Incredible Books Magical Realism Books for Tweens
Set in Victorian London, this is a beautiful, bittersweet story about a plucky girl and her protector golem which in the telling, illuminates the horrifying lives of chimney sweep kids as well as the world’s anti-semitism. Young Nan’s Sweep father-figure is gone; she still dreams of his kindness and their life before he left. To survive, she works for a cruel chimney sweep. When another sweep tries to burn Nan alive, a charcoal golem, formerly a piece of charcoal left to her by Sweep, emerges to save her. She and her protector golem, Char, find a new place to live but must stay vigilant so her old master doesn’t find them. On their own, they are helped by a street boy and a kind Jewish teacher with trust, love, and friendship growing slowly. It’s an irresistible story that will expand your heart…and your definition of what makes a monster. Added to: Best Middle-Grade Chapter Books of 2018
The Magic of Melwick Orchard by Rebecca Caprara
The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr
Celebrating artwork, this magical mystery reveals that the people in the paintings are ALIVE. Of course, the Beaverbrook Gallery paintings have strict rules to prevent humans from discovering this truth. Only Mona Dunn doesn’t always follow the rules. She’s seen by the curator’s son named Sargent who is visiting his estranged father for the summer and they develop a close friendship. Meanwhile, she and the other paintings wonder if the creepy art restorer is an art forger because something is suspicious. The book shows copies of all the paintings including a Salvador Dali which give readers a vivid sense of where much of the book takes place — in the paintings themselves. It’s an excellent, page-turning mystery with important themes about family, forgiveness, and friendship.
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
You’ll fall in love with this magical story about a lonely boy whose beloved grandfather faces a life-ending illness. Micah’s grandfather and Micah hope the magical Lightbender in the Circus Mirandus who owes the grandfather a miracle will be able to help. With a missive to the Lightbender, Micah finds the location of the magical circus his grandfather once loved so much. It’s an adventure filled with emotion and faith that doesn’t turn out how Micah expects.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrations by Katie Kath
Unusual Chickens has exceptional writing, characterization, and plot! The book is written as letters from a girl named Sophie, who is newly living at the farm of her dead great-uncle Jim. She writes to her dead abuelita, her dead great-uncle Jim, and Agnes of the Extraordinary Chickens catalog. While her parents are figuring out their new lives, Sophie figures out the farm. Specifically the chickens with special powers. She learns that the chicken are quite exceptional! (Think telekinesis, invisibility, and carnivorous chicks.) But a neighbor chicken thief is also interested in these unusual chickens — and Sophie must stop her. Which means entering the town’s poultry show.
Joplin, Wishing by Diane Stanley
Joplin’s life is changed when she inherits a broken platter from her grandfather. Unexpectedly, the girl in the platter comes to life in order to fulfill Joplin’s wish for a friend. The girl, Sofie, explains that a Dutch alchemist created her centuries ago and she’s been trapped in the platter to grant wishes for eternity. To make matters worse, Sofie spots the immortal alchemist watching Joplin’s house. He wants Sofie back and will do anything to get her. Mesmerizing.
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
A ghost tour outing with a neighbor boy sends Maya, Catrina’s little sister with cystic fibrosis to the hospital. Cat feels guilt and fear for her sister, knowing that her sister’s lungs will never get better and feels that it’s all her fault. But as the neighbor introduces Cat to the beautiful Day of the Dead celebration, Cat starts to see death and life differently, especially when she meets the ghosts. Beautifully written and illustrated, this graphic novel deftly deals with the big issues of mortality, honesty, and friendship in an interesting, unique way.
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly
This is the story of three children in medieval France which tackles big issues such as faith, God, prejudice, friendship, and family. The writing, the story, the characters, and the themes all pack a big punch adding up to a compelling novel that will make you think deeply and leave you changed. (Sensitive readers: there are a few swear words and two scenes with a lot of blood.) My daughter and I absolutely loved this story.
Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin
The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
The Seventh Wish is a magically captivating coming-of-age story filled with friendship and family challenges and . . . wishes. Charlie is struggling with her sister leaving for college and subsequent problems with drug addiction, her parent’s inattention, and trying to make sense out of her life. So when Charlie accidentally catches a wish fish while ice-fishing, she’s sure that the fish will solve all her problems. Only as we might predict, that’s not exactly what happens. Because wishes can turn out differently than you think. This is a wonderful book — great for book club discussion.
Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle
Natasha’s magical ancestors started a town tradition that on the third night of the third month after your thirteenth birthday, you can make a wish at the willow tree. Natasha wants to believe — and she does, mostly — but ever since her mother disappeared, she’s lost some of that belief. Can her impossible wish come true? Natasha learns that maybe what she thinks she wants, she really doesn’t. This is a wonderful, magical coming-of-age story that I highly recommend.
The Girl with the Ghost Machine by Lauren DeStefano
A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou
Two girls in two locations (Texas and Pakistan) each discover a magical book, The Exquisite Corpse, in which a love story appears that will eventually connect the girls to each other and their own histories. It’s a beautifully written story of friendship and self-discovery.
The Dollmaker of Krakow by Rachael Romero
An alive doll and a Polish magician toy store owner during WWII develop a beautiful friendship. Later, a remarkable friendship develops between the doll, the magician, a Jewish father, and his daughter. When the Nazis force the Jews into a ghetto including the magician’s new friend and his daughter, the doll encourages the magician to save as many children as he can by turning them into dolls for a short time. We only get a glimpse of the actual WWII horror as the story instead focuses on the relationships. The ending is heart-breaking but also life-affirming as we see the power of love and friendship.
The Memory of Forgotten Things by Kat Zhang
If you like magical realism, you’ll love this story about friends who have memories that don’t exist in their world. They discover that there are multiple worlds but ones with slightly different storylines. Sophia misses her mom who died so much, she decides to leave her world to go to one where her mom is still alive. Once she gets there, things are not what she expected. Multiple worlds and endings will get readers talking about the hard choices facing these kids.
Twintuition Double Vision by Tia and Tamera Mowry
This first story in the series focuses on identical twins living in a new town who both experience flashes of precognition when touching some people. There’s conflict between the sisters though and challenges around being at a new school. However, when their policewoman mother faces a serious problem, the twins use their abilities to save her from scandal. Twintuition is a quick, enjoyable summer read and they’ll be more books to come.
All the Answers by Kate Messner
Ana’s pencil can tell her answers — to things like tests, and if boys like her friend Sophie. She discovers that her grandfather, who is in a rest home, wants forgiveness from Ana’s mother; that Ana’s mother is mad about her grandfather’s gambling problem. Ana realizes that she doesn’t want to know all the answers. I love the story and the issues it brings up — this would be a great book club pick!
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper
Now that Elyse is twelve, it’s not just the words that other people say about her that appear on her skin, but also her own self-talk. The words stay about two weeks and the negative words itch badly. Because there are a lot of negative words right now ever since her best friend’s ditched her. Anonymous notes encourage Elyse to try new things and grow out of her comfort zone. She does and is surprised with the positive results including a new self-acceptance of her situation. This would be an interesting book to discuss with a book group.
Woundaout by Lev Rosen, illustrated by Ellis Rosen
This is an interesting story with a thought-provoking topic of change — can you stop change and is change good, bad, or both? When their dads are killed, siblings Connor and Cordelia and their pet capybara travel to live with their aunt who lives in the very strange city of Woundabout. It’s strange because it’s empty of children, greenery, and any spontaneity. It turns out the townspeople are totally against change, of any kind. It’s Conner and Cordelia who force the town, and their aunt, to realize that change isn’t always bad.
The Cat Who Came In off the Roof by Annie M.G. Schmidt
What a charming story! Mr. Tibble meets the strange cat-like Miss Minou just in time. He’s about to be fired from his reporter job because he only writes about cats not news. Miss Minou, who used to be a cat, uses her cat connections to help Mr. Tibble discover news to save his job. He, of course, doesn’t believe Miss Minou used to be a cat even though she wants to sleep in a box with newspaper and climb trees whenever dogs come around. Charming.
The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett
I love how Harnett takes a beautiful historical story and infuses it with magical realism. In this chapter book, we’re transported to the English countryside during World War II when children were evacuated out of London. Two evacuated girls find brothers in the ruins of an old castle . They are boys who have also been removed from London but in another historical period. Are these the missing princes?
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