11 Fantasy Books Every Middle-Grader Should Read

April 12, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 16

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Things Every X Should Read.

You’ve read Narnia, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson. Now what?

Here are 10 more fantasy books and series to dive into after you’ve gone through the wardrobe, taken the Hogwarts Express, and attended Camp Half-Blood.

Middle-grade to me means grades 4-8. Some books in this list trend toward the younger end of that spread, some toward the upper end. All could also be read by YA and adult readers. The list is alphabetical by author.


  • The Chronicles of Prydain (Lloyd Alexander) draws on Welsh mythology as it follows an orphan boy’s journey to manhood. There’s plenty of magic, but in the end, it’s the humanity in the stories that will stick with you well into adulthood. (My review
  • The Green Knowe series (L. M. Boston)  This series takes place in an around an ancient, unusual house in Britain (Green Knowe); the first two and the final book involve time travel or ghosts (it’s never quite clear which), while two of the middle ones are more “magicky.” And one of them (A Stranger at Green Knowe) isn’t really a fantasy at all, though it is special. My favorites are the first two, The Children of Green Knowe and The Treasure of Green Knowe. But the others are good too.
  • The Dark is Rising series (Susan Cooper)  The forces of Light and Dark clash in 20th-century Britain in this classic fantasy series, which remains one of my favorites to this day.
  • The Ranger’s Apprentice series (John Flanagan) Will longs more than anything to become a knight, but ends up apprenticed to Halt the Ranger. The series takes him from early apprenticeship to adulthood, and through battles, invasions, captivity, intrigue, and espionage, all set in a world that’s clearly an analog of Europe. The writing is sometimes a little clunky, but the adventures are compelling and the storytelling is excellent.
  • The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge)  This charming fairytale set in 18th-century England is one of my favorite children’s books – and one of J. K. Rowling’s favorites as well. (My review)
  • A Snicker of Magic (Natalie Lloyd)  Magical realism more than straight fantasy, this book about the magic of words captured my heart a few years ago. (My review)
  • Dragonsong and Dragonsinger (Anne McCaffrey)  Menolly’s musical gift isn’t appreciated by her sexist father and feudal overlord, so she runs away to live Holdless, and ends up apprenticed to the Harper Hall. Technically, the Pern novels are science fiction, not fantasy, but the psuedo-medieval social structure and customs — and the dragons both large and small — make the books feel indistinguishable from fantasy. (Note that book #3 in the trilogy, Dragondrums, is decidedly more YA, and McCaffrey’s other Pern novels are adult fantasy.)
  • The Ascendance Trilogy (Jennifer A. Nielsen)  The False Prince introduces Sage, a thief and orphan caught up in a nobleman’s scheme to replace the missing heir to the throne with an impersonator. Sage is a highly unreliable narrator, and the layers upon layers of treachery and lies — his own, and those of the people around him — keep suspense levels high. (My reviews: The False Prince; The Runaway King; The Shadow Throne)
  • The Circle of Magic Quartet (Tamora Pierce)  Four children with unusual magical talents form a reluctant alliance, then a family, in this series about elemental magics. Strong writing, a diverse cast of characters, and terrific worldbuilding make the Circle of Magic books shine.
  • First Test and Page (Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small quartet) Kel is the first girl to openly train for her knighthood in a hundred years or more. A hero for every child, girl or boy, Kel stands up to bullies, faces her own fears, and never, ever gives up. She’s also refreshingly ordinary — she has no magic, and she’s talented but not unusually or supernaturally gifted. She is, however, determined. (Note: Save these two for your mature middle-grader or young YA reader, because they’re going to want to go on to books #3 and #4 of the quartet, which include some more mature themes.) (My review)
  • The Perilous Gard (Elizabeth Marie Pope) Tudor England meets the darker side of Faerie in this retelling of the Tam Lin story. As much (or more) historical novel as fantasy, the book leaves it up to the reader to decide whether those the villagers call Fairy Folk are truly fae, or merely human. I also highly recommend The Sherwood Ring by the same author: Revolutionary War history told by ghosts (but not at all scary.)


More recommendations, from Robin and her friends


What did I miss? Do you have any suggestions for me?

16 Responses to “11 Fantasy Books Every Middle-Grader Should Read”

  1. Lianne @ eclectictales.com

    The Circle of Magic! Definitely one of my favourite fantasy series growing up (and the only books by Tamora Pierce that I’ve read to date, lol; meant to read The Circle Opens but never did). The book cover for The Chronicles of Prydain intrigues me; younger me would’ve definitely snatched that book up 😉 Great list 🙂
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Neither Robin nor I enjoyed the Circle Opens series quite as much as the Circle of Magic books, but they’re still good. We love the Tortall books, though!

  2. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Diana Wynne Jones! She wrote brilliantly for this age range (and is my go-to, all-purpose author for recommendations). To branch out a bit, there’s also The Neverending Story and Momo (2 different books) by Michael Ende; Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren; and the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett.
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Oh, gosh, how did I leave out DWJ? I guess because I tend to think of her as YA because of Howl’s Moving Castle. But Glass Magic was wonderful, and definitely MG, and so are the Chrestomanci books (the one I’ve read so far, anyway.) Maybe I’ll add an honorable mention list. I’ll have to check out the other ones; the Tiffany Aching books have been on my want-to-read list for a while now. Thank you for the suggestions!

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      A Snicker of Magic blew me away when I read it a few years ago. It made my top ten for the year, I think. She just brought out another book and I bought it sight unseen.

  3. Rita @ View From My Home

    I’ll save this list to pass onto my elder daughter for my two older grandchildren, one grade 4, one grade 7, and let her see if there’s a title that will appeal to them. Thanks for the great job you did collating these books for us.
    Rita @ View From My Home recently posted…What’s New Here: 4/7/16My Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Thank you, Rita! I had input from my daughter Robin and her roommate Owl, but all the top eleven picks were mine — though they agreed with most of them! 🙂

  4. Lola

    I haven’t read any of these, but they sound great! I think my sister has read the Rangers Apprentice series though and she really enjoyed it.

    The first MG books to pop into my mind are the Blackwell Pages series by Armstrong and Marr and the Amanda Lester series by Paula Berinstein. Although the second isn’t really a traditional fantasy book, it does have fantasy type of elements, but it’s more focused on the mystery.
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      My daughter was a huge Percy Jackson fan, though not as big as she was a Harry Potter fan. (She can quote huge chunks of HP. The audiobooks were her night-time insomnia listening for years and years.) In my childhood, it was Narnia, Prydain, and Middle-Earth that held me in thrall. I didn’t discover the Susan Cooper books until I was older — maybe high school or college? I can’t remember.

  5. Charlie @ Girl of 1000 Wonders

    My first year teaching I had my Pre-AP students read Darkness Rising since it was 6th grade reading level. They HATED it. I should have just carved myself up with dull pencils – that’s how bad it was. I think that one now requires a little more age before reading, but a great list!