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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Best Middle Grade Novels of 2014

The main things that I consider when making my end of the year lists are: Which books did I enjoy AND am still thinking about and able to clearly remember details about, even after reading 300+ books this year? If I remember loving a book, but I can't remember the characters' names or details about the book, I don't add it to the list. Also, I only included books that were published in 2014 here - I would have gone crazy trying to fit in the 2015 releases too! 

And of course I cheated and tacked some 'honorable mentions' on to the end. You didn't really think I'd stick to just ten, did you?

Check out my Best Young Adult Novels of 2014 post here!

Best Middle Grade Novels of 2014

The Glass Sentence (The Mapmaker's Trilogy #1) by S.E. Grove

Penguin / June 2014 /More Info

Sophia Tims is a girl who knows how to take care of herself. She comes from a long line of explorers and, following the Great Disruption of 1799, an event that disrupted the continuity of time, explorers and cartographers live a rather dangerous life. Sophia's parents, two renowned explorers, have been missing for years, leaving Sophia to be raised by her Uncle Shadrack, a noted cartographer. When Shadrack informs Sophia that he believes they might be able to find her parents, Sophia begins training in cartography, a delicate craft that is more wondrous than she ever imagined. Just as she begins her training, Shadrack is kidnapped. In order to save him, Sophia must set out into the turbulent world outside of 1891 Boston, where every day could mean a new age and unknown foes.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Amulet / May 2014 / More Info

"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.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Amulet / September 2014 / More Info

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.

Knightley & Son by Rohan Gavin

Bloomsbury / April 2014 / More Info

For the past four years, Darkus' investigator father has been in a coma. In an attempt to learn as much as he can about the detective business and his father, Darkus spent countless hours poring over his dad's old cases. When his father suddenly wakes, he's immediately pulled back into his last case. Darkus is just happy to have his dad back and, this time around, he's set on making the detective biz a family affair. When reports of seemingly unprovoked crimes start making the news and the only detail that connects them is a book currently on the bestseller list, Darkus and his father set out to solve the case.

Knightley & Son has a compelling mystery, sinister villains, seriously funny characters, and family drama readers are sure to identify with. Plus it has a distinctly Sherlockian air, which I loved!

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / February  2014 / More Info

When 14-year-old dogsled racer Victoria sets out for her neighbor's with a small team of dogs, her biggest concern is making it back home before her mom realizes she's gone. Things take an unexpected turn when she happens upon a snowmobile accident and a dazed boy she doesn't recognize. With the snowmobile out of the equation, Victoria must make sure the boy gets back home safely. With instructions from the boy, she sets of in search of his house. Before long Victoria realizes that they're heading further and further into the wilderness and, by the time the boy admits he might not know the woods as well as he implied, Victoria, the boy, and her dogs are stranded with night and frigid temperatures quickly approaching. Things get even more complicated - and deadly - when their map is lost and the small amount of food Victoria packed is quickly consumed, leaving Victoria with little more than her wits to rely on if the group is going to survive the fierce Alaskan wilderness.

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Penguin / March 2014 / More Info

Renaissance secrets, World War II tragedy, and present day drama build to an unforgettable crescendo in Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s middle grade debut starring Theodora Tenpenny, an intelligent, self-reliant girl who stumbles upon a mystery that spans decades, continents, and oceans. When Theodora, startled by an unexpected rodent, spills rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers the unimaginable. Beneath the innocuous painting of an egg, Theodora finds what appears to be a Renaissance masterpiece. Excitement and worry war within Theodora; her grandfather’s sudden death left Theo and her mother with a mere $463 and a mysterious message to “look under the egg” to the Tenpenny name, which is not enough to keep their ramshackle house standing, nor to keep them in food for any length of time. Theo’s mother spends her days lost in math formulas and theorems and is more Theo’s responsibility than guardian, so Theo is on her own. Perhaps this is the answer to the riddle of her grandfather’s last words… But Theo worries that the painting was not acquired through strictly legal channels. After all, her grandfather had access to priceless art as security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and why would he hide something that was rightfully his? Thus begins Theo’s search for the painting’s origins and the meaning of her grandfather’s last words. Secrets, some centuries old, some decades, some only a matter of weeks, days, and hours, come to light, forever changing the landscape of Theo’s and countless others’ lives. A sophisticated mystery featuring a resilient and intrepid protagonist, Under the Egg is middle grade literature at its best.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Scholastic / February 2014 / More Info

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.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Random House / January 2014 / More Info

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, her sister, Alice, and their father, the world's leading expert on swords, leave home for a foreign city where it always snows. Ophelia's father has been hired to curate a museum exhibit and, while exploring the museum, a confusing, drafty place full of curiosities, Ophelia discovers an abandoned room. Within the room is a small door. On the other side of the door, is a boy. As you might expect, this is no ordinary boy, but a Marvelous Boy, the prisoner of the sinister Snow Queen. The Queen has kept him prisoner for near 300 years and he's been waiting for Ophelia. Only she can help him defeat the Queen... and time is running out. Scientifically-minded Ophelia must look within herself - and to the memory of mother - to find the magic she holds within herself. A gorgeous retelling of The Snow Queen and an unforgettable story about friendship, love, and grief, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is sure to be loved by readers of all ages.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

Penguin / February 2014 / More Info

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 Jacquelyn Woodson

Penguin / August 2014 / More Info

"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.

Very Honorable Mentions

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan & John Parke Davis
Little, Brown / November 2014 / More Info

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Macmillan / October 2014 / More Info

Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve; Sarah McIntyre
Random House / July 2014 / More Info

Legacy of the Claw (Animas #1) by C.R. Grey
Disney-Hyperion / October 2014 / More Info

Almost Super by Marion Jensen
Harper Collins / January 2014 / More Info 

Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
Random House/ March 2014 / More Info

How to Outrun a Crocodile With Your Shoes Untied by Jess Keating
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky / June 2014 / More Info

The Only Thing Worse Than Witches by Lauren Magaziner
Penguin /  August 2014 / More Info


  1. Agreed, Quinn! I haven't done an actual count, but I might have read more MG than YA this year... Which would be a first for me!

  2. I think this list will be fantastic to get me to read a lil more MG and the perfect reference for books as gifts for the kids around me!

  3. Ooh excellent list! I agree with so many of those! :) I loved Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy too. Almost Super was amazingggg! I read more MG this year than YA. :) I think I'll have to compose a list too
    -Dee @ Dee's Reads

  4. Great list! I haven't read any great middle grade books in a while, I might consider these books as recommendations from you. Every book in this list seem fun! <3

  5. I rarely ever read MG books, but 4 of these are on my TBR so I guess I'm going to try and read them next year!

  6. I love, love, love A Snicker of Magic. One of my favorite reads! So happy to see it on your best of list. ;) I have to read some of the others you mentioned!


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