Monday, December 26, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: My Favorites of 2011--and a giveaway!

Still trying to meet my probably-impossible-but-I'm-going-for-it-anyway Book 2 writing goal, but I couldn't let 2011 end without one more MMGM. And I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up an amazing year in MMGM than to give a shout-out to my five favorite middle grade reads of the year.

But I'll admit--it was HARD picking favorites. I hate doing that in general. Plus, I read SO MANY amazing books this year, how could I limit myself to only 5? So I've narrowed the pool by only picking books that were actually released in 2011--which STILL left me an insane amount to chose from. But, made it a little easier.

Okay--without further ado, here are my five favorite reads of 2011 (in random order!):

BEYONDERS: A World Without Heroes, by Brandon Mull

I love everything Brandon writes, but I especially love this series because the world is so refreshingly new and exciting. (I mean, what other book has a character enter the new world by getting swallowed by a hippo?) Filled with amazingly detailed locations, fascinating new creatures (the Amar Kabal might be my favorite new fantasy species ever) and lovable characters, it's everything I want out of this kind of book and definitely left me desperate for more. (Oh, and I've read the sequel, and DUDE! But more on that later!)


This is a book I discovered by happy accident. I met the author when I was at ALA and he was so nice (and HILARIOUS!) that I HAD to get my hands on a copy of his book. And I loved it. I mean, how could I not love a book about a blind thief? Not to mention it has awesome illustrations throughout. And it's FUNNY. Definitely the kind of book everyone will love--boy, girl, kid, grown-up. Even if you *think* you don't like middle grade, I have a feeling you'll love Peter Nimble.


I'll admit, I picked up this book wondering if I was going to like it. I LOVE Lisa McMann, but she's a YA writer, and YA voice and MG voice are two very different things. But as it turns out, Lisa rocks at both. Not only does this book have pretty much the coolest concept ever: a dystopian middle grade (think Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games)--but the world she created is the kind of place that made me want to jump through a painted doorway and spend all day with my talking blackboard and magical art supplies. Not to mention it takes kids that felt "unwanted" and empowers them. Definitely a theme I can get behind. (*waits impatiently for book 2*)

THE CHEERLEADERS OF DOOM (N.E.R.D.S. series 3), by Michael Buckley

The title pretty much says it all, but I'll gush anyway. I love everything Michael writes (if you haven't tried his Sisters Grimm series yet you NEED to!!!), but what I love about this series is that not only does it take nerds and turn them into super spies, but it takes their "weaknesses" and turns them into superpowers. Allergies? Hyperactivity? A bad habit for eating glue? All assets in N.E.R.D.S. land. And if you can't tell by the cover (and title) and awesome illustrations throughout, these books are flipping hilarious. You'll want to start with book 1 if you haven't read this series yet. But if you're up to speed you MUST read book 3. 


Besides the PERFECT cover and awesome title (makes me want cupcakes and ice cream EVERY time), Lisa's another one of those authors where I love absolutely everything she writes. She's amazing--and you should definitely check out her YA books (like THE DAY BEFORE) if you haven't already. But if you like contemporary middle grade with lovable characters and a ton of heart (and LOTS of sweet treats), this companion novel to IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES (also fabulous) is the book for you. And even if you *think* you don't like that kind of thing, I HIGHLY recommend you give it a chance. This is the kind of book that's hard to pass up. Kind of like dessert. :)

I could seriously keep going--there were SO MANY amazing books this year. And I'm sure I've overlooked some (many because they're probably still buried in my TBR pile, which I'm woefully behind on thanks to all my previous deadlines and now my aforementioned probably-impossible-but-I'm-going-for-it-anyway Book 2 writing goal.) But hey, that just means I have plenty of books to feature on MMGM in the new year. Can't wait!

And it WOULDN'T be MMGM if I didn't have a giveaway, so of COURSE I have one for you. And since I'm featuring five books this time I'm going to do things a little differently and say: Winner's choice! I'll pick one random winner from the comments on this post and let them pick which of the five books they want as their prize. To enter: make sure you follow my blog and leave a comment by 11:59 pm PST on Saturday, December 31st. I'll post the winner on Sunday, January 1st 2012. The best way to kick off a new year (the year my OWN middle grade book comes out---AHHHHHH!) (ahem) Oh, and international entries are welcome--as always!

Ready? Go!

And while most people are taking the week off for the holidays, there are still a couple other MMGMs floating around out there:

- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week!

- Susan Uhlig has two awesome features today: HEART OF A SHEPHERD and GROUNDED. Click HERE to learn more about them.

And if you want to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog. It's easier if you email me before Monday, that way your link will be included in the post from the moment it goes live. But if you decide to spontaneously join the fun, I do update the post at several points throughout the Monday. Just email me a link and I'll add you when I do!

Happy Monday!


  1. You're too good to us!!

    Now the hard part is choosing which one...

  2. Thanks for the giveaway! I'm surprised that I've only heard of the first three books featured this week, though Nerds looks absolutely hilarious.

  3. Oh my! Thanks for the winner pick...Sprinkles and Sparkles please! Cheers and Happy Holidays!

  4. Wow. That would be a hard choice to make. I'd have to seriously think about which one I'd want. Hmmmm. I'd probably buy the others after I picked the one, then that way it would eliminate any regrets I might have for not reading the other ones.

  5. If shows me some love, I'd like The Unwanteds.

    Good luck with your deadline goal, and Happy New (it's going to be a rockin' great) Year.

  6. Thanks for the giveaway. I am a follower and email subscriber. Please enter me in contest.

  7. Ooh! Brandon Mull's Beyonders!!! I love his stuff, it's amazing! I think I've read Fablehaven about 50 times.

    And Yay!!! for your MG. I'll be keeping my eye out for it to add to my collection :)

  8. this year, thanks to your MMGM, I've read more middle grade books than I ever tought possible! Thanks so much!

    Follower and email subscriber :)

  9. I am embarrased to say I have not read any of those books . . . which is strange because I love all of those authors. But I will be now . . .

    Thanks as always for your recommendations.

  10. Awesome contest! I would pick Beyonders if I won.

  11. hi miss shannon! wow! so much cool books. i already got two of them and ones tooooo girly for me. ha ha. so if i win i got two i could pick from. your just so nice for ding mmgm and all those neat give aways.
    ...hugs from lenny

  12. Yay! :) I honestly haven't read any of these, and I'm still dying to read The Unwanteds after hearing so much about it! :) Hope you had a lovely Christmas, and here's to 2012 and your book release! :)

  13. I've had my eye on The Unwanteds for months, thanks! What a great list to choose from :)

  14. I am definitely going to have to move some of these books up on my TBR list. I too love anything Brandon Mull. I'm excited to read the sequel to World without heroes. Interestingly, I already have four of these, so the one I would want is Sprinkles and Secrets.


    hg195 at yahoo dot com

  15. These are great! I've read most of them. My kids and I just listened to NERDS on audio book, so I'd love the second one!!!

  16. I haven't read any of these, so these are going up my wishlist. Peter Nimble and Sprinkles and Secrets were already up there, so now this post only makes me want them more. Wonderful post, Shannon. And g'luck with book 2!

  17. Thanks, Shannon! I'd forgotten about The Unwanteds. It looks amazing.:o)

  18. Looks like I have a few more books to add to my TBR pile!
    I'd love to read Peter Nimble!
    THANKS for sharing the love.

  19. I've really been wanting to read Peter Nimble and it's on my TBR (ever since you mentioned it on your blog). :)

  20. You amaze me with your contests! I've been wanting to read PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES ever since I read your review. I would love to win a copy! Happy Writing!

  21. Wow, thank you so much. I would pick The Unwanteds :D

  22. You are so good to your readers! :) Happy writing and happy holidays! :)

  23. Happy holidays! I'd like to play please.

  24. These books look soooo good!


  25. The books look wonderful!
    Please count me in!

    justjanhvi at gmail dot com

  26. I, also, have not read any of these. The one I think I'd want to read the most is The Unwanteds, because I'm interested in how McMann handles a dystopian MG book - not something you see much of.

    Or Peter Nimble, b/c it's so original.

    Or any of the others . . . lol.

    Happy holidays!

  27. These all sound great. Especially the fantasies. Kobo reader activate!

  28. Ooh, these sound great. And I hadn't heard of any of them.

    BTW, like your new picture!

  29. Thanks so much for this giveaway, i love your MGMM posts!

    I follow as Angie.

    I think I would go with the Unwanted, it seems the most interesting of the five...

    ajiehuang1997 (at) gmail (dot) com

  30. Great giveaway and great list! I'd love to try Peter Nimble!
    jpetroroy at gmail dot com

  31. Argh!!!
    I want all of those books so bad :D
    Ahem, anyways, great features as usual. I can't wait to see your own MG to start showing on people's blogs.
    Happy New Year!

  32. I remember your MMGM posts about these, and I'm as interested then as I was now. I need to read more MG. It's so fun!

    Good luck with your writing, and Happy New Year!

  33. Peter Nimble and The Unwanteds are both excellent reads and two of my favorites of the year!
    All in all, this post is full of awesome sounding titles. Some of whuch I am going to have to look into reading one day.

    Thanks for the awesomeness.


  34. I would just LOVE to have Sprinkles and Secrets because its looks like a AMAZING book and I read another book by the author,"Its Raining Cupcakes",and I absolutely LOVED it!The others look Wonderful too,but I more of sweet tooth reader!Thanks for the giveaway,Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!And keep on reading everyone!

  35. Oooh these sound great! More books to add to wishlist ;) Thanks for the chance to win this awesome giveaway!

  36. oh, hmm - what was my favorite middle grade book this year? i'll have to think on that one. thanks for the fun contest!


  37. Such a cool contest. I'm totally torn between Beyonders and Nimble. Which would you recommend I read to my three 6-10-y-o boys? (After I devour it myself, of course.)

    Not sure if I get more than brownie points, but I tweeted, and I'm blogging about it tomorrow. :)

  38. I think Sprinkles and Secrets sounds great. I have read and booktalked a few related books lately-Stir It Up, Close to Famous, and It's Raining Cupcakes.

  39. What a fun contest! All of these books sound good, but if I had to pick just ONE, it would be the Lisa McMann one. She's a local author and her books are ALWAYS inventive. Thanks for the contest!


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