Fantastic new fantasy books for middle grade kids

Kids won’t be bored for a minute this summer with these new fantasy books that take readers on wild journeys with space aliens, mer-people, magical animals, and supernatural powers. 

My hands-down favorite is Aliens on Vacation by local author Clete Barrett Smith. David dreads being sent to his grandmother’s “Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast” Inn for the summer. The tourists act and look odd. David sees a guest swallow squares of aluminum foil and drink bleach. These guests are aliens on vacation who enjoy dressing in disguise to explore the nearby town. Their imitations of “earth-speak” will keep you laughing. There’s trouble ahead as neighbor girl Amy starts to spy and her father, the Sheriff, wants to close the inn. When David takes some alien kids camping in the forest, it’s a comic delight with some bizarre consequences.

The Magnificent 12 is a new series by Michael Grant. It includes links to a website with online games. The first book, The Call, opens as 12-year-old Mack discovers that he is developing supernatural powers that come with a heavy price. Mack must travel around the world to find 12 other 12-year-olds who also have these powers. They must join together to become “the Magnifica” and battle an ancient evil that has arisen.  A wizard gives them some very cool tools: their own credit cards, iPhones, and access to a bank account (because saving the world can be very expensive).

13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison reveals the secrets of 13-year-old Tanya, who hides her ability to see into the dark and frightening fairy world. These are no Disney fairies—they can be anything from annoying to terrifying. When her mother sends her to spend a summer with her grandmother, she senses trouble in the creepy old house. A silver bracelet with 13 charms sparkles on the floor.  When Tanya places it on her wrist she meets the ghost of a girl who died over 50 years ago, and then her troubles really begin. 

It’s a world of magic spells at a school for young wizards in The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein. The wizards-in-training use “familiars,” animal helpers gifted and skilled with magic. A street-smart stray cat named Aldwyn sneaks into the school. He pretends to know spells, but he really just wants some yummy meals. Aldwyn forms a trio with a blue jay and a tree frog. Together they survive quests and tests and battle an evil sorceress.

Get ready for an exciting time travel experience in The Last Phoenix by Linda Chapman. In this wonder-filled adventure, a family of four kids finds an ancient phoenix bird. Her fiery gold feathers are dull with age, but she is the last of her kind on earth. She desperately needs their help. People have stolen some of her magical feathers and her powers are drained. The kids must travel back through time to bring back some of the rare substances she needs to lay a mystical egg that will hatch in fire into a strong phoenix. Ancient Egypt, the wild rainforest of Peru, and a dangerous volcano in Argentina are some of the places where the kids must travel in this story of danger and magic.

You might never want to go near the ocean again after you read Kid vs. Squid by Greg Van Eekhout. Thatcher spends the summer before seventh grade helping at his uncle’s beach boardwalk “Museum of the Strange and Curious.” The museum has shrunken heads, preserved sea creatures, a mermaid mummy and a “What-Is-It?” floating in a tank of alcohol. It looks like a monkey’s head to Thatcher, but it turns out to be the head of a powerful witch. Thatcher and his friend use their detective skills to find clues about the head. They find that the curse that goes with it is still very much alive. Watch out for the mutant mer-people! 


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