50+ More Diverse Middle Grade Fantasy Novels

Way back in 2017, I started working on a list of diverse MG fantasy novels.  It took three years to compile the first list, and since many books on it begin a series, it has only been growing ever since.  But finding a stopping point was also difficult because I kept coming across more books.  Certainly there were some I’d overlooked or had not been able to access, but there was another reason my list of recommended diverse fantasy novels was quadruple what I’d scraped together five years ago – new releases!

We are living in a time when MG fantasy is rapidly diversifying.  With the success of a few bold publishers and authors, others seem more willing to consider diverse fantasy, or are just interested in market share of an uncornered niche.  Or maybe even, people have been pushing for diversity a long time and the environment is finally right.  I’m not sure why now but this explosion of diverse literature is wonderful.

Today there is no excuse for a fantasy list that does not have even a single book with a character of color, let alone diverse authors.   And there are enough books and series to make not just one, but many lists of diverse MG fantasy!  I did make one change – on this list I included a few white fantasy novels with main characters who had disabilities, were LGBTQ, or had diverse living circumstances. This list also includes books in translation, and a handful of out-of-print but (as of this writing) still obtainable books.

This is one librarian mama’s list aimed at parents, teachers, and librarians of voracious readers who aren’t quite ready for the heavier content in YA fantasy novels yet.  I felt these are all appropriate for middle grade readers, so most don’t have too much romance or graphic violence.  Click on the title of a book to read my full review including length, reading level, and age appropriateness – some do skew towards older MG readers.


Double Vision by Tia and Tamera Mowry.
Double Trouble by Tia and Tamera Mowry.
Double Dare by Tia and Tamera Mowry.
Double Cross by Tia and Tamera Mowry.

The Twintuition series, written by a pair of real-life celebrity twins, features identical twin sisters with a mysterious ability to see the future. This slowly-paced quartet takes place over their sixth grade year, but sometimes feels more like young readers idea of high school than an early middle school experience. Includes mild romance, lots of fashion, and tween friendship drama, but aimed more at the younger end of MG.

Quintessence by Jess Redman.

Alma, a lonely white girl facing anxiety and panic attacks and suffering from situational depression since her family moved, vows to save a Starling that she sees land in her backyard. But returning a star to the sky isn’t an easy task, and she’ll have to find a way to reach out for help first… Some side characters are Persian-American and described Black.

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor.

I have been incredibly confused as to why Ikenga is being marketed as Okorafor’s “first novel for middle grade readers” when this immersive science fantasy exists.  Perhaps it’s meant to be YA, or maybe this doesn’t count because she published it under a slightly different name, but this beautiful 2005 quest fantasy set on the plant-dominated science fictional world of Ginen shouldn’t be overlooked.  Human aspects of the world are mainly Black and the author is Nigerian-American.

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee.
Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee.

Don’t worry, this list won’t be all science fantasy – but while we’re on the subject this story of a rebellious fox spirit determined to find her missing brother must be mentioned.  Set in a future when various worlds are colonized and many (but not all) supernatural creatures are known and accepted, Lee expertly blends spacecraft and magic with thrilling plot and effortless worldbuilding.  Inspired by Korean legends and includes non-binary characters. Originally published as a stand-alone, but has since become the Thousand Worlds series!

Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway, illustrated by Choong Yoon.
Xander and the Dream Thief by Margaret Dilloway, illustrated by Choong Yoon.

The Momotaro series follows a half Japanese boy from the San Diego suburbs who’s spent his first twelve years trying to avoid everything his mythology professor father taught him – until it all turned out to be true!  Especially recommended for Riordan fans, although not part of his official imprint.

The Dragon of Ynys by Minerva Cerridwen.

The author of this mild, short, all-ages fairy tale is white, and characters aren’t physically described, but the main character is asexual and aromantic and major supporting characters include transgender women and a lesbian couple.  Positive, unharmful masculinity is modeled and a variety of gender representations are shown in a gentle family-friendly adventure.

Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, translated by Emily Balistrieri, illustrated by Yuta Onoda.

This gentle classic 1985 Japanese story of a young teen following her mother’s witch custom of moving to bring magic to a witchless town is low on action but full of life lessons.  Perfect for family storytime, young readers, or sensitive children, the 2020 edition will introduce new readers to this novel that inspired a subgenre in both Japanese children’s literature and a variety of other media.

Secrets of Valhalla by Jasmine Richards.
Keeper of Myths by Jasmine Richards.

A Black British author puts an exciting new spin on Norse mythology in these books.  Although the main character is white, his best friends are a Black American girl and a British Indian boy.  Mary features in the first book while the second has more Sam.  It’s a spoiler, but there is also some low-key disability representation.

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander.
A Festival of Ghosts by William Alexander.

Rosa Díaz comes from a family of librarians specializing in ghost appeasement and is upset that her mother has moved them to the only unhaunted town in the world.  Jasper Chevalier is a renaissance fair kid who can’t remember ever seeing a ghost, because when his classmates vacation in haunted places, he’s busy playing a squire.  Can they join forces to save their town?  This duology is clever and witty and just a little spooky, with Latina and biracial Black main characters.

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller.

Keller takes a fascinating dive into fantasy inspired by magical realism and Korean mythology in this story about a girl who, together with her mother and older sister, move back home to take care of her grandmother.  Lily has to figure out what the magical tigers want from her halmoni and how to deal with them herself to keep her family safe.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell.

On my last list I wanted to include more middle grade fantasy with disabled characters, but couldn’t get any in time.  The author and characters of this book are white, but the main character has a club foot.  She faces prejudice and her own self-doubt in a world where magic doesn’t solve all your problems.  Especially recommended for readers who enjoy medieval style fantasy or practical heroines.

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia.
Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Kay Mejia.
(forthcoming) Paola Santiago and the Sanctuary of Shadows by Tehlor Kay Mejia.

Paola is science-minded; she has to be since her mother’s belief in spirits won’t keep their electricity on.  But when one of her best friends goes missing by the haunted river they weren’t supposed to be hanging out near, can she and her friend Dante (and their mysterious chancla) save the day?  This Latine series from Rick Riordan Presents includes LGBTQ representation and MG appropriate romance.

Gloom Town by Ronald L. Smith.

A biracial Black boy living in a spooky near-Victorian town has no choice but to take up a draconian contract working for Lord Foxglove in his mansion.  He and his mother might need the money, but as he uncovers more mysteries about the town’s history, his choices get harder and harder.  An atmospheric story perfect for fans of The Jumbies trilogy from my previous list.

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega.

A Dominican-American girl’s family appears to her as firefly ghosts while she tries to save her home (both the house she grew up in and her town) from problems both magical and mundane in this story. Her single father is busy running his ghost tours, so she spends lots of time with her ghost grandmother or her best friend’s witchy living grandmother. A refreshing portrayal of Afro-Latina families combine with busy action for a story that will have wide appeal.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwambe Mbalia.
Tristan Strong Destroys the World by Kwambe Mbalia.
(forthcoming) Tristan Strong Keeps Punching by Kwambe Mbalia.

Grieving his best friend, young boxer Tristan has just lost his first and only match and gotten sent off to spend the summer with his grandparents when he falls through a hole in the sky onto the land of Alke.   This inventive portal fantasy combines West African and African American folklore with original creations based on history.

Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by James Madsen.
Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by James Madsen.
Beast of Stone by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by James Madsen.

The Wing and Claw trilogy is by a Korean-American author.  In a fantastical world a gifted young apothecary has to navigate strange plants, unusual animals, and a plethora of moral dilemmas.  Class, differing abilities, and environmentalism are all strong themes; characters have various skin colors but aren’t coded to specific real-life ethnicities in this non-Earth based fantasy world.

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston.
(forthcoming) Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston.

The newer Supernatural Investigations series combines a touch of technology with a whallop of fantastical beings and magical abilities.  It’s also a bit of a genre blender, with elements of mystery, superheroism, realism, and science fiction all wrapped up in a school story package – while fantasy is the primary aspect, this would be a good pick for students who like multi-genre reads.

The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori.

This historical fantasy about a family of miniature people and those that care for them struggling to survive in WWII Japan isn’t for every reader, but will delight and enthrall those who are able to suspend disbelief.  Originally published in 1959, but not translated to English until 2015.

One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson.

An orphaned Senegalese boy sees his mother’s spirit and hears his father’s voice as he tries to care for his sisters and keep his family together without succumbing to a life of crime.  While technically historical fantasy, the village setting and near-modern history will probably read to many children like contemporary.  There are tough moments in this book but the life lessons shared are hard earned and the journey is worthwhile.

Into the Tall, Tall Grass by Loriel Ryan.

This bittersweet, underrated fantasy not only includes a set of magical, non-identical twins, it addresses loss, colorism, queerness, friendship, and generational trauma too.  With few characters, each are painted as whole persons engaging on a magical journey to heal Yolanda’s abuela.  Sensitive readers be aware that there is a kiss, and significant trauma addressed, although neither are the main focus.

Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo.

Delpha McGill and Katybird Hearn are the youngest witches in two Appalachian families with a long history of feuding.  Hearns keep peace by doing magic under the table, while McGills strictly avoid magic, even in desperate situations – until Delpha finds the family spellbook.  The author and main characters of this story are white, but it deals sensitively with poverty and an intersex protagonist.  There are Deaf, asthmatic, and Black side characters.

Dragon of the Lost Sea by Laurence Yep.
Dragon Steel by Laurence Yep.
Dragon Cauldron by Laurence Yep.
Dragon War by Laurence Yep.

Did you know that notable Asian-American historical fiction author Laurence Yep also wrote a high fantasy middle grade quartet putting his own unique spin on Chinese mythology?  As of this writing, the 1980s/90s Dragon Quartet has sadly gone out of print, but it’s still reasonably possible to find copies used or in libraries, and one can hope it will be reissued!

The Way to Rio Luna by Zoraida Cordova.

For years, Danny Monteverde has survived foster care by listening to the stories his older sister Pili read him, and after she disappeared, rereading their favorite book to himself and dreaming of the day they would be reunited in the fantasy lands of the stories. After his book is taken and his arm is broken, he decides to give up on fairy tales… until a library book tries to set him on a quest to reach that very same land.

On These Magic Shores by Yamille Saied Mendez.

The magic is subtle in this story of a young Argentinian-American girl trying to care for her two younger sisters after their mother’s unexpected disappearance.  The driving force of the plot is not the unusual events that might be explained through fairy magic, but her all-too-real struggle for daily survival and the suspense over what has happened to their mother.

Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan, illustrated by Ben Hibon.
Dream Magic by Joshua Khan, illustrated by Ben Hibon.
Burning Magic by Joshua Khan, illustrated by Ben Hibon.

Joshua Khan is a pen name of Muslim, Pakistani-British Sarwat Chadda!  The two main characters in this fantasy trilogy are white presenting but some supporting cast are not and the different magical cultures are inspired by various mythologies and cultures. This trilogy skews a little older than some with deaths and mild romance.

The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao.
The Fallen Hero by Katie Zhao.

This series about multiracial siblings growing up in secret society of demon fighters aims to both follow the pattern of a typical quest novel, and turn fantasy tropes on their heads.  The first book is an exciting and surprising journey through US Chinatowns that will leave readers impatient for more.

Silverworld by Diana Abu-Jaber.

Lebanese-American Sami feels stuck between two worlds, discontent with her family’s recent move, and worried about her beloved grandmother. Tata has been speaking gibberish to everyone but her, and Sami’s aunt is pushing to send her to a nursing home. In desperation Sami tries a spell – which unexpectedly sends her through Tata’s mirror into Silverworld.

Sauerkraut by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Paul Davey.

A biracial Black/German-American boy cleaning out his uncle’s basement finds a sauerkraut urn haunted by his great-great-grandmother, who insists that he help her make pickled German ethnic food to enter into the county fair.  HD has to balance his own summer plans and responsibilities with his new ghostly relative’s wishes.

Arcade and the Triple T Token by Rashad Jennings, illustrated by Alan Brown.
Arcade and the Golden Travel Guide by Rashad Jennings, illustrated by Alan Brown.
Arcade and the Fiery Metal Tester by Rashad Jennings, illustrated by Alan Brown.
Arcade and the Dazzling Truth Detector by Rashad Jennings, illustrated by Alan Brown.

Arcade Livingston receives a mysterious token and soon he, his older sister, and others are going through magical doors to different times and places in the Coin Slot Chronicles quartet.  The story focuses on trying to figure out the token and managing individual adventures only as a backdrop to regular life – the Christian aspect is shown through religious references and a strong moral theme rather than part of the magic plot.

A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu.

This story is part historical fantasy, but also a deeply immersive other worldly novel.   Magic, historical events from both 1781 and 1978, and two groups in an ocean-based fantasy world combine in a novel that isn’t a light read, but is ultimately hopeful.  The companion novel, A Tear in the Ocean, takes place entirely in the Second World in 1849 and 1949.  After much debate I decided not to include that book here; while eventually hopeful, some aspects make it better suited for upper middle school readers.  Both books are independent stories although they have minor spoilers for each other.

City of Islands by Kali Wallace.

This magical archipelago fantasy has some flaws in the representation of the Black-coded main character, but was still a memorable read with some interesting variations on magic, and I appreciated the consideration of class and visible disability.  After a solid foundation of #ownvoice stories, this novel could work for avid fantasy fans looking for new reads.


I’d love for this list to be spread to everyone, however copy-pasting my work removes my motivation to create reviews and lists like this one, so if you enjoy this list please link to this page instead (and comment if you found this helpful).  If you know of a great diverse MG fantasy book, let me know!


Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

One thought on “50+ More Diverse Middle Grade Fantasy Novels”

  1. This is an amazing list. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now, and even started reading some of the bloggers to whom you link occasionally. I’ve been working on a giant list of books featuring diverse characters and will be linking to many of your reviews 🙂


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