Erin’s Five Favorites from 2014

Every day this week we’re spotlighting five of our favorite books from the genre we write. So, yay! I get to gab about the middle grade books that I adored this year.

But….um….only five? Wow. This is gonna be tough.

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Changed the World
by Henry Clark

The adventure of a lifetime begins between two sofa cushions….

When River, Freak, and Fiona discover a mysterious sofa sitting at their bus stop, their search for loose change produces a rare zucchini-colored crayon. Little do they know this peculiar treasure is about to launch them into the middle of a plot to conquer the world!

The kids’ only hope is to trap the plot’s mastermind when he comes to steal the crayon. But how can three kids from the middle of nowhere stop an evil billionaire? With the help of an eccentric neighbor, an artificially intelligent domino, a DNA-analyzing tray, two hot air balloons, and a cat named Mucus, they just might be able to save the planet.

Ok. This is a zany, silly, original and crazy fun book. I mean, come on…spontaneous showtune-singing flash mobs the whole town is involved in, smoldering coal fires in the abandoned mines beneath the town and a teleporting, intelligent couch? 

Yeah, it is strange. And fantastic. 

I loved watching the relationship between Fiona, Freak and River. The story starts with Fiona being too embarrassed to be friends with Freak and River in public. But it’s funny how your priorities change when you’re suddenly responsible for saving the world. 

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

This remarkable novel holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart. 

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

I could not stop talking about this book after I finished it! It is so clever and fun and mysterious. And that moment. THAT MOMENT, when I realized what had been happening, what the notes were all about, what the point of it all was….wow. Ok. Yeah, it’s just so good. READ THIS BOOK!

Almost Super by Marion Jensen

Everyone over the age of twelve in the Bailey family gets a superpower. No one knows why, and no one questions it. All the Baileys know is that it’s their duty to protect the world from the evil, supervillainous Johnson family. *shake fists*
But when Rafter Bailey and his brother Benny get their superpowers, they’re, well . . . super-lame. Rafter can strike matches on polyester, and Benny can turn his innie belly button into an outie. Along with Rafter’s algebra class nemesis, Juanita Johnson, Rafter and Benny realize that what they thought they knew about superheroes and supervillains may be all wrong. And it’s up to the three of them to put asides their differences and make things right. They may not have great powers, but together, they’re almost super.

Superheroes, supervillians, and sworn enemies forced to work together and stop the real villian? But they have to use the lame-o powers they got instead of super awesome powers that everyone else in their family got? Yeah, I’m in. This is a great adventure full of twists and turns and is a whole lot of super fun.

 Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman

Twelve-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town of inventors struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of compressed air that covers the crater left by the bombs—than fail at yet another invention. When bandits discover that White Rock has priceless antibiotics, they invade. With a two-day deadline to finish making this year’s batch and no ingredients to make more, the town is left to choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from the disease that’s run rampant since the bombs, or die fighting the bandits now. Help lies in a neighboring town, but the bandits count everyone fourteen and older each hour. Hope and her friends Aaren and Brock might be the only ones who can escape to make the dangerous trek through the Bomb’s Breath and over the snow-covered mountain. For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and recklessness that usually get Hope into trouble might just save them all.

There is so much to love about this one. Action, adventure, brilliant world building and a girl who learns to believe in herself and her abilities while attempting to save her town. (And inventing! Oh, and the sky jumping!) Loved it! And so did my ten-year-old son. We can’t wait to read the sequel. (Good thing he’s getting it for Christmas. Shhhh!) 

Drizzle by K.D. Van Cleve

Eleven-year-old Polly Peabody needs to make it start raining. For her entire life, it has rained at exactly one o’clock every Monday afternoon on her family’s magical rhubarb farm, until one Monday, when it stops. And then Polly’s brother gets sick, really sick. Polly has to figure out how everything is connected and make it rain before her beloved Aunt Edith sells the farm.  She has help from the farm itself, in the form of the plants and insects, including her best friend, Harry, a chocolate-tasting rhubarb plant.  They all push Polly to confront her fears.  But is it enough, and more importantly – is there enough time?

I am a sucker for a strange and interesting world. And a farm with chocolate rhubarb, rain that always falls at 1 p.m. and bugs that can spell, is definitely interesting and strange and fantastic. 


Erin Shakespear writes middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. With six kids, her days are full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures, and…loads of diapers. She also likes to dabble at photography, sewing, jewelry-making, and pretending she’s a grand artist. She is the southern Utah coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

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