Seventeen years since he first appeared in print form, Harry Potter is not going away. Indeed, why should he? J. K. Rowling's series is still as popular as ever; as kids come of age to meet her hero and his friends. I think this is mainly because of Rowling's immense skill as a writer. She knows how to create a fantasy world and combine it with a great school story, hit on the major moral issue of good versus evil, develop engaging characters, add attention-catching details (i.e. Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and Quidditch), and successfully create a story arc over a long series. The first Harry Potter novel (check out the new American covers here) is extremely well executed, and it stuns me that Rowling didn't lose her touch throughout six additional installments.
We all know that no more Harry Potter books are coming, but that doesn't mean the end of quality, exciting fantasy literature for kids roughly nine to 13 years old is in sight. In fact, in the last twelve or so months, some really great chapter books have been published that suit Harry Potter fans to a "t." Check out these new additions to the "what to read after Harry Potter" cannon, and enjoy!
Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen (2014)
Starred reviews in School Library Journal and in Booklist:
[Gabriel] along with Paladin; Septimus, a former inmate who knows his father; and three school friends, sets out to rescue of his father and, in essence, save the world. Hagen has crafted a tale that contains riddles, magic, courage, loyalty, and compassion in a way that is sure to engage readers. Gabriel inhabits a dark world where friendship is the guiding light and differences are respected and valued. This is a great read for fantasy lovers who have worn out their copies of "Harry Potter." The ending suggests that more is to come, and more will be welcome. -- School Library Journal
Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson (2014)
This is the second installment in The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. The third installment is due later in 2015.
Hilary Westfield is now a bona fide pirate, but when her daring, her magical know-how, and even her gargoyle don’t convince the VNHLP that she’s worthy of her title, the Terror of the Southlands, she sets off with her crew on a High Seas adventure. But then Miss Pimm disappears and Hilary decides to find the missing Enchantress and protect the magic of Augusta.
The Last Ever After by Soman Chaining (July 2015)
This is the third book in The School of Good and Evil trilogy.
Former best friends Sophie and Agatha thought their ending was sealed when they went their separate ways, but their storybook is about to be rewritten—and this time theirs isn't the only one. With the girls apart, Evil has taken over and the forces of Good are in deathly peril. Will Agatha and Sophie be able to work together to save them? Will they find their way to being friends again? And will their new ending be the last Ever After they've been searching for?
Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George (2014)
This is the third book in the Castle Glower series. The fourth is expected in Fall 2015.
Castle Glower's towers have transported Princess Celie, her siblings, and her pet griffin, Rufus, to an unknown land. As they set out on a dangerous adventure to discover their whereabouts, they find an entire lost people, divided by the wishes of two wizards in a centuries-old quarrel over their beloved home--Castle Glower.
The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning by Chris Colfer (2014)
This is the third book in the Land of Stories series. The fourth title is set to be published in July 2015.
This delightful installment brings listeners back into Colfer's unique fairy tale realm with twins Conner and Alex Bailey. Alex has settled into her training as a fairy godmother, while Conner is forced to work his way through school trying to be "normal," which is very difficult when you have fairy blood ... Familiarity with previous installments is not completely necessary to follow the story; however, listeners will most likely want to hear the first two and will definitely be clamoring for the fourth due to the epic cliff-hanger. A great choice for fantasy and fractured fairy tales enthusiasts. -- School Library Journal review of audio version
Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks (February 2015)
Starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers Weekly.
[A] sparkling children’s book debut in a novel that bridges and blurs reality and fantasy, while offering a tantalizing spin on the notion of story. Tuesday McGillycuddy lives with her language-loving father and author mother... When Tuesday’s mother disappears ... Tuesday types “The End” on her mother’s typewriter, hoping she’ll reappear. When she doesn’t, Tuesday starts writing her own story (“Maybe what we need is a beginning”). As she types, the words transform into silvery threads that transport Tuesday and her dog, Baxterr, to a world reserved for authors, where she enlists Vivienne’s help to find her mother. With cinematic imagery and keen wit, the authors construct an inventive novel that raises intriguing questions about the relationship between authors and their characters, and reaches “The End” all too soon. -- Publishers Weekly
Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson (2014)
Starred reviews in Publishers' Weekly and Kirkus
[T]his magnetic middle-grade debut imagines an alien world where 13-year-old Piper survives by working as a scrapper, salvaging artifacts left behind by meteor storms. Her life transforms when she rescues a mysterious girl in the aftermath of one such storm: Anna is brilliant yet disoriented, and she sports a tattoo signifying that she is held under the protection o fthe king of the Dragonfly territories. Piper knows that a reward awaits her if she returns Anna safely to her home ... Piper and her new ally, the enigmatic Gee, exhibit maturity and resourcefulness at every turn in a page-turner that defies easy categorization and ought to have broad appeal. -- Publishers' Weekly
Dreamwood by Heather Mackey (2014)
Starred review in Kirkus
Lucy Darrington, on the run from a terrifically boring and lonely boarding school, is searching for her father, a ghostologist, in this sharp new story ... Mackey’s descriptions of the creatures and hazards of the dreamwood are gorgeous and lush, a fantastic setting for a fantastic tale. -- Booklist
The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis (2014)
Starred reviews in four children's book review journals
2014 Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book
2014 Booklist Editors' Choice
2014 Chicago Public Library Best Book
Trapped aboard a ship sailing the Pirate Stream, a waterway that meanders between myriad worlds, 12-year-old Marrill must help her new friends find the scattered pieces of the Map to Everywhere if she has any hope of getting home. Unfortunately, an ancient, insane wizard also seeks the Map; if he gets it first, he could destroy all of creation ... Fast-paced and imaginative, this adventure combines action with whimsy, injecting emotion and pathos into an otherwise lighthearted romp. It’s a strong start for what promises to be a highly enjoyable series. -- Publishers Weekly
Story Thieves by James Riley (January 2015)
Starred review in Kirkus
Here’s a whole new look at getting lost in your favorite book. Bethany is half fictional and has the ability to jump into any book. Her father was lost in a book years before, and since then Bethany has been trying to figure out which book it was. When her classmate Owen discovers Bethany’s secret, he wants nothing more than to jump into his favorite fantasy series, Kiel Gnomenfoot. Though Bethany is reluctant to share her ability due to her self-styled rules (no messing with the book’s story, no talking to characters), she relents, believing in a spell that might help locate her dad. Of course, things go wrong, characters come out of the book and into the real world, and their fictional adventures become all too real. Aimed at avid readers (the Kiel stories are a spoof of the Harry Potter books), this series starter is packed with humor, adventure, and twists, and it bodes quite well for the second volume. Giddy, book-based fun. -- Booklist
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (2014)
Starred reviews in Booklist and Kirkus
It’s Christmas break and adopted Milo and his parents are looking forward to a vacation all to themselves at Greenglass House, the inn where they live ... When five unusual guests unexpectedly arrive, and their belongings—which all have something to do with the house—start disappearing, Milo finds himself at the heart of a real mystery ... The puzzling mystery is perfectly matched by the offbeat world of Nagspeake, a fictional harbor town enhanced by folklore and history rich enough to sound convincingly real, and the dreamy Greenglass House, with its enviable attic, snug corners, and thrilling past ... An enchanting, empowering, and cozy read. -- Booklist
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (2014)
Starred reviews in four children's book review journals. Read my review here.
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2014
In this appropriately frosty take on The Snow Queen, Foxlee (The Midnight Dress) introduces 11-year-old Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, who’s asthmatic, pragmatic, curious, and braver than she realizes. Ophelia’s family, shattered after her mother’s death, is visiting an unnamed snowy city so her father can curate an exhibition of swords. Exploring the strange, icy, and nearly empty museum, Ophelia discovers the long-imprisoned Marvelous Boy, who recruits her to help him save the world from the Snow Queen ... Foxlee’s writing is elegant and accessible, with a pervading melancholy; this is as much a story of loss as it is an adventure. [I]t’s in Foxlee’s evocation of the museum’s unsettling dangers, as well as Ophelia’s eventual willingness to reconcile what she knows in her mind with what she feels in her heart, that this story shines. -- Publishers Weekly
The Books of Elsewhere: Still Life by Jacqueline West (2014)
This is the fifth and final book in the Books of Elsewhere series. Read my review here.
The humor ranges from wry to silly, effectively balanced by the competent, threatening villain. In the end, Olive's concern is less about defeating Aldous and more about setting everyone else to right. A thoroughly satisfying reward for loyal fans of the series. -- Kirkus
The Thickety: A Path Begins by J. A. White (2014)
Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus
"There is no such thing as a good witch." These words, well known to all the villagers of De'Noran, haunt 12-year-old Kara Westfall. Ostracized and abused, she and her brother are the children of the last known witch, who was hanged on the edge of the Thickety when Kara was five. As the tangled branches of the dark, forbidden forest spread closer to the village, something strange and powerful awakens in Kara. Was her mother's magic truly evil? White's debut novel is darkly bewitching ... Readers will devour each twist and turn of the plot, right up to the startling conclusion. -- School Library Journal
The Book of Storms by Ruth Hatfield (January 2015)
Starred review in Kirkus
Confident storytelling lays a solid foundation for Book 1 of this original middle-grade fantasy trilogy. Eleven-year-old Danny wakes up one morning after a tumultuous thunderstorm to find his parents gone and the giant sycamore in his backyard destroyed by lightning. Poking around the remains of the tree, he discovers a stick that, when held, allows him to communicate with all of the natural world ... As Danny searches for his parents, Sammael is searching for Danny, as the stick, a taro, is powerful magic that he wants for himself ... Complex and morally nuanced ... A powerfully conceived and executed story that adds a wholly original element to the fantasy genre. -- Kirkus
The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler (2014)
This is the first book in the Forbidden Library series. Book two is due out in April 2015.
Twelve-year-old Alice has always been obedient, studious, and polite. So she is not sure what to do when she sees her father being threatened by a fairy when he has always insisted fairies weren’t real. Before she can ask, he disappears on a business trip, and Alice is sent to a mysterious uncle living in a labyrinthine estate complete with a forbidden library. Like another Alice, she follows a talking cat into the enchanted space in search of answers. It’s a perfect, if traditional, setup, and fans of Harry Potter and Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart (2003) will relish that the library houses magical books, which only Readers can use. After entering a book and defeating the creature therein, and thus harnessing its power, Alice becomes her uncle’s apprentice. It’s a joy to watch the dutiful Alice develop her innate curiosity and become a proactive, resourceful heroine, matching wits with snarky cats, dangerous beasts, and a certain smug boy. This is a charming, adventuresome fantasy from a promising new author. -- Booklist
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (2014)
This is the first book in the Magesterium series, which will include five titles.
Starred review in Publishers Weekly
Set in a magic-inflected version of the present-day U.S., this first title in the Magisterium series combines the talents of Black (Doll Bones) and Clare (the Mortal Instruments series) in a thrilling coming-of-age story that embraces fantasy tropes while keeping readers guessing. Twelve-year-old Callum Hunt has been raised to distrust magic. Mages killed his mother, and his father has warned him that the Magisterium, a school where young mages are trained, is a deathtrap. Callum’s attempts to fail the entrance exam go awry, and he is chosen to apprentice under Master Rufus, along with fellow students Aaron and Tamara. As Callum, Tamara, Aaron, and their classmates embark on their first of five years of schooling, Callum realizes how little he knows of his own heritage. The strange, subterranean Magisterium is vividly rendered, and a string of ominous revelations will leave readers eager for future installments. -- Publishers Weekly
Alistair Grim's Odditorium by Gregory Funaro (January 2015)
Grubb, a 12-year-old (or thereabouts) chimney sweep who works for the grumpy Mr. Smears, is pulled away on an adventure he never expects in this rollicking fantasy. When running from local bullies, Grubb jumps into Alistair Grim’s trunk, and when he steps out, he’s at the Odditorium, Grim’s home for all things weird and wonderful in old London. ... Funaro’s world building and characters are fascinating, and the fast pace and overstuffed plot—from war in the air to a daring escape from sea sirens—make for an exciting story. Funaro’s first book for young readers has all the playfulness of classic adventures like The Phantom Tollbooth and the intrigue of newer steampunk novels, making it a clever mash-up of mystery and merriment, ideal for kids who loved Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. -- Booklist
The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill
Starred reviews in three children's book review journals
Washington Post Best Book of 2014
Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of 2014
Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014
Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" 2014 An American Library Association 2015 Notable Children's Book
The boy's growing confidence and ability to wield and protect his mother's magic adds elements of a classic origin-quest tale to a story that's already brimming with a well-drawn, colorful supporting cast, a strong sense of place, and an enchanted forest with a personality to rival some of the best depictions of magical woods. -- School Library Journal
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel (2014)
Starred reviews in three children's book review journals
An American Library Association 2015 Notable Children's Book
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2014
Will’s quiet life changes when he travels westward and takes part in the golden-spike ceremony completing the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. True, he’s nearly killed by an avalanche and a Sasquatch, but he also meets Maren, the young circus performer he can’t forget. Three years later, Will joins his father for the inaugural journey of theBoundless, a mammoth train hauling 947 cars and 6,495 passengers across the continent. Along the way, Will learns that two groups plan to steal priceless treasures (including the golden spike) from a vault-like mausoleum car. Hunted by a villainous gang, Will must rely on his wits, his courage, and his friends, including Maren and her circus community. -- Booklist
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