Thematic Reading List: Books Really Are Magical


As an educator, I have always known that books can have a profound impact on a child’s life. There are a few favorites that stand out for me personally. Recently, that impact was studied by a group of social psychologists, and what they found is incredibly encouraging. They specifically looked at the impact the Harry Potter series had on children and young adults. Students who read and identified with Harry were found to be more empathetic toward stigmatized groups, groups that suffered bullying and marginalization. Powerful stuff! To read the article, click on the link here (

Below is a magical list I compiled in CLCD. They range from fairy tale reimagining to magical realism to finding the magical in each day. The characters and their stories will stay with their readers for a long time.

What books stand out to you that have either impacted your life or your patrons?


9780307977939 Rump : The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
By: Liesl Shurtliff
Published: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

Relates the tale of Rumpelstiltskin’s childhood and youth, explaining why his name is so important, how he is able to spin straw into gold, and why a first-born child is his reward for helping the miller’s daughter-turned-queen.
9780545552721 A Snicker of Magic
By: Natalie Lloyd

The Pickles are new to Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, a town which legend says was once magic–but Felicity is convinced the magic is still there, and with the help of her new friend Jonah the Beedle she hopes to bring the magic back.
9781423121909 Blackout
By: John Rocco
Published: New York : Disney/Hyperion Books, c2011.

When a busy family’s activities come to a halt because of a blackout, they find they enjoy spending time together and not being too busy for once.
9780803738553 Counting by 7s
By: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Published: New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, c2013.

Twelve-year-old genius and outsider Willow Chance must figure out how to connect with other people and find a surrogate family for herself after her parents are killed in a car accident.
9780763667245 Flora & Ulysses : The Illuminated Adventures
By: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by: K.G. Campbell
Published: Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2013.

Rescuing a squirrel after an accident involving a vacuum cleaner, comic-reading cynic Flora Belle Buckman is astonished when the squirrel, Ulysses, demonstrates astonishing powers of strength and flight after being revived.
9780547487366 The Flora’s Very Windy Day
By: Jeanne Birdsall
Illustrated by: Matt Phelan
Published: New York : Clarion Books, c2010.

When a big wind blows her annoying little brother away, Flora decides to save him despite the many tempting offers she gets for him from, among others, a cloud, an eagle, the man in the moon, and the wind itself.
The Friendship Doll

By: Kirby Larson
Published: New York : Delacorte Press, c2011.

Throughout the twentieth century, Miss Kanagawa, one of fifty-eight dolls made to serve as ambassadors from Japan to the United States, travels the country learning to love while changing the lives of those who need her.
1455844195 Wonder
By: R.J. Palacio
Published: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.
9781611760095 The Apothecary
By: Maile Meloy
Published: New York : G. P. Putnam’s Sons, c2011.

Follows a fourteen-year-old American girl whose life unexpectedly transforms when she moves to London in 1952 and gets swept up in a race to save the world from nuclear war.
0763660671 The Blackhope Enigma
By: Teresa Flavin
Published: Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2011.

Fourteeen-year-old Sunni, her stepbrother Dean, and an art-student friend trace the footsteps of a labyrinth built in Blackhope Tower by a mysterious and brilliant sixteenth-century artist, and suddenly find themselves trapped inside his enchanted painting, trying desperately to get out.
0545231035 The Crowfield Curse
By: Pat Walsh
Published: New York : Chicken House, 2010.

In 1347, when fourteen-year-old orphan William Paynel, an impoverished servant at Crowfield Abbey, goes into the forest to gather wood and finds a magical creature caught in a trap, he discovers he has the ability to see fays and becomes embroiled in a strange mystery involving Old Magic, a bitter feud, and ancient secrets.
0439269709 The Dreamer
By: Pam Munoz Ryan
Drawings by: Peter Sis
Published: New York : Scholastic Press, 2010.

A fictionalized biography of the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who grew up a painfully shy child, ridiculed by his overbearing father, but who became one of the most widely-read poets in the world. Includes author’s note about the poet.
9781442457027 The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
By: William Joyce
Illustrated by: William Joyce and Joe Bluhm
Published: New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Morris Lessmore loves words, stories and books, and after a tornado carries him to another land, dreary and colorless, he finds a single book in color that leads him to an amazing library where, he learns, the books need him as much as he needs them.
006204706X Wildwood
By: Colin Meloy
Illustrations by: Carson Ellis
Published: New York : Balzer + Bray, c2011.

When her baby brother is kidnapped by crows, seventh-grader Prue McKeel ventures into the forbidden Impassable Wilderness–a dangerous and magical forest at the edge of Portland, Oregon–and soon finds herself involved in a war among the various inhabitants.
9780385907507 Moon over Manifest
By: Clare Vanderpool
Published: New York : Delacorte Press, c2010.

Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker is the daughter of a drifter who, in the summer of 1936, sends her to stay with an old friend in Manifest, Kansas, where he grew up, and where she hopes to find out some things about his past.
0147510139 A Tangle of Knots
By: Lisa Graff
Published: New York, NY : Philomel Books, c2013.

“Destiny leads 11-year-old Cady to a peanut butter factory, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever”–Provided by publisher. Includes cake recipes.
9780316041485 13 Treasures
By: Michelle Harrison
Published: New York : Little, Brown, 2011.

Bedeviled by evil fairies that only she can see, thirteen-year-old Tanya is sent to stay with her cold and distant grandmother at Elvesden Manor, where she and the caretaker’s son solve a disturbing mystery that leads them to the discovery that Tanya’s life is in danger.

Updated 09/01/14

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