Middle Grade Fantasy About Fighting Injustice

Shepherd is a new book discovery website that lets you browse lists of books on a particular theme or topic (e.g. middle grade books about unlikely friendships, zombie books, etc.). Each list is written by an author who has a connection to the topic and personally recommends five titles that fit the theme. When Shepherd invited me to put together a list, I decided to recommend books in the same vein as my two middle grade novels Sparkers and Wildings, that is, children’s fantasy novels about fighting social injustice. You can read my recommendations over on Shepherd (and maybe you’ll find you enjoy list-hopping!).

If you want some behind-the-scenes tidbits: one of the titles on my list, Ptolemy’s Gate, is the third book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, which I read as an actual middle grader (I remember really wanting the first book, The Amulet of Samarkand, when I saw it in a book fair catalogue–and I got it!). Years later, after I’d written Sparkers, it struck me that it probably showed the influence of Stroud’s trilogy. The other four books on my list are much more recent titles, all of which I read as an adult. In terms of tone and theme, I think The Troubled Girls of Dragomir AcademyA Wish in the Dark, and the Bartimaeus Trilogy, for that matter, are the most similar to Sparkers and Wildings, so if you liked my books, I think you’d like those, and vice versa!

Finally, my Shepherd list says “best books,” but really they’re just favorite books (and books that I’ve actually read, of course!). In assembling the titles, I had to make some decisions, and two books that I considered including were Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon and Daniel José Older’s Dactyl Hill SquadThe Girl Who Drank the Moon won the Newbery and is in many ways a fairy tale, but it does have things to say about oppression and political power. I’ve only read the first book in the Dactyl Hill Squad series, but it stars Black and brown kids in an alternate Civil War-era United States–with dinosaurs!

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