The best middle-grade adventures with magical elements

Who am I?

I love books. All kinds of books. Growing up, I didn’t have many friends outside of books. It’s no wonder that as an adult reader/writer/editor/book coach, I still read widely and voraciously. I believe all stories are magical, but I’m especially drawn to books that contain emotionally engaging characters and fun magical elements. I’m also a huge fan of good KidLit and getting a chance to see and explore other cultures and worlds, both real and imagined. (I even co-host a podcast: Coaching KidLit.) So, I read a ton of magical stories and a lot of KidLit. That’s how I discovered the books on this recommended reading list. 


I wrote...

Lostuns Found

By Sharon Skinner,

Book cover of Lostuns Found

What is my book about?

Lostuns Found is a middle-grade steampunk adventure about scrappy street urchins who face down a band of rotten smugglers to save their fellow streeters.

In the smoke-covered, steam-powered city of Landings, the filthy streets of the lower city are rife with criminals. It’s a rough place where orphans and lost children known as streeters struggle to survive by banding together, forming rival crews. Gage dreams of earning passage to a better place while Wynd has a promise to keep. When their fellow streeters begin to disappear, Gage and Wynd must put aside their long-standing rivalry and work together to rescue their mates from a crew of ruthless, kidnapping smugglers. But can a pact made under pressure be trusted?

The books I picked & why

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Amari and the Night Brothers

By B.B. Alston,

Book cover of Amari and the Night Brothers

Why this book?

I like a solid magical adventure with a strong female character. There weren’t very many books like this when I was growing up, so I love getting a chance to read them now. Amari and the Night Brothers also has a lot of fun magical elements, including the idea that there are magical creatures that live among us but are kept hidden. I love the idea that my neighbor might be a witch, or a were, or some other fantastical creature. Or maybe I could be the magical creature hidden from them. What a fun idea. Plus, we get a couple of unexpected friendships, which is always a treat. My inner kiddo had a lot of fun reading this book.

Amari and the Night Brothers

By B.B. Alston,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Amari and the Night Brothers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"AMARI IS MAGICAL!" ANGIE THOMAS

An epic middle grade supernatural adventure series, soon to be a major movie starring Marsai Martin. Perfect for readers aged 8+ and fans of Percy Jackson, Skandar and the Unicorn Thief and Men in Black.

Amari Peters knows three things.

Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.
No one will talk about it.
His mysterious job holds the secret...

So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she's certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau,…


A Crack in the Sea

By H. M. Bouwman, Yuko Shimizu (illustrator),

Book cover of A Crack in the Sea

Why this book?

Creative and deeply layered, this book has so much on offer: multiple universes, a boy who can talk to fish, a city built of rafts, sea monsters, and wonderfully clever and well-drawn characters. An absolutely beautiful and emotionally engaging story of escaped slaves and refugees fleeing for their lives seeking a new home and freedom. I was totally swept away.

A Crack in the Sea

By H. M. Bouwman, Yuko Shimizu (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Crack in the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An enchanting historical fantasy adventure perfect for fans of Thanhha Lai's Newbery Honor-winning Inside Out and Back Again

No one comes to the Second World on purpose. The doorway between worlds opens only when least expected. The Raft King is desperate to change that by finding the doorway that will finally take him and the people of Raftworld back home. To do it, he needs Pip, a young boy with an incredible gift-he can speak to fish; and the Raft King is not above kidnapping to get what he wants. Pip's sister Kinchen, though, is determined to rescue her brother…


The Last Last-Day-of-Summer: A Legendary Alston Boys Adventure

By Lamar Giles, Dapo Adeola (illustrator),

Book cover of The Last Last-Day-of-Summer: A Legendary Alston Boys Adventure

Why this book?

This is such a fun book, filled with fascinating characters, unusual creatures, and a camera that can freeze time. I loved hanging out with the main characters, Otto and Sheed. They are smart, fun, and relatable. Their adventure is both exciting and humorous, and their relationship is realistic and heartwarming. I love a good adventure, especially one where the characters are forced to set aside their differences to work together toward a single goal. 

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer: A Legendary Alston Boys Adventure

By Lamar Giles, Dapo Adeola (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Last-Day-of-Summer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Hardy Boys meets The Phantom Tollbooth, in the new century! When two adventurous cousins accidentally extend the last day of summer by freezing time, they find the secrets hidden between the unmoving seconds, minutes, and hours are not the endless fun they expected. Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unravelling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun…


Dust & Grim

By Chuck Wendig,

Book cover of Dust & Grim

Why this book?

Not only does this book have a strong female lead, a scary, spooky adventure, and an unusual friendship where cousins who start off not liking one another have to work together, or else, but the idea that a funeral home guards another realm. I love it. And Chuck Wendig really nailed the voice of this story! It’s totally Chuck-like, but not the creepy Chuck we get in his adult horror books. This is 100% snarky, goofy, yeehaw, let’s-have-a-rollicking-good-time kid-at-heart Chuck. Also, this one made me laugh out loud in places, and I can always use a good laugh.

Dust & Grim

By Chuck Wendig,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dust & Grim as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

?Thirteen-year-old Molly doesn't know how she got the short end of the stick-being raised by her neglectful father-while Dustin, the older brother she's never met, got their mother and the keys to the family estate. But now the siblings are both orphaned, she's come home for her inheritance, and if Dustin won't welcome her into the family business, then she'll happily take her half in cash.

There's just one problem: the family business is a mortuary for monsters, and Molly's not sure she's ready to deal with mysterious doors, talking wolves, a rogue devourer of magic, and a secret cemetery.…


Midsummer's Mayhem

By Rajani LaRocca,

Book cover of Midsummer's Mayhem

Why this book?

I just had to include this book in the list. Shakespeare reimagined for middle-grade and with Indian American cultural elements and cookies? Yes, please with sprinkles on top! It’s got a fun girl lead you to want to spend time with, along with magic and baking and alternate worlds. All the right ingredients for an entertaining and engaging adventure. I loved the entire sampling! Now, if I could only find my way to that bakery….

Midsummer's Mayhem

By Rajani LaRocca,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Midsummer's Mayhem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Kirkus Best Book of 2019!
An Indies Introduce Selection for 2019!
An Indie Next Pick for Summer 2019!

"A delectable treat for food and literary connoisseurs alike." Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"What a wonderful, intriguing, and magical book. And wow, did it ever get my tastebuds going! Each time I picked it up, I felt the urge to head to my kitchen. . . . What I loved most was the smartness of it. It never once doubted its young readers." Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor- and National Book Award-Nominated author

"Midsummer's Mayhem is an enchantment of a novel, bursting…


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