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Adventure Plus Mystery Plus Fantasy Equals Fun

Lee Littlewood on

Most middle-grade readers ages 8 to 12 or 13 enjoy books that are mysterious, fantastical and adventurous. These picks have all those qualities and more.

"The Book of Pearl" by Timothee de Fombelle; Candlewick Press; 368 pages; $17.99.

French author Timothee De Fombelle has penned stunning tales that are internationally successful, from the "Toby Alone" series to the gripping adventure tales "Vango: Between Sky and Earth" and "A Prince Without a Kingdom."

Translated to English by Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Gordon, de Fombelle's latest introduces Joshua Pearl, a boy who comes from a world of fairy tales no one believes in anymore. He's trapped in an unfamiliar place -- a Paris marshmallow shop on the eve of World War II -- and can only remember small bits of tales already told. But Joshua's great love will be lost if he can't remember the past and his own story before now. The descriptions of Joshua's breathtaking journeys in fairy tales and the war drama within this gloriously penned tale make the reading grand and fabulous. Kids who want to fall hard into a lovely, exceptionally entertaining read will love "The Book of Pearl."

"Warrior Genius" by Michael Dante DiMartino; Roaring Brook Press; 368 pages; $16.99.

Michael Dante DiMartino has an imagination without rival as the author of "Avatar: The Last Airbender." "Warrior Genius" is the second in his new series, which began with "Rebel Genius," the exciting, fantastical action-adventure that takes place in an imaginative and somewhat terrifying world. Among shades of ancient Rome and Greece and mythical, otherworldly lands, 12-year-old Giacomo and his friends escape to the empire of Rachana, a land long feared for its mighty warriors and their nearly extinct horse-Geniuses.

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Giacomo and his fellow artists are escaping the evil Nerezza, who eradicates anyone with a special Genius or talent. The boy is also in possession of the compass, a tool Nerezza desperately needs to wreak havoc everywhere.

The descriptive, exquisite writing in "Warrior Genius" is spellbinding and probably best for kids in the older end of the middle grade group. This thrilling spin on the need to create and the power of pure strength and willpower is thrilling and pure absorbing magic.

"The Gauntlet" by Karuna Riazi; Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; 298 pages; $16.99.

Salaam Reads is a new publishing imprint aimed at giving Muslim kids a chance to see themselves reflected positively in new books. Simon & Schuster and Salaam are proud to announce one of two new titles: "The Gauntlet," an adventure starring a 12-year-old girl who resists genre cliches and is strong and resolute, and her two best friends. The three become trapped in a Rubik's Cube-like mechanical board game and use a lizard guide to battle spiders, scorpions, grease monkeys and sand cats to prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari. It's more than just a game, however; the Gauntlet reflects society, though this game is made of wood and etched with exquisite images.


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