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

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Phantom Tollbooth

Gita V. Reddy Why did I love 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.

By Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Phantom Tollbooth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

With almost 5 million copies sold 60 years after its original publication, generations of readers have now journeyed with Milo to the Lands Beyond in this beloved classic. Enriched by Jules Feiffer’s splendid illustrations, the wit, wisdom, and wordplay of Norton Juster’s offbeat fantasy are as beguiling as ever. 

“Comes up bright and new every time I read it . . . it will continue to charm and delight for a very long time yet. And teach us some wisdom, too.” --Phillip Pullman

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only…


Book cover of Five Children and It

Gita V. Reddy Why did I love 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. 

By E. Nesbit,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Five Children and It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

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…


Book cover of Matilda

Gita V. Reddy Why did I love 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.

By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Matilda as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

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…


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

Gita V. Reddy Why did I love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

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.


Book cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Gita V. Reddy Why did I love 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. 

By J.K. Rowling,

Why should I read it?

36 authors picked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Galloping gargoyles ... 2022 is the silver anniversary of J.K. Rowling's magical classic Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone!

The boy wizard Harry Potter has been casting a spell over young readers and their families ever since 1997. Now the first book in this unmissable series celebrates 25 years in print! The paperback edition of the tale that introduced us to Harry, Ron and Hermione has been updated and dressed in silver to mark the occasion. It's time to take the magical journey of a lifetime ...

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping…


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The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

Book cover of The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

Erica Silverman Author Of Wake Up, City!

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an award-winning author of picture books and early readers. I have set my stories in many kinds of locations, including a haunted house, an Eastern European shtetl, an English Renaissance village, and a working cattle ranch. For Wake Up, City, I turned to the setting I know best, the city. I drew on memories of walking to kindergarten in early morning Brooklyn. This book is my love song to cities everywhere. As a lifelong city dweller, I worry about the impact of urban spread on the planet, but I feel hopeful, too, because many cities are becoming more nature and wildlife-friendly. The books I'm excited to share celebrate city wildlife. 

Erica's book list on celebrating cities

What is my book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honeybee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes, and beehives—even water fountains—every eight hundred feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high above speeding cars, creating a safe path for tree-hopping possums and squirrels alike.

Through a mix of lyrical poems, real-life success stories, and bouquet-bright artwork, The City Sings Green explores the environmental impact of humans and showcases the many ways that we can rewild cities across the globe. Together, we can welcome nature back!

The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

What is this book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic. Perfect for fans of The Curious Garden and Harlem Grown.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honey-bee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes and beehives-even water fountains-every 800 feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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