The dream of falling into the pages of a book is an enticing one. What fun it would be to have adventure alongside your favorite characters! No wonder kids love Chris Colfer's series The Land of Stories, in which siblings fall into a fairy tale world. When your young readers are clamoring for more fantasy books like Land of Stories, this list will help transport them to new and well-loved imaginary worlds.
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ALLIANA GIRL OF DRAGONS by Julie Abe
This is a wonderful retelling of Cinderella with Japanese elements. After her father falls into the abyss, Alliana is forced to live with her stepmother and step-siblings, working in the family inn, run by her mean-spirited relatives. Alliana dreams of escaping and attending the Regional Ball where she might be chosen for the Royal Academy. She befriends a young witch, Nela Evergreen, and rescues a nightdragon hatchling and together the take a risk that might help Alliana reach her dreams. Ages 9 and up.
THE WITCH THE SWORD AND THE CURSED KNIGHT by Alexandria Rogers
In this smart and clever fantasy, Ellie Bettlebump hopes to be chosen to go to fairy godmother. Unfortunately, she has witch blood and witches have been outlawed. However, a mysterious invitation invites her to start her training to become a Knight of the Round Table. There she meets Caedmon, a fellow 12-year-old from a non-magical realm (aka Wisconsin). Ellie and Caedmon must battle a curse that is stealing the knights' power, and save the realm from downfall. There are a lot of recognizable features from the King Arthur legend, but Rogers' tale is utterly unique. Ages 9 and up.
MORE: King Arthur Inspired Books
LARK AND THE WILD HUNT by Jennifer Adam
This is a wonderful fantasy for kids who love tales of traditional fairies rather than the kind that wear pink and sprinkle glittery magic on puppies. Every year the Wild Hunt helps forge the alliance and boundary between the human world and that of the fae. But after the last hunt, Lark's brother, Galin went missing. Lark is determined to find out what happened to him and bring him back, and although fae and humans aren't supposed to fraternize outside of pre-set conditions, she makes friends with a young fae who gives her clues as to how to reassemble the moonclock, a magical timepiece that holds the secret to finding Galin and restoring the balance between the worlds. Outstanding. Ages 9 and up.
THE HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM (series) by Christopher Healy
Fans of fairy tale adventures, who want to read books similar to The Land of Stories, will enjoy this cheeky and humorous story about the "Prince Charmings." The princes, who now have actual names, have been turned out by their princesses for various reasons of unsuitability. They band together in an effort to prove themselves worthy by defeating Rapunzel's witch. The feisty princesses also make an appearance and by the end of the book it is hard not to laugh out loud at the lovable foolishness of the princes' exploits. Great fun. Ages 8 and up.
MORE: Fairy Tale Retellings
THE GREAT GOOD THING (series) by Roderick Townley
Do characters seem real beyond the pages? Well, that's because they are. In this metafictional tale, Sylvie decides that 80 years of living the same story over and over as the character in a book has gotten a bit dull. She decides to break the most important rule of all book character rules: she looks up at The Reader. Townley explores the wonder of books and how they merge with our imaginations and lives. I heartily recommend this for grown-ups, too. Ages 10 and up.
THE SCHOOL BETWEEN WINTER AND FAIRYLAND by Heather Fawcett
Autumn Malog is a beastkeeper on the grounds of a castle, the Inglenook School of Magic. Autumn's twin brother, Winter, has gone missing and although everyone else has given up, Autumn believes he is somehow magically trapped inside the castle. Magic student, Cai, whom everyone believes to be a hero named in a prophecy, but is secretly afraid of dragons, agrees to help Autumn rescue her brother if she will help him overcome his fears. Ages 9 and up.
JACK: THE (FAIRLY) TRUE TALE OF JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (series) by Liesl Shurtliff
Like The Land of Stories, Shurtliff's series is rooted in traditional European fairy tales. Shurtliff's fairy tale reimagining draws upon both Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer. Jack climbs up the titular plant to rescue his Papa, who has been stolen by the giants in the midst of a famine and ruled over by a greedy, gold-hoarding king with a chicken that lays golden eggs. Shurtliff's inventive twists and the way she weaves in references to popular fairy tales and nursery rhymes is ingenious. Ages 8 and up.
ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME (series) by Roshani Chockshi
Take advantage of your child's love for Chris Colfer's series to introduce them to tales from around the world. I love how Roshani Cockshi's Pandava series uses Hindu mythology to take readers on a fantastical journey. Aru has a tendency to stretch the truth, and while she is spending the school holiday at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture (her mother is an archeologist), her classmates dare her to prove her claim that the Lamp of Bharata is cursed. What happens next involves frozen classmates, the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, a demon and the Kingdom of Death! Ages 9 and up.
MORE: Novels for Tweens Based on Myths from Around the World
HALF UPON A TIME (series) by James Riley
Riley's words might be the series most like The Land of Stories in conceit, but it deserves to be read on its own merits. This the first book in a clever trilogy staring Jack, the son of "Jack of the Beanstalk" fame. Jack, firmly rooted in fairy tale world is trying to restore his family's good name when suddenly May, a "punk princess" with a cell phone falls from the sky. It turns out May's grandmother is Snow White and the two pair up to rescue the kidnapped grandma. Riley brings in material from several familiar fairy tales to create a story that is more of a fractured fairy tale than a retelling per se. But all three books are tons of fun, with humor, and clever plot twists. Ages 8 and up.
THE VENGEKEEP PROPHECIES (series) by Brian Farrey
Jaxter Grimjinx is the eldest son in a family of thieves. When a trick goes bad and magical misfortunate starts to rain down on the city, Jaxter sets off to find the ingredients to counteract the spell. This is a great book full of interesting characters, magical moments and lots of suspense. I raced through this series, as did my son! Ages 9 and up.
STORYBOUND by Marissa Burt
Here's another wonderful book series in which a child finds herself in a story book world. In the land of Story, kids go to school in order to learn their rôle, such as hero, or villain, or sidekick. But their way of life is disturbed when Una, a seemingly ordinary girl from the ordinary world drops -- or rather, she is written in -- into Story. Una, her new friends, Peter and Snow, must unravel the plot twists of the mystery of why she is there. Ages 8 and up.
MORE: Metafiction in Children's Books
STORY THIEVES (series) by James Riley
When Owen discovers his new friend Bethany is half-fictional and has the ability to jump into books, he convinces her to take him into his favorite book. Even though Bethany is adamant that Owen be very careful not to change any part of the story, he secretly decides to try and affect the outcome of the plot by thwarting the villian, thereby winning himself glory with his peers. As you can imagine, such a disruption sets in motion a serious of chaotic and potentially disastrous events! Ages 8 and up.
MORE: Books like The School for Good and Evil
THE BOOKWANDERERS (Pages and Co. series) by Anna James
This book brings to life every readers dream! 11-year-old Tilly lives in London with her grandparents, the owners of a bookshop, Pages and Co. One school holiday, Tilly discovers she comes from a family of "bookwanderers." Bookwanderers are people with the magical ability to bring book characters into the real world. The first characters she meets are Anne Shirley and Alice in Wonderland (a dream come true!). A wonderful, imaginative story. Ages 8 and up.
GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL (Tyme series) by Megan Morrison
Rapunzel has been brainwashed into thinking that the witch is her kind, benevolent mother. When Jack appears at her window one day, desperate to complete a task that will save his sister, Rapunzel becomes confused. She no longer knows who to believe. She ends up leaving her tower of safety with Jack in order to help him and discovers not just her identity, but how strong and talented she truly is. Ages 9 and up.
AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS (series) by B.B. Alston
Amari's brother, Quinton, is missing, but Amari insists that he is still alive. One day there is a mysterious visitor on her doorstep who delivers a package that reveals Quinton's secret. He is part of a Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and now Amari has a chance to find her own magic and earn a place in the Bureau. But Amari is not just an escapist fantasy, Alston deftly incorporates themes of bullying, prejudice and inequality. Ages 8 and up.
MORE: Fantasy Books with Diverse Characters
THE MAGIC MIRROR: CONCERNING A LONELY PRINCESS, A FOUNDLING GIRL, A SCHEMING KING AND A PICKPOCKET SQUIRREL by Susan Hill Long
Here's a mystery full of colorful characters, dastardly villians, intrepid maybe-maybe-not princesses and pickpocketing squirrels so much the better. Maggie, an orphan with a crooked leg, is horrified when her adopted guardian decides to marry her off to a wretched older man with terrible breath and so she decides to pursue a vision she saw in a magic mirror. Several journeys are woven together in the tale, with everyone converging at the end. Fortunately there is a fun map so that readers can follow each party as the travel towards their destination. Ages 9 and up.
THE FLIGHT OF THE SWANS by Sarah McGuire
I read a lot of middle grade books and even when I love them, I don’t usually have a problem putting them down and walking away for a bit, but I could not do that with The Flight of the Swans! I was captivated by this retelling of the Grimm fairy tale, “Six Swans.” Princess Ryn’s new stepmother has bewitched the King and when she threatens to kill Ryn’s six brothers, Ryn bargains for their lives by agreeing to stay silent for six years. The evil queen then turns the brothers into swans and Ryn sets out on a six year quest to save them. Ages 9 and up.
MIDSUMMER'S MAYHEM by Rajani LaRocca
Mix one cup Shakespeare, two cups The Great British Baking Show, a tablespoon of a diverse cast and a sprinkling of magic and you get one perfectly baked magical realism book. Mimi, whose mom is Indian-American and dad is white, loves to bake. She enters a contest with the local bakery but then her father strangely loses his sense of taste and a mysterious boy helps her search for unusual ingredients. Everything goes awry á la A Midsummer Night's Dream and Mimi must figure out why and how to put it right. Ages 8 and up.
THE NEVERENDING STORY by Michael Ende
This classic German's children's novel is about a boy and his magical book. When Bastian steals a book called, The Neverending Story from an antique bookshop it takes him on an unexpected adventure. While reading about the events in Fantastica, the fantastical world of the book, Bastian becomes a character in it! Ages 11 and up.
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A TALE DARK AND GRIMM (series) by Adam Gidwitz
There is definitely some dark imagery in this subversive re-imagining of Hansel and Gretel. A sly and snarky narrator offers warnings, observations and opinions on the action. This story in which the siblings journey on to try and find a set of decent parents somehow manages to merge 8 different Grimm fairy tales into one cohesive tale. An engaging story, but not for the faint of heart. Ages 9 and up.
HALF MAGIC (series) by Edward Eager
This classic series should be read by everyone. A group of siblings discover a coin that grants only half a wish. The children must work together to make complete wishes and then navigate the unexpected outcomes. Delightful. Ages 7 and up.
A DASH OF TROUBLE (series) by Anna Meriano
In her Mexican-American family, Leonora Logroño has five older sisters. Convinced that they are excluding her from something important while they tend to the family bakery in their small Texan town, Leo investigates. She discovers a book, Recetas de amor, azúcar, y magia, and then uncovers that her sisters use magic in their baked goods! Against her sisters' advice, Leo decides it is time that she learn magic, too, but things don't go exactly as she hopes! A delightful fun read for kids who would like magical realism. Ages 8 and up.
INKHEART (series) by Cornelia Funke
I adore the metafictional aspect of this book! There's something so wonderful about characters escaping the confines of their stories. Meggie's father's read aloud skills are so magical is actually able to read characters out of the books! Unfortunately an evil character he has read out of a book is on a mission to bring him down and Meggie's father has accidentally read his wife into a book. Spellbinding. Ages 10 and up.
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