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Upside Down Magic by Lauren Myracle, Emily Jenkins, Sarah Mlynowski The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie BerryOh, this is a delicious mystery with middle grade investigators who have to find out who killed the woman who runs their school or they’ll all be thrown out. So many great voices! So many girls!
The first fantasy series I read as a child. I suspect it underlies everything I write.
Well Wished
Franny Billingsley
A great story about identity. About two girls who switch bodies and a wishing well with a mind of its own. Haunting, but not too scary, and superbly written. You won’t forget these characters or what happens to them.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
by Holly Black
This is a fun series about fairies in real life. The illustrations are luscious, as well. And there's a decidedly satisfying inner story going on that won't pass by kids unnoticed.
The Nixie's Song
by Holly Black
In the chapter, "In Which We Almost Break the Fourth Wall," the kids in the book need help with fairies, so they appear at a signing of the real "Holly Black." They ask how to destroy a giant, and in the book, the author has herself stammer and say they should wear red and that will help fight, um, iron. Ha! Also, the caricatures by Tony DiTerlizzi are hysterical!

The White Mountains
by John Christopher
I didn't discover this wonderful dystopian series for children until I was an adult, but the fear in the books is palpable, and the reality of life there clings to life here. Who are the tripods? What do they want? And will we survive their occupation?
Over Sea, Under Stone
by Susan Cooper
The classic fantasy series drenched in Celtic lore, about a young boy destined to save the world.

The Boggart
by Susan Cooper
Everyone knows The Dark is Rising series, but this one is lighter, funner, and the perfect thing for a reluctant reader. What if your family inherited a boggart? How would it survive with computers and the like?
How To Train Your Dragon
by Cressida Crowell
I loved this fun book. Perfect for boys who love dragons. It's written by a boy in the Dark Ages, and has delightful pictures to boot!

by Roald Dahl
I didn't read Roald Dahl until I was an adult, so I had my kids introduce him to me, begging me to read this book, and then others. I missed out! This is about a "Big, Friendly Giant" and the girl who lives with him.
by David Clement-Davies
I’m not a big fan of fantasies with animals as the main characters, but I made an exception for this one and I was glad I did.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
by Kate DiCamillo
I read this out loud to my kids. They just sat there, unmoving, silent, begging for more. A great story about a rabbit who becomes something more.
Half Magic
by Edward Eager
This was my favorite novel when I was 10 years old. I must have read it a dozen times, and then all the sequels, too. I still think it’s a great introduction to fantasy, and to the “rules” that it involves. And the trouble children can get into when they don’t even know what they are.

The Thief Lord
by Cornelia Funke
I really liked how Funke slowly wove the fantasy into this story. A great story about kids who live without adults, and also of adults who live without kids, and the way they come together.
by Cornelia Funke
My son loved this series! A lot of Americans don't know it, so I'm recommending it to all.

by Cornelia Funke
This is the story of a girl who has lost her mother, whose father is sunk deeply into books, and is then literally caught up in the world of books. What she finds there will surprise you.
by Neil Gaiman
A spooky fantasy about slipping into a world with another father and another mother, only they have button-eyes. They want your soul and they’ll pretend they love you. But the only thing you want is to get home. Neil Gaiman has a twisty mind.

A Tale Dark and Grimm
by Adam Gidwitz
I've read some not-so-funny mashups of the Grimm fairytales before, so I think I was a hard sell. And the thing with talking directly to the reader ala Lemony Snicket can get old, too. But I thought everything worked fabulously here. I loved asking the questions about lousy parenting and I admit, I choked up a little at the end, as a parent who has been a lousy parent more than once. Not just for kids.
Kat, Incorrigible
by Stephanie Burgis
I read this earlier this year, but haven't been able to stop thinking about how great this series is. It's so fun. And really, don't we all need more fun? It's set in a Regency England and has plenty of tips of the hat to Jane Austen, but it's not derivative at all. I love Kat as a character and of course, I must agree that adding Highwaymen to this was genius. It made me smile and then laugh out loud. I think Stephanie is a genius and can't wait to read the next book. I bought three copies of this so I could pass it around to people I know.

Dragon Slippers
by Jessica Day George
One of the funnest fantasies I've read in a while. Doesn't follow the conventions, but has everything you want to keep you satisfied. Plus, who doesn't love to hear about a dragon who collects slippers instead of gold?
Among the Hidden
by Margeret Peterson Haddix
A fun near-future novel about a boy who is a “third,” and illegal. He discovers there are others like him and they band together to revolt. But it doesn’t turn out as you’d expect. One of the few science fiction novels written for children but intelligent enough to be enjoyed by adults.

Running Out of Time
by Margeret Peterson Haddix
A girl who lives in the past and has to get medicine to save her family. But then she discovers she doesn't live in the past, after all. She's an exhibit in a zoo, and the observers are going to let her die!
Enna Burning
Shannon Hale
This was a sequel better than the original The Goose Girl. Deeper, darker (and you know I love dark). I also read it in German, which was extra fun.

Book of A Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale
Shannon Hale keeps getting better and better. Based on an obscure fairy tale about a girl who refuses to marry the man her father chooses and is locked up in a tower for a thousand days. But Shannon's story is about the servant who willingly accompanies the girl into the tower, and how she gets them both out. Also what happens afterward.
Princess Academy
by Shannon Hale
Well-deserved Newbery Honor. What would happen if a group of girls were told they were competing to be a princess? Sound like bad reality TV? Well, it isn't.

Rapunzel's Revenge
by Shannon Hale
I love all of Shannon's books, but this one is different. Rapunzel set in the old West, using her braids as lassoes, and she doesn't wait around for someone else to get her out of that tower. I also love Jack. And Nathan Hale's illustrations are wonderful!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
by Jeff Kinney
This is so what Junior High is like, and I wasn't even a boy. I loved the illustrations. I loved the plot twists. I loved the cartton about "Creighton the Cretin."
The Clockwork Three
by Matthew Kirby
Kids will love this book because it has three great protagonists each with a desperate need that propels the plot forward. I loved it because it didn't take any cheap shortcuts with the world building or with the characters and their choices. I loved the quietness of the world and the delicate description of the clockwork man. This book should be a huge hit.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre
by Gail Carson Levine
Even better than Ella Enchanted. A fun story about two very different sisters and how they must learn from each other to succeed. Warning—the ending may disappoint.
The Limit
by Kristen Landon
This is a fun story for middle grade with some serious overtones about the rate of debt expansion. Parents who spend too much "sell" their children out to work, but some kids are more valuable than others, so there is more incentive to keep the parents in debt. And some kids can write letters to their parents, but others can't be allowed to tell the truth.

The Fairy's Mistake
by Gail Carson Levine
This is a great series for kids just moving out of chapter books and into middle grade readers. But adults enjoy them, too! Silly, silly stuff.
Hidden Talents
by David Lubar
A fun story about kids at an "alternative" high school who discover that there is a reason they're all there, and it isn't because they're bad.

The Silver Child
by Cliff McNish
A weird little book about a group of five children with odd magical abilities, and how they all sacrifice for each other--and for us all.
The Candy Shop War
by Brandon Mull
What more could any kid want than a story about magic candy that sets you flying, or lets you travel into the past and the future, or helps you fight the bullies at school? But there are twists that you might not expect, and it turns out, as one of the characters in the book says, you should never take candy from strangers.

The Giver
by Lois Lowry
What would the world be like if everyone was assigned their job based on aptitude and a committee's assignment? Where would colors go? And who would keep the stories?
Brandon Mull
A fun fantasy about two kids who go visit their grandparents in the country. And lest you accuse me of recommending every fantasy that's published, believe me, it's not true. This is one of the best.

The False Prince
by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is about an orphan named Sage who survives by trickery and theft on the streets of the kingdom's capital city. But he is captured himself one day, and drawn into a dangerous and treacherous plot. I don't want to reveal too much of the plot here, but I will say that the book reminded me strongly of Megan Whalen Turner, in all good ways. Sage is a smart-mouthed kid who has a heart. When others mistreat him, he seems to see more deeply to the truth. And like The Thief, the story is told in first person, which has the intended effect of making it feel intimate and honest, while at the same time somehow disguising information or making light of it and then revealing the truth at the end in a bravado climax that made perfect sense. I really fell in love with the character of Sage, and though there was a moment where the plot seemed to take the obvious turn, I ended up not caring because it was so well done that I forgot about the plot twist and became caught up in the character development. I say to students a lot that they make a mistake in thinking that it's the most original story that is going to sell. Being original is not nearly so important as being simply a good writer, and that is what Jen Nielsen is.

Wishing Moon
by Michael O. Tunnell
What would you do if you got a magic lamp? It won't be all fun and games. Would you change the world?

The Stone Child
by Dan Poblocki
I don't like horror. It scares me too much. So this book was just right for me, a middle grade horror. It was really, truly scary. But it wasn't too scary. I didn't guess where it was going to go, and I was fascinated by the villain, which I think it what all good horror does.
I Was A Rat
by Philip Pullman
Perhaps you will accuse me of avoiding the controversy. But this is one of my favorite of Pullman's genius work. About a rat who is turned into a boy because of Cinderella, but can't get back.

Three Good Deeds
by Vivian Vande Velde
You're a goose. But you used to be a boy. How do you become a boy again? Do three good deeds? But you don't have hands, legs, or a voice. Tricky, eh? This is a writer after my own heart. The real quest for every human is to become human, truly human. In fantasy, we just tell that story a little slant.
The Rapunzel Problem
by Vivian Vande Velde
Why does Rumpelstiltskin want a baby, anyway? And other questions about the fairy tale, solved through a series of different retellings. I love the idea of this book and intend to steal it soon.

The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan
My kids love these books. And they're a great retelling of the myths of the Greek gods that I used to read over and over when I was young.
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians
by Brandon Sanderson
I was a little sceptical when I started reading this book, but it converted me with its clever chapter openings and fun asides. Also, the action is fun and the whole story is ridiculous in the best possible way! Another book I'm reaidng aloud to two eager children.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick
I read this in one big gulp myself, then settled down to read it aloud to my daughter, 8. About halfway through, my son, 10, started horning in, then stole the book himself and read it from the beginning again. It's almost more of a film than a book, part graphic novel, but not quite, but most of all I loved the story of the automaton finding its way home. I'm so glad this won the Caldecott this year!
by Neal Shusterman
I read this out loud to my kids and they always begged to hear more. About a girl and a boy who get killed in a car accident, and are trying to "get where they are going." Lots of surprises.

by Randall Wright Randall Wright
A novel set in a medieval kingdom that never was, starring a hunchback with a heart of gold, who eventually gets something right.
The Adventures of Alfred Kropp
by Rick Yancey
I read this out loud to my kids and we all thought it was a hilarious romp. Original voice and all the magic, danger and romance you could want. About a boy who discovers he is the son of a knight of King Arthur's round table. And that gives him some pretty hefty responsibilities.

by Scott Westerfeld
Readers of my recommendation lists may be tired of seeing Scott Westerfeld on them year after year. Pretty much everything he has published is brilliant. This is brilliant, though utterly unlike his Uglies series or really anything that he has published before, except for its brilliance. It is steampunk with illustrations, and really great one. But the story shines here, intelligent and with fun steampunk sciency sorts of things. How can you not love flying, genetically modified whales? Also huge robots you sit inside and drive? And it teaches kids about World War I in a way they will not forget. All in one nice, shiny package.
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Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2017 all rights reserved.
Last revised November 3, 2017.