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?
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.
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