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Fanciful storylines

Children’s Books

Fanciful storylines

Middle-grade fantasy fiction


Fridays with the Wizards

Jessica Day George

In this next-to-last installment of the Tuesdays at the Castle series, evil wizard Arkwright escapes into the secret passages of Castle Glower. Twelve-year-old Princess Celie braves the dangers of the castle walls to disarm him and save her family. The castle’s shape-shifting recalls the wonder of an M.C. Escher painting, and Celie’s griffin will charm pet lovers—but the book’s plot is less than watertight, and Celie does occasionally deceive her family. One discordant note: The castle’s builder has had five wives, a seemingly irrelevant plot detail aside from the author’s Mormon background. (Ages 9-12)


Shonna Slayton

Shonna Slayton reinterprets Sleeping Beauty in a turn-of-the-20th-century setting. Good and evil fairies, a cursed spindle, and an innocent love story all hearken back to the original fairy tale. Yet in this version, Briar Rose works at a sewing factory, encounters suffragettes, and rides a bicycle for the first time. The book’s romance and the brief appearance of an intoxicated stranger make the book best suited to teens. And like many self-published titles, the book lacks polish in its pacing and story structure. Still, Spindle remains a wholesome tale many young teens will enjoy. (Ages 12 and up)

Windborn (The Guardian Herd)

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

This final book in the first arc of The Guardian Herd series concludes the story of Star, a magical young winged horse, and his rise to power. When Nightwing the Destroyer kidnaps Star’s herd, Star must use defensive magic to rescue his friends. Muted scenes of mass killing may be too much for sensitive readers, and a suicide pact (that doesn’t come to pass) seems a bit over the top for this age group. Despite these drawbacks, the story presents rich imaginative elements, including magical tears and fiery tornadoes, as well as a hero willing to sacrifice himself for others. (Ages 9-12)

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods 

Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan resumes his role as sarcastic demigod Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians fantasy series begun in 2005. This time, Riordan introduces readers to Greek gods including Zeus, Poseidon, and Athena—all Jackson’s extended family. These tales certainly entertain, but too often the humor makes light of severe moral failures. For instance, when Zeus forces himself on Demeter while in a snake den, Jackson calls it “reptile hanky-panky.” The book does contain educational material, but the 1962 classic D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths adapts these tales with less moral confusion. (Ages 9-12)


This past September, Betty MacDonald’s great-granddaughter Annie Parnell teamed up with children’s book author Ann M. Martin (The Baby-Sitters Club) to reboot MacDonald’s classic Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series. In Missy Piggle Wiggle and the Whatever Cure (Feiwel & Friends, 2016), Parnell and Martin introduce Missy—Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s niece—who comes to stay at the Upside-Down House while her aunt travels abroad.

The new version doesn’t touch the magic of the original 1947 novel. The humor isn’t as sharp, and while boys were welcome in the earlier classics, this new series will appeal almost exclusively to girls.

Still, girls ages 9-12 will likely appreciate seeing Missy’s potions in action, including a Know-It-All Cure and a Bubble of Apology. The book portrays some parents as untrustworthy, so Missy works throughout the seasons to relieve naughty children of their worst habits. With names like Veronica Cupcake and Petulance Freeforall adding to the fun, Missy Piggle Wiggle overall is an entertaining picture of creative discipline. —E.W