The best middle grade books with an air of whimsy

Who am I?

I am a middle-grade author and hold a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. As an artist of multiple disciplines, I have always been fascinated by the tiny details in the world around me and the ways I can connect those details to how I understand myself, my experiences, and the human experience. Some may find such interests odd, eccentric, “whimsical,” perhaps, but I believe these fascinations inspire the most unique stories—stories that can only be told by the artist who is noticing, connecting, reflecting, creating. When I’m not writing, I enjoy teaching art and dance to elementary students.

I wrote...

The Serendipity of Flightless Things

By Fiadhnait Moser,

Book cover of The Serendipity of Flightless Things

What is my book about?

Amidst the 1971 Troubles in Ireland, twelve-year-old Finn lives in a world of her own, weaving fairytales and waiting for her father to return from war. While her storyteller grandmother, Nuala, revels in the safety of their quiet village life, Finn craves adventure. When Nuala passes away, Finn is shipped off to an American town to live with her long-lost mother. When strange things start happening, Finn tries to ignore the feeling that something isn't right, but she begins to notice that her surroundings have an uncanny resemblance to her grandmother’s famous folktale, The Children of Lir, where a scorned mother turns her children into swans. But Finn stopped believing in those stories long ago...could they actually be true?

The books I picked & why

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Over the Moon

By Natalie Lloyd,

Book cover of Over the Moon

Why this book?

Over the Moon is a book that is lush with description and fantastical ideas. While reading, I could see, smell, taste, and hear every tiny detail of Lloyd’s beautifully drawn world through her poetic language as if I were standing right inside it. What is even more impressive is that through all her worldbuilding, at no point does Lloyd’s character or thematic development become lost. This book is a story of hope and of bravery with a character whose resilience and determination shine like the moon.

A Wolf for a Spell

By Karah Sutton,

Book cover of A Wolf for a Spell

Why this book?

I have always been intrigued by fairytales. They help me connect with my own culture, as well as learn about others’. This book makes me feel as if I am reading a very traditional folktale, straight from the mouth of a wise, old storyteller. Told from the perspectives of multiple characters (mainly a wolf, a young girl, and the traditional witch, Baba Yaga), this story allows the reader to watch a fairytale unfold from multiple different viewpoints. Sutton intricately weaves Russian folklore with her own unique imagination to form a tapestry-like story.

Kat, Incorrigible

By Stephanie Burgis,

Book cover of Kat, Incorrigible

Why this book?

Kat is a marvelously whimsical character. She embodies the wit and charm of her 1800s time period, while simultaneously allowing her modern spunk to shine through with her bravery, sass, and quirkiness. She is not afraid to be herself and to fight for those around her to be true to themselves as well.

The Land of Yesterday

By K.A. Reynolds,

Book cover of The Land of Yesterday

Why this book?

As a chronic daydreamer myself, I am drawn to books that make me feel as though I am being allowed to see into an author’s mind and imagination. Reynolds is a master of lyrical, whimsical storytelling. Each sentence she writes is simply poetry, as if drawn straight from her inner world of dreams. She delicately tackles issues of trauma through magic and imagination, making her story and its themes accessible and extremely important to young readers.

Rules for Stealing Stars

By Corey Ann Haydu,

Book cover of Rules for Stealing Stars

Why this book?

Haydu’s voice in Rules for Stealing Stars feels incredibly authentic to the middle-grade age group. The main character, Silly, walks a fine line between being childish enough to believe in magic, and old enough to begin to question her deeply dysfunctional family situation. Silly’s honest, first-person narrative beautifully expresses both the wonder of the escapist worlds to which she travels, as well as the trauma of living in a dysfunctional household. Haydu expertly weaves together this child-like voice and fantastical story with underlying themes of trauma and dysfunction to create a whimsical, yet meaningful story.

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