The best magical middle grade novels woven with darkness and heart

Who am I?

Each summer when I was small, I visited my gram. During the day we would go off on one adventure or another—and at night, she enticed me to sleep with the promise of a story. Most often, she read Grimm’s fairytales to me. Full of darkness and also hope (!), they were, and still are, some of my very favorites. And they inspire what I most enjoy writing and reading.


I wrote...

The Plentiful Darkness

By Heather Kassner, Iz Ptica (illustrator),

Book cover of The Plentiful Darkness

What is my book about?

In Warybone, twelve-year-old Rooney de Barra collects precious moonlight, which she draws from the evening sky with her (very rare and most magical) lunar mirror. All the while she tries to avoid the rival roughhouse boys, and yet another, more terrifying danger: the dreaded magician that's been disappearing children in the night.

When Trick Aidan, the worst of the roughhouse boys, steals her lunar mirror, Rooney will do whatever it takes to get it back. Even if it means leaping into a pool of darkness after it swallows Trick and her mirror. Or braving the Plentiful Darkness, a bewitching world devoid of sky and stars. Or begrudgingly teaming up with Trick to confront the magician and unravel the magic that has trapped Warybone’s children.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Eden's Everdark

Heather Kassner Why did I love this book?

This eerie tale centers on the most lovable of characters, Eden Leopold, who I would follow anywhere—even into a land of eternal night. Spooky and strange, this story brims with magic and will also be sure to tug at your heartstrings (as it did mine) with its lovely portrayal of family. 

By Karen Strong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eden's Everdark 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?

Hailed by Newbery winner Kelly Barnhill as "stunning, moving, and marvelously strange," this tale of a young girl who stumbles into a magical realm ruled by a wicked witch is a haunting and ultimately uplifting middle grade novel about grief, family, and decades-old magic.

Still grieving the loss of her mother, Eden visits Safina Island, her ancestral home, as a healing balm. But when she discovers an old sketchbook that belonged to her mother, she's haunted by the images she sees drawn there. A creepy mansion covered with roots and leaves. A monstrous dog with dagger-sharp teeth. And a tall…


Book cover of Foxheart

Heather Kassner Why did I love this book?

Adventure and magic (so much magic!!) go hand in hand in this quirky story about a self-named thief, Quicksilver, whose quests lead her toward the truth of the Star Lands’ witches and the powerful Wolf King. Faithfully, her dog travels at her side, which is one reason I love this story so much. Animal companions make adventuring all the more fun! 

By Claire Legrand, Jaime Zollars (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Foxheart 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?

"A heart-pounding adventure."-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Orphan. Thief. Witch.

A classic fantasy-adventure reminiscent of Howl's Moving Castle from New York Times-bestselling author Claire Legrand.

Twelve-year-old Quicksilver lives as a thief in the sleepy town of Willow-on-the-River. Her only companions are her faithful dog and partner in crime, Fox-and Sly Boots, the shy boy who lets her live in his attic when it's too cold to sleep on the rooftops. It's a lonesome life, but Quicksilver is used to being alone. When you are alone, no one can hurt you. No one can abandon you.

Then one day Quicksilver discovers that…


Book cover of Coraline

Heather Kassner Why did I love this book?

This book is a classic—one where a bored and curious girl finds her way through a locked door in her new house that leads to a similar-but-not-quite-right version of her very own home. And similar-but-not-quite-right versions of her very own parents. It’s wonderfully creepy and a quick read that you will want to revisit again and again.

By Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Coraline as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

"Sometimes funny, always creepy, genuinely moving, this marvellous spine-chiller will appeal to readers from nine to ninety." - "Books for Keeps". "I was looking forward to "Coraline", and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was enthralled. This is a marvellously strange and scary book." - Philip Pullman, "Guardian". "If any writer can get the guys to read about the girls, it should be Neil Gaiman. His new novel "Coraline" is a dreamlike adventure. For all its gripping nightmare imagery, this is actually a conventional fairy story with a moral." - "Daily Telegraph". Stephen King once called Neil Gaiman 'a treasure-house…


Book cover of Whichwood

Heather Kassner Why did I love this book?

In this fantastical story, which is a companion to Furthermore, a lonesome girl scrubs the skin of the dead to ready souls for the afterlife. (Sounds properly spooky, doesn’t it? I love when books give me chills!) And when things are especially dark, as they are for Laylee, friendship shines all the brighter once it is found. 

By Tahereh Mafi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Whichwood 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?

Embark on a wondrous journey through the land of Whichwood in this stunning companion to Tahereh Mafi’s acclaimed bestseller Furthermore.

A Kirkus Best Book of the Year!

★ "Deliciously descriptive prose. . . . Darkly fascinating." −Kirkus
★ "Unforgettable heroine." −Booklist
★ "Mafi's language choices create visually arresting moments." –Shelf Awareness

Our story begins on a frosty night . . .
Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way) and she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined…


Book cover of The Night Gardener

Heather Kassner Why did I love this book?

The setting and mood of a book often draw me into the story more than anything, as is the case with The Night Gardener. From the dark wood and the run-down manor, to a terrible curse, this Gothic tale is dripping with atmosphere. This is a book about siblings, storytelling and lies, and what the things you desire are truly worth. Perfectly creepy!

By Jonathan Auxier,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Night Gardener as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Irish orphans Molly, 14, and Kip, 10, travel to England to work as servants in a crumbling manor house where nothing is quite what it seems, and soon the siblings are confronted by a mysterious stranger and the secrets of the cursed house. By the author of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes.


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Book cover of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

Clifford A. Wright Author Of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

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Who am I?

Author Philosopher Historian Researcher Gastronomer Bibliophile and reviewer

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What is my book about?

An Italian Feast celebrates the cuisines of the Italian provinces from Como to Palermo. A culinary guide and book of ready reference meant to be the most comprehensive book on Italian cuisine, and it includes over 800 recipes from the 109 provinces of Italy's 20 regions.

An Italian Feast is a gastronomy about Italian culinary history and consciousness, about how Italians cook, eat, and how their food is an intimate part of their culture. It is the first book in any language to comprehensively explore the gastronomy and cuisine not just of Italy, and not just the regions of Italy, but all 109 provinces of Italy, linking each with each other in terms of history, agriculture, economics, and the material culture of creative food illustrated with recipes.

An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,


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