all of their ingenuity and courage to save it, and themselves.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is a funny, beautifully written and environmentally friendly tale of familial love and the ways in which a specific spot in nature can become ‘home’ to the heart. J’miah, Bingo and Chap explore the swamp and discover some of its dangerous and wondrous secrets, and each tries to protect it in his own way.  This vivid adventure is especially charming read aloud, when the variety of animal and human voices come alive. A great pick for fans of Kate DiCamillo and The One and Only Ivan.

Cecelia Larsen, The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Megan Frazer Blakemore
Walker Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Cathy Potter

When Ephraim’s family moves to the Water Castle in Crystal Springs after his father has a stroke, Ephraim doesn’t expect all of his classmates to be smarter than him and know more about his family’s history.  Intrigued and desperate to help his father, he convinces Mallory, whose family has always served Ephraim’s, and Will, whose family has always feuded with Ephraim’s, to join with him and continue their ancestors’ search for the fountain of youth.

This slow-burning gem flows between the past and the present, science fiction and fantasy, concerns about family and race with questions about eternal life.  The young heroes of The Water Castle must question history and search for the truth themselves.  This engrossing adventure will appeal to the imaginations of a variety of readers, with its diverse trio of heroes and atmospheric setting.  Who could resist exploring.an old, strange castle that crackles with electricity, one filled with both danger and wonder?

Allie Jones, In Bed With Books