The best middle grade books with fantastically fun ensemble casts

Who am I?

When I set out to write my debut novel, I knew it was a book I wanted to fill with joy. I wanted to write something that readers would want to return to again and again. When I thought about the books that had been like that for me, Little Women, the Harry Potter series, and The Wind in The Willows, I saw a clear pattern emerging: a strong ensemble cast. Much of our life is not about our individual interior struggles but about how we find our place in a world filled with different people. Seeing successful models of this is so important to readers of all ages, but especially for young readers. 


I wrote...

Mulrox and the Malcognitos

By Kerelyn Smith,

Book cover of Mulrox and the Malcognitos

What is my book about?

Mulrox the ogre harbors a secret desire to become the world's greatest poet. Unfortunately, all of his ideas are rotten. But when his terrible ideas come to life, Mulrox soon finds himself on a quest to protect the very ideas he loathes, the malcognitos, as they call themselves. Accompanied by his sassy pet toad, quirky neighbor, and a hoard of mischievous bad ideas, Mulrox must travel to the malcognitos' realm, uncover the mystery of the beast hunting them, and return home in time to deliver the best poem of his life.

A wildly fun adventure about friendship, imagination, and embracing your imperfections. If you like prophetic rodents, spellbinding sneezes, and ferocious sheep, you'll love this book.

The books I picked & why

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Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One

By Patricia C. Wrede,

Book cover of Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One

Why this book?

As a kid, Dealing with Dragons was unquestionably one of my favorite books. It’s the first book I remember reading and knowing with absolute certainty that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. There is so much to love: the delightfully twisted fairytale elements, the smart, independent, female characters, the humor, the dragons, and of course, Cherries Jubilee. The story of a princess who runs away to intentionally become a dragon’s princess captured my heart, but it was the incredible dynamic between the characters that brought me back again and again: the prickly dragon Kazul, the pragmatic, no-nonsense Morwen, and the relentlessly stubborn Cimorene. They are characters who captivated me as a child and still inspire me today. They butt against one another in hilarious and delightful ways but ultimately find ways to work together and support one another. 


Howl's Moving Castle

By Diana Wynne Jones,

Book cover of Howl's Moving Castle

Why this book?

Howl’s Moving Castle is a classic that I somehow missed as a kid, but discovered only a few years ago. As soon as I started reading I was instantly swept up in Jones’ masterful voice and hilariously imaginative world. I found myself chuckling when, in the first few pages, the young impressionable protagonist is transformed into an old woman and cast out into the world on her own. I was enchanted by the iconic castle with legs. But the part that really sold me was the cast of characters and the way they bounce and play off of one another. There’s the vain, irresponsible, but somehow endearing wizard Howl. The clueless Michael. The kind but unconfident Sophie. And who could forget Calcifer, the imprisoned fire demon hell-bent on his own agenda? Though undoubtedly a group of misfits, by the end, you’ll be rooting for all of them.


Cattywampus

By Ash Van Otterloo,

Book cover of Cattywampus

Why this book?

Cattywampus is such a wonderful, voicey, new release by Ash Van Otterloo. Set in the fictional southern small town of Howlers Hollow, it features rival witch families, werewolves, zombies, a pet Racoon, and a runaway outhouse. The town is constructed with such care you'll swear it was a place you could go visit tomorrow. But for me, the magic really shines when the eager and anxious Katybird, the contrary and defensive Delpha, and the ever-cheerful Tyler are forced to work together to set their town back to normal. Their opposing personalities, the warring zombified family members, and their untamed magic mean it's no easy task to get things back under control. But you'll be rooting for the rag-tag team the whole way.


Spell Sweeper

By Lee Edward Födi,

Book cover of Spell Sweeper

Why this book?

Spell Sweeper is another fantastic recent release by the talented Lee Edward Fodi that I just couldn't put down. Set in an updated magic school, the story will pull you in with its incredible world-building. The main character, Cara, is a loveable outcast. She's a sort of anti-chosen-one who is forced into an adventure with her fellow remedial magic students, the nervous Gusto, and the talking, magical fox Zuki. But when she finds out she will also have to work with her rival, the seemingly too perfect Harlee Woo, who Cara thinks might be secretly behind the recent magical instabilities, the heat really turns up. Though Cara feels isolated and intentionally pushes others away, she ultimately has to learn to trust her companions and, more importantly, herself. 


Jennifer Murdley's Toad: A Magic Shop Book

By Bruce Coville,

Book cover of Jennifer Murdley's Toad: A Magic Shop Book

Why this book?

Jennifer’s Murdley’s Toad was another one of my absolute favorites as a kid. It's a hilarious adventure full of goofy characters and magical twists, but all of the fun masks a serious undercurrent about physical insecurities and embracing who you are, warts and all. Coville’s book served as a source of inspiration for my debut novel in many regards. There's the wisecracking, Humphrey-Bogart-impersonating toad. A toad who Jennifer must fight to protect even though he's driving her up the wall. And then there's the not-so-terrible, self-obsessed bully, who reluctantly becomes part of the gang. And of course, the courageous choice Jennifer must ultimately make at the end of the story. Jennifer Murdley’s Toad remains one of my favorites for its message, deftly handled cast of characters, and most importantly, how much fun it is to read. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in wizards, witches, and magic-supernatural?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about wizards, witches, and magic-supernatural.

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Magic-Supernatural Explore 322 books about magic-supernatural

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, A Wizard of Earthsea, and Skulduggery Pleasant if you like this list.