This year’s Middle Grade list of finalists features two books by J. Scott Savage, two by Jennifer Nielsen, and one by debut author Christine Hayes. This was one of the strongest categories I read in terms of overall quality, and you could make a case for any of the books winning. Here’s a rundown (and really, if you’re looking for books to buy for your kids, I recommend them all. We already owned Mark of the Thief, Mothman’s Curse, and Far World: Fire Keep before Whitneys were even announced.).
Fires of Invention (Mysteries of Cove)
In Cove, a city carved inside of a mountain, authorities frown on innovation. 13-year-old Trenton Colman, gifted (or cursed) with a mechanical, creative mind, feels restless and frustrated at being unable to use his talents. He’s reprimanded for any kind of creativity and forced to work on the farms instead of with the machines he loves. When he meets Kallista Babbage, the daughter of a notorious inventor, they begin to discover clues left by Ballista’s father Leo about the true nature of Cove and the dangers it faces. I enjoy Savage’s writing and so does my ten-year-old son, who devours all his books. The steampunk technology is clever, and I especially enjoyed Trenton’s relationship with his parents. It felt loving and strained at the same time, and therefore authentic. I look forward to the next books in the series.