Fantasy Books for Middle Grade Readers

9:47 AM

As a writer, it's probably not surprising that my kids love to read. We spend at least two or three hours each day listening to audiobooks and then an hour or two on top of that reading. Yeah, we love books around here. That said, sometimes finding new, interesting fantasy novels for middle-grade readers can be tricky. Once you've finished the books you love as a kid, where do you go?

Recently, I asked some of my writer friends on Facebook for suggestions on great fantasy novels for middle-grade readers. I got some fantastic recommendations and have been having a lovely time enjoying these stories with my kids.

Are you looking for new books? Check out my list and let me know what you think!

1. The Shadows

This house is keeping secrets . . .

When eleven-year-old Olive and her parents move into the crumbling mansion on Linden Street and find it filled with mysterious paintings, Olive knows the place is creepy—but it isn’t until she encounters its three talking cats that she realizes there’s something darkly magical afoot. Then Olive finds a pair of antique spectacles in a dusty drawer and discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside the house’s spooky paintings to a world that’s strangely quiet . . . and eerily sinister. But in entering Elsewhere, Olive has been ensnared in a mystery darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. With only the cats and an unusual boy she meets in Elsewhere on her side, it’s up to Olive to save the house from the shadows, before the lights go out for good.

The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 1) is a story about an 11-year-old who moves into a new house, but nothing is as it seems. This story is really interesting and has a decent pace. We've been reading a few chapters each night before bed, but each chapter ends on a cliffhanger so sometimes falling asleep after reading can be tricky! If you like this story, there are four more books in the series, so this is a great one to start if you plan to do even more reading.

2. A Hat Full of Sky

Rats! They're everywhere: in the breadbins, dancing across tabletops, stealing pies from under the cooks' noses. So what does every town need? A good piper to lure them away.
That's where Maurice comes in. But he's only a cat (though one that talks), so although he has the ideas, he needs rats and someone to play the pipe. Who better than the kid to play the pipe? And Dangerous Beans. And Peaches. And Hamnpork (who doesn't really like what's been happening since The Change; all a rat leader really needs is to be big and stroppy, thinking is just not his thing). And Darktan. And Sardines. And all the others in the Clan.
Then they arrive in Bad Blintz, which is suffering from a plague of rats, and find there are NO rats anywhere (though the two resident rat catchers seem to have plenty of tails to show, at 50 pence per tail).
Someone else has had ideas, and Maurice is not pleased.

A Hat Full of Sky: Discworld Book 32, (Discworld Childrens Book 3) is a Terry Pratchett novel set in the Discworld series. This is a standalone book, so you don't need to read the other stories in the series in order to read it. We read this one and then moved on to some of the other Discworld books, which both of my kids really enjoy. 

If you've never read Pratchett's writing, you're missing out. Terry writes books that both children and adults can enjoy, so while this is technically a book designed for youngsters, there's fantastic character development, world building, and poignant thoughts you'll be able to enjoy in this one.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

3. Crenshaw

In her first novel since The One and Only Ivan, winner of the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.
Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.
Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?
Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary. This title has Common Core connections.

Crenshaw was added to my to-read list when several of my author friends suggested it. Katherine Applegate is one of those writers who manages to suck you into her world in a seemingly effortless way.

“Imaginary friends are like books. We're created, we're enjoyed, we're dog-eared and creased, and then we're tucked away until we're needed again.” -Katherine Applegate, Crenshaw

4. A Snicker of Magic

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere---shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears---but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart.

A Snicker of Magic not only has an incredible cover, but has an incredible premise, as well. What do you do when you move somewhere new and nothing is what you expect? What do you do when your entire life changes and you have to find a way to make sense of the world around you? As a family that recently moved from one side of the globe to the other, I like these types of books because my kids can really relate to the feeling of being thrust into a new world you aren't quite expecting.


Have you read any of these books with your kids? Which one was your favorite?

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