The best magic realism books chosen by a children’s author

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a writer and poet who loved reading books set in fantasy worlds like Narnia as a child. When I began writing for children, I realised my own magical experiences had been on family trips to India, where goddesses and temples, palaces swarming with monkeys, ice-capped mountains, and elephant rides were part of everyday life. The term ‘magic realism’ seemed to better fit my own fantasy world, Indica. Here, elemental magic is rooted in the myths and culture of young hero Minou Moonshine, expanding her experiences and guiding the search for her destiny. The children’s books I've chosen also contain supernatural and magical elements which are intrinsic to the protagonist’s world – no wardrobe needed!


I wrote...

The Destiny of Minou Moonshine

By Gita Ralleigh,

Book cover of The Destiny of Minou Moonshine

What is my book about?

The beautiful queendom of Moonlally has fallen under a tyrant's rule. Their queen is dead, worship of their goddess, the Dark Lady, is forbidden, and the precious black diamond that protects the city - a rare fragment of fallen star - has gone missing. When fierce orphan girl Minou Moonshine's life is unexpectedly shattered, she joins the ragtag band of rebels, the Green Orchids, who are plotting to overthrow the General. Minou sets off with her friends and a mechanical elephant, through the lush jungles of Indica, in search of the Dark Lady, a diamond and her destiny. 

"Masterful, a wonderfully original fantasy adventure that feels like a timeless classic. A brilliant new voice in the world of children's fiction." - Anthony McGowan, winner of the 2020 CILIP Carnegie Medal for LARK

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Tyger

Gita Ralleigh Why did I love this book?

Tyger grabbed me with its opening lines: "It happened in the 21st century, when London was still the capital of an Empire, and the Empire still ruled the world…"

Adam, our young hero is running from a thief when he comes across a magical creature, a wounded Tyger. Powerful enemies are hunting the Tyger, to save her, Adam and his friend Zadie must develop the power to open their own ‘doors of perception’ and overcome the forces of evil.

Tyger is a vivid, beautifully written adventure that feels timeless, with philosophical echoes of William Blake and stunning illustrations by Dave McKean.

By SF Said, Dave McKean (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tyger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

'There are three doors that I may show you. You will find a different kind of power behind each one . . .'

Adam has found something incredible in a rubbish dump in London. A mysterious, mythical, magical animal. A TYGER.

And the tyger is in danger.

Adam and his friend Zadie are determined to help, but it isn't just the tyger's life at stake. Their whole world is on the verge of destruction. Can they learn to use their powers before it's too late?


Book cover of Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Gita Ralleigh Why did I love this book?

I had long been a fan of Salman Rushdie, known as a magic realism author for adults, but only read his children’s book Haroun and the Sea of Stories after I began writing for children myself. 

Set in the land of Alifbay, in a nameless city of factories in which ‘sadness was actually manufactured, packaged and sent all over the world’ we follow the adventures of Haroun, whose father Rashid the storyteller loses his gift. Haroun must journey to the earth’s second moon, Kahani (story in Hindi/Urdu) and drink from the Ocean of Stories to restore it.

This endlessly inventive book is rich in Indian mythology and folklore. 

By Salman Rushdie,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Haroun and the Sea of Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A captivating fantasy novel for readers of all ages, by the author of Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses

"This is, simply put, a book for anyone who loves a good story. It's also a work of literary genius." -Stephen King

Set in an exotic Eastern landscape peopled by magicians and fantastic talking animals, Haroun and the Sea of Stories inhabits the same imaginative space as The Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, The Arabian Nights, and The Wizard of Oz. Twelve-year-old Haroun sets out on an adventure to restore his father's gift of storytelling by reviving the poisoned Sea…


Book cover of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Gita Ralleigh Why did I love this book?

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon drew me in with its beautiful illustrations and glimpse into the rich mythologies of China.

Minli, a poor girl, lives where Fruitless Mountain and Jade River meet and like Haroun, has a storyteller father. When she spends two copper coins on a talking goldfish, it tells her how to find the Old Man on the Moon and change her family’s fortune. Minli sets off on her quest in the company of a dragon who cannot fly and discovers that good fortune means more than riches.

A delightful fable of friendship and family, with stories from Chinese folklore embedded within the main narrative.

By Grace Lin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. While her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man in the Moon, Minli's mother chides him for filling her head with stories. But inspired by these stories, Minli spends one of her precious copper pennies on a beautiful goldfish, which is said to be able to change the fortune of the owner. Her mother reprimands her for the silly purchase, but, it pays off when the goldfish talks and offers to show her the…


Book cover of The Girl of Ink & Stars

Gita Ralleigh Why did I love this book?

It's hard to believe that Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Girl of Ink and Stars only came out in 2016.

The book has become a modern classic, combining beautifully poetic writing with the compelling first-person voice of Isabella, the mapmaker’s daughter. When Isabella ventures into the mysterious interior of the island of Joya Governor, to search for her friend, the Governor’s daughter, she must navigate a mysterious labyrinth, supernatural demon dogs, and a volcano-dwelling deity.

The magic elements here are inspired by the indigenous culture of the Canary Isles. 

By Kiran Millwood Hargrave,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Girl of Ink & Stars 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?

The magical bestseller: a classic story to read again
and again.



Winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2017

Winner of the British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year
2017

Shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award

Shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize





Beautiful, thrilling and magical, Sunday Times bestselling-author
Kiran Millwood Hargrave's critically-acclaimed first
novel is a modern classic.

'Absolutely loved it from start to finish' TOM
FLETCHER

'I read it, I loved it' MALORIE BLACKMAN

'Kiran Millwood Hargrave creates a spellbinding world of magic,
myth and adventure' EMMA CARROLL

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella dreams of the faraway…


Book cover of Wolf Light

Gita Ralleigh Why did I love this book?

Wolf Light dazzled me with its original premise. Three girls, born in different lands on the same day – Zula from Mongolia, Adoma from Ghana, and Linet from Cornwall – communicate through magic.

Zula is a shaman’s daughter, and her father shows her how to connect with her sisters, all destined to be guardians of the earth. Zula’s mountain home is threatened by copper-mining, Adoma’s forest by gold prospectors, and Linet is the guardian of the Linet Lake.

When their homelands are threatened, the girls must use their shared powers to defend them, at great cost to themselves.

By Yaba Badoe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wolf Light as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'She weaves ancient storytelling magic into words of exceptional beauty... Everyone should read Badoe' Sophie Anderson, author of The House with Chicken Legs.

A leopard dances under the moon.
A wolf prowls.
A red-beaked bird flies free.

Three girls born on the same day in wolf light are bound together to protect the world. They can dazzle or destroy. They have wind-song and fire-fury at their fingertips, but their enemies are everywhere.

From the bleak steppes to the tropical forests of Ghana and the stormy moors of Cornwall, the lands they love are plundered and poisoned. The girls must rally…


You might also like...

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A spy school for girls amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in magical realism, wolves, and islands?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about magical realism, wolves, and islands.

Magical Realism Explore 435 books about magical realism
Wolves Explore 111 books about wolves
Islands Explore 78 books about islands