10 Enthralling Middle Grade Books Where Reality and Fantasy Collide

Young readers love fantasizing about mythical creatures, brave heroes, and important destinies, but it's also good for them to read works that reflect the issues that they deal with in their own lives, like family problems, competition, and dealing with bullies. The books listed here combine realistic elements with fantasy, resulting in enthralling stories that middle grade readers are sure to enjoy. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Middle Grade Fantasy Books: Our 10 Picks

Title Author
1. Nothing Up My Sleeve Diana López
2. The Memory Thief Bryce Moore
3. The Crooked Sixpence Jennifer Bell
4. The Incredible Magic of Being Kathryn Erskine
5. The Storm Runner J.C. Cervantes
6. Winterhouse Ben Guterson
7. Super Freak Vanessa Barger
8. The Magic Shop Justin Swapp
9. Acea And The Animal Kingdom Kyle Shoop
10. Joshua and the Lightning Road Donna Galanti

Fun Activities For Fantasy Fans

8 Great Fantasy Films Based on Middle Grade Books

  1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
  3. The Tale of Despereaux (2008)
  4. Hugo (2011)
  5. The BFG (2016)
  6. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
  7. The Princess Bride (1987)
  8. Percy Jackson & the Olympians (2010)

How Fantasy Reflects Our World

In Depth

Shining with imagination, the middle grade books included on this list take real-life situations and add in a healthy dose of witches, warlocks, and other assorted magic. For young readers looking to go on journeys both relatable and otherworldly, here, in no particular order, are ten enchanting titles where reality and fantasy come together with captivating results.

First up, at #1, is "Nothing Up My Sleeve" by Diana Lopez. Over their summer vacation, a trio of sixth-grade boys discovers an alluring magic shop in their town. Soon after, they find out about a teen magic contest, and become determined to learn all the best tricks so they'll be able to compete. Unfortunately, the competition's reigning champ Ariel, who happens to be the shop-owner's daughter, is intent on quashing their plans. Dealing with both her machinations and their own financial struggles won't be easy, but the tenacious friends are keeping their eyes on the prize.

For #2 we get "The Memory Thief" by Bryce Moore. Attending his town's county fair with his twin sister, Benji sees his parents get into a big argument. He wanders off to escape the drama, and stumbles upon a tent occupied by Louis, a mysterious older gentleman who collects other people's memories. Believing that this occult ability could mend the rift between his parents, he convinces Louis to teach him the art of being a memory thief. But manipulating the recollections of others comes with consequences, and as fellow thief Genevieve uses the power for evil, Benji must figure out how to set things right again.

He wanders off to escape the drama, and stumbles upon a tent occupied by Louis, a mysterious older gentleman who collects other people's memories.

Landing at #3 is "The Crooked Sixpence" by Jennifer Bell. In the first book in Bell's "Uncommoners" series, eleven-year-old Ivy and her brother Seb embark on a wild adventure after a series of bizarre events lands them in Lundinor, a magical underground city. Filled with an array of supernatural creatures, as well as objects that come to life in odd and spectacular ways, Lundinor is a vast domain of enchantment hidden from the commoners above ground. But Ivy and Seb don't have much time to settle in. With ghoulish forces coming after them, the siblings must work to uncover an age-old family secret that connects them to their newfound world.

For #4 we find "The Incredible Magic of Being" by Kathryn Erskine. Nine-year-old Julian is a precocious and curious boy who lives with his surly sister Pookie and his two moms. With a worldview inclined toward both science and the supernatural, he is an optimistic thinker, even though his congenital heart defect and stressed-out family cause him increasing anxiety. When they all move out to Maine to start a bed and breakfast, the hopeful boy sees it as his opportunity to bring his family together. To do so, he'll have to contend with his grumpy neighbor Mr. X, and convince Pookie and his parents that magic really does exist.

At #5 is "The Storm Runner" by J.C. Cervantes. This first installment in Cervantes's Mayan mythology-infused series follows a courageous boy who finds himself in the middle of a war waged by the gods. Avoiding his peers due to the teasing he gets for his physical handicap, Zane spends a lot of time exploring the New Mexico desert with his dog Rosie, especially the giant, inactive volcano near his house. When his new classmate Brooks reveals to him that he's part of an ancient Mayan prophecy, Zane comes to realize that the volcano is in fact an otherworldly portal filled with gods and demons. What's more, the secrets it holds might just be key to his destiny.

This first installment in Cervantes's Mayan mythology-infused series follows a courageous boy who finds himself in the middle of a war waged by the gods.

For #6 we have "Winterhouse" by Ben Guterson. The orphaned Elizabeth is dismayed when her nasty aunt and uncle decide to send her to the eerie Winterhouse Hotel over Christmas vacation. Thankfully, she arrives there to find it has much to offer her, including the comfort provided by its owner Norbridge Falls and the huge, lavish library where she whiles away her time. Browsing the shelves one day, she happens upon a magical puzzle book that may have something to do with Norbridge, the mysteries of Winterhouse, and even her own past. To uncover the truth, Elizabeth will have to confront riddles, hidden messages, and a long-lasting curse.

Coming in at #7 is "Super Freak" by Vanessa Barger. In a mystical world populated by vampires, witches, and all manner of paranormal beings, thirteen-year-old Caroline is an outcast. Despite being the daughter of forest nymphs, she seems to be the only person on the planet who lacks supernatural abilities. As if she didn't already feel out of place enough, she's just moved with her parents to a haunted home in a spooky area. Committed to unearthing the secrets plaguing her new town, Caroline must utilize her many strengths, proving that sometimes being ordinary can be extraordinary.

For #8 we get "The Magic Shop" by Justin Swapp. Marcus never thought there was anything weird about the magic shop owned by his grandparents. Living above it in an apartment with his sister Ellie, he's gotten used to being around its assorted tricks, gags, and gimmicks. But when he comes across his grandfather sneaking off into its hidden room, he discovers that this seemingly ordinary store is actually housing real magic. Whisked away into a world both spellbinding and dangerous, Marcus and Ellie find themselves dealing with long-held family secrets and using powers they never knew they possessed.

Marcus never thought there was anything weird about the magic shop owned by his grandparents.

Arriving at #9 is "Acea And The Animal Kingdom" by Kyle Shoop. Nerdy, animal-loving twelve-year-old Acea lives on a remote island with his single mother, who regales him with incredible stories about the father he's never known. One evening after falling asleep, he awakens to find himself in a strange kingdom filled with all kinds of zoo-like habitats. Soon, he realizes that he's not dreaming, but is in fact tasked with breaking the curse of a sorcerer who is holding both of his parents captive. To free them and defeat the sorcerer, Acea will have to harness his courage and bring together the animals of the kingdom.

Finally, for #10 we come to "Joshua and the Lightning Road" by Donna Galanti. When his friend Finn disappears with the flash of a lightning bolt on a stormy night, Joshua finally understands that the tales his grandpa tells him about the dangerous magic of lightning storms are true. He learns that the only way to rescue Finn is to travel to the Lost Realm of Nostos, a mystical place where human kids are enslaved to fallen Greek gods. Alongside his new friend Charlie, and with the help of his grandpa's mysterious orb, Joshua must realize his powerful connection to Nostos and save all of its captive children before it's too late.