Middle grade readers will find themselves in for a fantastic and magical “backyard” adventure when they read Elf Dog and Owl Head by M.T. Anderson (illustrated by Junyi Wu; Candlewick 2023). This novel’s summary threw me off, because it sounded like it would be about a boy dealing with the annoyance of remaining home during

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Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger (originally published 1924) weaves together tales the author collected during travels to Central and South America throughout his life. As with many volumes of stories, they range in interest, plot, and theme. Some stories are directly connected to the previous ones in the volume. Others are separate tales

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The Caldecott-winning illustrations of The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin, 1985) are only part of the magic of this Christmas story. One Christmas Eve, a young boy lies awake, listening for Santa’s sleigh bells. But he doesn’t hear bells: he hears a train. And there it is outside the door, waiting to take him

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The Old Tobacco Shop: The True Account of What Befell a Little Boy in Search of Adventure by William Bowen (first published 1922) and runner-up to the first year of the Newbery Medal, is even worse than the tobacco-filled title can suggest. With racist sterotypes, smoking by a young child, and bizarre, unconnected adventures, The

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The Lost Library, a middle grade novel co-authored by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass (Feiwel & Friends, August 2023) is a magical mystery that celebrates the power of books. Evan loves books, so he eagerly takes two from the new “Little Free Library” that was built in front of the town’s history museum. The books

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The cartoon-like illustrations in Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke (First Second Books, September 2014) perfectly match the child-like imaginative story.  It begins with fantastic personification: Julie’s house came to town and settled by the sea. And Julia is obviously not a normal girl, for when she decides to open her home to lost

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The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit (published 1907) is a tale of modern magical enchantments. Three children, Gerald (Jerry), Jimmy, and Kathleen (Cathy), stumble upon a large estate that reminds them of a castle; in their play-acting, they stumble upon a sleeping girl they decide must be a princess. Despite her later declaration that she

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