The best young adult and middle grade fantasy books for readers of all ages

Who am I?

I’ve been reading middle grade and young adult science fiction and fantasy books via visits to local library branches (thanks, Mom!) and bookmobiles (anybody under 40 remember those?) since I was in grade school and writing in those same genres since 2005. That was when I tapped into my love of MG/YA fantasy novels and began writing about dragons between gigs as a professional animation writer.


I wrote...

Dragonfriend

By Roger Eschbacher,

Book cover of Dragonfriend

What is my book about?

If you think it's all good deeds and stuffy politeness over at Camelot, you're wrong! Most people don't know this, but things are pretty bad right now. King Arthur's in jail, Merlin's gone missing, and there's a cruel demon in charge. Seriously! Now it's up to young Leonard, a page to a poor but kind knight, to set things right—even if that means going on a dangerous quest, outsmarting hungry monsters, or risking his life to make friends with a bunch of grumpy dragons.

Filled with dragons, magic, and irreverent humor, Dragonfriend is an epic YA Arthurian fantasy novel in the spirit of The Princess Bride, The Sword in the Stone, and Excalibur.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Sea of Trolls

Roger Eschbacher Why did I love this book?

The Sea of Trolls is an excellent and satisfying read that immersed me in the fascinating Norse/Saxon world of 793 A.D. It’s the first book in one of the best series I've read in a long time—featuring rich world-building, magic at all levels, bold deeds, and a dry sense of humor. 

By Nancy Farmer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Sea of Trolls 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?

Jack is an apprentice bard and just beginning to learn the secrets of his mysterious master, when he and his little sister are captured by Viking chief, Olaf One-Brow, and taken to the court of Ivar the Boneless. Ivar is married to a half-troll named Frith, an evil and unpredictable queen with a strange power over her husband's court. Jack is sent on to the kingdom of the trolls, where he has to find the magical well and undo the charm he has cast on Frith. He is accompanied by Thorgill, a shield maiden, aged 12, who wants to be…


Book cover of The Graveyard Book

Roger Eschbacher Why did I love this book?

Neil Gaiman is one of the most innovative and imaginative authors writing today. A fan of his work since Sandman, I picked up this book knowing I was in for a storytelling treat. Nobody Owens was tragically orphaned as a toddler, then adopted by the ghosts of a nearby graveyard and protected by an enigmatic guardian. "Bod" grows up learning the ways of the dead and with the knowledge that the man who killed his family relentlessly searches for him outside his graveyard sanctuary. The Graveyard Book is a charming, darkly funny read.

By Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Graveyard Book 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?

When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing his entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him - after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod's life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?


Book cover of The Hobbit

Roger Eschbacher Why did I love this book?

No list with a title remotely similar to mine would be complete without The Hobbit from J.R.R. Tolkien. This was the book that hit me squarely between the eyes in my early teen years in the 1970s and compelled me to “pleasure read” YA/MG high fantasy from then until now (and, no doubt, beyond!). This wonderful introduction to the world of The Lord of the Rings contains a reluctant hero, a dragon, a wizard, bold dwarves, hungry trolls, fierce orcs, and a magic ring—all tied together in a grand adventure filled with humor and action-packed derring-do. What more could a fantasy reader of any age want?

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

40 authors picked The Hobbit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Special collector's film tie-in hardback of the best-selling classic, featuring the complete story with a sumptuous cover design inspired by THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and brand new reproductions of all the drawings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End.

But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey 'there and back again'. They have a plot to raid…


Book cover of The Lightning Thief

Roger Eschbacher Why did I love this book?

Set in the modern world, The Lightning Thief explores the always fun premise of “What if the old gods never really went away?” Young Percy Jackson is a boarding school student who’s having a hard time figuring out who he is and why all these strange and mostly dangerous things keep happening to him. Percy doesn’t have much time to reflect when his true identity is finally revealed as he’s quickly thrown into an epic quest to recover Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt before god-level total war breaks out on Mount Olympus. This book (the whole series, for that matter) has everything I like in a good fantasy read—mythical creatures, good humor, and an action-packed story that keeps you guessing until the end. 

By Rick Riordan,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Lightning Thief 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?

The Lightning Thief: the First book in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series.

The first bestselling book in Rick Riordan's phenomenally successful Percy Jackson series.

Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God. I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. That's when things started really going wrong. Now I spend my time fighting with swords, battling monsters with my friends, and generally trying to stay alive.

This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky,…


Book cover of The Amulet of Samarkand

Roger Eschbacher Why did I love this book?

The Amulet of Samarkand is the first book in one of the best young adult fantasy series I've read in years. Bartimaeus is a smart and delightfully sarcastic djinni working for (he’d say he was "enslaved by") magical wunderkind, John Mandrake. Well-written and laugh-out-loud funny, these books explore a wonderfully odd yet familiar world full of scheming, usually malevolent spirits, often loathsome, backstabbing practitioners of magic, and exciting action. The first book (Amulet) got me hooked, and I quickly went on to devour the entire series.

By Jonathan Stroud,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Amulet of Samarkand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The first volume in the brilliant, bestselling Bartimaeus sequence.

When the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus is summoned by Nathaniel, a young magician's apprentice, he expects to have to do nothing more taxing than a little levitation or a few simple illusions. But Nathaniel is a precocious talent and has something rather more dangerous in mind: revenge. Against his will, Bartimaeus is packed off to steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a master magician of unrivalled ruthlessness and ambition. Before long, both djinni and apprentice are caught up in a terrifying flood of magical intrigue, murder and rebellion.

Set…


You might also like...

The Warlock's Curse

By C.B. Oresky,

Book cover of The Warlock's Curse

C.B. Oresky Author Of The Warlock's Curse

New book alert!

Who am I?

Since childhood, the library was a wondrous place filled with magical tales and epic stories about strange realms that I could take home…devour…and get lost in. I grew up dancing to enchanting classical music…as an adolescent I painted majestic unicorns…my best friends are my enchanting pets. I often retreat into the deep silent woods or walk along the crashing waves of the ocean to find solace in the magical beauty of nature. Now, as a writer I hope to bring the wonder I’ve found in this world into the strange places and unique characters I create. I hope you enjoy a few of my favorite fantasies: worlds that I truly fell in love with.

C.B.'s book list on fantasy filled with so much magic and wonder

What is my book about?

Clara and Angelica Grace have never met ghosts. They’ve never sailed on a tall ship, ridden wild unicorns, or fought with magical weapons. Instead, the teenage twins have a wretched existence, ignored by their troubled parents in a rundown home and tormented by the town’s snobs.

Everything turns topsy-turvy all of a sudden when the discovery of an ancestor’s hidden journal with an odd key to an unknown door leads them into an entirely different realm.

The girls go on a thrilling oceanic voyage to search for mysterious whales, train with a seasoned warrior, and are befriended by a wise Master. But all is not a bouquet of lovely lilies…they are hunted by a cunning warlock and must rid themselves of The Warlock’s Curse.

The Warlock's Curse

By C.B. Oresky,

What is this book about?

Clara and Angelica Grace have never met ghosts. They’ve never sailed on a tall ship, ridden wild unicorns, or fought with magical weapons. Instead, the teenage twins have a wretched existence, ignored by their troubled parents in a rundown home and tormented by the town’s snobs.

Everything turns topsy-turvy all of a sudden when discovery of an ancestor’s hidden journal with an odd key to an unknown door leads them into an entirely different realm.

The girls go on a thrilling oceanic voyage to search for mysterious whales, train with a seasoned warrior, and are befriended by a wise Master.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Vikings, wizards, and Greek mythology?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Vikings, wizards, and Greek mythology.

Vikings Explore 113 books about Vikings
Wizards Explore 95 books about wizards
Greek Mythology Explore 69 books about Greek mythology