Kamilla Benko | The Children’s Book Review | February 9, 2018
There are delicate moments of childhood when everything seems possible. A time when every wardrobe has the potential to lead to a kingdom, when the wind is just one whisper away from telling you a secret, and a letter from Hogwarts may arrive any day. For some kids, this feeling lasts a day, for others a week, and for a lucky few, years. My favorite books for young readers kindle that sense of possibility, and direct them toward the wonders of the real world.
Written by Madeleine L’Engle
This is, of course, one of the most famous books in children’s literature, respected for its ingenuity and themes. What makes this book one of my favorites is its tacit permission to be angry. So many times, children (especially girls) are told how they should be or how they should behave, but in this book, Meg Murray is given permission to feel her feelings. And not only does the magical guardian Mrs. Whatsit tell Meg it’s okay to be angry, but that she is right to be angry…and that anger positively directed can be a catalyst for good.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Square Fish |2012 (Anniversary edition) | ISBN: 978-1250004673
Written by Shannon Hale
A book full of fresh mountain air and bright blue skies, this story features Miri of Mount Eskel, a young girl looking to represent her village well to the rest of the kingdom. And while Miri attends the prestigious Princess Academy, learning how to read and write, she also discovers there is a quiet magic in her mountain for those who are willing to listen. This original fairy tale is the best introduction to the basic concepts of economics, and shows how communities can change and grow with new information.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens |2015 (New edition) | ISBN: 978-1619636132
Written by Tracey Baptiste
Tracey Baptiste dives into Caribbean folklore with her brave protagonist, Corinne La Mer. For Corinne, the Jumbies that lurk in the forest and in the sea aren’t just stories, they’re real…and they’re family. Throughout the series, Corinne encounters different legends as well as flashes of her island’s history, which was influenced by the slave trade. It is a beautiful commentary of the binding nature of stories. Author Tracey Baptiste explores how legends travel around the world, and how, in her own words, “these connected stories remind us that we are more alike than different.”
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers |2016 (Reprint) | ISBN: 978-1616205928
Written by Anna Meriano
Newly published, Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, is the story of Leo, the youngest of five sisters, who discovers that her family has been keeping a secret from her: they are all actually brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who run a magical bakery. The book is full of humor, tasty descriptions, and a fresh magic that underscores the power of generational stories and the magic of family without once sounding cheesy or cliché. The best books are a reflection of our world, and the author’s deft blend of Texan, American, and Mexican cultures will be a familiar for some and new for others, but will resonate with all.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Walden Pond Press | January 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062498465
Written by Gail Carson Levine
While it’s fun to press favorite narratives into kids’ hands, it’s just as important to give them the tools and space to capture their own moments of wonder. Gail Carson Levine’s Writing Magic does just that. This fun, interactive guide is full of writing prompts and helpful advice, such as, writing down your thoughts, as you may think you’ll remember what it’s like to be a kid, but you won’t. And as a former child and reader of this book, I am deeply grateful for this advice, for without it, I could have never written my own. Children should be reminded that writing is more than essays—it’s about capturing a moment in time to save for a rainy day.
Ages 8+ | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2014 (Reissue) | ISBN-13: 978-0062367174
Written by Kamilla Benko
Publisher’s Synopsis: Claire Martinson still worries about her older sister Sophie, who battled a mysterious illness last year. But things are back to normal as they move into Windermere Manor… until the sisters climb a strange ladder in a fireplace and enter the magical land of Arden.
There, they find a world in turmoil. The four guilds of magic no longer trust each other. The beloved unicorns have gone, and terrible wraiths roam freely. Scared, the girls return home. But when Sophie vanishes, it will take all of Claire’s courage to climb back up the ladder, find her sister, and uncover the unicorns’ greatest secret.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1681192451
About the Author
Kamilla Benko spent most of her childhood climbing into wardrobes, trying to step through mirrors, and plotting to run away to an art museum. Now, she visits other worlds as a children’s book editor. Originally from Indiana, she currently lives in New York with her bookshelves, teapot, and hiking boots.
Camilla Benko, author of The Unicorn Quest, selected these ‘5 Middle Grade Favorites.’ Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Middle Grade Books.