Looking for a bit of magic? Check out our top 8 magical books for 9 to 12 year olds
Published on: 05 June 2022
Author of the spell-binding Hedgewitch, Skye McKenna, shares her top 8 magical books for 9 to 12 year olds
The Sword in the Stone, T. H. White (1938)
A perfect introduction to Arthurian legend; White tells the story of Arthur’s boyhood and his tutelage under a rather whimsical Merlin who transforms him into various animals by way of lessons. With a deeper message about human violence that is perhaps missing from the Disney adaption, I loved it for the wonderful descriptions of the medieval countryside and the dark and enchanting Forest Sauvage.
The Children of Green Knowe, Lucy M. Boston (1954)
I first read The Children of Green Knowe as an adult, but wish I’d discovered it as a child because it is the perfect Christmas ghost story. Somehow both cosy and uncanny, Boston conjures a magical atmosphere around Tolly and the children, gently slipping the reader back in time. Green Knowe is based on Boston’s real home of The Manor at Hemingford Grey, which you can go and visit.
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Alan Garner (1960)
Drawing on the local folklore of Alderley Edge in Cheshire and weaving in Norse and Welsh myth, Garner’s stories always felt intensely real to me. So much so that when I first visited the UK, I had to see the landscape of this story for myself – and found it every bit as eerie and enchanting as described.
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, Penelope Lively (1973)
Penelope Lively has written several children’s books that deal masterfully with the way history can haunt us, and none more literally so than in The Ghost of Thomas Kempe. Poor James has no idea what he is in for when he moves to East End Cottage, previously the home of a 17th century ‘cunning man’ or magician for hire, and Thomas Kempe has no intention of staying dead.
The Lives of Christopher Chant, Diana Wynne Jones (1988)
I’m currently in the process of re-reading Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series and must submit to popular opinion that this is one of the best. Recounting the childhood of Chrestomanci himself (a powerful enchanter who keeps magic in balance), it is an origin story with a twist – because Christopher, like the cat Throgmorton, has nine lives.
The Whitby Witches, Robin Jarvis (1991)
Whitby is one of my favourite Yorkshire towns (and thus the name of a family in Hedgewitch) and I think a good deal of my affection for it comes from reading this spooky seaside tale. I love the way Jarvis uses the folklore and legends of the real Whitby, and Alice Boston (named after the author of The Children of Green Knowe!) is one of the best witchy, literary aunts.
The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud (2003)
In a parallel Britain ruled by powerful magicians, Nathaniel is out for revenge – but to get it, he needs the help of the reluctant and treacherous djinni, Bartimaeus. Stroud’s world of subservient demons and evil magicians is explored through the eyes of the witty, sarcastic Bartimaeus – truly one of the best familiars of any magical tale.
Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep, Philip Reeve (2021)
Philip Reeve is a master world builder and I always enjoy escaping to his complex sci-fi futures, but Utterly Dark is something different; a gothic tale of ancient sea magic and the relationship between science and belief. I love the sense of place in these imagined British islands and the effervescent Utterly herself.
Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna (£12.99, Welbeck Children’s) is available now.