When it comes to book genres, Sophia is following in my fantasy loving footsteps. As a parent, I find that middle grade fantasy is the middle child who’s been ignored by publishers. Fantasy YA has become so commercially successful, it’s become challenging for me to find fantasy books whose subject matter doesn’t veer into romantic teenagers, killing, and destruction. I’m not ready for my third grader to read those!
We’re lucky that our local library regularly receives new books because she reads fast and furious (like her mom). I figure if I’m having problems finding middle grade fantasy books, then others have too. I especially like these because they’re fantasy books with strong female characters. (This post contains affiliate links.)
Middle Grade Fantasy Books With Strong Female Characters
Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale written by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess: I don’t know when Charles de Lint began writing children’s books, but I love his adult fantasy fiction. This illustrated book is about a girl who wishes to meet a fairy and unknowingly becomes ensnared in a longtime battle between rival magical clans after her six sisters are kidnapped.
The Cats of Tanglewood Forest written by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess: A companion to Seven Wild Sisters, this book introduces us to Tanglewood, a magical forest full of fairies-if you know where to look. Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills–until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. She sets on a dangerous adventure in order to make everything right.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate diCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell: We haven’t read this 2014 Newberry Winner yet but the synopsis is entertaining on its own. “It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him.” How can you go wrong with a squirrel, a smart girl, and a vacuum cleaner?
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff: My sister introduced Sophia to this fractured fairy tale and Sophia has reread it several times. Rump is the butt (get it?) of everyone’s joke until he discovers that he can spin straw into gold. His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic can get him in trouble, but he doesn’t heed her caution. Soon, Rump spins himself into a curse. Can he and Red break the curse?
The Spirit Animal series (various authors): Sophia loves the entire series and eagerly awaits for the next installment. Written by masters of children’s fantasy (Shannon Hale, Garth Nix, Brandon Mull, Tui T. Sutherland), this fantasy series features a diverse team of children who are able to communicate with animals. Together with their spirit animals, they must save the world from danger. There are currently 5 books in the series and more to come.
If you want to try out the series, Spirit Animals: Book 1: Wild Born is currently free for Kindle and Kindle app.
Ever After High series by Shannon Hale: I had to add these to the list because it’s one of Sophia’s favorite series. Though based on the television series and line of dolls, I learned that Hale has creative license with the characters. Ever After High is a high school for the children of familiar fairy tale characters. Sophia’s (and Hale’s) favorite character is Maddie Hatter, the Mad Hatter’s daughter. Think of it as Once Upon a Time in book form for middle grade.
If you want to try out the series, several Ever After High novellas are free on Kindle and Kindle app: Ever After High: Raven Queen’s Story, Ever After High: Apple White’s Story, Ever After High: Briar Beauty’s Story.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin: I have lost count how many times Sophia has re-read. With the feel of a folk tale and the magic of a fantasy, the story follows Minli and her quest to find the Old Man on the Moon. Her adventures are peppered with folk tales about Chinese dragons that Minli heard from her father. Not only has Sophia read this book twice, she’s even read passages out loud to me.