Middle Grade Witch Stories

WITCHES

Nothing says Halloween like witches. These books are perfect for kids who love a good scare. J. A. White loves witches and two of his books appear on this list. Roald Dahl’s book is the classic. Kelly Barnhill wrote the Newbery winner. You can’t go wrong with these Halloween picks.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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Each year an infant is left in the woods as a sacrifice for the witch. Each year she shows up to rescue the infant. She has no idea why helpless children are abandoned. She usually feeds the child starlight, but this year she makes a mistake and feeds her moonlight. This produces a magic so strong that she decides to raise the child herself. Strong plot and characters.

The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White

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In De’Noran, witches are hanged. Such was the fate of Kara’s mother. When chasing a bird into the forbidden forest, Kara finds her mother’s grimoire, a book of spells. The pages are blank, but a witch can think a spell onto the page. Kara has her mother’s ability, but so does her nemesis Grace whose father wants to destroy all witches.

NightBooks by J. A. White

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There’s a witch living in Alex’s apartment building and she kidnaps children. Alex is her next victim. Each night he is forced to read a scary story from his personal notebooks. Soon he will run out of stories. He must write new ones or risk being turned into a figurine on the shelf like the children before him.

The Witches by Roald Dahl

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Luke and his grandmother are staying at the same hotel where a witch convention is being held. It’s hard to tell a witch from an ordinary person, but one thing is for sure. They hate children. The head witch has concocted a formula that will turn children into mice. Luke concocts his own plan to stop them. A timeless classic that remains one of the best witch stories for children.

Took by Mary Downing Hahn

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When Daniel’s dad lost his posh corporate job, he moved the family to a poor town in West Virginia. As if the culture shock isn’t enough, the old house they bought is giving off bad vibes. The girl who lived there 50 years ago went missing, supposedly kidnapped by a witch. Now his sister is missing and it’s up to Daniel to save her. Hahn is queen of scary for kids.

The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh

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Mary, an orphan, thinks she’s lucky when she gets adopted by Madam Z. Things are a little strange, but overall not bad. Then the stable hand informs her that Madam Z is a witch who eats children. Madam Z has grown fond of Mary and agrees not to eat her. Mary remains suspicious, but it’s the stable hand who turns on her. Based on the Russian fairytale of Baba Yaga.

Nightmares! By Jason Segel

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Charlie has always liked the purple mansion on the hill, but never wanted to live there. Now his dad has remarried and his stepmother owns the house. They move in and Charlie is having nightmares about a witch. He’s convinced his stepmother is a witch. When he crosses over into the Netherworld, where nightmares live, he finds out that his stepmother has nothing to do with his nightmares.

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

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Tom is the 7thson of a 7thson. His destiny is to be a Spook’s apprentice. His job is to rid the countryside of witches and ghosts. His first mistake is accidentally freeing the witch buried in the Spook’s yard. His second mistake is killing her, enabling her spirit to possess people. A dark, spooky book boys will like too.

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Middle Grade Animal Stories

Animal Stories

Books with talking animals are nothing new. You need look no further than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Charlotte’s Web to get examples of the best. We are fascinated by the question, “What goes on in the minds of animals?” Look to these authors for a possible glimpse into their world.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

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Peter rescued Pax 5 years ago and he’s taken care of him ever since. But now his dad is off to war, Peter is off to his grandfather’s and Pax must return to the forest. In a gut-wrenching opening scene, Peter throws a toy into the woods then drives away. Both fox and boy have one goal. To find each other again.

Wing and Claw by Linda Sue Park (series)

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Raffa belongs to a family of apothecaries. When he discovers a rare red vine in the forest, he’s shocked to learn that it not only has healing properties, but also enables animals to talk. He uses it to heal a bat, but learns that if used improperly if can have devastating effects.

Wildwood by Colin Meloy (series)

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This one is a long fantasy adventure. When five crows swoop in and abduct Prue’s baby brother, she sneaks into the Impassible Wilderness to steal him back. This forest is home to both humans and talking animals. A deposed governess is trying to gain back power by raising an army of coyotes and feeding infant blood to an ivy vine that will destroy the forest.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

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Ivan is a gorilla at a rundown mall zoo. He befriends an old elephant and a dog that comes and goes. When a new baby elephant arrives at the zoo, Stella makes Evan promise to do whatever it takes to get her to a better home. Using the drawing skills he learned from the janitor’s daughter, he sets about keeping his promise.

The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

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Number 13 is a foxlike groundling at Miss Carbunkle’s Orphanage for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. Conditions are deplorable. Birdlike orphan, Trinket, renames him Arthur and helps him escape to Lumentown to find his parents. He settles in with a group of thieves and ends up exiled to the sewers.

The Tale of Despereux by Kate DiCamillo

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Despereux is a mouse who loves all things in the human world, especially the princess. Roscuro is a rat living in the dungeon, but wanting to live in the light. Mig is a servant girl who wants to be a princess. The lives of these three characters are going to insect in the most amazing way.

Foxcraft by Inbali Iserles (series)

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When a band of ruthless foxes leave Isla without a family, she sets out to find them. A fox named Siffrin finds her and saves her from a dog. The Elders have tasked him with finding Isla’s brother Pirie. Together they evade the ruthless fox band by practicing foxcraft magic.

Classics

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

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Classic telling of the runt pig, Wilbur, who is saved by Fern and later sold to a local farmer. When he realizes, what the farmer intends to do with him, the spider Charlotte steps in to help by spinning words in her web like “Radiant” and “Some Pig.” Eventually her plan succeeds and he is saved from the slaughter.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (series)

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Four siblings are sent to the countryside during the London bombings, discover a magical wardrobe while playing hide and seek. They enter a magical world called Narnia where animals talk and an evil witch-queen turns her enemies to stone and keeps the land frozen in Winter. Only Aslan can help the children save Narnia.

Middle Grade Fractured Fairytales

Fractured Fairytales

Fractured fairytales are the latest and greatest in fairytale literature. They present themselves in many different ways. Some are set in modern times. Some combine many tales into one. Some crossover between reality and make-believe. Fairytales continue to be very popular with all ages. Check out these books for a modern twist on an old favorite.

The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley (series)

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Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are descended from the famous Grimm brothers. All the fairytale characters are immortal and now live in Fairyport, NY. Things are constantly going amuck and their grandmother is a detective who solves crimes committed by the bad characters. A giant is on the loose, their grandmother has been kidnapped, and it’s up to the girls to solve the crime and find their grandmother.

Half Upon a Time by James Riley (series)

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When May falls through a fiery portal and lands at Jack’s feet, she insists that he help find her kidnapped grandmother, Snow White. Jack obliges and off they go into the Black Forest chased by a giant. They eventually are also accompanied by a wolfman and Prince Philip. They are on a quest to find the magic mirror which will tell them where Snow White is being held captive. Many iconic fairytales characters have supporting roles.

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer (series)

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Twins Alex and Connor are leading a typical, but sad life after their father dies. This changes when their grandmother gives them an enchanted book of fairytales. The book is a portal to fairytale land and they quickly find themselves inside the book. In their quest to find nine enchanted objects for the wishing spell, they meet the fairytale characters they’ve grown up with.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (series)

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This is truly a dark tale. Grisly comes to mind. Hansel and Gretel run away from home to find better parents. They jump from home to home, trying to find a better life without success. Appendages are cut off, murders are witnessed, children are boiled, Hansel becomes a wolf, and dragons are slayed. Full of adventure. Just be prepared for the gore.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (series)

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Every year for the past 200 years, kids have been kidnapped to attend the School for Good and Evil to be trained in villainy or heroism. Sophie has worked hard at being a perfect girl, so she can become a fairytale princess. Her unattractive, cynical, friend Agatha doesn’t want any part of it. As it happens, both girls are kidnapped, but Sophie is dropped in the School for Evil and Agatha is dropped in the school for Good. Has a mistake been made or is each girl where she truly belongs?

Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst (series)

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Julie’s mother is Rapunzel, her grandmother is a witch, and there’s an ominous vine stashed under her bed. It doesn’t make sense to her until the vine escapes and engulfs the town. The wild is back and new fairytales are being written. Julie must go in and rescue her mother while taking caution to prevent becoming a permanent character in fairytale land.

Flunked by Jen Calonita (series)

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Gilly is a cobbler’s daughter living in a shoe in Enchantasia. Since her father is not making enough to feed the family, Gilly resorts to thievery. She’s caught and sent to Fairytale Reform School, headed up by Cinderella’s reformed stepmother. She’s a free spirit and gets under the skin of one professor in particular, Snow White’s evil stepmother. Something’s not right and rather than lay low, Gilly decides to piece together the strange events going on at FTRS.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman (series)

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The New York Circulating Materials Repository lends objects from books, not the books themselves. As a new employee, Elizabeth is excited when she is finally given access to the Grimm Collection. The evil queen’s mirror is there along with the invisibility cloak from the 12 princesses, but some of the objects aren’t working. It appears someone is stealing the real objects and replacing them with fakes.

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly

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Belle is being held captive in the Beast’s palace. Things are improving and he gives her permission to use the library. She finds a mysterious book that is a portal to a beautiful place called Nevermore. She meets the countess who tries to convince her to stay forever. Each time Belle visits, it’s harder to return to reality. What Belle doesn’t know is that the Countess is not who she seems and she has made a bet on Belle’s life.

Middle Grade Fairytale Retellings

Fairytale Retellings

We all love the classic fairytales, but the retellings are even better. They entertain us with all the backstory that the Grimm brothers and H. C. Andersen left out. Check out these retellings and if you love them, try out some of the other fairytales by the same authors.

Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

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This is the tale of Rumpelstiltskin’s youth and the backstory of how he ended up spinning straw into gold for the miller’s daughter. He’s not the grumpy old man you think, but rather a small boy who only knows the first part of his name. Known only as Rump, he is bullied relentlessly by the miller’s kids. Now the miller’s daughter must figure out his full name if she is to keep her baby.

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison

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This is the adventurous tale of what happened to Rapunzel after she escaped the tower with Jack. Having been sheltered her whole life, she begins her journey knowing very little about how the world works. Most importantly, she learns that the woman who has taken care of her from birth, may not be the kind-heartened woman she thought she was.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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Ella’s engagement to the prince is not turning out as she had hoped. She isn’t allowed to do anything for herself. She is only meant to be an ornament on the prince’s arm. When the prince sends Ella to the dungeon, she realizes that escape is her only option. She’d rather be poor and free than rich and confined.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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When Ella was born, a fairy gave her the gift of obedience, not realizing the ramifications. Ella must obey every order, no matter how insignificant. When her father remarries, her stepmother and stepsisters, use the “curse” to thwart Ella’s attempts to see the prince.

The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker

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Princess Emeralda has no interest in the egotistical Prince Jorge. When she goes to the swamp to hide from him, she meets a talking frog. He insists that he is a prince and only needs her kiss to break the spell. Emma finally relents, but it goes all wrong. She is turned into a frog as well, and now they must find the witch to fix the spell.

The Wide-Awake Princess by E. D Baker

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When Princess Gwen, aka Sleeping Beauty, gets the spinning wheel curse at birth, her parents decide that her younger sister Annie should have a spell to make her immune to all magic. Gwen pricks her finger as expected and the entire castle falls asleep except Annie. It’s up to Annie to find Gwen’s true love to break the spell.

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

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Something cruel is lurking in the woods where Rose and Snow live. Their father and friend have disappeared. There is a bear who is strangely friendly and then a larger than normal fox appears. There are hunters and bandits, but worst of all is the rude dwarf who ridicules them every time they save him. There is more to this dwarf than meets the eye.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

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This is a retelling of the Snow Queen. Hazel is unpopular at school, but semi-popular Jack has always been a true friend. When he gets a piece of glass in his eye at recess, he begins to act differently toward her. Then he suddenly disappears with a woman dressed in white in a sleigh pulled by wolves. Hazel knows something is wrong and she must rescue him.

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

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Reveka is an herbalist apprentice trying to unlock the mystery of the 12 princesses. Every morning they wake up with bloody feet. Anyone caught trying to spy on the princesses ends up in a deep sleep. The only person who can witness the nightly occurrence is someone invisible, so Reveka works to create an invisibility potion for herself.

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Middle Grade Adventure Fantasy

Adventure Fantasy

Rick Riordan staked his claim on the adventure fantasy genre with his wildly humorous take on Greek mythology.  Peter Lerangis followed a similar path by introducing a series on the ancient world wonders. Other authors, such as Eoin Colfer, Suzanne Collins, and John Flanagan, have put out fantasy series with staying power. After nearly a decade, they are still attracting new readers. Here are some of the best, most popular, adventure fantasy series. If you like these, check out the other series by these same authors.

The Trials of Apollo (series) Rick Riordan

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Zeus has demoted Apollo to mortal status until he can prove himself worthy of returning to Mt. Olympus. While hiding out at Camp Half-Blood with the demigods, he learns that the Roman Emperor Nero is trying to steal all the oracles to take away the Greek gods’ powers. Camp Half-Blood is counting on Apollo to save the last oracle. Percy Jackson makes a cameo.

The Seven Wonders (series) by Peter Lerangis

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When Jack wakes up at the Karai Institute, he learns that he and three other kids have a genetic disease that can only be cured with seven magic loculi. These loculi are hidden at the sites of the seven ancient wonders. Together they must find the loculi. The first one is at the Colossus of Rhodes in Greece. Full of action and adventure.

The Five Kingdoms (series) by Brandon Mull

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Cole’s friends are kidnapped and forced into an alternate world through a portal in a haunted house on Halloween. Cole follows them in, and is quickly captured and sold to the Sky Raiders, a band of scavengers who sneak onto floating castles and find stuff to steal. It’s a dangerous job, and Cole proves himself worthy, but he needs to rescue his friends.

Lockwood and Co. (series) by Jonathan Stroud

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There’s an epidemic of ghosts terrorizing London and Lockwood has set up an agency to quell them. He hires Lucy and together they visit haunted houses to rid them of ghosts. The agency is in dire straits however, when they mistakenly burn down a house on one of their jobs. Full of mystery and action.

The Ranger’s Apprentice (series) by John Flanagan

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Each year on Choosing Day, orphans are assigned a job. Will was hoping to be chosen for Battle School, but instead becomes an apprentice to the Ranger. Will is a quick learner and his skills are soon put to the test when they learn an evil lord is attempting to overthrow the king.

The False Prince (series) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

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Sage is an orphan who, along with two other orphans, has been kidnapped and sent to the home of a nobleman. The king and queen and dead. The country is on the brink of war. And the heir to the throne is missing, presumed dead. Nobleman Connor devises a plan to pass off one of the orphans as the missing prince. Nice twist ending.

Gregor the Overlander (series) by Suzanne Collins

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When Gregor falls through a grate in his laundry room, he ends up in a strange world beneath New York City, where there are talking animals and people with translucent skin. He hopes that he can find his father, but all is not well in the Underland. There is unrest with the animals, especially the rats. There is a prophecy and Gregor has a role. Author of the Hunger Games.

Peter and the Starcatchers (series) by Dave Barry

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In this Peter Pan prequel Dave Barry describes how Peter Pan ended up on an island inhabited by savages. Peter, an orphan, boards a ship called the Never Land which has a mysterious cargo. Black Stache wants that cargo and is hot on their tail. Sarcasm galore.

 

Artemis Fowl (series) by Eoin Colfer

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Artemis is a 12-year-old criminal mastermind. Fairies inhabit the underworld, and they aren’t your cute, Disney fairies. When Artemis kidnaps Holly, the captain of the fairy police force, for ransom, he gets more than he bargained for. They unleash a troll, dwarf, and centaur to get her back. Holly isn’t going down without a fight.

 

Middle Grade Magical Fantasy

Fantasy for Girls

The Uncommoners by Jennifer Bell

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Beneath London there’s an underworld called Lundinor. Three times a year the Uncommoners come to the under market to trade their magical uncommon objects; lemon squeezer lights, talking bells, instant transport suitcases, invisibility candles. Ivy and her brother enter Lundinor through the suitcase portal, and soon learn that an old evil is trying to resurface and they must stop it before it’s too late. Has key elements similar to the Harry Potter books.

The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko

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Claire and Sophie have just moved into their deceased great aunt’s house and strangely there’s a ladder in the fireplace. When Claire climbs the ladder in search of Sophie, she finds herself in a magical world called Arden. But things aren’t right. Sophie has vanished. A unicorn harp has been stolen. And the four territories aren’t getting along. If they can bring back the unicorns, there may be a chance of restoring peace.

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

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An evil wizard is making the girls of Bryre sick. Kymera is a Frankenstein-like monster created by her “father” to rescue the girls. Kymera isn’t supposed to speak to humans when she visits Bryre, but inevitably she forms a friendship with a boy named Ren. Once she learns the truth about her father, her kind-hearted nature forces her to take action to help Bryre overcome the evil.

Magyk by Angie Sage

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When the Heap family realize that their adopted daughter is actually the daughter of the murdered queen, they escape to the swamps to hide out with Aunt Zelda, where magic and adventure are a daily occurrence. Marcia, the Extraordinary wizard, takes it upon herself to protect the Queenling from the usurpers who want her dead in order to claim the throne.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

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Tinkerbell this book is not. Who knew that fairies can turn into imps? Or that water fairies harbor a secret desire to drown you? This is not your sweet, cute, wish-granting fairy story. While visiting their grandfather, Seth and Kendra begin to find weird things going on. Highly curious, Seth disregards every warning his grandfather tells him and consequently havoc breaks loose on the property known as Fablehaven.

Story Thieves by James Riley

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Bethany has an extraordinary talent. She can hop in and out of stories since her father was a fictional character who managed to exit a book and meet her mother. Her classmate, Owen, has figured out her ability and convinced her to take him into his favorite book. She agrees, but quickly regrets it when Owen starts changing the story.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

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Beautifully written book about a boy, his beloved grandfather, his cranky great-aunt, and the magical circus his grandfather visited as a boy. According to his grandfather, a magician, he calls Lightbender, promised to fulfill a wish when he was a boy. Now his grandfather is ready to cash in, but the Lightbender refuses. Micah believes the Lightbender can save his grandfather’s life so he sets out to find the circus.

The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

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Conditions at Miss Carbunkle’s Orphanage for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures are dismal for Arthur. He is bullied by the other animals and abused by the staff. When a new orphan arrives, she helps Arthur escape to Lumentown. Lacking skills to survive in a city, Arthur joins up with Quintus and his gang. From there he encounters plenty of mishaps and eventually ends up banished to the sewers below Lumentown.