The best middle-grade/young adult environmental fantasy books

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up playing in nature: body surfing the waves in Southern California, backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, swimming in rivers. For the past thirty years, I’ve lived in the redwoods of Northern California. Spending so much time in the peace and beauty of nature has filled me with joy and deep respect for the incredibly interconnectedness of living ecosystems. I’ve also had a lifelong passion for reading, especially fairy tales, fables and fantasies. Combining nature and fantasy in my writing allows me to explore ideas and inspirations about how we can live in harmony on our one beautiful planet.

I wrote...

Book cover of Wind

What is my book about?

Thrust by an earthquake into a world where trees are wise helpers, animals can guide us to safety, stories are gathered by the guardian of the deep sea, and greed becomes a place where everything turns to poison, Katie must learn to get along with an annoying alien boy, Za, in order to return home. But as Katie’s experiences test her environmental awareness, will she ever be able to develop her gifts of listening and communicating with the non-human realm? Will she and Za ever figure out the secret to finding the elusive Winged Ones – the only beings capable of taking them home?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Heartwood

Ellen Dee Davidson Why did I love this book?

A fable about forest creatures coming together and putting differences aside to save their home from the Smashbasher. This book is an early chapter book for 7-9-year-olds and includes beautiful illustrations. The trees have names and are inhabited by various creatures. Heartwood will bring children closer to the magic of the forest and nature. 

I recommend this book because I live in the redwood forest and love trees myself. The book captures the essence of the magic we feel when we enter an unspoiled forest, and how important it is to protect these sacred and life-giving places. The fact that the only way for the forest creatures to save their home is to find their similarities and work together strikes me as particularly relevant today.

By Pollyanna Darling, Kirsty Chalmers (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Quarrelling erupted. The faeries bickered amongst themselves. The magpies and squirrels tossed spiteful comments at each other across the clearing. The mushrooms started to wilt in the nasty atmosphere created by the squabbling. And the Smashbasher crept closer, gobbling up the forest, chomping the old ones, crushing and crunching its way toward The Linney."

Will the forest creatures find a way to save their homes? Can they put their squabbles aside and come up with a plan to stop the Smashbasher? You can find out by sitting down somewhere comfortable and reading this book.

Heartwood is a full colour, illustrated…

Book cover of Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation

Ellen Dee Davidson Why did I love this book?

Soon to be a musical, this enchanting story is about an eleven-year-old girl who doesn’t know she can sing until she gets to know an oak tree in her garden, Annie Oakly, who becomes her best friend and is actually a tree spirit. As the story unfolds, and Emma is confronted with family troubles, she learns of her own vital role in saving the trees; Emma must sing! 

I’m recommending this book because of my own love for both trees and music. In fact, I often sing to the redwoods where I live and sometimes imagine they are singing along with their rustling squeaks and creaks. The author tells a story grounded in everyday problems, such as living with a grandmother with dementia, while bringing the fantastical and magical world of nature vividly alive.

By Susan Elizabeth Hale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eleven-year-old Emma doesn't know that she comes from generations of tree singers, passed from mother to daughter. She doesn't believe she can sing. Her ailing grandmother has just come to live with the family. Her father is hardly ever at home. Her mother has been acting strange. To add to Emma's troubles, her mother's great uncle from England is coming to stay. Then, a strange old woman wearing a hat full of feathers appears mysteriously in her garden. She gives Emma a white swan feather that emits a haunting melody. Emma's only solace is the oak tree in her garden,…

Book cover of The Word for World Is Forest

Ellen Dee Davidson Why did I love this book?

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorite writers. The story reminds me a bit of the movie, Avatar, in that a peaceful earth-loving society is being taken over by a group that enslaves them and exploits their resources. I love trees and so the title of this classic attracts me right off. Le Guin explores ideas of how to stand up to oppression and environmental and cultural destruction without losing the most precious parts of ourselves, our communities, and our natural environment. 

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Word for World Is Forest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the inhabitants of a peaceful world are conquered by the bloodthirsty yumens, their existence is irrevocably altered. Forced into servitude, the Athsheans find themselves at the mercy of their brutal masters.

Desperation causes the Athsheans, led by Selver, to retaliate against their captors, abandoning their strictures against violence. But in defending their lives, they have endangered the very foundations of their society. For every blow against the invaders is a blow to the humanity of the Athsheans. And once the killing starts, there is no turning back.

Book cover of A Long Walk to Water

Ellen Dee Davidson Why did I love this book?

Living in California, where droughts are becoming increasingly common, I was deeply moved reading this story of a Sudanese girl, Nya, who has to walk two hours every day to a pond to fetch water. My heart was also touched reading about the second main character, a homeless boy named Salva who loses his parents to war. There are so many homeless people everywhere now, and Salva’s true story of courage and persistence gave me hope that with kindness and help, even the most challenging situations can be solved. 

By Linda Sue Park,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Long Walk to Water 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?

Cherished by millions of readers, this #1 New York Times bestselling novel is a powerful tale of perseverance and hope. Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park interweaves the stories of two Sudanese children who overcome mortal dangers to improve their lives and the lives of others.

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy,…

Book cover of My Side of the Mountain

Ellen Dee Davidson Why did I love this book?

This classic story of a boy running away to the Catskill Mountains and surviving on his own in the wilderness has stayed in my mind for years. Camping in the mountains of California with my comfortable sleeping bag and tent is so much different than reading about Sam Gribley, who brings only his knife, flint, and steel to light fires, some rope, and his ingenuity. Sam bonds with a falcon who helps him survive the harsh winter, which he spends living in a hollowed out log. 

By Jean Craighead George,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked My Side of the Mountain 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?

"Should appeal to all rugged individualists who dream of escape to the forest."-The New York Times Book Review

Sam Gribley is terribly unhappy living in New York City with his family, so he runs away to the Catskill Mountains to live in the woods-all by himself. With only a penknife, a ball of cord, forty dollars, and some flint and steel, he intends to survive on his own. Sam learns about courage, danger, and independence during his year in the wilderness, a year that changes his life forever.

"An extraordinary book . . . It will be read year after…

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Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time

By PJ Davis,

Book cover of Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time

PJ Davis

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Featured in "Best Middle Grade Fantasy Books" - Reedsy Discovery

"Fun & Fast Paced, This is Middle Grade Fantasy at its Best!" — Shaun Stevenson

"If you know any middle-grade readers who enjoy science fiction/fantasy with a mix of action, danger, and humor - recommend this book to them, or just go ahead and give them a copy." — The Fairview Review

“With elements of adventure, exploration, other worlds, and fantastical science, Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time is an exciting middle-grade novel with plenty of suspense… Behind the adventure are important messages about believing in oneself and finding inner strength.” — The Children's Book Review

"The plot of Nemesis and The Vault of Lost Time is a tapestry of surprises characterized by its unforeseen twists and turns. It’s this element of suspense that grips the readers, while the vivid descriptions create immersive visual experiences. Beyond its adventurous core, this mystery novel delves into themes of friendship and the nuanced dynamics of father-son relationships, offering a multi-layered reading experience." — The Literary Titan

Nemesis and the Vault of Lost Time

By PJ Davis,

What is this book about?

Thirteen-year-old Max is a daydreamer. It gets him into trouble at school, but his restless curiosity really turns problematic when he runs into a mysterious professor at his uncle's bookstore.

The old man informs Max that time is being sucked out of the planet by invisible bandits, stolen from unsuspecting people one breath and one sneeze at a time, and is being stored in a central vault. Once full, the vault will fuel a hungry horde of invaders looking to cross into earth, and cross out all its people.

What's more, the professor claims he knew Max's missing scientist father.…

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