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.

The books I picked & why

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Eden's Everdark

By Karen Strong,

Book cover of Eden's Everdark

Why 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 Claire Legrand, Jaime Zollars (illustrator),

Book cover of Foxheart

Why 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 Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Coraline

Why 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 Tahereh Mafi,

Book cover of Whichwood

Why 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. 

The Night Gardener

By Jonathan Auxier,

Book cover of The Night Gardener

Why 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!

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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