A MIDDLE GRADE STARTER PACK | Guest Post by Karuna Riazi

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Hi, voyagers! Today I'm bringing you something super exciting and fabulous. Because THE GAUNTLET just released in the US yesterday, I'm doing a guest post with the lovely Karuna Riazi, author of the Middle Grade novel. I've already read this amazing novel (YES, it's the greatest and I recommend everyone to go and buy it) and I love love this post. I hope you all love it as well.

Meet the Book


Title: The Gauntlet
Author: Karuna Riazi
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Genre: Middle Grade / Fantasy
Pages: 384 

Synopsis: 
A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.
When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.
Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?
Add on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon / B&N / BookDepo


One of the questions I’ve heard most from friends since announcing my book deal is, “I have no clue where to start with reading middle grades. What do you recommend?” To me, the great thing about middle grades – like YA! – is how much variety there is within the category. You have sweet contemporary, sweet but also prepare to mop your face after you’re done contemporary, and then the incredible, profound fantasies that I personally grew up on and still crave. 

So, that being said, I’m going to do my best to present five of my favorite middle grade titles that you can start out with and may serve as a gateway for more great reads and new discoveries.

1. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu 
Anne Ursu is, arguably, the Queen of MG (well, I may be the only one who calls her that, but still). In this compelling take on the classic fairytale The Snow Queen, she exercises her craft in a way that you simply can’t look away from. I actually picked it up when I first heard about it because of the little girl of color on the cover (representation matters, guys) but stayed for the lyrical writing, the very real and human characters and the thrilling arc that made a familiar childhood favorite new and wondrous all at once.

2. Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen 
This book is everything. It also has tremendous YA crossover appeal, if you are the type who needs a little reassurance before you broaden your reading horizons. It’s a fairytale retelling, but also explores the repercussions of a family curse in beautiful and haunting ways, and has the most incredible writing that turns me into a silver-seeking raven every time I turn back to it.

3. Greenglass House by Kate Milford Okay 
I grew up on The Westing Game (which, if you haven’t read, you should because it is a classic and everything and will haunt you for years for good reason) and Greenglass House is 100% a comparative title, or at least harbors the same aesthetic of family, incredible mystery and watery eyes when you least expect it. It would also make an incredibly good movie with a Wes Anderson aesthetic, if anyone is asking.

4. Wildwood by Colin Meloy 
Yes, this is written by the Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, a.k.a. the perfect band to listen to if you like moody autumn afternoons and mutiny aboard antique whaling ships. This is wonderfully thick, richly adventurous and gets that woodland fantasy aesthetic down so perfectly that I still writhe in envy every time I re-read it.

5. The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill 
This is actually the latest Newbery Award winner, and with good reason. Kelly’s writing is wonderful, and powerful, and imaginative. It might be hard to find on shelves right now, considering that it’s still holding a lead position on the NYT Bestsellers list, but when you can reach for it, it’s absolutely worth it.

(Okay, I lied and will add a bonus. If you want gorgeous, weighty middle grades that leave magic lingering on your tongue and wistfulness for the same understanding in everything you read wrapped around your heart, read Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand. And then read everything else she’s written, ever. Thank me later.)

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