MIDDLE GRADE FANTASY BOOKS WITH ANIMALS
Since I write middle grade fantasy, I read a plethora of middle grade fantasy books! Louie loves to read but he always requests middle grade fantasy books with animals. So I decided to compile a list of what I consider some of the more recent top fantasy books for middle schoolers. With animals!
To make this blog post more challenging, Louie wanted middle grade fantasy books with not just animals. He specifically asked for canines.
He is one demanding dog!
Plus, I wanted to add science into the mix. This is a science blog, after all!
ANIMAL BOOKS FOR KIDS...and LOUIE
With Louie’s help, we narrowed the list down to books with dogs, wolves, coyotes, and foxes!
Since I’m upset about the grey wolf’s removal from the endangered species list and subsequent hunting in 2021, I am happy to have wolves in the line up of animal books for kids.
For more on this development and why wolves are critical to the ecosystem, I have a post here for you!
The kid in the slideshow below is not a canid but he loves them, so he made the cut.
What about middle grade fantasy books with birds?
Next book review post, we’ll expand! Meanwhile, here’s a post about my adventures with the meanest bird of all.
Now, back to some of the newer, best middle grade fantasy books with animals.
TOP FANTASY BOOKS FOR MIDDLE SCHOOLERS 2021
I decided to eschew the classics and go with middle grade fantasy books with animals from the last five years.
I do love some of the classics!
In no particular order, here we go…
ALONE by Megan E. Freeman
This harrowing middle grade debut novel-in-verse from a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet (!!) tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.
When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone–left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned.
With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read.
After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten.
As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?
George, the Rottweiler in Alone is a hero! My very first dog was a sweet Rottweiler named Chelsea.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think Megan Freeman based her character on Chelsea!
CECE RIOS AND THE DESERT OF SOULS by Kaela Rivera
Living in the remote town of Tierra del Sol is dangerous, especially in the criatura months, when powerful spirits roam the desert and threaten humankind.
But Cecelia Rios has always believed there was more to the criaturas, much to her family’s disapproval. After all, only brujas—humans who capture and control criaturas—consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible crime.
When her older sister, Juana, is kidnapped by El Sombrerón, a powerful dark criatura, Cece is determined to bring Juana back. To get into Devil’s Alley, though, she’ll have to become a bruja herself—while hiding her quest from her parents, her town, and the other brujas.
Thankfully, the legendary criatura Coyote has a soft spot for humans and agrees to help her on her journey.
With Coyote at her side, Cece sets out to reunite her family–and maybe even change what it means to be a bruja along the way.
My favorite character in this middle grade fantasy is Coyote! Kaela has a quiz on her website to see which criatura you are. (Coincidentally, I am Coyote)
Louie loves this middle grade fantasy. It was a no brainer that we include it in our top fantasy books for middle schoolers!
Desert versus dessert.
One consonant makes all the difference!
PAX by Sara Pennypacker
Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.
At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be–with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.
Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own. . . .
PAX THE JOURNEY HOME, also by Sara Pennypacker
And there’s a sequel! I admit that I haven’t read this middle grade fantasy book with animals yet but if you like Pax, go for it!
I’m a fan of series and sequels. When your child closes the book and says that they loved it, you can hand them book 2! Keep them reading!
A WOLF CALLED WANDER by Roseanne Perry
“Don’t miss this dazzling tour de force.”—Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal winning author of The One and Only Ivan
This gripping novel about survival and family is based on the real story of one wolf’s incredible journey to find a safe place to call home.
Swift, a young wolf cub, lives with his pack in the mountains learning to hunt, competing with his brothers and sisters for hierarchy, and watching over a new litter of cubs. Then a rival pack attacks, and Swift and his family scatter.
Alone and scared, Swift must flee and find a new home. His journey takes him a remarkable one thousand miles across the Pacific Northwest. The trip is full of peril, and Swift encounters forest fires, hunters, highways, and hunger before he finds his new home.
THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate
If Katherine Applegate suggests a title, go for it! (I’m a fangirl) And if you haven’t read The One and Only Ivan, even though Ivan is a gorilla, not a dog, you really really should!
(sorry Louie…I broke your rule about canid books)
Back to A Wolf Called Wander…
Inspired by the extraordinary true story of a wolf named OR-7 (or Journey), this irresistible tale of survival invites readers to experience and imagine what it would be like to be one of the most misunderstood animals on earth.
THE WOLF OF CAPE FEN by Juliana Brandt
First Frost has touched Cape Fen, and that means Baron Dire has returned. For as long as anyone can remember, Baron Dire has haunted the town come winter, striking magical bargains and demanding unjust payment in return. The Serling sisters know better than to bargain, lest they find themselves hunted by the Baron’s companion, the Wolf.
And then the Wolf attacks Eliza’s sister Winnie. They manage to escape, but they know the Wolf will be back. Because Winnie would never bargain, so that must mean that someone has struck a deal with Winnie as the price.
Eliza refuses to lose her sister and embarks on a journey to save her. If Eliza can learn the truth, she might be able to protect her sister, but the truth behind the bargain could put her own life in danger.
This book has a formidable antagonist and there are some scary bits, but it’s not horror. No need to be concerned with if you have a precocious younger reader that wants to curl up with this middle grade fantasy! Louie and I have no qualms about adding Cape Fen to our list of best middle grade fantasy books.
THE WOLF’S CURSE by Jessica Vitalis
Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he cried Wolf and was accused of witchcraft. The Great White Wolf brings only death, Gauge’s superstitious village believes. If Gauge can see the Wolf, then he must be in league with it.
So instead of playing with friends in the streets or becoming his grandpapa’s partner in the carpentry shop, Gauge must hide and pretend he doesn’t exist. But then the Wolf comes for his grandpapa. And for the first time, Gauge is left all alone, with a bounty on his head and the Wolf at his heels.
A young feather collector named Roux offers Gauge assistance, and he is eager for the help. But soon the two–both recently orphaned–are questioning everything they have ever believed about their village, about the Wolf, and about death itself.
I love The Wolf’s Curse!
The wolf character offers a lovely balance to the human characters’ grief with her snarky humor, keeping the story firmly appropriate for middle schoolers.
Best middle grade fantasy books? Order this one!
Two thumbs and four paws up! (My thumbs, Louie’s paws)
Erin Entrada Kelly loved The Wolf’s Curse, too. “I am obsessed with this story!” — Erin Entrada Kelly
Four thumbs (Sue + Erin) + Louie’s four paws!
HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly
I’ve read many of Erin’s titles but my favorite happens to feature an animal! A guinea pig. Louie is not pleased but he liked Hello, Universe when we read it. So did a lot of librarians because Hello Universe won a Newbery!
Told from four intertwining points of view—two boys and two girls—the novel celebrates bravery, being different, and finding your inner bayani (hero).
In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature.
Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so he can concentrate on basketball.
They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.
A WOLF FOR A SPELL by Karah Sutton
Since she was a pup, Zima has been taught to fear humans–especially witches–but when her family is threatened, she has no choice but to seek help from the witch Baba Yaga.
Baba Yaga never does magic for free, but it just so happens that she needs a wolf’s keen nose for a secret plan she’s brewing . . . Before Zima knows what’s happening, the witch has cast a switching spell and run off into the woods, while Zima is left behind in Baba Yaga’s hut–and Baba Yaga’s body!
I am a sucker for witches and magic so I enjoyed this middle grade fantasy. Witches are cool! Mistaken identity is always funny! (Ask William Shakespeare!)
MIDDLE GRADE FANTASY BOOKS WITH ANIMALS!
Voila! Not one, not two, not three, but ten middle grade fantasy books with animals! I’d put all ten on a list of new, best middle grade fantasy books.
These were all links to an independent bookshop, but the links kept breaking and breaking and breaking. I had to switch to amazon. I didn’t want to but fixing them was turning into a full-time job. I am an amazon affiliate, so if you order, I may get about 10 cents from Jeff Bezos. This does not increase your cost, but decreases his profit!
Because this is a science blog, I’ve got a short quiz here that you can take, to test yourself on a few canid facts! Specifically wolves, coyotes, and foxes! Oh, my! No one will see your score except for you. Give it a go!
STEM SCIENCE AT HOME
Which of these books appeals to you? Which titles do you think your kids, nieces, nephews, neighbors, or grandkids will like? Which of these middle grade fantasies with animals have you read? Let me know in comments! I love to chat.
Plus, if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, go for it! Click the link below!
Fun quiz! Louis is adorable. He should be in a book. I’m going to pick up a few titles for my nephews for Xmas. They’d like ‘a wolf called wander,’ and ‘pax,’ I bet. All of these books! Thanks for these great suggestions.
Books always make great gifts! As for Louie in a book, maybe I can write him in somewhere? Thanks for taking my quiz.
It is really hard for me to choose which children’s book would make a good gift and you gave me some great ideas with your post. Thank you!
I’m glad that I could help! Thanks!
Awesome books, middle schoolers can also enjoy reading books like these.
They are all awesome books, I agree. Thanks so much!
These books sound awesome. I haven’t been reading books with animal vibes for quite a long time. I’m going to add some of these books to my TBR. Thank you for sharing. Good post.
I’m sure you’ll like them! I’m glad you liked my post. Thanks, Fadima!
Thanks for putting together this great book list! Reading = happy time! 🙂
Agreed! Books are the best. My biggest issue writing this post was stopping at 10! Thanks, Eileen!
This list is so helpful in helping me choose some Christmas gifts! Thanks for sharing.
Hurrah! You’re going to be the favorite when you present any of these as gifts! Thanks so much.
Loved the rainbow picture, I think i know where you took it!?!?
Great idea of book reviews, going to send some of these to my nephew & niece.
You DO know where I took that pic! You’ll be the favorite auntie for sure with these books as a gift! Thanks, Mary!
Thanks for including The Wolf’s Curse on this terrific list, Sue!
How could I not, Jessica! I love The Wolf’s Curse. I could write thirty more posts about books. (Maybe I will!) Thanks for stopping by!
Wow, you’ve opened up a whole new world of books to me as even though I may not be the target audience for these works, I would definitely read a lot of them myself! I love stories about/with animals so these are great!
Oh, I’m not in the 8-12 age group either but that doesn’t stop me! (hm…what does that say about my mental state? jk!) I’m happy that you stopped by. Thanks!
Great post. I have read many of these books and put A Wolf Called Wander on our library reading challenge list last year. I found that book especially intriguing because it felt like the author really knew what she was talking about. Reading up on the book, I understood why. Great compilation. Wonderful books. Lovely dog.
A Wolf Called Wander is amazing! Smart to put it on your library challenge. I’m happy you like my compilation. And of course, Louie! Thanks, Eva.
I’ve been visiting and reading your posts for a while now, and I don’t think I was ever aware that you write middle grade fantasy. But that’s so cool. What are some of your favourite ones you’ve written?
I am unpublished in the middle grade fantasy realm, but I hope to change that! I’m currently revising a fairy tale retelling. Thanks for asking and for stopping by!
Great selection! I hope my boy loves books, I’ve actually just ordered him some but they’re not quite this advanced haha!
Pax sounds lovely.
Your boy will love books if you do! Sounds as if you’re off to a great start! Pax! Great choice. Thanks, Corinne.
I love that you have done a post of books that include animals alongside the main characters! I am seeing a lot of wolves here, as they are such magical and majestic creatures, but I love seeing a coyote and a fox here too!
Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I agree, wolves are magical, so a perfect animal for a fantasy! At least Louie allowed me to expand to coyotes and foxes! Thanks so much!
Thanks for sharing this great list! When my girl is a bit older (she’s 4 ATM), I will definitely be reading more stories like this to her. Loving the sound of ‘Alone’ and ‘The One and Only Ivan.’
The One and Only Ivan would be a great bedtime read. Your girl must love storytime already! Thanks so much!
She does 🙂 I love reading to her too because I get to read her all of the ones I loved from my childhood too. Can’t wait to look at your recommendations.
Reading to your kids is priceless! (Now I sound so sappy!) I’m sure you’ll find a book you like in this post. Thanks again! Happy reading.
Some really amazing picks here. I personally would like to read CECE RIOS AND THE DESERT OF SOULS …..
CECE is fast-paced and fun with delicious hints of danger! Glad you like my picks. Thanks!
These books sound amazing! Thank you so much for sharing them. I’m always on the look out for something new to read, I’ll be keeping this post in mind Xo
Elle – ellegracedeveson.com
Fantastic! The post will be here any time you want to refer back. Thank you!
Thank you for such a wonderful list. This will come in very handy when picking a gift for my niece
I’m happy that you can take advantage of my post. Your niece will love them! Thank you!
A great selection books, I’m sure they will go down well as xmas presents. Also I can understand why it should just be canines lol, my dog would feel exactly the same.
I’m sure your dog would love this post! I hope you had her take the quiz, too. Thanks so much, Lou.
Alone sounds like such an immersive read, I have read anything by Megan E. Freeman before so I’ll have to check it out. Great list!
Immersive read is an apt description! Check back and let me know what you think. Thanks!
Louie is so cute!! I love that you say these are books for kids but I actually want to read them all haha. Anything with a wolf and I’m in!
Well, I have read them all! I find that middle grade books hit the heart of the story without any meandering. People may raise an eyebrow at me at the airport, but who cares. Go for it. And thanks!
Amazing recommendations! I think most children enjoy a book more if there’s animals involved. I’m a huge dog fan, so these sound so cool! Thank you for sharing!
I’m happy you like my recommendations! I agree, animals are fun. (As you probably guessed, I’m a dog fan, too.) Thank you!
This is so cool! Thanks for sharing these amazing list of books. Great idea for gifts for my Godchildren this holiday season. Looking forward to seeing more from you.
Your godchildren will love any of these books, I’m sure! Looking forward to you reading more of my posts! Thanks so much.
Ok I liked the second book, dessert pic lol, cape frn, wolf curse. And yes I also like witches and magic. Maybe the most fun for me. For kids definitely more diversity in topics etc. Great one. I’ll refer these ones to my family. Xx
Isa A. Blogger
Dessert pics! And I see I’ve got a fellow witch and magic fan. Glad you liked the post and plan to share the book titles with your family! Thanks, Isa.
thanks for this list of book recommendations! i love reading this time of year
I love curling up with a good book on a cool night, too. Thanks!
I think my nieces and nephews would definitely love these books – they love anything with animals, especially dogs! Thank you for the recommendations!
George, the Rottweiler in Alone is a hero! Let me know which titles they end up reading. Thanks so much.
Thank you so much for sharing this! My little one is very into reading at the moment and I think The Wolf of Cape Fen sounds like his thing.
Fantastic! I’m sure he’ll love The Wolf of Cape Fen. Thanks so much!
I love that you wrote this list with animals, they are definitely a key part of our world and it’s so important to teach kids that!
Well put! I’m happy that you love my list full of fantasy with animals! Thank you.
What a great list of book recommendations for middle school students!
I’m glad you find them appealing. Thank you!
This was a really interesting post. These sound like some great book choices. Thank you for sharing.
Lauren – bournemouthgirl
Book reviews are easy and fun to write so it feels almost like cheating when you find this post interesting! Thank you for stopping by!
This is a great selection of books! My younger cousins would love some of these. Thanks for sharing!
I’m glad you think so! Thanks so much.
I’m a big Katherine Applegate fan, and I loved Pax. My grandson and I had a chance to share classics such as “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and “Because of Winn-Dixie” but he didn’t want to read any books in which the animal dies. Personally, as a child, I loved “Old Yeller” and “The Yearling.”
Thanks for sharing a genre that’s dear to my heart.
Ah we have Katherine Applegate fandom in common, Amy. Because of Winn-Dixie is another great classic! Your grandson is lucky to read books with you. I’m glad we share a love for this genre! Thanks so much.
Thank you for sharing them with us! Congratulations✨ So happy for you!!
I hope you’ll try one of these titles. And thanks!
It was a pleasure reading your comments on this page. Thank you for sharing a topic very dear to me.
I had a brief question if you have a moment.
My wife and I owned a thriving Montessori School for many years observing first hand Middle Graders interest in talking animals. We researched valiantly for books utilizing them while incorporating sound morals and ethics parents were urging us toward.
I was also fascinated on the effect poetry had on our classes. The children’s attention span went from 10-12 minutes before having to do stretching exercises (or some activity to get them centered again) to 16-20 minutes or more while reading poetry. It was at this point I began writing an epic adventure series (3 books so far) written in rhymed verse with each animal species having their own rhymed meter. Quite a challenge since each book is around 32k words, about the same length as Charlotte’s Web.
It is an epic adventure about a cat named Puff (called The Adventures of Puff) that travels around the world exploring different cultures and befriending/avoiding other animals native to those regions.
Finally, I went a step further illustrating each chapter with photos using Photoshop (which I’m learning along the way).
My question: nothing has ever been done on this scale before (poetically speaking) and I’m wondering if you think there is an audience out there, or if I should give up the idea and go back to gardening or something less speculative.
I appreciate you taking a moment.
Your endeavor sounds unique & fascinating! I’m not an expert, so I don’t want to dispense advice, but you have options to explore. You could look into finding literary representation. Or research the pros and cons of publishing the series yourself. There is no right answer here! As Lucille Ball said, ‘I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than the things I haven’t done.’ Whatever you do, please keep me in the loop! Thanks.