Sara's Top Ten Middle Grade Books of 2014

Sara is Brilliant Books' Children's Specialist.

Her knowledge and passion for everything from Picture Books to YA is unparalleled.

Here are her Middle Grade picks for 2014

Check out Sara's blog The Hiding Spot for more Middle Grade book news, info, prizes and challenges.


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The Night Gardener By Jonathan Auxier Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781419711442
Published: Amulet Books - May 20th, 2014

"This much-anticipated follow-up to Jonathan Auxier’s exceptional debut, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, is a Victorian ghost story with shades of Washington Irving and Henry James. More than just a spooky tale, it’s also a moral fable about human greed and the power of storytelling."

I don't know if literary Middle Grade is a real thing, but, if it is, The Night Gardener would fit the classification. This is a book that I would hand to both a 9 year old and an adult and expect them both to fall in love.

Staff Pick Badge
El Deafo By Cece Bell Cover Image
ISBN: 9781419712173
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: Amulet Books - September 2nd, 2014

In El Deafo, Cece Bell recounts her experience as the girl with the sonic ear, a hearing device that sets her apart, for better and worse. At first, Cece resents the hearing aide, which is bulky and awkward. It helps her hear, but it definitely doesn't allow her to blend in. All Cece truly wants is a true friend, someone who likes what she likes and, most of all, likes Cece for exactly who she is. A memorable story about friendship, standing up for oneself, and the joy of being a true individual.

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A Snicker of Magic By Natalie Lloyd Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780545552707
Published: Scholastic Press - February 25th, 2014

Felicity Pickle travels the country with her mother and little sister, never staying in one place for long. Her mother is cursed with a wandering heart, but the girls are used to it. Felicity is always on the watch for signs that her mother's read to head somewhere new and her sister carries a suitcase filled with her most precious possessions everywhere she goes. As the Pickle women roll into Midnight Gulch, the town where Felicity's mama grew up, Felicity considers the stories she's heard about the small town... stories that tell of Midnight Gulch as a town once filled with happy families gifted with magical abilities, now cursed. Her mother tells her that Midnight Gulch has lost it's magic, but Felicity isn't so sure.

Felicity is a "word collector." She sees words sparkling and curling and darting through the air and hovering over family, friends, and strangers. She's collected most words you can imagine - and even some you can't - in her special notebook, but, in Midnight Gulch, Felicity is seeing words she's never seen before, like "home" and "friend." And, for maybe the first time, Felicity comes to dread the signs that her mother's wandering heart is yearning for adventure.

With the help of Jonah, a new friend that has a few magical secrets of his own, Felicity begins to unravel the curse of the mysterious Brothers Threadbare, the curse that drained Midnight Gulch of its magic.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing (Mo & Dale Mysteries) By Sheila Turnage Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780803736719
Published: Kathy Dawson Books - February 4th, 2014

Sheila Turnage's second book starring Mo LoBeau and her best friend Dale is both a fantastic continuation of their story and perfect starting point for readers new to Tupelo Landing. This standalone companion to Three Times Lucky takes readers back to Tupelo Landing and lands them right in the middle of a new mystery with amateur sleuths Mo and Dale. The Desperado Detective Agency has a new case after Miss Lana accidentally purchases Tupelo's Landing's Inn... with a ghost in the fine print. With the help of the new kid in town, Mo and Dale decide the ghost's identity and figure out why she's sticking around a dusty old inn. Plus, if they interview her for their school project, they'll get extra credit! As the ghost's story is revealed, Mo and Dale learn that people, not just buildings, can be haunted by the past.

Brown Girl Dreaming By Jacqueline Woodson Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399252518
Availability: Not Currently In-Store; May require 2-3 days before shipping
Published: Nancy Paulsen Books - August 28th, 2014

"Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become."

This book is obviously beloved by many, after all, you don't win the National Book Award for nothing. Brown Girl Dreaming is so incredibly beautiful. I read it aloud to myself and then, on a road trip, read most of it aloud to a friend - once you start reading you won't be able to put it down.