Happy Memorial Day! Here in the United States, it’s a day to remember those who have sacrificed all for our country. As it’s a national holiday, like many people, I’ll be spending it with family.
I’ve been on quite a middle grade reading spree this past month, so I wanted to jump into MMGM and share a few of these with you. Three of these books are fantasy, but I do have one contemporary middle grade as well. All of them are by debut authors and available now.
I was privileged to attend the virtual launch party for THE LAST WINDWITCH by Jennifer Adam in April, and I was immediately intrigued. It’s about young Brida, apprenticed to a hedgewitch in the small village of Oak Hollow. She’s sheltered from the evils of the Queen of Crows and mostly concerned with mastering her own magic. But when the fabled stormhorses return, they trigger an adventure that leads Brida into all sorts of discoveries about her magic, her past, and her potential.
I loved how this story kept twisting in new directions. It’s quite long for a middle grade, but the stakes kept rising, and there were new tasks for Brida for achieve, so the length was exactly right for the story. The magic is explained very well, and I loved all the characters Brida met along her journey.
I highly recommend THE LAST WINDWITCH for the middle grade readers in your life—or for anyone who enjoys spunky young witches.
Set in 1905, THE GILDED GIRL by Alyssa Colman takes place at Miss Posterity’s Academy for Practical Magic in New York City. Wealthy 12-year-old Emma has just joined the school, and she’s a bit behind the other students sparking their magic, while servant Izzy can do much more. The problem is, society dictates that when the December winds blow, Izzy will not be worthy and her magic will be snuffed out, while Emma can kindle her magic permanently.
When Emma’s father dies unexpectedly and leaves her penniless, she has to work off her debt at the school and is switched to the same status as Izzy. The two girls work together to figure out how to kindle their magic in spite of the rules.
I loved how this story used magic to address class differences and open both girls’ eyes as well as those beyond them to how the rules needed to be changed. I also enjoyed the house dragon (disguised as a house cat) and the various friendships within the book. The one between Emma and Izzy is fantastic, but there are several others that grow throughout.
THE GILDED GIRL is full of magic, friendship, and girls determined to change the world.
In MANY POINTS OF ME by Caroline Gertler, almost 12-year-old Georgia is the daughter of a famed artist who passed away two years earlier. She misses her dad most of all, but others often talk to her in terms of his art, like he’s still here. She’s struggling with her grief and also struggling with her friendships, especially with her best friend, Theo, who was close to Georgia’s dad in a way that’s hard for her to reconcile.
One of her dad’s most famous works was a set of paintings that highlighted a bird, himself, and her mom, and when she finds a sketch that indicates she would have been the fourth painting, she sets out to prove it. Her journey includes some missteps, particularly with her relationships, but it’s also important.
I really loved how Georgia grows in the story, both personally and figuring out how art fits into her life. I also loved all of her relationships and how she grew within each of those. The ending was absolutely perfect.
I highly recommend this beautiful middle grade read that tackles grief, friendship, family, and finding yourself in the midst of all of that.
THE LAST FALLEN STAR by Graci Kim is about Riley Oh, who can’t wait to see her sister/best friend Hattie initiated into the powerful Gom clan of Korean healing witches. But she’s also devastated that she can’t be initiated, too, since she’s a saram (person without magic). So they try a spell that will allow them to share Hattie’s magic.
Of course that all goes horribly wrong. This book was non-stop adventure, with the sisters’ actions leading to Hattie’s life endangered and Riley tasked with finding the last fallen star. Whatever that is. Her best friend, super baker and team anti-magic Emmett, joins her.
I loved how this book kept twisting in new directions and throwing in new information. I loved the theme that there are always two sides to every story. And I loved the focus on friendship and family. Basically just loved it all!
Oh, and there’s a diagram of the magic system inside the front cover, which immediately sold my 13-year-old son on reading, even though he has mostly moved up to YA now. So good to know those extras make a difference!
Have you read any of these? If so, let me know what you thought! If not, which one intrigues you most?