Lately I have had a lot of reasons to need cozy fantasy books, especially those written for younger and middle grade readers. In reality land where most of us live, sometimes things go wrong and sometimes they go wrong on an epic level. For some reason, my life has been falling into the latter category lately. While I hope this ends soon, it is taking far longer than I would like to pass out of it. I suppose if you’re reading this and are also a human being, then you may have experienced this too. Cozy fantasy books for kids can help.
Also, if this is happening to you or your loved ones now, know that I thoroughly sympathize. And I wish you all the best as a random internet person who does not know you at all. Not sure that will help you, but it can’t hurt. I am sending my best thoughts to you in whatever you’re going through. Because everyone is going through something, right?
As this appears to be the case for so many of us, escapist reading is definitely in order. While some people prefer romance or other genres, I prefer my escapist fun to include magic and found family. Therefore, here are some cozy fantasy books for kids to help you escape, too. Just note that my definition of “cozy” includes real-life losses. Some of these characters below have lost family or have had to overcome some hardship. I find this relatable, so it works for me, but just a heads up. There are also usually important older relatives in the stories, which is also an element I find very comforting.
A Spoonful of Time by Flora Ahn
This is an interesting cozy fantasy with a girl named Maya whose grandmother comes to live with her. I think readers will love the Korean culture and food references, which definitely added to the coziness for me. There are also recipes included, and I liked that the food literally seemed to transport Maya and her grandmother back in time. However, Maya’s grandmother does have some difficulties with her memory, so I will just note that in case that is a sensitive or difficult subject for some readers. This is a great time-travel adventure read, and I hope to see more from Ahn soon!
The Little Wooden Robot and Log Princess by Tom Gauld
This is a bit of an unusual pick, at least for me. In terms of its format, it is a hybrid of picture fiction and a shorter comic book. However you classify it, I really liked this and found it to be an interesting mix of people, magic, and wooden logs going on their own adventures. A small family of beetles also plays a prominent role. For me, the cozy part is the adorable sibling devotion that shows up in the story as well as the family reunion at the end. Give it a try and see what you think, especially with younger readers.
Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, Illustrated by Geneva B
Set in Brooklyn where the author lives, 9-year-old Jaxon and his mom are going through some tough times and are facing eviction. Jaxon’s mom decides to leave him with the older woman who raised her so she can sort out what to do about their housing situation. Suddenly Jaxon is thrust into Ma’s world and is now hanging around with someone who is clearly trying to get rid of him. I found the gruffness of Ma’s character and Jaxon’s insatiable curiosity to be very comforting and a cozy relationship to watch unfold. And of course, Jaxon discovers that some of Ma’s reticence has to do with the mysterious creatures she is keeping in her apartment. No surprise, there are dragons.
Thunderbird: Book One by Sonia Nimr, Translated by M. Lynx Qualey
Noor is an orphan who lives with her grandmother. I picked this up because it is translated by Marcia Lynx Qualey, and I’m glad I did. This is book one and I find it cozy because the love and acceptance of Noor’s grandmother is almost palpable. Everyone needs someone like that in their corner, and I kept reading just to see what would happen next in the main character’s relationship with her beloved grandmother. I’m looking forward to continuing in the series! In the meantime, I hope Qualey’s translation of Palestinian author Sonia Nimr’s work gets more attention generally. If you like this, spread the word to other interested readers.
Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms by Jamar J Perry
This has West African–inspired magic, a powerful book, and some strong friendships at its heart. While it’s not perfect, I think it has a ton of potential and is a promising start to a series with a young boy who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Cameron has some good friends around him in Zion and Aliyah, so I find that part to be cozy and very comforting. His relationship with his grandmother was also an element of coziness to me, but be aware that the main character has lost his parents as well. It may have also helped that the lightening strikes, bookshelves falling off the wall, or other events were suspenseful without being scary, which helps with the cozy atmosphere.
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
Everyone wants to feel that they are chosen at some point in their life, and this is a book about that to some extent. However, it’s not that simple. For the main character Ella, I really liked that she is simultaneously chosen and something of an outsider, as the first conjuror at her magical school in the sky. I find the idea of others seeing you for who you really are to be very cozy. I also highly recommend the audio version narrated by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. Her delivery is incredibly expressive and will make you feel like you’re in the middle of Ella’s living room. You will probably find it comforting to listen to if that is an option for you. Clayton is also well known as the author of The Belles series, so you may want to try those after you sink into Ella’s world in the Marvellers series.
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
This is a lovely story set in the magical world of Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, with 12-year-old Felicity Pickle, her mom, and her 6-year-old sister Frannie Jo at its heart. Their mom has had to move a lot and of course the girls have felt the effects of this. Since they have had to start over several times, little Frannie Jo has a special suitcase packed for unexpected middle of the night departures. This is something a child might see as a necessity while an adult might see it as a little bit of heartbreak.
While we can understand the need to move as adults, kids don’t have much choice when it comes to the changes we put them through. So I felt a particular sympathy with these little ones right from the start. I also loved the sweet way Felicity Pickle enjoys words like popsicle, paper star, and poppy-seed muffin. For me, the loving bond between Felicity and her little sister Frannie Jo is the cozy heart of this book.
Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traoré
I know what you’re thinking: this looks like a book that will just suck me in. Yes, I said it. Okay, now that is out of the way, I thought the characters and setting were really engrossing and the writing is lovely. The story revolves around Simi, a girl living with her grandmother in a small Nigerian village while her mother tries to piece their lives back together after a divorce. Simi is sharp and observant, and moving from Lagos to live with her mother’s estranged mother is a big, jarring change for her. I found the development and relationship building with her grandmother to be the cozy part for me. However, note that this story has some suggestions of children disappearing and at least one child who drowns. These are topics I usually avoid, so some other readers may want to know this before they start reading. This is very well written and I am hoping to get my hands on more titles from Traoré in the near future.
There are also more exciting cozy fantasy titles coming out later in 2023! Angie Thomas has a middle grade debut coming out: Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy. This is a title I am waiting to get my little paws on. Also Questlove has written a book with S. A. Cosby called The Rhythm of Time that should release (at least in the U.S.) in April.
Lastly, if you’re still facing an exceptionally tough time as I am, I hope you will bear in mind that nothing lasts forever. There is no world in which things stay the same forever and ever. At least there is some comfort in that. Sending much love for whatever you have passed through and for whatever lies ahead for you too.