A Fantastical Middle-Grade Monday! (and a contest!)

Yay! It’s time for my second post here at The Mixed-Up Files—I guess that means I haven’t scared everyone away with my shenanigans! (yet…)

And when I realized they’d assigned me a Monday post I was SUPER excited. (if you can’t tell by the all caps). I run a regular feature on my blog called “Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday” (*coughs* shameless self promotion *coughs*) where I feature a favorite middle-grade book or author and host a giveaway. So I thought…why not do something similar here?

But since this is the Mixed-Up Files—a whole other level of awesome—I realized I needed to go a little bigger than that. So I’m not just featuring a book or author. I’m featuring an ENTIRE GENRE. And yes—there will be a giveaway!!!! Make sure you keep reading so you don’t miss out.

It was really hard to pick a genre (I love them all so much) but I settled on middle-grade fantasy because it’s not only what I read and write, but because it’s a category thats SO dominated by two HUMONGOUS series (Harry Potter and Percy Jackson) that a lot of people may not realize how many other amazing books there are to choose from. So I’m shining the spotlight on a few of my favorites, like:

For the traditional fantasy fan: FABLEHAVEN, by Brandon Mull

Basic Concept: A brother and sister stay with their grandparents for the summer, and discover the house is part of a secret preserve for magical creatures–both good and bad. Ages: 8-12

Why it’s awesome: Kendra and Seth are hilarious characters. The plot is action packed and keeps you on your toes. And while it has everything you could want from a fantasy book (fairies and monsters and magic–oh my!), Mull puts his own twist on everything to keep it fresh and original. You’ll find yourself wishing you could take a long swig of magical milk like the characters, and have your eyes opened to a whole new world too.

For those craving something different: THE BRIMSTONE KEY, by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis

Basic Concept: The four friends known as “the Grey Griffins” discover that starting  a new school is harder than they thought. Especially when the Clockwork King returns with an evil plot to steal the souls of changelings. Ages 8-12.

Why it’s awesome: Take everything you love about fantasy, then add Steampunk. The end result is 100% cool. Technically this is a continuation of the Grey Griffins trilogy (which is also awesome, btw), but it’s written so that new readers will easily be able to understand what’s going on. And with four very unique, very hilarious characters, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

For the younger, or reluctant reader: THE FIELD GUIDE (Spiderwick Chronicles, vol. 1), by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

Basic Concept: With the help of Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, the Grace siblings discover their great-aunt’s run down old house is actually surrounded by magical creatures. And seeing them is only the beginning of the adventure. Ages 6-10.

Why it’s awesome:  How they crammed so much story into so few pages still amazes me. They definitely bring new meaning to ‘making every word count.’ Older kids will read it faster, but everyone will love it. It’s hilarious, suspenseful, and full of adventures. Not to mention the GORGEOUS illustrations throughout the book. Tony’s art is in a category all its own.

For the fairy tale lover: THE FAIRY TALE DETECTIVES  (Sisters Grimm, book 1), by Michael Buckley

Basic Concept: When Daphne and Sabrina Grimm move to Fairyport Landing to stay with their Granny Relda, they discover that not only are all fairy tales real, but that as Grimms, it’s their family’s responsibility to investigate and solve any magical crimes in the town. Ages 9-11.

Why it’s awesome:  A town where Prince Charming has to live with all 3 of his Exes (Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty)? I was sold right there. The concept is hilariously original, and the fast paced mystery will keep you guessing.

For those craving another boy wizard in their life: MAGYK (Septimus Heap, book 1), by Angie Sage

Basic Concept: Septimus Heap–the seventh son of a seventh son–is stolen from his parent’s home the night he’s born. That same night, his father finds a baby girl abandoned in the snow and decides to raise her as their own. So what happened to Septimus? And where did this mysterious girl come from? Ages 9-12.

Why it’s awesome:  It may be about a boy wizard, but Septimus is definitely not Harry Potter. Filled with quirky, hilarious characters and set in an imaginative, high-fantasy world, this book keeps you racing through those pages till the very end.

For girls: THE TAIL OF EMILY WINDSNAP, by Liz Kessler

Basic Concept: Emily Windsnap never understood why her mother tried to keep her away from the water. Until she jumps in the pool and discovers she’s a mermaid. Then she finds out there’s a whole other world she belongs to. New friends to make. And a father she’s never met before. Ages 8-12.

Why it’s awesome:  Okay, it’s really NOT just for girls. But I’m listing it that way because so often in this genre it seems like the books are written a little more for boy readers. And this book is chock full of girlie goodness. Mermaids. Best Friends. Words like “swishy.” Girls will gobble this up. But there’s plenty of plot to keep everyone happy. Even boys.

For those who like bad boys: ARTEMIS FOWL, by Eoin Colfer

Basic Concept: Twelve-year-old evil genius, Artemis Fowl kidnaps a fairy as part of an plan to increase the Fowl Family fortune. But when dealing with magic and fairies, things never go according to plan. Especially since he’s not as evil as he thinks he is. Ages 9-12

Why it’s awesome:  I love anti-heroes, when they’re done right. And Artemis is definitely done right. He’s not a good guy. But he’s not a bad guy either. Leaving you wondering who to root for as the story unfolds. Bonus: the hilarious way Colfer has reinvented magical creatures is GENIUS. The perfect blend of magic, technology, and pure imagination.

For fans of the classics: PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Basic Concept: Ever wonder how Peter Pan ended up in Never Land, or why he can fly and why he doesn’t grow up? Well, after reading this you’ll have some ridiculously cool answers to those questions. Ages 9-12

Why it’s awesome: I never realized how much story there was to Peter’s life until I found this book. The writing is smart and funny, and the plot is high stakes and full of twists and turns. Plus the back story the writers came up with for all the famous characters and Never Land is so amazingly cool. Love what they did with it.

I could keep going–seriously, I’ve barely tipped the iceberg here–but I don’t want this post to stretch on endlessly. That should be enough to give you a good sample of some of the wonderful choices out there.

Not sure how many of you have heard of these books–they’re all pretty popular so most likely you have–but I chose them because, well, they’re some of my favorites. But also because–as I tried to convey with my titles–I think these books, as a group, kind of represent “a little something for everyone.” Bonus: they’re all book one in a series. So if you (or your child) get hooked on the story, there are more books to turn to. I love when that happens.

Which brings me to the giveaway. I know books are expensive to buy, and as the economy makes everyone tighten their budgets, sometimes there just isn’t enough money for all the books we want. So in that vein, I’m giving three books away today!!! That’s right–THREE lucky winners will win one of these books I’ve just featured. Even better–you get to choose which book you win!!

*tosses confetti*

To enter, leave a comment on this post between now and Monday, February 7th. Make sure you include your name, and the name of the book you’d like to win. I’ll draw three random winners and post their names on Tuesday, February 8th. Easy peasy, right?

So what are you waiting for? Put in your entry–you have THREE CHANCES TO WIN!

Ready? Set? Go!


Shannon Messenger is a middle-grade fantasy writer repped by Laura Rennert with Andrea Brown Literary. She may get older every day, but she refuses to grow up, and probably owns more toys than most of the children she knows. But that’s okay–it’s research for her writing. Or so she likes to claim. 😉

  1. Hi! Thank you so much for the recomendations! Some books really get overshadowed by big series.
    I’d love to read Fablehaven. I was supposed to get a copy a while back but it got lost in the mail 🙁

  2. Would love to be able to read Fablehaven with my son. (O.k., maybe I would read it first.) Am familiar with some, but not all, of the books on the list – Emily Windsnap and Magyk were a big hit with kids in the school at which I worked.

  3. I love the sound of the Tail of Emily Windsnap, especially because I used to pretend I was a mermaid when I was a little girl! Awesome!

  4. Can I add to the list of WONDERFUL fantasy books? WATERSMEET, by Ellen Jensen Abbott. And lucky us, the sequel’s due out in September!
    Put me down for the The Tail of Emily Windsnap:)

  5. Love MG Fantasy! So hard to choose…

  6. Fantastic post! at our house we LOVE The Sisters Grimm (Mindy you’ll love the Fairy Tale Detectives), Septimus Heap, Artemis Fowl, Spiderwick, Fablehaven, and the Peter Series.. I thought we were near to exhausting fantastic MG fantasy series and am so glad to hear about the Grey Griffins… Thanks for a great post (and don’t worry about entering me, since I’m on the team here at Mixed UP Files…)

  7. Fantastic post, Shannon. All of the the books look fantastic, but I think I’ll start with The Fairy Tale Detectives. Off to buy it (since I can’t be entered). Thanks for adding some fun fantasy to my must-read pile.

  8. Yay! I’ve been wanting to read the Artemis Fowl books for a while so I’d love to win that one!

  9. I would love to play for Sisters Grimm Please 😀

  10. You named a few of my favorite middle-grade series but there were two I hadn’t even heard of so I need to get reading.

    I’d love to win Fablehaven. The copy in my school library is worn out–I was noticing it in particular because just today, a student just came in to borrow it for her fifth time. It’s her favorite book.

  11. THE FIELD GUIDE (Spiderwick Chronicles, vol. 1), by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. try to win something for my Son 🙂

  12. The Fairy Tale Detectives – love it!

  13. Thanks for pointing me in this site’s direction, Shannon! I have one avid reader and one reluctant reader in the house and The Tail Of Emily Windsnap sounds right up her alley. Thanks for the chance to win!

  14. Thanks for all the comments guys! I’m trying not to reply much, because I don’t want to throw of the comment count. But yes, international entries are welcome. And glad you like the books featured. They’re all my favorites! 🙂

  15. I pick The Tale of Emily Windsnap. I have read the others and agree, they are _great_! Thanks for the chance to win……!