Middle Grade Fantasy Picks from Author Anne Ursu

Some of our all-time favorite fantasy books are by local author Anne Ursu (see The Lost Girl, Breadcrumbs, The Real Boy, The Cronus Chronicles). That's why we were so excited when Anne agreed to share some of her favorite fantasy books for middle graders! Thank you, Anne!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Spaces Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9780525515043
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Puffin Books - July 9th, 2019

New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic. Now in paperback.

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with "the smiling man"--a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
     Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she's been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie's previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
     Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods--bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them--the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: "Avoid large places. Keep to small."
     And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.


Castle Hangnail Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9780147512734
Availability: Usually Ships from Wholesaler in 1-5 Days
Published: Puffin Books - March 15th, 2016

From the creator of Dragonbreath comes a tale of witches, minions, and one fantastic castle, just right for fans of Roald Dahl and Tom Angleberger.

When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.

This quirky, richly illustrated novel is filled with humor, magic, and an unforgettable all-star cast of castle characters.


A Properly Unhaunted Place Cover Image
By William Alexander, Kelly Murphy (Illustrator)
$16.99
ISBN: 9781481469159
Availability: Usually Ships from Wholesaler in 1-5 Days
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - August 22nd, 2017

From National Book Award–winning author William Alexander comes a wryly humorous story about two kids who try to save their town by bringing back its ghosts.

Rosa Ramona Díaz has just moved to the small, un-haunted town of Ingot—the only ghost-free town in the world. She doesn’t want to be there. She doesn’t understand how her mother—a librarian who specializes in ghost-appeasement—could possibly want to live in a place with no ghosts. Frankly, she doesn’t understand why anyone would.

Jasper Chevalier has always lived in Ingot. His father plays a knight at the local Renaissance Festival, and his mother plays the queen. Jasper has never seen a ghost, and can’t imagine his un-haunted town any other way. Then an apparition thunders into the festival grounds and turns the quiet town upside down.

Something otherworldly is about to be unleashed, and Rosa will need all her ghost appeasement tools—and a little help from Jasper—to rein in the angry spirits and restore peace to Ingot before it’s too late.


A Wish in the Dark Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781536204940
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Candlewick - March 24th, 2020

A boy on the run. A girl determined to find him. A compelling fantasy looks at issues of privilege, protest, and justice.

All light in Chattana is created by one man — the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat’s twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice — and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.


The Dragon Egg Princess Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062875792
Availability: Usually Ships from Wholesaler in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - March 3rd, 2020

Perfect for fans of Wing & Claw, this must-have middle grade novel is from We Need Diverse Books cofounder Ellen Oh!

“Filled with strange terrains, creatures, and magic, this is an enthralling read!”—Soman Chainani, author of the New York Times bestselling School for Good and Evil series

"A rich and wonderfully imagined story about the many ways young people can be powerful and the tremendous benefits of awakening your inner dragon." —Annie Ursu, National Book Award for Young People’s Literature nominee for The Real Boy

By drawing inspiration from Korean lore and culture, Ellen Oh is helping to reinvigorate the fantasy genre. Readers will love The Dragon Egg Princess for its humor, inventive magic, and thrilling action!” —Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist and New York Times bestselling author

In a kingdom filled with magic, Jiho Park and his family are an anomaly—magic doesn’t affect them.

Jiho comes from a long line of forest rangers who protect the Kidahara—an ancient and mysterious wood that is home to powerful supernatural creatures. But Jiho wants nothing to do with the dangerous forest.

Five years ago, his father walked into the Kidahara and disappeared. Just like the young Princess Koko, the only daughter of the kingdom’s royal family. Jiho knows better than anyone else the horrors that live deep in the magical forest and how those who go in never come back.

Now the forest is in danger from foreign forces that want to destroy it, and a long-forgotten evil that’s been lurking deep in the Kidahara for centuries finally begins to awaken. Can a magic-less boy, a fierce bandit leader, and a lost princess join forces and save their worlds before it’s too late?


Sparkers Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780451468765
Availability: Special Order
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - September 30th, 2014

A magical world that will captivate fans of Kate DiCamillo and Diana Wynne Jones.

Marah Levi is a promising violinist who excels at school and can read more languages than most librarians. Even so, she has little hope of a bright future: she is a sparker, a member of the oppressed lower class in a society run by magicians.

Then a mysterious disease hits the city of Ashara, turning its victims’ eyes dark before ultimately killing them. As Marah watches those whom she loves most fall ill, she finds an unlikely friend in Azariah, a wealthy magician boy. Together they pursue a cure in secret, but more people are dying every day, and time is running out. Then Marah and Azariah make a shocking discovery that turns inside-out everything they thought they knew about magic and about Ashara, their home. 

Set in an imaginative world rich with language, lore, and music, this gripping adventure plunges the reader into the heart of a magical government where sparks of dissent may be even more deadly than the dark eyes.


Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble Cover Image
By Anna Meriano, Mirelle Ortega (Illustrator)
$6.99
ISBN: 9780062498472
Availability: Usually Ships from Wholesaler in 1-5 Days
Published: Walden Pond Press - January 8th, 2019

Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.  

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

Debut author Anna Meriano brings us the first book in a delightful new series filled to the brim with amor, azúcar, y magia.


Shadows of Sherwood (A Robyn Hoodlum Adventure) Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781619636347
Availability: Usually Ships from Wholesaler in 1-5 Days
Published: Bloomsbury USA Childrens - August 4th, 2015

The night her parents disappear, twelve-year-old Robyn Loxley must learn to fend for herself. Her home, Nott City, has been taken over by a harsh governor, Ignomus Crown. After fleeing for her life, Robyn has no choice but to join a band of strangers-misfit kids, each with their own special talent for mischief. Setting out to right the wrongs of Crown's merciless government, they take their outlaw status in stride. But Robyn can't rest until she finds her parents. As she pieces together clues from the night they disappeared, Robyn learns that her destiny is tied to the future of Nott City in ways she never expected.
Kicking off a new series with an unforgettable heroine, readers will be treated to feats of courage and daring deeds as Robyn and her band find their way in this cruel, new world.


Milo Speck, Accidental Agent Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780544935235
Availability: Special Order
Published: HMH Books for Young Readers - March 14th, 2017

When magic came to Milo Speck, it came in the form of a sock. “Figures,” said Milo. So begins Milo’s adventure in Ogregon, a place populated with hungry ogres, dino-sized turkeys, kidnapped kids, and—Dad? What’s Milo’s regular-old salesman father doing in Ogregon? For that matter, how did a shrimp like Milo end up there? He’s no hero. He can’t help those kids. Right? But there’s not much time for Milo to get the answers. After all, hungry ogres like nothing more than a tasty bite of boy, and what kid is going to stick around for that? 


Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword (Book 1) Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9781250294364
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Square Fish - January 22nd, 2019

“It’s Hermione Granger meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets the Ice Capades meets Mean Girls." For all its disparate ingredients, though, Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword speaks in a single, strong voice, thanks to its spirited heroine."The New York Times

"Massively entertaining...Peasprout Chen is a future legend, indeed."Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Welcome to Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, where the blades are sharp and the competition is fierce.

Peasprout Chen dreams of becoming a legend of wu liu, the deadly and beautiful art of martial arts figure skating.

As the first students from the rural country of Shin to attend Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout and her little brother Cricket have some pretty big skates to fill. They soon find themselves in a heated competition for top ranking.

Tensions rise when the dazzling pearl buildings of the Academy are vandalized and outsider Peasprout is blamed for the attacks by her rivals ... and even some friends.

Now, she must uncover the true vandal to ensure peace between Shin and Pearl – all while becoming a champion.