Tony DiTerlizzi's The Search for WondLa is the story of Eva Nine's search for other humans like herself. The story begins as she is forced out of the subterranean home where she has spent the first twelve years of her life. Eva has never been above ground and never been contacted by any other humans, but she holds a small picture of a woman, a child, and a robot with the word "WondLa" printed across it as proof that they do exist and she is not alone.
My love for Catherynne Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making knows no bounds. The title alone is one of my favorite things (the sequel: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is due out this fall!). Fairyland tells the story of September, a bored girl from Omaha, who absconds to Fairyland on the back of a Green Wind. Once in Fairyland she is made to do the bidding of a wicked Marquess but along the way September meets the most wonderful characters who help her restore Fairyland to its former greatness.
The scariest book on my list must be Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This is the story of an abandoned children's home that was once filled with dangerous children. Sixteen-year-old Jacob finds Miss Peregrine's after it has been quarantined and abandoned, but the Peculiar Children may still be alive. The novel is told between text and very creepy photographs; it is a reading experience that is perfectly peculiar.
Slightly less creepy, but with plenty of spook is Kathleen O'dell's The Aviary. Clara Dooley lives in the town's haunted mansion along with the much feared widow Glendoveer, but she does not see what the other kids find so scary. Her mother, who was hired to take care of the house and grounds, does not let Clara hear the stories about the house or the mystery that surrounds it, but one day a caged mynah speaks to her and the mystery begins to unravel.
For a step away from fantasy (but not too far), I would recommend When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead's Newberry award winning novel about a young girl receiving notes from the future - notes that tell her she must act to save her friend's life. This is one of the best middle grade mysteries I have ever read!
Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by A.J. Hartley. Not only does he have to contend with all of the troubles involved with moving to a new school in a new town in a new country but there's also the truth about his parents that he has difficulty admitting to himself. Oh, and Darwen has recently discovered that he can walk through mirrors into another world! He begins to escape so frequently into this other world that our world becomes threatened and Darwen and his new friends must figure out how to put things back to right again.
Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass and the other books in the His Dark Materials trilogy are not yet 20 years old, yet they have already achieved classic status. Commonly referred to as the anti-Narnia, Pullman's books about Lyra Belacqua's adventures are a standard in children's fantasy. Lyra's story begins in The Golden Compass when she spies on her uncle explaining the celestial phenomenon known as Dust to a group of scholars in the college where she has grown up. Lyra is then thrust into a story of witches, seafaring clans of gypsies, armored bears and much, much more.
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