Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer
Children's

8 Middle Grade Magical Realism Novels to Read Right Now

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Ashlie Swicker

Contributor

Ashlie (she/her) is an educator, librarian, and writer. She is committed to diversifying the reading lives of her students and supporting fat acceptance as it intersects with other women’s issues. She's also perpetually striving to learn more about how she can use her many privileges to support marginalized groups. Interests include learning how to roller skate with her local roller derby team, buying more books than she'll ever read, hiking with her husband and sons, and making lists to avoid real work. You can find her on Instagram (@ashlieelizabeth), Twitter (@mygirlsimple) or at her website, www.ashlieswicker.com.

Magical realism is such a powerful genre. The surreal feeling of magical happenings in a realistic setting tends to make a story stick with you for longer than the average novel. In a world where hooking students on books is a constant battle, these tantalizing tales build enthusiasm for reading. It’s such a joy to connect young readers with stories that transport them in a wondrous way. The wonder is not just for kids. As an adult, some of my favorite books are middle grade magical realism novels.

I will never forget the first time I read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I finished in the middle of the night, teary and touched, and unable to put into words exactly why this book had affected me as it had. That is the power of magical realism — something unspoken but deeply felt.

Below I’ve gathered some middle grade magical realism books, many of which I frequently recommend in my elementary school library. While middle grade novels are typically geared towards kids in 4th through 8th grade, accessing these books on audio greatly increases the range of students who can enjoy. Whether you’re looking for something to recommend to a specific reader or a read aloud to entice a group, this list is an excellent place to start.

cover of pilu of the woods

Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen

A beautiful story structured with tree spirits and redemptive adventure, Pilu of the Woods is truly a story about processing emotions and healthy channeling of anger. Willow always feels more calm in the woods, and when she meets Pilu, a tree spirit trying to get home, she feels a sense of purpose. However, is Willow able to help Pilu on Pilu’s terms, or will her big emotions overtake her again?

cover of Love Sugar Magic A Dash of Trouble

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano and Mirelle Ortega

This delightful story brings us to a wildly popular family bakery. Leo can’t wait until she’s old enough to help her mother and sisters make their sought after baked treats. Every year they tell her she has to wait! When she spies on her family, she realizes the reason they’re holding back — they’re brujas! Leo knows she has magic, too, and can’t contain her excitement. When she tries a spell on her own, she realizes she needs her family’s help.

cover of bob wendy mass rebecca stead

Bob by Wendy Mass, Rebecca Stead, and Nicholas Gannon

BOB is one of my favorite middle grade novels. Livy is visiting her grandmother in Australia and is struck by the feeling that she needs to remember something important. Her strange sensation is confirmed when she finds Bob, her imaginary friend from five years ago. But why can’t she remember anything about him? And why can’t he remember anything about himself?

cover of crenshaw katherine applegate

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Tackling big subjects like parent-child trust and family homelessness, Crenshaw is the story of a human-sized cat who shows up to support Jackson as he processes life events. A mystical event taking place against a stark reality gives this novel such a powerful feeling. My sons and I really enjoyed this on audio, the performance sparking great conversations.

cover of the magical reality of nadia bassem youssef

The Magical Reality of Nadia by Bassem Youssef, Catherine R. Daly, and Douglas Holgate

Featuring comics, illustrations, and borrowed experiences from the author’s life, The Magical Reality of Nadia follows a young immigrant girl as she attempts to conquer 6th grade. Until she faces teasing over her Egyptian heritage, her biggest problem is trying to win a contest to work with the local museum. Faced with this new challenge, she’s shocked to find her precious hippo necklace glowing. Can this new magic help her with all her problems?

cover of ghost squad claribel ortega

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Lucely knows there are ghosts in St. Augustine. Some of them even live in her house! Living in a family very used to the paranormal, Lucely doesn’t mean to unleash malicious spirits on the night before Halloween. With the help of her grandmother, her cat, and her best friend, Syd, Lucely is on a mission to crack down on the bad ghosts before her beloved firefly spirits are hurt.

cover of echo pam munoz ryan

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Echo is a classic for a reason. A gorgeous novel, traversing time, reality, and storytelling format, this book as been celebrated both traditionally and on audio. Following a magical hamonica and a witches’ curse, Echo takes three different narratives and entwines them in a tale of historical fiction, family strength, and beautiful music.

cover of One Jar of Magic corey ann haydu

One Jar of Magic by Corey Ann Haydu

On the surface, One Jar of Magic is about a girl struggling to live up to her famous father’s expectations. However, against a middle grade magical realism backdrop where magic is gathered (literally into jars) by a privileged few, Rose deals with heavy weights of abuse, belonging, and challenging the world view you’re raised with. The charming magical element is stark against the very real world issues in this story.


Looking for more magical realism? Check out these LGTBQIA+ magical realism novels, or this exploration of Encanto as a part of the magical realism genre. Happy reading!