Book Spotlight: Challenging Middle Grade Fantasy

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Posted: February 8, 2018

Category: Staff Picks

Are you looking for a challenge for your well-read child? Here are a few awesome middle grade fantasy books for strong readers.


 The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is the winner of the 2017 John Newbery Medal.

There is a Witch in the woods. When Xan rescued Luna from the woods, she spun starlight from her fingers for the child to eat. She didn't notice the moon rising, or the heavy weight of moonlight dripping from her fingers until it was too late. Or that's what she tells herself. And just like that Luna is enmagicked. So begins one of the most beautiful and lyrical fairy tales I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The language is sublime, the pacing is spot on, and the characters are so real they will break your heart and heal it again. This gorgeous story about the strength of love and the power of stories is sure to keep readers delighted and entranced. Children are also sure to get a kick out of Glerk, the wise swamp monster and Fyrian, the perfectly tiny dragon.

The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Scheming King, and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long

Margaret is a sweet yet identifiable heroine whose limp does not so much define her as it is an integral part of her. As she ventures off into the world to seek her heart's desire we are introduced to a touching and very real cast of characters in this medieval but not entirely unmagical world. The story switches between points of view, with all the characters meeting up and branching off to tell a single, unified story. I would highly recommend this book for parents struggling to find books that match their child's interest and higher reading levels while remaining appropriate for their age. It touches on politics, family, love, and friendship in meaningful and connected ways. It also examines identity and how we understand ourselves and our place in the world.


The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

Books are doors to other worlds – metaphorically speaking of course. But for some people that statement is quite literal, assuming you have the right book. When twelve-year-old Alice Creighton’s father disappears and she is sent to live with her Uncle Geryon, she learns that the world is a much stranger place than most people realize. The line dividing reality from fiction blurs and Alice is thrown headfirst into a mess of magic, intrigue, and more than a few strange creatures. Delightful, fascinating, and a little bit creepy, The Forbidden Library is an incredible read. Alice is a sturdy and charming character, maintaining her solid practicality as she adapts to the bizarre circumstances she continually finds herself in. Django Wexler has created a wonderful world, compelling characters and an intriguing system of magic that continues throughout his now completed series.


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