Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. For other participants, see my sidebar or Shannon's links.
The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver (coming October 2 from Harper, for ages 8 to 12)
Source: advanced reading copy from publisher
Synopsis (from the publisher): When Liza's younger brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: the spindlers -- evil, spiderlike beings -- have gotten to him and stolen his soul. And she is certain that she is the only one who can save him.
Why I liked it: This would make a terrific read-aloud! Short chapters with cliffhanger endings, imaginative worldbuilding, a brave heroine, lots of action, and a heart's desire: what more could you want? There were moments that made me gasp, and quite a few that made me smile. This book could easily take its place alongside Gregor the Overlander, James and the Giant Peach, and even The Wizard of Oz. It introduces human-size talking animals inhabiting another world Below. And most of the book is a challenging hero's journey to save Patrick and get his soul back home. Liza is accompanied on the journey by a human-size rat named Mirabella, who agrees to be her guide. So with two strong female characters, this is a must-read for girls.
Please be aware that some of the creatures Liza encounters might be a tad scary for younger readers.
What middle grade novels have you read that involve a hero's quest, or humans interacting with talking animals?