The best retellings for middle grade readers

Lorelei Savaryn Author Of The Edge of in Between
By Lorelei Savaryn

Who am I?

I studied retellings as I prepared to write my own take on The Secret Garden. Retelling a classic story can not only usher something like The Secret Garden or Peter Pan into our current time and place in history, but it can also awaken the wonder and magic many of us experienced when reading these tales for the first time in a new generation. It’s been so fun for me to see how modern authors put their own spin on these stories, and I hope you will enjoy them too.

I wrote...

The Edge of in Between

By Lorelei Savaryn,

Book cover of The Edge of in Between

What is my book about?

A spellbinding tale of magical realism and superb, twisty retelling of The Secret Garden, where twelve-year-old Lottie’s colorful world turns suddenly gray when an unexpected accident claims her parents, and she is uprooted from her home to live with an eccentric uncle she never knew she had—on the border that separates the living and the dead.

The books I picked & why

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Midsummer's Mayhem

By Rajani LaRocca,

Book cover of Midsummer's Mayhem

Why this book?

This delightful contemporary + magical retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream will captivate young readers. It features a realistic large family dynamic, whimsical town, baking magic, and a whole bunch of delightful chaos that gets sorted out in heartwarming fashion at the end. Fans of The Great British Baking Show might especially be drawn to this fun, engaging tale.

The Gilded Girl

By Alyssa Colman,

Book cover of The Gilded Girl

Why this book?

Fans of A Little Princess will find a story both fresh and comfortingly familiar inside these pages. Izzy and Emma's personalities spark off the page, and the ticking clock to the time their magic is either activated or snuffed out forever makes their journey to friendship even more endearing. Featuring themes of justice and social change, this is a retelling not to be missed.

A Wish in the Dark

By Christina Soontornvat,

Book cover of A Wish in the Dark

Why this book?

This fast-paced retelling of Les Miserables, set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world is not only beautifully written, but is also captivating to read. The themes of law and justice familiar to readers of the original story are equally as important for young readers today. This story inspires and encourages us all to be a light in dark places.

Sisters of the Neversea

By Cynthia L. Smith,

Book cover of Sisters of the Neversea

Why this book?

In this unbelievably gorgeous take on Peter Pan, Lily and Wendy are step-sisters who must now spend a summer apart. But a mysterious boy has been watching from the window and intends to take them away forever to a mysterious land. This book tackles head-on the problematic aspects of the original story and contains a story both thrilling and fun. Family, sisterhood, and magic reign supreme in this hard-to-put-down retelling. 

The Humming Room: A Novel Inspired by the Secret Garden

By Ellen Potter,

Book cover of The Humming Room: A Novel Inspired by the Secret Garden

Why this book?

This contemporary retelling of The Secret Garden sets the story in a closed-down tuberculosis sanitarium. Roo's journey to uncover the mysteries of the house and bring life to the garden tucked away inside it unfolds beautifully on the page. With well-developed characters, a deeply haunting revelation, and a setting that springs to life with vivid detail, this was a great take on a classic.

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