Though middle schoolers are often distracted by friends, electronics, sports and extracurricular activities, reading is truly important. These new books are exciting enough to hold interests.
"The Wonderling" by Mira Bartok; Candlewick Press; 450 pages; $21.99.
The back of this fantastical tale reads, in mysterious, vintage lettering, "Have you been unexpectedly burdened by a recently orphaned or unclaimed creature? Worry not! We have just the solution for you!" That's enough to draw me in to Mira Bartok's debut children's novel, about a one-eared fox-like groundling, (half-human, half-creature), who escapes a dreadful orphanage with the help of small mechanical bird named Trinket. Their adventures though forests and wild country to find the mysterious Song catcher and unlock secrets of the past has hints of classic English adventures, a touch of steampunk and lots of original fantasy full of amazing creatures and all fun.
Having already garnered a movie deal, "The Wonderling" is full of magic and hope and tons of imagination rolled into a 450-page read that kids will devour quickly. Bartok somehow has made her cool book old-fashioned and modern at the same time.
"The Keymaker's Quest: Adventureland" by Jason Lethcoe; Disney Press/Hyperion; 262 pages; $14.99.
Many kids -- and adults as well -- long to hold on to the Disneyland magic well after their visit ends. This new book, in the "Tales from Disneyland" series, introduces a boy named Andy Stanley who thinks of his grandfather as Ned Lostmore: Adventurer. But archeologist Ned is lost in a search for a hidden temple, and Andy heads out on a quest to find him. Like a Jungle cruise or enchanted tiki Room immersion experiment, Andy navigates Polynesian islands to keep an ancient god Kapu from destroying the world. He also ventures through other worlds of Disney's Adventureland attractions to find Ned.
With typical Disney creativity and thrills, Jason Lethcoe has penned a magical, tropical tiki-and-jungle-filled romp that's a must for fans of the happiest place on Earth.
"Rapunzel and the Lost Lagoon" by Leila Howland; Disney Press; 284 pages; $16.99.
Also from Disney and full of whimsy and magic, Leila Howland's mysteriously fun "Tangled" tale stars Rapunzel, 18 years after she's stuck in tower, hair hanging down. She meets Cassandra, daughter of a guard, who longs to be a soldier, and the pair set out to climb trees and follow adventure. The girls don't do typically princess things, and stumble on a secret lagoon said to hold the key to the kingdom's greatest power.
With lots of adventure and mystery, and a strong friendship theme, "Rapunzel and the Lost Lagoon" is also written with high Disney standards, and scores a big win for the younger end of middle grade readers.
"Hero Hurricane Rescue" by Jennifer Li Shotz; HarperCollins; 183 pages; $17.99.
A timely tale based in truth, Jennifer Li Shotz's follow-up to the bestseller "Hero" stars the trusted rescue dog, named Hero, in a hurricane search. Though he's retired technically, Hero and his human, Ben, set off in a woodsy quest to try to find Jack and his puppy Scout. But during the search, the storm surges out of control and the whole group must fight to get out with alligators, mudslides and raging floods getting in the way.
With multiple hurricanes in the news and weather reports that may scare kids, Shotz's vivdly-penned book should help them remember there are always heroes. Dog lovers will appreciate the hard work and dedication that many search and rescue animals put in to their journeys and will thoroughly enjoy this quick, exciting read.
"Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children" boxed set by Ransom Riggs; Quirk Publishing; $33.97.
Extremely popular, quirky and odd, Ransom Riggs' spooky-but-cool "Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children" was made into a film and now accompanies sequels "Hollow City" and "Library of Souls" in a gift set perfect for Halloween or a holiday shopping. All three tales are "wow!" inducing, imaginative and eerie, perfect for readers ages ten and up who are ready to graduate to sophisticated but super fun novels.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.