Fantastic Top Fives is a meme for Wyrd & Wonder, a monthlong celebration in May of all things fantasy.
This week’s topic:
Top Five From a Favorite Fantasy Subgenre
I’ve decided to focus on middle grade fantasy books for this week’s topic. I know middle grade is an age category and not a genre, but it certainly has its own flavor. These fantasy stories are often light, fun, fast-moving with loads of zany adventures, often with no parent or other responsible adult around. Kids often have to rely on their own abilities because adults are either evil, unaware, unavailable, or unreliable, and it’s up to the kids to save the day.
Other than the Harry Potter books, the Narnia series, whatever Rick Riordan writes, and the Tea Dragon books, here are a few others I enjoyed.
Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi (illus.)
This is such a fun comic book series. It’s about Emily and her brother Navin who move to an old family home after their father died. When their mom is kidnapped, the siblings follow the kidnappers to another world, where they meet odd creatures who help them rescue their mother.
The story is fast-paced and light. I decided to try it because I so loved the Harry Potter covers Kibuishi did that I wanted to see more of his work. His illustrations for the Amulet series are superb, detailed with great use of color.
Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez (illus.)
This gorgeously illustrated graphic novel is about a little girl who must work past her fears and insecurities, which are heightened by the antagonist, to continue creating her art.
I love this one for how the story is told and that it’s about a creative person pushing through doubt and insecurity to keep on creating. I also love that the protagonist daydreams a lot to come up with ideas. The story is sweet and whimsical and the illustrations help to emphasize that. It’s such a good story. I still need to get myself a copy of the book.
Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel (illus.)
I read this one last year. It’s an illustrated book (not exactly a picture book) that retells a story from Hindu mythology — the Ramayana, which is about Rama, an avatar of the blue god Vishnu who reincarnated himself as Rama to defeat the powerful demon, Ravana.
The story is told in a lighthearted tone and includes lots of fantastic adventures and interesting individuals that it easily captures reader’s attention. But if not, the illustrations surely will. They are stunning and detailed and colorful and so beautiful. I highly suggest you take a look at them.
Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend
This one is pretty popular now and is often compared to the Harry Potter series. It’s about a girl named Morrigan Crow who everyone believes to be unlucky, but when she’s whisked away to a new world by the eccentric Jupiter North, she realizes that she has a unique ability.
I enjoy reading these books and am wondering if I should start collecting them. There are obvious influences from the Harry Potter series and Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci books, which I recently began reading. That said, the story is fun, filled with crazy adventures, set in an amazing world, and even seems to touch on some of the issues our society is tackling with corona.
Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly
Shadow Weaver is the first in a duology set in a world where people gain supernatural abilities whenever the Cerelia Comet passes over their lands. The protagonist Emmeline has such an ability, she’s able to manipulate shadows, which she thinks causes everyone to fear her — except for her best friend, her shadow, Dar.
Shadow Weaver is fantasy but it has some very light horror influences. It’s not scary. It is atmospheric at times, and I like how that helps to give off a sinister feeling in some parts when Dar seems creepy.
Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, illus. by Todd Harris
This is a bonus one because I just really wanted to include it. It’s the first in a series about the princes charming from fairytales. You know, the dudes who rescue the princesses. Except in this story, that’s hardly ever the case.
This was such a fun read, and I’d love to reread it and continue with the other books. I think there was some pacing issues (if I remember correctly), but overall, I thought it was fun, entertaining, and a nice twist on fairytale characters.
So there you have it: more fantasy recommendations for you and the kids in your life.
I highly recommend you try middle grade fantasy or picture books, especially when you need a break from novels.