Saturday, July 16, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Summer Reads, mid-July edition

I’ve read some wonderful middle grade novels so far this summer, and there’s a tall stack still waiting for me. My Son Number Two, who is my great reader, has confirmed all these endorsements. Kid tested, mother approved.

The Shadows: The Book of Elsewhere, volume 1, by Jacqueline West, 2010.
Olive is certain something’s moving inside the paintings on the wall of the rambling old house her parents just bought. Cats can talk, and mysterious glasses let Olive enter the paintings and talk to the sad and trapped paint people inside. A fun and frightful new series beginner.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, book one: The Mysterious Howling, 2010, and book two, The Hidden Gallery, 2011, by Maryrose Wood.
These first two titles in a new series employ an original premise that successfully uses oh-so-familiar story elements in a whimsical Victorian setting and voice. Mystery, humor, and satire mix happily with sinister (yet unidentified) villains, high-minded governesses, frivolous society brides, and children actually raised by wolves. We gobbled these. In fact, my son and I squabbled over who got to read them first. The alpha wolf in our house won, naturally.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, 1986.
How did I miss this book? The first page was so scrumptiously brilliant I groaned with envy and squealed with delight, both together. When the Witch of the Waste casts a spell upon Sophie, an eldest daughter whose only talent seems to be making stylish hats, she turns into a ninety year old woman, and hobbles off to seek her fortune. The only place willing to give shelter to an old hag is the moving castle belonging to the notorious Wizard Howl, who is said to devour young girls. Newly old Sophie feels safe enough, and signs on as Howl’s cleaning lady. Classic Wynne Jones; this provocative collision-of-worlds tale rests solidly on fairy-tale bedrock but offers satisfying complexity, and irresistible, unforgettable characters. I’m reading a sequel now.

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