Middle Grade Fantasy

For many around the country, schools are coming to a close, teachers are packing up their classrooms, and custodial and maintenance staff are prepping for a long hot summer. In my area, schools are in session until about mid to late June. That means for my school, it’s our Fantasy Unit time. The current 5th graders that I teach love this unit, including the few students who have never read fantasy. Personally, I’m a sucker for a good intermediate or young adult fantasy novel.

This year the students are in book clubs, currently reading Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements; Inkheart by Caroline Funke; Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine; The Girl Who Could Fly, by Victoria Forester; and more. These are all great books illustrating that there are many types of fantasy stories available for the intermediate reader. For example Inkheart is a more complex fantasy with multiple settings, story lines and numerous characters. It’s a lengthy novel, with over 500 pages and each chapter is also quite long. This is the kind of novel for a reader who can derive meaning from a complex plot filled with unique characters and who has the reading stamina to face the bulky chapters. On the other hand, Andrew Clements’ novel, Things not Seen is a good choice for someone new to fantasy reading. Generally, speaking there is a smaller number of characters and the plot is rather straight forward. In addition the elements of fantasy included in the novel are easy to keep track of.

I think I love fantasy stories so much because anything can happen in them… that is where magic lives. Below is a list of some of my favorite titles for upper elementary/middle students. I’ve categorized them as such not because of their readability, but more because of their content.

Elementary/Middle School Fantasy Recommendations:

πŸ§šβ€β™€οΈThe Percy Jackson series: This is fantasy/mythological. A great series for any student who loves fantasy and is particularly interested in mythology.

πŸ§šβ€β™€οΈThe Harry Potter series: My favorite and classic fantasy with magic, witches, and wizards. The series is seven novels long and requires readers to hold meaning across all seven books, as elements from the last book link back to the first in the series. This leads to a lot of “aha” moments.

πŸ§šβ€β™€οΈ The Ember series, by Jeanne DePrau: Some say fantasy, some say Sci-fi, either way this is a great entry level fantasy for those who want to get their feet wet.

πŸ§šβ€β™€οΈ Fablehaven series by Brandon: Play while at 1st glance the fable haven series may appear to be a book for older readers in terms of fantasy fable haven is also a good introduction to the genre. Some may call this a low fantasy novel because it takes place within a magical world inside of our own the characters are generally young young people along with the fantasy characters. Again, I think fablehaven is a good place to start for someone who wants to learn more about the genre and enjoy it without having to keep track of so many characters so many magical elements and complexity of plot structure.

πŸ§šβ€β™€οΈ Redwall series, by Jacques The red wall series, on the other hand, can be described in the opposit way that I described fable haven. Red wall could be called high fantasy. It’s the epitome a fantasy in that there are talking animals magic excitement and the story takes place in another world in a magical place. The Redwall books are epic, complex, highly descriptive, and a real treat for the experienced fantasy reader.

πŸ§šβ€β™€οΈThe Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien: in my opinion most of the time books should remain books and movies should be made from screen plays strictly written for the movies. That is the case with The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien is an amazing writer who creates vivid fantasy worlds and writes them so that you feel like you’ve lived there all your life. His stories have action, adventure, and fantasy rolled into one. For the experienced fantasy reader The Lord of the Rings will deliver.

Other titles you might want to explore include:

Tuck everlasting, Aragon, the girl who drank the moon, the alchymist, the graveyard book Mrs. Peregrine’s home for peculiar children, the series of unfortunate events And the Warrior series.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of fantasy novels for upper elementary and middle school readers, it is definitely a good place to start. Keep in mind, many of these books can be read as read-alouds with younger readers who aren’t quite ready to read them independently.

Happy reading to you and your students.