This month, I will focus on fantasy books for middle grade readers. These are for kids who are not ready to jump into Harry Potter but are definitely headed in that direction. Both of these books are available at Santa Clarita Public Library.
“Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures” by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater follows the story of Pip, a tween girl who just happens to have the ability to talk to magical animals. You see, Pip lives in a world that feels a lot like ours, only Unicorns are real (and have major attitude problems). Pip carries her favorite book “Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures” with her everywhere and adds her own notes to the text, based on her experiences with all the creatures she happens upon. This is where the title of the book comes from because Pip is discovering facts about these creatures that aren’t even in the book.
After a troublesome experience with some unicorns, Pip is sent to live with her Aunt Emma for the summer. Aunt Emma is a veterinarian to magical creatures so Pip tries to be on her best behavior so she can learn as much as possible and not annoy her cousin Callie. Pip befriends a neighbor boy, and they set off on an adventure once it is discovered that some new creatures have invaded the city. These new creatures are small and fuzzy and just so happen to burst into flames quite easily. There is barely any info on them in the guide so Pip has to do her best sleuthing to figure out why they are here and how to keep them from setting the whole city on fire.
This book is being set up as a series so there are sure to be more Pip Bartlett adventures coming soon. I would recommend this book to any kid in the 3rd-5th grade who is ready to leave Magic Tree House or the Rainbow Fairies behind and join another fantastical world that has just a little more words and a slightly more complicated plot.
“What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World” by Henry Clark involves fantastical creatures as well, but the plot of this enchanting book is way more complicated. This book follows three kids, River, Freak, and Fiona as they find themselves in an adventure involving time travel, dimension travel, and an extremely rare crayon. These kids live in a part of town that was once thriving and is now completely damaged by the factory that was once the center. The ground around the factory is now literally burning down below and no one dares go near it.
When the kids stumble upon a couch near their bus stop, they are slow to realize that the contents found stuffed in the couch cushions could save or destroy the world. When all their classmates, including Fiona, start randomly breaking into song and dancing routines at school, the kids realize that there must be some sort of mind control going on in their community. It’s up to them to figure out who is trying to take over and for what purpose.
The plot of this book is so strange and complicated that I could take days discussing it, but I would also ruin a lot of the surprise that lay ahead. This book is a truly weird and interesting adventure that serves as a great introduction to the strange for children. I would recommend it to any kid who is ready to move on from Captain Underpants or Wayside School. I think younger kids could get lost in the complicated plot, though, so I would not recommend it for kids younger than the 5th grade, unless they are advanced readers.