The best middle grade fantasy books about dragons, sword fights, elves, and such

James R. Hannibal Author Of The Lost Property Office
By James R. Hannibal

The Books I Picked & Why

Keeper of the Lost Cities

By Shannon Messenger

Keeper of the Lost Cities

Why this book?

Keeper of the Lost Cities is the first of ten books in the series of the same name. Who doesn’t love a long-running series with plenty of stories to tell? Shannon is amazing at creating fantastical worlds that intersect with our own. Sophie Foster’s telepathic abilities are her first clue that perhaps she doesn’t quite belong. And when Fitz shows up—a boy who shares her ability—he confirms it. Fitz whisks her away to a land of elves, wonder, and danger. This is a wish-fulfillment book of I-should-be-anyplace-else-but-here that goes terribly wrong when a group of rebel elves proves they are intent on doing Sophie harm.


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On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

By Andrew Peterson, Joe Sutphin

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Why this book?

You can see Andrew Peterson’s whimsy in the title of this book and feel it throughout the story. Three children in a world very similar to our own are thrown into an adventure in which they must face sea dragons and terrible venomous lizard people. The Wingfeather Saga (which this story begins) captures readers with a gorgeous world and nonstop adventure. But where it wins my heart is the overriding theme. The soul of this story is family.


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Fear No Evil: A Towers of Light family read aloud

By Allen Brokken

Fear No Evil: A Towers of Light family read aloud

Why this book?

Fear No Evil is the first in Allen’s Towers of Light series of family reads. In similar fashion to the Wingfeather Saga, a group of siblings must navigate a new world to save their parents. Allen’s world enables us to see a world untouched by sin and then the damage done when sin begins to taint the landscape and its inhabitants. I love these stories so much because of Allen’s unique fireside storytelling style. The easy and almost rhythmic flow of his prose lends itself to read-alouds that adults, middle graders, and younger siblings can all enjoy.


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The Unwanteds

By Lisa McMann

The Unwanteds

Why this book?

I love a good underdog story, and what better underdog is there an unwanted tweenager? Lisa wrote the Unwanteds as a fantastical answer to the loss of arts programs in public schools. In her story, set on the island of Quill, artistic tendencies are suppressed and those who fail to hide it are banished to (well, no spoilers). But if you love a good magical boarding school tale of friends, traitors, and new abilities, this series is for you.  


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Dragon Rider

By Cornelia Funke

Dragon Rider

Why this book?

Dragon Rider is a lesser-known tale from the author who brought you Inkheart. As I said before, I love stories about worlds that intersect our own, and Dragon Rider is one of those. When the human expansion threatens to destroy the home of the last known dragons, Firedrake and his brownie friend Sorrel set out in search of the Rim of Heaven, where dragons can live in peace. A boy, Ben, is swept up in their journey and a fast-paced adventure follows. Good and bad humans as well as an evil manmade dragon keep the heroes on their toes and the pages turning.


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