The best fantasy books for middle graders to explore different types of fantasy novels

Gita V. Reddy Author Of Tara and the Giant Queen: A Fantasy in Giant Land
By Gita V. Reddy

Who am I?

I write for adults and for children; more for children, less for adults. I have books out for middle graders, for ages 8-10, and also picture books for kids. As a parent and an author, I believe that while picture books and short chapter books spark an interest in reading in children, middle grade is when reading is inculcated into a lifelong habit. 


I wrote...

Tara and the Giant Queen: A Fantasy in Giant Land

By Gita V. Reddy,

Book cover of Tara and the Giant Queen: A Fantasy in Giant Land

What is my book about?

Tara and the Giant Queen is a fantasy in the Land of Giants. After a storm, nine-year-old Tara finds herself in a strange land where everything is gigantic. She accidentally lands on the head of the queen of giants and is taken into her care. The good queen promises to help her return home but there are evil giants who believe Tara is a magician and are out to capture her for her magic powers. What follows is danger, courage, and a fascinating journey home. And yes, fun, because Tara and the boy-giant, Montek, become great friends.

The books I picked & why

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The Phantom Tollbooth

By Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (illustrator),

Book cover of The Phantom Tollbooth

Why this book?

Milo is bored. He receives a mysterious box with the address "For Milo, who has plenty of time" that contains a tollbooth. Milo drives through it to the Lands Beyond and stops at strange places. Dictionoplis and Digitopolis are the lands of words and numbers. Doldrums is where you end up if you don’t think, or act, or laugh. 

After Expectations, and Conclusions (where you get by jumping), and rescuing the two princesses, Rhyme and Reason, Milo is no longer the boy he was…

The Phantom Tollbooth shaped my love for words. The puns and riddles, and the rather silly jokes (aren’t they the best kind!) had me going back to the book. I read it when I was nine, and ten, and eleven, and also enjoy it as an adult.

The Phantom Tollbooth

By Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Phantom Tollbooth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Five Children and It

By E. Nesbit,

Book cover of Five Children and It

Why this book?

While digging into a sand pit, five children uncover a large, strange creature with a furry body shaped like a spiders’ and having telescopic eyes, and wonder what ‘It’ could be.

‘It’ is a sand fairy, also called a psammead. When the children learn that psammeads can make wishes come true, they ask ‘It’ to grant them their wishes. ‘It’ does, and the results are disastrous!

This is another childhood favorite. I loved how the children had a wish a day and laughed as the wishes backfired. I also loved the bond between the siblings.

Five Children and It was written fifty years before C. S. Lewis wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In some ways it is dated but because of that, it provides young readers a glimpse into the past. 

Five Children and It

By E. Nesbit,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Five Children and It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edith Nesbit was inspired by her own five children to write this enchanting novel, and its warm and funny portrayal of a magical childhood has ensured its presence in print ever since.

Designed to appeal to the book lover, the Macmillan Collector's Library is a series of beautiful gift editions of much loved classic titles. Macmillan Collector's Library are books to love and treasure. This illustrated edition of Five Children and It features the drawings of H. R. Millar, and an afterword by writer, critic and broadcaster Nicolette Jones.

Whilst out playing in the countryside, five children come across a…


Matilda

By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Book cover of Matilda

Why this book?

Matilda is a genius and a rebel. When her parents neglect her, she gets back at them with (seriously funny) pranks. 

At school, Matilda and the other children are bullied and terrorized by the headmistress. Matilda has a superpower. She can move physical objects without touching them. Her other superpower is her super brain. She combines them to drive away the evil headmistress.

Three reasons: 1. I like the idea of the brain being a superpower. 2. I’m partial to books with strong girls and Matilda is as strong as they come. 3. Sadly, child neglect happens. Child abuse happens. Matilda is an empowering book where children hit back at the adult villains in their lives.

Matilda

By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Matilda as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Puffin Audiobooks presents Roald Dahl's Matilda, read by Kate Winslet. This audiobook features original music and sound design by Pinewood film studios.

Matilda Wormwood is an extraordinary genius with really stupid parents.

Miss Trunchbull is her terrifying headmistress who thinks all her pupils are rotten little stinkers.

But Matilda will show these horrible grown-ups that even though she's only small, she's got some very powerful tricks up her sleeve . . .

Kate Winslet's award-winning and varied career has included standout roles in Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Finding Neverland, Revolutionary Road and The Reader, for which she…


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Wonderful Wizard of Oz

By L. Frank Baum, Robert Sabuda (illustrator),

Book cover of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Why this book?

A tornado whirls Dorothy and her dog into a magical world. She learns that only the Wizard of Oz can help her return home and sets out to find him. Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow, who wants a brain; the Tin Man, who desires a heart; and the Cowardly Lion, who lacks courage. 

Dorothy and her friends face several hurdles on the way, mostly created by the Wicked Witch of the West who is furious with Dorothy.

Will they meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and more importantly, will he help them?

When my son was a child and reluctant to move on to ‘bigger’ books, I gave him The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I asked him to at least read the first two chapters. I knew once the magic of the story gripped him, he would finish the book. And that is what happened. 

I consider The Wizard of Oz as a milestone in my son’s reading life.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Wonderful Wizard of Oz

By L. Frank Baum, Robert Sabuda (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Robert Sabuda has created a resplendent pop-up version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the original publication. This glorious edition is told in a shorter version of L. Frank Baum's original text, with artwork in the style of W. W. Denslow. With sparkling touches of colored foil and Emerald City eyeglasses, this classic tale is certain to find an honored place on the family bookshelf.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

By J.K. Rowling, Mary Grandpré (illustrator),

Book cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Why this book?

Harry is an orphan living with his aunt’s family where he is ill-treated. His life changes when he learns he is a wizard, and famous among wizards as the boy who survived a deathly curse.

Harry moves to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. For the first time in his life, he feels like a normal kid. He had friends and enjoys his lessons in magic and wizardry. When he learns about a secret object within the castle walls of the school, he tries to stop it from falling into evil hands and comes up against terrifying forces…

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published, I was an adult with an interest in middle grade books. I loved everything about the book; the characters, the world building, the plot, and the brilliant writing.

I have included the book on my list because I have seen children devour it, dissect it, and discuss it. 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

By J.K. Rowling, Mary Grandpré (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New, repackaged audio editions of the classic and internationally bestselling, multi-award-winning series, read by Stephen Fry containing 7 CDs with a total running time of 8 hours and 25 minutes. With irresistible new jackets by Jonny Duddle to bring Harry Potter to the next generation of readers.

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry's eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a…

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