There is, in my mind, a certain sub-genre of middle grade fantasy that offers a particular type of story--whimsical, light-hearted, adventures with the sort of almost-but-not-quite over-the-top imaginary garnishes that one could imagine a kid coming up with herself in her own writing (which is not a criticism). Books like Drizzle, by Kathleen Van Cleeve, The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle, by Deva Fagan, and Green, by Laura Peyton Roberts, to name a few that I think have that sort of flavor (does this make sense?)
Here's a new one of that ilk--The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton, illustrated by Brett Helquist (Dial 2011, mg, 339). It tells of a girl named Persimmony Smudge, who dreams of Greatness--but how, she wonders, can she find it on the small island where she lives? It's true that this island is the center of everything (and all the land there is, as far as she knows), and it is true that it a magical place--Mount Majestic, the center of the island, gently rises and falls (literally--in an up and down way) every day. And it is not without dangers. There are the poisonous tortoises, the restless mangroves, and the mysterious Leafeaters living hidden lives, and the young despotic boy who's king of the island forces many of its inhabitants to slave in his pepper mill. But none of this really gives a girl scope for doing great things....
Until one day Parsimmony happens to break a pot. And because of that, she hears two Leafeaters talking in the forest about the gold buried beneath the mountain...and that, in turn, leads her to the terrifying discovery that there is a giant under the mountain! One who might well be woken by diggers looking for gold...
And so Parsimmony is launched on an adventure that includes peril! magic pots! a very special starfish! and more! Including, of course, the chance to save the whole island and win glory for the despised name of Smudge.
It is indeed, as Ingrid Law puts it in the blurb on the cover, a magical, buoyant, and lively. Kate, in her review at Book Aunt, contributes more apt adjectives--gleeful, playful, giddy, whimsical, rambunctious! And it is indeed all these things. Not desperately rich or dense or imbued with heart-wrenching Meaning, but succeeding very nicely at being an imaginative and fun read for kids who enjoy the fantastical (almost but not quite) ridiculous.
It's best suited, I think, for the younger end of middle grade (4th and 5th graders who haven't yet become cynical and jaded), and is also one I think would make an especially good book to read aloud to an eight year old girl (or something like one), not just because "Parsimmony" is fun to say. The chapters are shortish, with points of view bouncing around between characters (making it easy to find stopping points), but there's a continuum of energy that I imagine would make the young reader keep asking for more.
That being said, older people (ie me) might not be entirely convinced by the world building and the characters, but it's easy to imagine its intended audience enjoying it lots.
Other thoughts at Nothing Witty Never Pretty, Kiss the Book, Mrs. Hill's Book Blog, and the Book Aunt review linked to above.