The best new mythology-inspired middle grade fantasy—for kids who loved Percy Jackson

Gabrielle K. Byrne Author Of The Edge of Strange Hollow
By Gabrielle K. Byrne

The Books I Picked & Why

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

By Sangu Mandanna

Book cover of Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

Why this book?

Kiki manages her anxiety by drawing stories featuring her family ancestors, but when her sketchbook becomes a doorway into the world of Indian mythology, she’s dropped into a fight between a Hindu Goddess and a Demon King trying to escape into the real world. 

I love stories featuring kids who doubt themselves, but who learn they are strong and capable. Any kid struggling with anxiety will surely see themselves in Kiki. The adventure is fantastic, Mandanna’s writing is lovely, and Kiki and her friends are all easy to care about. Whether readers are new to Indian mythology, or they’ve already burned through the Aru Shah and Kiranmala stories—this is an exciting and expansive tale promising much more to come.

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The Last Shadow Warrior

By Sam Subity

Book cover of The Last Shadow Warrior

Why this book?

This fun read, full of humor and adventure, is a mash-up of Viking lore and the story of Beowulf in a contemporary setting. Abby, grieving over the death of her mother, is also at a new school—not to mention training as the last of the Aesir warriors destined to hunt and kill Grendels. When a Grendel starts hunting her instead, Abby has a lot to unravel and conquer, fast. 

I adore quirky stories that play with Western myths (heck, I wrote one), and this book has that in spades. For kids that love Norse mythology, this will provide smiles, snorts, and a perfect dose of white-knuckled page-turning. We grow with Abby as she builds new friendships and conquers old fears. She’s a great contemporary heroine with absolutely relatable problems.

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Spindlefish and Stars

By Christiane M. Andrews

Book cover of Spindlefish and Stars

Why this book?

An absolutely unique story that takes the mythology of the Greek underworld and gives it a twist (or two). Clo only has her Dad. He’s always been a little different—as has she—but when he disappears and leaves her a ticket for half-passage across the sea, Clo finds herself stranded on a mysterious island with a weaver, a cat, and an odd little boy—Cary, who has secrets of his own. 

I loved the stunning and strange machinations of Clo’s days on the island and working to unravel its hidden truths alongside her. She feels like a friend, and her dawning need to protect Cary is touching and relatable. The writing is beautiful, the imagery haunting, and Clo’s need to understand—and escape, is somehow both urgent and dream-like. Deep thinkers will love this book.

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Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

By Kwame Mbalia

Book cover of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Why this book?

This is a fast-paced, funny, thought-provoking, page-turner. Tristan, grieving the death of a friend, and the loss of an important boxing match, is navigating guilt, anger, and loss. But his friend’s journal sparks a high-stakes adventure to win over Anansi, the West African weaver god, with famous friends like Gum Baby and Brer Rabbit at his back. 

I loved being in this expansive new world of Tristan Strong. With characters that some kids may have heard a lot about…and some nothing at all, the story draws on African mythology as well as rich and complicated folk history to give readers tons to chew on. The adventure alone is worth the read, but what stood out most to me was the way Tristan is forced to grow. He learns what it means to be truly strong—what it takes to be strong for others and for himself—and how to let go. 

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Gods and Heroes: Mythology Around the World

By Korwin Briggs

Book cover of Gods and Heroes: Mythology Around the World

Why this book?

Sometimes the best book for readers who love mythology-inspired stories is a book of mythology! There are lots of these compendiums out there, but it can be hard to find collections that don’t feel distant or dull. This one is recent (if not “new”), and is really well done. Illustrated like a graphic novel, Gods and Heroes highlights funny and quirky aspects of engaging characters, while also sharing in-depth stories that will entrance middle grade readers.

I loved the humor and connection Briggs brought to characters from twenty-three different cultures. These are personalities that are entertaining and powerful enough to have their stories handed down through thousands of years of human history, and who will continue to inspire stories in the years to come.

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