There’s something special about a middle grade fantasy novel. The magic found within has the ability to transport and influence us for years to come—after all, adults still talk about the wonder of Narnia and Hogwarts, and kids every day fall in love with the gods of Camp Half-Blood and the powerful god-beings that are Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which.
But the fantasy novels that dot our shelves often only feature a certain kind of kid as the heroes. But any kid can be a magical hero. We need more books who contain kids that don’t fit the stereotypical white, straight mold of “hero”—and who are all totally, wonderfully magical in their own right. While we wait for even more, you can start by reading these seven incredible diverse middle grade fantasy novels.
Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi
The first of the new Rick Riordan Presents imprint, Aru Shah and the End of Time is an absolute must-read for kids who love mythology. Aru Shah stretches the truth to fit in, especially when her friends taking vacations while she’s trapped with her mom at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture. When classmates show up at the museum to catch her in a lie, Aru lights the Lamp of Bharata—and accidentally frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon who serves the God of Destruction. Unless Aru can find the five legendary Pandava brothers, her mother and classmates will be frozen in time… forever. Aru is fun and powerful and kids will wish she was a real person to chat with. And for those who already fell in love with Aru Shah, good news. You don’t have much longer to wait for the sequel: it hits shelves in April.
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano
Are you looking for a sweet story? Something that will make you smile like a spoonful of icing? Then you want to grab Anna Meriano’s adorable debut title in the Love Sugar Magic series, which contains considerably less baking-related puns than any pitch of the book I will ever give. Leonora Logroño never gets to help prepare the bakery for the Dia de los Muertos festival. She’s just too young. But when she sneaks out of school, she discovers the real reason she’s been kept out of the loop: her family are brujas who pour literal magic into what they bake. Leo has magic, too, and when she uses one little spell—well, what’s the worst that can happen? Hijinks ensue, making this the perfect companion novel for kids who loved Upsidedown Magic. Book two, A Sprinkle of Secrets, hits shelves in February.
The Storm Runner, by J.C. Cervantes
Who doesn’t love an adventure that centers around a volcano? Yes, a volcano. Okay, sure, it’s dormant—or at least, that’s what Zane thinks. But new girl Brooks knows the truth: the volcano is active… as a gateway to another world. And Zane is at the center of a prophecy that could release an evil god from an ancient Mayan relic. Another tale from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, The Storm Runner has shapeshifting girls, demons, and loyal dog Rosie. A very, very good dog. Look, you can read the story for the all-out war, or you can read it for the hybrid of magic and an extremely loyal and very good doggo. Can you guess who my favorite character is?
The Whispers, by Greg Howard
Is it too soon to start talking about 2019 books? Because The Whispers needs to be on every reading list of kids who loved Bridge to Terabithia and Counting by 7s. Riley believes in magical fairies that grant wishes if you leave them tributes. His wishes are to stop being bullied, for his crush to like him back, and for his mom to come back home after her disappearance months ago. When the investigation comes to a standstill, Riley makes the decision to go find the faeries and get his mother back—even if the trip will challenge everything he’s ever known.
Spirit Hunters: The Island of Monsters, by Ellen Oh
I loved spooky ghost stories as a child, which meant I would have devoured Ellen Oh’s incredible Spirit Hunters series. After Harper Raine discovered her family’s new house was—you guessed it—haunted, she thought the worst of her challenges was over. But now her family is taking a vacation to a remote tropical island, whose history is full of disappearances and murders. Visions of the island’s past keep coming to her—and when a vengeful spirit sets its sights on her family, she must once again use her spirit hunting skills to keep them safe. A perfect mix of scary and fun, this is a great next step for kids who loved the Goosebumps series.
Game of Stars, by Sayantani DasGupta
The sequel to The Serpent’s Secret, one of the best middle grade fantasies to hit shelves in 2018, is almost here! Kiranmala is a regular sixth grader—except for the fact that she’s an interdimensional demon slayer, a princess in the world of the Kingdom Beyond. After saving the whole world—but especially New Jersey and her parents—she’s returned home for a peaceful few weeks… until the Kingdom once again needs her. A new television station in the Kingdom Beyond is reigning supreme, with all of her friends terrified of the new and strange rules, and it’s up to Kiran to stop the station and battle the evil Serpent King who runs it… who just happens to be her father. I have yet to meet a kid who didn’t love The Serpent’s Secret after I handed it to them, and with Game of Stars on the horizon, now is the perfect chance to get into the series
Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee
If you’re looking for the perfect bookish pre-order to give to a fantasy-loving kid this holiday season, look no further than Dragon Pearl. This genre smash-up focuses on Korean mythology, a strange new planet and a girl who comes from a long line of fox spirits. Not that Min is allowed to shift—they have to pretend to be human to keep safe. But when her brother disappears from his post in the Space Forces, Min knows she has to go after him, running away from home to find him–and, perhaps, the mythical and powerful Dragon Pearl. The newest addition to the Rick Riordan Presents line-up looks absolutely incredible (spaceships! pirates! shapeshifters!) and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Dragons in a Bag, by Zetta Elliott
Wondering what to get for the younger avid fantasy reader in your life? Dragons In A Bag is perfect for those kiddos who are past chapter books but aren’t quite ready to delve into some of the larger middle grade fantasies. In magical Brooklyn, Jaxon is off to spend the day with somebody who, despite his mother calling her Ma, isn’t his grandmother. She’s a witch—and there’s a strange bag in her purse. What could be inside? Spoiler alert: it’s a baby dragon. Okay, the name of the book explains the premise pretty well here—there are dragons in a bag, and when Jaxon and his friends accidentally release them in the world, they have to find them before the tiny creatures are lost in Brooklyn forever.