Aside from the typical answer of Harry Potter (which was AMAZING), my family absolutely loved The Ordinary Boy series (obviously, start with book one). I reviewed book three in the series.
Brilliant. Simply brilliant. The Great Powers Outage was my favorite of the Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy series, of which this is the third (and latest) book. To my knowledge, Book 4 is not yet out, nor do I know if it is in development. However, I can tell you that everyone in my house is eagerly awaiting it.
In this episode, everyone in Superopolis loses their power. It’s up to Ordinary Boy to figure out what happened and how (and if!) to fix it. The plot refers to elements in Books 1 (The Hero Revealed) and 2 (The Return of Meteor Boy?), which makes for a very satisfying read. While not as technically complex as the non-linearity and recursiveness of Book 2, The Great Powers Outage was richly layered, with the peripheral stories of the class election (an indictment of the American political process, minus any ideology or dogma) as well as the tale of the founding of Superopolis and the origins of The Li’l Hero’s Handbook. The book was also a simplistic, but very effective lesson in cause and effect, especially regarding correlation vs. causality. In spite of more pronounced destruction of evil compared to Books 1 and 2, no villain (or government) took a worse beating than Pringle’s Potato Chips (very thinly disguised as “Pseudo Chips” in the book), in my humble opinion.
I feel that this series is perfect for ages 8 to adulthood. Yes, I would recommend it for adults, too. It’s well-written, irreverent, smart (not dumbed down at all) and is entertaining on many levels. Children can enjoy the books and still miss many of the more sophisticated references or underlying meanings. But the humor is solid even without these.
p 131 (O-Boy is disappointed with his teacher’s level of ambivalence and his classmate’s lack of curiosity):
“I’m not trying to put anyone down.” I insisted. “I’m just trying to get answers. Isn’t the whole point of school to seek out knowledge?”
“Not particularly,” Miss Marble responded gloomily. “I’m afraid the point of school isn’t so much about learning things as it is learning not to say things that irritate other people.”
“But how else do we gain knowledge?” I asked. “Shouldn’t we always be asking questions and trying to use what we discover to make life better?”
“You’re free to do all that” — Miss Marble nodded — “as long as you don’t upset anyone in the process or challenge any of their beliefs.”
Also, see this more recent post on great books for early middle schoolers.