My Middle Grade Favourites of 2020

Hello everybody! Today, I’m finally starting to share my favourites lists of 2020 with my middle grade picks, and then my YA/adult list will hopefully follow in the next few days. I loved all of these a lot, and I’m sure their authors aren’t reading, but if any are then I want to say thank you for making a difficult year a bit brighter. Onto the post!

Crater Lake– I think this was my very first five star read this year, and I adored it, as I do all of Jennifer Killick’s books, which feature frequently on my favourites lists every year. It takes place at a residential camp that isn’t quite what it seems, and it’s very, very creepy; a brilliant horror with even more brilliant characters, my favourites being Lance and Chets, and a great plot as well as plenty of Jennifer’s trademark humour. I’m so looking forward to getting stuck into the sequel when it’s released!

The House of One Hundred Clocks-this is the second book from AM Howell, and it follows a girl named Helena who goes to live in a mysterious house with her father, whose new job is to keep all its clocks wound at all times, and they both face severe repercussions if these rules are not adhered to. I really enjoyed reading this and discovering why the clocks were so important, and I loved both Helena and her parrot Orbit.

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk– I’ve been a fan of Natasha Farrant for quite a while, and while the Children of Castle Rock will probably always be my favourite book by her, I thoroughly enjoyed going on an adventure with Lottie and Ben on their boat the Sparrowhawk, to allow Lottie to find her estranged grandmother in order to avoid being shipped off to another unpleasant boarding school, and Ben to find his brother, who is missing/presumed dead following the war. I loved the post-WW1 setting, both the main characters (but especially Lottie, who is fierce and clever and resilient and utterly determined), the animals and the subplot involving their rather lovely teacher Clara.

Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale– I was reading this the day the first lockdown started, so it’s pretty special to me because it was keeping me company on such an unprecedented, frightening day. It’s the second book in the Starfell series, which follows a witch named Willow Moss whose power is finding lost things, in this case a friend who has been abducted. I adore Willow and her sassy kobold companion Oswin, and I’m so pleased it’s almost time to go on another adventure with them.

A Kind of Spark– this is the story of an autistic girl named Addie, who starts a campaign to have the victims of the witch trials properly memorialised in her small Scottish town, whilst beginning a new friendship with the new girl at school and facing persecution at school from her teacher Miss Murphy, one of the most despicable, sadly all too realistic characters I have ever read about. It’s an amazing book about how dangerous and unjust prejudice is, and while the parallels between modern day discrimination and the witch trials are horrifying and heartbreaking, I found the portrayal of that really interesting.

The Faraway Truth– this is a phenomenal USMG contemporary, which tackles systemic racism by telling the story of Zoe Washington, who begins writing letters to her incarcerated father, and after he tells he is actually innocent, she sets about trying to prove this so that he can be set free. It’s such a great read, both powerful and wholly entertaining, although I must warn you not to read it if you don’t have any macaroni cheese in the house, because you will almost definitely be craving it after reading this!!

The Key to Finding Jack– Eva Jozefkowicz’s last book Girl 38 was on my favourites list last year, and I loved this story of a girl named Flick trying to find the mysterious SF her brother left a key for, before he went abroad and went missing after a natural disaster. It’s a really lovely story about random acts of kindness and the love between siblings, and I can’t wait to see what the author writes next.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone- this book, and the prequel/sequel you’ll be hearing about later in this list, are incredible. They’ve honestly made me want to read everything Jackyn Moriarty has ever written and writes in the future, because they’re so tightly plotted, with a whole host of unique, colourful characters that feel real, and a world that’s expertly built. This one is about Bronte, who must go on a mysterious mission to deliver presents to each of her many aunts after her parents are killed by pirates.

Death Sets Sail– I don’t think it’s any secret how much I love the Murder Most Unladylike series, and this was a fabulous, fitting finale for my beloved Hazel and Daisy. It sees them solve a crime whilst on a cruise on the river Nile, and it’s one of the cleverest, funniest installments in the entire series. I don’t really have the words to sum up how much I loved it, I thought it was the most perfect ending imaginable and it’s probably my favourite book I read all year. I absolutely can’t wait for this year’s short story collection Once Upon a Crime, and the first in the spinoff series next summer.

Villains in Venice– in the 3rd installment of the fantastic Taylor and Rose series, we see Sophie heading to Venice for a new mission, whilst Lil stays in London and investigates a case that’s very close to home, and not just geographically speaking. As ever, it’s well paced and exciting, and Katherine Woodfine’s writing style is really vivid and conjures her settings amazingly well. I’m so excited to see how the series arc concludes in the 4th and final book later in 2021, but I’m very sad it’s the last we’ll see of Sophie, Lil and their friends (if there’s another spinoff series, I’ll be absolutely delighted)

The Monsters of Rookhaven– this is such a unique and powerful book. It’s about humans Gem and Tom, who discover the home of “the Family”: a group of monsters who band together and live in secret to avoid the persecution of humans, a mission which of course goes awry and provides the nail biting, gripping plot of this masterpiece. The characters and writing are both incredible, particularly the way that the book alternates perspectives between key characters, and I just couldn’t put it down at all. I don’t know when the sequel is out, but I’m dying to read it already.

Dragon Mountain– this is the first in Katie and Kevin Tsang’s new Dragon Realm series, and I adored it. It’s set at a Chinese summer camp, where four children meet, become friends and then get the opportunity to bond with their very own dragons, who desperately need their help to defeat the dangerous Dragon of Death. I loved the kids, I loved the dragons, and I really, really loved this world and the exciting, fast paced adventure. So glad there’s not long to wait for book 2 after THAT cliffhanger!

The Good Bear– in this lovely, wintry story, told to the protagonist’s child on a future Christmas Eve, we follow Thea as she goes to Norway to visit her estranged father and his new family, and her quest to save an escaped bear from execution. Her relationship with the bear is stunningly beautiful, and this has one of the best Christmas scenes I’ve ever read.

My Life as a Cat– I, Cosmo was my very favourite read last year, so I wasn’t too surprised when I fell utterly in love with Carlie Sorosiak’s 2020 release, which follows an alien named Leonard as he goes to Earth for the month all of his species get to spend them, but things go a bit awry and he becomes a cat and gets adopted by a human named Olive, rather than getting to be a human himself like he wanted. Their bond is the most precious thing, and it’s just such a lovely book, even thought it’s also a total emotional rollercoaster.

Tilly and the Map of Stories– this is the final book of the series that follows Tilly, and it sees her travel to America with her friend Oskar in a bid to locate the powerful Archivists to help them defeat the Underwood twins. The worldbuilding is incredible and I’m so jealous I can’t bookwander, I, very fond of the characters and I think this was definitely the best of the trilogy, not least because of new addition Milo and his enigmatic uncle Horatio, on the phenomenally named Sesquipedalian train.I’m very, very excited for the sequel series, because I think I’ve guessed who it’s about and if I’m right I reckon I’ll love it even more than I do Pages and Co!

The Ghost of Gosswater– I adored Lucy Strange’s last release, Our Castle by the Sea, but I think this deliciously gothic ghost story might just be even better, somehow. It’s about Agatha, who is sent away to live with her real father, after being raised as the daughter of the recently deceased Earl of Gosswater. Cousin Clarence is creepy enough to chill the spine, and I loved the setting and atmosphere of the story, as well as Aggie herself and the relationship she builds with her dad, as well as her investigating whether Clarence is telling the truth about her not really being related to the Earl.

The Otherwhere Emporium– this is the finale to the Nowhere Emporium series, which is another one I’m a longtime fan of. I can’t believe I’ll never go on another journey with the shop from nowhere, but I really enjoyed meeting the new characters of Mirren and Susan (as well as Mirren’s companions as she enters the Emporium in a bid to save her mum and Daniel Holmes), and I really don’t think there could have been a more satisfying conclusion.

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars– like I said before, Jaclyn Moriarty is such a brilliant writer in my experience so far! This is the tale of two groups of children from the town of Spindrift, the orphans and the boarding school kids, who end up being drawn into the sinister Whispering Wars together, despite the fact they kind of despise each other. I loved it for all the same reasons I adored Bronte Mettlestone, but also the dual narrative in here between Finlay and Honey Bee was fab and I loved all the references to Bronte’s story.

Hollowpox– I have LOVED the previous Nevermoor books so much, so please don’t take it lightly when I say this is definitely the best to date. It continues the journey of Wundersmith Morrigan Crow as she begins her proper training amidst dealing with a sinister pandemic that is endangering Wunimals, animals with human characteristics and capabilities who inhabit the magical city. The world is utterly incredible, I adore all the characters and the ending was phenomenal so I really really hope there isn’t such a long wait for the 4th book!

The Midnight Guardians– Ross Montgomery’s latest is the story of a WW2 evacuee named Col, who becomes engaged in a battle with the sinister Midwinter King, alongside his childhood imaginary friends who have come to life to assist him, in order to save his sister Rose from the attack he’s planned on London. I loved the blend of fantasy and historical, and both genres were written to perfection. I found the book so moving and absolutely fell in love with all the characters, but I have to admit I especially adored Esther and Pendlebury. This is like a combination of Emma Carroll’s writing and a book by Amy Wilson, and something I’ll be recommending for a very long time I think.

The Miracle on Ebeneezer Street– this is a retelling of A Christmas Carol by Catherine Doyle, who has written both the amazing YA Blood for Blood trilogy and the MG Storm Keeper’s Island trilogy. It’s such a wonderful story that feels both very classic and very fresh, and I really enjoyed how Christmassy and cosy it was, whilst also providing a fantastic adventure and plenty of humour and heart.

Life of Riley– I’ve always loved Simon James Green’s YA, so I was thrilled that he finally turned his hand to MG this year! In true Simon fashion, this is a hilarious read. It’s about a boy called Riley who thinks he has been cursed after an unfortunate encounter with a fortune teller, and his disastrous attempts to counteract the curse making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. I honestly couldn’t stop giggling during so many scenes!

What were your favourite middie grades of last year? Have you read any that made my list? I’d lone to hear in the comments!

Amy x


Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: | she/her

12 thoughts on “My Middle Grade Favourites of 2020”

    1. Which ones are you planning to read? I feel like I have loads to catch up on from last year too, hoping for a much better year in 2021 (both reading wise and life wise!). Sending lots of love to you and the Fae πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So much love to you, and same hoping for a happy, healthier & brighter 2021.
        I’m hoping to read from your list: The key to finding Jack, Hollowpox (I know!) Midnight Guardians and I need to buy Monsters of Rookhaven.
        Im being mean to myself and only allowing myself to read Death sets sail when I finish writing up the MMU posts 🀣
        I have a long list of missed books from 2020

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Yes Bronte was one, along with Faraway Truth, Sparrowhawk and Gosswater. If I enjoy Bronte (whenever I eventually read it!) I’ll read Whispering Wars too – I’d not heard of that one.x

    Liked by 2 people

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