How awful was it to finish the last Harry Potter and know there was no new one coming- ever? The only antidote to the empty lost-a-friend feeling you get from finishing a favorite series is to discover a new one. Luckily, we both agree that two of the best Tween/EA series to be written in decades (yup- as good as Harry!!!) have books published this year: The third (and final) book in The Hunger Games series is coming in August, and The Red Pyramid, the first in Rick Riordan’s new series just came out. (His previous one was the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.) So with those, and these other great ones, here are lots of friends to make and look forward to seeing again (and again!).
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
Austin and Berkeley, the “big” twins in our family, told us that the Fablehaven Series is what has been keeping them–and their sixth-grade friends–enthralled lately. We agree it’s a gripping, well-written adventure in the tradition of–yes, Harry Potter. Fablehaven itself is one of several secret preserves for magical creatures. Seth and his sister Kendra go the estate to visit their grandfather, who it turns out is the caretaker of this wild and fantastic preserve. There are the range of exotic mystical creatures: trolls, fairies, golums, satyrs, giants, and imps. The story is fast-paced and suspenseful, as Kendra and Seth delve deeper into the mysteries of Fablehaven, learning more and more about mythical creatures, and discovering the many dangers that await mortals who dare to trespass and “break the rules.” Wonderful escapist literature. The fifth book was recently released, so families have a summer’s worth of read-aloud potential in this series.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The simple plot description is misleading: “In a dystopic future, kids are forced to kill each other in a televised game that all citizens are forced to watch.” Interesting, but it’s been done before. The first few pages are also misleading- Katniss’ younger sister is selected to play in the Games, and she volunteers to take her place. It’s heart-wrenching and makes you want to put the book down and cry. Persevere, and you find a book that is utterly original and captivating, deep, thoughtful and thought provoking. Collins masterfully lets you learn about this future world a bit at a time, so that while you never feel like you’ve been told anything, at the end, you have a very clear picture of the country, the capitol, the people and a sense of a coming revolution. You have just enough time to read this and the follow up (Catching Fire) before the release of the third and final installment (The Mockingjay)comes out in August.
The Eternal Hourglass: The Magickeepers Series by Erika Kirov
Books about magicians and the battle of Good versus Evil are very much in demand in the world of children’s literature these days. So it’s a pleasure to discover a new series that appeals to fans of this genre, and is also a captivating, well-written saga that parents and teachers can enjoy with their kids. On his thirteenth birthday, Nick discovers he is a member of a magical family destined to protect important artifacts from the evil Shadowkeepers. This discovery requires his move to Las Vegas, and becoming an apprentice to Damian, a star attraction in the magician circuit. As he discovers his powers, Nick learns about his family’s Russian history and traditions and how his own destiny is linked with such historical figures as the czars and Rasputin. The Eternal Hourglass is the name of an especially powerful relic that has the power to stop time. This first in the series sets the stage for the adventures that follow. Nick is a terrific character and we’re eager to follow his journey in the upcoming books in the series. Watch for our review of the recently released Book 2 in June!
Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Kat’s mom is a professional medium, so she’s grown up with the idea of communicating with the ghostly world. But it’s not until her own magical thirteen birthday that she, too, starts experiencing supernatural encounters with spirits herself. Kat just wants to be “normal,” but gets drawn into helping new friends in the spirit world, like the ghost of a flute-playing student. Middle schoolers will identify with the real-world situations of school culture. It’s an entertaining read, and the emotions that Kat goes through as she comes to grips with her other-worldly talents are believable, as is her friendship with the pop-culture-loving Jac, her best-friend. Three in the series so far–stay tuned for even more!
Escape the Mask: The Grassland Trilogy by David Ward
The Spears rule the Grasslands without a shred of care or compassion for the slaves they force to gather “shards” for use in their perpetual wars. Coriko and his partner Pippa are two of those slaves, captured as young children and dependent on each other for friendship and survival. Clever and surprising plot twists keep the reader guessing about what will happen next. The characters are believable and develop slowly throughout the series. Escape the Mask is the first of a trilogy, exploring ideas of the horrors of war, freedom, friendship and the power of community. The fantasy world is believable and the story suspenseful and compelling. The series makes an interesting companion to The Hunger Games as another dystopia where children band together and are forced to rely on each other rather than adults. Moral decisions are at the heart of both these series and would be perfect for sparking whole-family discussions over the summer months.
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
If you loved Percy Jackson, all you need to know is that this is the new series by the same author. Instead of the unsuspecting teenage descendants of Greek Gods needing to save the world, this time it’s the unsuspecting teenage sibling descendants of Egyptian Gods that have to save the world. But it’s not simply the next verse, same as the first. These characters are well drawn and very realistic- mixing sibling rivalry and first crushes nicely with saving the world and wielding newfound superpowers. The universe of Egyptian Gods is less well known than their Greek counterparts, and Riordan explains it succinctly, entertaining while informing. It kind of makes you want to read up a bit on Egyptian history and mythology while waiting for the next installment in the Kane Family Series…
Found (The Missing Series) by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Thirty-six babies mysteriously arrive by plane at a gate in an airport. No one is flying the plane. Who are these babies? Where did they come from? Flash forward thirteen years to Jonah and his new friend Chip, who both receive mysterious letters telling them that they are the missing, and that someone is coming back to get them. Jonah, his sister Katherine, and Chip start investigating what’s behind these letters. This book does a fantastic job of keeping you guessing and intrigued, only to find out at the end that knowing the truth is just the beginning of the adventure.