Fantasy books transport readers to new worlds, allow them to dream the impossible and spark their imaginations. Is it any wonder that kids love reading fantasy novels?
What I've done with this list is curate a collection of over 40 middle grade fantasy books that includes a huge range of styles. This list has everything from crazy-wild science fiction to fairy tale inspired stories to magical realism. So whether your child wants to go whole hog on the fantasy or stay mostly in the realm of real life with just a touch of whimsy, there is a book for them.
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Worlds Colliding/Time Travel
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (series) by Carlos Hernandez
My son listened to this on audiobook and loved it! He was alternating between gasping and laughing. Salvador Vidón is the new kid, but is also an unusual kid because he is able to open portals into alternate universes with his mind. He meets Gabi Reál who is a bit suspicious of his explanation about the mysterious things that happen when he is around. This is a really fun book, with lots of fast-paced action and crazy humor. Highly recommended!
The Last Last-Day-of-Summer (series) by Lamar Giles
This is one of the quirkiest books I have ever read aloud and my 10-year-old absolutely loved it. Cousins Otto and Sheed live in a Virginia county known for strange happenings. Together they have worked to solve many mysteries but this is the last day of summer and they are not ready for it to be over. They encounter a mysterious man with a camera that stops time and that's when the weirdness really begins! Zany, imaginative, not-a-little-bit-surreal, yet still thoughtful.
Starcross: A Stirring Adventure of Spies, Time Travel and Curious Hats (series) by Philip Reeve
Find it: Amazon
Reeve is a master at science fiction and time travel stories. I didn't realize this is the sequel to Larklight when I picked it up so I guess perhaps your kids should start with that one. In any case, this is an incredibly imaginative and not-infrequently amusing fantasy book. The Mumbys (mom and kids Art and Myrtle) travel to Starcross, a seaside resort where a strange hatter tries to control their minds with his evil headwear. Sound crazy? Oh, it is. Crazy. And wonderful.
Archer's Quest by Linda Sue Park
In this book, a traveller from the past shows up in the present. Korean leader Koh Chu-mong surprises 12-year-old Kevin by popping into is room one day. Koh Chu-mong is from 55 BCE. Kevin uses his math skills, the zodiac and Korean folk history to help the leader return to the past. There are not too many books that will teach your kids about ancient Korea while still delivering an engaging narrative so definitely pick this one up!
The Magic Half (series) by Annie Barrows
Miri is sandwiched in between two sets of twins. Her family has just moved to an old house and one day after being sent to her room for inadvertently injuring one of her older brothers, she finds part of a set of old glasses. When she looks through it she is transported back in time to 1935 where she meets Molly, an orphan living with her rather sinister relatives. Miri and Molly must work together to help Molly escape “back to the future” and when they do they discover the most surprising thing of all! Ages 7 and up.
Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat (series) by Johnny Marciano
Klawde is so wonderfully evil and over the top! Wyss-Kuzz, the evil alien warlord has travelled to Earth, the worst place in the universe! He ends up in the backyard of Raj Bannerjee, a sixth grader and reluctant transplant from Brooklyn to nature-filled Oregon. Hijinks and melodrama ensue. The narration alternates between Raj and Klawde (as Wyss-Kuzz is now called). Ages 7 and up.
Dragons and Mythical Creatures
Anya and the Dragon (series) by Sofiya Pasternack
I read this aloud and my son absolutely loved it. Set in medieval Russia where the common use of magic is now against the law, Anya still hopes that her own magic talent will reveal itself to her. Because her family is Jewish, they are outsiders in their village and the local magistrate is trying to force them out. When Ivan and his family, a family allowed to use magic, come to the town they enlist Anya’s help in tracking down a mysterious water dragon. Anya agrees to help them in order to save her family's farm. Anya and Ivan must protect the dragon from others who want to destroy it. Pasternack skillfully draws upon story elements from Russian, Slavic and Jewish folklore.
MORE: Dragon books for kids
Voyage of the Frostheart (series) by Jamie Littler
I read aloud this exciting tale of a brave boy who heads out on an adventure and my son was on the edge of his seat. Ash has the gift of song, which makes him an outcast in Fira, his adopted community. But he takes off on the Frostheart, a ship manned by an unusual group of people and creatures, in order to find out what happened to his parents. The crew of the Frostheart isn't afraid of his Song Weaving ability and it may even be the key to avoiding the wrath of the fearsome Leviathans.
The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond
Almond is such an intriguing writer. I find his books to be some of the most unique I read, and generally they make excellent read alouds precisely because of their quirkiness. One day a bus driver discovers a tiny angel in his breast pocket. He brings it home to his wife and they take care of it. The children take the angel to school and as Angelino experiences the world, he grows, learns how to fly and begins to talk. It struck me as wonderful that no one thinks a tiny angel is an oddity, just that he is marvelous! There is one villain of sorts who is out to capture the angel but Angelino's innocence and grace leaves everyone in a better spot in life in this warm-hearted tale. Absolutely worth reading!
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (series) by Stephanie Burgis
This book has received tons of praise, and for good reason. When Adventurine the dragon is turned into a human girl with a taste for chocolate she decides to head towards the human village to try and prove her worth. A heartwarming, thrilling book and I love that the narration was from the dragon-girl's point of view. Splendid.
Ice Wolves (series) by Amie Kaufman
Twins, Rayna and Anders, live by the seat of their pants. Homeless orphans, they must use their wiles to survive. During a village ceremony in which it is revealed which 12-year-olds have the power to shape-shift into wolves, each twin discovers they have magical blood. Rayna can shape shift into a dragon and Anders into a wolf. The trouble is, the dragon and wolf blood communities have are mortal enemies. Now Rayna and Anders must discover the secret of why that is.
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
In ancient Norway a boy named Odd is in the middle of a spell of bad luck. In the forest, he meets a bear, a fox and an eagle who tell him a strange story that sends him on a journey to save the city of the gods from the Frost Giants. It’s really quite delightful and will make a fun read aloud while sipping a mug of hot cocoa.
Cursed (series) by Bruce Coville
Angus is bound by a curse to the girl, Alex. Angus is a mischievous brownie with an extreme penchant for neatness, while Alex is the messiest creature he has ever encountered. Alex and Angus set out to break the curse, but it won't be easy. This book is hilarious and offers parents plenty of opportunity for dramatic reading in silly voices. Be sure to read the companion books, Hatched and Trolled.
Dactyl Hill Squad (series) by Daniel José Older
It's 1863 and the Civil War is being fought with troops on the backs of raptors! This is a spectacular and unique historical fantasy story. When Magdalys and several friends are on a field trip, children from the orphanage where they live are kidnapped. Magdalys and the others head to the Dactyl Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn where they learn how to ride pterodactyls as part of a plan to take down the evil magistrate behind the kidnappings. Magdalys has some trouble learning how to be a team player but her skill as a dinosaur telepath helps lead the group to victory.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (series) by Grace Lin
Minli's family lives in poverty and Minli sets out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her family's destiny. Along the way she is accompanied by the Jade Dragon and her journey is filled with twist and turns of fate. Lin deftly weaves together Minli's quest, her father's stories and wonderful illustrations to create a memorable tale.
The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater
You have to admit that any book which couples "Hoboken" and "Chicken" in the title has got to be hilarious. When there are no turkeys to be found anywhere in Hoboken for Thanksgiving dinner, Arthur returns home with a chicken. The problem? The chicken is 266 pounds. Hijinks ensue. I read this aloud to my sons and they loved it. Ages 7 and up.
The Seven Tales of Trinket by Shelley Moore Thomas
After the death of her mother, and with the company of Thomas the Pig Boy, 11-year-old Trinket sets out to find her father, a wandering bard. Trinket has her own gift for storytelling and on her journey she encounters strange and wonderful personalities, some are creatures drawn from Celtic mythology and folklore, like the selkie, banshee and the pooka. Absolutely splendid!
Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly
This book will capture your child's attention from the very first page. Rich vocabulary and imagery drawn from Filipino folklore take readers and listeners on a thrilling and utterly unique adventure. I adored this book and couldn't put it down. Lalani's mother falls ill and Lalani sets out on a voyage across the sea to the legendary Mount Isa in hopes of curing her. Themes range from the limits of personal responsibility, familial relationships and loyalty, and abuse of power and leadership.
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 villains, intrepid maybe-maybe-not princesses and pickpocketing squirrels. 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.
MORE: Princess Novels
The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh
This is a fascinating novelization of the Baba Yaga folk tale. The suspense will keep your child turning the pages long into the night. (Try to encourage them to get a little sleep, though.) 12-year-old Mary is taken away from her orphanage by the mysterious Madame Z. Madame Z is full of secrets and lives in a curious house. In town, Mary befriends Jacob, a magician's assistant. When they learn the true identity of Madame Z they must work together to escape her power.
Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk (series) by Liesl Shurtliff
The story 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.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier
When I read the opening scene in which Nan crawls up a flue and gets caught in a chimney I almost had an attack of claustrophobia, the description was so detailed and engrossing! Nan Sparrow, a chimney sweep is saved by a golem made of ash. A golem is a magical figure in Jewish folklore, and Nan's rescuer becomes her companion. This is such an interesting and superbly written book; and with the themes of child labor, anti-semitism, and class structures your kids will find much to think about.
The Flight of 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.
The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes
In The Storm Runner, Mayan mythology is front and center. Thirteen-year-old Zane learns that the volcano in his New Mexico backyard is a actually a prison for a Mayan god. When Brooks, a mysterious shape-shifting girl shows up to help Zane fulfill his destiny, the adventure begins.
A Boy Called Christmas (series) by Matt Haig
My son adored this book, very funny and charming with just the right amount of Dahl-esque humor. When Nikolas' father doesn't return from a journey at the expected time, Nikolas leaves his neglectful aunt and goes off in search of him. Along the way he meets a village of elves and his future is forever changed. This makes a great read aloud at Yule.
Aru Shah and the End of Time (series) by Roshani Chockshi
I love that the tale relies on 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 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. But what happens next involves frozen classmates, the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, a demon and the Kingdom of Death!
The Serpent's Secret (series) by Sayantani DasGupta
DasGupta's original story draws upon Bengali folklore. Kiranmala, an Indian sixth-grade interdimensional demon slayer, is concerned. A spell gone awry has sent her parents into another dimension and she is about to be eaten by a rakkhosh demon in her own kitchen. Thus begins a highly engaging and funny adventure in which Kiranmala rejects two princes' offer to rescue her, travels to a magical dimension full of fantastic beasts, battles demons, solves riddles and saves New Jersey.
The Jumbies (series) by Tracey Baptiste
Baptiste draws on Haitian folklore to tell her tale. Corrine La Mer's aunt Severine is a "jumbie," a mystical creature of the forest. Severine is looking for humans to turn into jumbies and Corrine must find a way to stop her. In the second book, Corrine heads to the sea to get answers about the island's missing children from the sea jumbie.
Dragon Pearl (series) by Yoon Ha Lee
Korean mythology and science-fiction merge to create an exciting fantasy! Min's mother has forbidden her to use her fox-magic, but Min feels stifled by domestic life and longs to join the Space Forces. When something mysterious happens to her brother, Jun, Min goes in search of the truth, encountering adventure beyond her wildest imagination.
Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde
Princess Imogene's mother is making her read a horrid book titled, The Art of Being a Princess. When she wanders down to a pond, a frog convinces her to kiss him. The frog, however, not only does not turn into a prince (he turns into smart-aleck peasant), but the spell reverses and Imogene turns into a frog! The only way to turn back into a princess is to dupe someone into kissing her, thus casting the frog spell on another unsuspecting person.
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (series) by Christopher Healy
This series is best for kids who like a lot of humor in their reading. Four bumbling princes are thrown out by their respective fairy tale princesses. The princesses have their own personality quirks, but all together they battle the less savory creatures in the kingdom and have their own versions of happy, mediocre and not-so happy endings. Very funny and hilariously tongue in cheek. Also, the audiobook is spectacular.
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson
Marinka is coming up on her 13th birthday and although she knows she is destined to become the next Yaga, she is resentful and wants the freedom to chose her own destiny. She doesn't like the solitary, nomadic life she lives with her grandmother, helping to usher the dead through The Gate into the afterlife. When she wanders too far away from her house one day she learns a life-changing secret about her existence but when her grandmother travels through The Gate to help a soul and doesn't return, Marinka must figure out how to both control and fulfill her own destiny. I adored this inventive new and uplifting interpretation of the Slavic "Baba Yaga" folktale, which breaks the mold of Yaga as villain.
Magic and More
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.
The False Prince (series) by Jennifer A. Nielsen
I love to put this title on book lists. I devoured this series as it was being published. Each year I eagerly awaited the publication date of each new installment in the trilogy. The Kingdom of Farthenwood is in turmoil and a nobleman is determined to pass off an unknown orphan as the missing prince. He brings three boys to train at his estate, promising that the one who best completes the test will have a new life as the ruler of Farthenwood. As a reader, I was constantly on my toes as to the outcome and a surprise twist will leave kids eager to read the next two books.
A Wizard of Earthsea (series) by Ursula K. Le Guin
Award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin will be familiar to fans of children’s fantasy literature. This is the first book in her Earthsea series and introduces us to the young man, Ged, who discovers that he is full of magic. This one is great for fans of Tolkein.
The Wonderling by Mira Bartók
Bartók creates a marvelous world that draws upon the familiar and fantastical. The protagonist is a "groundling," a fox-like creature who escapes with his bird-friend, Trinket, from a grim orphanage to head out on an adventure. Their adventure circles round and they plan to rescue the other orphans. There is something very Dickensian about the story, and unlike some books set in strange hybrid worlds, Bartók's incredible descriptions and use of language, along with her illustrations build a fully-realized, fascinating universe.
Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
A magical, mysterious modern day Alice in Wonderland. 12-year-old Alice is determined to find her father after he disappears from Farenwood. Alice is a bit of a misfit. In a world full of color, she has pure white hair and white skin, and she performs miserably at the magic competition, when all 12-year-olds are supposed to display their unique talent. After the competition, Alice and a boy, Oliver, set off on a topsy-turvy, inside-out and upside-down adventure into Furthermore to find and bring back her father.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Babbitt's classic fantasy book addresses the age-old wish for everlasting life. The Tuck family, having drunk from an enchanted water source have discovered that living forever is not as great as it sounds. Winnie, a 10-year-old girl who decides to run away, meets the Tuck family and discovers their secret. A mysterious Man in the Yellow Suit also discovers the secret and pursues the magical water in search of profit. Winnie must help the Tuck family stay hidden and decide for herself if she wants everlasting life.
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.
Greenglass House (series) by Kate Milford
Milo lives with his adoptive parents in a strange and mysterious smugglers' inn. During the holiday break a series of guests arrive, all with a secret connection to the inn. The adventure begins when Milo finds a curious map and things begin to go missing. He and his friend, Maddy determined to find the culprit behind the thefts start to unravel the mystery tied to the house and its guests. I love the atmosphere of this book, seeping from every page.
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
A Snicker of Magic is a wonderful example of magical realism. Felicity Juniper Pickle has the ability to see words as they float above the heads of others. She lives in Midnight Gulch, a town with a reputation for magic, but has somehow lost it. Felicity believes the magic disappeared as the result of a curse and she is determined to figure out how to break the curse and restore the magic.
The Doll People (series) by Ann M. Martin
Even my 11-year-old son loved listening to this on audiobook. Annabelle doll finds a diary belonging to long lost Aunt Sarah and decides to investigate. Meanwhile, her 100 year old doll family learn to live with the new, modern FunCraft doll family.
A Dash of Trouble (series) by Anna Meriano
In her Mexican-American family, Leo Logroño has five older sisters. Convinced they are leaving her out of 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 that her sisters use magic in their baked goods! Against her sister's advice, Leo decides it is time that she learn magic, too, but things don't go exactly as she hopes!
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Protectorate has always sacrificed a baby to keep the witch in the forest at bay. Little do they know the witch has been saving the babies all these years. One year the witch decides to raise the baby herself, and inadvertently fills her with a fierce and strong magic. As the girl grows older and comes into her magic, a man in the Protectorate vows to find and vanquish the witch, revealing the truth about both the Protectorate and the witch.
The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas
This is a wonderfully funny and quirky book and in addition to the serious themes of grief and loss, you can use it to converse with your reader about the literary devices of metaphor and absurdity. After a trip to NASA, a black hole follows Stella Rodriguez home. Stella names her new pet, "Larry," short for Singularity. Larry swallows up everything it touches, which turns out to be a great way for Stella to get rid of unwanted items, especially the ones that remind her of her grief at losing her father. However, when Stella, her brother and new puppy get sucked into the black hole, in order to get out she must find a way to keep her own grief from consuming her. Yes, the topic is serious, but the writing is so delightful the book is an excellent vehicle to discuss a weighty subject.
Savvy (series) by Ingrid Law
The Savvy series is about the magical Beaumont family. Mibs is about to turn thirteen, the age when each child finds out what his or her magic, or "savvy", will be. Her brothers can control natural elements, her mother can do everything perfectly and Mibs is anxious to find out what her special quality is. Right before her 13th birthday party, her father has an accident and Mibs is convinced that her power will heal him. She runs away with her siblings and friends to try and reach him. A magical coming of age story.